Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

History of the Mass sources

Thanks to all who responded to my request of sources for finding out about
the history of the mass.

Here is what I received:

Here are some sources I have used:

Te Deum by Paul Westermeyer (Fortress Press, Minneapolis) not exclusively
Mass-oriented, more general Christian worship from the Jewish temple and
includes the development of the mass but is primarily a "philosophy of
worship" or worship theology text

Worship in the Early Church by Ralph P. Martin (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids)
extensive treatment of Christian worship from the apostolic age

I hope these may help. The Martin book may be a good source for you.

The best history of the Mass in one volume is "The Mass" by Joseph Jungmann,
You can order it from The Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN

Two sources that are contain good information:

Liturgies of the Western Church - Selected and Introduced by Bard Thompson
Fortress Press ISBN 0-8006-1428-3

The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth
Century -
A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians
John Harper
Clarendon Paperbacks
Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-816279-0

A good older source is The Shape of the Liturgy, by Dom Gregory Dix.

Two user-friendly resources regarding the mass are the Harvard Dictionary of
Music and Groves Dictionary - - both readily available in music libraries.

I would recommend that you contact the liturgy dept of your local Catholic
seminary to find out what textbook they use in studying the history of the
Mass. It may not give you as much background musically speaking, but it will
certainly be authoritative and well-grounded in the development of Roman
Catholic liturgy and discuss the various changes and developments of the
liturgy over the millennia.

Do you mean the musical portions of the Mass? Or the evolution of the Mass?
Since you're in Mesa, are you at ASU? Go to the library and get my
dissertation, which was on the propers of the mass by Isaac, and read the
bibliography. Rob Reynolds, who is still teaching History of Choral Music
at ASU, is probably the nation's best resource. Ask him! Besides the New
Groves, start with these:

Joseph Jungmann - The Mass of the Roman Rite - *the* definitive source on
the history and development of the mass.
Richard Hoppin (Reynolds' dissertation advisor) - Medieval Music

Dr. James D. Feiszli
I did a similar project in grad school back in the '70s. There is a
very good monograph, but I can't give you a citation because all our
books including my paper are packed up for remodeling. However, it
was in the Indiana University library, and the author's name may have
started with JJorgensen maybe, or something like that. I assume
that you are aware that the form of the Mass didn't spring full-grown
at any specific pont in history. That's what makes it a really
interesting subject. The "Credo" wasn't added until, I think, around
AD 1014, and of course Vatican II made some changes, mostly in the
prayers of the Proper.

Ron Jeffers' book "Tranlations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire: Sacred
Latin Texts" is a great resource. The entire beginning of the book is
dedicated to the Roman mass. He traces the history of its development and
more importantly gives historicat details about each of the textual
sections. There are probably more detailed texts, but this is still a very
helpful source that is worth checking out! Good luck!!

An excellent source is the Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1906 available online

Then Christoph Wolfe's biography of J. S. Bach has fabulous insights into
the Bach B Minor Mass.

Additionally, email directly Dr. Leo Nestor at Catholic University School of
Music (you can find him via He will point you in the right

There are lots of liturgical sources on the Mass per se, but seeing that you
are a choral teacher, I imagine you are more interested in musical settings
of the Mass. Try Groves Online via your library (my local library lets me
access it from home). Search "Mass" and follow where it leads.

Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy is the most used in seminaries, I think. I
also commend to you "The Origins of the Liturgical Year" by Thomas Talley,
and anything by Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B., world famous liturgics scholar,
retired from Yale now. Just google Fr. K's name and you will see some
wonderful resources. I think one of them is on the Eucharist, which is what
you need.

There is a wonderful book called "The Shape of the Liturgy." This is a
great resource. Although I don't have it at home with me, I'm sure you can
find all of the details at amazon or another book website.


I asked this question last year when preparing a Haydn Mass, and the
overwhelming answer was, of course, Ron Jeffers' Guide to Liturgical Latin.
Get ityou must own it and will use it regularly.

Ask your local parish priest, either Episcopalian/Anglican or Roman

Do some research in a library under the heading of Religion/Mass/History

Then go to Google on the web.
There is a substantial ten-volume publication called The Catholic
Encyclopedia. There is also a web-site with a similar name that you
might look for.


Thanks Again!
German Aguilar
Mesa High School Choral Director
Mesa, AZ
on April 9, 2008 10:00pm
Your best bet would be to personally contact a seminarian or seminary administrator. There is a monastery in Oregon called Mt.Angel. The monks there as one of their duties run a seminary for priests predominately of the western region of the country. The monks there are highly educated and have many books. I am 100% positive that they will be able to help you out.

Good Luck Mr.Aguilar!

Oh, you can also contact a music director at a local parish. At St.Anne's Catholic church in Gilbert the choral director there is great. He is very wise and is a professional musician. He has his own records and write all of his own music. He would be of great help to any musical aspect of the church. His name is Aaron Thompson. Good luck once again.