Giuliano da Spira
Cantorino di Reims
Laudi Monodiche di Cortona
Since the outset, Music and Franciscanism have formed a perfect union: the tam theoricam quam practicam of ‘Ars musica’ became a fundamental part of the proselytism and communication of the ideals of the Saint from Assisi and his ‘Order’. The traces of Franciscan presence in European musical circles between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are conspicuous, starting with one of the greatest Franciscan exponents of the 13th century, the German Giuliano da Spira, the ‘Magister Cantus in the Regis Francorum’; from the Gregorian tradition to 13th-century metric music, from the Cantorino di Reims and its primitive polyphonies to the monadic lauds in the vernacular language of Cortona, from 14th-century ars novistiche (novel art) compositions to the mathematical speculation of ars subtilior (subtle art), and from 15th- and 16th-century lauds to 16th-century polyphonic architecture. The history of Mediaeval lauds bears testimony to the symbolic ‘marriage’ between music and the Order. It is the story of the development of a religious-devotional way of thinking and also of society at the time, in full political and cultural ferment: confraternities of a secular-bourgeois nature that required new lyrical-musical productions, guilds and urban artistic creation that took part in the birth of vernacular literature, as well as in the ideals of early Franciscanism.
It is in the manuscript preserved in the town of Cortona that we find the first examples of monodic music in the local dialect dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi: Sia Laudato San Francesco, Laudar vollio per amore. This is seen over the centuries in these compositions, adapted for dissemination, so much so that they reach our age in the form of popular devotional extra-liturgical rituals such as Good Friday processions, especially in Central Italy. If the use of the vernacular effectively recalls the revolution started by the Franciscan Order, the history of music also testifies to how the use of Latin characterized the cultured nature of the Order itself. The Cantorino di Reims fits into this precisely, as part of the creation of a cosmopolitan ideal of the Franciscan movement that was able to disseminate its culture across Europe at the time.