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The Mary Magdalene scene in the ‘Visitatio sepulchri’ ceremonies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Susan K. Rankin
University of Cambridge


Since Edmond de Coussemaker published the texts and melodies of ten liturgical dramas in 1860, the fundamental role of music in these ceremonies has been recognised. Regrettably, however, apart from a few isolated and restricted studies, amid a wealth of general literature on the subject there is still no comprehensive critical account of the musical content of these medieval ceremonies, nor of the ways in which it changed over the long period during which the genre was cultivated. Precise and detailed musical studies have tended to discuss individual examples of varied types of liturgical drama, rather than make a systematic study of a chosen layer or tradition in the repertory; and enquiries into the manner of composition of the music have been directed towards looking for dramatic or emotive features, to establishing motivic connections between the various melodies of a given ceremony, or to postulating motivic connections between the melodies of a given ceremony and the Gregorian chant. All these studies neglect one of the most important compositional aspects of the liturgical drama — the re-use of old material — and thereby fail to offer true insights into exactly how the melodies in any ceremony or group of ceremonies were composed. Only in three essays by Walther Lipphardt – on the introductory scene of the Visitatio sepulchri ceremonies, the Magi ceremonies, and the Mainz Visitatio sepulchri tradition – has an attempt been made to trace the paths of certain melodies through different sources.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1981

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1 de Coussemaker, E., Drames liturgiques du moyen-âge (Rennes, 1860)Google Scholar.

2 Liuzzi, F., ‘L'espressione musicale nel dramma liturgico’, Studi Medievali, new ser., 1 (1929), pp. 74109Google Scholar; Smoldon, W. L., ‘Liturgical Drama’, Early Medieval Music up to 1300, ed. Hughes, Anselm, New Oxford History of Music 2 (London, 1954), pp. 175219Google Scholar; Krieg, E., Das lateinische Osterspiel von Tours (Würzburg, 1956)Google Scholar; Wagenaar-Nolthenius, H., ‘Sur la construction musicale du drame liturgique’, Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 3 (1960), pp. 449–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Elders, W., ‘Gregorianisches in Liturgischen Dramen der Hs. Orléans 201’, Acta Musicologica, 17 (1964), pp. 169–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Brandel, R., ‘Some Unifying Devices in the Religious Music Drama of the Middle Ages’, Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance Music: A Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed. LaRue, J. (New York, 1966), pp. 4055Google Scholar; Stevens, J. E., ‘Music in Some Early Medieval Plays’, Studies in the Arts, ed. Warner, F. (Oxford, 1968), pp. 2140Google Scholar.

3 Lipphardt, W., Die Weisen der lateinischen Osterspiele des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Kassel, 1948)Google Scholar; Lipphardt, W., ‘Das Herodesspiel von Le Mans nach den Handschriften Madrid Bibl. Nac. 288 und 289 (11. und 12. Jahrhundert)’, Organicae voces: Festschrift Joseph Smits van Waesberghe (Amsterdam, 1963), pp. 107–22Google Scholar; Lipphardt, W., ‘Die Mainzer Visitatio Sepulchri’, Medievalia litteraria: Festschrift für Helmut de Boor (Munich, 1971), pp. 177–91Google Scholar. A more recent study by Dolan, D. M., Le drame liturgique de Pâques en Normandie et en Angleterre au moyen-âge (Paris, 1975)Google Scholar, discusses the melodies of the Anglo-Norman Visitatio ceremonies, but does not attempt to place these ceremonies in a wider European context.

4 As will become apparent later, the term ‘Erscheinungsszene’, referring to the appearance of Christ, aptly describes the scene in the German ceremonies, whereas ‘Mary Magdalene scene’ is more appropriate to the French repertory.

5 These three stages (Stufen) were first identified and so named in Lange, C., Die lateinischen Osterfeiern (Munich, 1887)Google Scholar.

6 The designation ‘cult ritual’ is based on Flanigan, C. C., ‘The Liturgical Context of the Quern queritis Trope’, Comparative Drama, 8 (1974), pp. 4562Google Scholar; and Flanigan, C. C., ‘The Roman Rite and the Origins of the Liturgical Drama’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 43 (1974), pp. 263–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 An excellent history of the word-text of all Visitatio sepulchri ceremonies is de Boor, H., Die Textgeschichte der lateinischen Osterfeiern (Tübingen, 1967)Google Scholar.

8 The principal published criticism of Young's method is Hardison, O. B., ‘Darwin, Mutations, and the Origin of the Medieval Drama’, Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages: Essays in the Origin and History of Modern Drama (Baltimore, 1965), pp. 134Google Scholar.

9 2 vols. (Oxford, 1933).

10 De Boor, , Die Textgeschichte der lateinischen Osterfeiern, p. 223Google Scholar. This is the stage ii ceremony. Throughout this paper, ‘German’ is understood to refer to any of the German-speaking countries.

11 Lipphardt, W., Lateinische Osterfeiern und Osterspiele, 5 vols. (Berlin, 19751976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 The terms ‘French’ and ‘German’ are used here to denote not only those ceremonies which are of French or German provenance, but also those that belong to the French or German repertories.

