Saturday, July 02, 2022

An 11th-Century Musical Miscellany

Here is another great discovery from the website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, a musical collection produced for the abbey of St Martial in Limoges in the first quarter of the 11th century. (Département des Manuscrits, Latin 1121) Different parts of the manuscript was copied and illustrated by various hands; almost all of the illustrations are found within the first 42 folios (out of 247), and there are none after the 90th. It contains a wide variety of the classic medieval liturgical elaborations: tropes, proses, sequences, processional chants etc. While it was produced, Guido of Arezzo, who popularized the use of diastemic notation (i.e. written on a staff) was still alive, but his innovation did not take off everywhere at once, and so here we see the notes written adiastemically. I here include all of the illustrations, and have highlighted them by cropping the pages.
The abbey of St Martial was an extremely important center of musical production, and played an important role in the early development of polyphony; see this article from Wikipedia for more information:
A prose for Christmas, which begins with the words “Quem quaeritis in praesepio – Whom do ye seek in the manger”, a play on the words of the angel at the Lord’s tomb, “Whom do ye seek in the tomb?”

The verso of the same folio.
The feast of St Stephen
An eagle for St John the Evangelist
The Holy Innocents; as is common in medieval liturgical manuscripts, many of the illustrations have no relationship to the feast to which they are attached.
The Epiphany. I believe in this case, the dragon represents the devil, and that standing animal is a fox. This would represent King Herod, in reference to the Lord’s words in Luke 9, 32, “Go tell that fox...”; like father, like son.
The feast of the Purification
The dedication of a church
The Ascension
The Nativity of St John the Baptist
Ss Peter and Paul
The Commemoration of St Paul
On the same day as the preceding is celebrated the feast of St Martial, the first bishop and patron of Limoges. His true history has been lost in the mists of time, but a medieval legend made him a kinsman of St Peter, and the boy who presented the barley loaves and fishes at the multiplication described in John 6, 1-15; he was also present for the raising of Lazarus, the Last Supper, and at Pentecost. After accompanying St Peter to Rome, he was sent to preach the Gospel in the Limousin region of Gaul, which he did very effectively through the performance of many miracles, and died 40 years after the Resurrection and Ascension. As late as 1854, the bishop of Limoges petitioned the Sacred Congregation for Rites for permission for his diocese to honor St Martial liturgically as an apostle on the basis of this legend, but unsuccessfully.

St Benedict, the translation of whose relics was celebrated throughout France on July 11.
The Assumption
St Augustine
The Nativity of the Virgin Mary
The Exaltation of the Cross
All Saints
St Andrew
The rubric says “Here begin the Tracts throughout the year”; the original scribe incorrectly pluralized the 4th declension noun “tractus” (with a short U) as “tracti”, which a later scribe then corrected to “tractus” (with a long U).

The Introit of the First Sunday of Advent, after which, there are no further decorations.

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