About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
“Catholics in America have been the heirs of a sentimental and subjective hymn tradition that, for some reason or other, has taken a deep and fast hold on the fancy of the average person.”
— Fr. Francis Brunner (1953)

A Most Magnificent Monogram
published 1 June 2013 by Jeff Ostrowski

O YOU KNOW what is represented by the symbol on the right? I did not, so I had to ask. It turns out it’s a monogram containing the following letters:


Anyone familiar with the Catholic Mass knows the beginning of the Preface: “Vere dignum et justum est” (“It is truly meet and just”). The word “meet” means “suitable, fit, or proper.” Some English translations have, “It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks.”

Can you find all the letters? If not, scroll down. I describe how each letter can be “found” below, but first I will show a few more examples:

O YOU SEE how the Preface begins with the words Et iustum est, aequum et salutare, etc.? That’s because the first two words “Uere dignum” are not required, since the monogram contains them. The FSSP priest who explained all this to me sent me another monogram which contains all the words of “MARIA.” I have posted this symbol on the right. Click here to see how the Preface looks in the CAMPION MISSAL. As I was researching, I was saddened to learn that many ancient liturgical manuscripts did not survive the Reformation.

So, did you find all the letters? If not, please open the following PDF:

      * *  Explanation of the UEREDIGNUM [pdf]

What about the “R”: did I find it correctly? That’s the only way I could make “R” fit. Do you know a better way? Let me know in the combox.

EMEMBER that “u” and “v” can be interchanged in Latin. Here’s what Fr. Aidan Nichols has to say, in his book on Fortescue:

In 1913, Fr. Adrian Fortescue published his translation of a number of the hymns of the Latin Lirurgy, and this prompted a sharp little exchange in The Tablet with the sculptor and type-designer Eric Gill (1882-1940) on the topic of Latin letters. Fortescue held that that the vernacular Romance distinction between “u” and “v” should not be carried over into present-day Latin inscriptions, and in his translations, originally privately printed, he put this conviction into typographical practice. Gill wrote in to dissent in characteristically pugnacious vein. “Pedantry is deservedly discredited as a kind of intellectual priggishness. A usage based on common practice is in this latter, as in all human things, a better thing than one resting on the authority of an individual, however learned.” Fortescue replied that the letter “u” printed with a rounded bottom was an ugly letter, and he ascribed Gill’s negative reaction to unfamiliarity with historic inscriptions. This was why Gill found a return to sound practice “queer and artistic.” Gill retorted that he certainly found Fortescue “queer and artistic in thinking the round U ugly.”
The remark seems to have rankled. Some years later he would recount the story for a figure who bears comparison with Gill in the history of print, Stanley Morison.

So, it seems Fortescue would have loved the following manuscript, which was created around 983AD:

He would have loved this one, too, from the 2nd half of the 10th century:

111 Ms D 3 5218