Wednesday, September 08, 2010

More on 13th Century Dominican Stabat Mater

(This is a repost as there were problems with links in the original post.)

As the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is approaching on September 15, I thought it would be suitable to present to our readers a transcription of the text and music of the thirteenth-century version of the Stabat Mater, recently discovered by Cesarini Ruini in a manuscript that once belonged to a convent of Dominican Nuns in Bologna, Italy, and on which I have recently posted. A miniature of the Bologna nuns, from their manuscript, decorates this post.

I have transcribed the manuscript version of this music and made it available:


Unfortunately I cannot post it as an image on the blog because I have been unable to create a jpeg from the pdf file. Those interested can download a copy. I have taken the liberty of transposing the music to match the do-clef which would be more common today. The manuscript used a fa-clef in unusual positions to avoid the use of the b-flat, the usual Dominican medieval practice. It seemed better to avoid this oddity, which has not been used in Dominican music books since 1890.

In the current Liturgy of the Hours, the Stabat is prescribed for us, divided into three parts, as the Office hymns of that day. Use as a hymn was the most common medieval use. It is also preserved, in its more common modern liturgical use, as the sequence of the feast.

The discovery of this manuscript, as explained in the article available here. (in Italian), shows, by the date that the traditional ascription of authorship to Jacopone of Todi can no longer be sustained. The date, however, leaves open the possibility, often mentioned, that it is the work of Pope Innocent III.

This new version is interesting for a number of reasons. First, this is the earliest use of the text as a sequence. Until the discovery of this version, it was only known as a hymn until the late middle ages. This manuscript shows that the earliest known use of the text as a sequence was among Italian Dominican nuns in the late 1200s.

Next, the text includes not only a number of verbal variants, but also includes two verses absent from the commonly received version. Those who wish to examine these can download my transcription and compare the text to the received version here.

Even more interesting is the music. As pointed out to me by the nuns of Summit NJ, this ancient sequence borrows, with the exception of one stanza melody (cf. verses 19 and 20), the melodies of the Sequence of St. Dominic in the Dominican Rite. There are a number of minor musical variants as well. Those interested might want to compare the music to that found in the Dominican Gradual of 1950, which can be downloaded here or (with many other Dominican liturgical books) on the left side bar here.

Perhaps some Dominicans (and non-Dominicans) may want to make use of the ancient version on the up-coming celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows.

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