Medieval Mass and Music

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The following article explores the components of the medieval mass and its music.


The present essay describes the Mass as celebrated in Latin Christianity during the Middle Ages. It assumes the full complement of clergy (priests, clerics in what are known as “minor orders,” and non-clerical assistants) needed to carry out the complex ceremonies of the Mass at a cathedral or large monastic church. A choir of monks or canons under the direction of the cantor provided all of the music, solo and choral. This would have been sung in chant but occasionally embellished by simple improvised polyphony. In a house of women religious all of the musical roles would have been assumed by the nuns, but ecclesiastical custom required that the ministers serving at the altar be male.

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