Llibre Vermell de Montserrat
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Legends of Montserrat
Outside of Barcelona, Spain, is the legendary monastery of Montserrat, the site of religious pilgrimages for a long time, possibly going back even before the Christian era.
The monastery can be found about halfway up the steep, barren mountain. Only ruins can be found of the 11th-century Benedictine monastery, the new monastery on the site was built in the 19th century.
One of the most precious treasures from the library of Montserrat is a codex from the late fourteenth century, the 'Llibre Vermell' or 'Red Book'.
The manuscript is named after it's red velvet cover which was created in the late 19th century. 35 of the original 172 sheets in folio of this manuscript are lost today. Besides various other contents, mainly for liturgical use, one of the fascicles (folio 21v - 27r) contains ten musical works (notated during the years 1396-1399).
An anonymous scribe explains in the text of the book, the intended function of the pieces which were copied by him:
"Quia interdum peregrini quando vigilant in ecclesia Beate Marie de Monte Serrato volunt cantare et trepudiare, et etiam in platea de die, et ibi non debeant nisi honestas ac devotas cantilenas cantare, idcirco superius et inferius alique sunt scripte. Et de hoc uti debent honeste et parce, ne perturbent perseverantes in orationibus et devotis contemplationibus."
"As it happens that the pilgrims, while holding night vigil in the church of the Blessed Virgin from Montserrat, sometimes desire to sing and to dance and even so during the day, in the Church Square, where only virtuous and pious songs may be sung, some suitable songs have been written down here for this need. These should be used in a respectful and moderate manner, so as not to disturb those who wish to continue their prayers and religious contemplations."
Since there was no pilgrims hostel at Montserrat, the visitors spent the night in the church, thus rearranging the liturgical room into a hostel. The songs of the Llibre Vermell were meant to replace the traditional secular songs and dances performed by the celebrating pilgrims during the night vigil. Fitting to this task, the "Cants dels Romeus", the songs of the pilgrims, have a popular tone. Some Spanish traditional melodies were probably also used, but their original lyrics were substituted by religious texts which should communicate essential points of the christian doctrine of salvation to the faithful. The erudite and and well-travelled monks from Montserrat also combined musical influences from different European regions.
This collection is MP3 arrangements from the Red Book. You can listen to sample at the product information URL.