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Cantigas de Santa María

  • Songs of Santa María © Biblioteca Nacional de España

    Songs of Santa María © Biblioteca Nacional de España

  

Category

Literature

Date

mid-13th century

Original title

Cantigas de Santa María

The lyrical poetry written in Galician-Portuguese includes 470 songs known as cantigas. 426 of them are about religious themes. They are collected in the “Cantigas de Santa María”, the finest example of a medieval religious songbook.

They are written and composed in honour of the Virgin Mary, and can be divided into two groups: the narrative songs (356), constituting a compendium of miracles, stories and deeds dedicated to Our Lady; and the more profound, almost mystic, “cantigas de loor” or songs of praise, which are authentic prayers.

The poems are outstanding on many levels: their extension, variety of metre, the artifice in the collection’s organisation, the deeply emotive lyricism of the poetry, the miniatures (particularly the representations of musical instruments) and the musical annotations in the four original codices conserved.

In musical terms, they are considered the most important collection of the courtly monodic music of the 13th century, bringing together Gregorian chant, popular lyrical poetry and troubadour-style compositions.

  

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