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15 January 2013


Selected illustrations from Romani Collegii Societatus Jesu Musaeum Celeberrimum, a description of Kircher's museum written by Giorgio de Sepibus and published in 1678:

14 January 2013


Timothy J. Crowley:
The celebration of the Festum Asinorum in medieval and ecclesiastical circles was a pastime in which all, from the dignitaries in the upper stalls of the sanctuary to the humblest among the esclaffardi, participated. The feast dates for the 11th century, though the source which suggested it is much older [the Christmas Eve liturgy of the Processus Prophetarum] ... In all this the part that pleased the congregation was the rôle of Balaam and the Ass; hence the popular designation of the Processus Prophetarum as the Feast of the Ass.
The part of Balaam was soon dissociated from its surroundings and expanded into an independent drama. The Rouen rubrics direct that two messengers be sent by King Balaak to bring forth the prophet. Balaam advances riding on a gorgeously caparisoned ass (a wooden, or hobby, ass, for the rubric immediately bids somebody to hide beneath the trappings - not an enviable position when the further direction to the rider was carried out - and let him goad the ass with his spurs). From the Chester pageant it is clear that the prophet rode on a wooden animal, since the rubric supposes that the speaker for the beast is in asinâ. Then follows the scene in which the ass meets the angered angel and protests at length against the cruelty of the rider.
Once detached from the parent stem, the Festum Asinorum branched in various directions. In the Beauvais 13th century document, quoted by the editors of Ducange, the Feast of Asses is already an independent trope with the date and purpose of its celebration changed. At Beauvais the Ass may have continued his minor role of enlivening the long procession of Prophets. On the 14th of January, however, he discharged an important function in that city's festivities. On the feast of the Flight into Egypt the most beautiful girl in the city, with a pretty child in her arms, was placed on a richly draped ass, and conducted with religious gravity to St. Stephen's Church. The Ass (possibly a wooden figure) was stationed at the right of the altar, and the Mass was begun. After the Introit a Latin Prose was sung... Mass was continued, and at its end ... the following direction was observed:
In fine Misse sacerdos, versus ad populum, vice Ite, Missa est, ter hinhannabit: populus vero, vice Deo Gratias, ter respondebit, Hinham, hinham, hinham.

At the end of Mass, the priest, having turned to the people, in lieu of saying the Ite, Missa est, will bray thrice; the people instead of replying Deo Gratias say, Hinham, hinham, hinham.
This is the sole instance of a service of this nature in connection with the Feast of Ass. The Festum Asinorum gradually lost its identity, and became incorporated in the ceremonies of the Deposuit or united in the general merry-making on the Feast of Fools. The Processus Prophetarum, whence it drew its origin, survives in the Corpus Christi and Whitsun Cycles, that stand at the head of the modern English drama.
Sequence by Peter of Corbeil:

Orientis partibus
Adventavit asinus
Pulcher et fortissimus
Sarcinis aptissimus.

Lentus erat pedibus,
Nisi foret baculus,
Et eum in clunibus
Pungeret aculeus.

Hic in collibus Sychen
Iam nutritus sub Ruben
Transiit per Jordanem
Saliit in Bethlehem.

Ecce magnis auribus,
Subjugalis filius,
Asinus egregius
Asinorum dominus.

Saltu vincit hinnulos
Damas et capreolos
Super dromedarios
Velox Midianeos.

Aurum de arabia
Thus et myrrham de Saba,
Tulit in Ecclesia,
Virtus asinaria

Dum trahit vehicula
Multa cum sarcinula
Illius mandibula
Dura terit pabula

Cum aristis hordeum
Comedit et carduum,
Triticum ex palea
Segregat in area.

Amen dicas, Asine!
Iam satur de gramine:
Amen, Amen itera -
Aspernare vetera!

Englished by Andrew Streinmetz:

In the eastern regions
Chanced an Ass to be,
Beautiful and bravest,
Fittest loads to bear.

Slow in foot was he
Lest there was a stick
And a goad to prick him
In his lazy buttocks.

