Pilgrimages, miracles and relics constituted important formal elements in medieval religion. They reflected the need for direct contact with the holy. Where miracles were attested or relics found, places of worship were established. In Spain and France, above all, many significant centres of pilgrimage are found and among the most important, after Santiago de Compostela, must be reckoned the monastery of Montserrat, some fifty kilometres to the East of Barcelona. With the miraculous Black Madonna, celebrated in various ways in the songs of the Llibre Vermell and in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and with its unique geographical position, the monastery from the earliest times drew many pilgrims. It is found at a height of 700 metres above sea-level above a gorge, surrounded by jagged rocky peaks. Clearly the place itself offered a strong fascination for people, since it was also the site of an earlier temple to Venus. It was about the year 1025 that the Abbot Oliba established there a Benedictine community, from the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll. In 1409 the monastery became an independent abbey.
The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat preserved there is a codex in five parts. In addition to religious writings, lists of indulgences and privileges as well as of the rules of the order, there is also a Cancionero musical with ten pieces of music, spiritual dances and songs. These were added to the 1382 codex between 1396 and 1399. The manuscript is a unique collection, in that it includes instructions on how dances were to be performed to the music. Its name, Red Book, was acquired in the nineteenth century, when it was bound in red velvet. Originally the Llibre Vermeil contained 172 double pages (folio size), of which 35 have been lost. The purpose of the music is explained in instructions before the first song: �Since the pilgrims who come to Montserrat often want to sing and dance, and that during their night vigil in the church as by day in the church square, where only orderly and pious songs are allowed, a number of suitable songs have been written, to meet that need. These should be used with due consideration, without disturbing those who wish to continue their prayers and religious meditation.� Then pilgrims are again admonished to refrain also on their way home from frivolous songs and evil dances.
The monks of Montserrat were known for their outstanding spiritual and musical culture, of which the Ars Nova notation of the codex is an indication. In the songs there is a mixture of simple Spanish folk-�melodies and complex courtly compositional technique from Italy and France. This simplicity and musical achievement is found in the three-voice virelai Mariam matrem , and sometimes also earthy naivety in close relationship with folk-song, as in Lo, set gotxs . This last-named is a balada in Catalan with a Latin refrain, which is a paraphrase of the poem Los VII goutz de Nostra Dona of Pope Clement IV. With Los set gotxs and Cuncti simus , single-part virelais with repeated choral refrains, it can easily be understood how, through the numerous repetitions of the round dance (ball redon), a religious ecstasy might be induced. The chorale O Virgo splendens  is a contrafactum of O virgo visa from the Memoriale of the same codex. At the beginning is a note that it can be performed in one part or in canon with up to three voices. Through the hypnotic effect of the canon, as with the mantra, a trance may be induced that can lead to the attainment of the highest spirituality. The many repetitions constitute less a structural principle than the attempts of the monks to inspire the people to livelier participation.
Dancing in the church was above all a feature of early Christianity, adopted from the Jewish rite, an important element in worship. From the time of Athanasius of Miletus is recorded the tradition of dancing as an accompaniment to hymns Seasonal folk dances in the form of round dances (a ball redon) met relatively little opposition from the clergy but were not often resorted to in church. Some of the reasons for this practice that continued into the eighteenth century resulted from the lack of suitable places at night or in bad weather To this end comes a report from Bernard of Angers from 1010, on a practice in the church at Conques: �According to ancient custom the pilgrims hold their vigils in the Fides Church with candles and lamps. Since they do not understand the Latin chants of the office, they help to pass the long nights away with uneducated songs and other nonsense.�
These lively dances in the church led naturally to a ban and at the Council of Avignon in 1209 came the following declaration: �We decree that, during vigils for the saints in the churches, musicians must not perform either leaping dances with obscene gestures nor round dances; nor shall love-songs and similar songs be sung.� Basically distinction must be drawn between two kinds of dances, one of which was performed in a religious setting and in accordance with contemporary customs, and the other sort of dance that stemmed from the secular field. At Montserrat it was the second that came about, when, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Latin spiritual songs written specially by the monks were sung and played at night in the church and by day in front of it as an accompaniment to dancing. The attempt of the monks, however, to set popularly known dance-songs to decent Latin texts and thereby to steer this lively activity into more orderly paths, as suggested in the introduction to the Llibre Vermell, failed. Hardly surprisingly there was little room for the accommodation of pilgrims, with the result that the liturgy was at the centre of daily life. For dancing in the liturgy a tradition has been recorded for us from Auxerre that there was dancing at Easter with organ accompaniment to the melody of the sequence Victimae paschales, in which a ball was thrown from side to side. It is also interesting to notice that at Limoges on the feast of the patron saint St Martial there was dancing in the church to the psalms. Ecstatic dancing through many writings and pictures offers an example of medieval music therapy. Priestly dancing as an element of the divine service has now completely disappeared from the Christian rite.
