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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2010

Christopher Macklin*
Mercer University, Macon, Ga.


One of the greatest scourges of the later medieval period was plague. While there is a considerable scholarly literature tracing the impact of the dread disease on literature and art, the impermanence of performance has rendered the extension of such studies to the field of music problematic. These problems are to some extent surmountable in studying the fifteenth-century hymn Stella celi extirpavit, a Marian invocation unequivocally phrased as a plea for deliverance from illness. In this essay, it is proposed that the Stella celi is representative of the beliefs and skills shared by a broad spectrum of late medieval society in the shadow of the plague. Analysis of musical and textual features, and the contexts of performance, further suggest links with the artistic and intellectual concerns of the Franciscan Order, which may have thus enabled otherwise ephemeral music to be preserved as an enduring response to epidemic calamity.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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1 W. H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York, 1976), p. 5.

2 The plague of Marseille in 1721–2 is traditionally considered the last great European plague epidemic; however, epidemics continued unabated further east and some scholars have argued that the distinction has less to do with epidemiological reality than with a Francocentric construction of the European narrative. For more information see D. Gordon, ‘The City and the Plague in the Age of Enlightenment’, Yale French Studies, 92 (1997), pp. 67–87.

3 J. Ahern, ‘Dioneo's Repertory: Performance and Writing in Boccaccio's Decameron’, in Evelyn Birge Vitz, Nancy Freeman Regalado and Marilyn Lawrence (eds.), Performing Medieval Narrative (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 41–58; D. Steel, ‘Plague Writing: From Boccaccio to Camus’, Journal of European Studies, 1 (1981), pp. 88–110.

4 C. M. Boeckl, Images of Plague and Pestilence, ed. Raymond A. Mentzer (Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 53; Kirksville, Mo., 2000); L. Marshall, ‘Manipulating the Sacred: Image and Plague in Renaissance Italy’, Renaissance Quarterly, 47 (1994), pp. 485–532; Marshall, ‘Waiting on the Will of the Lord: Imagery of the Plague’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1980).

5 See C. Macklin, ‘“Musica sanat corpus per animam”: Towards an Understanding of the Use of Music in Response to Plague, 1350–1600” (Ph.D. thesis, University of York, 2008), pp. 9–20. In most of the published research which has touched upon this topic, discussions of music during epidemics have generally been parenthetical observations made in the course of efforts to contextualise the modern discipline of ‘music therapy’ within both historical concepts of the connection between music and the body and empirical investigations of music in clinical practice. The most valuable exemplar of the genre is W. Kümmel's magisterial Musik und Medizin: Ihre Wechselbeziehungen in Theorie und Praxis (Freiburg and Munich, 1977), which charts references to music in theoretical medical writings and medical references in theoretical music writings from ad 900 to 1900 to the benefit of both disciplines. However, Kümmel's discussion is limited to theory and gives no examples of what may have been performed.

6 ‘Dalle qua/li cose, et da assai altre ad queste simiglianti o mag/giori nacquero diverse paure et ymaginationi in / quegli che rimanevano vivi, et tutti quasi ad un / fine tiravano assai crudele, cio era di schifare et / di fuggire glinfermi et le lor cose, et cosi faccendo / si credeva ciascuno ad se medisimo salute acqui/stare. Et erano alcuni li quali advisavano che il / viver moderatamente et il guardarsi da ogni super/fluita avesse molto ad cosi facto accidente resiste/re, et facta lor brigata da ogni altro separati vive/ano, et in quelle case ricogliendosi et racchiudendosi, / dove niuno infermo fosse, et da viver meglio di/licatissimi cibi, et optimi vini temperatissimamente / usando, et ogni luxuria fuggendo, sença lasciarsi / parlare ad alcuno, o volere di fuori di morte o din/fermi alcuna novella sentire, con suoni, et con que/gli piaceri che aver poteano si dimoravano. Altri / in contraria opinion tracti affermavano il bere / assai et il godere, et landar cantando atorno et solla/çando, et il sodisfare dogni cosa allappetito chessi po/tesse, et di cio che adveniva ridersi et beffarsi esser / medicina certissima ad tanto male, et cosi come / il dicevano il mettevano in opera allor potere, il gi/orno et la nocte hora ad quella taverna hora ad quel/la altra andando, bevendo sença modo et sença mi/sura, et molto piu cio per laltrui case faccendo, sola/mente che cose vi sentissero che lor venissero ad / grado o in piacere, et cio potevan far di leggiere, per/cio che ciascun quasi non piu viver dovesse aveva / si come se le sue cose messe in abandono, di che le / piu delle case erano divenute comuni, et cosi lu/sava lo straniere pure che ad esse sadvenisse, come / lavrebbe il propio signore usate.’ Decameron di Giovanni Boccaccio: Edizione diplomatico-interpretativa dell'autografo Hamilton 90, ed. C. S. Singleton (Baltimore, 1974), pp. 1–2 (fol. 2r, lines 23–54 of column I and lines 1–2 of column II). English translation from G. Boccaccio, The Decameron, trans. R. Aldington, 2nd edn (Bury St Edmunds, 1982), p. 3.

