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Moderate psallendo: Musical participation in worship among Gilbertine nuns

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2007

Abstract

The Gilbertine Order, a monastic community for both sexes founded by Gilbert of Sempringham, attracted the attention of contemporaries because of the close proximity of the men and women who made up its members. Although Gilbertine canons, nuns, lay brothers and lay sisters were strictly separated by gender, the possibility of scandal aroused the suspicion of twelfth-century observers. Modern scholars seem to share the same fascination, even as this applies to the musical history of the order. Many Gilbertine scholars assume that the nuns of the Order of Sempringham did not participate musically in Mass or the Office, lest the canons of the Order fall into sin at the sound of their alluring, feminine voices. This article re-examines the texts that have prompted such assumptions, including the Gilbertine Institutiones, two papal bulls directed at the Order, and works by John Capgrave, John of Salisbury, Gerald of Wales and Nigel de Longchamps. The reassessment of these texts provides evidence that the Gilbertine nuns did sing in worship, albeit in a restricted fashion.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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