Tra le sollecitudini

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Tra le sollecitudini is the title of an apostolic letter on church music , in the form of a motu proprios . It was published on November 22, 1903 by Pope Pius X (1903-1914). Originally written in Italian and planned as a shepherd's letter to the Diocese of Rome , after the publication of the Latin version it also became important for the whole Church. "The Magna Charta of Church Music identifies Gregorian chant as the music that is inherently part of the Catholic Church and as truly holy and true art".

The key message about church music is:

“Church music must to the highest degree possess the special qualities of the liturgy, namely the holiness and the goodness of form; from this a further characteristic grows automatically, the generality. These properties can be found to the greatest extent in Gregorian chant, and classical polyphony also possesses an excellent degree. A church composition is all the more sacred and liturgical the closer it approaches Gregorian melody in its course, inspiration and taste; and it is all the less worthy of the house of God as it departs from this highest example. "

- Pius X. Tra le sollecitudini

The Pope stipulated that only boys should be used to cast soprano and alto voices and prohibited the employment of castrati in church choirs .


The motu proprio consists of the following parts, sorted by content:

1 Introduction

In addition to generally comprehensive statements on church music, Pope Pius X announced that he had taken the decision to declare this decree to be the “code of church music” and demanded that these orders be followed.

2. General principles

Here the Pope pointed out the special importance of church music and asked it to increase the ornamentation and splendor of the sacred rites and to give the texts greater power (1). He expressly advocates forms of church music that have their origins in the music of the peoples , but they must not distort the general character of church music (2).

3. The types of church music

In the following he subdivided the types of church music and pointed to the original style of the Gregorian chant (3). He declared Gregorian chant to be the highest ideal of church music and expressed the wish that church composers should take this style as a model (3). Furthermore, Pius X wished that care should be taken that " Gregorian chant would be reintroduced to the people so that the faithful could again participate more actively in the celebration of the praise of God and the sacred mysteries, as was the case earlier" (3). Gregorian chant should also be reintroduced into worship , with basilicas , cathedrals , seminaries and other ecclesiastical institutions being particularly suitable (4). The Pope found the Italian operatic style (6) of the time and a secular modern style (5) unsuitable .

4. Liturgical texts

He now combined the elements of church music with the requirements of the liturgy , the church language is Latin and therefore singing in the vernacular is prohibited in church services (7). The following text contains precise ideas about the individual sections of the service and possible musical additions.

5. The external form of church music works In this paragraph the Pope discussed the singing during Holy Mass and laid down clear and unmistakable rules that resulted in commandments and prohibitions (11 a, b, c and d).

6. The singers

This section was followed by an elementary turning point for church music, the Pope concluded “that women who are not“ capable ”of such an office may not be admitted to any part in the choir or to any participation in the church choir “(13) and he also stipulates: If you want to use soprano and alto voices, boys have to fulfill this task (13).

7. Organ and instruments

In this instruction, the Pope preferred the organ as the accompaniment instrument to the singing , whereby the accompaniment should support the singing, but not suppress it (16). He banned the use of the pianoforte , all forms of drums , castanets and bells (19), and most strictly prohibited the performance of musical corps in the church. Under certain circumstances he only allowed a select group to perform with wind instruments and musical corps in processions outside the church (21).

8. Scope of liturgical music

In no way, as Pius X instructed, should church music unduly prolong the course of the liturgy, nor should music overload the sacred course of the liturgical celebration (22-23).

9. The main resources

In the last part, the Pope ordered the establishment of diocesan commissions and instructed the bishops to conscientiously implement the papal orders and to monitor them in the parishes (24). He demanded that Gregorian chant be taught and cultivated in the seminaries (25). Ultimately, he demanded that the forces at the schools for church music be “supported and promoted to the best of their ability. Where there is not yet such a thing, they should come together to found them. For it is of the utmost importance that the Church itself should endeavor to train its conductors , organists and singers according to the true principles of sacred art ”(27).