7 See the fascinating account of these songs in H. M. Brown, ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Boccaccio’, Early Music, 5 (1977), pp. 324–39.

8 A letter from Sebastian Giustinian to the Council of Ten dated 27 Aug. 1517 reads in part: ‘His majesty is at Windsor with his physician, Dionysius Memo, and three favorite gentlemen. No one is admitted, on account of the disease, which is now making great progress. The Cardinal has been ill until now, which is the fourth time.’ Later that same year, on 11 Nov., Giustinian wrote to the Doge of Venice that ‘The King is abroad, and moves from place to place an account of the plague, which makes great ravages in the royal Household. Some of the pages who slept in his chamber have died. None remain with him except three favorite gentlemen and Memo.’ See Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. J. S. Brewer, vol. 2, pt. 2 (London, 1864), pp. 1149, 1188.

9 ‘Nam musica est etiam philosophia, sed vera philosophia, meditatio mortis continua.’ Adam von Fulda, Musica, in Scriptores Ecclesiastici de Musica Sacra Potissimum, ed. M. Gerbert (St. Blaise, 1784; repr. Hildesheim, 1963), iii, pp. 329–81, at 335.

10 The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, ed. E. MacCurdy (New York, 1956), p. 1052.

11 Spelling and punctuation regularised; Latin in Horae Eboracenses: The Prymer or Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the Use of the Illustrious Church of York with Other Devotions as They Were Used by the Lay-Folk in the Northern Province in the XVth and XVIth Centuries, ed. C. Wordsworth (Publications of the Surtees Society, 132; 1920), p. 69.

12 English translation adapted from The Black Death, ed. R. Horrox (Manchester, 1994), p. 124.

13 Cf. A. Hughes and M. Bent, ‘The Old Hall Manuscript – A Re-Appraisal and an Inventory’, Musica Disciplina, 21 (1967), pp. 97–147, esp. 104.

14 To date, the most substantial treatment of the history of the Stella celi in print has been the appendix in Margaret Bent's doctoral thesis, ‘The Old Hall Manuscript: A Paleographic Study’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1969), 329–33, and the extended footnote summarising her findings on pp. 147–8 of her 1968 article ‘New and Little-Known Fragments of English Medieval Polyphony’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 21 (1968), pp. 137–56.

15 The reference in the N-Town Shepherds play appears at the top of fol. 90r of the sole manuscript copy of the N-Town cycle (BL Cotton Vespasian D. viii), where after the shepherds have decided to ‘go fforthe fast on hye / And honowre þat babe wurthylye’ in Bethlehem, the anonymous scribe indicates that they first sing ‘Stella celi extirpavit’ (‘tunc pastores cantabunt · stella celi extirpauit · quo facto ibunt ad querendum christum’). See The N-Town Plays, ed. D. Sugano (Middle English Texts Series; Kalamazoo, Mich., 2007), p. 144.