The Middle Ages knew nothing of the protection of spiritual individualism. In many places we meet examples of well-tried cultural manifestations. Use was made of well-known melodies sanctified by the addition of religious texts. In no field of medieval artistic activity is copying, the so-called contrafactum, so frequently met as in the art of song. Some medieval contrafacta acknowledge the flowering of imitative composition in Northern France, based on sources derived from the trouv�res or composers from Picardy. Thus Quant vol la flor  is based on the composition Retrowange nouvelle by Jacques de Cambrai from the year 1280. Of the same kind is Amours, ou trop tart me sui pris , a virelai from the second half of the thirteenth century. This is a contrafactum of Amours, a cui je me rent pris. Slight alterations from the model, like the use of changing sharps and flats bring about an ambivalence of tonality. The conjectural composer is Ro�ne Blance, probably a pseudonym of Blanche de Navarre, the mother of Thibaut IV of Champagne. He provides the richest source of trouv�re work. In addition to many Chants d'amour, Jeux-parties, Pastourelles and Crusaders' songs, there survive only four Marian songs and only one religious lai, namely Commencerai a fere un lai . The Count of Champagne and of Brie was born in 1201 at Troyes. His grandmother was a daughter of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1234, after the death of his uncle Sancho the Strong, he was crowned King of Navarre. Four years later he led an attack by the Crusaders on Jerusalem. He died in 1253 at Pamplona. His contemporary fame is attested by the fact that he won praise from Dante in his De vulgari eloquentia and from Johannes de Grocheo in his Ars musice.
The fact that many Black Madonnas were found by chance and were called Notre-Dame la Trouv�e is not without deeper significance. The Occitanian word for 'find' is trobar, from which the word troubadour is derived. Yet the possibilities of the term are in no way exhausted by this, which has for one who knows the langue des oisaux so rich a store of meanings. Basically the word trobar means to express oneself in tropes, that is, to find words for a melody, and to use these in a sense that is different from the usage of normal speech. For this reason the language of the troubadours is so rich in linguistic word-play, double meanings, classical and biblical allusions, paradoxes and allegories. The problem of translation makes understanding still more difficult. In the language of gay saber, as playful as it is deceptive, not every word must be taken literally. When a troubadour sang of his beloved, he could have a real person in mind. Equally he could have also in mind the Church of Rome or the Cathar movement, to which, perhaps, he belonged, or might thus honour the Black Madonna.
If art is to become a cultural factor in the life of a people, then it needs conscious support. In this way the Church in the Middle Ages became the sole purveyor of education and learning and sought for a somewhat centralised, controlled spiritual culture. That she should also take on the care of music, the value of which for the liturgy had been recognised in early times, was natural.
The closest attention to music in the ecclesiastical sphere was set in order for a worthy and solemn arrangement of the divine service. In the ever greater dimensions that churches assumed, the lessons of the Epistle and the Gospel were brought forward to the crossing between the nave and the choir, the choir-�screen. Since the priest now had to move a longer way back again and a longer time was needed, the introductory chants for the lessons were developed into substantial compositions, to which the name conductus was given. In time these lost their original association and developed their own form, making use of the same text for a polyphonic composition. The continuation of this form, that led to the motet, made further use of a second syllabic text (qv. O Maria maris stella/O Maria virgo davitica ).
Another development took the versus alleluiaticus, in the balanced melismata of which cantor and choir joined. This chant allowed an expressive medium in which a syllabic Latin text to suit the occasion was added to the melisma. This was the origin of the sequence, from Northern France, which had a strong influence on subsequent secular song. The vernacular counterparts of the sequence came to be called Descort, Leich or Lai (cf. ).
Mary as the maternal advocate was to the people of the tenth and eleventh centuries as familiar as Christ. This adoration even took partly on the character of the rapturous homage of love. Pictures celebrated the Mother of God. Legends never tired of reporting her miracles, how, for example, the Madonna herself saved the worst sinners from perdition, if they were repentant or sought pardon by way of donations. The Cantigas de Santa Maria tell us of such stories and legends, one of the most important collections of the art of sacred song in Galego, a Galician-Portuguese hybrid language, commissioned by Alfonso X el Sabio (1221-1284). The collection includes more than four hundred songs on the miracles of Mary, some by the King himself, but for the most part by his troubadours, in fine manuscripts. Two of the four surviving codices are preserved in the Escorial monastery in Madrid, notable in particular for the beauty of their miniatures. With the King, surrounded by his men of learning, musicians of various nationalities and cultures are portrayed. In one of them there is a group of young men performing a round dance in a candle-lit church before the statue of Mary. The further representation of over forty instruments provides a particular conspectus of the medieval instrumentarium, including fidel, rebec, lute, harp, transverse flute and recorder, with various percussion instruments and others. In Cantiga No. 49 are the words: Cantando e con dan�a, seja por n�s loada a Virgen coro�ada que � noss' esperan�a (Singing and in dance may the crowned Virgin be honoured by us, she who is our hope).
Both the miracles of the Black Madonna of Montserrat, as well as those of other places, are described in the Cantigas de Santa Maria. In the one performed here is told the legend of how the Madonna came to the aid of an old shepherdess, who had been cheated out of her money and her sheep by a young shepherd , or how she brought a spring from the property of a greedy knight to thirsty monks in their monastery garden .
Michael Posch/Agnes Boll
English version by Keith Anderson