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Rex Sempiterne Caelitum


The office hymn that was historically prescribed for Matins at Easter time. This hymn is the Rex aeterne domine cited by bede as an example of rhythmical rather than metrical verse. He describes it as beautifully composed, with a resemblance to iambic verse. It seems to have been composed in the 5th or early 6th century, since it is prescribed by caesarius of arles and aurelius of rÉomÉ. Its rhythmical character and use of assonance and rhyme suggest Celtic origin. The hymn is part of a longer composition celebrating the whole redemptive work of Christ. From the 10th century, the first seven stanzas were taken to form an Easter hymn. The text of these stanzas underwent extensive revision in the 1632 revision of the Roman breviary.

Bibliography: Analecta hymnica 51:5. bede, De arte metrica in Grammatici latini, ed. h. keil, 7 v. (Leipzig 185780) 7:258. S. g. pimont, Les hymnes du brévaire romain, 3 v. (Paris 187487) 3:93100. j. julian, ed., A Dictionary of Hymnology (New York 1957) 958. j. mearns, Early Latin Hymnaries (Cambridge, Eng.1913). a. s. walpole, ed., Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, Eng.1922) 211217. c. s. baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic (New York 1928) 107118. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 131140. j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, MD 1957) 92. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 2:453.

[a. j. kinnirey]

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