He was raised in Sichem,
Pastured under Reuben,
Found his way o'er Jordan,
Trotted into Bethl'hem.

Here he is with big ears -
Primitive clod-hopper -
Ass as big as ever -
Lord of all the asses.

Mules he beats at jumping,
Bucks and goats the same -
Swifter than the Midian
Dromedary's he.

Gold of rich Arabia,
Incense, myrrh of Saba -
All, the Church now offers
To an Ass's virtue.

Whilst he drags his wagon,
Plentifully piled on -
Then his jaws are grinding
Hard food for digestion.

Wheat and barley loves he,
Thistle too he savours,
Wheat from chaff well knows he,
Browsing in the barn-yard.

Now say Amen, O Ass!
Belly full of clover -
Amen! Amen ever!
And away with fodder!

12 January 2013


Glasgow University Library:
The book is one of the seminal works of musicology and was hugely influential in the development of Western music – in particular on J.S. Bach and Beethoven.

Its author [Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher] lived and worked at the Collegio Romano in Rome for most of his life and his position at the hub of a huge international organisation – the 40000 or so strong Society of Jesus - had two very important effects: first of all he received thousands of letters from Jesuits and others in places as far apart and little-known as China and Mexico, giving him access to unparalleled sources of knowledge mostly unknown to the western world.

The second effect was the converse of this: Kircher’s books were printed in large numbers – there were 1500 copies printed in 1650 of the Musurgia Universalis alone – and widely distributed through Jesuit channels. In 1652, for example, more than 300 Jesuits came to Rome from all over the world to elect a new Superior General: every one of them took back one of these sumptuous volumes, which explains the astonishing diaspora of these books even today.

The Musurgia Universalis then is hugely famous and has been since it appeared in 1650. Its most famous image is probably that of the birds with their songs written out in musical notation beside their pictures... The nightingale's song is given first, followed by those of the cock, the hen laying eggs and calling her chicks, the cuckoo, quail and parrot; the latter says Hello in Greek. The cockerel's music has the familiar portamento at the end of each phrase; as usual the cuckoo's call is notated as a falling minor third.

The rest of the content of the book, however, is much less well-known... The German publishing house of Olm produced a facsimile edition of it in 1990 but it is already out of print. Perhaps most strangely of all, apart from a nineteenth century translation of the work into German, there are no translations of the book, which is written in rather ponderous Latin with occasional excursions into Greek and Hebrew. Some of the musical scores printed in the book are found in no other form, despite the fame of some of the composers.

The frontispiece to the first volume was engraved by Baronius of Rome after a drawing by John Paul Schor. It makes reference to similar pages in some of Kircher's other volumes, particularly the triangle and globe symbols...

The triangle at the top is the symbol of the Holy Trinity and sheds its rays over the whole of the top of the picture. Kircher held to the mediaeval idea that music is a reflection of the essential mathematics and proportions inherent in all Creation... Under the Trinity we find the nine angelic, four-voice choirs, singing a 36-part canon by Romano Micheli. The canon is properly described as canoni sopra le vocali di piu parole (on the vowels of a few words) although in the present case the words ascribed are those of the angelic choirs in the Trishagion, Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus, as described in Revelation. The strip of text reads: Angelic choir of 36 voices [then the Sanctus music notated in staff notation] distributed in 9 choirs.

The middle section is dominated by a globe of the World, on which is seated Musica, holding the lyre of Apollo and the panpipes of Marsyas. The globe is encircled by the Zodiac, and Musica holds also a streamer bearing the legend Of Athanasius Kircher of the Society of Jesus, Universal Musicmaking or the Art... [being the beginning of the full title of the work]. Round the last part of the streamer is displayed the dedication To His Serene Highness Leopold William, Archduke of Austria. Other symbols in this section include rings of dancing mermaids on the shore, a shepherd trying out the echo and the winged horse of the Muses, Pegasus.

