Panis Angelicus ~ Franck

Panis Angelicus ~ Franck

Panis angelicus is the penultimate strophe of the hymn Sacris solemniis written by St Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi as part of a complete liturgy of the Feast including prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.


The strophe that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" (bread of angels) has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn. In 1872, César Franck set this strophe for tenor, organ, harp, cello, and double bass; later arranging it for tenor, chorus, and orchestra, he incorporated it into his Messe solennelle Op.12. Count John McCormack's 1932 performance of it in Dublin's Phoenix Park was considered the highlight of his career. It has been sung effectively by Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Richard Crooks, and Roberto Alagna, as well as by the sopranos Magda Olivero and Renata Scotto.

The phenomenon whereby the strophe of Sacris solemniis that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" is often treated as a separate hymn has occurred also with other hymns that Thomas Aquinas wrote for Corpus Christi: Verbum supernum prodiens (the last two strophes begin with "O salutaris Hostia") and Pange lingua gloriosi (the last two strophes begin with "Tantum ergo", in which case the word ergo ["therefore"] makes it evident that this part is the continuation of a longer hymn).