Le serpent, instrument de musique ancien

Recherche The serpent in the church choirs in France


Appearing in France about the end of the XVIth century, the serpent was invented, according to historical documents, to sustain voices in church choirs. Imbert de Sens, who wrote the first method for serpent in 1780, gave a predominant place to the serpent:

« Cet instrument, dont l’utilité pour l’Office divin, le rend au-dessus de tous les autres, est établi pour soutenir les voix, les rendre juste… », This instrument, whose use in sacred music makes it the most important, has to sustain voices and control the pitch of the choir.

Today, the serpent has been used again for the last 20 years in early music ensembles. The musicians have to find the way to play serpent, in agreement with historical usage we’ll try to define more precisely the importance  and the part played by this instrument, which, after supporting the singing in church services for several centuries , has become extraordinary .


                        The serpent is present in France, England, Germany, and Italy (serpentone) in the 17th and 18th centuries. In France, old music treaties mention the serpent only from the middle of the17th  century . The first writer to dedicate an article to the serpent is Father Marin Mersenne   in 1636.

    « Les Musiciens ont inventé plusieurs instrumens pour les mesler avec les voix, & pour suppléer le défaut de celles qui font la Basse […] Or cet instrument se nomme Serpent, à raison de sa figure, qui a des replis, comme l'animal qui porte ce nom, afin que la longueur qu’il auroit, s'il estoit tout droit, n'incommode point, car il a du moins six pieds de long, […] » 1

“ Musicians have invented several instruments to combine them with the voices and to compensate the Bass [….]This instrument is called serpent because it looks like the animal . Like the animal, it has coils so that its length doesn’t bother the player . If it was straight, the instrument would be 6 foot long , […]”

                          It’s very difficult to date precisely its appearance . In his Mémoires concernant l’histoire ecclésiastique  et civile d’ Auxerre 2 , the only known document suggesting a precise date for the invention of the serpent, Abbot Lebeuf assigns the invention of the serpent to Edmé Guillaume, a canon from Auxerre . He dates this invention back to 1590 and mentions  the first auditions  of this instrument during concerts organised at Amyot’s house

« Mais ce qui dut consoler les personnes zélées pour le chant grégorien et les autres chants anciens, est que dans le tems même de ces entreprises, un chanoine commensal de notre évêque [Amyot] et son oeconome (sic), inventa une machine capable de donner un nouveau mérite au chant grégorien. Ce chanoine nommé Edmé Guillaume trouva le secret de tourner un cornet en forme de serpent vers l’an 1590. On s’en servit pour les concerts qu’on exécuta chez lui, et cet instrument ayant été perfectionné, est devenu commun dans les grandes Églises. » 3

              “ But what must have comforted the people zealous for Gregorian chant and other old chants is that, at that same time , a canon, the table companion of our bishop [Amyot] and his bursar created a machine able to give Gregorian chant a new credit . This canon called Edmé Guillaume found the knack of turning a cornet into the shape of a snake about 1590 . It was used for the concerts performed at his home and this instrument, after being perfected, became common in big churches .”

                           This statement must be carefully considered as Abbot Lebeuf doesn’t cite his sources and between this statement (work published in 1749) and the presumed time of the invention according to Lebeuf , there’s a very important historical distance .

                        According to many authors of articles about the serpent, the first historical mention likely to inform us about the serpent is to be found in the chapter records of Sens, “ Comptes de la fabrique de l’archeveché de Sens “ 1453 -54 . A bulletin by the société des sciences de l’Yonne quotes the following mention « ressoudé le serpent de l’église et mis a point un lien en laiton, qui tient le livre » 4 “ Rewelded the serpent of the church and adjusted a brass tie to hold the book “ We’ve been able to find this source in the departemental records of Yonne  . Here’s a completed transcription5  :

                 “ [ Item , given to Sieur  Maillant ] for rewelding the church serpent that was unsoldered and for adjusting a brass tie , that holds the book . “

