AskDefine | Define requiem

Dictionary Definition



1 a song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person [syn: dirge, coronach, lament, threnody]
2 a musical setting for a Mass celebrating the dead
3 a Mass celebrated for the dead

User Contributed Dictionary



The first word of the introit for the traditional requiem mass, the accusative case of Latin requies, "rest, repose," from re-, "again", + quies "rest, quiet"

Usage notes

The Latin Introit, or opening prayer, for a requiem mass starts with the words:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
"Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them."


  • /"rEkwi%Em/ or /"rEkwi.@m/
  • /ˈrɛkwiˌɛm/ or /ˈrɛkwi.əm/


  1. A mass or other ceremony to honor and remember a dead person.
    Requiem for a Heavyweight.
  2. A musical composition composed for such a mass.
  3. A piece of music composed to honor a dead person.


a mass or other ceremony to honor and remember a dead person
a musical composition composed for such a mass
a piece of music composed to honor a dead person
  • Finnish: requiem
  • Hungarian: rekviem
  • Japanese: 鎮魂歌 (chinkonka)




Extensive Definition

The Requiem (from Latin requiem, accusative case of requies, rest) or Requiem Mass (informally, a funeral Mass), also known formally (in Latin) as the Missa pro defunctis or Missa defunctorum, is a liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church, Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, as well as certain Lutheran Churches in the United States. There is also a requiem, with a wholly different ritual form and texts, that is observed in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. The common theme of requiems is prayer for the salvation of the soul(s) of the departed, and it is used both at services immediately preceding a burial, and on occasions of more general remembrance.
"Requiem" is also the title of various musical compositions used in such liturgical services or as concert pieces as settings of the portions of that Mass which have been traditionally sung in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
While the prayers in the regular Mass as the Introit and Gradual change according to the Calendar of Saints, the text for the requiem Mass is particularly fixed. Originally such funeral musical compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant. Eventually the dramatic character began to appeal to composers to an extent that made the requiem a genre of its own.

The Roman Rite liturgy

This use of the word requiem comes from the opening words of the Introit: Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.) The requiem form of the Tridentine Mass differs from the ordinary Mass in omitting certain joyful passages such as the Alleluia, in never having the Gloria or the Credo, in adding the sequence Dies Iræ, in altering the Agnus Dei, in replacing "Ite missa est" with "Requiescant in pace", and in omitting the final blessing. These distinctions have not been kept in the Roman Rite as revised after the Second Vatican Council.
The regular texts of the musical portions to be found in the Roman Catholic liturgy are the following:
  • Introit:
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to you shall all flesh come. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”)
  • Kyrie eleison, as the Kyrie the Ordinary of the Mass:
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison (Κυριε ελεησον; Χριστε ελεησον; Κυριε ελεησον).
This is Greek for “Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.” Traditionally, each utterance is sung three times.
  • Gradual:
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; In memoria æterna erit justus, ab auditione mala non timebit.
(“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. He shall be justified in everlasting memory, and shall not fear evil reports.”)
  • Tract:
Absolve, Domine, animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omno vinculo delictorum et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis, et lucis æterne beatitudine perfrui.
(“Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins and may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge by your fostering grace, and enjoy the everlasting blessedness of light.”)
  • Sequence:
Dies iræ, dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sibylla...
(“Day of wrath, a day that the world will dissolve in ashes, as foretold by David and the Sibyl...”) (See Dies Iræ for full text)
  • Offertory:
''Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de pœnis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; sed signifer sanctus Michæl repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.''
(“Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, free the souls of all the faithful departed from infernal punishment and the deep pit. Free them from the mouth of the lion; do not let Tartarus swallow them, nor let them fall into darkness; but may the sign-bearer, Saint Michael, lead them into the holy light which you promised to Abraham and his seed.”)
Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus; tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus. Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. Quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.
(“O Lord, we offer you sacrifices and prayers in praise; accept them on behalf of the souls whom we remember today. Make them pass over from death to life, as you promised to Abraham and his seed.”)
  • Sanctus, as the Sanctus prayer in the Ordinary of the Mass:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth; pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
(“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts; Heaven and earth are full of your glory”).
Hosanna in excelsis.
(“Hosanna in the highest”).
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
(“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”).
Hosanna in excelsis. (reprise)
  • Agnus Dei, text as the Agnus Dei in the Ordinary of the Mass, but with the petitions miserere nobis changed to dona eis requiem, and dona nobis pacem to dona eis requiem sempiternam:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.
(“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant them rest, … grant them rest eternal.”).
  • Communion:
Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(“May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with your saints forever, for you are faithful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.”)
As with the regular Sunday or ferial Mass in penitential seasons, the Gloria (from the Ordinary) is always omitted in a Requiem Mass. In the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite and Alleluia (from the Proper) is also omitted, as being overly joyful, and is replaced by the Tract. Likewise, the Credo (which, like the Gloria, is used in the ordinary Mass only on more solemn feasts) is never used in the Requiem Mass. The Dies iræ was rendered optional in 1967 and was omitted altogether from the revised Mass in 1969; at the same time, the Tract was abolished and the Alleluia added to the Requiem Mass, except in Lent, when it is replaced also at ordinary Masses by a less joyful acclamation.

