Huge, Earth-Shaking Aspect to the Papal Installation Liturgy

… and the mainstream media missed it.

Here it is (get ready for this): the Sistine choir sings Gregorian Chant according to the interpretation theory of semiology. Not even eighth notes divides into groups of 2s and 3s with an ictus, but with various rhythmic subtleties based on early manuscripts.

I’m still here in Collegeville, but someone I know looked over the shoulder of a Sistine chorister in Rome and saw the markings in the score. Additional rhythmic signs over some notes, and this scribbled above the communio: “con semiologia.”

How did the reporters miss this? I guess they’re hung up on the small stuff – no mozzetta, no red shoes, simplified obedience of only 6 representative cardinals, emphasis on the poor and the environment, and the like.




  1. The Pulitzer committee will no doubt be in touch with you shortly, Anthony. “For his coverage of breaking International news of a monumental character, . . .”

  2. To chant cognoscenti, this really is earth-shaking! Step aside, Justine Ward! Do you think the new pope had something to do with this, or that the choirmaster has been waiting for an opportune moment (what a moment!)? Many of us are waiting for Sherlock Ruff or Xavier Rindfleisch to ferret out the whole story.

    1. @Thomas Strickland – comment #2:
      Not to undercut my own cutting-edge reporting of this fast-developing story… but I think the change has been underway for some time with the Sistine Choir.

      Don’t know Pope Francis’s position on these important issues – I’m hoping his first encyclical will deal with Gregorian rhythm.


  3. I may have dreamt this, but I thought I saw the name Franz Karl Prassl in some literature during the past few days in connection with music for the papal inauguration.

    Fr. Anthony, or anyone else?

    1. @Kevin Vogt – comment #5:

      Ah…this was it (from the website of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music): Il 12 marzo 2013 il Coro del Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra, diretto dal M° Franz Karl Prassl, ha partecipato alla Missa pro Eligendo Romano Pontefice.

      Wrong choir, wrong liturgy, but evidence of what has been “underway” for some time?

  4. These changes have been in the works for quite some time, I am told.

    The Cappella Sistina (i.e. the men) also achieved another landmark step recently. On February 2 for the first time in their recorded history they sang in a language other than Latin — in Italian, to be precise. And no thunderbolts fell from the sky…..

    You’ll have noticed that this didn’t happen this morning at the papal inauguration. The Italian was sung by a boy, and so not by the men. But the landmark has been noted….

  5. Thanks, this brought a smile to my face.

    Actually from the audio clip on NPR this morning something sounded a bit more modern.

  6. I watched and listened to the replay of the Mass over Catholic TV this morning.

    What really disappointed me was that the two priests talked over the Creed, the Offertory chant, even the Sanctus! For example they explained to us the Benedictine altar arrangement during the Offertory, and EPI during the Sanctus.

    This might be understandable in priests who were doing interpretation for the secular news media, but these priests had the whole show to themselves. They certainly took the whole show over and made themselves the center.

    Evidently they considered all the Latin Chant as merely background music for their running clerical banter about their thoughts on various things.

    I found this all particularly ironic. Didn’t they get either B16s or Francis many messages that the liturgy is not about priests. Gosh it is going to be difficult to get rid of the ingrained clericalism in our priests who think making themselves the center of things is more important than the Mass!

  7. Now that Dom Cardine’s method has entered the Holy Father’s own choir can the end of the world be long in coming? Recall Matthew 24:15-19: “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child, and that give suck in those days.” I’m sure the prophet Daniel had semiology in mind…

    (Since this is the internet I’ll note that I’m not entirely in earnest).

    1. @Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist. – comment #13:

      I believe this is fulfilling a different prophecy, in Isaiah 61:4-6: “They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; but you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.” 🙂

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