Music and Art: Medieval

Explore artworks in the medieval collection as you listen to a selection of medieval music recorded by Early Music Princeton (EMP) undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. EMP is a University ensemble whose members study and perform a vocal and instrumental repertoire spanning the centuries from medieval and Renaissance to high Baroque, with a special focus on historical performance practices. 

Wendy Young, Director, Early Music Princeton 
Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Music Director 

Katie Chou '23 
Sara Hagenbuch, Staff 
Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Faculty
Frances Mangina '22
Reese Owen '24

Glenda Chen '20 
Meigan Clark '22 
Emily Weiss '22 
Rosamond van Wingerden '20 

Matthew McDonald, Graduate Student 
Takumi Murayama, Postdoctoral Research Fellow 
Dorian Pousont '21 

Gabriel Crouch, Faculty 
Peter Fisher '21 
Hank Ingham '23 
Theo Trevisan '21

Gisant: knight in armor
Gisant: knight in armor, ca. 1500

"Portum in Ultimo", 12th century (attributed to Bishop Ato of Troyes, dates unknown)

This early example of polyphony, a multivoice piece with independent melody lines coming together to form a cohesive musical sound, is found in the Codex Calixtinus, a manuscript in five volumes dating from around 1140 that includes stories and music celebrating the Feast of Saint Iago, or Saint James, the patron saint of Spain. The manuscript is kept in the Cathedral of Santiago in Compostela. The text of this beautiful piece takes the form of a prayer, asking Saint James to help the recently deceased purge their sins so that they may enter paradise.

Relief from a Casket: Scenes of Lovers and Game-Playing
Relief from a Casket: Scenes of Lovers and Game-Playing, ca. 1340–60

"Quant voi la fleur en l’arbroie", 14th century (Anonymous)

A motet is a polyphonic choral piece, sacred or secular, usually unaccompanied. This 2-part motet comes from the Montpellier Codex, an important source of 13th-century French polyphony, both sacred and secular. This motet is an example of a pastoral love song: it tells the story of a shepherd girl singing and playing the flute while she waits for her lover under an olive tree in the woods.

Virgin and Child
Virgin and Child, late 15th–early 16th century
Follower of the Master of the Dangolsheimer Madonna, South German

"Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen”, 15th/16th century (Melchior Volpius, 1570–1615; Michael Praetorius, 1571–1621)

This famous hymn is of German origin. The text, by an anonymous author, dates to the 15th century. The familiar tune first appeared in the Speyer Hymnal (Cologne, 1599) and was arranged for 4-part choir (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) by the German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609. The version for four voices in canon (similar to a round) was written by Praetorius’s contemporary Melchior Vulpius.

Martyrdom of Saint George
Martyrdom of Saint George, 13th century and ca. 1918-22

"Enforce we us” (15th century, Anonymous)

Saint George is venerated as a military saint in countries all over the world. Legend has it that he killed a dragon that was terrorizing the people of Silene, Libya, saving the life of the king’s daughter in the process. This English carol celebrates the tale, extolling George’s strength and asking for his protection, which will be given “if we love him with all our might.”

Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, early 16th century

“Virgo Sancta Catherina” (16th century, Nicholas Gombert, 1495–1560)

During the 16th century, the cult of Saint Catherine of Alexandria flourished, and a great deal of music was written in her honor. This piece, written for her by the Franco-Flemish composer Nicholas Gombert, is an example of a votive antiphon, especially written for a saint and sung on their feast days. This piece reflects the common themes of veneration and exhortation, describing her as a “Grecian gem” and a “lily of modesty,” “thrice holy and four times blessed.”