16 English Nativity Plays, ed. S. B. Hemingway (New York, 1909), p. 261; U. Chevalier, Repertorium Hymnologicum: Catalogue des chants, hymnes, proses, séquences, tropes en usage dans l'église latine depuis les origines jusqu'a nos jours, vol. ii (Louvain, 1897), p. 601. Such nonchalance has apparently persisted among scholars of drama, as in discussing the same play Gibson characterised the Stella celi as ‘an obscure hymn rarely found in service books either in England or on the Continent’: G. M. Gibson, ‘Bury St. Edmunds, Lydgate, and the N-Town Cycle’, Speculum, 56 (1981), pp. 56–90, at 88.

17 E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400–1580 (New Haven, 1992), p. 257.

18 Noted for the first time by W. B. Squire, ‘Notes on an Undescribed Collection of English 15th Century Music’, Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, 2, no. 3 (1901), pp. 342–92, at 351. This work was greatly expanded and refined in Bent's 1968 JAMS publication cited above, and since that time other settings have been described in A. Barratt, ‘Two Middle English Lyrics in the Bibliothèque Mazarine’, Notes and Queries, 31 (1984), pp. 24–7, at 24; A. Wathey, ‘Newly Discovered Fifteenth-Century English Polyphony at Oxford’, Music & Letters, 64 (1983), pp. 56–66, at 62; N. Sandon, ‘Mary, Meditations, Monks and Music: Poetry, Prose, Processions and Plagues in a Durham Cathedral Manuscript’, Early Music, 10 (1982), pp. 43–55, at 53–4; Selections from Motetti A Numero Trentatre, ed. R. Sherr (The Sixteenth-Century Motet, 1; New York, 1991), pp. 67–73; and Sacred Music from the Cathedral at Trent: Trent, Museo Provinciale d'Arte, Codex 1375 (Olim 88), ed. R. L. Gerber (Monuments of Renaissance Music, 12; Chicago, 2007), pp. 163–8.

19 These works have been published and edited in the following volumes: Old Hall Manuscript, ed. A. Hughes and M. Bent, 3 vols. (Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, 46; Rome, 1969); The Eton Choirbook, ed. F. Ll. Harrison, vol. 3 (London, 1956); The Ritson Manuscript: Liturgical Compositions, Votive Antiphons, Te Deum, ed. N. Sandon, C. Bayliss and E. Lane (Newton Abbot, 2001).

20 Bent, ‘New and Little-Known Fragments’, p. 147.

21 B. J. Blackburn, ‘“Te Matrem Dei Laudamus”: A Study in the Musical Veneration of Mary’, Musical Quarterly, 53 (1967), pp. 53–76, at 58.

22 Cooke was sent to study at Cambridge in 1402/3 after probably serving as a chorister in the Chapel Royal, and he apparently did not formally vacate his fellowship at King's Hall until January of 1414. See Bent, ‘The Old Hall Manuscript: A Paleographic Study’, p. 289.

23 TNA, E.101.406.21, fol. 53 lists a ‘John Coke’ among Henry V's Chapel Royal chaplains and clerks, along with fellow Old Hall composers ‘John Burell’ and ‘Nicholas Sturion’. A transcription of all of the records pertaining to the Chapel Royal in the reigns of the later Plantagenets can be found in B. Trowell, ‘Music under the Later Plantagenets’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1960), Appendix III.

24 TNA E101/45/5, m. 11 lists a ‘Johanni Cook’ as a member of the retinue who departed for Harfleur on 6 June, and given that the names of fellow chaplain musicians Damett, Burell and Sturgeon are included in the same list, the identification is plausible.

25 M. Bent, ‘Sources of the Old Hall Music’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, Session 94 (1967–8), pp. 19–35, at 22; Bent, ‘The Old Hall Manuscript: A Paleographic Study’, p. 177.

26 The patent rolls for 25 July 1419 note the presentation of Thomas Gyles for the prebendary in the free chapel of Hastings recently occupied by ‘John Cook, late clerk of the chapel of the household’, which may well refer to the composer. However, as John Cooke (or Cook, or Coke) was a common name in fifteenth-century England, this citation is hardly conclusive. See Public Record Office, Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office: Henry V, vol. 2 (London, 1910–11), p. 219. For an overview of the conflicting references to John Cooke in the court records, see R. Bowers, ‘John Cooke’, in MGG 2, iv, pp. 1526–7.

