Carmen gratulatorium

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by Åslaug Ommundsen

Carmen gratulatorium, or Ex te lux oritur, is a wedding song probably written to be performed at the wedding of the Norwegian king Eirik Magnusson and the Scottish princess Margareta in Bergen in 1281. Text and melody is transmitted in a late thirteenth century manuscript now in Uppsala.


Carmen gratulatorium in nuptias Eyrici regis Norwagiæ (title from KOLSRUD & REISS 1913). The song is also referred to by its incipit, Ex te lux oritur.


Ex te lux oritur, o dulcis Scocia.../...qua late spargitur laudis materia.


Ten strophes; nine of four lines, one of two lines.


  • Tidens tegn 10. Nov. 1912.
  • KOLSRUD, O. & REISS, R. 1913, 41–43, 80–81, Pl. VI.
  • BEVERIDGE, J. 1938/39, Pl. LXXXIII, LXXXV.
  • LAMPEN, W. 1957, 324–25.
  • HELLE, K. 1980.
  • PURSER, J. 1992, 60–61.


  • Sølvguttene (dir. T. Grythe): Musikk i Norge i Middelalder og Renessanse, 1982.
  • Hillier, Stubbs, Kiesel: Troubadour songs and medieval lyrics, London, Hyperion, 1990 (recorded 1982).
  • Various artists: Scotland’s music, 1992.
  • Heyman: Queen of Harps, 1994.
  • Graysteil: Music from the Medieval Ages & Renaissance Scotland, (1995).


  • To Norwegian by Bagge, S. in HELLE 1980.
  • To English by E. B. in BEVERIDGE 1939, 279–80.

Date and place

Carmen gratulatorium was probably written for the wedding of the Norwegian king Eirik Magnusson and Margareta, daughter of the Scottish king Alexander III. The wedding was celebrated in Bergen some time between 30 August and 8 September 1281. KOLSRUD & REISS assume that the song was written in Norway, possibly by the author of Itinerarium in terram sanctam, the Franciscan frater Mauritius de Dacia. Frater Mauritius was a co-signer of the marriage contract between Eirik and Margareta in Roxburgh, Scotland, in July 1281, and was part of the Norwegian delegation who afterwards escorted the bride to Bergen (KOLSRUD & REISS 1913, 28, DE GEER 1985, 146). However, Scotland is also a possible place of origin, along with England (DE GEER 1985, 146).

Summary of contents

The song is addressed to Scotland (o dulcis Scocia), where the light, the king’s daughter, came from, now illuminating Norway, while Scotland is sad that she is gone. Thanks to her, it says, peace is announced and all countries rejoice, especially England. The virgin is brought to King Eirik and the people sing and dance from joy, the clerics, and all members of society come forward to celebrate. In the fifth strophe the king takes the virgin as his wife, and God is called upon to bless the union and provide them with offspring. The coronation ceremony on the day of the wedding is referred to in the sixth strophe, where the queen has her crown after being joined to the king, and dignified presides in worship. In the last strophes the bride is praised as mild, friendly and wise, humble and eloquent. She should be amiable like Rachel, pleasing like Ester, fertile like Lea and faithful like Susanna. Before the last line, which is echoing the first line in praise of Scotland, is a wish that the married couple may have a long and happy life as servants of God.

Composition and style

Carmen gratulatorium has been characterized as a hymn, a trouvère song and a sequence (PURSER 1992, 59). It has ten strophes, and all but the tenth are made up of pairs of versicles in Asclepiadic verse, or dactylic tetrameter (6pp + 6pp). The versicle pairs are rhythmically and melodically equal, while the melodic movements change from strophe to strophe, like in a sequence. The rhymes follow the second and fourth dactyl in each line, but in the second and ninth strophe the rhyme changes for the second versicle: St. 1, and 3-8: abababab, st. 2 and 9: ababcbcb (st. 10: abab). The rhymes are not very sophisticated, and the author is happy to follow grammatical endings in verbs (-itur), adverbs (-iter) or nouns (-ium, -ia), like in the first strophe:

Ex te lux oritur o dulcis Scocia,

qua uere noscitur fulgens Norwagia.

The second versicle in the strophe is then repeated with the same melody:

Que cum transuehitur trahis suspiria,

tui subrahitur quod regis filia.

The tenth strophe has only one versicle, and is an echo of the first strophe in contents, rhyme and melody:

Ex te progreditur o dulcis Scocia,

qua late spargitur laudis materia.

The strophe 1 + 10, and 8 + 9, have the same melody. Like in a sequence the pitch of the melody rises as the song progresses, here to a climax in the fifth strophe (rex ducit virginem dulce coniugium).

