According to Antwerp, Reformed to Rome: Music, Liturgies, and Identities in the Bishopric of Antwerp (1559–1801)

January 2018 - December 2021

In Europe during the Counter-Reformation, liturgy and ritual were the foundations of the religious identity of institutions, cities and regions. How the liturgy sounded was largely determined by Gregorian music, an essential element of the church service in every layer of society. However, little research has been done into Gregorian music in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries or into the role that these hymns played in the creation and spread of Catholic identities.

This project, which builds on the results of Singing the Liturgy after the Council of Trent: an Examination of Early Modern Antwerp (financed with reserves from the Agency for Innovation through Science and Technology/ Strategic Basic Research (IWT/SBO), aims to help fill this gap by studying the production and performance practice of Gregorian music in the most important institutions of the diocese of Antwerp during this period: the Cathedral of Our Lady and St. James’ Church. The musical source material extracted will shed new light on the origin of religious reforms in Antwerp. The uniqueness of liturgical practices, which were a reflection of the institutions’ identity, will be researched in terms of both text and music by studying how various saints’ days and festivals were celebrated. The performance practice of Gregorian liturgy will be reconstructed in relationship to the physical space of the Cathedral and St. James’ Church, with the intention of understanding better how liturgies after the Council of Trent were designed, developed and experienced.

This case study will also enable the project to offer a broader, innovative perspective on the general role of liturgical Gregorian music in the emergence and shaping of identities. In this way, the project will also be supported by and contribute to multidisciplinary research projects on liturgical and religious reform movements.