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Dealing with change: the Carthusians and Corpus Christi

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2021



The Carthusian Order is known for its conservative attitude towards liturgy and music. This article will explore how this attitude played out in practice when the Carthusians were confronted with the introduction of a major new feast. Since its origins in the late eleventh century, the Order incorporated several new feasts in its calendar. These additions were normally made with a significant delay, and almost always without any new chants created for these feasts. The feast of Corpus Christi provides an interesting case study. Contrary to their habit, the Carthusians were apparently quick to adopt it, and they included most of the chants that were compiled and edited for this feast. In doing this, they took the Cibavit eos Mass and the Sacerdos in aeternum Office, most famously found in a late thirteenth-century libellus (F-Pnm, lat. 1143) as a point of departure. The Mass Propers were largely taken over, but small variations in the melodies raise interesting questions about how they were transmitted. By contrast, the office chants were thoroughly reordered and melodically edited in various ways, giving us a tangible sense of how Carthusians dealt with change.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Sections of this article were presented at the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, Brussels 2015. I am very grateful to Jos Bernaer and Pieter Mannaerts for their feedback on a previous version of this article, and for the astute comments of the reviewers for this journal. Many thanks, finally, to Beverly Roberta Lomer for correcting the English of this article.


1 On Carthusian history in general, see Hogg, James, ‘The Carthusians. History and Heritage’, in The Carthusians in the Low Countries. Studies in Monastic History and Heritage, Studia Cartusiana 4, ed. Pansters, Krijn (Leuven, 2014), 3156Google Scholar. General treatments of Carthusian liturgy and chant are: Degand, Amand, ‘Chartreux (liturgie des)’, in Dictionnaire d'archéologie Chrétienne et de liturgie, 3/1, ed. Cabrol, Fernand and Leclercq, Henri (Paris, 1913)Google Scholar, cols. 1045–71; Lambres, Benoit M., ‘Le chant des Chartreux’, Revue Belge de musicologie, 24 (1970), 1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Becker, Hansjakob, Die Responsorien des Kartäuserbreviers: Untersuchungen zu Urform und Herkunft des Antiphonars der Kartause, Münchener theologische Studien 39 (Munich, 1971), 3088Google Scholar; Hüschen, Heinrich, ‘Kartäuser’, in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Sachteil 4, ed. Finscher, Ludwig (Kassel and New York, 1994), cols. 1804–10Google Scholar; Thomas Op de Coul, ‘Carthusians’, Grove Music Online, grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0000005035 (accessed 18 December 2020).

2 Angelus Albert Häussling, Mönchskonvent und Eucharistiefeier: einer Studie über die Messe in der abendländischen Klosterliturgie des frühen Mittelalters und zur Geschichte der Messhäufigkeit, Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen (Münster, 1973), 356.

3 Benoît du Moustier and Jacques Hourlier, ‘Le calendrier Cartusien’, Études Grégoriennes, 2 (1957), 151–61.

4 On this principle, see Becker, Responsorien, 90–7.

5 Francescantonio Pollice, ‘L'innario certosino’, Rivista internazionale di musica sacra, 17/1 (1996), 289–300; Becker, Responsorien, 74–7. On the sequence see, for example, Lambres, ‘Le chant des Chartreux’, 25.

6 Moustier and Hourlier, ‘Le calendrier Cartusien’, 159 and 157.

7 Anselm M. Stoelen, ‘De eucharistische evolutie van de oude Kartuizer-liturgie’, in Studia Eucharistica. DCCi anni a condito festo sanctissimi corporis Christi 1246–1946 (Antwerp, 1946), 102–31.

8 Moustier and Hourlier, ‘Le calendrier Cartusien’, 156.

9 Being the feasts of Mary's Conception (1333), Visitation (1390–1468), Presentation (1470–4) and Compassion (1477–1486). See ibid., 161, 157, 160 and 155, respectively.

10 For background to this feast, see Mary Jerome Kishpaugh, The Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple: An Historical and Literary Study (Washington, 1941); Richard William Pfaff, New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England, Oxford Theological Monographs (Oxford, 1970), 103–15; William E. Coleman, Philippe de Mézières’ Campaign for the Feast of Mary's Presentation, Toronto Medieval Latin Texts 11 (Toronto, 1981); and Andrew Hughes, ‘The Office of the Presentation: Origins and Authorship’, in Die Offizien des Mittelalters: Dichtung und Musik, Regensburger Studien zur Musikgeschichte, ed. Walter Berschin and David Hiley (Tutzing, 1999), 153–77. De Mézières's Mass Propers (to be found in F-Pnm, lat. 17330) are the introit Gaudeamus, the gradual Benedicta et venerabilis, the alleluia Felix virgo, the prosa Altissima providente, the offertory Felix namque and the communion Beata viscera. Of these, the Carthusians only retained the introit.

