Schola cantorum (papal choir)

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This article is about the medieval papal choir. For Schola Cantorum, see Schola Cantorum (disambiguation).

The Schola cantorum was the trained papal choir during the Middle Ages, specializing in the performance of plainchant. Although legend associates them with the papacy of Gregory the Great, there is no historical evidence to support this claim. The Schola is attested in historical records beginning in the 8th century, possibly beginning under Pope Sergius I. They played a significant and contentious role in the transmission of Roman chant to the Carolingian court of Charlemagne, where the fusion of Roman and Gallican chant evolved into what we now know as Gregorian chant.

Between the years 876 and 1073, the prior of the Schola is recorded to have performed a curious dance with clearly pagan origins known as Cornomania, on the Saturday following Easter, on the Lateran Square in Rome. He would wear a wreath with horns on his head, swing a rattle with bells, scatter laurel leaves, and cry out in an unknown language, "Iaritan, iaritan, iariariasti; raphayn, iercoin, iariariasti". [1]

Several institutions have modeled themselves after the medieval Schola, including the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis of Basel and the Schola Cantorum de Paris.


  1. ^ F. Schneider, Rom und Romgedanke im Mittelalter (Munich, 1926), cited in H. St. L. B. Moss, The Birth of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1935), p. 263.