In this article, in the section entitled The “Great” Aleinu History, the author writes that a particular melody used in Jewish High Holiday prayers was added to the French Church Mass in the late 12th century by French crusaders, and can be heard to this very day. You can directly play the mp3 here.

My question is, is it true that this melody can still be heard in the mass to this very day? What part of the mass is it used for? Are there any audio recordings of it?


Also, from the article linked in caseyr547's answer below:

Another report adds that the Gentiles 'henceforth used the chant in their church,' and musicologist Eric Werner did in fact locate the melody in the Sanctus of the Ninth Mass of the Virgin.


I have recently taken few lesson of Gregorian Chant and we sung something from the Ninth Mass to Virgin Mary. Unfortunately, we stopped at Kyrie and I've heard its Sanctus just once or twice, so I can't tell whether some part of it is similar to that Aleinu record or not. I have notes for the Sanctus, so at the first opportunity I can scan the notes and link the picture, so that someone more competent can verify this theory. The guy who taught me the chant has been to France few times, so it should be what we are looking for, not "central-europian mutation" of the same chant. Unfortunately, I'm not really competent in reading (medieval) musical notation, so there might be some piece similar to this even though I didn't find any similarity.

Anyway, even if the two melodies were somewhat similar, still it is quite likely to be just an accident. There is limited (though big) set of possible melodies, and set of melodies used for sacral music is not-as-big. Provided there are some similarities between Jewish sacral music and Gregorian Chant, such occasional similarities are inevitable.

Such random similarities in music are often exaggerated by conspiracy theorist. In my nation (Czech) vague similarities between our and Irish folk music are often presented as a proof that we are more Celtic than Slavic, but I remember one of the proponents of this theory to admit that he have heard music from Tibet that sounded more similar to some kinds of Czech folk music than Irish music does.


The author does not provide a source for his citation of French Churches which sing this particular melody at mass. It is a singleton statement with no way to verify besides reading the authors notes or visiting every French church which holds mass. You would have to find the specific community which the author cites. A primarily french webpage would be a better place to ask this question.

I can however say many churches are moving their masses to modern music so it is not included in every mass service in France. At some point in the future this tune will not be incorporated into any French liturgy if the Church continues to modernize. Though the words might survive.

Aleinu History

The prayer became the subject of controversy during the Middle Ages. In 1400 a baptized Jew spread a rumor that the passage "for they bow down to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who does not save" was an attack on Christianity. In support of this view, he noted that the numerical equivalent of the word "emptiness" (varik) is the same as "Yeshua," the Hebrew name for Jesus. And because varik is also related to the word rok, meaning "spittle," it was customary for Jews to spit during this phrase—a practice anti-Jewish author Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (1655-1704) interpreted as a further insult to Christianity.

In France and Germany, censors insisted that this passage be deleted. In 1703 the Prussian government in Berlin even appointed special commissioners to make sure that the Hazzan did not sing these words. Many rabbis tried to prove these accusations wrong, arguing that the passage is based on a pre-Christian text, Isaiah 45:20, and that if Rav was the author, it was scribed in a non-Christian land. But the censors renewed their attacks in 1716 and 1750, and the passage was eventually expunged from most Ashkenazi prayer books.

Further dissent comes from Jewish history of the Aleinu. As the French and the Germans specifically tried to wipe it from Jewish practices they would more than likely also have removed it from Christian practices as well.

  • Perhaps that's true, but why would they try to eliminate the melody? Also, does the fact that they had a problem with one sentence in the whole passage mean that they were completely opposed to the whole Aleinu? – Daniel Jul 1 '13 at 0:54
  • Also, from the article that you linked to, "Another report adds that the Gentiles 'henceforth used the chant in their church,' and musicologist Eric Werner did in fact locate the melody in the Sanctus of the Ninth Mass of the Virgin." – Daniel Jul 1 '13 at 0:58
  • @Daniel because of the whole hating the garments spotted verse we tend to throw everything out – user4060 Jul 1 '13 at 1:07
  • @Daniel like i said i wasn't able to find anything about a sanctus of the ninth mass of the virgin i'm not catholic but those keywords do not pull up anything with google except these self linking sources – user4060 Jul 1 '13 at 1:08
  • @Daniel I found a sanctus from mass ix but you would have to purchase it to see if your tune was included all they have is nature sounds on the free preview artistdirect.com/nad/window/media/page/0,,206738-202479,00.html – user4060 Jul 1 '13 at 1:42

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