Music in Honor of the Virgin Mary during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Music in Honor of the Virgin Mary during the Middle Ages and Renaissance


Phd Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2010)


Veneration of Mary was a predominant theme of Christian worship from the beginning of Christendom into the Middle Ages and later, and is reflected in the music of those times. The purpose of this study is to explain what Marian devotion was and how this practice was reflected in sacred polyphony from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Musical examples from this time period will be used to illustrate select significant points. Information from various sources can be assembled to provide evidence of how some of this music may have been performed, giving musicians today a deeper understanding of context that can influence performance.

The purpose of this study was, first, to explore the basic elements of Marian devotion, and, second, to examine how veneration of Mary was expressed musically. Seven musical compositions from c. 1200-1600 are examined as representative examples.

The Marian aspects of some compositions may be as straightforward as the use of texts that address Mary, or they may be found in musical and textual symbolism. Of special interest is a particular genre of motet used in private devotions. Precise and detailed information about how sacred music was used in the Middle Ages and Renaissance is scarce, but evidence related to this particular kind of devotional motet helps bring together a number of elements related to Marian meditative practices and the kind of physical settings in which these took place, allowing a greater understanding of the overall performance context of such music. This deeper awareness can help guide today‘s performance.

Click here to read this dissertation from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

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