                        This information , considered as the oldest proof of the usage of the instrument by many writers , is nevertheless questioned . This source is isolated in time,  with a gap of 150 years  with the17th century that sees the first important developments in the usage of the serpent in the churches in France .The word  “rewelded”  implies a metallic element but metal isn’t the most common element used to make a serpent even if Mersenne says the serpent can be made of metal . Besides, considering the morphology of the instrument, it seems difficult to hook  “the book” ( antiphonary or gradual ) on it so that the  instrumentalist can read it .Couldn’t it be a part of the church furniture that would be shaped as a snake  ? The lectern was after all called  “the eagle “

                         These interrogations, as for a clear reference to the serpent as a music instrument, question this information, at least as long as new enquiries won’t have clearly established the presence of the serpent at that time in other French churches .As the records from the different French parishes studied don’t mention any serpent player before the beginning of the 17th century, dating the apparition of the serpent back to 1590 (as mentioned in Lebeuf’s writings) would be more plausible  .However , the presence of a serpent-player position in Avignon, only 12 years later, leads us to think that the instrument had probably been in existence for a longer period .Mersenne’s text, if it is reliable, can’t be considered as  a lower milestone in France ;This complex work ,a sum of  informations of encyclopedic value, allows  us  to think that several tens of years have been necessary since its invention, before the instrument-use was common enough to be mentioned . Ecclesiastical records giving evidence of serpent-player positions are , no doubt, the most admissible indications concerning the apparition of the serpent in France .

                       The origin of the serpent remains tricky to clarify .On the other hand, its usage seems to have made a quick progress in church music in the 17th century. The first known position of  serpent player was held by Michel Tornatoris in Notre- Dame Des Doms in Avignon, as early as 1602: : « Conclud de bailler à monsieur Tornatoris béneficié de caens ung escu le moys pour jouer du basson ou serpent … ».6 “reached an agreement  to give sir Tornatoris  a hundred and one ecus a month to play the bassoon or serpent ….”
                       The South of France seems to be the first area where the serpent developed : The choir of Saint Agricol in Avignon acquires a serpent in 16137 and one can be found in Saint- Nazaire Cathedral in Béziers, in 16278, Carpentras 1633

                          The serpent then spread in most of the French churchs that had a musical activity . It’s more widely found in French churches about 1621 Dijon St Chapelle 1630, Coutance, 1640 : Troyes 1643, Embrun 1647, Sainte Chapelle in Paris 1651, Chartres 16559.

        In the « Chapelle Royale » in Versailles, serpent’s usage is attested since 1664, it is played notably by the members of the family  « Ferrier ».

                          In the 18th century, the serpent confirms its importance ; It was so much appreciated and so well considered by ecclesiastical authorities that, in 1751, the archbishop of the Saint-Jean chapel in Jumilhac offers  the chapter to support ,at his own expenses, a second serpent-player so as to “ contribute to the dignity and majesty of the choir chant” . This offer was ,of course , accepted by the canons who appointed three delegates “to thank him and make with him all the necessary arrangements necessary to that purpose “.10

                          The many representations of serpents as statues, panellings, or decorations on organ-chests show the wide  presence of the serpent in all the French provinces .

               Several instruments are associated with the «  music » of a church ( the word “ music “ meaning here the instrumental group accompanying voices in church )Here’s what Mersenne says:

« Les Musiciens ont inventé plusieurs instrumens pour les mesler avec les voix, & pour suppléer le défaut de celles qui font la Basse & le Dessus, car les Chantres qui ont des Basses assez creuses sont fort rares, c'est pourquoy l'on use du Basson, de la Sacquebute & du Serpent, comme l’on se sert du Cornet pour suppléer celles du Dessus, qui ne sont pas bonnes pour l’ordinaire. »11

                           “Musicians have invented several instruments to combine them with voices and to compensate for the Bass and the Soprano because the cantors who have deep enough Bass are very rare, that’s why the bassoon is, the sacquebute,and the serpent are used,in the same way as the cornet is used to compensate for the Soprano that are not good for the ordinary. “

                 Mersenne, there, only mentions wind instruments . For a large part of the 17th century, this predominance of wind instruments is confirmed by the records we have studied .Let’s take two examples: Notre Dame in Beaune and Bordeaux cathedral

