This site has been archived for historical purposes. These pages are no longer being updated.

Chapter 3
Jesuits Do Not Sing, But Their Companions Do

"The establishment in Paraguay by the Spanish Jesuits appears alone, in some way, the triumph of humanity. It seems to expiate the cruelties of the first conquerors. The Quakers in North America and the Jesuits in South America gave a new spectacle to the world." (Voltaire)

Music in the Early Jesuit Colleges and Sodalities

"Jesuita non cantat" (Jesuits do not sing) was almost axiomatic among Catholic clerics. The original Constitutions of the Jesuit Order contained legislation which restricted the musical activity of its members, such as singing the divine office in choir. Personally Ignatius liked music, but he felt that the needs of the church should not allow Jesuits the luxury of meeting daily to chant the divine office together. Their colleges were a different story. Through the efforts of Jesuit and non-Jesuit faculty their schools greatly impacted the history and development of music.

Music was taught in the Jesuit schools from the beginning, especially in Jesuit theater, so that by the end of the sixteenth century there had developed a noteworthy musical life in some of the Jesuit colleges. In his book Jesuits and Music Thomas Culley, S.J. reports that music was quite important at many Jesuit colleges. In spite of the fact that music was cultivated very early by the Jesuits, Culley comments: "It is a pity that so much musical activity has thus far interested so few historians of music." He then quotes the historian Heinrich Hüschen's Jesuiten, offering a partial listing of the places where the cultivation of music became quite important:

the Collegium Germanicum in Rome (founded in 1552)
the Collegium Gregorianum in Munich (founded in 1572)
the Collegium Ferdinandeum in Graz (founded in 1574)
the colleges in Vienna, Prague, Cologne, Mainz, Augsburg

Thomas Culley, S.J. has written about this phenomenon in his book Jesuits and Music and among his sources for the history of the German College he mentions a history of the school by Wilhelm Fusban, S.J. It contains two early diaries concerning the musical tradition at the College church, San Apollinare, the expenditures of the college itself and a manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library which contains a great deal of biographical information about musicians connected with the College.

An engraving of Rome in 1590 showing:
A. The Gesu, B. The Roman College, C. The German College

Ignatius quickly understood the importance of education as a means of reaching his objectives so that during the first two centuries of his Society more than 1,000 Jesuit colleges were founded. Not all survived, but by the middle of the eighteenth century the Jesuit educational activity was so extensive that about 740 schools were still flourishing. Of these, perhaps none became more famous than the German College, which was by then two centuries old, having been founded in 1552.

Jesuit Sodalities offered another occasion for musical development. These congregations of non-Jesuits were societies formed out of devotion to the Virgin Mary, and periodically the members made Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises and engaged in vigorous apostolic works. Jesuits fostered these congregations not only among students in their schools but also among the adult laity. The musical significance of these sodalities was evident in their frequent meetings where all types of liturgical and non-liturgical music were performed: music for the performance of spiritual plays, for songs in the vernacular language and for accompanying meditations. Quoting Max Wittwer, Culley comments on the role of the Sodality in the development of music for popular consumption.

The cultivation of music in connection with the Congregations [Sodalities] became important for the development of music inasmuch as here, persons of every age and condition took part in the religious singing, the religious plays and the meditations, either actively as participants, or passively as listeners. On account of the great number of members who belonged to these groups, and the large number of spiritual exercises, it came about that the people always remained in close contact with music, and were receptive to works from other areas of music. (Culley, 1970, p. 20)

The German College as an example of Jesuit Tradition

The importance of the German College for the history of music is evident from the quality of its teachers: musicians such as Vittoria, Agazzari and Carissimi taught there as maestri di cappella. Of all the colleges of the early Society which were distinguished for a musical tradition, the German College in Rome is easily the most famous. The German College came into existence because of the efforts of Cardinal Giovanni Morone who knew that the Catholic Church in Germany would most effectively be restored by a well-formed German clergy and that such a formation should be offered in Rome. He approached Ignatius Loyola who agreed with him and supported the plan enthusiastically. Both men agreed to establish a Roman seminary in which German seminarians would study, become ordained and would then return to Germany to work for the Church there.

The plan of Morone and Loyola was warmly received by Pope Julius III who issued a Papal Bull in 1552 to establish the German College, which became a remarkable success. Students began coming to the college in large numbers as early as 1556, and soon they were arriving from all over Europe so that the average yearly number of students was around two hundred, while that of the German seminarians was about twenty-five. Initially, the Germanicum was an institution devoted mainly to the education of the laymen and secondarily to that of the seminarians. Initially the increased emphasis on music was less than enthusiastic but in 1573 Pope Gregory XIII renewed the college with a generous endowment, and it was then that music at the Germanicum began to be a serious activity for the seminarians. After that the college church St. Apollinare became renowned for its beautiful music.

