democratizedMichael H. Marchal

This article describes how the ancient hymn Laudes Regiae was recently integrated into the prayer of the contemporary Church in a parish setting, showing how Tradition is not mere repetition but also adaptation to some degree. Michael H. Marchal is
a member of Bellarmine Chapel at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.

While watching a Youtube clip of Pope Benedict's installation [Benedict XVI Laudes Regiae], I was carried back to my grade-school music education. While the ministers of the Mass were processing through St Peter's Square, the choir was leading the assembly in a long litany of the saints whose melodies I recognized though I had not heard them in years: I was listening to the Laudes Regiae, the Royal Praises. (Also known in America as the Ambrosian Acclamations.)

When I researched the history of the piece, its background proved fascinating. Its roots go twenty centuries deep and lie in the acclamations for long life and prosperity and divine protection offered to the pagan Roman emperors by the senate and people and army. Then as the empire became Christian, so did the acclamations.

The text we are familiar with, though, developed in the West in the middle of the eighth century as an acclamation for the Frankish royalty, and became especially identified with Charlemagne and his successors. The Normans adopted it as well and carried it to England and Sicily. Later on, it is found even more widely.
The text makes its appearance in the same manuscripts as the first litanies of the saints. These latter invocations had a distinctly penitential association; yet the Laudes Regiae, while intercessory, retained a festive and acclamatory spirit.

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