13 In this and the following examples, the manuscript sources of the melodies are:

Rouen: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fonds lat. 904 (s.xiii)

Fleury: Orléans, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 201 (s.xiii)

Tours: Tours, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 927 (s.xiii)

Maastricht: The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 76.f.3 (s.xiii)

Palermo: Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS v20–4 (s.xii)

Origny: St Quentin, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 86 (s.xiv)

Vich: Vich, Museo Biblioteca Episcopal, MS 105 (s.xii)

Cividale: Cividale del Friuli, Museo Archeologica Nazionale, MS 101 (s.xiv)

Klosterneuburg: Klosterneuburg, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 574 (s.xiii)

Einsiedeln: Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 300 (s.xiii)

Chiemsee: Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, MS 22923 (s.xiii)

Rheinau: Zürich, Zentralbibliothek, MS Rheinau 18 (s.xiii)

Engelberg: Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 314 (s.xiv)

Braunschweig: Wolfenbüttel, Landeshauptarchiv, MS vii.b.203 (s.xiv)

Nottuln: Private collection. Facsimile in Ursprung, O., Die katholische Kirchenmusik, Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft (Potsdam, 1931)Google Scholar, plate vi

Gernrode: Berlin, Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Mus. MS 40081 (s.xvi)

Joachimsthal: Zwickaw, Ratsschulbibliothek, MS xxxvi. i. 24 (s.xvi)

Prague: Prague, Státní Knihovna CSSR, Universitní Knihovna, MS vi.g.10a (s.xiii)

Lucca: taken from Antiphonaire monastique, XIIe siècle, codex 601 de la Bibliothèque Capitulaire de Lucques, Paléographie Musicale 9 (Solesmes, 1906)Google Scholar

AM464: taken from Antiphonale monasticum (Solesmes, 1934), p. 464Google Scholar

Details of date and provenance of all ceremonies outside the French repertory are from Lipphardt, Lateinische Osterfeiern und Osterspiele, v.

14 Hesbert, R. J., Corpus antiphonalium officii, 5 vols. (Rome, 19631975)Google Scholar. I am most grateful to Dom Jean Claire of the Abbey of St-Pierre, Solesmes, for his help in tracing this antiphon.

15 I must again thank Dom Jean Claire for this information about the Gallican accentuation.

16 The lower accentuation is found on the word ‘Maria’ in the chants Alleluia: Ave Maria (Liber usualis (Tournai, 1944), p. 1265), Offertory Felix namque (Liber usualis (Tournai, 1944), p. 1271). It is also often used for ‘alleluia’.

17 Le Graduel Romain 4, Le texte neumatique, ii: Les relations généalogiques des manuscrits (Solesmes, 1962), p. 7Google Scholar.

18 De Boor, , Die Textgeschichte der lateinischen Osterfeiern, pp. 245, 262, 270Google Scholar.

19 Coutances: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fonds lat. 1301 (c. 1400)

Mont-St-Michel: Avranches, Bibliothèque Municipale, MSS 46, 214, 216 (all s.xiv)

Barking: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS University College 169 (s.xv)

Egmont: The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 71.j.70 (s.xv)

The provenance of the sources from Rouen, Coutances, Mont-St-Michel, Barking and Maastricht is certain. The Fleury provenance of Orléans 201 was dismissed in Corbin, S., ‘Le ms 201 d'Orléans: drames liturgiques dits de Fleury’, Romania, 74 (1953), pp. 143CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who suggested Blois as an alternative. Her argument has been disputed in Donovan, R. B., ‘Two Celebrated Centres of Medieval Liturgical Drama: Fleury and Ripoll’, The Medieval Drama and its Claudelian Revival, ed. Dunn, E. C. and others (Washington, 1970), pp. 4151Google Scholar; and Rankin, S. K., ‘Les drames liturgiques du ms 201 de la Bibliothèque Municipale d'Orléans’, Les Sources en Musicologie (in preparation)Google Scholar. The Tours manuscript is discussed in detail in Marichal, R., ‘Rapport’, Annuaire de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études (19691970), pp. 374387Google Scholar; this manuscript is not liturgical, and includes Latin poems, hymns, plays and vernacular poems. It is probably from the region of Tours. The ascription of the Ludus Paschalis in St Quentin 86 to Origny-Ste-Benoîte was challenged in Marichal, R., ‘Les drames liturgiques du “Livre de la trésorerie” d'Origny-Ste-Benoîte’, Mélanges d'histoire du théâtre du moyen-âge et de la renaissance offerts à Gustave Cohen (Paris, 1950), pp. 3745Google Scholar; but there is good evidence that this ceremony was in fact written for that Abbey. I shall be dealing with this matter elsewhere. The manuscript Madrid v20–4 was assigned to Palermo Cathedral by Husmann, H., ed., Tropen- und Sequenzenhandschriften, Répertoire International des Sources Musicales b/v/1 (Munich, and Duisburg, 1964), p. 92Google Scholar; and this provenance has been reaffirmed in Hiley, D., ‘The Norman Chant Traditions – Normandy, Britain, Sicily’, paper read at the meeting of the Royal Musical Association, 6 February 1980, to be published in Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 107 (19801981)Google Scholar.

20 The sources from Coutances, Mont-St-Michel and Barking lack music, and the ceremony from Egmont is almost entirely the same as that from Maastricht; thus only six sources are listed in this table. Whenever a melody appears in more than one source it is shown with a capital letter M, N, O, etc.

21 The example shows the Rouen melodies at their notated pitches, but there is ample evidence to suggest that the notator often confused C and F clefs; the melodies notated with final b may therefore be transposed down a fifth to have final e, as in the other French sources.

22 Frere, W. H., ed., Antiphonale sarisburiense (London, 19011925), [i], p. 64Google Scholar; Ferretti, P., Esthétique grégorienne, trans. Agaësse, A. (Solesmes, 1938), pp. 107, 109Google Scholar.

23 De Boor, , Die Textgeschichte der lateinischen Osterfeiern, p. 251Google Scholar.

24 Ibid., p. 326.

25 Ibid., p. 237.

26 Saxer, V., Le culte de Marie Madeleine en Occident: des origines à la fin du moyen-âge, 2 vols. (Paris, 1959)Google Scholar.

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