And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 29. september 2014

Chants for Saint Michael

Michaelmas is drawing to a close, and in celebration of this day I will here present a selection of chants and images of Saint Michael, the archangel who commands God's celestial army in the fight against Satan, and who will weigh the souls of the dead. He was a popular saint in the Middle Ages and is found in a great array of medieval iconography. Many religious houses were dedicated to him as well. For instance, one of the first monasteries in Norway - Munkeliv in Bergen, established before 1110 by King Øystein Magnusson - was dedicated to Saint Michael. 

Give him, The Archangel Michael, the power over the souls of the just as well as of the sinners
Lewis Psalter, Paris, 1225-50, Lewis E 185, The Free Library of Philadelphia
Courtesy of Katharine C. Chandler

The selection of chants found below comprise the first nocturn of Matins in the 14th century antiphoner A-Gu30 from the abbey of St Lambrecht in Steiermark, Austria. The texts are gleaned from the Cantus Database, and have been translated into Latin by myself. These texts would be sung as the first of the Matins service after midnight - most likely around three in the morning - which was the longest and most important office in the liturgy of the hours. Since the texts are antiphons, they would be sung before the psalms of the nocturns.

The accompanying images have been brought to my attention to Damien Kempf and Katharine C. Chandler, whose thanks I owe for these splendid illustrations. 

Michael and the devil
Gallica BnF, Latin 757, 1300
Courtesy of Damien Kempf

MA1: I will enter into your house, O God, and I will worship in your holy temple

MA 2: An angel stands by the altar of the temple; in his hand he has a thurible of gold

MA 3: Give him much incense to burn it before the golden altar which is before the eyes of God

Morgan Library, Hours of Catherine of Cleves, c.1440
Courtesy of Damien Kempf

MA 4: From the hands of the angel fragrant smoke ascends to the visage of God

MA 5: Give him, The Archangel Michael, the power over the souls of the just as well as of the sinners

MA 6: Angel, archangel Michael, messenger of God of the just souls, alleluia, alleluia

Widener 5, Free Library Philadelphia, early 15th century, Book of Hours, Use of Paris
Courtesy of Katharine C. Chandler

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