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Ainard of Dives and the Ste-Catherine-du-Mont office for St Katherine of Alexandria: ‘Inter praecipuos cantores scientia musicae artis’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2021



Orderic Vitalis writes that Ainard, a monk of Ste-Catherine-du-Mont monastery, composed a historia for St Katherine of Alexandria for use at his institution, which possessed the saint's oil-secreting finger bones. Through a series of historiographical errors, throughout the twentieth century it came to be believed either that Ainard composed not a liturgical office, but a prose vita of the saint, or that the office he had composed was lost. This article presents a survey of the oldest extant offices for St Katherine, showing that the office widely disseminated in German-speaking lands can be traced to Normandy, and through palaeographical and codicological analysis of its earliest source, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, nouv. acq. lat. 1083, to Ste-Catherine-du-Mont in the late eleventh century. The office contained in this manuscript juxtaposes newly composed proper chants for St Katherine with existing chants from a variety of liturgical sources that honoured established saints, and emphasises the power of St Katherine's relics. The contents and themes of the office suggest an agenda of legitimisation and cultic publicity on the part of its creator, which would be consistent with the aims of a monk of Ste-Catherine. If this manuscript is indeed from Ste-Catherine-du-Mont, it likely records the office that Ainard composed. This attribution is reinforced by a textual-melodic style and modal organisation that grounds it in a later style of chant composition, which Ainard – a south German by birth – would likely have been familiar with.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Nathan Anderson, Mary Channen Caldwell, Thomas Forrest Kelly and those who reviewed this article for their thoughtful reading and suggestions on bringing this project to fruition.


1 Walsh, Christine, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria in Early Medieval Europe (Aldershot, 2007), 721Google Scholar, 47–62. Walsh provides a thorough summary of the main events of the vita of St Katherine and discusses the absence of documentary evidence to prove the existence of a historical St Katherine. The cult of St Katherine likely spread to Europe through contacts between the Byzantine Empire and southern Italy by the tenth century, but it remained highly localised until the arrival of relics in Rouen in the 1030s. Throughout this article I use the spelling ‘Katherine’ unless referring to the monastery of Ste-Catherine-du-Mont, Rouen. Choosing between ‘Catherine’ and ‘Katherine’ in English, I have opted for the latter spelling as it is most consistent with the majority of medieval liturgical sources, as well as closer to the Greek origin of the name, Ækaterina (Αικατερίνα).

2 Ibid., 78. The gradual name change of Ste-Trinité to Ste-Catherine (referred to herein as ‘Ste-Catherine’ or ‘Ste-Catherine-du-Mont’) appears to have begun by the end of the eleventh century.

3 The oil secreted from her relics, referenced in chant texts and office readings, put Katherine in the company of other myroblyte saints, most notably St Nicholas. Poncelet, Albert, ‘Sanctae Catherinae Virginis et Martyris: Translatio et Miracula Rotomagensia saec. XI’, Analecta Bollandiana, 22 (1903), 423–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for further discussion of the vita and miracula of St Katherine, see Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 62–96.

4 Liturgical manuscripts, institutional dedications, wills, naming patterns and pilgrimage to secondary relics all attest to the ubiquity and embedment of the cult of St Katherine by the fourteenth century. See Jacqueline Jenkins and Katherine J. Lewis, ‘Introduction’, in St Katherine of Alexandria: Texts and Contexts in Western Medieval Europe, ed. Jacqueline Jenkins and Katherine J. Lewis (Turnhout, 2003), 1. Jenkins and Lewis also note the polyvalence of St Katherine as a devotional object, evinced by the many and diverse groups that claimed her as patron: wheelwrights, millers, the nobility, nuns, unmarried girls (called ‘Catherinettes’ in France) and students.

5 David Hiley, ‘The Historia sancte Caterine in Manuscript Napoli Biblioteca Nazionale XIII.G.24: The Earliest Proper Office for St Catherine of Alexandria?’, Musica e liturgia a Montecassino nel medioevo: Atti del Simposio internazionale di studi (Rome, 2012), 21–44, at 21.

