Joseph Pothier

Joseph Pothier

Dom Joseph Pothier, O.S.B. (1835–1923) was a worldwide known French prelate, liturgist and scholar who reconstituted the Gregorian chant.

Abbot Pothier circa 1898


Born in 1835 at Bouzemont, France, Dom Joseph Pothier joined Solesmes Abbey (1859) as a Benedictine monk under Abbot Dom Prosper Guéranger. He later was made sub-prior of Saint-Pierre-de-Solesmes (1862–1863 and 1866–1893), then superior of Saint-Martin-de-Ligugé Abbey (1893-1895 in Ligugé, 1895-1898 as deputy to Saint-Wandrille on behalf of Ligugé Abbey). He was eventually appointed abbot of Saint-Wandrille-de-Fontenelle (installed on the abbey throne on July 24, 1898), the Benedictine abbey in Saint-Wandrille-Rançon, Normandy - closed during the French Revolution - he had refounded since 1895, becoming its first abbot since the French Revolution, and also its first regular abbot since the 16th century.

The Most Reverend Abbot Dom Pothier moved from France to Belgium with his exiled community in 1901, following the French 'Associations law' against religious congregations passed by Minister Waldeck-Rousseau.


A musicologist, disciple and collaborator of Solesmes Abbot Dom Prosper Guéranger, Dom Pothier contributed to the reconstitution, the restoration and the renewal of the Gregorian chant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the Roman Catholic Church. He was later, 1904 by Pope St. Pius X, appointed president of the Pontifical Commission on the Vatican Edition of the Gregorian Liturgical Books. As chairman of this commission for the reconstitution of the music of the Roman Catholic Mass, Dom Pothier lived in Rome from 1904 till 1913.

Besides being the composer of many Gregorian songs (Officium Defunctorum, 1887) and the writer of a huge amount of articles, Dom Pothier was also the head and editor of the Revue du Chant Grégorien (1892–1914) - supervising the publication of several works (Hymnes, Christmas office, Antifonario, Cantus mariales) -, the founder of the Paléographie Musicale publication for the dissemination of medieval liturgical manuscripts, and the author of a new edition of the choir books based on manuscripts of the Gregorian chant and of several studies on the plainchant, including Les mélodies grégoriennes d'après la tradition (Gregorian Melodies According to the Tradition), 1880, which became the standard work on the subject.

His Liber Gradualis, 1883, marked the beginning of a reform in liturgical chant and was used as a basis for the Gradual Vatican which was published, under his responsibility, in 1908.

Dom Pothier died at the Priory of Conques, Belgium in 1923. In 1912, he had founded with his exiled community of St. Wandrille a new priory in Canada, Saint Benedict Abbey, Quebec, which later became independent within the Solesmes Congregation.


  • Dom Joseph Pothier, Abbé de Saint Wandrille, Réformateur du Chant grégorien, X.M.L., 1999-2009 (available at [1] and [2] [FR]), based on Dom Joseph Pothier, Abbé de Saint-Wandrille, et la restauration du chant grégorien, a biography by Dom Lucien David, O.S.B. (A.S.W).

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