Mass for Pope Marcellus

The "mass for pope Marcellus" composed by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94) is one of the highest achievements of Renaissance sacred music, as spiritually powerful as it is musically exquisite. Stephen thinks of 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"). These two things—the tension between monophonic chant and polyphony, and questions of orthodoxy and heresy—were intimately linked in the composer's mind, and Stephen seems to be pondering their relevance to his own literary art.

JH 2011

Oil portrait of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, by an unknown artist. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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