6 The manuscript has been made available for digital consultation. BnF Gallica, Breviarium ad usum Rothomagensem,;2 (accessed 7 January 2021).

7 ‘Gerbertus Fontinellensis et Ainardus Diuensis ac Durandus Troarnensis, quasi tres stellae radiantes in firmamento coeli sic isti tres archimandritae multis modis rutilabant in arce Adonai. Religione et karitate multiplicique peritia pollebant, studioque diuinae laudationis in templo Dei iugiter inhiabant. Inter praecipuos cantores scientia musicae artis ad modulandum suauiter potiti sunt, et dulcisonos cantus antiphonarum atque responsorium ediderunt…[Ainard] fuit natione Teutonicus, geminaque scientia plenitus imbutus versificandi et modulandi cantusque suaues edendi peritissimus. Hoc euidenter probari potest in historiis Kiliani Guirciburgensis episcopi et Katerinae virginis aliisque plurimis cantibus quos eleganter idem edidit in laudem Creatoris.’ Marjorie Chibnall, trans., The Ecclesiastical History of Ordericus Vitalis, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1968–80), 2: 10–13. Thomas Forrest Kelly, ‘Medieval Composers of Liturgical Chant’, Musica e storia, 14/1 (2006), 95–125, at 112–14, has pointed out the variety of verbs that were used to describe a range of creative activity. Orderic's use of edo, edidi (edidit, ediderunt) suggests multiple translation options, but is consistently used in his prose to describe an act of musical or verbal composition (to use the modern English sense of ‘composition’). Extant chant melodies for St Kilian of Würzburg appear in later manuscripts and bear little melodic or textual resemblance to any of the extant St Katherine chants. What melodic similarities do exist may be attributed to references to modally and generically characteristic gestures in all chant cycles. Considering the temporal separation between sources, and the lack of substantial concordances or similarities (which could result from a number of factors), I am hesitant to consider this repertory as evidence for or against an Ainard attribution.

8 S. R. T. O. D'Ardenne and E. J. Dobson, eds., Sainte Katerine: Re-Edited from Ms Bodley 34 and Other Manuscripts, Early English Text Society, Supplementary series 7 (Oxford, 1981). D'Ardenne and Dobson's study was preceded by the foundational work of the Bollandists, especially Albert Poncelet. See also Giovanni B. Bronzini, La Leggenda di S. Caterina d'Alessandria: Passioni grechi e latine, Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, serie 8, vol. 9 (1960), 257–416; Hermann Varnhagen, Zur Geschichte der Legende der Katharina von Alexandrien (Erlangen, 1891).

9 Saara Nevanlinna and Irma Taavitsainen, eds., St Katherine of Alexandria: The Late Middle English Prose Legend in Southwell Minster MS 7 (Cambridge, 1993), 5.

10 Jenkins and Lewis, ‘Introduction’, 8.

11 Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 76.

12 Tina Chronopoulos, ‘The Date and Place of Composition of the Passion of St Katherine of Alexandria (BHL 1663)’, Analecta Bollandiana, 130 (2012), 40–88, at 67. Chronopoulos considers the use of the unusual adverb ‘celeranter’, as well as ‘tarinca’, the Latinised Gallic word for ‘spike’ or ‘nail’, as evidence that BHL 1663 was composed in northern France. She demonstrates that the main textual sources for this vita are the anonymous Consultationes Zacchei Christiani et Apollonii Philosophi; the Conflictus vitiorum ete virtutum by Ambrose Autpert (d. 784); Orosius's Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII; Virgil's Aeneid; a sermon collection by Petrus Chrysologus; and St Augustine's commentary on Psalm 113. Autpert's death in 784 provides Chronopoulos with a terminus post quem for the creation of BHL 1663.

