Strangers in a Strange Land: Spanish Chant Manuscript Leaves in the Permanent Collection of the University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art

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Strangers in a Strange Land: Spanish Chant Manuscript Leaves in the Permanent Collection of the
University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art
By Alison Altstatt


1. This essay introduces three large manuscript leaves held in the Permanent Art Collection of the University of Northern Iowa. These folio-sized leaves originated in large Spanish choir books (or cantorales) from the late sixteenth through the early eighteenth century that held the texts and music of Gregorian Chant used in the Roman Catholic liturgy. These leaves are ‘strangers’ in the sense that their origin is unknown, stripped as they are of their material context in the book and their historical context in the institutions and rituals for which they were made. They are in a ‘strange land’ in that they are far from their land of origin, and in a nation that did not yet exist at the time of their copying. In this essay, I will describe the leaves’ design and identify the chants they contain, and explain what can be learned about their provenance. I will furthermore suggest approaches to interpreting these fragmentary scores within their historical and liturgical context. In particular, I will demonstrate how recent digital humanities projects in Chant Studies and the increasing availability of digital images from complete Spanish codices can support the identification and interpretation of such fragmentary musical manuscripts.

2. I will also show how digital images from manuscripts in other collections can supplement fragmentary leaves to create a performable score. I will propose that performing chant from choir book facsimile offers distinct pedagogical benefits to singers and students of conducting and choral education. Engaging with the materiality of the choir book in this way enhances students’ understanding of historical styles and repertoires and offers an understanding of chant performance practice that cannot be gained through working with editions. This study is primarily directed towards students, faculty, and staff members of the University of Northern Iowa who may work with these manuscript leaves in the future. It also demonstrates how chant book leaves in other collections may be put to effective use as teaching materials within an interdisciplinary musical context.

Spanish Chant and Liturgical Reform

3. The earliest recorded liturgical chant in Spain is the known as Mozarabic, or Old Hispanic Chant. The Old Hispanic liturgy centered on the city of Toledo and at its zenith was used across the Iberian Peninsula. The northern regions, including Catalonia, began to adopt the Roman rite and its associated chant tradition beginning in the eighth and ninth centuries. From the eleventh century, the Roman liturgy replaced the Old Hispanic liturgy across the entire Iberian peninsula.[1] The choir book leaves held by UNI contain text and music from the Roman liturgy that post-date the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent (1563-75) that revised the calendar of saints and standardized the texts of the liturgy. These changes resulted in the publication in 1568 of a reformed breviary containing prayers and chants for the office, and in 1570, a reformed missal containing the texts of the mass.[2] Further reforms to the breviary took place in 1602 and 1634.[3] These changes necessitated the alteration of old books, and often, prompted the creation of new ones.  Despite the frequency with which Spanish chant manuscripts of the post-Tridentine era are encountered in North American collections, surprisingly little scholarly attention had been paid to these sources in the English language literature, possibly due to their late date and the perceived uniformity of their contents. [4] 

Description of the Leaves

4. The UNI manuscript leaves, pictured in Figures 1-6, are copied on parchment made from sheep, or possibly calf hide. Their texts, written in black ink, are accompanied by black quadratic chant notation on red five-line staves. In contrast with the more conventional four-line staff typically used to notate chant, the five-line staff indicates a Spanish sixteenth- to eighteenth-century origin.[5] The large dimensions of these leaves, which range in height from 27 5/8 to 32 inches, and the large format of their text and notation reflect that they were meant to be read from choir book lecterns (Spanish facistol) where an entire choir could easily read their pages at a distance. Figure 7 shows an example of a sixteenth-century facistol from the cathedral of Segovia.[6]

5. According to Jane Morlet Hardie, Spanish chant books of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries exhibit “a striking visual coherence.” This coherence was created by a long tradition of manuscript design that persisted from the late fifteenth through eighteenth centuries, resulting in an apparent homogeneity of style in books whose dates vary considerably.[7] Moreover, Spanish liturgical music manuscripts of the Early Modern era employ a style of quadratic notation whose basic forms remained consistent since the twelfth century. Spanish liturgical music manuscripts of the Early Modern era employed styles of lettering, decoration, notation, and layout that followed well-established calligraphic and print models, with the result that these manuscripts are notoriously difficult to date.[8] Serving the practical needs of the liturgy in cathedrals and monasteries, these manuscripts were usually quite plain, and lacked the elements that would serve to distinguish more elaborate manuscripts.[9]

6. The reasons why manuscript choir books continued to be made in the era of print are many and various. In February of 1571, Phillip II of Spain extended a monopoly on the newly reformed missal and breviary to the publishing house of Plantin in Antwerp, though in practicality, difficulties in distribution and resistance to liturgical change meant that the new rite was not immediately accepted.[10] Nevertheless, liturgical changes eventually necessitated the creation of new choir books. The large dimensions of the choir books and their specialized notation would have made them more expensive and impractical to print than liturgical books such as missals and breviaries, which were smaller and did not include musical notation. Thus, any new choir books continued to be made by hand even into the era of print. This continued practice of making folio-sized choir books by hand seems to have encouraged conservatism in the performance of liturgical chant, in which choral singing from a single large book remained the norm.

