In his Confessions, Augustine describes how in 386, prior to his baptism, he was deeply moved by the singing of hymns in the church of Ambrose in Milan. He also reports that the singing of hymns was a recent innovation inspired by eastern examples. His account makes clear that singing entailed emotional dimensions in addition to the eschatological message of the words proper. Because singing had been important in Jewish services as well as in pre-Christian Roman religion, its introduction into the Christian church can be considered as a concession to pre-Christian cultural practices, which caused Jerome to make clear that he did not approve. With reference to passages in Augustine and other near contemporary authors and attention to the technical meaning of terms such as “dicere,” “loqui,” and “canere,” it is argued here that there was great disagreement in the western church in Late Antiquity as to the way hymns should be performed, and that the views of Augustine have been followed too uncritically by modern writers.


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pp. 116-130
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