At the end of the seventeenth century a Venetian chronicler by the name of Pietro Antonio Pacifico drew attention to the music in two of the Venetian ospedali with the words ‘… these young ladies make a great study of music, with singular success, and to the amazement of foreigners, who wonder at their art in the singing of the divine Office’; and again ‘instructed by the best salaried teachers, they sing with various instruments on all the great feasts of the year Mass, Vespers and Compline — especially in Lent, when many people come to hear’. If Mass and Vespers were principal liturgical functions, this particular mention of Compline — the final Office of the day which almost certainly took place at the same sort of time as today's secular concert and was thus convenient for people of culture and devotion to turn out to — gives a guide to its relative importance as a liturgical act. This is confirmed by a glance at the catalogues of music in stock which the Venetian publisher Vincenti issued in 1621 and 1649, both of which list a considerable number of musical settings of Compline in both old and new styles, with and without continuo — an indication of steady demand. Yet by comparison with Mass and Vespers Compline and its music have been little studied, whether in Italy in the Baroque or elsewhere in other periods, and there is scarcely any substantial information about it in the major musical or religious reference works. It may be less because the repertory consists largely of music by relatively little-known figures (though Legrenzi, Cazzati and Colonna hardly belong in that category) dian because the musical requirements of the liturgy are on the whole straight-forward, not offering musicological conundrums that call into being polemical tracts of the Monteverdi Vespers variety; in essence the Office of Compline is a religious act on an intimate scale, not a potentially grand liturgical occasion with showy ritual. Indeed, the virtual absence of ritual in this final act of tie day probably encouraged its development in seventeenth-century Italy into the spiritual concert of which our Venetian chronicler speaks. Such a development was facilitated, too, by the simplicity of its liturgy — unlike Mass and Vespers, nothing basic changes from day to day, be it Sunday or weekday, feast or ferial day; there is no Proper, nor are there any complex stipulations about psalm groupings, antiphons, and Gregorian tones. Only the concluding Marian antiphon (which did not belong specifically to Compline but was in practice often attached to it) changed four times a year according to the liturgical season. From the outset, therefore, a composer could devise a complete, self-contained ‘package’, either allowing the intrinsic variety of the liturgy to give balance and contrast to bis setting or, as with the more adventurous, to build upon the liturgical foundations a colourful construction that could succeed as a spiritual concert on its own terms.