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The earliest unified set of Mass Ordinary movements

Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame

As a point of unification, the composer selected relevant chants for each section as the borrowed tenor of each movement (that is, a Kyrie chant for his Kyrie, and so on). Each of these came from chants that were assigned for feasts in honor of the Blessed Virgin. In doing this he created the earliest unified set of Mass Ordinary movements.

“Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame .” Arts and Humanities Through the Eras.

What is unusual about this concept, in addition to the fact that there is no similar model on the level of the chant practices, is that in the celebration of the Mass, with the exception of the Kyrie and Gloria, the items of the Ordinary are separated from one another by a number of different prayers and chants, that is, they are not performed one after the other as in a modern-day concert performance, and therefore to think of these Mass items on the level of an artistic whole is to impose an abstract artistic idea on something that had never been considered from that point of view. The original intention for creating this rather unusual assembly of polyphonic movements was for use at the special mass in honor of the Virgin Mary (the Messe de Nostre Dame or “Mass of Our Lady”), which since 1341 had been celebrated on Saturdays in one of the chapels in Reims Cathedral, where Machaut was a canon (a member of the clergy on the permanent staff). Later, however, in conformity with the wills of both Guillaume and his brother Jean (who also was a canon at the cathedral), the mass was transformed into a memorial service for the two of them following their deaths (Jean in 1372, Guillaume in 1377).

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How far back?

Point in Timeline | Post 500 CE 60%

2020 | Present