The Pope’s Choir is the Oldest in the World, and Other Interesting Facts About The Sistine Chapel Choir

Being Pope comes with a few nice perks: Popemobile, a sweet ring, and a personal choir.

Some Interesting Facts About the Choir:

  • While the choir’s official name is The Sistine Chapel Choir, everyone knows them as The Pope’s Choir, because they sing at all important Papal celebrations.
  • They are the oldest choir in the world dating back to the 7th Century!
  • They weren’t always as good as they are now. In fact, they used to be called the “Sistine Screamers.”
  • The choir is currently made up fo 30 boys and 22 men.
  • Most of the music they perform was written by Palestrina who wrote it specifically for this choir and the Sistine Chapel, in which they most frequently perform.
  • The choir puts in three hours of practice every day.
  • Conductor Massimo Palombella was born on Christmas.
  • Over 700 boys audition every year, only about a dozen at most make it.
  • Boys in the choir are awarded a 5-year scholarship to a special school in Rome.
  • The choir’s 2015 album – Cantante Domino (featured in the playlist below) was the first recording ever allowed in the Sistine Chapel.
  • Boys must leave the choir when they reach puberty and their voice breaks, though they may return later as adults.
  • There are no records of boy singers in the choir between 1441 and 1903 – high parts were sung either by men who used their falsetto or by those who were castrated (consequently, their voices never broke).
  • Due to his objections to human castration, Pope Pius X released a letter in 1903 stating only “whole men” could be in the choir or clergy.

The Pope’s Choir is pretty great. We put two of their newest albums in the playlist below. We’ve found their music perfect for concentrating and getting work done as well as relaxing.

60 Minutes produced a piece about The Pope’s Choir, and it was so well received by producers and viewers, that it became the only story 60 minutes has ever run two weeks in a row. Click here to watch.

The Pope’s Choir | 60 Minutes
Sistine Chapel Choir | Wikipedia
Photo: UK in Holy See via Flickr