Cantigas de Santa Maria | notes III
The Renaissance Players

Thou art my hiding place;
thou shalt preserve me from trouble;
thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 32 : 7

We mingle our praises with those of God's angels, whom we cannot hear.
Cassiodorus, 6th century

In order to better understand the continuous turmoil in the life of Alfonso X, and thence to wonder by what miracle he was able to devote so much time and energy to his vast creative-intellectual output, it may be beneficial to step back and consider what sort of man his father was and what was the nature of the problems he inherited on assuming the Castilian crown in 1252.

Even his contemporaries, friend and foe, considered Ferdinand III, son of Alfonso IX, a capable and pious man. They revered him as a saint (though not canonised till 1671). The modern consensus is that he was a man of unique achievements, outstripping Sancho II, Jaime I, Saint Louis of France, Frederick II and Edward I. During his long reign from 1217 to 1252 he attempted to wage war on the Moors and govern his expanding kingdom (Asturias, Leon, Castile and Toledo) with a firm hand. Thus he kept his truces but, when pushed by the dishonesty of others, he "hanged and boiled many heretics" — as he did at Loja, when the Muslims dishonoured the truce. As a terrifying warning to all Andalusians, he massacred the population and destroyed the town. By 13th century standards such brutality was deemed fair dealing.

It is recorded that he was a good warrior, an outstanding politician, able to thwart serious squabbles with neighbouring kings and his dozen ambitious sons. Perhaps his greatest attribute was his ability to act with control, to deal wisely with each problem as it arose. Even though the Moors were "infidels" to be dislodged from rule, Ferdinand was nonetheless capable of evaluating the work of the Islamic intellectual achievement to the extent that he even encouraged others to study that culture vigorously. Despite papal instructions he also refused to force his Jewish subjects to wear distinctive clothing (as both they and Christians were compelled to do under Muslim rule).

His victorious military campaign to reconquer Spain from the Muslim invaders was mounted as a genuine Crusade with the moral, financial and military support of the Christian Church as well as loans from Italian banks and Jewish tax accountants. The triumphant war-cries of his troops entering a Muslim city, as at Jerez in 1231, inspired by the holy cause of retrieving it for Castile and Christendom, were the words "Santiago!" and "Castilla!" After the success of his "crusades", the Church eventually reaped its dues for their support by sending in the Franciscan and Dominican orders to cover southern Spain with their convents.

Ferdinand, shrewd enough to settle and consolidate his battle victories, tried to balance the time spent on battle campaigns with the time spent either in his courts settling his nobles, negotiating treaties and settlements with the Pope, or in the reconquered kingdoms, encouraging people to come and settle, fortifying defences — in other words, all the relentless day-to-day business necessary to secure what had recently been won to ensure it did not slip back into Muslim hands. Thus, for example, after conquering Cordoba in 1236, he came back in 1239 and stayed there for a year organising the division of goods amongst the new settlers after the massive exodus of Muslims and making fair treaties with the outlying towns. In 1236, a relatively peaceful entrance of troops into an unblemished city of Cordoba had been ensured through Ferdinand's diplomatic negotiations with the citizens, who were threatening to destroy the city by fire and then commit suicide. Nonetheless, though this represented an exuberant victory for Christendom, Saint James and Castile, the citizens were so upset they abandoned the city in tears. A similar outcome occurred after the siege and capture of Seville in 1248. Having appealed unsuccessfully to all African Muslims and the Caliph al-Sa’id, hundreds of thousands of citizens abandoned Seville for Muslim Granada, Murcia, Niebla or North Africa rather than live as a conquered people (causing a disastrous cultural loss).

Ferdinand, the “kind man with good political sense”, also had a strong sense of historical and religious justice. He was well aware of the degrading impact of 995 when, after sacking the city of Santiago, the great Muslim dictator Ibn Abi Amir (known as al-Mansur) forced his chained Leonese prisoners to carry the huge cathedral bells all the way south to Muslim Cordoba. Two and a half centuries later in an inspirational gesture symbolically clinching the triumph of the Reconquest, Ferdinand III hoisted a Christian cross and his own royal banner to the highest tower of the mosque of Cordoba and then sent the stolen church bells back to the cathedral of Santiago.

