Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, but we can look forward to some awesome ceremonial music within the election of his successor. Benedict is the first Pope since 1415 to resign, and interestingly of the 265 Popes in history, only 9 have resigned and 3 of them have been named Benedict. One of these, Benedict IX (1012-1056) has an incredible history. He was elected Pope as a teenager - he was from a powerful family that produced 7 popes! Famously, he was the first actively homosexual pope, and even more amazing, he was pope 3 times. He was eventually removed by force twice and but initially was convinced to resign by selling the papacy to his godfather, becoming the only Pope to sell the papacy.
|Believe it or not, this is Pope Benedict XVI with the last pope to resign voluntarily, Pope Celestine V in 1294!|
Nevertheless, this rare event brings with it some exciting and ancient traditions that display some of the greatest musical gems in history.
So here is what to expect
Interregnum - this is the time between popes. Obviously, since Benedict XVI hasn't died, then there will not be the normal funeral that has preceded most papal elections, so for that matter I won't bother you with the music details of that. Instead this period will be highlighted by the soon-to-begin Conclave, which must begin within 21 days of the vacancy. They will begin the Conclave with a morning Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope. The music for the mass will be performed by the Schola cantorum or the papal choir using the old Gregorian chant originating from the 8th Century A.D.
Unfortunately for many music history professors (and the Catholic Encyclopedia) who teach this incorrectly, Gregorian chant was not created by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), but actually was a melding of several different chant traditions commissioned by the Carolingian Family in the 8th Century. Charlemagne was a member of this family and once he became Holy Roman Emperor, this Gregorian chant spread throughout the Christian world and is still the basis for the most solemn masses of the Catholic Church.
For Catholics out there, because it is Lent (the period that leads up to Easter), you will not sing the "Gloria" in the mass, because it is banned if the priests wear purple vestments. The Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope is one of the only times that the Catholic Church performs the Gloria during Lent as the vestments are red. Here is the version performed at the papal conclave:
After the votive mass in St. Peter's Basilica, they will process to the Sistine Chapel to the chant Veni Creator Spiritus or Come Creator Spirit. This 1,100-year-old hymn always begins the Papal Conclave:
The Vote - The College of Cardinals then vote by secret ballot and whoever receives a super-majority (more than 2/3rds of the vote) is elected Pope. The ballots are then burned and white smoke billows out of the chimney for the public to see. If no pope has been elected after a vote, a chemical is added to the ballots and the smoke appears black.
|St. Peter's Basilica|
|Altar in St. Peter's Basilica|
THIS IS THE ENTIRE INAUGURATION - BUT FAST FORWARD TO 2:54:00 FOR THE "SCARY" ENDING
|The Papal Cathdra (throne) at St. John Lateran|
|The Pope carried during the Coronation|
The entire ceremony is completely filled with music and the grandest ancient gems in music history - even the readings from the Bible were sung and all the prayers were sung. During the preparation for communion, the Silveri Symphony was performed by a choir of trumpets. The highlight of the Coronation was the crowning of the Papal Tiara to the words: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world on earth, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory through all ages"
Obviously, being crowned Ruler of the World has its problems in this modern era and the Coronation hasn't been performed in 50 years, but as a musician, it would be great to see a massive event like this only so we can have a better record of its tradition in this modern era. Only 3 have ever been filmed.
|The gigantic papal tiara|