As an organist, Alanna Ropchock (B.A./M.A. '09) performed often for religious services and festivals. This fueled her curiosity concerning liturgical music history and, from that interest, Josquin des Prez’s Missa Pange lingua has became the topic of her doctoral dissertation. Now in her fourth year of the Ph.D. degree in musicology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the Osceola Mills, Pennsylvania native will spend 10 months in Germany on a Fulbright Award, searching documents and other sources to learn more about this 16th-century masterpiece.
Alanna hopes that her study of Missa Pange lingua will provide insight regarding how a specific group of clerics broke away from Catholicism and formed the Lutheran Church during the German Reformation. She specifically will examine the period between 1515 and 1560, and will base her studies at the University of Augsburg. She also plans to visit Rostock, Regensburg, Nuremburg and Munich; Vienna, Austria; Cambridge, England; and Brno in the Czech Republic.
Missa Pange lingua was composed shortly before Martin Luther revolted against Catholicism in 1517 by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the castle church door in the city of Wittenberg. Luther would be called to Augsburg to explain his actions, which set off a church revolution that eventually led to the Catholic-Lutheran divide.
Ropchock explained that most university-level music students encounter this famous mass celebrating the Corpus Christi feast, which honors the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist.
“The Corpus Christi feast day, which began in the mid-13th century, was popular across Europe, but even more so in Germany,” she said. While this feast day, as well as the general concept of transubstantiation, were among the subjects that Luther protested, it appears that this mass remained in use and was able to cross the Catholic-Lutheran schism.
“Catholics and Lutherans were more alike than different as they transitioned into separate religions during the German Reformation,” she said. Alanna hopes to find more documentation to support that observation.
“Scholars have information that Lutherans used several parts of the mass in their liturgies,” she said. “They used the same prayer texts and some of the same hymns, but they believed they were doing something different from what the Catholics were doing."
Abstracted from The Daily: Digital News of Case Western Reserve University, May 23, 2013