11 Todd Ridder, ‘Musical and Theological Patterns Involved in the Transmission of Mass Chants for the Five Oldest Marian Feasts: An Examination of Proper Chants and Tropes in a Select Group of Medieval Manuscripts’, Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America (1993), 90.

12 For the concept of liturgical feasts, see Pfaff, New Liturgical Feasts, vii–viii and 1–12.

13 Ronald John Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi Attributed to Thomas Aquinas: A Theological Study of their Biblical Sources’, Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto (1985), 43.

14 On the background to and the development of the devotion, see Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge, 1991). On the actual feast, Barbara R. Walters, Vincent Corrigan and Peter T. Ricketts, The Feast of Corpus Christi (University Park, PA, 2006) is most elaborate, and the introduction by Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’, 1–81, is most enlightening. All these titles refer to the wealth of secondary literature that Corpus Christi has generated.

15 Available at the permalink (accessed 18 December 2020).

16 On the Paris Libellus, see Walters et al., The Feast of Corpus Christi, 63, 70–2 (an overview of the libellus’s contents), 83–5 and Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’, 63–70, both with further references. The Gallica link given in the previous note provides us with detailed information and a ‘Notice du catalogue’.

17 Charles Le Couteulx, Annales Ordinis Cartusiensis ab anno 1084 ad annum 1429 (Montreuil-sur-mer, 1887), 4: 250 (in the context of a section on Corpus Christi, 4: 249–52). Curiously, Le Couteulx does not mention Corpus Christi further in the section on the year 1318 (5: 105–19).

18 Degand, ‘Chartreux (liturgie des)’, 1058 and Peter Browe, ‘Die Ausbreitung des Fronleichnamfestes’, Jahrbuch für Liturgiewissenschaft, 8 (1928), 107–43, at 140–1.

19 Moustier and Hourlier, ‘Le calendrier Cartusien’, 157. The lack of references is an unfortunate but typical problem in this article; see Thomas Op de Coul, ‘How Were New Saint's Feasts Added to Liturgical Manuscripts? Uniformity in Three Dated Carthusian Graduals from the Low Countries’, Etudes grégoriennes, 41 (2014), 65–86, at 77–9.

20 As can be ascertained in John Clark, ed., The Chartae of the Carthusian General Chapter 1217–1437 : A Supplement (ms. Grande Chartreuse 1 Cart. 16), AC 100:44 (Salzburg, 2009); and John Clark, ed., Transumptum ex chartis capituli generalis: Ab anno 1250 ad annum 1379, a V.P.D. Joanne Chauvet, professo cartusiae & scriba ordinis (MS. Grande Chartreuse 1 Cart. 14, Tome 1), AC 100:29 (Salzburg, 1998). Still not available, despite its official publication date, is Urbain Bonnet, ed., Ordinationes et Admonitiones necnon notabiliores Dispositiones Capituli generalis Ordinis Cartusiensis, 1142–1573, Analecta Cartusiana 100:14–19 (Salzburg, 2012).

21 ‘Ut uniformitas sicut in Statutis continetur in diuino officio seruetur in Ordine, procurent omnes Priores et Vicarij habere legendam quae legitur in Cartusia in octauis et per octauas festi Eucharistiae, cuius legendae copiam in Cartusia poterunt reperire.’ Clark, ed., Transumptum ex chartis capituli generalis, 107. The passage is also cited in Le Couteulx, Annales Ordinis Cartusiensis, 5: 320, and in Browe, ‘Die Ausbreitung des Fronleichnamfestes’, 140–1. All translations are mine, but many thanks to Pieter Mannaerts for helpful corrections and suggestions.

22 James Hogg and M.G. Sargent, The Chartae of the Carthusian General Chapter. Cava MS. 61; Aula Dei: The Louber Manuale from the Charterhouse of Buxheim, Analecta Cartusiana 100:1 (Salzburg, 1982), 20. Note that the word ‘preceperit’ (line 1) was erroneously rendered as ‘perceperit’ by Hogg and Sargent.

23 Ibid., 6–10.


24 Ibid., 6–7.


25 The texts of the Statuta Nova can most easily be found in the printed collection of statutes, compiled by Johann(es) Amerbach, Statuta ordinis cartusiensis a domno Guigone priore cartusie edita (Basel, 1510). A copy of this print has been digitised by the Universitätsbibliothek Basel (; accessed 20 November 2018). The print is unpaginated but sections can be found through the page-headings. The specific citations below indicate the permalink to the individual digital image.

