O du armer Judas, was hastu getan?
Das du deinen Herren also verrathen han,
Darumb mustu leiden in der helle pein
Lucifers gesellen mustu ewig sein,
Kyrieleison.ldquo;O wretched Judas, what have you done? / You have betrayed your Lord! / For that you must suffer torment in Hell, / You must be Lucifer's companion eternally. / Kyrie
eleison”. Text from P. Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit bis zum
Anfang des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 5 vols. (Leipzig, 1864-77; repr. Hildesheim, 1964), ii, pp. 615-18; translation mine.
Rooted in Catholic folk piety, the song ‘O du armer Judas’ became one of the most common expressions of religious and political belief in the popular culture of sixteenth-century Germany. The Judaslied was the ideal vehicle for musical propaganda in the Reformation, and it turned the Catholic notion of the eternally damned betrayer of Christ on its ear. Protestant polemicists rewrote the song to equate Catholic authorities with Judas, and their contrafacta forged unbreakable links between the Judaslied melody and the idea of Catholic corruption. The very strong political associations the song would come to have with the Lutheran movement might well have been reason enough for a composer to avoid setting such a controversial work polyphonically, but at least four chose it as a model.Other than Senfl, Arnold von Bruck, Matthias Eckel and Cosmas Alder also arranged the Judaslied polyphonically, and a number of anonymous settings exist. See Das Tenorlied: Mehrstimmige Lieder in deutschen Quellen, 1450-1580, ed. N. Böker-Heil, H. Heckmann and I. Kindermann, 3 vols. (Catalogus musicus, 9-11; Kassel, 1979-86), iii, p. 105. Among these was Ludwig Senfl, court composer to the Catholic Wittelsbach dukes in Bavaria. Senfl's setting raises interesting questions about his position at the court, his music and religious toleration in the early days of the Reformation.