13 Ibid., 86, 73.

14 Ritva Jonsson, Historia: Études sur la genèse des offices versifies, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 15 (Stockholm, 1968); David Ganz, ‘Historia: Some Lexicographical Considerations’, in Medieval Cantors and Their Craft: Music, Liturgy and the Shaping of History, 800–1500, ed. Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis, A. B. Kraebel and Margot E. Fassler (Woodbridge, 2017), 8–22, at 21.

15 Ainard (d. 14 January 1078) became the first abbot at St-Pierre-sur-Dives in 1046 or 1047, and it is likely that he composed the office while a monk at Ste-Catherine in the preceding years. Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 76; Veronique Gazeau, Normannia monastica: Prosopographie des abbés bénédictins (Xe–XIIe siècle) (Caen, 2007), 299.

16 In my doctoral thesis I refer to this family as ‘Franco-English’, rather than ‘Anglo-French’. James Blasina, ‘Music and Gender in the Medieval Cult of St. Katherine of Alexandria, 1050–1300’, Ph.D. diss., Harvard University (2015).

17 For the purposes of this article, I discuss only offices for which there is evidence during the earliest period of the European cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. There are additional extant later liturgies, such as an office identifiable by the initial Matins antiphon Inter arras idolorum, used at the cathedral of Rouen in the fifteenth century, and an office for the translatio of St Katherine, discussed in Sarah Ann Long, Music, Liturgy, and Confraternity Devotions in Paris and Tournai: 1300–1550 (Rochester, 2021), 66–80.

18 Michael J. Norton and Amelia L. Carr, ‘Liturgical Manuscripts, Liturgical Practice, and the Women of Klosterneuburg’, Traditio, 66 (2011), 67–170, demonstrates that manuscripts for women's and men's use at the dual Augustinian abbey of Klosterneuburg evince differing liturgical traditions. While manuscripts used by the community of monks employ the Norman-German office for the feast of St Katherine, manuscripts used by the community of nuns record the Anglo-French Matins chants, together with a Vespers liturgy completed with the Norman-Neapolitan Vespers antiphons. Even in areas in which the Norman-German office had been used, by the late fourteenth/fifteenth centuries, newly produced manuscripts contain the Anglo-French office with some notable exceptions, namely St-Catherine-du-Mont, Rouen, and St Catherine (Augustinian) Church, Nijmegen, Holland (GB-Ob Lat. liturg. 253).

19 Hiley, ‘The Historia sancte Caterine’, 22.

20 There appears to be little consistency among lesson texts in liturgical manuscripts containing an office for St Katherine. Lessons are variably selected from a vita of the saint (usually BHL 1663).

21 I am grateful to Prof. David Hiley and Dr Andrew Dunning for providing me with photographs of this manuscript; it is difficult to discern between English- and Norman-produced manuscripts from the period surrounding the Norman Conquest, due to the frequent movement of trained scribes between Britain and the Continent. The neume forms, particularly of the climacus and ‘hooked’ virga, are characteristically Norman. They are evident in multiple manuscripts firmly attributed to English institutions from this period, and so are not conclusive evidence in favour of Norman provenance. Typical features of late eleventh-century English Caroline minuscule are present in the script: e-caudata for the æ diphthong, which fell out of use by the twelfth century; a superscript number 2 above the letter t for ‘-tur’; q: for ‘-que’; thickened ascenders on S's; clubbed ascenders; feet on minims; and a serif on the cross-stroke of e. The similar shade of hair-side and flesh-side openings is consistent with English parchment production for high-grade manuscripts, as are the fine horizontal rulings as well as the vertical bounding lines on both sides of the text. Blasina, ‘Music and Gender’; Katherine J. Lewis, The Cult of St Katherine in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge, 2000), 1–44. The cult of St Katherine made inroads in England shortly after the arrival of the relics in Rouen, and long before the Norman Conquest. Lewis provides an overview of the history and initial manifestations of devotion to St Katherine in Britain.