7. A series of Spanish government confiscations of church property that took place between the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century resulted in the wide scale dissolution of monasteries and dispersal of their cultural goods, including books.[11] Further destruction of church goods took place during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) when as many as 20,000 churches were burned, their clergy and religious murdered or driven out by fear of persecution.[12] As a result of these circumstances, few Spanish monastic libraries remain intact, their former contents having been destroyed or scattered. Due to the violent circumstances that led to their dispersal, even the provenances of complete Spanish manuscripts often remain unknown. Thus while Spanish manuscript choir books, whole and fragmentary, appear regularly in North American collections, they are notoriously difficult to date and their origins often impossible to localize due to more than a century of ecclesiastical destruction.

Example 1. 1959.014: Leaf from a Gradual
Figure 1
Figure 2

8. Table 1 provides an overview of the contents of the three choir book leaves held in the UNI Permanent Art Collection. Despite a slight difference in their dimensions, the first two leaves listed, 1959.014 and 1959.015, appear to have originated in the same book: a gradual containing chants for the mass. Permanent Art Collection records record that the leaves were the gift of Barton Pope, an alumnus of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.[13]  Pope claimed to have bought the leaves at Marshall Fields department store in Chicago, which offered illuminated manuscripts and leaves for sale beginning in 1914.[14]

9. Example 1, leaf 1959.014, is the opening leaf of a gradual, the book containing chants for masses sung throughout the liturgical year (see Figures 1-2.) The leaf measures 31 inches tall by 22 inches wide. The text block of 24 ¾  by 14 15/16 inches includes five staves of five lines which are ruled in red ink. A C-clef appears on the fourth line of the staff, and a diamond-shaped custos at the end of each staff indicates the first pitch of the next.

10. Table 2 gives the contents of all three choir book leaves in the UNI Permanent Art Collection. The Introit antiphon Ad te levavi occupies both recto and verso sides of Example 1 (1959.014, Figures 1-2). The Introit is the first of the proper chants of the Latin mass and functions as an entrance chant. Its presence here indicates that this leaf originated in a gradual (Latin: graduale), the type of book that contained chants for the mass. The liturgical assignment of this and other chants for the mass may be easily determined using the Cantus Index of Liturgical chant, a Digital Humanities database that indexes the contents of manuscript and early print sources of Latin ecclesiastical chant.[15] The Cantus Index confirmed that Ad te levavi was the first chant of the first Sunday of Advent, the occasion that begins the Catholic liturgical year: it follows therefore that the leaf 1959.014 was the opening leaf of the manuscript. The text of the introit antiphon, derived from Psalm 23, reads:

Ad te levavi animam meam                                        To you I have lifted up my soul

deus meus in te confido                                               my God, in you I confided.

non erubescam                                                               I shall not be ashamed

neque irrideant me inimici mei                                  nor shall my enemies laugh at me;

et enim universi qui te expectant                               for all who expect you

non confundentur.                                                        shall not be confounded.

11. The recto side of the leaf 1959.014 (Figure 1) is decorated with an unfinished border drawn in brown ink, and in the upper left-hand corner, an unfinished illuminated initial A begins the word Ad. Such initials functioned as visual guides for the reader that distinguished the beginning of each Sunday or feast within the book. The initial, which occupies two staves, contains a sketch in brown ink depicting the scene of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin from the Gospel of Luke. In the Catholic liturgical year, the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25th, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Christ; the season of Advent refocuses attention on the event of the Annunciation in anticipation of the Nativity.  In this depiction, the bows of the letter A suggest an architectural interior. On the left, the Virgin Mary kneels in prayer an open prayer book before her on a low table. Her eyes gaze toward the right side of the image, where the Angel Gabriel greets her. The outer strokes of the letter A are created by foliate designs that extend to form a border along the margins surrounding the text block, while the inner, transverse stroke of the letter A is suggested by the angel’s outstretched hand. I can offer no explanation of why the decoration of the leaf was never completed, aside from the fact that the book was apparently needed before its decoration was finished. Signs of use appearing in the outer margin of the leaf where the page was turned by cantor’s hand show that the book was indeed used as a functional object within the sung liturgy. 

12. As for models for the image, it seems likely that the artist was familiar with the Annunciation scene included at the beginning of Advent in the revised Roman breviary of 1604, shown in Figure 8.[16] The similarities in the relative position of the two subjects, their hand gestures, the drapery of the their clothes, and the detail of the potted lily on the window ledge all speak to a shared model.[17] While conjectural, the use of a printed visual model would be consistent with the demonstrated influence of print sources on Spanish choir books of the Early Modern period.

