This article investigates three voci pari settings by Gioseffo Zarlino, the lectiones pro mortuis that appeared in the Motetta D. Cipriani de Rore et aliorum auctorum (Venice: Girolamo Scotto, 1563). Although this collection contains motets, we argue that Zarlino's lectiones were intended as liturgical items for an Office for the Dead, celebrated as part of exequial rites. As such, they represent the first printed liturgical settings for the Office for the Dead in the Italian-speaking area. By analyzing liturgical sources as well as chronicles, we show that there was no tradition of setting the lessons pro mortuis in Italy, and that Zarlino's lectiones must have been a somewhat isolated musical experiment. We contextualize the settings within Zarlino's oeuvre, while also highlighting their relation to the contemporary repertoire of polyphonic lessons for penitential liturgies, most importantly lamentations—a genre that was published widely in the 1560s. In an attempt to reconstruct the social and institutional networks that might constitute the background to Zarlino's lectiones, we urge considering their author not only as a theorist and composer, but also as a polymath, a priest, and, ultimately, a devout Christian.

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