The Psalter and Breviary of Esztergom released

June 19, 2023

Besides comparative research on a pan-European scale, our team is committed to editing the Hungarian liturgical heritage, first of all, the monuments of the medieval kingdom's primatial see, Esztergom. In 2014, we edited its Psalter, i.e. the everyday level of the divine office in three musically notated, bilingual volumes, the first containing the preface, the indices, and the matins, the second daytime hours from lauds to compline, and the third the recitative tones along with practical musical examples, the primary sources, and an appendix. Now all these are open to all. The print volumes can be ordered from the webshop of the Society for Hungarian Sacred Music or directly via email: bolt[at]

(1) Psalterium Strigoniense: Pars nocturnalis,
(2) Psalterium Strigoniense: Pars diurnalis,
(3) Psalterium Strigoniense: Liber tonarius

Since 2016, we continue to publish the Breviary in musically notated Latin booklets. The temporal part has just been finished with its eighth and last fascicle. As a result, we can offer to the public what is probably the second complete Breviarium Notatum (including the nocturnal parts), at least its seasonal part, since the last, isolated Carthusian antiphonals and the recent editions of the Sarum service books.

(4/a) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore Adventus (Advent),
(4/b) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore Nativitatis (Christmastide),
(4/c) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore post Epiphaniam (Epiphanytide and Shrovetide),
(4/d) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore Quadragesimae (first four weeks of Lent),
(4/e) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore Passionis (Passiontide and Holy Week),
(4/f) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore Paschali (Eastertide),
(4/g) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore post Pentecosten (Whitsuntide, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi and its octave),
(4/h) Breviarium Strigoniense: Proprium de Tempore in Aestate (ordinary season after Pentecost)

With the three volumes of the Psalter and the eight volumes of the Breviary, more than 2400 pages of authentic medieval liturgical text and music became available. The Hungarian office tradition is already well known to the international audience through the comprehensive editions of antiphons and responsories by László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei. The Psalter and the Breviary put these chants back into their original context in a form fit for actual use. Our MRH Series Practica aims to present the medieval liturgy as it had survived until the present day. The original contents are minutely preserved, but the spelling, accentuation, punctuation, and the whole layout conform to modern standards. Let us cite here the objectives laid down in the introduction to the opening volume:

Liturgy was probably the most universal communal factor of medieval and early modern Europe. It determined the rhythm of life for clerics and laymen alike and its treasure of texts, melodies, and gestures formed the basic knowledge that intellectuals acquired from their childhood and transmitted later to the illiterates.

However, this phenomenon, equally rich in texts, melodies, and ceremonies, is currently hardly accessible by the modern man, partly because it is unedited, partly because it cannot be fully reconstructed even with the use of the available editions. Our series is based on strict scholarly principles, but it strives to serve a practical purpose, namely to present the medieval liturgical books of Hungary in an easily accessible and understandable form. It will make it much easier to apply this material within the context of research, education, musical interpretation, or even everyday ecclesiastical practice.

Academic tradition shows that the fragmented information gathered from written sources must be represented as a reasonable whole through the reconstruction of the so-called Sitz im Leben. Several questions would not even arise without the practical application of the studied sources. The questions that emerge in the course of this (a try-out, if you like) force scholars to deal with otherwise undiscovered problems. Thus, an instructional edition is not only an opportunity to publish scholarly results, but it also stimulates them. From an educational viewpoint, sources and critical editions will be handled more reliably by a student trained in practical editions.

The examination and revival of Gregorian chant both academically and artistically has a considerable, internationally acclaimed tradition in Hungary. This is based – beyond the individual artistic accomplishments of the few – on an ethnological background, calling our attention to the relationship between text and melody, to the authentic performance, and to the ritual environment. Gregorian chant is embedded within the set sequence of liturgy and the eminent place of Hungarian research is due to the fact that it has always studied texts and melodies within this proper context.

It is an incidental fact, that only the Use of the Roman Curia and that of a few religious orders have survived from the whole of the Western Church. A long-term goal of this series is to provide a starting point for a revival of the Hungarian Church’s peculiar heritage.

Back to Improvements