Authors of the Latin Hymns
- AMBROSE, ST. (340-397), Bishop of Milan, is justly
styled “the Father of Church-song in the West.” He became,
like St. Hilary, a great champion of orthodoxy against
the Arians in the West. And it was while he and his
faithful flock were besieged in his Cathedral by the imperial
troops that, as St. Augustine tells us, he first composed
hymns for them to sing “lest they faint through
fatigue of sorrow.” The simple, austere hymns of St.
Ambrose have always been considered the ideal in Church-song.
Many hymns have been ascribed to him, and there
is some difference of opinion as to what hymns he actually
wrote. The latest authority on this subject is the eminent
hymnologist Father Dreves, who made a careful study of
the early hymnaries in the Vatican and at Milan. He thus
classifies the hymns of St. Ambrose:
The Benedictine editors of the works of St. Ambrose
assign twelve to him. Among them, and not mentioned
above, are the two Breviary hymns: Somno refectis artubus,
and Cons or s paterni luminis.
There are three excellent articles in the Cath. Encycl.
on Ambrosian Hymnography, Ambrosian Chant, and Ambrose,
St. Hymns: 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 12, 13, 154, 158, 163.
- Certified as his by early writers. Æterne rerum Conditor.
2. Deus Creator omnium. 3. Illuminans altissimus.
4. Veni Redemptor gentium. 5. Jam surgit hora tertia.
- Others also genuine. 6. Æterna Christi munera, Et
martyrum. 7. Agnes beatæ virginis. 8. Amore Christi nobilis.
9. Apostolorum passio. 10. Apostolorum supparem.
11. Grates tibi, Jesu, novas. 12. Hie est dies verus Dei. 13.
Splendor paternæ gloryæ. 14. Victor, Nabor, Felix, pii.
- Possibly his. 15. Jesu corona virginum. 16. Nunc,
Sancte nobis Spiritus. 17. Rector potens, verax Deus. 18.
Rerum Deus tenax vigor.
- AMBROSIAN. A great many hymns, mostly of the
fifth or sixth century, are styled Ambrosiani—Ambrosian
hymns. They are so styled either because they were
formerly supposed to have been written by St. Ambrose,
or because they imitate the stanzaic form, the style, meter,
and austere objectiveness of the genuine hymns of the
Saint. It is now known for certain that many hymns
formerly thought to be his are the compositions of unknown
writers. These hymns are uniformly written in Iambic
dimeter. The term Ambrosian implies no ascription of
authorship, but merely a poetical form. Hymns: 1, 5, 20,
21, 22, 29, 35, 36, 37, 38, 50, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 69,
71, 155, 157, 161, 162.
- ANTONIANO, CARDINAL SILVIO (1540-1603) was
educated at the University of Ferrara, in which institution
he later became professor of classical literature. He is
best known as a student of educational problems. Hymn:
- ROBERT, SAINT AND DOCTOR, cardinal, theologian
and controversialist (1542-1621), was born at Montepulciano
in Italy. He resigned the archiepiscopal see of Capua
to accept the office of librarian of the Vatican. He was
canonized in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Church in
1931. Hymns: 125, 136, 137.
- BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, ST. (1091-1153) was born
near Dijon in France. Abbot and Doctor of the Church—
surnamed the “Mellifluous Doctor.” There is much doubt
as to the authorship of the hymns usually ascribed to St.
Bernard. Even his claim to the celebrated hymn, Jesu
dulcis memoria has been called in question. During his
lifetime, St. Bernard exercised an extraordinary influence
both by his eloquence and by his writings. Hymns: 43,
44, 45, 130.
- BERNARD OF CLUNY (or of Morlaix) was born at
Morlaix in Brittany early in the 12th century. He entered
the celebrated Benedictine Abbey of Cluny where he remained
until his death, the date of which is unknown. He
is the author of one of the most famous poems of the
Middle Ages, the De contemptu mundi, which contains
about 3,000 lines in dactylic hexameters. It is dedicated
to Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny (1122-1156).
There is a fine analysis of this great poem in the article on
Bernard of Cluny, in the Cath. Encycl. Hymns: 170, 171,
- ELPIS (d. about 493) was the wife of the philosopher
Boethius (480-524). Elpis was the aunt of St. Placidus,
the well-known disciple of St. Benedict. Recent researches,
however, have led to the conclusion that there is no reason,
or at least insufficient reason, to ascribe the authorship of
Aurea luce (Decora lux) to Elpis. None of the ancient
MSS. attribute it to her (James Mearns in the Dict. of
Hymnology, p. 1632). Hymns: 90, 91,116,117.
