Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - CONFLIT (Salva nos, Domine: A Study of Chanted Confraternity Liturgies and Their Social Contexts in the Southern Low Countries, 1300-1550.)

This project is a multidisciplinary study of the music and religious practices (rituals/liturgies) of lay communities in the Southern Low Countries in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Such communities, which include trade guilds, devotional confraternities (brotherhoods), and selected chivalric orders, formed a central part of daily medieval life, especially for trades people and merchants. There are three main objectives for this project: to identify previously unknown or unstudied liturgical books containing music for the Mass and Office (prayer services) that were demonstrably used by confraternities in geographical areas that have received almost no scholarly attention – particularly Wallonia and Northern France; to analyze the music and texts found in these new sources, and compare them with the contents of chant books from Flanders and the Netherlands that have already been studied, in order to uncover information about widespread and local religious practices; to view the results of this comparative analysis in conjunction with information derived from archival documents (accounts, membership rosters, notarial documents), and genres of popular literature written in the vernacular that are known to have circulated widely in both manuscript and print. The combination of these approaches provide new knowledge about the social and economic circumstances in which confraternity liturgies were produced, and the role of the laity in the construction of their own devotions.
Since the beginning of the project, I have spent time in the following Belgian, Dutch, and French archives: Brussels (Bibliothèque royale, Archives de la Ville), Lille (Archives du Nord, Bibliothèque municipale, Archives de la ville), Tournai (Bibliothèque du Grande Seminaire, Bibliothèque et Archives de la Cathedrale de Tournai), Namur (Musée diocesain), Cambrai (Bibliothèque municipale), Liège (Archives de l'Etat, Bibliothèque du Grande Seminaire, Eglise St. Paul), Bruges (Beguinage de Wijngaarde), Ghent (Rijksarchief); Den Haag (Koninklijke Bibliotheek); Den Bosch (Archief Sint-Janskerk); Paris (Archives nationales, Bibliothèque nationale, Bibliothèque Mazarine), London (British Library).
In the course of the past two years, I have published 9 articles (including publications in conference proceedings, and two invited contributions for international interdisciplinary projects), been invited to give 4 guest lectures at universities in Belgium and the United States, and have delivered 5 conference papers. The titles of these publications are provided in the attached document entitled “Publications and Presentations.”
The identification of sources and archival documents was achieved through the aid of published library catalogues and online databases, as well as on-site surveys in the institutions visited. Many of the archives in Wallonia are uncatalogued, and I had to personally contact the curators of those collections. The archives that contained the most significant musical collections for this study are the Archives de la Cathèdrale de Tournai (4 sources for confraternities); the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris (14 sources); and the church archives of Den Bosch (4 sources). In addition to these institutions, there were many others, which I have listed above, that had holdings of interest to the present study.
The project carried out over the past two years has been innovative and will have lasting impact in several ways. First, this project is the first study to emphasize the chant and liturgy of confraternities in the Southern Low Countries that have so far received no attention, particularly in Wallonia and Northern France, and it provides a comprehensive analysis of liturgical books used by such organizations. Chant is largely ignored in the historiography of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century music, as it is often overshadowed by polyphony (multi-voiced musical compositions). Yet, chant was the most fundamental musical material of the time: it was the music that musicians encountered first in their training; it was the basis for the church liturgy; and it was used as the foundation for sacred polyphonic compositions. Thus, research on late-medieval chant, as proposed here, has the potential to point future scholarship on the broader (and better known) repertory of medieval and Renaissance music in new directions.
Second, the study of late medieval chant is a relatively new subject for musicologists, emerging only since the late 1980’s. Before this, chant scholars focused primarily on the early liturgy of the Catholic Church in an attempt to understand its roots. This early focus led to a static view of the liturgy, without taking into account the constantly evolving local chant traditions represented in liturgical books produced in the 250 years before the Council of Trent. The present project, and the book that will result from it, greatly advances this new field of research. This expansion could open up new areas of research on the role of the liturgy in devotional communities, and the extent of influence that diocesan authorities had over their practices before the reforms of the Council of Trent.
Third, as the methodological premise of this project is inherently multidisciplinary, investigating music, texts, and historical and religious context using a wide range of sources, it provides important information that purely textual analyses and religious historiography fail to indicate. Thus, this project has the potential to influence studies of the Southern Low Countries in other disciplines such as social history, art history, literary history, liturgiology, hagiography, and codicology.
Fourth element of lasting impact for this project is that it crosses current political and regional borders. The result of the increasing political separation between Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium is that very few researchers who study music cross the border between these two regions, and archival collections and libraries that were once centralized have now been divided. This is also true for studies of Northern France and the Southern Netherlands. Before 1559, however, the dioceses of Tournai and Cambrai included all of these regions. The present undertaking of research along modern national and regional lines is due in large part to regional and national funding constraints, which promote the study of cultural heritage only within current political boundaries. Yet this project covers not only the cultural heritage of Belgium as a whole, but also that of Northern France and the Southern Netherlands, and it witnesses their common historical heritage. Thus Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, as political units within the European Community, could easily benefit from the results of this project, as it will validate an important aspect of their common history and contribute to efforts for its conservation and place in public education. This has recently been a subject of intense interest within the European Union, as is evident in the international guidelines set out in 2005 at Faro, Portugal, during the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society. Article 5b of these guidelines encourages the European Community to “enhance the value of cultural heritage through its identification, study, interpretation, protection, conservation and presentation.”

Related information

Reported by

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top