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22.02.01 Grier, The Office of the Holy Trinity at Saint Martial de Limoges in the Eleventh Century

22.02.01 Grier, The Office of the Holy Trinity at Saint Martial de Limoges in the Eleventh Century

In the second volume of a series on medieval music he is editing, James Grier, known for his studies of the music and scribes of the monastery of St. Martial of Limoges, adds to his substantial corpus with a critical edition of the Office of the Holy Trinity that was composed by the monks of St. Martial. Grier’s edition is a valuable contribution as it provides an accessible version of an important and popular Office. His edition also demonstrates not only the importance of the monastery of St. Martial in the development of medieval music and the contributions of St. Martial’s most notorious monk, Ademar of Chabannes, but also demonstrates the evolution of the chants and other parts of the Office at the hands of different scribes, including Ademar and his uncle Roger of Chabannes, working on the text and music.

The book is divided into four main sections, the first of which is a lengthy introduction describing the history of the Office and the methodology Grier used in the preparation of the edition. In the introduction, Grier explores the origins of the liturgy in the tenth century and, after considering the medieval and modern debate on its origins, confirms the traditional attribution of the Office to Stephen of Liege (d. 920), while noting that Stephen’s version was probably based on an earlier one. The text by Stephen would serve as the model for the versions composed at the monastery of St. Martial in the first half of the eleventh century. Grier next identifies the manuscripts containing versions of the Office that he used to compile his edition, including the two most important, Pa 1085 and 1121; the latter manuscript serves as the primary version of the edition included in the book and also includes important contributions by Ademar of Chabannes. This section is followed by sections examining the introduction of the Office to the monastery of St. Martial and its evolution during the course of the eleventh century. Grier notes how the monks adapted the Office from an episcopal setting to a monastic one, outlines the changes made by the scribes working on the different manuscripts containing the Office, and notes the errors that survived from manuscript to manuscript. Grier, of course, pays close attention to the scribal work of Ademar and discusses Ademar’s introduction to the monks of St. Martial of the practice of heighting the neumes above the written text. The introduction is supplemented by numerous, very helpful and detailed, charts and tables comparing the various manuscripts and their arrangement of antiphons, chants, and responsories. Throughout the introduction, Grier demonstrates the importance of the Office of the Holy Trinity to the monks of St. Martial of Limoges as well as the originality and inventiveness of the musical community at the monastery.

The edition itself and commentary on it make up the remaining three parts of the book. The second section forms the heart of the book as it contains the full text of the Office of the Holy Trinity with musical notation. The edition offers an elegant and accessible transcription of the Office and includes variant readings from the different manuscripts Grier consulted for this book. The edition with musical annotation is followed by a section dedicated to reproducing the texts of the Office without the musical notation, and then a final section outlining the editorial decisions Grier made in the preparation of the edition.

A significant achievement in its own right, Grier’s work is important also for the potential it offers for further scholarship. As he notes, the number of surviving manuscripts of the Office from the monastery of St. Martial is noteworthy because it exceeds versions at other monasteries, but, beyond his observation that the number indicated the popularity of the Office and the creativity of the monks of St. Martial, the implications of that fact are left generally unexplored by Grier. Although he does not offer explanation about why the monks at St. Martial were so enthusiastic about the new liturgy, Grier does provide the necessary material for an exploration of that matter, which would confirm his observation that the new Office was an important component of the devotion of the monks. In a similar vein, Grier identifies the changes to the chants and other elements of the Office made by the monks at St. Martial throughout the eleventh century, raising questions about what motivated the monks to make these alterations and what these changes suggest about the nature of devotion at the monastery. The involvement of Ademar of Chabannes, with his large autograph corpus, certainly offers the opportunity to explore questions of motivation and spirituality in more detail. Questions such as these are not the responsibility of an editor of the text who will be judged on the quality and significance of the work. And in this regard, Grier will be judged most favorably by producing a fine edition of the Office of the Holy Trinity and making it accessible to the wider scholarly community.