The lowest part of the picture shows blacksmiths in a cave: the sound of blacksmiths hammering had led Pythagoras to important conclusions about the nature of pitch and the blacksmiths are acknowledged in the picture by being pointed out by Pythagoras, who also holds an illustration of his theorem, also using triangles, and hence referring obliquely once again to the top of the picture. The muse on the right may be Polymnia who appears in standard pose surrounded by musical instruments of various kinds.

11 January 2013


Christian Museum:
This painting by an Austrian or perhaps a Hungarian painter has an unusual iconography. Originally, the panel was joined with another one that closely correlated to it also in its content. In the other, now lost panel, a praying man was depicted. The red lines that once departed from his figure and continue in this picture represent his erring thoughts. The attention given to clothes, drinking, worldly treasures, and women is shown here as morally reproachable. It is possible that also a third panel was joined to these which showed the correct direction of the praying man’s thoughts and the desirable virtues. Tempera on wood, 1430s.

9 January 2013


From the MacKinney Collection of Mediaeval Medical Illustrations.

6 January 2013


Its significance, explained in the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Hymn by Prudentius:

Quicumque Christum queritis,
Oculos in altum tollite,
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis glorie.

Hec stella, que solis rotam
Vincit decore ac lumine,
Venisse terris nuntiat
Cum carne terrestri Deum.

Non illa servit noctibus
Secuta lunam menstruam,
Sed sola celum possidens
Cursum dierum temperat.

Arctoa quamvis sidera
In se retortis motibus
Obire nolint, attamen
Plerumque sub nimbis latent.

Hoc sidus eternum manet,
Hec stella nunquam mergitur,
Nec nubis occursu abdita
Obumbrat obductam facem.

Tristis cometa intercidat,
Et si quod astrum Sirio
Fervet vapore, iam Dei
Sub luce destructum cadat.

En Persici ex orbis sinu,
Sol unde sumit ianuam,
Cernunt periti interpretes
Regale vexillum Magi.

Quod ut refulsit, ceteri
Cessere signorum globi,
Nec pulcher est ausus suam
Conferre formam Lucifer.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt,
Regnator astris inperans,
Quem sic tremunt celestia,
Cui lux et ethra inserviunt.

Inlustre quiddam cernimus,
Quod nesciat finem pati,
Sublime, celsum, interminum,
Antiquius celo et chao.

Hic ille rex est gentium
Populique rex Iudaici,
Promissus Abrahe patri
Eiusque in evum semini.

Equanda nam stellis sua
Cognovit olim germina
Primus sator credentium,
Nati inmolator unici.

Iam flos subit Davidicus
Radice Iesse editus,
Sceptrique per virgam virens
Rerum cacumen occupat.

Exin sequuntur perciti
Fixis in altum vultibus,
Qua stella sulcum traxerat
Claramque signabat viam.

Sed verticem pueri supra
Signum pependit inminens,
Pronaque submissum face
Caput sacratum prodidit.

Videre quod postquam Magi,
Eoa promunt munera,
Stratique votis offerunt
Tus, myrrham, et aurum regium.

Agnosce clara insignia
Virtutis ac regni tui,
Puer o, cui trinam Pater
Predestinavit indolem.

Regem Deumque adnuntiant
Thesaurus et fragrans odor
Turis Sabei, ac myrrheus
Pulvis sepulcrum predocet.

Hoc est sepulcrum, quo Deus,
Dum corpus extingui sinit
Atque id sepultum suscitat,
Mortis refregit carcerem.

O sola magnarum urbium
Maior Bethlem, cui contigit
Ducem salutis celitus
Incorporatum gignere.

Altrice te summo Patri
Heres creatur unicus,
Homo ex tonantis spiritu
Idemque sub membris Deus.

Hunc et prophetis testibus
Isdemque signatoribus,
Testator et sator iubet
Adire regnum et cernere:

Regnum, quod ambit omnia
Diva et marina et terrea
A solis ortu ad exitum
Et tartara et celum supra.

Audit tyrannus anxius
Adesse regum principem,
Qui nomen Israel regat
Teneatque David regiam.

Exclamat amens nuntio,
Successor instat, pellimur;
Satelles i, ferrum rape,
Perfunde cunas sanguine.