Notre- Dame in Baune: musicians’ presence 12

DATES                       MUSICIAN                            POSITION                        INSTRUMENT

1625                             Chardennet,C                                                                   organ
1631-1652                    Huyn J                                   music master                    
1632                                                                           altar boy                             cornetto
1632                             Gardon                                  teacher                               cornetto
1632                             Gardon                                  teacher                               serpent
1632                             Pommier J                             deacon                               serpent
1634                             Chardenet C                          priest                                  serpent
1635                             Rouget S                                priest                                 bassoon
1638                             Pommier J                             vicar                                   serpent
1647(06/02/1647          Rouget S                               priest                                  bassoon
1647                             Pommier J                             vicar                                   serpent  
1651                             Grantin                                                                             organ
1652                                                                                                                      serpent
1656                                                                                                                      spinet
1656                                                                                                                      flageolet
1657                             Menault P                             chorial                                organ
1657                             Gaugain J                                                                         manicordion
1657                             Menault P                             teacher                                manicordion
1657                             Magnien P                                                                        serpent
1657                             Menault  P                            teacher                                spinet
1657                             Chardenet C                          teacher                               organ
1657                             Gaugain J                                                                         spinet
1658                                                                                                                      serpent
1660                              Magnain P                            chaplain                              bassoon
1661(27/10/1661)         Gaugain J                                                                         serpent
1661                              Quantin                                                                            organ
1663                              Chardenet C                         teacher                                organ
1670                              Gaugain J                             chaplain                               bass(instrument)
1670                              Gaugain J                             chaplain                              serpent
1671                              Gaugain J                               chaplain                            bass(instrument)
1671                              Gaugain J                               chaplain                            serpent
1671-1676                     Menault P                               music master
1672                              Gaugain J                                                                         bass viol    

1675                                Henriot J                                                                        bass violin
1675                                Gaugain J                              teacher                             bass violin
1676                                Mellet A                                music master
1679                                Garot                                     altar boy                           bass viol
1679                                Espiard J                               master of morals               bass violin
1687                                                                                                                       organ
1704                                                                                                                       organ
1708                                                                              altar boy                           spinet
1708                                                                              altar boy                           serpent
1718(16/11/1718)           Ferré J                                                                            serpent
1742                               Carillon                                                                           bass( instrument)
1722(02/12/1722)          Gaulonn JB                                                                     serpent
1722(02/12/1722)          Gaulon J B                                                                      basse (instrument)
1723(02/04/1723           Alaux A                                                                          flute
1723(30/03/1723)          Plicot                                     cantor                               violin
1725(13/07/1725)          Gaulon JB                             lay musician                     serpent
1728                               Carillon                                 teacher                              bass violin
1737                               Chaufetet                                                                        bass bow
1740                               Carillon                                 music teacher
1740                               Chaufetet                                                                         bass bow
1741                               Chaufetet                                                                         bass bow
1742                               Chaufetet                                                                         bass bow
1743                               Chaufetet                                                                         bass bow
1746                                                                                                                       instrumernts X
1749                               Amidey                             serpent
1750                                                                             carriers                              bass(instrument)
1751(29/08/1751)                                                                                                  serpent
1752(01/04/1752)                                                                                                  serpent

          If the bass bows  ( bass violin, viol or doublebass) become more and more important during the 18th century, the serpent remains a very present instrument while the cornet disappears, sometimes for the benefit of the violin or the flute. The usage of the spinet and  of the manicordion seemed to be devoted to the education of children, these instruments  were kept inside the choir-school


   In Bordeaux cathedral, we find many cornets and serpents in the 17th century 13 :

DATES                    MUSICIAN                         POSITION                                INSTRUMENT

1602                                                                                                                    bassoon
1613                         Bourguignon J                      master instrument player         cornetto
1613                         Bourguignon J                      master instrument player         cornetto
1621                                                                                                                       cornetto
1635                                                                                                                       choir organ
1641                                                                                                                       serpent
1643                                                                                                                       small organ
1650                                                                       altar boy                                  cornetto
1652                                                                       choir boy                                 cornetto
1651                        Olyve                                     teacher                                     cornetto
1653                                                                                                                       small organ
1657/1660               Ouvrard R                              music master
1663                                                                                                                   spinet
1663                                                                       chorister                                  serpent
1666                                                                                                                       serpent
1668                        Launy J                                                                                   serpent
1673                                                                       choir                                         boy  serpent
1673                                                                       choir boy                                  serpent
1677                                                                                                                        serpent
1677                                                                                                                        serpent