22 F-Pnm n. a. lat. 388 (Evreux, fourteenth century) is the earliest exemplar of the complete Anglo-French office from a Norman source. The notated breviary F-Pa 279 (Caen, thirteenth century) contains the responsories of the Anglo-French office combined with the responsories of I-Nn XII.G.24 resulting in a fully hexametrical office.

23 Some twelfth- and thirteenth-century manuscripts with known provenances from the abbeys of Jumièges, Fécamp, St-Wandrille and St-Ouen – houses in or near Rouen – contain calendar entries, mass chants or collects for St Katherine, but few contain a full office, suggesting that liturgical expressions of the cult remained limited in geographic scope, at least in Normandy, for some time.

24 Hiley, ‘The Historia sancte Caterine’, 25, points out that the clivis, which signifies two descending notes, has a form common in Norman sources.

25 Chronopoulos, ‘The Date and Place’, 79.

26 Ibid., 81. F-R U.109 is ascribed to the abbey of Jumièges, although the presence of mass chants for St Katherine as well as a complete vita that concords with the lessons in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 call into question the institutional attribution.

27 Ibid. ‘Statimque de corpore eius lac pro sanguine ubertim defluxit in testimonio virginei pudoris ad laudem dei omnipotentis angeli quoque gloriosae martiris corpus accipientes exanimum in montem Synai detulerunt [I-Nn XIII.G.24: qui mons a loco occisionis ut fertur distat itinere viginti et eo amplius dierum] ubi per eam innumera divina virtus operari non desinit miracula siquidem de sepulcro eius fons olei indeficienter manare videtur quo per cuncta debilium corpora optatae sospitatis reportant gaudia.’

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid., 79–80. According to Chronopoulos, the named ‘Petrus’ is subdeacon of Naples. She acknowledges the questions raised by the attributions to ‘Arechis’ as translator, but stands by previous style-based attributions to Peter, subdeacon.

30 Ibid., 83–4.

31 Hiley, ‘The Historia sancte Caterine’, 29. F-Pnm lat. 1299 is a fifteenth-century breviary, also from Bayeux, that contains the same office. In addition to these broader concordances, there are also multiple examples of Anglo-French offices deploying one or more chants from I-Nn XIII.G.24 to flesh out Vespers, such as Vendôme, Bibl. mun., MS 17 E.

32 Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 67.

33 Unfortunately, I have not found notated versions of these chants and am therefore unable to verify their modes or analyse them melodically. There are also significant concordances between the additional chants in F-Pnm lat. 1027 and F-Pa 279. The first antiphon, In bello victus, stands in place of Hostis iustitie (in I-Nn XIII.G.24); the two manuscripts share the cycle of Lauds antiphons.

34 ‘Prudens et vigilans virgo qualis es cum sponso illo qui te elegit de mundo quam pulchra quam mirabilis quanta luce spectabilis inter Sion juvenculas et Jerusalem filias thalamo gaudes regio conjuncta dei filio.’

35 Fols. 234v–237r form part of an early fourteenth-century addition to NL-Uu 406 (labelled ‘hystoria de sancta katerina’ in the manuscript).

36 Although it was more common for secular offices to be monasticised, since the procedure of adding a fourth responsory to each nocturne and replacing third nocturn antiphons with canticles is a simpler procedure than reducing a monastic office to a secular cursus, Sherry Reames argues that the best-known office of St Anne was a secular office reduced from a pre-existing monastic office. See her ‘Origins and Affiliations of the Pre-Sarum Office for Anne in the Stowe Breviary’, in Music and Medieval Manuscripts: Paleography and Performance, ed. John Haines and Randall Rosenfeld (Aldershot, 2004), 358.

37 ‘R[esp]. O christi pietas, O virtus atque potestas / Virginis ex membris sacri fluit unda liquoris / Unde fides egris, infundit dona salutis V. Virginis ob meritum, manet hoc memorabile signum.’ This responsory for St Katherine is not directly related to the antiphon for St Nicholas with the same incipit text (O Christi pietas), although it may be considered part of the broader strategy of cultic embedment through association discussed in the following.

