Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Kimberlyn Montford (Trinity University, San Antonio, USA)

The Libro delle laude spirituali (1589) and Religious Renewal in Post-Tridentine Rome

The spirit of religious renewal that initiated both the Protestant Reformation and Catholic reforms also inspired a prodigious increase in the number and size of lay congregations and confraternities throughout Cinquecento Rome, each dedicated to the ideals of personal spiritual devotions and charity. Many employed music to reinforce their religious and moral messages. Filippo Neri, the founder of the Congregazione dell’Oratorio in 1575, viewed music as a significant tool in attracting and teaching the laity. Neri utilized the congregational singing of laudi spirituali as a popular means of evangelism. So popular in fact, that in the period between 1563 and 1600, ten collections were published for use in Neri’s oratorio alone.

Many texts of the collections from 1583 to 1588—reprinted in the Libro delle laudi spirituali (1589)—were written during the fullest flower of Post-Tridentine zeal. The texts for these laude are a rich profusion of biblical, liturgical and classical references that blend a humble piety with religious legends and evocative allegories. Designed to mediate between the original Latin biblical/liturgical sources and the average worshipper, the laude text employs rhetorical strategies that skillfully draw the communal singers into the narrative while the music envelopes them. A reevaluation of the music and texts of these laude reveal them to be particularly illustrative of the Roman church’s celebration of its painful introspection and resulting self-renewal. It provides an opportunity to refine our understanding of the religious and musical milieu reflected in the popularity of these deceptively simple, humble sacred songs.

Last updated on 09 May 2004