Lamentatio Sanctae Matris Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae (Guillaume Dufay)
- Editor: Moriwaki Michio (submitted 2000-06-07). Score information: A4, 6 pages, 111 kB Copyright: Personal
- Edition notes: zipped PostScript file, look under 'Score Library', PDF and midi files available at Werner Icking Music Archive
Title: Lamentatio Sanctae Matris Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae
Composer: Guillaume Dufay
Description: Here is a note by Mick Swithinbank on this rather obscure text: "In 1453, the Christian city of Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks - an event which in Europe was widely seen as a catastrophe, despite the longstanding schism between the Constantinople-based Orthodox Christians and the Roman Catholic Church. The leading composer of the day, Guillaume Dufay, composed an eloquent lament on the fall of the great city, and it has often been asserted that this was the song which was sung by a woman in white, wearing a black cloak of mourning and riding on an elephant, at the extravagant banquet hosted in Lille in 1454 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in an attempt to recruit knights for a crusade to win back Constantinople.
Striking though the image is, recent research shows that the song performed that day was a different one, while Dufay's lament, 'O très piteulx' - despite its French text - was probably composed soon afterwards as an appeal to the music-loving Pope Calixtus III in the same cause. Professor David Fallows, to whom we owe this information, tentatively suggests the following interpretation of the words. The weeping mother who speaks them is the city of Constantinople. She deplores the plight of the Byzantine church, referring to it both as her own son and, in a different sense, as that of the Pope; also, it would appear, as 'the fairest of men'. What is not in doubt is the appropriateness of the cantus firmus, sung by the last of the four voices to enter: drawn from the Old Testament Book of Lamentations and familiar from its use by the Church in Holy Week, it laments the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC. The top voice also bases its melody on that of the cantus firmus at times, notably at the very beginning of the work."
Original text and translations
French and Latin text
O très piteux de tout espoir, fontaine,
Most merciful source of all hope,