38 Victor Leroquais, Les Bréviaires manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, 5 vols. (Paris, 1934), 3: 418.

39 See note 27 for the full text of this epilogue.

40 Leroquais, Les Bréviaires manuscrits, 3: 418. Leroquais writes, ‘Les offices à douze leçons désignent une abbaye bénédictine que les offices de sainte Austreberte, de saint Wandrille et de saint Ouen autorisent à situer au diocèse de Rouen. Les lacunes du temporal et du sanctoral rendent une identification de cette abbaye assez laborieuse. La série des répons de la semaine sainte diffère de celles de Fécamp, de Jumièges, du Bec, de Saint-Ouen, de Saint-Wandrille et de Sainte-Catherine-du-Mont. L'octave de la fête de saint Denis (fol. 155) semble désigner l'ancienne abbaye de Duclair qui était en effet dédiée à ce saint. Je n'ose cependant affirmer avec certitude, faute d’éléments de comparaison. L’écriture, les initiales alternativement vermillon et vertes, les quelques feuillets notés en neumes accusent la fin du XIe siècle. L'absence d'offices en l'honneur de sainte Marie-Madeleine et surtout de saint Thomas de Cantorbéry semble confirmer ce jugement.’ Perhaps most significantly, Leroquais omits mention of the office of St Katherine and does not consider it in his discussion of manuscript provenance.

41 I am grateful to Tova Leigh-Choate for sharing her expertise on offices of St Denis. I was not permitted to consult this manuscript source in situ, so I am unable to give a full account of the structure of the quire in question. To rule out other houses, Leroquais compares the series of Holy Week responsories in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 with other extant Norman sources, including the two remaining breviaries from Ste-Catherine, F-R A.572 and F-R A.591. He is correct that the Holy Week responsories do not correspond between F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 and these two books. To my mind this is insufficient evidence to discount the possibility that F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 was used or produced at Ste-Catherine, given the three centuries between the production of the manuscripts and the greater potential for variation in Holy Week responsories in particular, as well as the lack of concordances with manuscripts from any other institution.

42 Matins responsories 10, 11 and 12 in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 are displaced to Vespers in F-R A.572 and F-R A.591. Matins responsories 7, 8 and 9 in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 are moved to the positions of responsories 10, 11, 12 and three additional antiphons, Credula virgines regina, Porphyrius princeps celi and Obsequio nives capiens are added to the second nocturn of Matins in the two later manuscripts.

43 Owing to its position on the modern-day Côte-Ste-Catherine to the east of the medieval city, with a dominating view of the city and River Seine, the monastery of Mont-Ste-Catherine was fortified and subsequently destroyed during the Wars of Religion in France (1562–98).

44 Other offices in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 include only chant incipits, or as little as the collect.

45 The feast of Austreberta unfortunately falls within the lacuna of the manuscript, which eliminates feasts from 15 January to 3 May.

46 I acknowledge the possibility that this is a manuscript from Pavilly which, if it were the case, would reflect the liturgical practice of its mother house, Ste-Catherine. See Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 86. Walsh also notes that the acquisition of Austreberta's relics provided Ste-Catherine with a link to a local saint, and that the monks of Ste-Catherine had to promote both cults in a way that ensured their complementarity instead of competition.

47 F-R Rm U.22, fols. 112r–115v (Rouen, thirteenth century), translated in Walsh, The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria, 173–81 (Appendix C). Walsh dates the composition of the miracula to 1051–94, shortly after the creation of the office.

48 The eighth responsory, O mater nostra, might also be imported. It appears in the earliest Anglo-French source, GB-Ob Bodl 126, as well as the liturgy for the Commune conjungium (which, granted, appears only in a very few sources of the fifteenth century). Although its text can be read as proper to St Katherine, with reference to the saint as Christ's ‘copulata’, in some manuscripts the analogous word is ‘sociata’, rendering the text general, or even Marian in theme.