- FORTUNATUS, VENANTIUS (530-609) was a native
of the district of Treviso in Upper Italy and was educated
at Ravenna, where he devoted himself to the study of
oratory and poetry. He was miraculously cured of a
disease of the eyes through the intercession of St. Martin
of Tours. It was while on a visit to the tomb of this Saint
that he made the acquaintance of Queen Radegunde at
Poitiers. It was here that he was ordained priest, and
later consecrated Bishop of Poitiers, where he remained
until his death. Fortunatus represents “the last expiring
effort of the Latin muse in Gaul” to retain something of
the “old classical culture amid the advancing tide of barbarism”
(Dict. of Hymnol., p. 383). Hymns: 51, 52, 53,
- GREGORY THE GREAT, ST. (540-604). This illustrious
Pope and Doctor of the Church was born at Rome,
where he founded the Benedictine monastery of St.
Andrew, of which he himself became Abbot. Much against
his own will he was elected Pope to succeed Pelagius II, in
590. The Benedictine editors of St. Gregory’s works
ascribe to him eight hymns. Daniel assigns him three
others. In the light of the latest researches it must be
admitted that Pope Gregory’s place in hymnody cannot as
yet be definitely fixed. Hymns: 6, 7, 10, 15, 17, 19, 23, 24,
25, 26, 27, 28, 48, 49, 126.
- HERMANN CONTRACTUS (1013-1058) was born at
Altshausen in Suabia. He was a cripple from birth and
could not move without assistance—hence the surname
Contractus, the crippled. Despite his physical defects, he
entered the school of St. Gall in his seventh year, and
quickly mastered Greek, Latin, Arabic, history, music,
mathematics, philosophy, and theology. He was one of the
most learned men of his time. At the age of thirty he
entered the Benedictine monastery of Reichenau, where he
became Abbot and spent the remainder of his days.
Hymns: 30, 33.
- HILARY, ST. (d. 368). Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor
of the Church. He was born at Poitiers of heathen
parents; and it was in his native city that he was elected
Bishop. As Bishop, his strenuous opposition to the Arian
heresy earned him the title of Malleus Arianorum—“The
Hammer of the Arians.” His hostility to the Arians
caused him to be exiled to the distant coasts of Phrygia.
Many hymns have been ascribed to St. Hilary, most of
which are of doubtful authenticity. In 1887, a fragment of
St. Hilary’s Liber Hymnorum was discovered. This contains
three hymns or parts of hymns which can with reasonable
certainty be ascribed to him. Hymn 70 has often
been ascribed to him, but on insufficient evidence.
- INNOCENT III, POPE (1161-1216) was born at Anagni
in Italy. He was one of the most learned theologians and
jurists of his time. During his active reign, which lasted
eighteen years, the Papacy reached the zenith of its power
and influence. Hymn: 67.
- INNOCENT VI, POPE (d. 1362) was born at Mont in
France. He attained eminence as a professor of civil law
at Toulouse. As Pope he was actuated by lofty ideals and
did much to reform abuses. Hymn: 80.
- JACOPONE DA TODI (or Jacobus de Benedictis) was
born at Todi in Italy early in the thirteenth century, and
died at an advanced age in 1306. He studied law, probably
at Bologna, and for some years he followed the profession
of advocate. About 1278 he entered the Franciscan Order,
in which, out of humility, he chose to remain a simple lay
brother till the end of his life. Hymns: 54, 55, 56, 57.
- LEO XIII, POPE (1810-1903) was born at Carpineto in
Italy. He was Nuncio to Brussels, and for thirty-two years
Bishop of Perugia. He was elected Pope in 1878. His long
reign during troublous times afforded him ample opportunities
for the exercise of consummate statesmanship. The
whole world recognized his great intellectual endowments.
His Latin Poems, Charades, Inscriptions, and Hymns are
translated by the Rt. Rev. Monsignor H. T. Henry, Litt.
D. (Dolphin Press, Philadelphia). Hymns: 95, 96, 97.
- LORENZINI, FRANCESCO M. (1680-1743) was an
Italian poet born in Rome. He acquired a high reputation
as a poet, and was remarkable for the energy of his style.
He became president of the Academy of Arcades in 1728.
- NICETAS, ST. (335-415) was Bishop of Remesiana, in
what is now modern Serbia. He was a friend and contemporary
of St. Paulinus of Nola. SS. Paulinus and
Jerome praise Nicetas as a hymn-writer. Hymn: 8.
- ODO, ST. (879-942), Abbot of the celebrated Abbey of
Cluny, was born near Le Mans in France. He was widely
known as a promoter and reformer of religious life in
France and Italy. He is the author of an epic poem on
the Redemption. Hymn: 127.
- PALUMBELLA, CALLISTO was a Bishop of the
Servite Order. He lived in the eighteenth century.
Hymns: 131, 132, 133.
- PAULINUS, ST. (726-802), Patriarch of Aquileia, was
born near Cividale in Italy. He possessed a profound
knowledge of the sciences of jurisprudence and theology,
and was equally well versed in the Scriptures and in the
writings of the Fathers. He was a friend of Charlemagne,
whom he greatly assisted in restoring civilization in the
West. Hymns: 89, 128.
