Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium

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Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium is a hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi (now called the Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ). It is also sung on Holy Thursday, during the procession from the church to the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept until Good Friday. The last two stanzas, called separately Tantum Ergo, are sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn expresses the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which, according to the Roman Catholic faith, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The opening words recall another famous Latin sequence, Pange Lingua Gloriosi Proelium Certaminis, by Venantius Fortunatus.


Latin text and English version

There are many English translations, of varying rhyme scheme and meter. Fr. Edward Caswall authored the following translation[1]:

Text of Pange lingua gloriosi, with doxology

Pange lingua in music history

There are two plainchant settings of the Pange Lingua hymn. The better known is a Phrygian mode tune from the Roman liturgy, and the other is from the Mozarabic liturgy from Spain. The Roman tune was originally part of the Gallican Rite.

The Roman version of the Pange Lingua hymn was the basis for a famous composition by Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez, the Missa Pange lingua. An elaborate fantasy on the hymn, the mass is one of the composer's last works and has been dated to the period from 1515 to 1521, since it was not included by Petrucci in his 1514 collection of Josquin's masses, and was published posthumously. In its simplification, motivic unity and close attention to the text it has been compared to the late works of Beethoven, and many commentators consider it one of the high points of Renaissance polyphony.

Juan de Urrede, a Flemish composer active in Spain in the late fifteenth century, composed numerous settings of the Pange Lingua, most of them based on the original Mozarabic melody. One of his versions for four voices became one of the most popular pieces of the sixteenth century, and was the basis for dozens of keyboard works in addition to masses, many by Spanish composers.

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