13. The introit chant Ad te levavi is notated in neumes: groups of two to four pitches linked together to show gesture, phrasing, and text underlay. Ad te levavi is neumatic in texture, meaning that there are typically two to four pitches per syllable, creating a moderate pacing to accompany the entrance procession of the clergy at the beginning of Mass. The Introit antiphon would have been sung with a variable number of verses that could be expanded according to the duration of the procession.

14. Classified in the eighth mode, Ad te levavi is a Hypomyxolodian (or low Mixolydian) chant whose melody is built around the reciting center of c and the final pitch of G, with occasional phrases that descend to the lower D.[18] The chant consists of musical phrases that support and shape the rhetorical delivery of each phrase of text. The first phrase of Ad te levavi,  (Figure 1) intoned by one or more cantors, begins on D, a fourth below the final, and quickly ascends by a fifth before cadencing to the final of G. This gesture of ascent continues in the phrase animam meam, which also cadences to G. The cry of Deus meus exceeds the reciting note, rising to d, the highest note of the mode. The stark descending and ascending triads and surprising Phrygian cadence to b lend the phrase in te confide a sharp poignancy. Thus the anonymous melody uses the pitch structure of the mode and the neumatic texture typical of introits to offer a musical interpretation that rhetorically responds to and shapes the text.

15. Cadences to the final G may be seen on the second staff of the recto, on the word levavi, on the fifth staff of the recto to the first staff of the verso (Figure 2) on the word erubescam, and on the fifth staff of the verso, on the word confidentur. The melody first achieves the reciting tone of C on lines 2-3 of the recto side, where the first syllable of animam leaps from G to C, and again on lines 3-4, on the text deus meus, and it is continues to be used as a reciting center throughout the chant. The Introit antiphon concludes on G on the last line of the verso (Figure 2.)

16. The leaf transmits the entire Introit antiphon, but stops short of the psalm and doxology verses that would have come next, prior to a full repetition of the antiphon. Below, I will explain how surrogate leaves from the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional de España can be used to fill in this lacuna in order to create a performable score.

Example 2. 1959:015: Leaf from a Gradual
Figure 3
Figure 4

17. The second example (1959: 015, Figures 3-4), also a leaf from a gradual, was likely taken from the same book as the leaf discussed above. Its dimensions are slightly taller and narrower than the first example. The leaf measures 32 inches tall by 21 and 3/4 inches wide, with a text block of 24 by 14 5/8 inches. The discrepancy in size between the two leaves may be explained by the fact that the illuminated pages of a manuscript were often written on higher quality parchment, and were copied separately from the rest of the book by specialist.[19]

18. The recto (Figure 3) includes the page number lxiii in the upper right-hand corner. As with the first example, the second leaf is laid out with five staves, each comprised of five red lines, and marked with a c-clef on the fourth line from the bottom. Yet, differences in ruling show that the pages were prepared in a different manner. The second example has visible ruling in plumbet, consisting of double vertical lines bordering the text block. Horizontal plumbet lines rule the upper and lower borders of each line of text. The text appears to have been written by the same hand in both Examples 1 (1959:014) and 2 (1959: 015), judging by the forms of the letters and the shapes of the individual strokes. While the notation of the leaves is virtually the same, the form of the custos, the cautionary sign at the end of each staff that indicates the beginning pitch of the next, is written quite differently. In Example 1 (1959:014), the custos is created by placing the pen diagonally and drawing it in a thick, short stroke towards the bottom right corner of the page, then drawing it along the opposite diagonal to create a thin tail. In Example 2 (1959: 015), the custos is drawn with a slightly thinner pen that is placed vertically, and drawn diagonally downward in a slightly longer stroke, before being drawn straight down to create a thin vertical tail. In sum, it appears that while the two pages came from the same book, they were prepared and ruled separately; the text was then written by and single scribe, and finally, two different scribes prepared the notation.

19. This recto side of the leaf 1959:014 (Figure 3) transmits the Communion antiphon Tolle puerum for Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity (See Table 2.) The complete text, which is missing the first syllable, reads:

[To]lle puerum et matrem eius                        Take the boy and his mother

Et vade in terram Iude                                       and go into the land of Judah

Defuncti sunt enim qui querebant                  For dead are they who sought

Animam pueri                                                      the life of the boy.                   

20. This text was adapted from the Gospel of Matthew 2:20, in which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, instructing him to return to Israel with his family following the flight into Egypt.[20] The text concludes on the verso of the leaf, where the word pueri appears on the first staff (Figure 4.) While the antiphon is transmitted more or less intact (minus its incipit), as with the Introit, its verses are missing.