10. Conclusion

For the 100th anniversary

On the occasion of the Apostolic Letter Tra le sollecitudini published 100 years ago, Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) published a chirograph (handwriting) on ​​November 22, 2003. In him he praised the foresight of his predecessor and, in his greeting, took up the opportunity “to recall the important role played by church music, which St. Pius X as both a means of elevating the spirit to God and a valuable aid to the faithful in actively participating in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church. In addition, he recalled the apostolic letters of his predecessors who had also referred to the importance of church music ”.

To this end, he mentioned Popes Benedict XIV (1740–1758) with his encyclical Annus qui hunc (February 19, 1749) and Pius XII. (1939–1958) with the encyclicals Mediator Dei (November 20, 1947) and Musicae sacrae disciplina (December 25, 1955). The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium , which was adopted by the Second Vatican Council , is closely related to Tra le sollecitudini . Pope Paul VI (1963–1978) worked out specific norms that were issued on March 5, 1967 with the instruction Musicam sacram .

John Paul II responded to the educational mandate to which Pius X had called (25):

“Concrete fruit of the reform of St. Pius X was the establishment of the Pontifical College for Church Music in Rome in 1911, eight years after the Motu Proprio, from which the Pontifical Institute for Church Music emerged. In addition to this academic institution, almost 100 years old, which provided the Church with a qualified service, there are numerous other schools established in the particular Churches that deserve to be maintained and strengthened with a view to an ever better knowledge and practice of a good liturgical music. "

- John Paul II

Letter accompanying the motu proprio

In an accompanying letter of December 8, 1903 to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Pietro Cardinal Respighi , he instructed him to take over the implementation of these instructions and to monitor compliance with them.


With this apostolic letter, Pope Pius X laid down the main tasks of church music; he strove to use the musica sacra to accompany liturgical texts with sacred music. To this end, he wanted to understand Gregorian chant as the highest requirement and described it as the only chant that the church inherited from the fathers.

“That is why a music composed for the church is the more sacred the closer it is to Gregorian chant. The classical vowel polyphony is also ideally suited for the liturgy. And since the Church has always recognized and promoted the progress of the arts, modern music is also permitted, provided it complies with the laws of the liturgy. Pius X thinks here in the musical categories of form and style. By naming them as criteria for the liturgy of music, he says that it is the specific artistic character of a musical work that makes it a musica sacra. "

- FAZ, December 22, 2003

Although he only allowed liturgical chant in the Latin language, he still saw the possibility of integrating musical elements that show a folk origin into church music.


  • Wolfgang Bretschneider : From the Motuproprio Pius X. (1903) to the Instructio Musicam sacram (1967). Historical Notes on the Relationship between Liturgy and Music . In: Stefan Klöckner (Ed.): Liturgy and Music. German Liturgical Institute, Trier 2005, ISBN 3-937796-03-7 , pp. 38–51.
  • Paul Mai (Ed.): The Motuproprio Pius X. for church music "Tra le sollecitudini dell'officio pastoriale" (1903) and the Regensburg tradition . Catalog for the exhibition in the Episcopal Central Library in Regensburg. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2003, ISBN 3-7954-1660-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Eckhard Jaschinski: Brief history of church music . Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 2004, ISBN 3-451-28323-9 , p. 100.
  2. Who does Gregorian chant belong to? Peter Spichting, Gregorian chant and “right” understanding of the church, Kampfplatz Liturgie, in: Wort und Antwort 53 (2012), pages 10-14
  3. cf. Sinfonia Sacra e. V. Homepage: Welcome page
  4. Numbers are made after the translation "Tra le sollecitudini (wording)" on Kathpedia - Free Catholic Encyclopedia
  5. Benedetto XIV "Annus qui hunc" Costituzione Apostolica (Italian)
  6. ^ Musicam sacram (wording) on Kathpedia - Free Catholic Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Papal Letter to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome
  8. Compare: Now sing and be happy-ho-hoo (FAZ, December 22, 2003) ( Memento of the original from January 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Now sing and be happy-ho-hoo (FAZ, December 22, 2003) ( Memento of the original from January 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /