Musicus Online Museum

Sequence: Epiphaniam Domino

Sequence: Epiphaniam Domino (Du Fay)

Long melodies sung on the final “a” of Alleluia—a chant before the reading of the gospel at Mass—were called sequentia, insofar as they “followed” the Alleluia (Latin sequor=to follow). The musical structure of the sequence represents one of the most sophisticated expressions of medieval musical culture and is marked by clearly audible symmetrical repetitions. In the ninth and tenth centuries, texts (or prosae) were created to fit the melodies of the sequences, in part as a means of remembering the musical structure of the melody, and also to enrich the moment before the Gospel with images and theological concepts essential to the celebration. The “prose” Epiphaniam Domino originated in France, probably around the year 900. The text forms an exegesis of the Gospel text that was to be read on the feast of Epiphany, which celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. In this musical setting, the traditional plainchant alternates with choral verses, a logical arrangement since the sequence poetry is arranged in pairs. The most important composer of the early to mid fifteenth century, Guillaume Du Fay, composed this setting of the sequence, placing the traditional chant in the upper-most voice against a tenor line (generally the lowest voice). He then added a third part known as the contratenor, whose function it is to complete harmonies “against the tenor,” as the name suggests.

Epiphaniam Dominocanamus gloriosam,

Qua prolem Dei

vere magi adorant;

Immensam Chaldaei

cuius Persaeque

venerantur potentiam,

Quem cuncti prophetae


venturum gentes ad salvandas.

Let us sing to the Lordproclaiming his glorious Epiphany —

When the magi

rightly adore the offspring of God;

Whose immeasurable power

both Chaldeans and Persians


Him whom all the prophets

proclaimed would come

to save the Gentiles.

 Cuius maiestas ita est inclinata,ut assumeret servi formam.

Ante saecula qui Deus et tempora,

homo factus est in Maria.

Balaam de quo vaticinans,

‘Exibit ex Iacob rutilans,’ inquit, ‘stella

Et confringet ducum agmina

regionis Moab maxima potentia.’

His majesty was of such a naturethat he took on the form of a servant.

He, who was God before all ages and times,

was made man in Mary.

Balaam, prophesying of him, said:

‘From Jacob shall come forth a brilliant star

And it will shatter the hosts of the princes

from the region of Moab with mighty power.’[1]

Huic magi muneradeferunt praeclara:

aurum, simul thus et murram;

Thure Deum praedicant,

auro regem magnum,

hominem mortalem murra.

To Him the magioffer precious gifts:

gold, frankincense, and myrrh;

With frankincense they proclaim he is God,

with gold the great king,

with myrrh a mortal man.


In somnis hos monet angelus, ne redeantad regem commotum propter regna.


Pavebat etenim nimium regem natum,

verens amittere regni iura.

An angel advises them in a dreamthat they not return to the king

obsessed about his kingdom.

He felt very threatened indeed

by the new-born king,

fearing to lose his kingly right.

Magi stella sibi micante praevia

pergunt alacres itinera, patriam

quae eos ducebat ad propriam

linquentes Herodis mandata;

Qui perculsus corde nimia prae ira

extemplo mandat eludia magica

non linquid taliter impunita,

sed mox privari eos vita.

With the guiding starmoving quickly before them

the cheerful magi take up their journey,

and the star led them to their own country—

ignoring the mandates of Herod;

Herod, unnerved to the core, in great anger

commanded that this supernatural trickery

not go unpunished,

but that they pay with their lives.

Omnis nunc caterva tinnulum iungatlaudibus organi pneuma


Mystica offerans regi regum, Christo,

munera pretiosa,


Poscens, ut per orbem regna

Omnia protegat in saecla sempiterna.

So now let the entire assemblyjoin in praises

with instrumental melody,

Offering to the King of Kings—to Christ—

precious gifts with mystical meaning,


Beseeching him to protect all nations

on earth throughout all ages.


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