A missal is a book which contains all the texts and music needed by a priest to celebrate Mass. The missal illustrated here was probably made around 1350 in Paris for use at one of the altars at the royal abbey of Saint Denis. Because it was used there, the manuscript includes specific references to both the abbey and its patron saint, St Denis.
St Denis is the patron saint of France, and was believed to have been sent to Gaul to convert pagans to Christianity in the 3rd century AD. St Denis preached with great success but was imprisoned and eventually beheaded. Salve Pater Dyonisi would have been performed on the Feast Day of St Denis. There are seven verses which praise St Denis and two other saints who were martyred with him (Saint Rusticus and Saint Eleutherius). The words are sung in Latin to music that was adapted from pre-existing pieces to create a new work.
The original notation (or neums) written on the pages of the St Denis missal in conjunction with knowledge about other medieval chants allowed the Royal College of Music to make an accurate recording of music from the manuscript. This recording was made by the Royal College of Music especially for the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Audio: Salve Pater Dyonisi (Hail Father Denis)
The Royal College of Music have made an audio recording of Salve Pater Dyonisi (Hail Father Dionysius) – the first time it has ever been recorded.
Video: Music from a Missal from the Abbey of Saint Denis
In this video Rowan Watson of the National Art Library, Glyn Davies, Curator, and Frederik Annmo, Royal College of Music, discuss the missal, and the process of making the recording of its music.