27 As seen by the fact that most of the chronicles of the battle single him out by name in accounts of the numbers of prisoners taken, and by anecdotes such as those in the Gesta Henrici Quinti and the chronicles of Jean le Fèvre and Jean Waurin, which tell how Charles's life was spared when the English massacred many prisoners, and how King Henry V rode with him on the return to England. These and other many accounts relating to the battle have been collected and translated in The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations, ed. A. Curry (Warfare in History; Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000), pp. 37 and 165–6.

28 As Gilbert Ouy said after over fifty years of study of BnF lat. 1196, ‘ce n'est pas un banal livre de prières, mais une construction patiemment édifiée à partir d'éléments recueillis – ou, pour certains, très probablement composés – avec amour’. G. Ouy, La Librairie des frères captifs: Les manuscrits de Charles d'Orléans et Jean d'Angoulême (Turnhout, 2007), p. 9. The precise age of the manuscript and its contents are still a matter of debate. Based on characteristics of the illuminations and changes in Charles's financial fortunes after 1427 Scott (1996) proposed a date of c. 1420, while Ouy (2007) has argued from an analysis of the included texts that the manuscript could not have been produced before 1430, the year that Charles d'Orléans was reunited in England with his brother and fellow hostage Jean d'Angoulême. However, Ouy also demonstrated that two other MSS (BnF lat. 1203 and 3638) are solely in the hands of Charles and Jean, respectively, and contain many of the texts in BnF 1196, including Stella celi. Although it is thus highly likely that lat. 1203 and 3638 were written in preparation for the finished anthology, the assembly of the texts within each volume could have occurred at any time after 1415. As even with a later date of 1430 Charles's Stella celi is still the earliest known non-musical version of the hymn, this ongoing debate does not substantially affect the conclusions presented in this essay. For more information see K. L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390–1490, 2 vols. (A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, 6; London, 1996), ii, pp. 178–82; and Ouy, La Librairie des frères captifs, pp. 9–13 and 83.

29 See Bent, ‘Sources of the Old Hall Music’, pp. 22–5.

30 Assuming a breve pulse (reduced in the example by four to minims, following the practice of Bent and Hughes), the average phrase of Cooke's Stella celi is between four and five beats of the tactus.

31 Using a similar calculation to that performed above.

32 See e.g. Cooke's Ave regina on fol. 39r–v of the MS.

33 For example, Andrew Hughes suggested that the Stella celi's composition or addition to the household chapel's repertory occurred earlier than the rest of the music in the second layer of Old Hall, perhaps for an occasion such as ‘Henry IV's physical precautions in 1407 to avoid the plague centre of London’. Others, including Margaret Bent, accept a later date of composition and argue that the rigidity of its composition instead implies Cooke's setting was intended for pedagogical use, pointing to the exceptional amount of notated musica ficta present in the score. See Bent, ‘Sources of the Old Hall Music’, pp. 28–9; Hughes and Bent, ‘The Old Hall Manuscript – A Re-Appraisal and an Inventory’, p. 104.

34 CUL Add. 6668, fol. 112r–v. See also Bent, ‘New and Little-Known Fragments’, p. 147.

35 Norwich Castle Museum, MS 158.926.4e, fols. 133v–134. See also Wathey, ‘Newly Discovered Fifteenth-Century English Polyphony at Oxford’, p. 64.

36 Oxford, University College MS 16, fol. 151.

37 BL Lansdowne 462, fol. 152v.

38 The first of these poems is BL MS Harley 2255, fol. 103r–v, with copies containing minor emendations in Cambridge, Jesus College 56, fol. 73r–v; BL Add. MS 34360, fols. 132v–133r; BL MS Harley 2251, fols. 9v–10r, and Cambridge, Trinity Coll R. 3. 21, fols. 168v–169. The second poem, containing Latin glosses, exists only in a single copy in Bodleian MS Rawlinson C. 48, fols. 133v–134r. Both are discussed in H. N. MacCracken, The Minor Poems of John Lydgate (Early English Text Society, 107; 1910), pp. xxviii, 294–6.

