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23.03.08 Giraud/Leitmeir (eds.), The Medieval Dominicans

23.03.08 Giraud/Leitmeir (eds.), The Medieval Dominicans

When two musicologists combine forces to edit a volume on medieval Dominicans, the present publication is the much-appreciated result. Giraud’s and Leitmeir’s volume shines a light on so far often neglected aspects of the order’s history. While at first sight, the contents might appear to be a collection of rather disparate articles, the editors have managed to compile a composition that in totality is larger than the sum of the individual parts. A couple of articles are devoted to each of the key words of the subheading (“Books, Buildings, Music, and Liturgy”). These articles often complement each other, creating a broad picture of medieval Dominican life. The volume itself is not divided into sub-sections, which aids in perceiving the articles as part of a whole rather than as merely belonging to one section.

The first three articles are concerned with different aspects of Dominican books. Mary and Richard Rouse’s contribution on the Paris Dominicans’ book production starts the volume off with a bang. Vividly and enjoyably written, the article gives a summary of the types of texts created at the convent of St Jacques, but also highlights the impact the Friars Preachers had on internal structural developments of texts, such as the insightful division of chapters in the Bible that was to survive for centuries. What is more, the Rouses also discuss the infrastructure used by the friars, focusing on the close ties between several generations of the de Sens family, who acted as libraires of the Paris Dominicans and greatly aided the dissemination of their texts. Laura Albiero’s codicological study deals primarily with the mise-en-page of Dominican breviaries. Like the Rouses so, too, Albiero stresses that the Dominicans relied heavily on external copyists. In light of this insight, it would have been welcome if Alison Stones, author of the third article, had devoted some words to clarifying what she meant by stating in the very first sentence that “the mendicant orders had come to play a significant role in the production of devotional and secular books made for lay patrons” (73). Her contribution focuses on images of notable Friars Preachers, especially Dominic, in French manuscripts before 1350, investigating the different contexts in which these Dominicans were depicted in codices.

Panayota Volti and Haude Morvan dedicate their studies to Dominican architecture in the Eastern Mediterranean and Italy, respectively. Volti briefly introduces the reader to the complex political and cultural situation in which the Dominican foundations existed in the Latin Empire of Constantinople before going on to examine the architecture of three Dominican churches in modern-day Greece. Morvan, on the other hand, investigates the Dominicans’ involvement in a fifteenth-century development that saw a change in spatial layout inside churches by shifting the location of the altar. For this purpose, Morvan also draws on early-modern compendia that contain descriptions of churches, many of which have in the meantime been destroyed or significantly changed. Morvan concludes that the change of the location of the altar was not implemented order-wide, but was initiated by either the prior or a patron (157), and that the laity played an important role in the development.

Emily Guerry’s contribution seems to be somewhat free-floating, not focusing on any of the themes named in the volume’s subtitle. Still, this is an interesting study exploring Louis IX’s connection to mendicants and the Dominicans’ role in acquiring the Crown of Thorns for the king. Guerry reconstructs how the Crown was delivered and explores the Dominicans’ role in this endeavour.

The following group of articles, by far the largest, contains five chapters on various aspects of Dominican liturgy, the first two of which are devoted to the Feast of Corpus Christi. M. Michèle Mulchahey approaches the well-known connection between Thomas Aquinas and the Corpus Christi liturgy with fresh questions. She traces the influences of Aquinas’s theological thought on the liturgy. Mulchahey also revisits the question as to whether Aquinas really was the author of the liturgy, and answers it in the affirmative, supporting her position masterfully. Barbara R. Walters, in her close textual study of the Feast of Corpus Christi, focuses on the earliest manuscript containing the full Office, including not just text but also music. Eleanor J. Giraud offers a chapter on Dominican Mass books from before the order-wide unification of the liturgy under Humbert of Romans. Focusing on the Alleluia verses, she demonstrates the Dominican dependence on the Cistercian liturgy, which the friars adapted according to their needs. Giraud attests a high degree of uniformity even before Humbert’s reform and suggests that the Friars Preachers’ project of unifying their liturgy may have been borne out of their competition with the Franciscans, who had announced a similar project a year earlier.

A further two contributions on the Dominican liturgy were penned by Innocent Smith, OP. In the first article, Smith concludes that some orations in the Dominican liturgy are specific to the order, while others contain distinct features that set them apart. Smith’s second contribution is the only one that deals explicitly with Dominican nuns, examining liturgical guidelines for nuns in the thirteenth century. The volume’s lack of attention to the second and third order is explained in the editors’ preface by the comparatively small number of sources compared to the first order, so Smith’s brief study is all the more welcome.

The final two articles are devoted to Dominican music, specifically to Jerome of Moravia’s Tractatus de musica. First, Christian Thomas Leitmeir explores the treatise’s Dominican nature, and the extent to which it was meant especially for Dominican readers. Leitmeir argues that it was foremost meant to be used in the order, but not exclusively so, having been geared toward a broader readership. Błażej Matusiak, OP, maintains that Jerome sought to condense all musical knowledge in the Tractatus. Matusiak identifies the sources Jerome used and analyses how he developed them.

Just as the editors hoped in their preface, the volume opens up new avenues to explore, not without, at the same time, answering questions. Several authors use so far unpublished source texts (e.g., Morvan, Mulchahey), while others draw on images and architecture. Where necessary, the contributions are richly illustrated, with reproductions mainly in colour rather than black and white. A carefully compiled index increases the book’s accessibility.