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Dedication by Palestrina, Rome 1584

February 15, 2008

Motettorum liber quartus

[Rome, 1584]


To Our Most Holy Lord Gregory XIII, Supreme Pontiff:

There are too many poems with no other subject matter than loves alien to the Christian profession and name. These poems, written by men truly carried away by fury, corrupters of youth, a great many musicians have chosen as the material for their skill and industry, and while they have been distinguished by the praise of their talent, they have equally given offense to good and serious men. I blush and grieve to admit that I was once one of their number. But now, when past things cannot be changed and things done cannot be undone, I have changed my purpose. Therefore I have both already labored on those poems which have been written of the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Most Holy Mother the Virgin Mary, and at this time chosen those which contain the divine love of Christ and his spouse the soul, indeed the Canticles of Solomon. I have used a kind of music somewhat livelier than I have been accustomed to use in ecclesiastical melodies, for this I felt that the subject itself demanded. It has been my wish, indeed, to offer this work, such as it is, to Your Holiness, who I doubt not will certainly be satisfied by the intent and the endeavor, if less so by the thing itself. But if (may it so befall!) I shall give satisfaction with the thing itself, I shall be encouraged to produce others which I shall expect to please Your Holiness. May God, as long as may be, preserve for us Gregory, the most vigilant shepherd, with the greatest love for his flock, and heap all felicity upon him.

His humble servant

Giovanni Aloysio Palestrina.

Strunk, Oliver, Source Readings in Music History, The Renaissance, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, 1965,
ISBN 0-393-09681-5, pp.133-134.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 15, 2008 8:21 pm

    Ah to hear Palestrina in my church rather then “Glory & Praise” it’s like having to chose btwn the World Series seventh game and a bunch of drunken 50 year olds play on a dirt pile.

    Change is slow, but perhaps we can recapture what’s been ignored for fools gold.

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