          Strings don’t appear among the instruments regularly used in Bordeaux at that time , the violin is even prohibited from some services as indicated by the chapter records of 1604” No violin playing at baptisms “14
           On the other hand, in the  18th century, lists of instrumentalists exceptionally hired for several Te  Deums show us how important  the presence of string instruments is   in the symphony : here’s the list of the musicians hired for two Te Deums in 1739  and 1763

1739 Te Deum 21/06 15                                       1763 Te Deum for Peace16

Gaudier                     bassoon                             Desamant                   cello
Blainville                  bass violin                         Duferé                        taille de violon
Magnié                      bass violin                         Jolicoffres                  oboe
bel air                        oboe                                  Kernerlaix                  flute
Jolicoffres                 oboe                                   Rives                         violin
Legal                         serpent                               bel air                        flute
                                                                            ?                                 trumpet
                                                                            Astrodi                       cello
                                                                            La Rie                        cello
                                                                            Magné                       cello
                                                                            Audig é                      cello
                                                                            Denis senior               cello
                Levens 1738-1764 te deum                Denis junior               cello
                                          Te per orbem            Denoreux                   violin
                                                                            Puget                         violin


               Scores mentioning the serpent are rare: In the 17th century, we only spotted three writers who specified the usage of the serpent in some works: M A Charpentier, S de Brossard  and L Gontier17. In the 18th century, we sometimes find separated parts dedicated to the serpent as for example the pieces by Louis Grénon conservées à la cathédrale du Puy-en-Velay18 (about 20 pieces by Grénon have a specificate part for serpent)
                Missals, ceremonials, antiphons or gradual books, for most of them, don’t provide any precision as for music during religious services. We know that the catalogue of the instruments present in every church varied a lot according to the chapter financial means .The use of instruments was therefore in the choir master’s hand, according to the place facilities . We can, however, find some indications in writings, as in  this  antiphon in Notre Dame in Paris, painted in 1669 : an illumination representing a trophy with two serpents definitely proves the use of this instrument during services in Notre Dame in Paris19.

                  Musical   treaties only rarely evoke the usage of instruments . From the 17th century, some  plain chant treaties or methods nevertheless refer to the existence and usage of  the serpent : Abbot Lebeuf, in his Traité sur le chant ecclésiatique 20 of 1741, evokes the serpent as an accompaniment instrument for plain chant ( cf quotation on the previous  page ), so does Cousin de  Contamine, in  his  Traité critique du plain chant  ecclésiastique :
« …Ne seroit-ce pas pour soutenir le chant dans le vrai ton que cet instrument a été introduit dans les églises ? » 21

   “ Couldn’t it be to back up the chant in the right tone that this instrument has been introduced in the churches ? “

                   La Feillé , in his Méthode nouvelle pour apprendre parfaitement les règles du plain chant et de la psalmodie, avec des messes et autres ouvrages de plain chant figuré et musical, à l’usage des paroisses et des communaurtés religieuses (1748), presents a Mass in the fifth tone ”alternatively in music and plain chant”. The author adds : “ it is advisable to add a serpent to the chorus “22

                   In his Traité critique du plain chant ecclésiastique (1749),Cousin de Contamine writes

« Les joueurs de serpent qui sont faits pour soutenir le chœur dans son ton, se prêtent aux chantres et baissent avec eux. Ceci n’arriverait point si l’orgue qui ne peut varier, donnait le ton aux chantres. »23

                     « The serpent players who are here to back up the chorus in his stone, fall in with the cantors and with them. This wouldn’t be the case if the organ, that can’t vary, gave the tuning to the cantors “

                   It’s only at the end of the 18th that works, destined to the teaching of the serpent can be found .Some, like Gammes du serpent pour apprendre à jouer sans maitre24  ou Tablature ou gamme facile pour apprendre à jouer du serpent are only tablatures for serpent finger exercises ( cf  Etendue et doigtés, §:II,B,) , with some musical exercises and examples .