Musical compositions

For many centuries the texts of the requiem were sung to Gregorian melodies. The Requiem by Johannes Ockeghem, written sometime in the latter half of the 15th century, is the earliest surviving polyphonic setting. There was a setting by the elder composer Dufay, possibly earlier, which is now lost: Ockeghem's may have been modelled on it. Many early requiems employ different texts that were in use in different liturgies around Europe before the Council of Trent set down the texts given above. The requiem of Brumel, circa 1500, is the first to include the Dies Iræ. In the early polyphonic settings of the Requiem, there is considerable textural contrast within the compositions themselves: simple chordal or fauxbourdon-like passages are contrasted with other sections of contrapuntal complexity, such as in the Offertory of Ockeghem's Requiem.

20th century developments

In the 20th century the requiem evolved in several new directions. The genre of war requiems is perhaps the most notable, which comprise of compositions dedicated to the memory of people killed in wartime. These often include extra-liturgical poems of a pacifist or non-liturgical nature; for example, the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten juxtaposes the Latin text with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, and Robert Steadman's Mass in Black intersperses environmental poetry and prophecies of Nostradamus. The several Holocaust requiems may be regarded as a specific subset of this type. The World Requiem of John Foulds was written in the aftermath of the First World War and initiated the Royal British Legion's annual festival of remembrance.
Lastly, the 20th century saw the development of secular requiems, written for public performance without specific religious observance (e.g., Kabalevsky's War Requiem, to poems by Robert Rozhdestvensky). Herbert Howells's unaccompanied Requiem uses Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd"), Psalm 121 ("I will lift up mine eyes"), "Salvator mundi" ("O Saviour of the world," in English), "Requiem aeternam" (two different settings), and "I heard a voice from heaven." Some composers have written purely instrumental works bearing the title of requiem, as exemplified by the most famous of these, Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem. Igor Stravinsky's Requiem canticles mixes instrumental movements with segments of the "Introit," "Dies irae," "Pie Jesu," and "Libera me."
Hans Werner Henze wrote Das Floß der Medusa in 1968 as a requiem for Che Guevara, although it is properly speaking an oratorio. His Requiem was written in the 1990s, with the traditional title for the movements, but played by instrumentalists without singers.

Famous Requiems

See also: Requiems
Many composers have written Requiems. Some of the most famous include:
Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and Arthur Honegger's Symphonie Liturgique use titles from the traditional Requiem as subtitles of movements.

Requiems by language (other than purely Latin)

English with Latin
French, English, German with Latin
requiem in Bulgarian: Реквием
requiem in Catalan: Rèquiem
requiem in Czech: Requiem
requiem in Danish: Rekviem
requiem in German: Requiem
requiem in Spanish: Réquiem
requiem in Estonian: Reekviem
requiem in Finnish: Sielunmessu
requiem in French: Requiem
requiem in Hebrew: רקוויאם
requiem in Croatian: Rekvijem
requiem in Italian: Requiem
requiem in Japanese: レクイエム
requiem in Korean: 진혼곡
requiem in Latin: Requiem
requiem in Dutch: Requiem (muziek)
requiem in Norwegian Nynorsk: Rekviem
requiem in Norwegian: Rekviem (musikk)
requiem in Polish: Requiem (muzyka)
requiem in Portuguese: Réquiem (missa católica)
requiem in Russian: Реквием
requiem in Serbo-Croatian: Opijelo
requiem in Simple English: Requiem
requiem in Slovenian: Rekvijem
requiem in Swedish: Requiem
requiem in Thai: เรควีเอ็ม
requiem in Turkish: Requiem
requiem in Ukrainian: Реквієм
requiem in Chinese: 安魂彌撒

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Dry Mass, Eucharistic rites, Lady Mass, Low Mass, Mass, Missa, Missa bassa, Missa cantata, Missa legata, Missa media, Missa praesanctificatorum, Missa privata, Missa publica, Missa sicca, Negro spiritual, Requiem Mass, Rosary, Rosary Mass, anthem, burial service, cantata, canticle, chorale, church music, coronach, dead march, death knell, death song, deathwatch, dirge, doxology, elegy, epicedium, eulogy, exequies, extreme unction, funeral march, funeral oration, funeral rites, funeral song, gospel, gospel music, graveside oration, hymn, hymn-tune, hymnody, hymnology, introit, keen, knell, last duty, last honors, last offices, last rites, mass, monody, motet, muffled drums, obsequies, offertory, offertory sentence, oratorio, paean, passing bell, passion, prosodion, psalm, psalmody, recessional, requiem mass, sacred music, spiritual, the Divine Liturgy, the Liturgy, threnode, threnody, viaticum, wake, white spiritual
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