For other uses, see Requiem (disambiguation).

The requiem, also known formally as the Mass of Requiem, is a liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church and its Eastern Rite. It is sometimes observed by other denominations of Christianity in other forms such as the Church of England and Eastern Orthodoxy. Usually in reference to a mass presided by an ordained priest and deacon, it is derived from the Latin language Miss pro Defunctis or Mass of the Dead. The original name fell out of favor after the Second Vatican Council when its participants decided to remove focus from death in favor of focus on the doctrine of resurrection after death of those baptised into the faith.

The requiem is also the title of various musical compositions used in such liturgical services or as concert pieces. Various sacred texts found in Roman Catholic ritual and worship were translated into hymns accompanied by music. While such prayers in mass like the Introit and Gradual change according to the Calendar of Saints, requiem lyrics are fixed. Such musical compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service. Its dramatic character appealed to composers which created the requiem into a genre of its own.

For other uses of the term requiem, see requiem (disambiguation).


The Roman Catholic service

This use of the word requiem comes from the opening words of the Introit: Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.) The requiem mass differs from the ordinary mass in omitting certain joyful passages such as the alleluia, and by the addition of various hymns such as the Dies Iræ.

The regular texts to be found in the Roman Catholic liturgy, laid down at the Tridentine Council, are the following:

  • Introit:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet.
("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them. A hymn becometh thee, O God, in Zion, and unto thee a vow shall be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; unto thee all flesh shall come.")
  • Kyrie eleison, as the Kyrie the Ordinary of the Mass:
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison (Κυριε ελεησον; Χριστε ελεησον; Κυριε ελεησον).
This is Greek for "Lord have mercy on us; Christ, have mercy on us; Lord, have mercy on us."
  • Gradual:
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; In memoria æterna erit iustus ab auditione mala non timebit. Absolve Domine animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omno vinculo delictorum et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis, et lucis æterne beatitudine perfrui.
("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord. He shall be justified in everlasting memory, and shall not fear evil reports. Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins and may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge by your fostering grace, and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light.")
  • Sequence: Dies iræ, dies illa (See Dies Iræ for full text)
  • Offertorium:
Domine, Iesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; sed signifer sanctus Michael repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini eius.
("Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, free the souls of all the faithful departed from infernal punishment and the deep pit. Free them from the mouth of the lion; do not let Tartarus swallow them, nor let them fall into darkness; but may the sign-bearer, St Michael, lead them into the holy light which you promised to Abraham and his seed.")
Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus; tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus. Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. Quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini eius.
("O Lord, we offer you sacrifices and prayers in praise; accept them on behalf of the souls whom we remember today. Make them pass over from death to life, as you promised Abraham and his seed.")
  • Sanctus, as the Sanctus prayer in the Ordinary of the Mass:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Domine Deus Sabaoth; pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
("Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory").
Hosanna in excelsis.
("Hosanna in the highest").
  • Benedictus (see also the Mass article):
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
("Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord").
  • Agnus Dei, text as the Agnus Dei in the Ordinary of the Mass, but with the petitions miserere nobis changed to dona eis requiem, and dona nobis pacem to dona eis requiem sempiternam:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem sempiternam.
(Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, give them peace, grant them eternal peace").
  • Communion:
Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
("May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with thy saints in eternity, for thou art merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.")

The Gloria and Credo are not found in the Requiem mass, as these are viewed as being overly joyful texts.

Musical compositions

For many centuries the texts of the requiem were sung to Gregorian melodies. The first polyphonic setting is believed to have been composed by Ockeghem around 1460; his requiem is believed to predate another setting by the elder composer Dufay, but Dufay's setting is unfortunately lost. Many early requiems employ different texts that were in use in different liturgies around Europe before the Council of Trent set down the texts given above. The requiem of Brumel, circa 1500, is the first to include the Dies Iræ.

Over 2000 requiems have been composed to the present day. Many of the Renaissance settings may be performed without instruments, or a cappella, whereas beginning around 1600 composers more often preferred to use instruments to accompany a choir, and also include vocal soloists. There is great variation between compositions in how much of liturgical text is set to music: many composers omit the Gradual; one school of French composers (led by Fauré) omitted the Dies iræ, while the very same text had often been set by French composers in previous centuries as a stand-alone work.

Added movements

Some settings contain additional parts, such as the devotional motet Pie Iesu (in the settings of Fauré, Duruflé, and Lloyd Webber – Fauré set it as a soprano solo in the center). Libera me and in paradisum, parts of the burial service (which in the case of a funeral follows after the mass) conclude some compositions.

Libera me

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda, quando coeli movendi sunt et terra. Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. Tremens factus sum ego et timeo, dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira. Dies iræ, dies illa, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.
("Free me from eternal death upon that terrible day when heaven and earth shall be moved, when thou comest to judge the world with fire. I am afraid and trembling, on account of the coming judgment and wrath. That day is a day of wrath, of disaster and misery, a great and very bitter day. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.")

In paradisum

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tu adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.
("May angels lead you into Paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.")

Pie Jesu

The Pie Jesu combines paraphrases of the final verse of the Dies Iræ and the Agnus Dei.

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Dona eis requiem sempiternam.
("O sweet Lord Jesus, grant them rest; grant them everlasting rest.")

Concert requiems

Beginning in the 18th century and continuing through the 19th, many composers wrote what are effectively concert requiems, which by virtue of employing forces too large, or lasting such a considerable duration, prevent them being readily used in an ordinary funeral service; the requiems of Gossec, Berlioz, Verdi, and Dvořák are essentially dramatic concert oratorios. A counter-reaction to this tendency was the Cecilian movement, which recommended restrained accompaniment for liturgical music, and frowned upon the use of operatic vocal soloists.

Non-Catholic requiems

Requiem is also used to describe any sacred composition that sets religious texts that would be appropriate at a funeral, or to describe such compositions for liturgies other than the Roman Catholic mass. Among the earliest examples of this type are the German requiems composed in the 17th century by Schütz and Praetorius, whose works are Lutheran adaptations of the Catholic requiem, and which provided inspiration for the mighty German Requiem by Brahms. A rather exhaustive list of requiem composers can be found on this site (

Such non-Catholic requiems would include:

  • German Requiems
  • English Requiems
  • Hebrew Kaddish
  • Greek Orthodox
  • Russian Orthodox Panikhidia

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer contains seven texts which are collectively known as "funeral sentences"; several composers have written settings of these seven texts, which are generally known collectively as a "burial service." Composers who have set the Anglican burial service to music include Thomas Morley, Orlando Gibbons, and Henry Purcell. The text of these seven sentences, from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, is:

  • I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
  • I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shalt stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
  • We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.
  • Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
  • In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
  • Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.
  • I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours.

20th century developments

In the 20th century the requiem evolved in several new directions. The genre of war requiems is perhaps the most notable, which comprise of compositions dedicated to the memory of people killed in wartime. These often include extra-liturgical poems of a pacifist or non-liturgical nature; for example, the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten juxtaposes the Latin text with the poetry of Wilfred Owen. The several Holocaust requiems may be regarded as a specific subset of this type.

Lastly, the 20th century saw the development of secular requiems, written for public performance without specific religious observance, and some composers have written purely instrumental works bearing the title of requiem, as exemplified by the most famous of these, Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem.

Requiem composers



Classical period

Romantic era


German requiems

English requiems

External links

da:Rekviem de:Requiem fr:Requiem ko:레퀴엠 it:Requiem la:Requiem nl:Requiem ja:レクイエム no:Rekviem pl:Requiem (muzyka) pt:Réquiem


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