Music was quite important for the history of clerical education in the Church because it served as the model for later Catholic seminaries. The Council of Trent had decreed that clerics should be given serious intellectual and spiritual formation. Culley quotes the historian Wittwer concerning the importance of seminary education for the history of music and the decision of the Council of Trent to found seminaries patterned after the German College which would serve as the example for all to follow.

Jesuit Athanasius Kircher comparing songs
of cock, hen, cuckoo, quail, parrot
to nightingale's song
(right) some bowed instruments of Kircher's day
(from his Musurgia Universalis)

Musicians at the German College and Sant' Apollinare

Pope Gregory XIII issued three edicts regarding the college which concerned legislation about the liturgy there. The musical program established at the refounding of the college was quite serious. The students would sing the entire office on 52 feasts as well as the daily celebration of Mass. In addition, occasional motets were sung about 200 times a year and all students received daily instruction in music. In addition to technical preparation as singers or instrumentalists, they also learned the theory. The especially gifted succeeded as composers. They also acquired far-reaching knowledge of music literature to disseminate among the laity with whom they would later work, as teachers or as practicing musicians, in the service of the Church or secular institutions. The students of the Jesuit seminaries came from every social level.

The German College was famous throughout Europe as a musical center. From 1573 until that time, the music at the Germanicum was the talk of Rome, and indeed of many places outside the city itself. The performances in the Church of St. Apollinare, which adjoined the college,were second to none. So, too, was the musical education given at the Germanicum, where such composers and performers as Vincenzo Alberici, Felice Sances, Philip Baudrexel, Kaspar Forster, Francesco Foggia, Stefano Landi, and many others studied. To their names must be added those of such musicians as Giuseppe Bianchi, Carlo Caproli, Odoardo Ceccarelli, Venantio Leopardi, Giovanni Marciani and others, all of whom worked for the college at one time or another and were outstanding performers of the time.

The influence of the Germanicum as a center of music, however, was by no means restricted to Rome or to Italy. The students there, after completing their stay in Rome, returned to work in the German-speaking countries from which they came. With them they brought an interest in, as well as techniques of, that Italian music which came to dominate European musical centers in the seventeenth century. Thus, in addition to the influence it exercised on the musical life of Rome, the Germanicum further served baroque music insofar as it was a point of confluence between north and south, enabling each region to be exposed to the style of the other. (Culley, 1970, p. 13)

A further indication of the esteem in which the Germanicum was held as a musical center is seen in the large number of nobles and prelates in Rome and beyond who had musicians in their service educated there. The quality of the musicians who worked and studied at the college, however, is the best argument for its excellence musically. This is especially clear in the case of those who sang, and the instrumentalists who worked at the Germanicum. They had the reputation as musicians of uncommon competence.

Carissimi's pupil Alessandro Scarlatti

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)

Born in Marino near Rome, Giacomo Carissimi, came to work with the Jesuits at their German College in 1629 as the chapel director or maestro di cappella. Enthusiastic descriptions of his life and contributions are found in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Encyclopedia Britannica and Thomas Culley's book. In the course of his teaching at the Germanicum, attempts were made to entice him to leave for greener pastures, but he remained with the Jesuits until he died.

The efforts made to entice Carissimi away from the Germanicum were as impressive as his resistance to them. One letter came from a good friend, Giacomo Razzi, who urged Carissimi to come to Venice as the successor of Monteverdi as maestro di cappella at San Marco. He describes the advantages and gives a lively account of the musical activities Carissimi could expect.

There are two, large, most perfect organs, adjusted to perfection, with two most talented organists. There are about forty ordinary singers for the church, and about twelve instruments, among violins, viols, trombones and cornetti; and others outside the church are also called at the pleasure of the maestro. And here one has the chance of bringing about [all kinds of] interplay, and spirited and gay inventions, with [instrumental] symphonies which compete among themselves in imitating and answering the lively suggestions of the voices. And I exhort you, as a true servant, that you hear us, and seize fortune now since there are other subjects of much merit who are contending [for the position]. Confer secretly with Monsignor Ottoboni. (Culley, 1970, p. 186)

In 1647 another interesting effort was made to hire Carissimi by Archduke Leopold William, son of Emperor Ferdinand II, and cousin of Philip IV. The following letter was written by a Jesuit, Theodorico Begue. Apparently it was not considered bad form for Jesuits to entice good teachers from their sister schools.

