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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sacred Music and Hymnology

A guide to reference material, books, articles, and performance materials for sacred music.


Decorative image of an open hymnbook.Welcome to the Music & Performing Arts Library (MPAL) Sacred Music and Hymnology Guide! What exactly is hymnology, you ask? Hymnology is a field of musicology that systematically studies the history and use of hymns.

While most religious traditions have a corpus of sacred music or congregational song, the realm of scholarship known as "hymnology" evolved primarily in Great Britain, Western Europe, and America, and thus has typically focused on Judeo-Christian traditions.

This LibGuide will acquaint you with basic resources for research; places to look for more in-depth information such as journals and archives; and some of the many web resources available for scholars and performers interested in sacred music.

Use the tabs to the left to navigate this guide, and don't hesitate to reach out to a librarian if you need extra help.

Depending on your research topic, you may also want to check out some of our other library guides. In particular, we are linking a few below that might be helpful. 

Tips for Exploring the Collection

Browsing the shelves for materials related to your topic can be a great way to identify items that may be useful to you! If you find one or two items in the catalog that seem promising, look on the shelves at the items surrounding them.

If you want to read more about call numbers and how to decipher them, check our guide to Classification Systems. If you're not sure where to go in the Library to browse one of these call number ranges, please ask us at the service desk and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction or walk you to the shelves! 

For search suggestions to browse the catalog, check out the next tab of this box!

Suggested Call Numbers


  • Sacred Music: M1999 - M2199
  • Collections: M1999
  • Dramatic music: M2000 - M2007
  • Choral services: M2010 - M2017.6
  • Two or more solo voices: M2012 - M2114.8
  • Hymnals; Hymn collections: M2115 - M2146
  • Liturgy and ritual: M2147 - M2188
  • Sacred vocal music for children: M2190 - M2196
  • Popular religious and devotional music: M2198 - M2199


  • Religious aspects of sacred music: ML3921 - ML 3921.8
  • Hymns, Bibliography: ML128.H8
  • Hymns, Dictionaries: ML120.H95
  • Hymns, History and criticism: ML3086
  • Sacred Music: 783
  • Hymns: 782.27
  • Hymns, texts of: 245

Search by Subject

Each item in the library catalog is assigned one or more subject headings to tell you what it is about. You can search by subject heading using the catalog's Advanced Search feature. 

To search by subject in the catalog:

  • Open the library catalog and click on "Advanced Search" to the right of the search bar
  • Underneath "Search filters", you'll see that the default is set to "Any Field"
  • Click on the arrow next to "Any Field" and select "Subject" from the drop-down menu
  • Try a search with one of the subject headings recommended below
  • Once you've found a relevant book in the catalog, you can also use the subjects listed in the record to find additional related materials

Recommended Subject Headings

Start with a generic subject like "Church music" or "Hymns" as a subject:

  • Add a resource type to narrow your results:
    • Church music--Dictionaries; Church music--Indexes; Church music--Liturgy
    • Hymns--Dictionaries; Hymns, English--Concordances; Hymns, English--Indexes
  • Specify the type of information you're looking for:
    • Hymns, English--History and criticism
  • Specify the denomination:
    • Church music--Baptists; Church music--Catholic Church; Church music--Lutheran Church; Church music--Protestant churches
  • Specify the language:
    • Hymns, English; Hymns, German; Hymns, Latin
  • Other subject headings to try, depending on your topic include:
    • Sacred vocal music
    • Devotions, Christian
    • Gregorian chant
    • Psalms (music​​​​​​​)