Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Gregorian Chant, Rite, Liturgy.

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Pope Gregory the Great established a form for the administration of the sacraments (after that of Gelasius, which may be found in the "Sacramentary of Gregory"), collected, arranged, and improved the chants which had already been used for centuries before his time, and established a musical school to teach chanting at Rome, in which he took great interest up to the time of his death. The collection of chants compiled by Gregory forms the basis of modern cathedral music in the Church of Rome, and also in the Church of England. Palmer, Origines Liturgicae, volume 1, § 6. (See LITURGY).

"The foundation of the system of the Gregorian tones may be explained thus: As there are seven notes from a to g, there should be at least seven different modes, or tone-systems, varying from each other according to the position of the semitones; but as the final or key-note of each mode might be the first note or might be in the middle, the same scale could therefore, as it were, be viewed from two sides, which gave rise to the fourteen system of tones. It was, however, found that two of those were at variance with a fundamental rule of church song, viz. that every mode or scale must possess a perfect fifth or perfect fourth; and that the modes containing a false fifth from b natural of natural, or a false fourth from b to f, could not be used, and, on account of the dissonant character of these intervals, must be rejected. This reduced the number of the tones to twelve. It was further found, that as four of the twelve were merely transpositions of some of the others, there were really only eight, and that they were in every respect sufficient for all the purposes of church song. The eight Gregorian tones, as they are handed down to us, were in time fixed by a royal mandate of Charlemagne octo toni sufficere videntur. The following example in modern notation in the G clef will show the position of the eight Gregorian tones:

The different character of the Gregorian tones depends entirely on the places of the semitones, which in the above example are marked with a . Several of the tones have various endings, some as many as four, while the second, fifth, and sixth tones have each only one ending. For a full and interesting account of the Gregorian church music, see N.A. Janssen's Grundrergeln den Gregorianschen Kirchengesanges, published by Schott in Mainz, 1846." Chambers, Encyclop. s.v.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Gregorian Chant, Rite, Liturgy.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/gregorian-chant-rite-liturgy.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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