39 S. Corbin, Essai sur la musique religieuse portugaise au Moyen Âge (Collection Portugaise; Paris, 1952), p. 374.

40 Prague, Strahov Monastery Library (Museum of Czech Literature, Strahov Library), D.G. IV 47, pp. 471–2 (fols. 236v–237). This tenor is, in fact, related to the tenor of the Trento cathedral Stella celi as well as the chanson So ys emprentid, as discussed below.

41 According to the Speculum perfectionis, which is believed to be the earliest legend of the saint, St Francis ‘wished some friars to be given to him that they should go together with him through the world preaching and singing praises of the Lord. For he said that he wished that he who knew how to preach best among them should first preach to the people, and after the preaching they should all sing together the praises of the Lord like jongleurs of the Lord’ (‘volebat dare sibi aliquos fratres ut irent simul cum eo per mundum praedicando et cantando Laudes Domini. Dicebat enim quod volebat ut ille qui sciret praedicare melius inter illos prius praedicaret populo, et post praedicationem omnes cantarent simul Laudes Domini tanquam joculatores Domini’). Latin in Saint Francis of Assisi, ‘Speculum Perfectionis’, ed. P. Sabatier (Paris, 1898), pp. 197–8; trans. adapted from D. L. Jeffrey, The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality (Lincoln, Nebr., 1975), p. 122.

42 See the discussion of the role of the Franciscans in the development of English and Italian vernacular composition in Jeffrey, The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality, esp. chs. 4 and 5, and A. G. Little, Franciscan Papers, Lists, and Documents (Manchester, 1943).

43 In particular the discussion of the links between the mendicants, the flagellant movement and Italian laudesi confraternities in C. Barr, The Monophonic Lauda and the Lay Religious Confraternities of Tuscany and Umbria in the Late Middle Ages (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1988), esp. ch. 3; J. Henderson, ‘The Flagellant Movement and Flagellant Confraternities in Central Italy, 1260–1400’, in Derek Baker (ed.), Religious Motivation: Biographical and Sociological Problems for the Church Historian (Studies in Church History; Oxford, 1978), pp. 147–60, at 155–7.

44 In the context of this investigation, one of the most tantalising pieces of evidence is that in the mid- to late-seventeenth century, Robert Bruce Cotton's first librarian Richard James made a note on the flyleaf of Cotton Vespasian D. viii, the manuscript containing the N-Town cycle and its indication of the singing of Stella celi in the Adoration of the Shepherds play. James's inscription reads that the codex ‘contenta novi testamenti scenicè expressa et actitata olim per monachos sive fratres mendicantes’, though unfortunately the evidence on which he based this claim is not known. For more information, see L. G. Craddock, ‘Franciscan Influence on Early English Drama’, Franciscan Studies, 10 (1950), pp. 383–417; and D. L. Jeffrey, ‘Franciscan Spirituality and the Rise of Early English Drama’, Mosaic, 8/4 (1975), pp. 17–46.

45 For a good introduction, see John Stevens, Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050–1350 (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 183–5.

46 Barr, The Monophonic Lauda, esp. p. 67; The Early English Carols, ed. R. L. Greene, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1977); Jeffrey, The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality, pp. 116–230.

47 G. Ouy, ‘Recherches sur la librairie de Charles d'Orléans et de Jean d'Angoulême pendant leur captivité en Angleterre, et étude de deux manuscrits autographes de Charles d'Orléans récemment identifiés’, Comptes rendus des Séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1955), pp. 273–88, at 284–5.

48 J. Zupitza, ‘Die Gedichte des Franziskaners Jakob Ryman’, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen, 89 (1892), pp. 167–338, at 248.

49 C. K. Miller, ‘A Fifteenth-Century Record of English Choir Repertory: B.M. Add. Ms. 5665: A Transcription and Commentary’ (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1948); The Ritson Manuscript, ed. Sandon, Bayliss and Lane.

50 The bibliographies of The Early English Carols, ed. Greene, and F. Liuzzi, La lauda e i primordi della melodia italiana, 2 vols., vol. 1 (Rome, 1935) are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of these important musical forms.