As soon as I arrive [by letter], you have no chance. Pull on the boots, and put on the spurs, and come with the mail. I give [you] the word of a gentleman that you will not regret such a resolution. His Highness [the archduke] does not allow the prince [Friedrich] to live [in peace] until he has his own way. You will have all that you will demand, and more than you can imagine. And do not be afraid of the bullets, because the French in this country do not have any more powder. (Culley, 1970, p. 189)

A renowned Jesuit admirer of Carissimi, the scholar Athanasius Kircher, wrote of him in his Musurgia Universalis (Rome, 1650, p. 603), and enhanced an already splendid reputation among his contemporaries by reporting in 1650: "Iacomo Carissimi, most excellent musician of celebrated fame, most worthy director of music of the Church of St. Apollinare is stronger than others in talent and felicity of composition. His compositions are full of energy and vivacity of spirit." The professional singers of Rome gave one of the greatest tributes to Carissimi, in a letter reporting on the state of the music at the college in 1697: "Signor Carissimi had many students who considered it an honor to come to sing his music, even without payment. Moreover, through great work, and by training the musicians in his room, he created the best music, even with ordinary voices."

Some of Kircher's inventions:
the megaphone and the water organ

The Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: Benton, 1859, 4, p. 873), describes Giacomo Carissimi as one of the most celebrated masters of the Italian school of music and mentions his two great achievements: "the development of the recitative, previously introduced by Monteverdi which was of infinite importance in the history of dramatic music; and the invention of the chamber cantata, by which he superseded the madrigals formerly in use. His oratorios in turn were of prime importance as having definitely established the form and style of that class of work. "The Golden Encyclopedia of Music by Norman Lloyd further describes the original contributions of Carissimi.

The earliest cantatas, dating from seventeenth-century Italy, are opera like settings of religious or secular poems and stories. Many such cantatas, consisting of arias and recitatives, were written by the Roman organist Giacomo Carissimi. Alessandro i..Scarlatti (1660-1725); was considered the most important opera composer of his day. Born in Palermo, Sicily, Scarlatti as a boy showed such talent that he was taken to Rome to study with Carissimi, then the dominant figure in the musical world (he is remembered today as one of the first writers of oratorios). The first true oratorios were those written toward the middle of the century by Giacomo Carissimi in Italy, and Heinrich Schutz in Germany. Carissimi (1605-74), whose Jeptha (c. 1665) is still sung today, wrote in a vocal style that combined the practices of sacred music with that of early Italian opera. (Lloyd, 1968, p. 93, p. 382 p. 504)

The Church of St. Philip Neri, friend of St. Ignatius
and founder of the Oratorians;
whence derives the word Oratorio

In his book on Bernini Howard Hibbard likens the theatrical art of Carissimi in his oratorios to the theatrical art of Bernini.

St. Philip Neri encouraged popular devotion by means of religious songs and dramas set to music, and the oratorio takes its name from Philip's Oratory. There are similarities between Bernini's [theatrical] art and that of the leading composer of oratorios, Giacomo Carissimi (I605-74). Like Bernini, Carissimi tried to appeal to a vast audience through the emotions. He set lively stories to music and employed impressive choruses to further his religious dramas. Bernini was uniquely successful in making art and life merge into one exalted experience. (Hibbard, 1974, p. 136)

Carissimi had some very impressive students who carried the fame of the German College to other countries of Europe. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians praises the work of Giacomo Carissimi, reviewing his accomplishments and comments as well as the dedication he displayed at the Germanicum in spite of the many offers to go elsewhere.

He appears to have been happy at the college, since he declined several other attractive appointments. In 1643, for instance, he might have become Monteverdi's successor at St. Mark's, Venice. Four years later two of his German pupils, one of them Landgrave Friedrich of Hesse, tried in vain to procure his services as Kapellmeister of the Brussels court of the governor of the Netherlands.

Carissimi's music and his activities as maestro di cappella and teacher contributed decisively to the flowering of Roman music - indeed of Italian music in general - in the 17th century. Carissimi is a figure of the first importance. He also exerted an influence on the composers who followed him. . . . Carissimi's influence in France is even more apparent than in Germany, notably the work of Charpentier. He also long served the Jesuits and shared with Carissimi the ideal concerning such music - to further the renewal and deepening of religious feeling. His oratorios were for a time at the center of French interest in religion and the arts. (Grove, 1980, 3 pp. 785-794)

Other Maestri di Cappella of the German College

Tomas Luis de Vittoria (1548-1611)

Vittoria was the first maestro di cappella at St. Apollinare, appointed in 1573; he brought fame to the school for its musical activity, so that the college, within a few years of its re-establishment, had become a center of liturgical music second to none in Rome. St. Apollinare under his direction became one of the most frequented churches in the city. Laurentius Tertius wrote a letter concerning this in 1577, describing various activities.