26 ‘Festum corporis Christi feria quinta post octavas pentecostes solenniter celebretur. Cuius octave fiunt eo ritu et ea solemnitate.’ Amerbach, Statuta ordinis cartusiensis,

27 ‘quia sic ordini a domino nostro papa Urbano quinto misericorditer est indultum.’ Amerbach, Statuta ordinis cartusiensis, Note that ‘Urbano quinto’ must be an error and should read ‘Urbano quarto’. Urban IV was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the feast, while Urban V, an Avignon pope from 1362 to 1370, did not have anything to do with Corpus Christi.

28 F-G 33 (102), fol. 232v–234v. On this manuscript, Raymond Etaix, ‘L'homiliaire Cartusien’, Sacris erudiri. Jaarboek voor Godsdienstwetenschappen, 13 (1962), 67–112, who dates the addition to the early fourteenth century and provides incipits on 95–6.

29 Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’, 31–2.

30 Tullio Bertamini, ‘La bolla “Transiturus” di papa Urbano IV e l'ufficio del “Corpus Domini” secondo il codice di S. Lorenzo di Bognanco’, Aevum, 42/1–2 (1968), 29–58, at 42–9.

31 In the rest of this article I will deal with chants only. Readings and prayers, while certainly not without interest, will be ignored for the sake of brevity.

32 Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture. Walters et al., The Feast of Corpus Christi.

33 Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’, 63.

34 D-Mbs, clm 19632, a convolute (s. XIV–XV) from the Benedictine Abbey St Quirinus at Tegernsee (modern Germany). The Mass can be found at fol. 146v–147v.

35 See the cursory comments by Vincent Corrigan in Walters et al., The Feast of Corpus Christi, 83 and 85.

36 Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’. The text of the sequence is also ascribed to Aquinas, see Thomas J. Bell, ‘The Eucharistic Theologies of Lauda Sion and Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae’, The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review, 57/2 (1993), 163–85; Hans D. Hoffert, ‘Die Sequenz Lauda Sion des Thomas von Aquin und ihr kirchenmusikalischer Imperativ: Eine Betrachtung’, in Dux et comes: Festschrift Franz Lehrndorfer zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. Hans D. Hoffert and Klemens Schnorr (Regensburg, 1998), 90–105.

37 The Carthusians reduced the corpus of alleluias to about sixty, as it was here where the most non-biblical chants were found. See Augustin Devaux, Graduel Cartusien: Introduction, Analecta Carthusiana 228 (Salzburg, 2008).

38 F-Pnm, lat. 903.

39 The following Carthusian graduals were used: GB-Lbl, Add. 17303, early thirteenth century, Durbon (France); B-Bc, II 261, dated 1367, Liège (Belgium); A-Gu, 376, second half fifteenth century, Žiče/Seitz (Slovenia); and the Graduale Ordinis Cartusiensis. Ex officina G. Chaudiere (Paris, 1578).

40 Lambres, ‘Le chant des Chartreux’, 23–4. A series of variants in the Corpus Christi Mass Propers within a wide selection of Carthusian sources is given, however, by Augustin Devaux, ed., Graduel Cartusien: Édition critique, Analecta Carthusiana 228:3 (Salzburg, 2005), 621–30. He gives melodic (mostly tiny) and notational (neume forms) variants. The gradual Oculi omnium exhibits the majority of variants – although almost half of them appear to centre on one manuscript (F-SPCc, 801, twelfth century).

41 See the sources given in note 39.

42 Johann Baptist Klein, Der Choralgesang der Kartäuser in Theorie und Praxis unter besonderer Berücksichtung der deutschen Kartausen. II. Teil (Berlin, 1910), 21, also comments on the alleluia, focusing, however, on text placement in the last section of the chant.

43 See the sources given in note 39.

44 Two crucial early sources for the Cibavit Mass apart from the Paris Libellus are: 1. A libellus, I-NOVasd, A 10, second half of the thirteenth century, Bognanco, Archivio parrochiale di S. Lorenzo. See Bertamini, ‘La bolla “Transiturus” di papa Urbano IV’; Emilia Dahnk Baroffio, I codici liturgici dell'archivio diocesano di Novara (Novara, 1978); Amelia de Salvatore, La liturgia del Corpus Christi a Roma: Canti processionali monastici a Parma, Munuscula preprint liturgica 4 (Rome, 1994). Many thanks to Giacomo Baroffio for supplying me with a scan of this last publication.

2. A cantatorium, B-Bc, 139, dated 1269, with Corpus Christi material added in the decades around 1300. See Cyrille Lambot, ‘L'office de la Fête-Dieu. Aperçus nouveaux sur ses origines’, Revue bénédictine, 54 (1942), 61–123; Léon M.J. Delaissé, ‘A la recherche des origines de l'office de Corpus Christi dans les manuscrits liturgiques’, Scriptorium, 4/2 (1950), 220–39; Thomas J. Mathiesen, ‘The Office of the New Feast of Corpus Christi in the Regimen Animarum at Brigham Young University’, The Journal of Musicology, 2/1 (1983), 13–44.

