Wednesday, January 14, 2009


So I am revising this article on liturgy that I seem to have been working on forever. I am looking at the feasts of several saints to see how they are presented in the liturgy of a particular nunnery. At the suggestion of a reader, I plugged the texts for these saints into the CANTUS database. To camouflage the project a little, I'm going to call these saints A, B, and C.

Saint A was wildly popular in the Middle Ages, and the results show it. Exactly the same texts appear in over a dozen different manuscripts, from totally different parts of Europe. So the monastery I'm studying probably got their office for Saint A from some commonly available materials.

Saint B was also quite popular. The texts I entered only appear in a few manuscripts, though. Both of those manuscripts are from monasteries of the same order, so perhaps this office was one composed at, and circulated among, monasteries of this order.

Saint C was another popular saint. But the texts used at the monastery I am studying don't appear in the database at all. Not a one of them. I checked them all. Admittedly the database is not comprehensive, but it does include a large number of manuscripts, and I did get hits for the other feasts. I am especially intrigued by this, because the celebration of Saint C is unusually prominent at this monastery. Other monasteries of the order did not observe her in the same way. So the fact that the texts are more obscure is extra interesting.

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