                  The first serpent method, as a way to explain how to play the serpent, is included in the Nouvelle méthode de plain chant, by Imbert de Sens, in 178025. Even if the writer  doesn’t dwell on the technique, in his introduction he gives precious indications and gives a tablature in the second book including this “ method to learn how to play the serpent” . He also gives us one of the best definitions of the serpent

« Cet instrument, dont l’utilité pour l’Office divin, le rend au-dessus de tous les autres, est établi pour soutenir les voix, les rendre juste, ne pas les dominer, rendre les sons égaux, ne pas faire résonner plus un son qu’un autre et soutenir l’égalité. »

                                “ This instrument, whose usefulness in the religious service is above any other, is established so as to back up the voices, make them accurate, without dominating them, to equalize sounds so that none is overwhelming and to maintain the balance”

                                    The following pages contain many examples of plain chant parts for the serpent and rules of interpretation and transposition of this very characteristic music.
                   If liturgy books or treaties little inform us about music, records and chapters decisions are a precious source of information as for the liturgical usage of music and of instruments during services . The chapter records of Amiens cathedral corroborate Lebeuf’s words:

                   « 17 may 1776, M. le Président a été prié d'avertir les Srs Marcillac et Renouard musiciens que l'intention du Chapitre est qu'ils jouent du serpent à tout ce qui est plein-chant (sic.) et dans ce cas le Chapitre leur continuera les mêmes appointements qu'ils ont perçus jusqu'à présent lesquels appointements seront réduits à 300 1. seulement s'ils ne jouent de leur instrument que les jours où il y a musique, excepté les jours simples et fériés à vêpres mais qu'ils se trouveroient pour en jouer aux répons de Tierce et de Vêpres toutes les fois qu'ils s'en trouveroient ainsy qu'aux grandes messes tous les jours. » 26

       “May,17th 1776 The President has been requested to inform Srs Marcillac and Renouard, musicians, that the chapter wants them to play the serpent to whatever is plain chant(sic) and in that case, the chapter will continue to  pay the same wages as those paid so far, whch wages will be reduced to 300 l, only if they play their instruments on days when there is music, except on ordinary days and bank holidays for Vespers but they would play in answer to  Tierce and Vespers as often as there would be as well as for daily High Mass” 

            In Amiens, in his mémoires, Abbot René Tiron evokes the practice of “chant on the book” : “A strange usage and which I find very ridiculous today, was what was called chant on the book” . He then explains it was a simultaneous improvisation with several voices whose plain chant bass was sung by the basso profundo, backed up by the serpent27. This technique is described in several treaties of the 18th century and the serpent methods give many examples of improvisation” for a good serpent” as Metoyen  says28.

             The chapter’s decisions in Saint Sernin in Toulouse point out that the choir children perform plain song  without back up , and the polyphony performs a capella  Only the serpent sounds the key note and the organ answers them29.

                According to the previously quoted documents indicating the presence of the serpent in the liturgy, the serpent seems indeed to be the main support of the chorus. It sounds the key note and accompanies the plain chant . It seems to be part and parcel of the chorus in the choir and in dialogue to the great organ that answers .It is present in every service,even those “without music .” as the chorus can’t sing without  this reference .

     The role of the serpent in polyphonic music seems to be the backing of the choir bass or thorough bass: that’s the case in the scores mentioning the serpent in the 17th century ( cf Brossardand Charpentier’s scores quoted above ).Here is what Gontier declares in the foreword of his Missa quatuor vocum ad basin organi.Audi et vide, in which a separate usage of the serpent is suggested to create a differentiation between the thorough basses of the two chorus .

« L'Auteur en execution de son dessein n'a repeté aucun mot dans les parties sinon à Cujus regni non erit finis eu egard au sujet & à la chaconne ; à Osanna & Benedictus à cause de briéveté de la lettre , & au Miserere du premier Agnus Dei pour y finir plus d'apparat quand l'Orgue joüe. Les endroits de la Messe marquez en lettres Italiques doivent estre chantez par le Petit Chœur ; ceux en lettres Rondes par le Grand Chœur ou sera employé le Serpent pour la Basse-Continüe et mesme dans le Petit Chœur au deffaut d'un Basson, d'une Orgue ou d'Instruments à chordes. »30

“The author realising his purpose didn’t repeat any word in the parts, except at Cujus regni non erit finis in consideration of the subject and the chaconne ; at Osanna and Benedictus because of the shortness of the epistle, and at  the Miserere of the first Agnus Dei for more pump when the organ is playing .The parts of the Mass written in italics must be sung by the Small Chorus, those in round letters by the great chorus when the serpent will be used for the thorough bass and even in the Small chorus in the absence  of a bassoon, an organ or string instruments .”

