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Venerating the Cross: Congregational participation in early medieval Iberia

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Victoria Rooms, University of Bristol

88 Queens Road

Bristol

BS8 1SA

United Kingdom

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Inaugural Lecture from Professor Emma Hornby, University of Bristol

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We do not usually associate early medieval liturgy with congregational participation, but a closer - and interdisciplinary - look at the primary evidence can give us a vivid sense of the congregation's role within religious observance.

In this lecture, I introduce the ceremony associated with the veneration of the cross on Good Friday in Iberian manuscripts from the 10th and 11th centuries. Although the evidence is fragmentary, we can get a sense of the space in which this ceremony occurred, the physical objects at its centre, the ritual movements of clergy and congregation, and the theology communicated by the chant texts.

The chant melodies, however, are preserved only in unpitched notation, which cannot be transcribed or sung nowadays. I show how we can overcome this major methodological challenge by visually matching notational patterns. This allows us to identify musical pacing, recurring melodic patterns, and cadences. These punctuate the chant texts and control the flow of their delivery, contributing to the liturgical and theological experience.

At the centre of the veneration ceremony in medieval Iberia, all the faithful took turns to kiss the cross itself, while singing a long hymn. This hymn's notation has striking parallels with the melody of a related hymn from Aquitaine. As a result, it is possible to transcribe and sing this hymn, making audible a thousand year old melody previously thought lost.

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Victoria Rooms, University of Bristol

88 Queens Road

Bristol

BS8 1SA

United Kingdom

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