Mary, Music, and Meditation: Sacred Conversations in Post-Tridentine Milan

Mary, Music, and Meditation: Sacred Conversations in Post-Tridentine Milan

Mary, Music, and Meditation: Sacred Conversations in Post-Tridentine Milan

Mary, Music, and Meditation: Sacred Conversations in Post-Tridentine Milan

Synopsis

Burdened by famine, the plague, and economic hardship in the 1500s, the troubled citizens of Milan, mindful of their mortality, turned toward the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the creation of evangelical groups in her name. By 1594 the diversity of these lay religious organizations reflected in microcosm the varied expressions of Marian devotion in the Italian peninsula. Using archival documents, meditation and music books, and iconographical sources, Christine Getz examines the role of music in these Marian cults and confraternities in order to better understand the Church's efforts at using music to evangelize outside the confines of court and cathedral through its most popular saint. Getz reveals how the private music making within these cults, particularly among women, became the primary mode through which the Catholic Church propagated its ideals of femininity and motherhood.

Excerpt

And while you are working to recover from the blows of
Divine Wrath, do not allow the arms to rust which you have
to this point employed, exercising them continually in the
frequency of the holy sacraments, in prayers, in heavenly
[thoughts], in alms, in processions, in visiting the churches and
altars, and, finally, persevere in many other Christian activities
which, thanks to the Lord, you already have started well, in
order that you are able with these arms to fight valiantly.

—Nicolo Sfondrato Milanese,
Bishop of Cremona to the City of Milan, 1578

The coincidence of the famine of 1570 and the plague of 1576 with a sharp economic inflation that peaked in 1581 left the citizens of Post-Tridentine Milan feeling uneasy and prepared to engage with the mysteries of life after death in much the same way that many in the post-9/11 world were compelled to reengage with concepts of spirituality. the notion that God had sent the plague of 1576 as punishment for the city’s wantonness and worldliness and that he would stay it as a reward for appropriate demonstrations of spirituality had become strongly entrenched in the Milanese psyche by 1578. the confidence Milanese citizens of the era invested in devotional demonstrations as protection against divinely wrought iniquities is perhaps no more clearly seen than in Carlo Borromeo’s four civic processions with the reliquary containing the sacred nail, public displays of faith intended to . . .

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