On a solemn day of celebration in the church of this college (St. Apollinare), there was truly the greatest gathering of people, from dawn until the second hour of the evening. Everyone admired the diligence, modesty and piety of those young men as well as grace in handling and administering sacred things. (Culley, 1970, p. 88)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians has a lengthy report on Victoria, a small part of which is presented here.

Tomas Luis de Vittoria was a Spanish composer and organist partly resident in Italy. He was not only the greatest Spanish Renaissance composer but also one of the greatest composers of church music in the Europe of his day, who has been admired above all for the intensity of some of his motets. (Grove, 1980, 19 p. 703-709)

Agostino Agazzari (1578-1640)

Culley feels that the dedication of Agazzari's Sacrae Laudes, addressed to Claudio Aquaviva, General of the Society, and signed by Agazzari at the German College on October 1, 1603, indicates that this composer considered the music itself as something out of the ordinary. The style of the letter is somewhat obsequious and convoluted, but illustrates how serious this teacher at the Germanicum was about his vocation to teach and compose music at the Germanicum and how content he was with his work.

Ever since either chance or deliberation moved me to the study of music, that kind of music has been mainly tried and proved which would be both very serious and would seem most suited for pious, spiritual consolation. . . . I should never have ventured to undertake that these things should appear in connection with your name, on account of your singular kindness since it [Agazzari's work] comes from the German College, which everyone knows to be preserved by no little care on your part. And [the work], above all, includes those texts which, composed by a very holy man [Aquaviva] celebrate the praises and name of the most holy Child, whose name has been given to the most esteemed order which you, with greatest wisdom, govern. (Culley, 1970, p. 163)

Ottavio Catalani [Ottaviano Catalano] (-1644)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians mentions Catalani's work at the Germanicum.

Ottavio Catalani was an Italian composer and organist. He was maestro di cappella of St. Apollinare. He spent the earlier part of his composing life in Rome; he was employed as a composer and teacher at the Collegio Germanico for some years up to 1615. Catalani also wrote oratorio-like music for particular occasions at Messina: the 40 hours' devotion at the Jesuit church on 19 February 1640. In these he used an up-to-date array of instruments of all kinds. (Grove, 1980, 4 p. 8)

Facade of the the San Miguel Church
of the Paraguay Jesuit Settlements

Giovanni Paolo Colonna (1637-1695)

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians relates Colonna's training at the Germanicum at the hands of Carissimi and his return there as an organist.

Giovanni Paolo was an Italian composer, teacher, organist and organ builder. He was the son of a well-known organ builder from Brescia, Antonio Colonna and himself became an active authority on organ construction. As a young man he took organ lessons from Carissimi. Here he absorbed the technique of polychoral writing, which became a prominent feature in his later work. While in Rome he was organist for a time at St. Apollinare. (Grove, 1980, 4 p. 582)

Carlo Caproli (1615/1620 -1692/1695)

Referred to also as Del Violino Caprioli, Carlo Caproli was born sometime between 1615 and 1620 and died sometime between 1692 and 1695. Caproli's work at the Germanicum was noteworthy, not only because he was a very important seventeenth-century composer, but also because he is an example of an Italian musician connected with the college who was instrumental in bringing the music of Italy to France. Of all those who, at one time or another, served both the college and the French court, Caproli is said to be the most important. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians reports:

Carlo Caproli was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. He was a leading Italian cantata composer of the mid-17th century. He was the organist of the German College, Rome, from September 1643 to December 1645. He was second violinist from 1649 to 1661 and first violinist from 1661 to 1670. It was with violin playing that as a practical musician he became particularly identified. So the words 'Del Violino' were often added to his name. (Grove, 1980, 3 pp. 60-61)

300 year-old Ruins of Main altar in one of the Churches
of the Santiago settlement of the Paraguay settlements
known for its beautiful music

Other maestro di cappella of the Germanicum

Maestri di Cappella directed the performance of the liturgical music and also prepared for the celebration of the liturgies. But their principal task was to take charge of the musical training of the students. Not all, but many are mentioned in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and are listed here according to their years at the Germanicum along with the reference volume and page of Grove.

