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Amiens 162 D, f. 1v »O salutaris hostia« 3v

Notation: Square notation on staff system 3; red ink is used for voice designations and initials, music and text are in black ink. The notes were drawn with a thin pen, and the squares subsequently hatched; the three lowermost staves have been augmented to five lines. Text and music were very carefully entered – probably by Hand D.

Disposition of parts: The three parts are in the MS designated “Superius, Tenor, Bassus”, which is quite unusual for a song in chant notation! The Superius starts at the top of the page and fills out two and a half staves; Tenor starts in the middle of the 3rd staff – directly following Superius; Bassus fills the three last five-line staves.

Editions: Amiens 162 Edition no. 13 (PDF).

Text: Hymn in honorem SS. Sacrementi, AR pp. 93*-95*; it is stanza 5 from the hymn “Verbum supernum prodiens”, AR p. 531, GR p. 154*, AH Vol. I, pp. 588-89; see also Leroquais 1927, Vol. I, p. 64 and Vol. II, p. 33; used as an elevation hymn or intercessory song:

O salutaris hostia
que celi pandis hostium
bella premunt hostilia
da robur fer auxilium.


A note-against-note setting in simple polyphony of the hymn tune (stanza 5 from “Verbum supernum prodiens”, 8. tone, cf. AR p. 93*), which is placed in the upper voice. The tune’s melismas in verses 1 and 4 and the syllabic style of verses 2-3 are not differentiated; every note in it is set homophonic and unmeasured. The Tenor functions as the structural counter-voice without any dissonances. Its range is quite restricted (f-d’), and it follows the tune in octaves, sixths, tenths and thirds; only in verse four, on “fer”, does a twelfth crop up. The Bassus is a harmonic bass-voice completing the triads, which never appear inverted. The setting is quite mechanical: if the Superius and Tenor are an octave apart, the Bassus is either unison with the Tenor (or at the octave below), or it takes the third below, else it mostly supplies the fundamentals of the triads. This forces a lot of disjunct motion and a greater range, and therefore the scribe had to add a fifth line below the original four-line staves before copying the part.

All the notes and chords get the same weight no matter whether they carry a syllable or are part of a melisma. This may indicate that the hymn should be performed at an invariable solemn pace in equal note values. The setting can easily be measured in double time with all cadences accentuated correctly. In fact, the cadences all follow ‘modern tonal’ patterns (verse 1, G: II-VI-IV-V-I; v. 2, C: I-V-V-I; v. 3, G: I-VII-I-V-I; v. 4, G: I-IV-V-I). In combination with the voices’ clear differentiation of range, this produces a sound very similar contemporary hymn-settings, but written and conceived in chant notation by people not mastering mensural notation.

There can be no doubt that this is a local product. Maybe it was made to comply with the wishes and orders of the French king. In June 1512 Louis XII ordered that “O salutaris hostia” should be inserted in the Gallican liturgy, to be sung at the Elevation of the Host between “Pleni sunt celi” and “Benedictus”. Also François I actively worked for the adherence to this practice in 1521 and 1524 (cf. Wright 1989, pp. 119-120 and 220-221).

The French music manuscript, Copenhagen 1848, from Lyons 1520-25 contains four settings of “O salutaris Hostia” (anonymous, nos. 110 (3v), 118 (3v) and 202 (2v), and by Haquinet, no. 197 (4v); in two settings (nos. 118 and 202) the same tune as in Amiens 162 is used in an upper voice, but in mensural music, cf. Christoffersen 1994, Vol. I pp. 285-88 and Vol. II passim.

PWCH January 2014