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Pange Lingua Gloriosi


The opening words of two liturgical hymns. (1) Pange lingua gloriosi lauream certaminis, a hymn of the holy cross by Venantius fortunatus, written c. 569 for the reception of a relic of the cross, sent by Emperor justin ii to Queen radegunda, in Poitiers. One of the most famous Passiontide hymns of all times, it was traditionally used in the good friday ceremony of the veneration of the cross since the ninth century. At one time, it was also sung at matins and lauds of Passiontide, as well as for the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The original text consists of ten stanzas, each having three lines in trochaic tetrameter, a form once used in marching songs of the Roman soldiers. The hymn briefly recounts Christ's earthly life, embedded in the history of the Redemption, beginning with humanity's fall, and makes passing allusions to the instruments of the Passion. Christ's cross appears as the tree of life, especially selected for the glorious task of bearing Christ. This holy cross hymn later became the model for many compositions, among them the not less famous Eucharistic hymn, (2) Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium, which was traditionally sung at Vespers and during procession on Corpus Christi and holy thursday. It has five three-line stanzas and a doxology, in catalectic and accentual trochaic tetrameter. This masterpiece of medieval poetry was written probably by St. thomas aquinas (or by someone in his entourage) c. 1264. Written to a preexisting melody (that of the holy cross sequence Laudes crucis attollamus ), by the Goliardic poet Hugh Primas of Orléans, it contains many echoes and reminiscences from earlier hymns; still it is an original piece of work, with highly poetic inspiration and doctrinal exactitude. Its fifth stanza, Tantum ergo, is sung (to various melodies) at the benediction of the blessed sacrament.

Bibliography: j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster MD 1957) 118120, the Eucharistic Sequence, 8284, the holy cross, etc., hymn. Analecta hymnica 50:71, 585586. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:129135; 2:251252. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 90, Venatius Fortunatus; 408, Thomas Aquinas. b. fischer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 8:21, cf. h. vanderhoven, Paroisse et Liturgie 33 (1951) 168173.

[j. szÖvÉrffy]

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