Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium
Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium is a hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi . It is also sung on Maundy Thursday, during the procession from the church to the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept until Good Friday. The last two stanzas, called separately Tantum Ergo, are sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The hymn expresses the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which, according to the Roman Catholic faith, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
It is often sung in English as the hymn Of the Glorious Body Telling, to the same tune as the Latin.
There are many English translations, of varying rhyme scheme and metre. The following is the Latin text with a doxology, and an English translation by Fr. Edward Caswall:. The third column is a more literal rendering.
However, for those who can translate from Latin, it is not so difficult to find out there isn't a complete translation that renders the full meaning of the text. That's rather normal because of the theological extactness of the hymn. When composed, the hymn was meant to give understanding that believing that in the Eucharist there is the presence of the real flesh and the real blood of Christ, was strictly according to the Bible, and it is a masterpiece of logical architecture.
Just as an example of some difficulties in translating, the Latin word "Pange" has been given here, either by the English words "Sing" or "Tell". That, anyway, should be allowed if the Latin word had been "Pande" that means "Tell". "Pange", instead, could mean "Fix" if considered in a practical context. Otherwise, in a context of human relationships it means likely "Agree upon a pact", that in the context of the hymn is the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ on the Last Supper.
|Latin text||An English translation||A more literal rendering|
There are two plainchant settings of the Pange Lingua hymn. The better known is a Phrygian mode tune from the Roman liturgy, and the other is from the Mozarabic liturgy from Spain. The Roman tune was originally part of the Gallican Rite.
The Roman version of the Pange Lingua hymn was the basis for a famous composition by Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez, the Missa Pange lingua. An elaborate fantasy on the hymn, the mass is one of the composer's last works and has been dated to the period from 1515 to 1521, since it was not included by Petrucci in his 1514 collection of Josquin's masses, and was published posthumously. In its simplification, motivic unity and close attention to the text it has been compared to the late works of Beethoven, and many commentators consider it one of the high points of Renaissance polyphony.
Juan de Urrede, a Flemish composer active in Spain in the late fifteenth century, composed numerous settings of the Pange Lingua, most of them based on the original Mozarabic melody. One of his versions for four voices became one of the most popular pieces of the sixteenth century, and was the basis for dozens of keyboard works in addition to masses, many by Spanish composers.
Building on Josquin's treatment of the hymn's third line in the Kyrie of the Missa Pange Lingua, the "Do-Re-Fa-Mi-Re-Do"-theme became one of the most famous in music history, used to this day in even non-religious works such as Wii Sports Resort. Simon Lohet, Michelangelo Rossi, François Roberday, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, Johann Jakob Froberger, Johann Kaspar Kerll, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Fux wrote fugues on it, and the latter's extensive elaborations in the Gradus ad Parnassum made it known to every aspiring composer - among them Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose Jupiter  theme borrows the first four notes.
The last two verses of Pange Lingua (Tantum Ergo) are often separated out. They mark the end of the procession of the monstrance in Holy Thursday liturgy. Various separate musical settings have been written for this, including one by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, one by Franz Schubert, one by Maurice Duruflé, and one by Charles-Marie Widor.
Pange Lingua has been translated into many different languages for worship throughout the world. However, the Latin version remains the most popular. The Syriac translation of Pange Lingua was used as part of the rite of benediction in the Syro-Malabar Church of Kerala, India, until the 1970s.
- Rondo Histriae Mixed choir from Croatia chants Pange lingua by Anton Bruckner (video).
- "Pange Lingua Gloriosi". Catholic Encyclopedia.
- H.T. Henry, "Pange Lingua Gloriosi," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XI
- Siegbert Rampe: Preface to "Froberger, New Edition of the Complete Works I", Kassel etc. 2002, p. XX and XLI (FbWV 202).
- William Klenz: "Per Aspera ad Astra, or The Stairway to Jupiter"; The Music Review, Vol. 30 Nr. 3, August 1969, pp.169-210.
- Ben Arnold, ed.: The Liszt Companion. Greenwood Press: 2002, p.270.