                      Considering the vocal accompaniment part played by the serpent, it wasn’t evident to imagine it could be found as a bass in purely instrumental music .It is nevertheless the case in the two following pieces: Simphonie pour le graduel by Sébastien de Brossard(SdB 230) and  Offerte pour l’orgue et pour les violons flûtes et hautbois  (H514) by Marc – Antoine Charpentier .

                        In any case, when it is part of a symphony, the serpent joins the thorough bass, an essential element of the orchestra in the 17th century . Therefore, the serpent is often associated to the bassoon ,as seen in the scores of Sébastien de Brossard and in his arrangements for the pieces  of  Alessandro Grandi (SdB 256) Giovanni Antonio Grossi (SdB 258), Bartolomeo Baldrati (SdB 235), and François Cosset SdB 248.

                      The sources from the 18th century deliver more ample precisions as for the instrumentation .The scores are often more detailed; each part is generally specified, and separate parts have reached us in a greater number. Let’s s here mention the consequent fund of scores by Louis Grénon   - kept in  Le Puy en Velay cathedral - in which many separate parts for the serpent are found31. At that time, the orchestra goes through mutations: the thorough bass tends to disappear and the orchestra is organised in families of instruments. The serpent then becomes the bass of the group of wind instruments. It can be used in two different ways : in association with the bassoon ( pieces by  Jean Combes, Henry Hardouin32 a reminiscence of the habits of the thorough bass . or associated to the group of brass instruments, which gives the serpent a new role ( pieces by François- Joseph Gossec, Joseph Supries , Vallette de Montigny33. In the 19th century, this evolution of the orchestra will lead to try to bring together the sonority of the serpent and of the brass instruments by making it more brilliant and more powerful That’s how the serpent will see its evolution go through  an instrument t made of metal:the ophicleide to lead to the tuba .

                      As for sonority, contrary to the current brass instruments that have a brilliant sounding, the serpent is a very soft instrument, with a warm sound that fills the space and these sounding characteristics directly induce the musical role of the serpent.

                     This sound was destined to accompany the voices, as Abbot Lebeuf declares about Edmé Guillaume( the inventor of this instrument in this writer’s opinion ) : “[Edmé Guillaume ] created a machine able to give a new merit to the Gregorian chant” 34

                    The sounding of the serpent had to blend with the voices and back them, but also be soft enough not to cover them . Mersenne praises the serpent on that matter.

« Or cet instrument est capable de soustenir vingt voix des plus fortes, dont il est si aysé de ioüer qu’un enfant de quinze ans en peut sonner aussi fort cômme un homme de trente ans. Et l’on peut tellement en adoucir le son qu’il sera propre pour ioindre aux voix de la musique douce des chambres, […] »35

                      “  Well,  Playing this instrument, able to back 20 voices  among the strongest is so easy that a child of 15 can sound this instrument    as loud as a man of 30. And you can soften its sound so much that it will be adequate to accompany sweet chamber music , […]” 

                     One of its major sonorous characteristics is the important part of the resonance At the mouth, .the serpent gives a rather poor direct sound making wind and interferences  audible The serpent sounding develops thanks to the acoustics in the room , if it offers a sufficient re-echoing . Even in a large place, the sound then fills up the space, without emitting too powerful a direct sound  When it accompanies a chorus, the serpent considerably widens the harmonic scale of the cantor spectrum by re-enforcing and reverberating the bass . We’ve been able to put forward these characteristics thanks to an acoustic study  (cf our article:”Contribution of acoustic in playing  early instruments in agreement with historical usage : the serpent as example 36”) 


                   Though it s impossible to date precisely the apparition  of the serpent, it is in church that it develops in the 17th and 18th centuries and becomes the absolute must for vocal accompaniment in France , but also in Europe from the 18th century .

