The article examines a number of fragments from 'Dialogues' by Gregory the Great which contain allusions to monastic liturgical practices, and in particular to the antiphonal singing of psalms, the nature of which is still the subject of controversy among liturgists and musicologists. The traditional view of the congregation being divided into two choirs during the singing of a psalm with an antiphon has been questioned both by the liturgists (Anton Baumstark, Robert F. Taft) and the musicologists (David Hiley, Joseph Dyer), who claim that the verses of the psalms were sung as solo performances until at least the ninth century, and the two-choir singing involved only the antiphon. The proposal by Edward Nowacki is the one furthest removed from the traditional interpretation: according to him, the antiphon was also sung by a soloist, and its text was selected (this is the way Nowacki interprets the word 'imponere' which appears in the sources) spontaneously by the performer. However, Gregory's tales from the fourth book of 'Dialogues' seem to indicate that the practice of singing psalms by a choir divided into two was familiar as early as the sixth century. In the stories describing the circumstances of the death of the monk John (Chapter 36) and the Roman Servulus (Chapter 15) there are clearly references to communal singing (fratres psallerent, psalmos... decantarent). In this respect, the most interesting fragment of 'Dialogues', which mentions the psalmody accompanying the death of the nun Romula (Chapter 16), is perhaps the most precise description of antiphonal chanting from the early Middle Ages. According to this report, the dying Romula is accompanied by two celestial choirs (duo chori psallentium), of which the first - composed of men - sings the verses of the psalm (psalmodiae cantus dicebant viri), while the second, composed of women, performs the refrain (et feminae respondebant), which should be regarded as an antiphon.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.