21. As for the music, the melody is in Mode 7, the authentic (high) Mixolydian mode, which has a G final. As is typical of Mode 7, the melody alternates between centering on d, the theoretical reciting tone, and a secondary focus on c. Thus in the first phrase, Tolle puerum, the melody rises from G to recite briefly on c before cadencing on a high point of D. The next phrase, et matrem eius, begins on the reciting tone of d and gradually winds down to an unexpected Phrygian cadence to b-natural. The next phrase, et vade in terram Iude, begins on the reciting tone of d, but settles into an embellished recitation on c, before winding down to a strong cadence the G, ending the first half of the antiphon. The second part of the antiphon, which proclaims that they are dead, who sought the life of the child, gains in urgency by rising quickly through the first phrase, defuncti sunt enim, and expanding the range up to e, before a cadencing briefly on d. The next phrase qui querebant, also cadences to d, but exceeds the last phrase in range and urgency by reaching up to f. The last phrase animam pueri gently descends to the final of G, resolving in a cadence that rhymes with that which ended the first half of the antiphon.

22. The rubric that follows on the verso of the leaf (see Figure 4 and Table 2) indicates what should be sung for the next liturgical occasion, the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord (January 1st.) The rubric is written in red, with textual incipits written in black ink; the latter are reproduced here in italics:

In c[ir]cu[m]cisio[n]e d[omi]ni                                    On [the Feast of] the Circumcision

Off[iciu]m Puer nat[us]                                                  The Office Puer natus

R[esponsorium] Videru[n]t o[mne]s fi[nes]              Responsory Viderunt omnes fines

23. In other words, on the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, the mass of Christmas Day was repeated, beginning with the Introit, Puer natus est, and continuing with the Gradual (ie. the “Responsory”) Viderunt omnes fines terrae. For the third proper chant, the Alleluia, a new chant is sung: Alleluia, Multifarie enim, shown in Figure 4, beginning with the embellished initial A at the end of the first staff. As Hardie has shown, the Spanish sixteenth-century writing master Juan de Yciar described letters in this style as letras de compas para illuminadores (“letters made by compass for illuminators”) or simply as caso quadrado or “square case” letters.[21] This style is based on the late medieval “puzzle initial” style, in which the letter is divided into two symmetrical interlocking fields of contrasting red and blue ink, and embellished with red or blue filigree pen work.[22] By contrast, the capital letter M that appears on the fourth line is in the style of the letras quebradas or lazos (“broken” or “knotted” letters.)[23] These letters, also referred to as “strap letters,” are formed by collections of discontinuous (or “broken”) strokes in black ink that have the appearance of looped and tied straps. The M on the verso of leaf 1959:015 (Figure 4), the vertical strokes have been highlighted in green ink. As Hardie has shown, these two forms of initials are used according to stylistic hierarchy Juan de Yciar established in his Trata de los Casos y Otros Cosas Necessarias a un Escriptor de Libros of 1548. As Yciar explains

[in] order to be a good artist of books of the church it is necessary to know a lot of things:…the first is that on must know how to make a letra cardinal and the caso quadrado and to be able to illuminate it…the casos quadrados stand at the beginning of a book or a sumptuous (important) office…and the letras quebradas are used for the verses that come after the introits or responses.[24]

24. The two different letter types in 1959:015 are placed according to the same stylistic hierarchy: the letter A in caso quadrado style begins the first chant proper to the liturgical occasion, while the M in the style of a letra quebrada begins the verse. In this way, the different styles function as a visual index for the user.

25. The text of Alleluia, Multifarie is derived from the first chapter of the epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. The text reads as follows, with missing portions filled in in brackets:

Alleluya                                                  Alleluia

V. Multifarie olim                                V. On many occasions in the past,

[deus loquens patribus                       God spoke to our forefathers

in prophetis                                           through the prophets.

novissime diebus istis                         In these present days,

locutus est in nobis filio suo]             he has spoken to us through his son.

26.Unlike the Introit and Communion antiphons, which have a neumatic texture and are accompanied by psalm verses sung to a simple tone by the choir, the Alleluia is a responsorial chant: melismatic in texture, with a single virtuosic verse sung by a soloist. Alleluya, Multifarie is a joyful and extroverted chant in the seventh Mode: an authentic (high) Mixolydian mode with a final pitch on G. The Response of Alleluya occupies the first two staves: this portion of the chant would be intoned by a single cantor or group of cantors. As is typical of Alleluia melodies, Alleluya, Multifarie is built on the principle of motivic repetition and variation. An example of this may be seen in the opening of the melody, where the three pitch motive G-a-G on the syllable A is followed by an ascending triad built on the undertone: F-a-c; followed by a repletion of G-a-G, and on lu the ascending triad repeats, this time blooming to cadence on the reciting tone of d on the concluding syllable ya. This much is repeated by the choir, then all join together on the textless melisma known as the jubilus which follows. The virtuosic solo verse, Multifarie begins on the fourth staff, but is cut off after the text olim de.