                   It is essentially in ecclesiastical records that we’ve been able to trace this instrument and to demonstrate its presence in every region of  France from the 17th century . It was taught  in choir schools, the main places for children’s music tuition at that time .It was present in important institutions such as the Chapelle Royale  that included several serpents among its permanent musicians .

The serpent, ideally evoluting in church-like acoustics, makes a warm bass, wrapping the sounding of voices without overwhelming them  In their descriptions of the usage of the serpent, historical sources are totally in agreement about  the instrument ‘s own  sound characteristics making  of the instrument an ideal backing for deep voices .

The serpent was the most important instrument with the organ in church music, before he was replaced notably by harmonium after 1840. Today we have to promote the usage of serpent in French sacred music from the end of Renaissance to the 19s century because it was a basement of the sound color in this repertorie.

1 M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 1636, ré-impression, C.N.R.S., Paris, 1986, vol. 3, livre 5, proposition XXIV, p. 278.

2Jean Lebeuf (abbé), Mémoires concernant l’histoire ecclésiastique et civile d’Auxerre, Paris, Durand, 1745, Vol.1, p.643.

3 J. Lebeuf (abbé), Mémoires concernant l’histoire ecclésiastique et civile d’Auxerre, Paris, Durand, 1745, Vol.1, p.643.

4 A. Cherest, « Notice sur les musiciens qui ont illustré le département de l’Yonne depuis les premiers siècles de l’ère chrétienne jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle », Bulletin de la société des sciences de l’Yonne, Vol.4, 1850, p.40.

5 AD Yonne, « comptes de la fabriques de la cathédrale de Sens », G 1137, f°36 r.

6 J. A. Westrup, « Sidelights in the serpent », LXVIII, 1927, p. 635-637.

7 J. Robert, « La maîtrise Saint-Agricol d'Avignon au XVIIe siècle », Quatre-vingt-dixième congrès national des sociétés savantes, Nice, 1965 : section d'histoire moderne et contemporaine : actes, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, 1966, vol. 3, p. 618.

8 A. Beges, J. Beges, La chapelle de musique de la cathédrale Saint-Nazaire, 1590-1790, Béziers, Société de Musicologie du Languedoc, 1982, p 35.

9 M. Brenet, « Notes sur l’introduction des instruments dans les églises en France », Rieman-Festschrift, Leipsig, 1909, p. 284.

10 M. Signorile, la musique a Arles du milieu du 17e siècle a la veille de laRévolution française, Thèse de doctorat de 3e cycle sous la direction de André bourde, musicologie, Aix marseille,1985, p. 164.

11 M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 1636, ré-impression, C.N.R.S., Paris, 1986, vol. 3, livre 5, proposition XXIV, p. 278.

12 Archives Départementales de la Cote d’Or, série G

13 Archives Départementales de la Gironde série G

14 AD-33, G292, f° 35 `

15 « liste de messieurs les musiciens qui ont chanté et joué des instruments au Te Deum le dimanche 21 juin 1739 », AD- 33, G3317

16 « 75 l. pour les musiciens étrangers qui ont chanté et joué au Te Deum pour la paix », AD-33, G3324

17 L. Gontier, Missa quatuor vocum ad basin organi. Audi et vide, psaume XLIV. 12, Paris, C. Ballard, 1686, partition, f. 1v., Avertissement.

18 Fond musical de la cathédrale du Puy, en cours de catalogage

19 voir notre article : "Le serpent dans les églises françaises: parcours historique et iconographique", Musique Images
Instruments, vol.8, Mars 2006, CNRS édition, p.139-152

20 J. Lebeuf (abbé), Traité historique et pratique sur le chant ecclésiastique [...], Paris, Claude Jean-Baptiste et Jean Th.
Hérissant, 1741, réimpression, Genève, Minkoff, 1972, p. 177.

21 Cousin de Contamine, Traité critique du plain-chant ecclésiastique, Paris, P.G. Le Mercier, 1749, p. 33.

22 F. de La Feillé, Méthode nouvelle pour apprendre parfaitement les règles du plain-chant et de la psalmodie, avec des messes et autres ouvrages de plain-chant figuré et musical, à l'usage des paroisses et des communautés religieuses. Par M. de La Feillé, ecclésiastique..., Poitiers, Jean Faulcon, 1748, p. 223.

