Ars Choralis Coeln & Sanstierce 2019, Metz (France)

The Miracles of St. Mary

Sung and told in Iberian codice: Cantigas de Santa Maria & Llibre vermell de Montserrat

Under the guidance of the Castilian king Alonso X El Sabio (The Wise), the largest collection of Iberian poetry with surviving melodies was written in the 13th century: the Cantigas de Santa Maria. It is the only example of sacred poetry in the Galegoportuguese language. The 420 songs, 356 of which are narrative in character, form one of the most extensive collections of Marian miracles in a vernacular language anywhere. There is no doubt that the king himself also contributed some of the songs, it is assumed that at least 17. The creation of the collection extended over decades, to which the three surviving manuscripts bear witness. 89 songs of the first collection are based either on the French Miracles e Nostre Dame by Gautiers de Coinci or on other widespread Latin collections. As the collection grows, this share of narratives recedes and instead one finds Marian miracles localised on the Iberian Peninsula.

According to the texts, the melodies were partly newly composed, but a larger part was taken over from other songs (contrafacta). It is likely that influences from the Arabic and Western cultures worked together. Most cantigas begin with a refrain that is repeated after each verse. This structure is also found in the Arabic zéjel, a narrative poem variant of the muwashaha – although the French virelai also has the same basic pattern. At the court of Alonso El Sabio, the superiority of Arabic sciences and culture over European ones was recognised, so that Alonso and his collaborators had no choice but to follow the Islamic scholars and artists. Thus, Cantigas de Santa Maria is also a sounding example of the joint work of Arab and European musicians.

Our programme is complemented by some pilgrimage songs from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat. The Benedictine monastery of Montserrat (near Barcelona) is still an important place of pilgrimage for the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Llibre Vermell was written in the course of the 14th century. The songs are predominantly provided with Latin, sometimes also with Catalan or Occitan texts. The anonymous scribe describes the purpose of the collection of songs as follows:

'Since it happens that the pilgrims who keep vigil in the church of St Mary in Montserrat want to sing and dance, and this also during the day in the church square, and they are only allowed to sing moral and devotional songs there, some are written down here. These should be used with consideration and moderation so as not to disturb those who wish to pursue their prayer and spiritual contemplations …

The two ensembles ARS CHORALIS COELN and SANSTIERCE will perform the concert together in order to make the influences of the Arab world and the interaction of both cultures audible for us today.


Esta é de loor de Santa María – Cantigas de Santa Maria

  • CSM 160: Esta é de loor de Santa María: „Quen boa dona querrá“
  • CSM 122: Como Santa María resucitou ũa infante, filla dun rei, e pois foi monja e mui santa mollér: „Miragres muitos pelos reïs faz“
  • CSM 113: Como Santa María de Monsserraz guardou o mõesteiro que non feriss' a pena en ele que caeu da róca: „Por razôn tenno d’obedecer“
  • Interludio Instrumentale

Stella spendens in monte – Llibre Vermell de Montserrat

  • Caças de double vel tribus: „Laudemus virginem mater est“ – „Splendens ceptigera nostris“
  • Sequitur alia cantilena ad trepudium rotundum: „Stella splendens in monte“
  • Balladad dels goytxs de Nostre Dame en vulgar cathallan: „Los set goyts recomptarem“
  • A ball redon: „Cuncti simus concanentes“
  • A ball redon: „Polorum regina omnium nostra“
  • Interludio Instrumentale

Santa Maria Strela do Dia – Cantigas de Santa Maria

  • CSM 100: Esta é de loor de Santa María: „Santa Maria strela do dia“
  • CSM 182: Como Santa Maria livrou u ladron da mão dos diaboos que o levavan: „Deus que mui ben barata“
  • CSM 79: Como Santa Maria tornou a meninna que era garrida çorda e levo-asigo a parayso: „Ay, Santa Maria, quen se per v´s guía“
  • CSM 82: Como Santa Maria guardou un monge dos diaboos que o quiseran tentar e se lle mostraron en figuras de porcos polo fazer perder: „A Santa Maria mui non servir faz“
  • CSM 119: Como Santa María tolleu un joíz aos dïáboos que o levavan e tornó-o a sa casa e disse-lle que se mẽefestasse, ca outro día avía de morrer: „Como somos per conssello“
  • CSM 161: Como un óme de Moriella, que ameúde ía a Santa María de Salas e tragía sa Magestade, viu vĩir nuveado e pos a Magestade na sa vinna; e non firiu i a pédra, e toda-las outras foron apedreados en derredor: „Poder á Santa María, a Sennor de pïadade“