Article

Cantigas de Santa Maria

Peter V. Loewen

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online July 2016 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0210
Cantigas de Santa Maria

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The Cantigas de Santa Maria (CSM) is a late-medieval collection of over four hundred sacred Galician-Portuguese songs composed, according to tradition, by Alfonso X, known as “El Sabio,” King of Castile and León (1252–1284). The CSM is a monumental achievement in vernacular lyric and book art, remarkable in every way for its devotion to the Virgin through an ingenious combination of words, music, and visual art. The question of authorship has been much debated. Although scholars generally agree that Alfonso may have composed some of these sacred cantigas himself (forty-three profane cantigas have also been attributed to him), the bulk of this extant repertory of 427 CSM should be attributed to his circle of courtly poets and musicians. Alfonso X’s patronage of the sciences, Literature, visual art, music, and law was immense, which earned him the “The Wise” (El Sabio) epithet. He employed Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars, poets, Artists, and musicians, and had an astonishingly prolific scriptorium, which produced several major works in vernacular languages in addition to the CSM. For this reason, scholars have readily interpreted the contents of the CSM in light of these other monuments of Castilian literature, such as Alfonso’s legal code, known as Las Siete Partidas, and a historical text known as the General Estoria. The CSM have come down to us in four manuscript copies, each one varying in number of cantigas, which has suggested to some scholars that the CSM was a work in progress from c. 1270 until c. 1290. Manuscripts To, T, and E are thoroughly notated with music showing the latest advances in mensural notation (see Manuscripts and Facsimile Editions). Manuscripts T, F, and E are also lavishly illustrated with miniatures. As their lyric contents overlap, capturing the corpus from various perspectives, and perhaps at various stages in its development, the analyst is confronted by variant readings of most of the cantigas’ texts and melodies. The songs fall generally into two large categories of strophic song: cantigas de miragres, making up the majority, entailing miracles of the Virgin Mary; and forty-three cantigas de loor, or songs of praise to the Blessed Virgin. Scholarly study of the CSM has been extremely prolific, as Joseph T. Snow’s annotated bibliography eminently shows (Snow 2012, cited under Overviews, Primary Sources, Bibliographies). This bibliography offers a sample of some of the most important sources for research: historiographical; online and electronic; manuscript; codicological; editions and translations; and works of literary, musicological, and visual criticism.

Article.  10335 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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