Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The Cistercian Musical Practice in Eighteenth-Century Silesia in Light of Surviving Musical and Archival Collections

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

The Cistercian Musical Practice in Eighteenth-Century Silesia in Light of Surviving Musical and Archival Collections

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Cistercians arrived in Silesia, then part of the Kingdom of Poland, in the mid-twelfth century. Located in the border area of Czech, Polish, and German lands, the region often changed its state belonging and was a territory of confessional wars and disputes. The capital of the region continues to be Wroclaw. In the years 1526-1741, Silesia belonged to the Catholic Habsburg Monarchy. In 1651, a separate Silesian province of Cistercians was formed, which included male monasteries in Lubiaz, Krzeszow, Henrykow, Kamieniec, Rudy, and Jemielnica, and a female convent in Trzebnica (1). Earlier, they belonged to the so-called Czech-Moravian-Silesian-Lusatian Vicariate (2). In the second half of the seventeenth century, after the end of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Cistercian monasteries flourished both economically and culturally. Temples and residences were rebuilt in the baroque style. The Cistercian artistic patronage created perfect working conditions for the best artists of this time active in Silesia. Enormous numbers of baroque works of art--the monastery church of Lubiaz alone displayed sixty paintings by Michael Willmann (1630-1706) (3--)transformed the interiors of modest medieval oratories of monastic orders into spaces for religious instruction where the visual art was aimed to complete the substance proclaimed by monks from the pulpit. The music played at liturgy, especially on feast days, was as far removed from the original Cistercian ideals of simplicity as were the interiors of the baroque-styled temples. It was complementary to the latter's splendorous decoration and served the same goal as the fine arts. When in 1741 Silesia found itself under the rule of Protestant Prussia, a gradual regression began taking place in Cistercian monasteries. Nonetheless, music there always remained at a high level. The end of Cistercian activity was brought about by the dissolution of Silesian monasteries in 1810.

The Displacement of Musical Collections and Their State of Preservation

The musical culture of the Cistercians is documented in contemporary times by liturgical books containing Gregorian monody (medieval and modern) and musical manuscripts with vocal-instrumental works used in monasteries during the eighteenth century. After the dissolution of monasteries, musical collections and monastic archives were irreversibly dispersed. The most valuable musical books and manuscripts were first transported from the monasteries to the Silesian Central Library (Schlesische Central-bibliothek) (4) in Wroclaw, while less valued books were left in place for parish use or given out to local schools or libraries. Lists of the musical materials transported from the monasteries have mostly not survived. We only know that eleven musical manuscripts and fifteen old musical prints were transported from Henrykow to Wroclaw (5); almost all survived until today. An unknown number of female Cistercian manuscripts in Trzebnica were left at the monastery for the local choir rector's use (6); today, those manuscripts are no longer in the parish, only the portion transported to Wroclaw having been preserved. Another fate was met by an enormous Cistercian musical collection in Krzeszow; only the most valuable items were transported to Wroclaw, while most musical manuscripts were left in place, where they are still kept (presently a convent of the Benedictine Nuns) (7). The musical materials gathered in Wroclaw from the closed monastic libraries were forwarded in 1814 to the library of the newly created Royal Academic Institute of Church Music (Konigliches Akademisches Institut fur Kirchenmusik) (8). In 1920, the Institute was transformed into a musicological university unit (Musikalisches Institut bei der Universitat Breslau). The effect of concentrated inventory work in the library was a publication by Ernst Kirsch in 1922 (9). It contained a history of the library and a description of the collection. The library was active until 1941, following which the collections were evacuated in fear of air strikes. …

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