Unfortunately though, he died before all the post-campaign problems could be settled. With the recapture of Seville in 1248 he had reconquered for Spain all of the Muslim-ruled kingdoms except Granada, where a vassalage truce was agreed upon. His son Alfonso's gargantuan political inheritance was aggravated by the swiftness of Ferdinand's last series of reconquest victories, leaving him with the kingdom still to be divided, and huge economic debts unsettled.

From the start, Alfonso X showed little of his father's diplomatic skill, upsetting the ricos hombres and the Church in the way he apportioned the newly conquered lands amongst them. He also had to deal with an on-going series of campaigns against the reconquered kingdoms which were fuelled by support from Africa. In these he was thwarted as much by poor management as bad luck. The latter included disloyalty from his own nobles, who were piqued not only by his distribution of territory but also by his new laws of inheritance and his refusal to grant them either tax exemptions or responsible jobs in government. The problems with his nobles were mainly caused by their greed but possibly too by a wariness of whatever new changes Alfonso might dream up. When Jerez, Arcos, Rota, Medina and Sidonie [sic, Medina-Sidonia] were recaptured by the Moors, he reacted by having a Crusade preached based on an out-of-date Papal authorisation. In addition, as part of his plan to defend Seville and reconquer Jerez, Arcos and so on, he allied himself with the Muslim governors of Malaga and Guadira [sic, ?]. Furthermore, he wasted money, time and resources with his ego-driven tilts at Italian and Sicilian politics, including a bid for the title of Holy Roman Emperor.

Nonetheless the stubborn and vehement resistance that greeted his plans for the reconstruction of his kingdoms into a single peaceful nation, economically and culturally rich, were not only personally disappointing but also weakened his kingly leadership, leading eventually to the brink of civil war. Members of the three estates of nobles (the ricos hombres, hidalgos and caballeros) — especially the first who were the most privileged but often feeble as warriors, rulers and administrators — were able to wreak havoc with Alfonso's rule. Peeved at the drain on finances, Alfonso's newly instituted legal system and unable to dissipate their acquisitiveness by plundering in Muslim Andalusia, they turned churlishly against one another and eventually, in 1272, rose against their king. As well, between 1275 and 1280 there was an almost continuous series of inter-family intrigues for the royal succession which further divided loyalties at court and put a tremendous strain on national resources. This was exacerbated by the fact that when his son and heir Ferdinand de la Corda [sic, Cerda]was killed in battle in 1275, the king declared his grandson Alfonso his heir, bypassing his second son Sancho the Fierce. As a result even Sancho became his bitter enemy and led a rebellion against the king in 1282. So desperate was Alfonso, finding insufficient support to quell this uprising, that he made himself more unpopular still by appealing to the Marinid sultan Abu Yusuf Ya’ub to come to his aid. Sancho eventually seized the throne and deposed Alfonso who had already, in one of his last wills, expressed his bitter sadness about recent events and laid an eternal curse on Sancho (whose relatively short reign was indeed bedevilled with conflict).

Despite the fact that Alfonso was not politically adept, his contemporaries called him “el Sabio” (in the sense of wise in scholarly, historical and artistic acumen) — as they had called his father Ferdinand “el Santo”. His inheritance included a great deal of unfinished business as well as certain of his father's traits of character, such as a commitment to his kingdom and the Church, a strong sense of history, dogged tenacity of purpose, enthusiasm for the planning and executing of great enterprises and an interest in scholarship. But he was also self-ambitious (as seen in his bid for the position of Holy Roman Emperor) and neither shrewd nor entirely honest in his political machinations. He died too late (seeing his ideas disregarded and an unsuitable claimant seize the throne) whereas Ferdinand died too soon (to complete and consolidate managerially the wars of Reconquest).

Being the son of Spain's greatest reconqueror meant that Alfonso had a lot to live up to. That his interests led him in different directions meant that disappointments and comparisons were made even though he showed himself no weakling in planning and executing martial strategy both in his father's and, later, his own campaigns.

In the end, there were too many balls to juggle: he was simply too busy with his literary projects, all of which were, from his point of view, necessary for good, solid government. They were meant to provide a basis from which his people and their rulers could live in mutual tolerance under fair laws whose principles were clearly reasoned and understood.

Perhaps there was also something too unexpectedly quirky about Alfonso's personality and too advanced about his utopian vision. Yet, even in his lifetime, he managed to reform and stabilise financial resources, hold regular parliaments and, with the assistance of jurists trained in Roman law, produce a national law code. After his death, when personality and the struggles for power were no longer relevant, his intellectual achievements assumed their proper focus as they were disseminated and studied all over Europe. His judicial reforms, the newly reformed Castilian language and his astronomical tables were in use for centuries (viz. Copernicus commented upon the tables in the 17th century).