Example 3. 2003:29: Leaf from a Hymnarium
Figure 5
Figure 6

27. The third example, 2003.29, shown in Figures 5-6, is a leaf from a hymnarium or hymnal: a book of hymns for the office. Framed and uncataloged, the leaf was displayed for years in UNI’s Rod Library before being transferred to the Permanent Art Collection in 2003.[25] The page is ruled in red ink according to the format of a strophic hymn, in which only the first verse of the hymn is notated, with subsequent verses given in text only. In layout, decoration, and script, the leaf bears a remarkable resemblance to the manuscript Salamanca, Archivo de la Catedral, ms. 37, dated to the year 1714.[26] Similarities in layout between the two sources include the double vertical lines that frame each side of the text block and the format of fifteen textual lines, with musical staves occupying the vertical space of two textual lines. The text in both manuscripts is written in Italian textualis style, with decorated initials in blue ink against a square background patterned in red ink. The notational hands are similar, yet differences in the formation of the C and F clefs show that they were the product of different hands. While it would be tempting to assign the hymnal leaf a similar date to Salamanca Ms. 37, we must bear in mind James Boyce’s admonition in regard to the latter manuscript that “…one needs to be wary about dating manuscripts solely on the basis of paleography.”[27]

28. The contents of the leaf offer further clues to its dating and origin. The recto side of the leaf transmits the office hymn Fortem virile pectore from the end of the first and only notated verse, which ends with the text [ful]get inclyta (Figure 5; see Appendix 1 for full text.) This hymn was written by Cardinal Silvio Antoniano (1540-1603) for the newly established Common of Holy Women included in the revised breviary of 1602, establishing a terminus post quem for the creation of the manuscript.[28] The hymn concludes on the verso of the leaf with the final doxology verse in praise of the Trinity.[29]  The hymn ends on G, indicating that it is classified in either Mode 7 or Mode 8. However, there are simply not enough notes transmitted to make a positive identification with a known melody.

29. The second piece appears on the verso is the hymn Urbs Ierusalem beata for the Dedication of a Church (Figure 6.) It is preceded by a rubric written in red ink that designates the liturgical occasion: “Comune dedicationis Ecclesie ad vesp. et matutin. Hymnus” (Hymn for the Common of the Dedication of a Church at Vespers and Matins.) The hymn Urbs Ierusalem beata was an ancient text, dating to the eighth century (See Appendix 2 for text.) This hymn was replaced in the Roman use with the revised text Caelestis urbs Jerusalem in the reformed breviary of Pope Urban VIII (r.1623-44), published in 1634.[30]

30. The presence of these two hymns, then, suggests that the leaf originates in a manuscript hymnal copied between the years of 1602 and 1634. And yet this dating is inconsistent with the style of the book that, as explained above, closely resembles to the manuscript Salamanca, Archivo de la Catedral, Ms. 37, copied in 1714. One possible explanation is that the book was written for a monastic use and not for a congregation that adhered to the use of Rome. Indeed, the Benedictine breviaries of 1614, 1654, and 1711 all adopt the hymn Fortem virile pectore for the Common of Holy Women while preserving the older hymn Urbs Ierusalem beata for the Common of the Dedication of a Church. Thus it seems most likely that the leaf 2003.29 originated in a monastic manuscript hymnal of the early eighteenth century.

31. The melody of Urbs beata Jerusalem transmitted in 2003:29 offers further clues as to the manuscript’s origin. This melody has an unmistakably similar contour to the most common melody of the hymn Pange Lingua, whose text at least was written by Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi. But while the Pange lingua melody is in the third mode (or E-Phrygian), the melody of Urbs beata Jerusalem found in 2003:29 is modally transposed a step lower to Mode 1 (D-Dorian), though it cannot be determined which melody has historical priority. Musical Example 1 compares the melodies in of a., the more common E-Phrygian Pange lingua melody as transmitted in a hymnal printed in Augsburg in 1580 [31] and b., the D-Dorian melody of Urbs Ierusalem beata transmitted in the manuscript leaf 2003:29.

32. Benjamin Rajeczky identified two fifteenth-century manuscript sources of Urbs beata Jerusalem, set to the Dorian melody; both are Italian Franciscan.[32] Bruno Stäblein catalogued no fewer than eighteen manuscripts that transmit the Pange lingua text set to this same melody: these sources are predominantly Italian, and many are Franciscan.[33] The less-common Dorian version of the melody also appears in Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria’s polyphonic setting of Urbs beata published in Rome in 1581, labeled c. in Example 1.[34] In Victoria’s alternatim hymn setting, odd verses in monophonic chant alternate with even verses in four-part polyphony. The melody as transcribed by Rajeczky and as it appears in Victoria’s 1581 print, is notated with a B-flat (Example 1b). While not explicitly notated thus, it is reasonable to assume that the melody in 2003.29 would also have been sung with a B-flat, as indicated in these two sources. This performance practice is supported by Francisco de Montaños’s plainchant treatise of 1616, in which the Salamancan author offers numerous examples of adding a B-flat in performance to avoid creating a tritone between the pitches of F and B-natural.[35] The addition of the B-flat throughout the melody results in an intervallic structure even closer to the more familiar Phrygian Pange lingua melody, as demonstrated in Example 1.

