Factus est repente

Liturgical chant was once as varied as the places where they were cultivated. We might be tempted to say: cuius locus, eius cantus. Rome had Roman chant, Milan had Ambrosian chant, Gaul had Gallican chant, and Muslim-occupied Iberia had Mozarabic chant. These are some of the recognisable chant families in the Catholic Church. Of course Roman chant and Gallican chant together formed an amalgam that has been transmitted to us as Gregorian chant.

Allow us now to present a distinct chant family, this time hailing from the southern Catholic strongholds of Italy: Beneventan chant. This plainchant tradition owes its name mainly to Benevento, where it developed during the Lombard occupation of Italy. More closely akin to Ambrosian chant than to its Roman counterpart, Beneventan chant was known for a time as another exemplar of cantus ambrosianus.

As it happens, Pentecost offers us a very timely opportunity to share an example of Beneventan chant from the 11th century. In the Missale Romanum, the antiphona ad communionem for Pentecost is Factus est repente. From MS 40 (found in folio 70v) of the Beneventan Capitular Library, we present this same chant, this time marked as ingressa for Pentecost in the Beneventan liturgy:

Factus est repente

The Beneventan ingressa, much like its Ambrosian namesake, corresponds to the Roman introitus, what we now see in the 1962 books as antiphona ad introitum. Generally speaking, the introit, sometimes with the communion, is the simplest plainchant piece in the Gregorian repertoire. Where the Roman liturgy employs simple chant, the Beneventan liturgy explodes in its plainchant with a florid procession of neumes.

There are only few surviving pieces of Beneventan chant. Its greatest repository, the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. Part of the casualties were manuscripts that would have made the remaining years of ossified purveyors of musical paleography happier. The mere fact that a few survived is reason enough for thanksgiving.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


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