RESEARCH AREAS


MALMECC is made up of a number of sub-projects, which together aim to cover many different aspects of medieval music making and its culture.

Click the links below to find out more:


Gender, Lineage and Patterns of Patronage in Late-Medieval France, England, the Low Countries, and beyond

Laura Slater is researching the cultural patronage of Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III of England. Originating from a region that now cuts across northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Philippa’s importance as a transnational cultural patron is well-known. A manuscript associated with her marriage re-sited two French polyphonic motets into an English context. The poet-musician Jehan de la Mote dedicated his c.1339 verse lament on the death of Philippa’s father, Count William of Hainault, Holland and Zeeland to the queen. He may even have performed at the English court. The chivalric chronicler Jean Froissart called himself ‘one of her clerics and familiares [an intimate, part of the queen’s trusted inner circle]’, priding himself on his place in her household from around 1361. Philippa even commissioned her own tomb effigy from overseas, hiring Jean de Liège, a Brabançon working at the Valois court of France in the 1360s to make the grand monument seen in Westminster Abbey today.

 

Courtiers feasting

(Museé Condé, MS 65, f.1v)

Yet the manuscripts associated with Philippa’s ownership and personal devotional use have never been explored in detail. Among several surviving manuscripts made to mark the accession of Edward III and his marriage is a very small psalter made in the later 1320s, possibly as a wedding gift for Philippa. ‘Marital manuscripts’ of this type were designed to act as a spiritual primer for married life. Philippa’s psalter would have been required to provide spiritual support and guidance to her in particularly difficult circumstances. Aged anywhere between ten and fifteen, Philippa landed in England in December 1327, barely a week after the funeral of her deposed and murdered father-in-law, Edward II. She found her new husband to be the increasingly unwilling puppet of a regency government dominated by his mother, Queen Isabella of France, and her possible paramour, the English nobleman Roger Mortimer. Philippa spent her first three years in England completely overshadowed.

 

The second manuscript, perhaps made c. 1340, dates to happier times. A much larger and grander psalter now in the British Library, the ‘Psalter of Queen Philippa’ contains musical notation throughout. This is extremely unusual for a manuscript made for a lay user. Philippa is known to have been close to the clerics in her household: the Queen’s College, Oxford was founded in her honour by one of her chaplains, Robert de Eglesfield. Laura is exploring how the visual representation of sound in the pages of the psalter might have influenced the queen’s devotions. She is considering the different ways and contexts in which Philippa may have used her psalter, in places such as St Stephen’s Westminster or St George’s Windsor. And she is investigating what we can learn from the manuscript and other sources about Philippa’s musical and intellectual interests.

 

 

Bishops, Cardinals, Popes: Ecclesiastic Courts as Cultural Hubs

Who was a medieval cardinal? How did he behave? And how did he react when the Church was torn apart by a Schism? To answer these questions, and much more, Christophe Masson (Post-doctoral Research Fellow) explores the identity and organisation of the courts held by cardinals who lived in Avignon during the first period of the Great Western Schism (1378-1403) when two popes competed, one living in Rome, the other in Avignon.

 

Papal Palace at Avignon

Copyright – Jean Marc Rosier

This project combines three main objectives. First, it challenges the idea of a static community of princes of the Church and of cardinals who acted only as ministers or ambassadors for the pope. During the Schism, their role was being redesigned, and they tried to influence, if not to govern, the pope they followed. One of the cardinals’ main weapons were their courts, where they acted as art patrons and political intermediaries, often supporting claims from lay princes as well as their own interests.  This evolution made them, amongst other things, able to challenge the pope’s alleged central role in cultural exchanges and politics.

 

Secondly, Christophe’s project enlightens the seigniorial aspects of cardinals’ courts and behaviours by combining a multimedia approach—including palace decoration, building of tombs, musical and reading practices— with a study of performativity (conduct of masses and ceremonies, including funerals). This is made possible thanks to the transdisciplinary composition of the MALMECC team which combines art history, musicology, literature, and history. The cultural choices of the cardinals will be used to demonstrate how late medieval cultural practices contributed to establishing, or defending political power and influence. Cardinals’ courts will thus be investigated as groups able to produce their own original (micro-)culture—a mix of papal, ecclesiastical, familial, princely, and noble—that cannot be equalled a priori to the ones of lay or ecclesiastical princes.

 

The last point of focus of Christophe’s project is that of regional origins of the courtiers surrounding the cardinals. Popularized by the writings of Church reformers, the idea that the Avignon Papacy grew out of the appropriation of the wealth of local churches still permeates lots of modern publications. This prevents us from understanding the mutual, although unbalanced, interests that linked a cardinal and the places he held benefices in. Since the prelate was attracting large amounts of money, local clerics were keen to aggregate themselves around his court. It was a way for them to claw back a part of the revenue that was produced in their home region, through their pensions and salaries, but also, more importantly, for bishops and abbots to have a spokesperson in the very heart of the Christendom.  All of these clerics were key actors within the transnational cultural model of Avignon cardinals’ courts.

 

Ultimately, the research will lead to a reconsideration of cardinals’ position in the government of the Catholic Church, not letting them in the pope’s shadow but considering them as princes on their own, taking advantage of being theoretically in the periphery to act decisively on the center, in this case, the pope himself.