Carmen gratulatorium makes it clear that a royal wedding in 1281 was no purely secular event, and has many direct and indirect connections to the liturgical sphere. The opening image with the emerging light may have evoked associations to sequences with a similar allegory, like the sequence Lux illuxit for Sanctus Olavus. Some words often heard in liturgy are due to the circumstances impossible to avoid (rex, virgo). The description of the rejoicing crowd in the fourth strophe, omnis condicio et sexus, associates with a large range of religious commentaries and sermons, for example Honorius’ Speculum ecclesiae, in his description of the church: …omnis conditio, omnis aetas, omnis sexus…

God is called upon to bless the union (fifth strophe), and his son is praised for putting such worthy representatives in charge of his worship (sixth strophe), the ideals for the bride is exemplified through the Biblical figures Rachel, Ester, Lea and Susanna (eighth strophe), and in the final wish for happiness the couple is firstly described as God’s servants (ninth strophe). The comparison with the women from the Old Testament is in this context is not only a topos of female virtue, but also a direct reference to the prayer from the wedding ceremony; the bride should be the imitatrix sanctarum feminarum; sit amabilis uiro suo, ut Rachel (cf. FÆHN 1962, 23). Carmen gratulatorium, str. 8: Viro sit ut fuit Rachel amabilis. A similar reference to women from the Old Testament can be found in the office of Sancta Helena de Skövde, who is compared to Susanna, Sarah, Lea, Rachel and Esther. A verse for Matins of Sancta Fides (6. Oct.) has the same topic: Ut Rachel amabilis, ut Esther laudabilis, ut Ruth admirabilis.


The language and form seems to be liturgically inspired. Otherwise no specific sources or literary models are known.

Purpose and audience

As previously mentioned, the Carmen gratulatorium appears to be composed to be performed at the wedding ceremony of king Eirik Magnusson and the Scottish princess Margareta in Bergen in 1281.

Medieval reception and transmission

The song was probably not widespread, due to its origin as occasional poetry. It is only transmitted in one source:

Uppsala, University library, C 233, fol. 50v-51r.

This thirteenth century codex primarily contains Lotharius (Innocentius III): De miseria condicionis humane (seu De contemptu mundi), copied by several hands. The Carmen gratulatorium and the hymn Nobilis humilis for Sanctus Magnus were later added, both in the same hand, on blank pages in the manuscript. Another later entry, a letter formula dated 1274, indicates that the codex at this point belonged to a Franciscan community (KOLSRUD & REISS 1913, 16). An au-ligature in f 7r suggests a scribe familiar with the Old Norse vernacular. Because of the presence of the Magnus-hymn, the origin of the C 233 has traditionally been connected with the Orkney isles (see KOLSRUD & REISS 1913, 32, ANDERSON-SCHMITT & HEDLUND 1990, 122). There are no reasons, however, to rule out a Norwegian or Icelandic origin (DE GEER 1985, 145). The codex may possibly have been owned by bishop of Bergen Arne Sigurdsson (see KOLSRUD & REISS 1913, 33). Ca. 1500 it was donated to the monastery at Graamunkeholmen in Stockholm by the Franciscan friar Kanutus Johannis.


  • ANDERSSON-SCHMITT, M and HEDLUND, M 1990: Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala. Katalog über die C-sammlung, band 3, Stockholm Uppsala.
  • BEVERIDGE, J 1939: “Two Scottish thirteenth-century songs...”, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 73 (1938/39), 276-288.
  • DE GEER, I 1985: Earl, Saint, Bishop, Skald – and Music. The Orkney Earldom of the Twelfth Century. A Musicological Study, Institutionen för musikvetenskap, Uppsala Universitet 1985, 143-146.
  • DE GEER, I 1988: “Music and the Twelfth Century Orkney Earldom: A Cultural Crossroads in Musicological Persepective,” in Crawford, B. E.: St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney’s Twelfth-Century Renaissance, Aberdeen, 251.
  • FÆHN, H. 1962: Manuale Norwegicum (presta handbók), Oslo.
  • HELLE, K. 1980: En kongelig bryllupssang – A song for the royal wedding in Bergen A.D. 1281, Bergen (8 pages).
  • KOLSRUD, O. & REISS, R. 1913: Tvo norrøne latinske kvæde med melodiar, utgjevne fraa Codex Upsalensis C 233, Videnskabs-selskabets Skrifter. II. H.-F. Kl. 1912. No 5. Kristiania.
  • LAMPEN, W. 1957: "Frater Mauritius de Dacia, O. Min.", Collectanea Franciscana 27 (1957), 324-26.
  • PURSER, J 1992: Scotland’s music. A history of the traditional and classical music of Scotland from earliest times to the present day, Edinburgh and London, 59-62.
  • VOLLSNES, A. (ed.): Norges musikkhistorie 1, Oslo: Aschehoug 2001, 53 (reproduction, partial transcription, CD-recording).