45 For the origins of these versions and the relationships between them, see the literature mentioned in note 14.

46 For this comparison, one Carthusian antiphonary was used: A-Wn, 1791, end of the fourteenth century, Brno/Brünn. That the Office found in this antiphonary is representative of the Carthusian version can be ascertained in Thomas André Hofmann, ‘Die Überlieferung der Propriumsgesänge des Fronleichnamsoffiziums Sacerdos in aeternum in Choralhandschriften mittelalterlicher Tradition’, Ph.D. diss., Katholische Universität Eichstätt (1999), 1: 71–4, where six Carthusian manuscripts are discussed, and in Becker, Responsorien, 276, using yet another manuscript.

47 See Becker, Responsorien, 71–2.

48 This is confirmed by a search on the Cantus website, (accessed 13 October 2017).

49 See note 5. It would be interesting to investigate further when and how the Corpus Christi hymns were introduced in the Carthusian Order.

50 The following Carthusian antiphonaries were used: F-LYm, Lugd. 509 (427), early thirteenth century, Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez (France); A-Wn, 1791 (see note 46) and F-G, 19 (94), c.1400, Grande Chartreuse (France).

51 As can be ascertained in Hansjakob Becker, Das Tonale Guigos I: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des liturgischen Gesanges und der Ars Musica im Mittelalter, Münchener Beiträge zur Mediävistik und Renaissance-Forschung 23 (München, 1975), 253, 260 and 267.

52 The one exception is Lavabo inter innocentes, which can be found at the exact same position in the Corpus Christi Office as found in a dated (1501) Benedictine antiphonary from the tradition of Melk: D-Mbs, clm 4306, f. 110r. The melody, however, differs from the Carthusian one.

53 Note that one melody (Colligite) has been used twice.

54 This melody, from antiphon Ascendit fumus, is almost identical to the antiphon O mulier magna, the Magnificat-antiphon for Thursday in the first week of Lent.

55 Compare this listing with the feasts from which the original Corpus Christi melodies in the Paris Libellus were taken (column 4): almost half (14 out of 33) from saint's feasts (Nicholas, Bernard, Dominic), four from Marian feasts, three from Apostle Thomas, two from Trinity, two from the common of Virgins and eight from other feasts.

56 See Andrew Hughes, ‘Modal Order and Disorder in the Rhymed Office’, Musica Disciplina, 37 (1983), 29–51. On 37, Hughes gives the modal scheme for Corpus Christi, as found in D-KA, Licht 15, f. 73r–79v. While this is a good example for a modally ordered Office, it is a lesser-known version of the Corpus Christi Office (opening with antiphon Gaude felix mater ecclesia), used by the Cistercians and, briefly, by the Dominicans. See Zawilla, ‘The Historiae Corporis Christi’, 44, note 89, and 78–9.

57 F-G, 19 (94) (see note 50) has been used here, as Trinity is curiously missing from A-Wn, 1791.

58 A state of affairs easily explained by the fact that the verses of these responsories were melodically much more formulaic in character (determined by the mode of the responsory) than the responsories proper. See Hucke, Helmut, ‘Das Responsorium’, in Gattungen der Musik in Einzeldarstellungen. Gedenkschrift Leo Schrade, ed. Arlt, Wulf and Lichtenhahn, Ernst (Bern, 1973), 144–91Google Scholar, at 179, and the introduction to Frere, Walter Howard, Antiphonale Sarisburiense (Farnborough, 1966)Google Scholar.

59 See page 43, discussing column 7 of Appendix 2.

60 Frere, Antiphonale Sarisburiense, 13.

61 Ibid., 29.


62 Ibid., 31.


63 For both, information can be found in the (unpaginated) second volume of the Nouvelle Bibliographie Cartusienne (Grande Chartreuse, 2005). For Dom Aymon, a single brief study exists: Pramotton, Siméon, Le père Dom Aimon Dauphin d'Aoste: Général des Chartreux (Aoste, 1873)Google Scholar. My heartfelt thanks goes to Dom Marcellin Theeuwes (†), who went to some lengths to provide me with a photocopy of this publication. In addition, see the entries in the index in Le Couteulx, Annales Ordinis Cartusiensis, 8: 25–6.

64 Sylvain Excoffon, ‘Recherches sur le temporel des Chartreuses dauphinoises, XIIème–XVème siècles’, Ph.D. diss., Université Grenoble II (1997), in the chapter ‘Prosopographie des moines et convers de la Grande Chartreuse (1200–1500)’ and Annexe 3. I thank Mr Excoffon for generously sharing sections from his dissertation.

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