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Harmonia Time Capsule: 1163

Let’s take a quick look back in time . . . to the year 1163. The news is of death and rebirth.

From Abaelard and His Pupil, Heloisa

Photo: Melissa Snell (about.com)

Detail from "Abaelard and His Pupil, Heloisa," a romantic depiction of student and teacher painted by Edmund Blair Leighton in 1882.

Héloïse d’Argenteuil, a French nun, writer, and renowned scholar, requests that her body be buried alongside that of her lover Pierre Abélard.  To this day, doubt exists as to whether Héloïse and Abélard remain physically separated in death, as they were throughout much of life.  Two Parisian cemeteries lay claim to the remains of Abélard and Héloïse.  The precise location of their resting place is still unknown.

In that same year, Saint-Étienne (or St Stephen’s), which had stood since the 4th century, gave way to what would become Notre Dame de Paris.  The year 1163 marks the laying of Notre Dame’s corner stone.  According to myth, the construction of a new cathedral near the Right Bank of the River Seine was masterminded by Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, who sketched his glorious vision of Notre Dame de Paris on the ground before Saint-Étienne.  It is uncertain whether Maurice de Sully or Pope Alexander III–both of whom were present at the foundation laying ceremony—laid Notre Dame’s corner stone.

The construction of Notre Dame de Paris coincides with the development of musical practices that would come to be codified in the “Magnus Liber,” the “Great Book” of organum.  The Magnus Liber Organi of master Leonin may be one of the first large-scale musical undertakings of any composer known to us today.  A 13th-century English music theorist known as Anonymous IV names both Leonin and Perotin as greatest “composers” of different types of organum.

Like the foundation supporting Notre Dame Cathedral’s towering framework, the foundation for organum is plainchant.  Plainchant served as a musical foundation for a polyphonic framework of multiple voices.

Music excerpt

Léonin (fl. ca. 1150): Viderunt Omnes
Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow, director — Music of the Gothic Era (Archiv Produktion , 2002)
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Additional information about people, music, and events mentioned in this time capsule

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Peter Abelard and Heloise
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The Letters Of Heloise & Abelard
Claire Bloom and Claude Rains
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album cover

Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography
James Burge
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album cover

Notre Dame de Paris; a short history & description of the cathedral, with some account of the churches which preceded it
Charles Hiatt
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Leonin, Perotin: Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral
Tony Peregrinus and more
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album cover

Perotin
The Hilliard Ensemble
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Leonin: Magister Leoninus-Sacred Music from 12-century Paris
Red Byrd
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album cover

Music and Ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500-1550 (Cambridge Studies in Music)
Craig Wright
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album cover

Léonin (fl. ca. 1150): Viderunt Omnes
Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow, director — Music of the Gothic Era (Archiv Produktion , 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Peter Abelard and Heloise
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
The Letters Of Heloise & Abelard
Claire Bloom and Claude Rains
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography
James Burge
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Notre Dame de Paris; a short history & description of the cathedral, with some account of the churches which preceded it
Charles Hiatt
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Leonin, Perotin: Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral
Tony Peregrinus and more
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Perotin
The Hilliard Ensemble
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Leonin: Magister Leoninus-Sacred Music from 12-century Paris
Red Byrd
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Music and Ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500-1550 (Cambridge Studies in Music)
Craig Wright
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Harmonia Early Music

Harmonia Early Music is a nationally syndicated weekly early music radio program, podcast and blog produced by WFIU Public Radio.

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