His greatest achievement in and after his life was the great outpouring of historical, philosophical, scientific and artistic books which his teams of Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars produced under his close guidance. Apart from the lyrical contents of the Book of Cantigas de Santa Maria, which were in Galician-Portuguese, all the other volumes, including the Bible, were written in Castilian. He was responsible for establishing Castilian as a viable written as well as spoken vernacular language by extending its vocabulary and giving it a more flexible syntax.

It seems likely that Alfonso's scholarly propensity was another inherited trait, though his output far outstripped his father's. Ferdinand organised the translation of certain books into Old Spanish, such as the Fuero juzgo, the Visigothic legal code. It is also possible that he commissioned another, the Libro de los doce sabios, a book of wisdom literature and the first of its kind translated into the vemacular from an Arabic original. Alfonso certainly inherited his father's love of music and poetry. In his Setenario, Alfonso mentions how Ferdinand exercised excellent discernment in employing at his court the best trobadors and joglares (composers and singers, who also excelled at playing instruments). Alfonso himself was a talented trobador, writing all but one of his lyrics in Galician-Portuguese. He continued the tradition of maintaining at his courts all kinds of poets and musicians from the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, England and the Mediterranean regions who were welcome on the basis of their talents alone, regardless of race or creed (orthodox and heretic Christians, Jews, Muslims and converts from one religion to another).

Alfonso decided eventually that he would cease writing secular love songs for various women and focus on being a trobador for one woman alone — the best of all, the Virgin Mary. This he states clearly in the prologue and several other texts of his cantigas de Santa Maria. He organised a team of theologians, scholars, poets and scribes to collect together stories about miracles performed by the Virgin Mary, to devise hymns of praise, give them all poetic shape, choose suitable (or compose new) melodies for each, copy them out with extremely lavish illumination into a carefully designed format. The implementation of the codex as a whole was intended as an act of homage and a physical reminder of the beatitude of the Virgin Mary who acts as a merciful intermediatrix between mankind and Christ her Son.

Several precedents (by Gautier de Coincy, Gonzalez [sic, Gonzalo] de Berceo and Juan Gil de Zamora) have been cited for planting the idea in Alfonso's mind of compiling as comprehensible as possible a collection of Marian songs. He was already familiar with the omnibus format, for example, the collections of secular moral tales from India, the Kalila e Dimna, and his brother Fadrique' s Libro de los engaños (the Book of Sindibad), also possibly the collections of Arabic “miraculous-deliverance-after-hardship” tales (al-Faradj ba`d ash-shidda) and their Jewish-Andalusian imitations which were didactic in their intention to encourage men to good deeds and God-fearing lives.

Four different versions of the codex of cantigas de Santa Maria have survived of which only one is complete. While each is internally uniform in production, each is written by a different scribe (who may or may not be the illuminator). The layout and planning of contents are also different, as are the approximate datings of each manuscript. Since these are fully documented in other sources, some but not all of the details of each manuscript are given below in chronological order:

1. Real Monasterio de El Escorial, Madrid, Ms. b.1.2 (or E1), dated c.1280-1283, 361 leaves, over 400 cantigas, music above the text for all but four, every tenth song is a cantiga de loor and is headed by an illumination of one or two musicians with instruments, scribe identified on last page as “Johñes gundisalvi”.
2. Same location, Ms. T.j.1 (or E2), slightly later date, 256 leaves, 192 cantigas all with music, 1,262 narrational miniatures, possibly the first of a two-volume set, scribe unidentified.
3. Biblioteca nacional, Madrid, Ms. 10069 (or To.), 14th century, 161 leaves, 104 cantigas in semi-mensural notation, no miniatures.
4. Biblioteca nazionale central, Florence, Banco rari 20 (or F), date unknown, 131 leaves, 109 cantiga texts, no music on empty staves, richly illuminated.


In coming to terms with the massive problems involved in trying to recapture lost, ancient performance styles, we are obliged to search for snippets of information from all sorts of contemporaneous as well as recent sources (the unlikely, as well as the obvious) to piece together an hypothetically reasoned historiography. In the case of Alfonso X's cantigas de Santa Maria, this involves, at the very least, delving into political and cultural relations that evolved between Christians, Jews, Arabs and Berbers in Andalusia (the Muslim-held territories of the Iberian Peninsula). For it is important to keep in mind that it took almost eight centuries — from 711 to 1492 — to totally reconquer the areas under Muslim rule. It is just not conceivable that whatever cultural traditions had evolved and prevailed in the mid 13th century would simply disappear overnight, as it were, simply because by 1248 Ferdinand III had reclaimed all but Granada. In our deliberations we must seriously consider the oft-quoted statement of modern historians such as Americo Castro that there had evolved over the five and a half centuries up to the reign of Alfonso X a single culture — a triple symbiosis of Christian, Jewish and Arabic elements. In this on-going and admittedly unresolved polemic, extremely divergent viewpoints have been proposed including theories that Christians “dipped into” Arabic culture, resisted it stubbornly, or partook of it completely to the extent that al-Andalus became a “European Islam”. It was natural too that the struggle for Reconquest which eventually restored power to the Christian kings involved an assimilation of the best of the superior Arabic-Islamic world for it was, politically and culturally, the most powerful force Western Christendom had experienced. By the 13th century al-Andalus had become the focal point of Muslim intellectual life in the West. The Jewish contribution throughout this period was also of immense importance in linking and binding cultural elements.

When the Arab invaders settled in the 8th century, they did not find an advanced Visigothic culture for them to embrace and imitate, despite the achievements of Isidore of Seville and his followers. Under the emirs and caliphs there was an attempt, despite restrictive laws, to respect the “peoples of the Book” (Jews and Christians), at times marred by outbursts of religious prejudice in a continuously fluctuating ebb and flow of social stability. The local inhabitants who remained Christians (called Mozarabs), as well as those who converted to Islam (the Musalim and the Muwalladun), found Arab culture attractive. It would seem that any indigenous folk culture that existed was subsumed by that of the newcomers especially as, being a minority, they intermarried with the locals. This in time resulted in conversions and kinship links. The Jews were particularly valued for the high value they placed on education and the nourishment of the intellect. They enjoyed at times a relatively less persecuted position in Muslim Spain than they had under the Visigothic kings and were extremely useful as counsellors, administrators and trusted intermediaries in the political dealings between Christians and Muslims. The conversions that continued to occur in every permutation across all three creeds likewise occurred with houses of worship with, for instance, churches becoming mosques and synagogues designed architecturally like mosques. Centuries later, as part of the 13th century Reconquista both mosques and synagogues alike were instantaneously reconsecrated as churches (the mosque-like New Synagogue of Toledo became the church of Santa Maria la Blanca ; the great mosque of Cordoba — La Mesquita — was immediately reconsecrated as a church in 1236; likewise in Seville in 1248 three mosques were given as synagogues to the Jews while all the others including the Giralda, the minaret of the Almohad mosque, were taken over by the Christian church).

The “arabisation” of Andalusia occurred swiftly, in such areas as education, day-to-day living habits, the law, religion, poetry and, most significantly, in language. By 850 the entire population was bilingual, speaking the Romance vernacular and vulgar Arabic. Classical Arabic was the only literary language of the Muslims, who used it not only in their written works (philosophical, scientific and poetic) but also daily in the law courts, the civil service and business. Jews used it likewise but wrote the Arabic texts of their poetry in Hebrew characters. Liturgical Latin and Hebrew continued to be used respectively in worship and theological writings.

One of the martyrs of Cordoba who literally fought to his death against the assimilation of language and customs, “savagely twisted by malice” against the Muslims, was Alvaro. In the following passage from his Indiculus Luminosos of 854 he expresses his fury at the new fashions:

“Our Christian young men, with their elegant airs and fluent speech, are showy in their dress and carriage and are famed for the learning of the gentiles. Intoxicated with Arab eloquence they greedily handle, eagerly devour and zealously discuss the books of the Chaldeans [the Muslims]... knowing nothing of the beauty of the Church's literature... [but] can learnedly roll out the grandiloquent periods of the Chaldean tongue... make poems, every line ending with the same letter, which display high flights of beauty and possess more skill in handling metre than the gentiles themselves”.

