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Seeking God > Monastic Chant > Gregorian Chant

In the three centuries following the death of Saint Benedict, there emerged in the Western Church a marvelously unified tradition of liturgical music known as Gregorian Chant, taking its name from the sixth century Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who did much to promote the use of the chant.

Characterized chiefly by its purely melodic form, without even the simplest harmonies, Gregorian Chant is sometimes known as "plainsong"; the word "plain" being used to distinguish it from the later harmonic music rather than to denote any lack of charm or interest.

Noteworthy also is the unmeasured or "free" rhythm: the melodies do not have the regular "beat" which is characteristic of nearly all the music of the last millennium. This tends to give the music a very spiritual quality, since it has no echoes of dance or martial display and certainly not of contemporary popular music.

Today we are fortunate in having a very rich selection of Gregorian Chant available in books, largely owing to the work of the monks of the Abbey of Solesmes in France. For a century and a half they have made careful researches into the most authentic traditions of the chant, comparing manuscripts from all over Europe, in order to produce a selection of liturgical books that can be used for all the monastic Divine Office and for the celebration of the Mass.