December 28th, 20086:27 pm @ margherita fiorello


Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance is music for life, the sound of work, war, happiness, sadness,  love, prayer.

The Litaniae Sanctorum are one of the oldest prayers of the Church. They were established by Gregorius the Great in 590 AD to stop the plague. A medieval legend says that during these prayers Pope Gregorius saw an angel  cleaning his sword full of blood in order to put it away in the sheath.

And it is music for astrology too.  Dissertations about the musical imagery in astrological manuscripts- the famous one about Fendulus abridgement of Albumasar Introductorium Maius in Astronomiam, for example.

From Astrolabium Planum

From Astrolabium Planum

Music is again astrology and magic in the works of Alphonse the Wise and of his Spanish court, but the therapeutic virtues of music were well known since Antiquity,

Orpheus with his lyre became the Piper of Hamelin in the German version given by Brothers Grimm in the XVIII century.

The sound of bells were not just used to herald dangers or announce the daily Mass:   they  had the power to take away the evil till their sound could be heard.

In Italy is very famous since Renaissance  the phenomenon of Tarantism - the result of the bite of the tarantula, which obliges the victims - generally women- to engage a frantic dance like a modern Bacchanalia, as the only resource to survive.

Music was the only therapy: the philosopher and jesuit Athanasius Kircher - a man who  has been compared many times to Leonardo da Vinci-  in his book about music, the Musurgia Universalis, sive Ars Magna consoni et dissoni in X libros digesta ( Romae, Ex Typographia Haeredum Francisci Corbelleti, Anno Iubilaei, 1650) describes the effects of the tarantula’s bite and offers some curative music which could be effective against plague too.

It’s my intention to add several video or audio of medieval and Renaissance music, traditional and Gregorian chants to this blog. All the video can be found in the Vodpod Widged or in my Vodpod page at the following address:

And if you liked this is ancientFM


A very interesting interview with Igor Reznicoff, Professor at the Philosophy Department of the University of Paris X can be read here.