 

 

The “Monk” and the Prince: Court Culture and Song in Late-Medieval Salzburg

 

David’s project centres on the archiepiscopal court of Salzburg. There, the anonymous ‘Monk of Salzburg’—among other courtiers—composed one of the most important collections of songs in German in the fourteenth century. Including both spiritual and secular material, they offer a fascinating insight into the cultural activity surrounding Pilgrim II von Puchheim, Archbishop of Salzburg between 1365-1396. The project asks what made Salzburg so fruitful, and what it can reveal about the traditions of song that sounded around the court of a later medieval Prince of the Church.

manuscript of monk of salzburgWhere previous scholarship has focused on individual parts of the song corpus attributed to the Monk, most notably treating the sacred and profane elements separately, David is approaching the corpus as a connected, though not necessarily unitary, whole. The two sides must be held together if one is to gain a proper grasp on the nature of song at the ecclesiastical court, which by its very nature, and particularly in the case of a figure such as Pilgrim, brings together aspects of both worlds. This stance also relates to the way he tries to deal with medieval song, as a phenomenon which is more than the sum of its constituent parts (words, music, metrics), an attitude David has been exploring in the context of the Marian sequences in the corpus. Here, not only in the pieces the Monk translated from the Latin into German, but also in the Monk’s own compositions and contrafacta, the interplay of verbal and melodic components are essential to their full worth and resonance, and therefore to their Sitz im Leben.

The interest in the function and place of the Monk’s songs also informs David’s engagement with the secular songs. What role did the act of composing these songs have in the circle of Archbishop Pilgrim, a political animal on a European scale? What might they suggest about the nature of his court, and how can they be situated in the network of cultural influences from and engagements with the ecclesiastical and profane potentates and institutions with which Salzburg maintained relations in the fourteenth century? What evidence can be found among the subsequent transmission of the Monk’s songs (particularly at universities and religious houses) for their earliest days? Using a combination of literary historical study and the examination of the Monk’s musical legacy along with the evidence of archival sources, David’s monograph study will offer a holistic account of the culture of song and poetry that came into being around Archbishop Pilgrim.

 

 

 

Savoy, Cyprus, Italy: Court Cultures in the Early Quattrocento

 

The lifetime of Amadeus VIII (b. 1383, d. 1451) is without doubt one of the high points of Savoyard cultural history. During his reign, Savoy was raised from county to duchy by Emperor Sigismund (1416). The wedding of Amadeus’s son Louis to Anne, princess of Cyprus and Jerusalem, in 1434, became an instant legend in its time, and united the most brilliant courtiers of Europe and their artistic retinue in Chambéry. Guillaume Du Fay, one of the most important musicians of the fifteenth century, was associated with Savoy from 1434 well into the 1450s. When Duchess Anne purchased the shroud of Turin (1453), an important Mass may have been composed by Du Fay for the liturgy associated with the shroud. Amadeus’s own career took two unusual turns when he withdrew from government (1434) to live in spiritual retirement on the shores of Lake Geneva and later accepted the papal see offered him by the Council of Basle (1439-49). He ended his life as a cardinal (1449-51).

Epitaph of Guillaume Dufay

By Olivier – Flickr: Visite au musée IV.

Such an unusual biography, criss-crossing noble and clerical status in a single individual, raises a more general question: What was the role of clerics in courtly life? Distinguished by their status from the courtiers-at-large, who were lay persons, clerics seemingly stood aside from the courtly game of perpetuating their family’s lineage and power through marriage but at the same time exerted powerful social and political roles precisely through their ‘neutral’, clerical status. Clerics’ roles at court were highly diverse, and largely contingent on their own social background and lineage, ranging from influential figures such as confessors to cogs in the wheels of courtly administrations to scientific and political experts consulted by the most powerful princes for advice in highly charged questions such as the position of the realm during the Schism. For aristocratic women, joining a convent or an abbey, often at widowhood, could be an expedient means to retain a measure of independence combined with a considerable quantity of social capital. Court chaplains included some of the best known singers and composers, but also as poets, tutors of noble children, administrators, and propagandists. Higher-level clerics at court were  canons of major cathedrals and collegiate  churches,  providing another interface between the Church and the court, and bishop and archbishop functioned ex-officio as peers of the realm, taking the roles of  functioning senior political advisers, diplomats, power brokers, and confidantes not just to the ruler but also to the nobles surrounding him (or her) and their often very extended family. Cleric also enjoyed their own quasi-courtly societies in universities, cathedral and collegiate chapters, and even monastic settings; while some of them enjoyed lightning careers due to their noble birth, others rose from undistinguished backgrounds to positions of great prominence. As the best educated social group of their time, their impact on culture cannot be overstated.

Most importantly for the MALMECC project, many of them kept courts of their own (usually called ‘familia’). These ‘familiae’ often were important informal nodes of intellectual and cultural life, making them somewhat comparable to the salons of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Karl’s research focuses on a number of case studies that explore the interface of clerics as courtiers with princes and other clerics (and their courts or communities) in the long fourteenth century. Taking musical artefacts as his cue, he explores the complex roles of courtiers like Philippe de Vitry, Guillaume de Machaut, Jehan Froissart, Pietro Filargo (Peter of Candia), or Martin le Franc in the complex, trans-national networks linking courtly and ecclesiastic societies.

 

Bibliography:

Bent, Margaret. Bologna Q15: The Making and Remaking of a Musical Manuscript. Introductory Study and Facsimile Edition. Lucca: Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2008.

Bradley, Robert John. “Musical Life and Culture at Savoy, 1420–1450.” PhD diss., City University of New York, 1992.

Kügle, Karl. “Glorious Sounds for a Holy Warrior: New Light on Codex Turin J.II.9.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 65 (2012): 637-90.

Planchart, Alejandro Enrique. “Connecting the Dots: Guillaume Du Fay and Savoy During the Schism.” Plainsong and Medieval Music History 18 (2009): 11–32.

Robertson, Anne W. “The Man with the Pale Face, the Shroud, and Du Fay’s Missa Se la face ay pale.” Journal of Musicology 27 (2010): 377–434.