Sacred Music: The Story of Allegri’s Miserere

Around 1630, Pope Urban VIII heard Allegri’s Miserere for the first time. He was so moved that he decreed that it could not be heard outside the Sistine Chapel, it could only be heard once a year during Holy Week. Anyone who disobeyed would be excommunicated.

Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), an Italian composer of the Roman School, priest and singer, and brother of Domenico Allegri, was born in Rome. He grew up under the influence of Palestrina.

A century and a half later, the teenage Mozart heard Miserere (by now the fame of Miserere had spread and everyone wished to be in the Sistine Chapel), and from two visits to the Sistine chapel was able to note down what he had heard. Word of this spread and soon reached the ears of Pope Clements XIV. Mozart was summoned to Pope Clements XIV in the full expectation that he would be excommunicated. Instead, Pope XIV Clements congratulated him. Copies of the transcript by Mozart spread across Europe like wildfire.

Over the next 200 years more and more elaborate versions moving further and further away from the original.

A runaway best seller was recorded in 1963 by King’s College Cambridge.

Founder of The Sixteen Harry Christophers has put together a much simpler version based on two manuscripts in the Vatican, which he belives is closest to the original.

Two choirs, a main choir and a quartet.

Performed by early music group The Sixteen, founded and directed by Harry Christophers.

Sacred Music: The Story of Allegri’s Miserere
The Sixteen – Miserere Mei Deus – Allegri
St James Cathedral – Victoria – The Sixteen
Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

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