51 M. F. Bukofzer, ‘Popular and Secular Music in England (to c. 1470)’, in Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300–1540, ed. D. A. Hughes and G. Abraham (New Oxford History of Music; London, 1960), pp. 131–2. The melody itself associated with the chanson and the Prague tenor appears in some manuscripts attributed to Walter Frye (d. before 1475), in others attributed to Johannes Bedynghym (d. 1459–60), and in still others without any compositional ascription, or indeed any text at all. See the critical commentary in Walter Frye, Collected Works, ed. S. W. Kenney (Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, 19; Rome, 1960), p. viii, and the additional sources listed in Trowell's article on Frye in Grove Music Online (accessed 23 Feb. 2008).

52 J. Dean, ‘Le Rouge, G.’, Grove Music Online (accessed 23 Feb. 2008).

53 Noted by Bent, ‘New and Little-Known Fragments’, 148.

54 ‘Fratres vero Ordinis minorum et Predicatorum et aliorum ordinum accedere volentes ad domos infirmorum predictorum, et confitentes eisdem de eorum peccatis, et dantes eis penitentiam juxta velle sermus divinam justitia [sic], adeo letalis mors ipsos infecit, quod fere in eorum cellulis de eis aliqui remanserunt.’ M. da Piazza, Cronaca, ed. A. Giuffrida (Palermo, 1980), p. 83; trans. in The Black Death, ed. Horrox, p. 36.

55 Calculated from the figures provided in Jeffrey, The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality, p. 273.

56 Indeed, some of the rates are so high as to strain credibility. According to accounts consulted by the Franciscan historian François de Sessevalle, every Franciscan in Marseille and Carcassone died, and Perdrizet calculated that between 1347 and 1350 the order as a whole (including the lower orders) lost 124,430 members. F. de Sessevalle, Histoire générale de l'ordre de saint François, 2 vols., vol. 1 (Paris, 1935), pp. 144–5. P. Perdrizet, La Vierge de miséricorde: Étude d'un thème iconographique (Paris, 1908), p. 139.

57 J. R. H. Moorman, The Grey Friars in Cambridge, 1225–1538 (The Birkbeck Lectures, 1948–9; Cambridge, 1952), p. 79.

58 Sessevalle, Histoire, p. 146. English translation in The Black Death, ed. Horrox, p. 36.

59 The account of Grosseteste's ascension to the Lincoln episcopate in 1235 in the Lanercost Chronicle notes that ‘Vir iste primus cathedram scholarum fratrum Minorum rexit Oxoniae, unde et assumptus fuit ad cathedram praelatiae’. See Chronicon de Lanercost, ed. J. Stevenson (Edinburgh, 1839), p. 45. Grosseteste's own natural philosophy made room for the Boethian idea that the proportions of music were related to the humoural balance necessary for healthy living, and in his De artibus liberalibus he said that ‘every sickness … is healable through musical knowledge and sound’. Die philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln, ed. L. Bauer (Münster, 1912), pp. 4–5. The implications of this are discussed more fully in Macklin, ‘“Musica sanat corpus per animam”’, p. 65.

60 In many copies of the ordinances passed at the 1279 Franciscan general chapter, statue 11d reads: ‘Iura vero et phisica in scholis theologiae ab eodem lectore et eodem tempore non legantur, sed alibi et alias, ubi fuerit opportunum.’ P. M. Bihl, OFM, ‘Statuta Generalia Ordinis Edita in Capitulis Generalibus Celebratis Narbonae An. 1260, Assisii An. 1279 Atque Parisiis An. 1292’, Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 34 (1941), pp. 5–162, at 76.

61 J. Catto, ‘Franciscan Learning in England, 1450–1540’, in J. G. Clark (ed.), The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2002), pp. 99–100.

62 B. Kane, ‘Return of the Native: Franciscan Education and Astrological Practice in the Medieval North of England’, in M. Robson and J. Rohrkasten (eds.), Franciscan Education in England (in press). Astronomical ideas were intimately connected with medicine and specifically with plague aetiology, as will be discussed below. I am grateful to Dr Kane for allowing me to view a copy of this chapter in advance of publication.

