Adam of Saint Victor

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Adam of Saint Victor (died 1146)[1] was a prolific poet and composer of Latin hymns and sequences. He is believed to have sparked the expansion of the poetic and musical repertoire in the Notre Dame school with his strongly rhythmic and imagery-filled poetry.

The first reference to him is from 1098, in the archives of Notre Dame Cathedral, where he was first a subdeacon, and later a precentor. He left the cathedral for the Abbey of Saint Victor around 1133, probably because of his attempts at imposing the Rule of St Augustine at the cathedral.[2]

Adam probably had contact with a number of important theologians, poets, and musicians of his day, including Peter Abelard and Hugh of St Victor, and he may have taught Albertus Parisiensis.

Adam of St Victor’ surviving works are sequences for liturgical use, not theological treatises.[3][4] Around 47 sequences by Adam survive. In a practice that developed from the ninth century onwards, these are poems composed to be sung during the mass, between the Alleluia and the gospel reading. The sequence therefore bridges the Old Testament or epistle readings and the gospel, both literarily and musically.[5]


  1. ^ It was previously believed that he died late 12th century (e.g. 1192 [1]), but that is now believed to be false
  2. ^ Fassler, Margot E. (1984). "Who Was Adam of St. Victor? The Evidence of the Sequence Manuscripts". Journal of the American Musicological Society 37 (2): 233–269. doi:10.2307/831174. ISSN 0003-0139. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  3. ^ These texts were gradually rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Thirty-seven of his hymns were published in the Elucidatorium Ecclesiasticum of Jodocus Clichtovaeus, a Catholic theologian of the 16th century. The remaining seventy hymns were preserved in the Abbey of Saint Victor until its dissolution during the French Revolution. They were then transferred to the Bibliothèque Nationale, where they were discovered by Léon Gautier, who edited the first complete edition of them (Paris, 1858).
  4. ^ The critical edition of these texts is Jean Grosfillier, ed, Les sequences d’Adam de Saint-Victor: Étude littéraire (poétique et rhétorique). Textes et traductions, commentaires, Bibliotheca Victorina 20, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008), pp252-481. They are now fully translated in Adam of Saint-Victor, Sequences. Introduction, Text, Translation, and Notes by Juliet Mousseau, Dallas Medieval Texts, (Leuven: Peeters, 2011). In addition, Hugh Feiss, On Love, (2010), p71, argues that three additional Marian sequences seem likely to be by Adam of St Victor. The Latin text is in Bernadette Jollès, ed, Quatorze proses du XIIe siècle à louange de Marie, (Turnhout: Brepols, 1994).
  5. ^ Boyd Taylor Coolman and Dale M Coulter, eds, Trinity and creation: a selection of works of Hugh, Richard and Adam of St Victor, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010), p182.

Further reading[edit]

The modern critical edition of the Latin text is:

  • Grosfillier, Jean (2008). Les séquences d'Adam de Saint-Victor: Étude littéraire (poétique et rhétorique), textes et traductions, commentaires. Bibliotheca Victorina 20. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 9782503526591. 

English translations of Adam's work are in: