International Centre for the Study of Music in the Low Countries

Inventories of Antiphoners in Flemish Collections

Inventories of Antiphoners in Flemish Collections

Project researchers: Dr. Inga Behrendt, Dr. Sarah Ann Long, Dr. Pieter Mannaerts 

Duration: July 2008 - September 2010 (2011)

Flanders was, in the Middle Ages, one of the most densely populated and culturally developed regions in Europe, rich in abbeys, beguinages, convents, and monasteries.  The religious lifestyles and beliefs of these communities led to the cultivation of local Gregorian chant traditions over a period of centuries, resulting in the composition of new chant melodies, and in the production of music manuscripts, many of which have been maintained and preserved to the present day, but have received very little scholarly attention.  Although many of the sources have been lost over the centuries, both the quality and quantity of the extant manuscripts acquired and produced by these institutions provide an important key to our understanding of their belief systems and devotional practices, thus making a good overview and detailed investigation of the sources necessary.

This project is the first step in inventorying handwritten antiphoners in Flanders produced during the Ancien RĂ©gime.  Antiphoners are liturgical books that contain Gregorian chant for the hours of the divine office, which were an integral part of daily religious devotions.  These large sources contain a vast repertory, which is representative of the contribution of secular and monastic communities in Flanders to the history of musical and liturgical practices in Western Europe.  Their existence is evidence that before, during, and after the flowering of Flemish vocal polyphony, plainchant was - as in all other Western European geographical locations - a constant in Flemish musical life.  The local Flemish chant repertory provided an important contribution to that which was sung throughout Europe, in addition to serving as the basis of many polyphonic compositions produced by famous Flemish composers.  The aim of this project is to bring the rich Gregorian chant traditions of Flanders to the attention of international scholars, musicians, and laymen, and to show the integral part that these traditions played in the history of Western European music and devotional life.

With the support of the Flemish government, and in cooperation with different partners (Resonant, and the University Library of Ghent), this project will make the contents of these manuscripts available to musicologists, librarians and archivists, and to the general public through publishing inventories in specialized catalogues (RISM, and the CANTUS Source List), through digitizing and indexing (CANTUS Database) the oldest and most important manuscripts, through the publication of articles and books, and through giving lectures, concerts, and workshops.

Illustration:  Tsgrooten Antiphoner (1522), Ghent University Library, owned by the Flemish government.