63 Catto, ‘Franciscan Learning in England’, 99–100.

64 Ibid.

65 ‘Item, quod quilibet specialiter assit in aula singulis diebus sabati et quinque vigilis beate Marie immediate post primam pulsacionem ignitegii in ecclesia beate Marie quando cantatur antiphona Beate Marie, omni excusacione postposita, nisi grauis infirmitas aut alia racionabilis causa prius per propriam personam alligata [sic] et per principalem approbata eum excusauerit, sub pena quadrantis. Et si venerit post incepcionem clausule Funde preces etc. quando cantatur Aue regina, vel post incepcionem clausule Per illud aue quando cantatur Benedicta, vel post incepcionem clausule Resurrexit quando cantatur Regina celi, seu post incepcionem clausule Ipsa stella quando cantatur Stella celi; vel post incepcionem clausule Quia gennuisti quando cantatur Sancta Maria consimiliter ut absens puniatur.’ Statuta Antiqua Universitatis Oxoniensis, ed. S. Gibson (Oxford, 1931), p. 575.

66 ‘Solut. xxix Decembris [1487] pro factura duarum tabellarum in quibus figuntur rotulae antiphonicae, Stella celi, iiis, iiiid.’ W. D. Macray, A Register of the Members of St. Mary Magdalen College, Oxford, NS, vol. 1 (London, 1894), p. 16. In vol. 2 of his publication of the Magdalen register (1897), Macray also called attention to how ‘tables hanging in the hall with antiphons were repaired, and the organs in the chapel’ (p. 18). He also notes that both of these payments occurred in years where there was documented concern for the ravages of plague, as in 1486–7 the fellows and scholars of Magdalen were sent to Witney and Harwell to avoid the epidemic in Oxford (vol. 1, p. 17), and in 1538 beds were carried from Magdalen to the village of Water-Eaton and back, probably on account of plague-fear (vol. 2, p. 18). The antiphon was also evidently part of the repertory of at least the college chapel of New College by 1528, as their records indicate a payment to the precentor for the ‘noting’ of the piece, though whether this was in the form of boards as at Magdalen, or of more standard choirbook pages, remains unclear as none of the existing copies of the Stella celi has been linked with this institution. This and the other details concerning the evidence of performance were highlighted in the magisterial work by F. Ll. Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain (Studies in the History of Music; London, 1963), pp. 85–8, 158.

67 According to Pelikan, the Marian epithet stella maris (star of the sea) derives from Jerome's epithet for Mary as a stilla maris (drop of sea water), altered by Isidore of Seville to stella maris perhaps to bring it into congruence with the prophecy that ‘a star shall come forth out of Jacob’ in Numbers 24:17. J. Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 3: The Growth of Medieval Theology (600–1300) (Chicago, 1978), p. 162.

68 Ptolemy's reputation in the Middle Ages was founded upon two main works: the Almagest and the Tetrabiblos (‘Four Books’) or Quadripartitum. In the Almagest he described a model of the cosmos with the earth placed in the middle of the universe and the seven heavenly bodies (the Moon, the Sun, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) orbiting in concentric circles around it. The Almagest also included tables of all the data necessary for calculating the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets, which could then be used by knowledgeable astronomers to determine the relative positions of the planets at any given time. The Quadripartitum elaborates on these principles, describing the effects that the celestial motion described in the cosmogony of the Almagest had on the Earth based on their ability to heat, cool, moisten and dry and thus to affect the humoric complexion of living things. For more information, see C. Rawcliffe, Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England (London, 1999); N. G. Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine (Chicago, 1990).

69 One of the key texts of officially prescribed university instruction was a simplified textbook of Ptolemaic planetary theory, and generally a ‘measure of astrological competence was indeed one of the marks separating an educated practitioner from an empiric’ (Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, pp. 67–8). However, as Faye Marie Getz has pointed out, ‘interest in “university medicine” was not solely the province of the graduate physician’ and that ‘graduate physicans … owned fifteenth-century medical texts in English, and their less formally educated brothers had texts containing large chunks of medical material in Latin’. F. M. Getz, ‘Gilbertus Anglicus Anglicized’, Medical History, 26 (1982), pp. 436–42, at 437.

