Neha Patil (Editor)

Officium Defunctorum

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Officium Defunctorum

Officium Defunctorum is a musical setting of the Office of the Dead composed by the Spanish Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria in 1603. It includes settings of the movements of the Requiem Mass, accounting for about 26 minutes of the 42 minute composition, and the work is sometimes referred to as Victoria's Requiem.



Officium Defunctorum was composed for the funeral of the Dowager Empress Maria, sister of Philip II of Spain, daughter of Charles V, wife of Maximilian II and mother of two emperors; it was dedicated to Princess Margaret for “the obsequies of your most revered mother”. The Empress Maria died on February 26, 1603 and the great obsequies were performed on April 22 and 23. Victoria was employed as personal chaplain to the Empress Maria from 1586 to the time of her death.

Victoria published eleven volumes of his music during his lifetime, representing the majority of his compositional output. Officium Defunctorum, the only work to be published by itself, was the eleventh volume and the last work Victoria published. The date of publication, 1605, is often included with the title to differentiate the Officium Defunctorum from Victoria's other setting of the Requiem Mass (in 1583, Victoria composed and published a book of Masses, reprinted in 1592, including a Missa pro defunctis for four-part choir).


Officium Defunctorum is scored for six-part SSATTB chorus. It includes an entire Office of the Dead: in addition to a Requiem Mass, Victoria sets an extra-liturgical funeral motet, a lesson that belongs to Matins (scored for only SATB and not always included in concert performances), and the ceremony of Absolution which follows the Mass. Polyphonic sections are separated by unaccompanied chant incipits Victoria printed himself. The Soprano II usually carries the cantus firmus, though "it very often disappears into the surrounding part-writing since the chant does not move as slowly as most cantus firmus parts and the polyphony does not generally move very fast." The sections of the work are as follows:

  • Taedet animam meam
  • Second Lesson of Matins (Job 10:1–7)
  • Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead)
  • With the Council of Trent, the liturgy of the Requiem Mass was standardized. Victoria sets all of the Requiem Mass sections except the Dies Irae sequence.
  • Introit
  • Kyrie
  • Gradual
  • Offertory
  • Sanctus
  • Agnus Dei
  • Communion
  • Versa est in luctum cithara mea (Funeral motet)
  • The Absolution: Responsory
  • Libera me
  • Kyrie
  • References

    Officium Defunctorum Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Damian McGinty
    Stu Segall