Accentus Ecclesiasticus (called also mode of reading chorally) is the result of successive attempts to insure in public worship uniformity of delivery consistent with uniformity of matter-delivered, so as to hide individual peculiarities. It presents a sort of mean between speech and song, continually inclining towards the latter, never altogether leaving its hold on the former. It is speech, though always attuned speech, in passages of average interest and importance; it is song, though always distinct and articulate song, in passages demanding more fervid utterance. Though actually musical only in concluding or culminating phrases, the accentus ecclesiasticus always admits of being expressed in musical characters. Accentus is probably the oldest, and certainly the simplest, form of cantus ecclesiasticus, and probably grew out of the limited capacity of the so-called "natural;" or speaking, voice.
Accentus ecclesiasticus must have been for many ages perpetuated by tradition only. That the rules of its application have been reduced to writing only in comparatively modern times does not invalidate its claim to a high antiquity, for it is only then traditions are dying out that they begin to be put on record. Lucas Lossius (A.D. 1590) gave six forms of cadence or close, i.e. modes of bringing to an end a phrase, the earlier portion of which had been recited in monotone. The accent is
(1) immutabilis, when a phrase is concluded, without any change of pitch;
(2) edius, when the voice, on the last syllable, falls from the reciting (or dominant) note a third;
(3) gravs, when on the last syllable it falls a fifth;
(4) acutus, when the dominant note, after the interposition of a few notes at a lower pitch, is resumed
(5) moderatus, when the monotone is interrupted by an ascent, on: the penultimate, of a second;
(6) interrogativus, when the voice, after a slight descent, rises scalewise on the last syllable;
(7) finalis, when the voice, after rising a second above the dominant, falls scalewise to the fourth below it, on which the last syllable is sounded. The choice of these accents or cadences is regulated by the punctuation of the passage recited; each particular stop having its particular cadence or cadences. Thus the comma was indicated and accompanied by (1), (4), and (5); the colony (2); and the full stop by (3).
To the accentus belong the following portions: of offices of the Latin Church
(1) Intoning of the collects or prayers; (2) of the epistles and gospels; (3) of solemn and colorous lessons; (4) various forms of intonation, benediction; and absolution used in the liturgy; (5.) single verses; (6) the exclamations and admonitions of the assistants at the altar; (7) the prefaces the Pater Noster. — with its prefaces; the benediction Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.