- PAUL THE DEACON (b. circa 720—d. circa 799).
Paul was born at Friuli in Italy. He was celebrated both
as a poet and as an historian. He was a Benedictine monk
of Monte Cassino. Among his works is a valuable “History
of the Lombards,” and a “Commentary on the Rule of St.
Benedict.” Hymns: 113, 114, 115.
- PRUDENTIUS, AURELIUS CLEMENS (348-413)
was born in northern Spain. He was successively an advocate,
a judge, and the holder of some important military
position at court. At the age of fifty-seven he retired from
active life and devoted the remainder of his days to the
service of God, and to the writing of sacred poetry. His
poem, the Cathemerinon, is frequently referred to in this
volume. A new and excellent translation of it by Messrs.
Pope and Davis, with Latin and English texts on opposite
pages, is published by J. M. Dent & Co., Aldine House,
London, W. C, England; 208 pages, with notes. Hymns:
14, 16, 18, 41, 42, 47, 129.
- RABANUS MAURUS (776-856) was born at Mainz in
Germany. He studied under Alcuin at Tours, and became
successively Abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Fulda,
and Archbishop of Mainz. He is commonly reputed to have
been the most learned man of his age. His fame as a
teacher spread throughout Europe, and Fulda became the
most celebrated seat of learning in the Frankish Empire.
Hymns: 68, 134, 135, 147, 148.
- RICCHINI, AUGUSTINE, 18th cent. Father Ricchini
was a Dominican, a friend of Pope Benedict XIV, and
successively Secretary of the Congregation of the Index,
and Master of the Sacred Palace. Hymns: 138, 139, 140,
- SEDULIUS, CAELIUS, was born probably at Rome in
the 5th century. Late in life he became a convert to
Christianity and remained a layman. His principal work
is his Carmen Paschale, in five books. The first book contains
a summary of the Old Testament; the remaining four
contain a summary of the New Testament. Hymns: 39, 46.
- TAROZZI, VINCENT (1849-1918) was called to Rome
in 1885, and appointed Secretary of Latin Letters to Pope
Leo XIII, in 1892. Hymns: 101, 102, 103.
- THEODULPH, ST. (760-821) was Bishop of Orleans in
France. He was probably an Italian by birth. He became
a member of the court of Charlemagne, through whose influence
he became Bishop of Orleans. “After the death of
Charles he continued for some time on friendly terms with
the Emperor Louis, but, falling under suspicion of being
concerned in the plot in favor of Bernard of Italy, he was
imprisoned in 818, at Angers, where he seems to have died
in 821” (Julian’s Dict. of Hymnol). Hymn: 58.
- THOMAS AQUINAS, ST. (1227-1274) was born at
Aquino, a town near Naples. He entered the Dominican
Order and became one of the greatest doctors of the
Church. He is by common consent, “The Poet of the Most
Holy Sacrament of the Altar.” He composed the Mass and
Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi and five sublime
hymns in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. Hymns: 75,
76, 77, 78, 79.
- THOMAS OF CELANO was born at Celano in Italy
about 1200, and died about 1255. He was one of the first
disciples of St. Francis Assisi. On the death of St. Francis,
Thomas, at the request of Pope Gregory IX, wrote his
life. He also wrote two beautiful sequences in honor of
St. Francis. His immortality as a poet is based on his
very probable authorship of the greatest of all hymns, the
Dies Iræ. Hymn: 87.
- URBAN VIII, POPE (1568-1644) was born at Florence,
and was educated at the Collegio Romano. He graduated
from the University of Padua as Doctor of Laws. He is
commonly recognized as a generous patron of learning, and
was himself a man of letters, and an elegant writer and
poet. It is not unnatural that a man of his taste and
culture should have become imbued with the Humanistic
spirit of the age in which he lived. It was under his directions
that the hymns of the Roman Breviary were revised
by a committee of four distinguished Jesuit scholars. The
revised hymns were published in 1632, and are still found
in the Roman Breviary. Hymns: 92, 93, 94, 107, 108, 123,
124, 142, 143.
- WIPO was a native of Burgundy, and flourished during
the first half of the eleventh century. He was a secular
priest, and was for some time chaplain to the Emperors
Conrad II, and Henry III, to each of whom he presented a
collection of poems. Hymn: 59.
- XAVIER, ST. FRANCIS (1506-1552), the Apostle of
India and Japan, was born near Sanguesa in Spain. He
studied at the University of Paris, and was one of the first
associates of St. Ignatius of Loyola when the latter
founded the Society of Jesus. Shortly after his ordination
he began his wonderful missionary career which ended only
with his death. Hymn: 74.
Copyright Benziger Brothers, 1922. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney,