Liège Liturgical Chant

The Celebration of the Founder Bishops of Liège

I’m happy to provide a link to a wonderful book by Catherine Saucier that I reviewed recently for Early Music, and which is now available on the website Oxford University Press through advance access. I’d highly recommend reading this book not only to those interested in medieval liturgy or the city of Liège, but to anyone interested in the involvement of individual actors in the structuring the narrative of their past, and in particular their civic past, and in how we as cultural historians might recover that narrative through careful analysis and consideration of the the partial remnants that survive in the archives, liturgical books, literature, art, and architecture of a medieval city. The link to the PDF by kind courtesy of Oxford University Press follows, as does the citation and first paragraph of my review.

Karen Desmond, ‘Clergy and City’. Book Review of A Paradise of Priests: Singing the Civic and Episcopal Hagiography of Medieval Liège by Catherine Saucier (University of Rochester Press, 2014) in Early Music (April 2015).

Full Text:


In A Paradise of Priests, Catherine Saucier weaves a compelling narrative centered on the lives of Liège’s founder-bishops as celebrated in the hagiography, art, rituals, and music made, enacted, and reenacted by the medieval clerical population of the Liège. Through an expert examination of an impressively vast array of sources—including archival, liturgical, artistic, and hagiographic—Saucier analyses the changing image of the city and its founder-bishops through nine centuries of documentary record. The story centers on the celebration of the lives and deaths of three bishops—Theodard (d. ca. 668), Lambert (d. ca. 700), and Hubert (d. 727)—who were credited with the foundation, promotion, and protection of Liège. Liège, a large and wealthy city, and capital of the prince-bishopric from 985, had large numbers of secular clergy, encompassing a cathedral and seven collegiate church chapters totaling (in the fourteenth century) between 700 to 800 canons (p. 32). It was, as Petrarch observed, a ‘place noted for its clergy’ (p. 4).

Liturgical Chant Manuscripts Medieval Music Theory

Review of Ars musicae septentrionalis

I’m a bit late posting this but my review of Ars musica septentrionalis: De l’interprétation du patrimoine musical à l’historiographie, ed. Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet (Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2011) was published in Notes over the summer (Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 68 (2012), pp. 811-814). Here’s the first paragraph:

This collection of essays was prompted by the bicentennial birth anniversary of Charles-Edmond-Henri de Coussemaker (1805–76). The volume celebrates the music of northern France (“ars musica septentrionalis”) from ninth-century chant to the polyphony of the fifteenth century, and had its first incarnation as a conference held in Cambrai and Douai in 2005, directed by Barbara Haggh and Frédéric Billiet. The conference was held concurrently with an exhibition of manuscripts held in Douai, Cambrai, and Bailleul (the birthplace of Coussemaker). The exhibition inspired the publication of a separate book that included a catalog and discussion of Coussemaker’s library (Bruno Bouckaert, Mémoires du chant. Le livre de musique d’Isidore de Séville à Edmond de Coussemaker [Neerpelt: Alamire; Lille: Ad fugam, 2007]); the byproduct of the scholarly conference is the book of essays under review here. An overarching theme of these essays is a concentration, for the most part, on primary source research, including both manuscript studies and archival research. Questions of repertory transmission and interpretation, liturgical issues, and historiography are broached via the examination of certain northern French manuscripts, some of the most beautiful examples of which were owned by Coussemaker, as noted by Billiet in his introduction to the volume (p. 8).