49 Hankeln suggests that liturgicality is also contributed to by an archaising musical style. Roman Hankeln, ‘“Properization” and Formal Changes in High Medieval Saints’ Offices: The Offices for Saints Henry and Kunigunde of Bamberg’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 10/1 (2001), 3–21, at 10.

50 David Hiley, ‘Early Cycles of Office Chants for the Feast of Mary Magdalene’, in Music and Medieval Manuscripts, ed. Haines and Rosenfeld, 398.

51 Alison Altstatt, ‘The Music and Liturgy of Kloster Preetz: Anna von Buchwald's Buch im Chor in its Fifteenth-Century Context’, Ph.D. diss., University of Oregon (2001); Làszlò Dobszay and Janka Szendrei, Antiphonen, Momumenta Monodica Medii Aevi 5 (Basel, 1999), 21–32; Jean-François Goudesenne, ‘A Typology of Historiae in West Francia (8–10 c.)’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 13/1 (April 2004), 1–31; David Hiley, ‘The Music of Prose Offices in Honour of English Saints’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 10/1 (April 2001), 23–37; idem, ‘Early Cycles of Office Chants’, 369–99; idem, ‘Style and Structure in Early Offices of the Sanctorale’, in Western Plainchant in the First Millennium: Studies in the Medieval Liturgy and its Music: Written in Honor of James McKinnon, ed. Sean Gallagher, James Haar, John Nádas and Timothy Striplin (Aldershot, 2003), 157–79.

52 Hiley, ‘The Music of Prose Offices in Honour of English Saints’, 25.

53 Despite its irregularities and inconsistency in the context of the Norman-German office, there is no evidence of Surge virgo used in any other family of liturgies for St Katherine, or appearing in offices for other saints, with the exception of a textually adapted version of the chant found in a fourteenth-century office of St Barbara. Dreves, Guido Maria, Blume, Clemens and Bannister, Henry Marriott, Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, 55 vols., reprint edn (New York, 1961)Google Scholar, 25: no. 43.

54 The omission of Katherine's martyrdom in the chant-narration is significant and should be contextualised in the agenda of an institution that sought to emphasise the power of Katherine's relics, perhaps at the liturgical expense of her passion and death.

55 Hiley, ‘Style and Structure in Early Offices’, 159.

56 Cohen, David, ‘Notes, Scales, and Modes in the Earlier Middle Ages’, in The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Christensen, Thomas (Cambridge, 2002), 352Google Scholar.

57 Hiley, ‘The Music of Prose Offices in Honour of English Saints’, 25; idem, ‘Early Cycles of Office Chants’, 371.

58 Polysyllabic words of three or more syllables occur on goal pitches from 50% (3/6, in responsory 4) to 100% of the time (responsories 3, 5, 6, 7 and 12) among responsories. On average, 86.7% of polysyllabic words end on goal pitches. The analogous percentage range for antiphons is from 50% (3/6, in antiphon 7) to 100% in antiphon 8, with an average of 63.2%.

59 Transcriptions included in Figs. 6–10 are edited from the neumatic notation in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083 and the staffed notation as it appears in NL-Uu 406 and D-KA Aug. LX, which, among the earliest sources for this office, most closely correspond to the neumes in F-Pnm n. a. lat. 1083.

60 In this case, the second phrase truncates the opening phrase, followed by an upward expansion of the range and then a definitive undertone cadence. See Altstatt, ‘The Music and Liturgy of Kloster Preetz,’ 459–50; Dobszay and Szendrei, Antiphonen, 30–1, 55.

61 In antiphon 7, for example, the first part of phrase 1 is drawn from the lower fifth of the scale, followed by the upper fourth in the second part of the phrase (divided by the cadence and textual caesura). The second phrase is similarly divided into two sections, each defined by the lower fifth of the modal scale.

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