[Musical Example: 3 melodic versions synoptic]

33. A thorough investigation of the origin and use of the D-Dorian melody of Urbs Jerusalem beata found in 2003:29 lies outside the scope of this study. The question of origins and use is complicated by the fact that due to their strophic form and the simplicity of their melodies, hymns were notated less frequently in medieval sources than were other types of chants. Moreover, the same text might be set to various melodies. To further complicate the question, the Roman use abandoned the text of Urbs beata Jerusalem from 1634, thus most later sources, including those from Spain, will not include the melody.

34. From Stäblein’s and Rajeczky’s catalogues, we learn that the Dorian version of the melody was in use in Italian Franciscan houses. The Dorian version of the melody appears to have been rare in Spain in the eighteenth century, though it is found with the newer text Caelestis urbs Jerusalem in the manuscript antiphoner Biblioteca Nacional de España CANT/63, copied in 1746 for the Franciscan convent of Nuestra Señora de Victoria de Villarejo de Salvanes, Madrid.[36] Despite being paired with the newer text, this evidence again confirms a Franciscan transmission for the melody.

35. What would explain Victoria’s setting of a Franciscan melody in 1581? Certainly, the composer did not consider the Dorian melody to be Spanish, as evidenced by his two settings of the hymn Pange lingua in the same collection. The first setting has the same D-Dorian melody that Victoria used for Urbs Ierusalem beata (this time without a notated B-flat.) The second melody, which Victoria refers to as “more Hispano” (“in the Spanish manner”), is written in the fifth mode, on F with a B-flat.[37] This being the case, Victoria’s choice of melody doubtless reflects not Spanish practice, or even a typically Roman one, as suggested in his title, but rather the circumstances of his employment. It is likely that the hymn melodies that Victoria set were those used in the liturgy of the Franciscan church of S. Girolamo della Carità in Rome where he served as chaplain from 1578-1585.[38] While I am not able to explain why the leaf 2003:29 preserved the older text Urbs beata Jerusalem, it may be surmised that the leaf originated in a choir book from a yet-unidentified Spanish Franciscan monastery or convent, or from one that borrowed the Franciscan rite.

Performing from Fragments

36. In a lecture demonstration that took place on September 15th, 2016, Dr. John Len Wiles and I directed the University of Northern Iowa’s vocal ensemble Cantorei in a performance of four of the pieces transmitted in the leaves from a full-size facsimile choir book, in conjunction with the UNI Art Gallery’s exhibit, “Illuminating Manuscripts,” curated by Gallery Director Darrell Taylor.

37. My first task was to devise a performable score by supplementing the UNI fragments with the missing portions of the pieces. To determine the correct verses for the Introit and Communion antiphons transmitted in the Gradual, I consulted the Cantus Index: Online Catalogue for Mass and Office Chants.[39] Once I had determined the correct texts, I used the searchable catalogue of the Cantorales collection of the Biblioteca Nacional de España (National Library of Spain) to search for matching piece that could supply the missing verses. The Biblioteca Nacional de España has undertaken a major Digital Humanities project that indexes the contents of almost one hundred manuscripts choir books, supplying notated melodies for thousands of individual chants.[40] Having originated in the ecclesiastical confiscations of the nineteenth century, the collection is unique in that it includes codices from a wide variety of institutions and time periods and encompasses a diversity of designs and melodies. A complete digital facsimile of each codex makes this a completely accessible collection. By downloading images from the collection, I was able to supply our fragments with the missing portions of the chants to create a performable score, from which I printed and assembled a full-size facsimile choir book.

38. While rehearsing with the choir, I observed that performing chant from choir book facsimile offers distinct pedagogical benefits to singers and students of conducting and choral education. Engaging with the materiality of the facsimile choir book enhanced students’ understanding of chant style and performance practice that could not be gained through working with editions. My first observation is that working from manuscript increased students’ fluency in reading quadratic notation through working with the idiosyncrasies and imperfections of different hands and encountering such surprises as midline clef changes. Performing unmarked elements such as repeats and alternations between cantor and choir forced the students to become more familiar with the forms of the various chants. Ultimately, the singers found that it was not reading the notation, but deciphering the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century textual scripts that posed the greatest difficulty. This challenge forced the singers to study, remember, and truly understand the meaning of the Latin texts that they were singing. Singing from the manuscript source thus caused the students to engage more deeply with the texts, forms, and notation of a style of music that was previously unfamiliar to many.

39. My second observation is that working from manuscript facsimile forced us to make interpretive decisions about aspects of the music including phrasing, the locations of breaths, rhythm, tempo, and the use of dynamics, that are not written in the score. This forced the singers to consider the nature of the text and music and how to achieve a musically satisfying performance from a score that is much less determined than a modern edition. This process made the singers aware of the kinds of decisions that lie behind modern chant editions and gave them the tools necessary to make these kinds of decisions themselves. Through the process of experimentation with various possibilities, the singers gained confidence and a sense of ownership of the material.

