Musicus Online Museum
In medio ecclesiae
Unlike most of the materials that form this exhibit, In medio ecclesiae is a responsory, not a sequence. It was a chant to be sung “in response” to the assigned readings in the daily services of the Divine Office (e.g. Matins and Vespers); the Gradual and Alleluia chants fulfilled a similar function in the mass service. (The sequence itself is positioned after the Alleluia in the mass liturgy).
In medio ecclesiae is included here because it is mentioned in one of the earliest accounts of musical elaboration of Western plainchant: in a ninth-century commentary by Amalarius of Metz. Amalarius describes the insertion of a neuma triplex (a threefold untexted melisma) in In medio ecclesiae, the final chant in the evening vigil for St. John the Evangelist. Amalarius links untexted singing to the eternal divine , and portrays its singers as conduits to the experience of a higher dimension, far beyond their own individual understanding. Significantly, the neumatic insertions in In medio ecclesie occur on the word “intellectus” (understanding); the final word in the chant’s recurring refrain. Amalarius urges the singer to seek a special contemplation at this moment, “where divinity is gazed upon, eternity beheld.” Fittingly, the entire refrain text resonates with Amalarius’s descriptions. Though not named in this chant, John the Evangelist receives divine knowledge: “in the midst of the church, the Lord has opened his mouth and filled him [John] with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.”