The Chant of the Templars
The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in the twelfth century
It was towards the end of the second decade of the twelfth century that the idea of Hugh de Payns began to be realised: the creation of an Order of knighthood whose purpose was to guard the Holy Places and protect the many pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem. In 1118 he obtained the assent of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Gormond de Picquigny. He gathered eight knights around him, and the undertaking was considered so important by Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, that he granted them the use of part of his palace, what was left of the ancient Temple of Solomon. Thus the nascent Order took its name from its place of residence, and became known as Order of the Temple of Solomon.
This first period of the Order was modest and productive, it lasted until 1127. For these nine years, the Order’s membership remained fixed at nine knights. All were nobles, trained in the profession of arms, and this period – which might be described as a novitiate – was the crucible in which the specific spirituality of the Templars gradually took shape. The source of their spiritual consciousness is to be sought in the knights’ assiduous attendance at the Latin liturgy of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In 1128, when the Council of Troyes granted them a rule drawn up under the direction of Bernard of Clairvaux, their attachment to the liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre was clearly stated and became the distinctive and specific mark of their canonical condition. ‘You who have renounced your own will, and you others who, for the salvation of your souls, serve the Sovereign King with your horses and weapons, must with pure and pious longing follow Matins and the Divine Service in their entirely, according to the canonical institutions and the Uses of the regular masters of the Holy City.’
Over the next decade or so, the Order enjoyed a spectacular expansion: donations flooded in, and the Templars soon became key players not only in the Holy Land but also throughout Western Europe. Like all religious organizations, the Order of the Temple comprised two categories of brothers those particularly attached to the liturgy – and those charged more especially with the material tasks connected with the subsistence of the Order and its specific missions. However, even in times of war, the Templars were assiduous in their practice of the liturgy. During the siege of Damietta in the Fifth Crusade, a night raid by the Muslims was foiled because the Templars were celebrating the Office of Matins in the tent that served as the Order’s chapel. Thus were able immediately to repulse the attack. The Templars are often described as ‘soldier-monks’, but this term is improper, for it appear only in the nineteenth century. In ecclesiastical law the Templars did not have monastic status. Right from their origins, they were assimilated to the status of canons, taking as their model the Rule of St Augustine, with the obligation of scrupulously observing the liturgical order of the Holy Sepulchre. Nevertheless, although their activities did not permit them to hear the Office in its entirety, they were to say a certain number of paternosters at the hour of prayer in order to make up for their failure to attend the Office.
After the crusaders took control of Jerusalem on 15 July 1099, the organization of the Latin liturgy was entrusted to the clergy of the Church of France, who took the Use of Paris as their chief model. The first preceptor of the Latin Patriarchate was a certain Anselm, a canon of Paris who shaped the Latin liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre. The manuscript […] dates from the third quarter of the twelfth century and comes from the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Having been purchased by the Duc d’Aumale in the mid-nineteenth century, it is now preserved at the Château de Chantilly. It is a breviary, written down when Parisian musical circles were just beginning to formulate square notation. All the vocal subtleties of the chant can be seen in it. In this respect the volume is quite exceptional, since few examples of French music from this period are still extant. Moreover, it contains a number of unique pieces, and others which are presented here in an unusual fashion. The musical notation of this breviary accurately reflects many decisive developments of its time, which were to have a profound influence on European techniques of notation down to the sixteenth century.
The French provenance of this manuscript is a precious indication, for we possess several concordant source of information enabling us to interpret the French notation of the twelfth century. It is necessary to combine the data provided by paleography with the art of making rhythm, which in religious chant has its own name, the tripudium. This essential element for understanding the rhythmic organization of the chant of this period has unfortunately not received sufficient attention from those who study the different types of plainchant. The way in which the theorists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries describe the formation of the rhythmic architecture of polyphonic chant is a further fundamental element for deciphering this music.
[…] the antiphon Crucem tuam. Its text recalls the foundations of the Christian faith, centring on the resurrection of Christ, who by submitting to the torment of the Cross destroyed the infernal powers of death. This is the kind of multi-usage antiphon that could sometimes be sung outside the liturgical context in order to fan the flames of faith. It is followed by three chants for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration. The responsories Benedicat nos and Honor, virtus et potestas are taken from the Night Office, whereas the antiphon to the Magnificat comes from the Office of Vespers. The Feast of the Transfiguration was particularly observed by the Order of the Temple, which explains this solemn performance practice for the Magnificat, in which part of the antiphon is repeated every three or four verses .
Next comes the celebrated antiphon Media vita, sung for part of the year at Compline – the Office which leads up to nightfall – to introduce and conclude the Gospel canticle Nunc dimittis. This antiphon too was sometimes sung outside its liturgical setting. It was credited with magical powers, which often led the ecclesiastical authorities to control and limit use of it. After this, […] present the Kyrie chant, whose liturgical function, at the beginning of the Mass, is to exalt divine majesty, the only force capable of remedying the weaknesses and imperfections of the human soul. Once a year, the Kyrie was sung outside the Mass, to open Vespers for Easter Day. […] But the Kyrie could also be employed to fortify the souls of the combatants when an army deployed in order of battle. Here the chant alternates between monody and three-part polyphony, following the method of twelfth-century Parisian discantus as it has come down to us in the only extant work of Master Albert of Paris (precentor of the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne), preserved in the Codex Calixtinus: the Congaudeant catholici.
Then come two antiphons which set the spirituality of the Order in context. There is a frequent tendency to see the Templars only as warriors. This is to forget their fundamental condition as men of prayer, who took up arms only to defend peace and thus to allow mankind to hear the splendours of the Word of God. This is the meaning conveyed by the antiphon Da pacem domine in diebus nostris. It punctuates the recitation of Psalm 121, which conjures up all that Jerusalem at peace might reveal to men. Finally, just as each night before going to rest the Templars addressed a last invocation to the Virgin Mary, it is the great Salve Regina that concludes this brief survey of the liturgical life of the Order of the Temple. This antiphon, so wide-spread throughout Western Christendom, is presented here in an unusual form, with three verses which evoke the mystery of the Incarnation.
– Marcel Pérès
Ensemble Organum – Le Chant des Templiers
Manuscrit du Saint Sépulcre de Jérusalem XIIe siècle
Ensemble Organum – Marcel Pérès, dir.
Anon., Chantilly, musée Condé, ms XVIII b12
1. Antiphona: Crucem sanctam
2. Responsorium: Benedicat nos deus
3. Responsorium: Honor virtus et potestas
4. Antiphona: Te Deum patrem ingenitum / Magnificat
5. Antiphona: Media vita in morte sumus / Nunc dimittis
6. Kyrie Eleïson
7. Antiphona: Da pacem Domine / Psalm: Fiat pax in virtute tua
8. Antiphona: Salve regina