What Is One Difference Between a Renaissance Mass and a Motet?

The text of a choral Renaissance mass includes all of the “ordinary” (standard sections) of the Roman Catholic Latin mass, while the text of a motet may include anything except the ordinary. Motets are also sacred works and have Latin texts. They may be performed as concert works or used liturgically between sections of the Mass.

Renaissance masses and choral motets are polyphonic choral works with sacred Latin texts. Because their sacred texts are not specific to certain religious feasts, motets are appropriate for use during Catholic mass. They are now frequently used during the offertory and as communion hymns. Motets are also staples of choral concert programs because their lack of instrumental accompaniment makes them budget friendly for community ensembles. Many motets, however, are quite complex and difficult for amateur choirs to master.

The overwhelming majority of motets are sacred works. Some composers, however, also wrote secular motets. These also featured Latin texts but were inappropriate for liturgical use because of their worldly subject matter. Secular motets are closely related to Renaissance madrigals, which are secular works with vernacular texts on topics such as love, romance and friendship. Popular topics of secular Renaissance motets include politics, praise of a monarch, love, romance, chivalry, lust and friendship.