The Quem Quaeritis Trope, the Roots of Liturgical Drama

413ZV9RH8FL.jpg The first Easter or Quem Quaeritis trope had its beginnings in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Gall, Switzerland. (The script of this first trope and an accompanying translation can be found below.) The Easter trope became the model for similar tropes associated with Christmas and the Ascension. 

Melodies connected with the Mass were sung with vowel sounds alone, and these were the beginnings of the liturgical dramas, which grew into the English Miracle and Morality plays. Originally the Quem Quaeritis trope was an Introit trope at the beginning of the Easter mass. Later, it became part of the Sepulchrum, an Easter drama, which began on Good Friday and the “creeping of the cross,” known as Adoratio Crucis. The Good Friday Communion known as Depositio Crucis and then on to the Elevatio Crucis on Easter morning. This ceremony varied greatly depending upon the country in which it was performed. 


Triduum, a Liturgical Drama in Three Acts

In England there was Quem Quaeritis held at Winchester Cathedral. The manuscript used then was copied in about 980 A.D. At the Winchester ceremony they placed the Quem Quaeritis in the middle of the performance instead of at the beginning of the Easter Mass. It was part of the third Nocturn at Matins on Easter morning. E. K. Chamber in The Medieval Stage (Vol. II, p. 15) says that in the Quem Quaeritis that the “Dialogued chant and mimetic action have come together and the first liturgical drama is, in all its essentials, complete.” 

Angelica de Christi Resurrectione

Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, Christicolae?

Sanctarum mulierum responsio:

Ihesum Nazarenum crucifixum, O caelicola!

Angelicae vocis consolatio:

non est hic, surrexit sicut praedixerat,

ite, nuntiate quia surrexit, dicentes:

Sanctarum mulierum ad omnem clerum modulatio:

alleluia! resurrexit Dominus hodie,

leo fortis, Christus filius Dei!

Deo gratias dicite, eia!

Dicat angelus:

venite et videte locum ubi positus erat Dominus,

alleluia! alleluia!

Iterum dicat angelus:

cito euntes dicite discipulis quia surrexit Dominus,

alleluia! alleluia!

Mulieres una voce canant iubilantes:

surrexit Dominus de sepulchro,

qui pro nobis pependit in ligno, alleluia!


The Angel After Christ’s Resurrection

Whom seek ye in the sepulchre, O Christians?

Response of the Holy Women:

Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, O heavenly one.

The Angel in a voice of consolation:

He is not here, he is risen as he fore-told.

Go, announce that he is risen, saying:

Chant of the Holdy Women:

Alleluia! The Lord is risen today,

The strong lion, Christ the son of God,

Unto God give thanks, eia!

Let the Angel say:

Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let the Angel say again:

Go quickly, tell to the disciples that the Lord is risen.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

The women with one voice sing joyously:

The Lord is risen from the sepulchre,

Who for us was hanged on the cross, Alleluia!

(Translated by Edd Winfield Parks)


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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