Den svenska tidegärden

  • Ragnar Holte CTR


The 16th century church reform in Sweden meant no radical break with traditional liturgy. Mass as well as office hours were appreciated and preserved. The first evangelical archbishop in Sweden, Laurentius Petri, had a great personal engagement in questions concerning the liturgy. In his book De officiis, he gave detailed instructions for the continued and adapted use of the traditional breviaries and antiphonals. Since the office hours were mainly a concern for priests and students, it is for him natural and useful that they should be performed in Latin (though lectures and the major canticles could be performed in Swedish). The mass, however, being the main Sunday service for the congregation, should be performed in Swedish.  

In manuscripts and prints from the 16th century, we therefore find the Gregorian melodies of the ordinarium missae adapted to Swedish texts, and the traditional texts and melodies of the proprium missae replaced by Swedish hymns (still, the introits for the great festivals are preserved in their Latin form). The texts and melodies for the office are, however, mainly given in Latin; as late as 1620 and 1623 new song-books, containing i.a. office melodies (also mass introits) with Latin text, were printed in Sweden. However, in the official liturgy and hymn book from the 1690s the Latin has (with a few exceptions) been eradicated, and the texts which had not been translated earlier are there­ fore lost, with their melodies. From the office hours only the four major canticles remain, with Swedish texts adapted to the traditional melodies, and on top of this quite a number of traditional hymns.  

Whereas liturgical life gradually deteriorated during the following centuries, a growing interest for the revival of the traditional liturgy (including the office hours and the Gregorian chant) appeared at the end of the 20th century, with bishop U L Ullman in the diocese of Strängnäs as the main inspiror. In the new liturgical books from the 1890s the traditional liturgical form of the mass was restored and many of  the old Gregorian melodies for the ordinarium missae revived.

In 1924, the two priests, Arthur Adell and Knut Peters, started their work to edit a breviary and antiphonal covering the whole church year. The first leaflet of Evangelisk tidegärd contained three hours for Sunday, with Swedish text adapted to Gregorian melodies taken from Swedish sources of the 16th century. During the following years, a series of new editions appeared with the material gradually expanded. Den svenska tidegärden, 1934, was a breviary covering all days of the week and also the Church year (but containing no music). The complete edition of the music is given in Det svenska antifonalet I, 1949 (covering the hours of the week), and II, 1959 (covering the Church year). The breviary has been revised and reprinted several times; the 7th edition (with the Laurentius Petri Society as editor) appeared in 1982. The first part of the antiphonal was revised during the 1970s and published in three separate volumes: Veckans completorier, 1973 (1981), Veckans middagsböner, 1974, and Veckans laudes, 1975.  

The first leaflet of Evangelisk tidegärd contained two prefaces, the first one by Peters commenting on "the history and parts of the office hours" and the second one by Adell commenting on "the musical performance of the hours". This division of tasks is most characteristic for their joint work. The Swedish breviary and antiphonal is in fact almost exclusively designed by Knut Peters, whereas Adell’s contribution lay mainly in teaching how to perform the melodies. Surely Adell alone finished the edition of the antiphonal with its second part in 1959, but Peters had left behind him the complete manuscript for this volume also, when he died in 1951. In the 1910s and 20s already, Peters had acquired a thorough knowledge of the medieval Swedish breviary and antiphonal tradition and its continuation from the epoch of Church reform and onwards. For Adell, the methodical research of Gregorian chant came late in life and he did not achieve to write down his most interesting results before his sudden death in 1962.

The first leaflet from 1924 took all the melodies from Swedish 16th century sources. It was important for Adell and Peters to be able to show that their edition of office hours was not a loan from contemporary Catholicism but represented a genuine Swedish and evangelical tradition. In the complete antiphonal, 1949-59, Swedish sources still dominate part I whereas part II is more adapted to contemporary Roman editions. This change is partly due to the incomplete Church year material in Swedish sources, partly to a certain shift from evangelical to ecumenical motivation for their work.

In the research begun during his last years,
Adell i.a. aimed at an evaluation of the Swedish
sources in comparison with the earliest and best
continental and English sources. He did in fact
find that they represent a very good tradition,
and, for the hours of the week, a much better
tradition than the contemporary antiphonale romanum where many non-authentic antiphon melodies had been included as a consequence of text reforms. Through his comparative studies of Swedish and international sources, Adell could establish the existence of melody families with extremely many variations. Whereas Peters, in his work of adaption, tried to adapt Swedish texts to individual melodies, the material assembled by Adell has opened up the possibility to adapt Swedish texts in the light of whole families and so made it much easier to create a melody variant which is exactly suited to the actual text and at the same time fills the claim of authenticity. This method has been used in the revised editions of antiphonal 1 in the 70s, and in R Holte’s edition of 35 psaltarsänger, 1983. (See the example with 12 antiphons taken from these editions and belong­ ing to one melody family.)  

Last year, the first official catholic breviary in the Swedish language appeared (Kyrkans dagliga bön, l-II, 1990), being mainly a translation of the reformed Roman breviary outlined in the apostolic constitution Laudis canticum from 1970 but in details using material from Den svenska tidegärden. Accidentally, the main structure of tidegärden, with a reduced number of hours and of psalms for each hour, compared with traditional breviaries, is rather like the one prescribed in Laudis canticum. Tidegärden, however, contains only a broad selection of psalms, whereas Kdb has the Psalter nearly complete, distributed in four weeks. Some specific and most valuable material in tidegärden not contained in Kdb is: specific introductory versicles for lauds and compline (traditional Swedish) and sext (ingeniously chosen by Peters); an­ tiphons for Benedictus and Magnificat (the text not taken from the canticle itself) specific for all week-days (an invention by the editors though partly using traditional Swedish material; similar material used for Nuric dimittis has been taken over by Kdb); special proprium de tempore for compline also, according to medieval Swedish tradition further developed by the editors.  

An antiphonal corresponding to Kdb has not yet been published but is under preparation and drafts of parts of it have appeared. The present author can accept simplifications of the traditional psalmody (in line with the ones practised widespread hymn-book Gotteslob 1975) but finds the ones presupposed in Kdb too far-going. The two last note examples show the German version of Nunc dimittis for Sunday compared with a version proposed for Swedish catholics. The German version is most faithful to the un­ usually unitary traditional form of antiphon and psalm given also in Det svenska antifonalet, whereas the version intended for Swedish catholics is very deviating; it is indeed labelled "secteric" by the author.