70 See in particular ch. 1 of the report, which begins ‘Dicamus igitur quod remota et primeua causa istius pestilentie fuit et est aliqua constellatio celestis’. R. Hoeniger, Der Schwarze Tod in Deutschland: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des vierzehnten Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1882), pp. 152–6, at 153–4; trans. in The Black Death, ed. Horrox, pp. 158–63, at 159–60.

71 In Simon's prefatory summary of the ‘plot’ of the work, the ‘lite et controversia istorum duorum planetarum’ (Simon de Covino, ‘De Judicio Solis in Conviviis Saturni’, ed. E. Littre, Bibliothèque de l'école des Chartes, 2 (1840–1), p. 217; trans. in The Black Death, ed. Horrox, p. 164), while in the poem itself he describes how ‘Judicis officium validis clamoribus urgens, / Et contra vitam rogitat committere bellum, / Pesteque mortifera vitalia fata minatur’. The inventory of books taken by Charles d'Orléans from England back to France in 1440 indicates that he owned a copy of the work while in captivity, which has subsequently been identified as BnF lat. 8369. See Ouy, La Librairie des frères captifs, pp. 50 and 94–5.

72 Trans. in The Black Death, ed. Horrox, p. 172.

73 To my knowledge, this is unparalleled in medieval art; even the so-called ‘Plague Madonna of Mercy’ illustrates the Virgin protecting her supplicants from plague arrows loosed by vengeful angels, not vengeful planets! For more information on the Plague Madonna, see Marshall, ‘Waiting on the Will of the Lord’, pp. 235–72; Perdrizet, La Vierge de miséricorde, pp. 137–49.

74 Representative of the latter usage is its appearance in CUL ii 6 2, which is a mass-produced book of hours owned in the later fifteenth and early sixteenth century by the Roberts family of Middlesex. On fol. 102v in an early sixteenth-century hand someone has written ‘Stela celi’ over a prayer against pestilence, and then in English to the right ‘At ye levation tyme say Stella celi extirpavit’. For a facsimile of the page, and discussion of its provenance, see E. Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240–1570 (New Haven, 2006), pp. 83–4 and 88.

75 This is particularly true of the Lincoln College notation, for which the only chronological information comes from the handwriting since the music was found on the back of a piece of endpaper used to strengthen the binding of another manuscript. See the description of the manuscript in A. Wathey, ‘Oxford, Lincoln College Ms Lat. 64’, DIAMM, 6 Jan. 2008; accessed 23 Feb. 2008. Slightly more is known about the other two sources; Lansdowne 462 is a Sarum Gradual which may have belonged to Norwich Cathedral, while Royal 7.A.VI is a devotional collection compiled at the Benedictine Cathedral Priory of St Cuthbert in Durham, with the Stella celi one of the last things entered in the manuscript in the first half of the fifteenth century. See Sandon, ‘Mary, Meditations, Monks and Music’, p. 47.

76 Sandon, ‘Mary, Meditations, Monks and Music’, p. 53.

77 Bent, ‘New and Little-Known Fragments’, p. 149; Sandon, ‘Mary, Meditations, Monks and Music’, p. 53. All images of manuscripts in Figures 1 and 2 are available through DIAMM.

78 Oxford, Christ Church Okes 253, back pastedown. See Bent, ‘New and Little-Known Fragments’, pp. 143–4, Pl. III.

79 Ritson manuscript pieces in stroke notation (what Hughes termed ‘playnsong’ notation) include the cycle of the Ordinary of a Mass lacking the Kyrie (fols. 111v ff.), Salve festa dies (fol. 119), [Sancta] Maria virgo intercede (fol. 119v), Salve regina misericordie (fol. 121v), Anima mea liquefacta (fol. 126v), and Nunc Jesu te petimus (fol. 128v). A. Hughes, ‘The Choir in Fifteenth-Century English Music: Non-Mensural Polyphony’, in Gustave Reese and Robert J. Snow (eds.), Essays in Musicology in Honor of Dragan Plamenac on his 70th Birthday (New York, 1977), pp. 127–45.

80 Hughes, ‘The Choir in Fifteenth-Century English Music’, pp. 128–33, 139.