The many other areas in which Muslim customs and interests were adopted and absorbed universally by the local Mozarabs, Muwalladun and particularly the Jews in the towns and cities include, as just mentioned, language and literature (particularly the content and style of poetic genres), Arabic names (surname, proper and family names), communal bathhouses, games such as chess, backgammon and checkers, polygamy, interest in grammar (Hebrew), debate, education, and — in Jewish worship — prayer rugs, lustration and biblical inscriptions in Arabic on the walls and beams of the synagogue.

In music and poetry there were certain specific borrowings in regard to composition and performance. The Arabic poetic structures — muwashshah and zajal — which were unique to Muslim Spain, were adopted from the 10th century on by Jewish poets. Of the many aspects of the muwashshah there are two (one in composition and the other in performance) which may relate directly to the Alfonsine cantigas de Santa Maria. Firstly, if a pre-existing muwashshah had a well-loved melody, a new, imitative poem might be made in its place. Hebrew manuscripts indicate this by placing the word “lahn” (“according to the melody of..”) over the imitation text. Furthermore, a new poem could replace an older poem by retaining its frame and/or its metre and rhyme. Thus Ibn Quzmān wrote in the last strophe of a transposed
muwashshah by the poet Ibn Baqī:
"What a zajal I have composed about you! Isn't it lovely, by the Holy Prophet!
I have composed it in the metre of al-ghazīl shaqqa-l-harīq"
Perhaps related to this is a practice which became customary and much favoured in the synagogue where the Jewish cantor would interpolate certain liturgical hymns in which his own words were sung to popular Arabic melodies. The less devout the melodies, the more attractive they were to the congregation.

The second possibly relevant aspect of the muwashshah relates to its refrain, which was indicated by writing the word pizmon at the end of every stanza. This word is explained by the 13th century Jewish author Tanhūm of Jerusalem (in his glossary of Maimonides' Code): “the matla‘ [i.e. the “first strophe, or prelude”] is termed pizmon because it is recited as a refrain [by “those present”] after the reciter has finished each verse”. It may be from this practice that the refrains in the cantigas de Santa Maria derived. It may also indicate that the refrains of the cantigas could be sung by “those present” (in chorus, by all the performers), while the stanzas were sung by the main singer. As the matla‘ was not always sung as a recurring pizmon, it may also likewise be the case that (for various reasons — storyline, or to accommodate across-stanza-enjambement) the refrain text was not sung after every stanza.

After 1252, the Muslims who stayed on in the reconquered kingdoms were called mudejars (meaning “permitted to remain”, “tamed”, “domesticated”). In the visual arts, particularly architecture and the decorative arts, art historians now refer to the “mudejar” style (for example, the 13th century Church of El Salvador at Teruel). But this art was produced not only by Muslims working for a Christian master but also by non-Muslim artisans upon whom the visual world of Islam (which in its own terms was also eclectic) had great impact. This was analogous to the impact in other fine arts such as the development and transmission of the uniquely Andalusian poetic genres: the muwashshah (“ornament”) and “zajal" (“happy noise”).

To put it as simply as possible, one might say that what was visible was copied and (unless destroyed) is still visible today. Surely, then, the same applied to sound? What was heard (the sound of the text, the melody, the accompaniment and so on), was copied but, apparently, is not audible today. This is because not even the most skeletal form of the music was written down (except in exceptional circumstances, like the Book of the cantigas de Santa Maria), let alone the details of performance, because music was transmitted by oral-aural procedures in a world where the art of memory was so highly developed that notation was unnecessary. Today we have to weigh up those small titbits of information that survive in written literature and compare them with surviving performance practices which might possibly be connected in some way. For instance, is there any facet of mediaeval Hispano-Andalusian music (e.g. basic melody, rhythm and metre, performance structuring, ornamental practices, role, type and placement of instruments) which is audible today in the rich Spanish folk traditions, in the Andalusian music of Morocco, or in the Sephardic traditions of the Mediterranean and Middle East?

A short selection of facts that we can build upon follows. At communal festival gatherings of middle-class Jews, the entertainment was provided by girls singing tender melodies, as solos or in chorus, accompanied by the “harp”, and by Jewish males singing “in the Arab fashion” with high female voices, showily dressed with painted faces. From the 13th century comes a statement that the Andalusians sang “either in the manner of the Nazarenes [=Syrians?J, or in that of the Arab camel drivers”. We know that Alfonso X's son Sancho IV employed 13 Moorish minstrels, possibly inherited from his father. One of Alfonso's Moorish minstrels (possibly depicted in the illustration above cantiga 120, in ms. b.1.2?) was called Abu Bakr of Ricote.

Alfonso also had in employ or as guest in his courts the esteemed Jewish poet-administrator Todros Abulafia (who stayed on in Sancho's service), the infamous soldadeira Maria Balteira (possibly depicted atop cantiga 330?), various poet-“heretics” fleeing the Albigensian wars, the renowned Provençal troubadour Guiraut Riquier and the Castilian trobador Garcia Fernandez who travelled with his wife, a Muslim soldadeira, between the Muslim and Christian kingdoms (possibly shown atop cantiga 300 where both male and female performers have patches on their sleeves, indicating they were Jews or Moors). Then in 1322, the Council of Valladolid (in north-west Spain) decided to curtail what was probably a long-standing and common practice by vetoing any further church employment of Muslim singers and instrumentalists.

Some modern scholars have identified the authors of several of the melodies in the cantigas de Santa Maria manuscripts. Might it be possible that some others of these came from Arabic sources — like the “re-cycling” practices already mentioned in connection with the muwashshah and Jewish liturgical hymns? Given that Alfonso had Jewish and Arabic musicians in his employ (as shown in the El Escorial manuscript b.1.2?), is it possible that the religious cantigas de Santa Maria were sung in the same way as the Arabic and Jewish muwashshahun [sic, muwashshahāt] (regarding vocal quality, singing style, method of performance)?

Nearly all the instruments depicted in b.1.2 have traceable Arabic prototypes (and names) and may either have been introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the steady immigration of scholars, artisans and artists to the newly established and, later, famous Muslim kingdoms, or were already in use and given Arabic names by the conquerors, possibly even being modified in construction.

Among the many culturally distinguished Arabs who migrated to Andalusia in the 9th century was one who offered a strong impetus towards the establishment of Arabic tastes in poetry, music and social manners. This was the renowned singer from Baghdad, Ziryab. He was warmly welcomed by the court of the Umayyad emir Abd al-Rahman II when he came to Cordoba in 822 with his trained children and slave girls to set up a school of music and song. This he maintained until his death in 857.

Walking hand-in-hand with musical performance were the numerous Arabic treatises on music theory and practice. The most comprehensive and influential of these was by the 10th century scholar al-Farābī:
Kitāb al-musīqī al-kabīr. The sections in al-Farābī's scientific treatises dealing with music theory were used in the works of Christian scholars such as Domingo Gundisalvo (12th century) and Jerome of Moravia (13th century), amongst others.

Quite a few reliable treatises on musical theory and practice were in use in the Islamic Middle East during the Abbasid period (from 750 to 1258) by such scholars as al-Kindī (d. 874), Ibn Sīna (d. 1037), Ibn Zaylah
(d. 1048), Al-Ḥasan ibn Aḥmad ibn cAlī al-Kātib (fl. 11th century), Ibn al-Haytham (d. 1039). The most comprehensive, ranking with al-Farābī's, are the treatises by Ṣafī al-Din (d. 1294) which revolutionised modal theory. Another extremely detailed Persian document dealing with the practice of Arabic music is the huge, 24-volumed Kitāb al-aghānī compiled by Abū 'l-Faraj al-Isfahānī (d. 967). This compilation, based on oral history, describes the performances of poets and musicians inside and outside the court, detailing many aspects of performance such as venues, improvisation, instrumentation, solo and chorus singing, organisation of vocal as well as instrumental preludes, performance gesture (kneeling, standing, walking, dancing), rhythm and metre and how to change them within a song.

A thorough study of these documents and their relationship to performing styles in mediaeval Andalusia is needed to confirm the informed hypotheses by which we have reconstructed performances of the Alfonsine cantigas de Santa Maria.

Given that the differences in religious dogma were the fundamental cause of the rifts between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, we can only wonder at the speed with which their places of worship were converted by reconsecration from one faith to another. For instance, when Ferdinand III entered the Muslim cities of Cordoba (1236) and Seville (1248) as victorious conqueror for Christ, within 24 hours he heard mass at the mosque reconsecrated as cathedral. The resolution concerning this practice is described in Alfonso X's eleven laws concerning Muslims — De los moros — in his Siete Partidas:

"Muslims may not have mosques in Christian towns, nor may they perform public sacrifices; and the mosques which they once held shall belong to the king and he shall do with them as he sees fit".

If reconstruction was not too far-fetched, if architectural style was common, or acceptable, to all, may it likewise then be not unreasonable to consider that these suggest a further analogy to support the proposition that texts addressed to the Christian deity (Christ via his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary) could have been musically presented in the prevailing Arabic musical garb (melodies, rhythms and performance procedures) as was the situation with the improvised Jewish liturgical hymns previously mentioned?


Unless otherwise stated, all transcriptions of music and text relate to El Escorial manuscript, b.1.2. Each of the CDs in this series contains ten items, to maintain the decimal quality of Alfonso's groupings, though in a different disposition of cantigas de loor and de miragre. The classifications of cantigas have all been derived from José Filgueira Valverde.

In the cantigas de loor the refrains are performed after each stanza; whereas, in the cantigas de miragre, they are often omitted after stanzas to allow the text to run in a continuous flow, particularly when enjambement is present.

A variety of musical textures has been devised to suggest different ways in which these songs may have been performed. The full range of such textures in our arrangements is available only across the series rather than within each CD, although, with each CD, we have tried to provide contrasts in a cohesive whole.

The original melodies of the cantigas on this CD are structured as virelais, with various modifications on a general A1 A2 bl b2 aA1 A2 circular format.

The recording has been organised to reproduce the acoustical ambience of a large, stone church as a fitting venue for dedication of these praises.

Notes by Winsome Evans © 1996

— • —

Once again we acknowledge our huge debt to the inspirational research of many scholars such as Walter Mettman, José Filgueira Valverde, Joseph Snow, John Keller, Peter Dronke, Mary Carruthers and Kathleen Kulp Hill (who so graciously gave permission for use of her ranslations). None of this would have been possible in the initial stages without Dr John Stevenson who supplied us with our first Englished texts.


director :
Winsome Evans, B.E.M., O.A.M.

patrons :
Professor Donald Peart
Emeritus Professor Sir Peter Platt

· Winsome Evans : bombarde, alto and treble shawms, tenor recorder, sinfonye, organetto, psaltery, harp, bells, tambourine
· Ingrid Walker : whistle
· Katie Ward : vielle
· Benedict Hames : rebec, gemshorn, bowed diwan saz
· Andrew Tredinnick : gittern, ud, chitarra moresca
· Llew Kiek : mandora, baglama
· Barbara Stackpool : castanets, small bells
· Andrew Lambkin: darabukka, daireh, tapan, bells

· Mina Kanaridis : soprano, reader
· Jenny Duck-Chong : mezzo-soprano
· Mara Kiek : alto, tapan
· Tobias Cole : counter-tenor

Musical arranger © : Winsome Evans
Producer : Llew Kiek
Engineer : Guy Dickerson, Megaphon Studios
Translation : Dr Kathleen Kulp Hill, with permission, rights reserved, © 1994

Digital editing and compiling at Airmotion Studios : Geoff Sturre, All Music Manufacturing
Mastering Engineer : Oscar Gaono, Sony Music
Typesetting : Natalie Shea
Cover art : Winsome Evans
Special thanks to : Dr John Stevenson for his generous assistance with text paraphrases


· treble shawm : Philip Levin, U.S.A.
· alto shawm : Gunter Koerber, Germany
· bombarde :  Glotin et Cie, France
· whistle, tenor recorder : Jonathan Swayne, England
· gemshorn : Brian Garlick, England
· organetto : Ron Sharp, Australia
· gittern : Arnold Black, Australia
· ud, chitarra moresca, mandora : Peter Biffin, Australia
· baglama, saz : unknown, Turkey
· vielle : Ian Watchorn, Australia
· rebec : Bernard Ellis, England
· harp : Frank O'Gallagher, Australia
· sinfonye : Bob Meadows, Australia
· psaltery : unknown, U.S.A.
· castanets : unknown, Spain
· daireh : unknown, India
· darabukka : unknown, U.S.A.
· tambourine : Jeremy Montagu, England
· tapan : Risto Todorovski, Australia
· bells : Whitechapel Bell Foundry, England

— • —

This CD is dedicated to Donald Peart (1909 — 1981), founding Professor of Music at the University of Sydney. An exceptional wit, lateral thinker, eccentric visionary, meticulous scholar — he was the flint who sparked my awareness of vast new worlds of music and demonstrated how to cheerfully ignore irrelevant obstacles.

Recorded at ST. Peters, Sydney
Copyright © 1996, The Renaissance Players

Walsingham CLASSICS