40. The final, and most important observation I have to offer is that singing from choir book changes performance practice in subtle, yet important ways. Singing from one large book, as opposed to individual hand-held scores, focused the singers’ attention on a single point. Instead of alternating focus between the conductor and the score in his or her hands, the singer’s gaze is completely directed up and forward towards the book. Singing from the choir book also forced the singers to stand in closer proximity to one another in order to see the score, which led to a perception of being more deeply immersed in a shared sound. These two aspects: a shared visual focus and the sense of immersion in each others’ sound caused by singing in close proximity gave us a new appreciation for the ideal of chant as una voce (or “with one voice”), not simply as a reflection of shared repertoire, or of a monophonic texture, but as a sense of unity created by the medium of singing itself.


41. In conclusion, this examination of Spanish choir book leaves in the UNI permanent art collection has shown how contemporary Digital Humanities projects in chant studies can aid in the identification of the contents of manuscript fragments and in understanding them within their liturgical and historical context. The examination of the manuscripts’ contents and design, in turn, can offer important clues in their dating and potentially, their origin. The same Digital Humanities projects can aid in supplementing the fragmentary sources to create a performable score. As I have argued, performing from choir book facsimile offers valuable pedagogical experiences for singers and students of choral conducting and music education. This case study of choir book leaves matters, because fragments are the most commonly encountered kind of manuscript evidence in North American collections. Acknowledging their potential value, and understanding how projects in the Digital Humanities can aid in identifying and sharing their content has significant implications for experiential learning in the fields of Art and Music Education as well as Choral Performance, and may occasionally yield fortuitous discoveries important to the field of musicology.


[1] Maria del Carmen Gómez Muntané, La Música Medieval En España (Kassell: Reicheberger, 2001), 54; Nicolas Bell, “The Iberian Peninsula” in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music, ed. Mark Everist (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 61. [return to text]

[2] David Hiley, Western Plainchant: a Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 615. [return to text]

[3] Simon Ditchfield, Liturgy, Sanctity, and History in Tridentine Italy: Pietro Maria Campi and the Preservation of the Particular (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 30. [return to text]

[4] Recent case studies of post-Tridentine Spanish cantorales involve manuscripts at the Fisher Library; these include Jane Morlet Hardy, “A Cluster of Cantorales: Rediscovering a Context for a Group of Sydney Manuscripts” in Gregory Kratzmann, ed. Imagination, Books, and Community in Medieval Europe (Melbourne: Macmillan Art Publishing, 2010), 231-9;  Kathleen Nelson, ed. Cathedral, City and Cloister: Essays on Manuscripts, Music and Art in Old and New Worlds (Ottawa: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 2011), among other studies.  [return to text]

[5] Jane Morlet Hardie, “Juan de Yciar and Decorative Traditions in Spanish Cantorales of the Long Sixteenth Century: Some Manuscripts from the Sydney University Collection,” Acta Musicologica 85, no. 2 (2013): 149–168. [return to text]

[6]Public domain image, Wikimedia commons. [return to text]

[7] Jane Morlet Hardie, “Juan de Yciar and Decorative Traditions in Spanish Cantorales of the Long Sixteenth Century: Some Manuscripts from the Sydney University Collection,” Acta Musicologica 85, no. 2 (2013): 149. [return to text]

[8] Ibid., 151. [return to text]

[9] Hardie, “Juan de Yciar,” 152. [return to text]

[10] See Karen L. Bowen and Dirk Imhof, Christopher Plantin and Engraved Book Illustrations in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 125, and Clive Walkley, Juan Esquivel: a Master of Sacred Music during the Spanish Golden Age (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2010), 26-27. [return to text]

[11] For a history of Spanish ecclesiastical confiscations, see Francisco Tomás y Valiente, El Marco Politico de la Desamortizacion en España (Esplugues de Llobregat: Ariel, 1972). [return to text]

[12] Burnett Bolloten, The Spanish Civil War (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 51. [return to text]

[13] Email communication, Darrell Taylor, UNI Art Gallery director, 11/28/2016. Pope also donated two leaves from a different Spanish manuscript choir book to Coe College’s Stewart Memorial Library. I am grateful to Jeff Schulte and Cheri Pettibone of Stewart Memorial Library for their help in locating and photographing these two pages and related records. [return to text]

[14] Sandra Hindman, Michael Camille, Nina Rowe, and Rowan Watson, Manuscript Illumination in the Modern Age: Recovery and Reconstruction (Evanston: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2001), 255. [return to text]

[15] Cantus Index: Online Catalogue for Mass and Office Chants, accessed November 21, 2016,[return to text]

[16] Breviarium Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Consilii Tridentini… (s.n, s.l., 1604), 100. [return to text]

[17] The image in the 1604 breviary is signed “I. Messager escudit…C. de Mallory f[ecit]” indicating that the engraving by J. Messager was based on original artwork by C. de Mallory. Jean Messager (1580-1649) was a Parisian and artist and engraver. See “Jean Messager (1580-1649),” Bibliothèque nationale de France, accessed November 20, 2016, [return to text]