Maestro's Name/years at Germanium // Grove Volume/pages

Tomás de Vittoria/1565-1577 // vol. 19 / pp. 703-709
Francesco Martini/1577 - 1578
Annibale Stabile /1578 - 1591
Stefano Fabri/1591 - 1591
Ruggiero Giovannelli/1591-94 // vol. 7 /p.154
Asprilio Pacelli/1595 - 1602//vol. 14/ p.45
Agostino Agazzari/1602 - 1603// vol. 1/p. 154
Ottavio Catalano/1603 - 1608// vol. 4/ p.8
Antonio Cifra/1608 - 1611// vol. 4/p. 394
Annibale Orgas/1613 - 1619// vol. 13/p. 819
Lorenzo Ratti/1619 - 1620, 1623, 1629
Alessandro Constantin/1620 - 1621
Alfonso Costa/1621 - 1623
Giacomo Carissimi/1629-1674 // vol. 3/pp. 785-794

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of eleven
when he composed an opera
for the Jesuit college in Salzburg


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is described by Norman Lloyd in The Golden Encyclopedia of Music as "the most complete genius of all composers." In Italy he was decorated by the pope and given musical instruction by the "grand old man" of music in Rome at the time of Padre Giambattista Martini. His own father, Leopold Mozart, was also a famous teacher and composer and wrote the most important music book of the eighteenth century - on violin playing. As a Capellae Magister, he arranged to have his son Wolfgang Amadeus compose an opera in Latin for production in the Jesuit College in Salzburg. Fülöp-Miller tells this story in the context of how widely accepted was the contribution to music originating in the Jesuit schools.

The composers were, for the most part, directors of the cathedral choirs in the various cities and the music teachers of the Jesuit schools. Other musicians were at times called upon, and among these latter was no less than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the year 1767, at the age of eleven, Mozart was commissioned to compose an opera in Latin as an interlude for the tragedy, Clementia Croesi, which was to be produced at the Jesuit college in Salzburg. The title of this small musical composition was Apollo et Hyacinthus; and, on the play-bills, the author was described as follows: Auctor operis musici nobilis dominus Wolfgangus Mozart, undecennis, filius nobilis ac strenui domini Leopoldi Mozart, Capellae Magistri. [The author of this musical work is the noble Lord Wolfgang Mozart, aged eleven, son of the noble and vigorous Chapel director, Lord Leopold Mozart.] After this performance, Mozart gave the audience a recital which lasted far into the night. (Fülöp-Miller, 1930, p. 415)

Paraguay Reductions

Music played a major role in the evangelization of Latin America. Before the year 1553 the Jesuits had founded a music school in Brazil. Since the Guaranis of Paraguay seemed quite musically gifted, music was an important element in the Jesuit settlements in Paraguay, known as Reductions. Some ruins of the seventeenth century churches still display angelic musicians. The following illustrations show the instruments popular in the liturgies of the Reductions. These pictures were taken by José Blanch from a wall in the church in the settlement of Trinidad.

Some of the musical instruments used engraved on the walls
of the churches of Paraguay: the flute, bassoon, horn and the organ

The Reductions were seen by objective historians as a noble effort on the part of the Jesuits to make war on the Spanish slave trade and teach the indigenous natives how to govern and defend themselves. They formed a Utopia of their own and were referred to by G. K. Chesterton as Paradise in Paraguay. The English Poet and historian Robert Southy spoke of the Reductions and their sad end at the hands of a corrupt hierarchy with very un-British enthusiasm. What it lacked in ecumenism it made up for in clarity. ". . . the sanctity of the end proposed, and the heroism and perseverance with which it was pursued, deserve the highest admiration . . . It was their [the Jesuits'] fate to be attacked with equal inveteracy by the unbelieving scoffers and philosophists on one side, and by the all-believing bigots and blockheads of their own idolatrous Church on the other."

Cherubs playing the clavicord (McNaspy)

Of all people, the cynic Voltaire, mentions the Reductions in Chapter 154 of his massive Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations: "The establishment in Paraguay by the Spanish Jesuits appears alone, in some way, the triumph of humanity. It seems to expiate the cruelties of the first conquerors. The Quakers in North America and the Jesuits in South America gave a new spectacle to the world." Voltaire


Benton, William The Encyclopedia Britannica Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1959

Culley, Thomas, S.J. Jesuits and Music. Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute, 1970

Culley, Thomas, S.J. "The German College" in Wittkower & Jaffe (Ed.), Baroque Art. Fordham Press, 1972

Fülöp-Miller, René The Power and the Secret of the Jesuits. New York: Viking, 1930

Hibbard, Howard Bernini. England: Penguin Books, 1965

Lloyd, Norman The Golden Encyclopedia of Music. New York: Golden Press, 1968

McNaspy, C.J. & Blanch, J. M. Lost Cities of Paraguay. Chicago: Loyola, 1982

Sadie, Stanley (Ed.)The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan, 1980

Return to Home Page