23 Cousin de Contamine, Traité critique du plain-chant ecclésiastique, Paris, P.G. Le Mercier, 1749, p. 33

24 Gammes du serpent pour apprendre à jouer sans maître, Paris, Imbault, c. 1790, 2 p.

25 Imbert, de Sens, Nouvelle méthode de plain-chant, op. cit.

26 G. Durand, « La musique de la cathédrale d'Amiens avant la Révolution », Bulletin de la Société des antiquaires de Picardie, XXIX, I920-22, p. 329

27 R. Tiron (abbé), Souvenirs d'un vieux Picard, ou Particularités et anecdotes concernant la cathédrale, le clergé et plusieurs personnages importants de la ville d'Amiens, de 1771 à 1781, précédés d'une notice sur la vie et les écrits de l'auteur, par M. l'abbé J. Gosselin, Amiens, Imprimerie de Lenoel-Hérouart, 1864, p.42.

28 J.-B. Métoyen, Ouvrage complet pour l’éduction du serpent, ms, Paris, BnF, publication récente par B. Sluchin, Paris, Brass Urtext, 2002.

29 N. Dufourcq, « Les chapelles de musique de saint Sernin et saint Etienne de Toulouse dans le dernier quart du XVIIe siècle », Revue de Musicologie, XXXIX, juillet 1959, p. 46.

30 Leonorio Gontier, Missa quatuor vocum ad basin organi. Audi et vide., psaume XLIV. 12., Paris, C. Ballard, 1686, partition, f.1v avertissement

31 see Louis Grénon, un musicien d’église au XVIIIe siècle, Clermont Ferrand, Presses universitaires Blaise-Pascal, 2005

32 Jean Combes (1740-fin XVIIe s.), [Hymne pour la fête de l’annonciation], ms., Béziers, 1755, partition, 170p. Solistes, 2 HC, HT, BT, chœur, sol2, ut3, ut4, fa4; ut4, petit chœur, 2 sol2, orch., 2 fl, 2 trp, bsn, serpent, timp, 2 vl. Toulouse, bibliothèque du conservatoire, RES.MUS.CONS.899
Henri Hardouin (1727-1808), [O salutaris hostia], ms., entre 1750 et 1790, partition, 1 f°. 2 BT, 2 BC, orch., 2 cors, 2 cl, 4 vl, 2 bsn, 2 serpents, CB, vlc, orgue. Reims, maîtrise de la cathédrale volume 24(c)

33 François-Joseph Gossec, (1734-1829), Te deum, « Motet à grand chœur », ms., partition, 111p. Soliste fa4, chœur, ut3, ut4, fa4, orch.,2 fl picc ,2 hb ,2 cl. ,2 bsn ,2 trp, 2 cor, 2 trb, serpent, cimb, tamb, timp, gc,2vla. Paris, Bnf musique, Ms. 1430.
Joseph Supries, (1761-1822), Confitebor, tibi... in consilio, ps.110, ms. 1786, 31 parties, solistes: D (x2), HC (x2), T, B, chœur : HC, T (x4), B (x6), orch., 2 fl, bsn, serpent, 2 cors, vl 1, vl 2 (x3), vla, bc (x3). Aix, bibliothèque Méjane, F.C.ms. 753.
Valette de Montigny, (17??-18??), Salvum me fac deus, « motet mis en musique par Mr Vallete », ms., s.d. partition, 70p. Solistes, sol2, ut3, ut4, fa3, fa4, chœur, sol2, ut3, ut4, fa3, fa4, orch., bsn, serpent, vl, hcvln, vlc, bc. Paris, Bnf musique Vm11125

34 J. Lebeuf (abbé), Mémoires concernant l’histoire ecclésiastique et civile d’Auxerre, Paris, Durand, 1745, tome 1, p. 643.

35 M. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 1636, réimpression, C.N.R.S., Paris, 1986, vol 3, livre 5, proposition XXV, p. 281.

36 Parper for the Forum Acusticum 2005 in Budapest :