[18] Prior the advent of absolute pitch, these denoted relative pitches and might have been freely transposed. [return to text]

[19] An unsigned letter dated to May 9th, 1968, preserved in the UNI Gallery’s file on the two leaves reports that the two leaves originated in the same book. A purported transcription of “Barton Pope’s notes regarding the parchments given to Coe” includes the statement that “the particular volume was not perfect. It was brought from Spain in the 1920s before Spain prohibited exportation of antiques.” [return to text]

[20] The gospel reads “Israel” and not “Jude.” The variant found in the gradual leaf, however appears to have been commonplace. See similar variants listed in the Antiphonale Synopticum, University of Regensburg, (Accessed March 6, 2016.) [return to text]

[21] Hardie, “Juan de Yciar,” 154, 166. [return to text]

[22] Jonathan James Graham Alexander, James H. Marrow, and Lucy Freeman Sandler, eds., The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library  (New York: New York Public Library, 2005), 60, 62 ft. nt. 1. [return to text]

[23] Hardie, “Juan de Yciar,” 154, 168. [return to text]

[24] Adapted from Hardie, “Juan de Yciar,” 156. [return to text]

[25] Darrell Taylor, personal communication, October 14, 2015. [return to text]

[26] See James Boyce, “Choir Books in Context: The Salamanca Cantorales” in Nelson, ed. Cathedral, City and Cloister, 29-30. [return to text]

[27] Ibid., 29. [return to text]

[28] Moorsam, Robert Maude, A Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern…2nd edition, (London: J.C. Clay and Sons, 1903), 177. [return to text]

[29] The text of the Doxology which appears at the ends of psalms and psalms verses in the Latin liturgy reads: Gloria patri et filio et spiritui sancto/Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum, amen. Latin strophic hymns include a poetic restatement of these lines as a fine verse. [return to text]

[30] Breviarium Romanum, ex Decreto S. S. Concilii Tridentini restitutum: Pars Hyemalis et Aestivalis (s.l., s.n.: 1634), 109; see also Josiah Miller, Our hymns: their Authors and Origin (London: Jackson, Wolford and Hodder, 1866), 5-6. [return to text]

[31] Copenhagen, Det kongelige Bibliothek Slotsholmen, [02] G. Kgl. S. 3449 8o [07] VII, f. 85-85v, indexed in the Cantus Manuscript Database: Inventories of Chant Sources, accessed November 20, 2016, [return to text]

[32] Benjamin Rajeczky and Rodo Polykarp, eds. Hymni et Sequentiae, Melodiarium Hungariae Medii Aevi I, (Budapest: Editio Musica, 1979), XXII-XXIII; 37. Many thanks go to Innocent Smith and C.J. Jones for their help in locating this source. [return to text]

[33] Bruno Stäblein, ed. Die mittelalterlichen Hymnenmelodien des Abendlandes, Monumenta monodica Medii aevi I (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1956), 516. Stäblein does not specify which texts the melodies cited accompany. I am grateful to Bibiana Vergine for her help in locating this source. Moberg and Nilsson find the melody associated with the Pange lingua text in several Swedish fragments; see melody 150b in Carl Allan Moberg and Ann-Marie Nilsson, Die liturgichen Hymnen in Schweden 2. I: Die Singweisen und ihre Varianten II: Abblidungen ausgewählter Quellenhandschriften, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia musicological Upsaliensia, Nova series, 13:1-2 (Uppsala, 1991). Nilsson posits that the melody is Dominican, but I have found no evidence to corroborate this idea. [return to text]

[34] Tomás Luis de Victoria, Thomae Ludovici a Victoria Abluensis Hymni Totius Anni, secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Consuetudinem, qui Quattuor Concinuntur Vocibus, una cum Quattuor Psalmis, pro Praecipuis Festiuitatibus, qui Octo Vocibus Modulantur (Rome: Francesco Zannetti, 1581), 142. [return to text]

[35] Francisco de Montaños, Arte de Canto Llano con Entonaciones Comunes de Coro y Altar, y Otras Cosas Diversas, como se Vera en la Tabla… (Salamanca: Lopez, 1616), 10-16. [return to text]

[36] “Cantorales, Registro MP CANT/63,” fol. 62v, Biblioteca Nacional de España, accessed November 20, 2016, 335. The text Caelestis urbs Jerusalem replaced Urbs Ierusalem beata in the Roman breviary of 1634. See note 27.  [return to text]

[37] Victoria, Thomae Ludovici a Victoria Abluensis Hymni Totius Anni, 60; 142. [return to text]

[38] Robert Stevenson, "Victoria, Tomás Luis de," Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, accessed January 18, 2017, [return to text]

[39] Cantus Index: Online Catalogue for Mass and Office Chants, accessed November 21, 2016, [return to text]

[40] “Cantorales,” Biblioteca Nacional de España, accessed November 21, 2016, An English version of the database is also available. [return to text]




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