Mass for Pope Marcellus

In Telemachus Stephen thinks of the "mass for pope Marcellus," pondering both the paradoxical achievement of the music ("the voices blended, singing alone loud in affirmation") and its religious significance ("and behind their chant the vigilant angel of the church militant disarmed and menaced her heresiarchs"). Musical tension between multiplicity and unity, addressing a theological dispute about heresy and orthodoxy, was an essential concern of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina when he composed this great work of Renaissance polyphony in or around 1564. The music clearly meant a lot to Joyce: in Lotus Eaters he has Bloom too mention Palestrina after thinking, "Some of that old sacred music is splendid" and "Those old popes were keen on music." It seems likely that Stephen may be considering the work's relevance to composing a masterpiece in his own realm of literary art.

John Hunt 2022

16th century painting of Palestrina holding his mass, by an unknown artist. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photograph of St. Teresa's church on Clarendon Street, Dublin by benoit.bremilts. Source:

Formal oil portrait of Palestrina by an unknown artist. Source: Wikimedia Commons.