Music was important in Church rituals from before the Renaissance. Older forms such as the Gregorian Chant continued, but now more complex masses, motets and hymns were being composed, usually based on the older tunes. The Magnificat (a canticle in honor of the Virgin Mary) also gained in popularity.

The motet form was incorporated into the Church for masses and the Magnificat . The piece usually had three or four voices,with the top being the most important and the others serving as background. Sometimes the lower voices were played on instruments while the upper voice sang the Latin text. The background line was often based on part of an old Gregorian chant.

The Renaissance excelled in a capella music (voice without instrumental accompaniment) and most church music was written in this style. "Word painting", a technique of using the music to create a picture from the text, became very popular. For example, an ascending line of notes might coincide with the words of "the heavens" or "the stars". Similarly, a harsh sound might be heard with "death" or "evil". Additional symbolism was found in the use of triple meter, which reflected the Trinity. When religious symbolism became less important, duple meter was often used.


The part of the Mass that was sung every day was called the Ordinary. It consisted of five sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

Kyrie- "A prayer for mercy"
This section dates from the earliest days of Christianity. It consisted of nine invocations. First: three "Kyrie eleison" (Lord, have mercy), then was followed by three "Christe eleison" (Christ, have mercy), and then, following the A-B-A form, a repeat of the original "Kyrie eleison".

Gloria- "Glory to God in the highest"
This is a joyful hymn that was omitted during Advent and Lent.

Credo- "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty"
This section also includes the Et incarnatus est (And He became flesh), the Crucifixus (He was crucified) and the Et resurrexit (And He rose again).

Sanctus- "Holy, Holy, Holy"
This section ends with the Hosanna (Hosanna in the highest) and the Benedictus (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord), with the Hosanna often repeated.

Agnus Dei- "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world"
This, the last section, is sung three times. The first two times it ends with "Miserere nobis" (Have mercy on us) and in the final repeat, it ends with "Dona nobis pacem" (Grant us peace).


After Martin Luther's revolt, a new desire began for reform within the Catholic Church (as opposed to those who broke away and founded new forms of religious worship altogether). The Church wanted to recapture the minds of the people and called the Council of Trent to discuss just how to accomplish that. The main goal was to control and regulate every aspect of the Church, including the music.