Mas omnis infans occidat,
Scrutare nutricum sinus,
Interque materna ubera
Ensem cruentet pusio.

Suspecta per Bethlem mihi
Puerperarum est omnium
Fraus, ne qua furtim subtrahat
Prolem virilis indolis.

Transfigit ergo carnifex
Mucrone destricto furens
Effusa nuper corpora,
Animasque rimatur novas.

Locum minutis artubus
Vix interemptor invenit,
Quo plaga descendat patens
Iuguloque maior pugio est.

O barbarum spectaculum!
Inlisa cervix cautibus
Spargit cerebrum lacteum
Oculosque per vulnus vomit.

Aut in profundum palpitans
Mersatur infans gurgitem,
Cui subter artis faucibus
Singultat unda et halitus.

Salvete flores martyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in limine
Christi insecutor sustulit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex inmolatorum tener,
Aram ante ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.

Quid proficit tantum nefas,
Quid crimen Herodem iuvat?
Unus tot inter funera
Inpune Christus tollitur.

Inter cevi sanguinis
Fluenta solus integer
Ferrum, quod orbabat nurus,
Partus fefellit virginis.

Sic stulta Pharaonis mali
Edicta quondam fugerat
Christi figuram preferens
Moyses, receptor civium.

Cautum et statutum ius erat,
Quo non liceret matribus,
Cum pondus alvi absolverent,
Puerile pignus tollere.

Mens obstetricis sedule
Pie in tyrannum contumax
Ad spem potentis glorie
Furata servat parvulum:

Quem mox sacerdotem sibi
Adsumpsit orbis conditor,
Per quem notatam saxeis
Legem tabellis traderet.

Licetne Christum noscere
Tanti per exemplum viri?
Dux ille ceso Egyptio
Absolvit Israel iugo.

At nos subactos iugiter
Erroris inperio gravi
Dux noster hoste saucio
Mortis tenebris liberat.

Hic expiatam fluctibus
Plebem marino in transitu
Repurgat undis dulcibus,
Lucis columnam preferens:

Hic preliante exercitu,
Pansis in altum brachiis,
Sublimis Amalech premit,
Crucis quod instar tunc fuit.

Hic nempe Iesus verior,
Qui longa post dispendia
Victor suis tribulibus
Promissa solvit iugera.

Qui ter quaternas denique
Refluentis amnis alveo
Fundavit et fixit petras,
Apostolorum stemmata.

Iure ergo se Iude ducem
Vidisse testantur Magi,
Cum facta priscorum ducum
Christi figuram finxerint.

Hic rex priorum iudicum,
Rexere qui Iacob genus,
Domineque rex ecclesie,
Templi et novelli et pristini.

Hunc posteri Efrem colunt,
Hunc sancta Manasse domus
Omnesque suspiciunt tribus
Bis sena fratrum semina.

Quin et propago degener
Ritum secuta inconditum,
Quecumque dirum fervidis
Baal caminis coxerat,

Fumosa avorum numina
Saxum, metallum, stipitem,
Rasum, dolatum, sectile,
In Christi honorem deserit.

Gaudete quidquid gentium est,
Iudea, Roma, et Grecia,
Egypte, Thrax, Persa, Scytha,
Rex unus omnes possidet.

Laudate vestrum principem
Omnes beati, ac perditi,
Vivi, inbecilli ac mortui:
Iam nemo posthac mortuus.

Englished by R. Martin Pope:

Lift up your eyes, whoe'er ye be
That fare the new-born Christ to see:
For yonder is the shining sign
Of grace perennial and divine.

What means this star, whose piercing rays
Outshine the sun's resplendent blaze?
'Tis token sure that God is come
In mortal flesh to make His home.

No courtier of the realms of night
Nor monthly moon's bright acolyte,
This star directs the course of day,
Sole sovereign of the heavenly way.

Although the Bears their track retrace,
Nor wholly their clear beams efface,
Yet ofttimes 'neath the dun cloud's haze
They hide themselves from mortal gaze.

But yon Star's glory hath no end,
Nor to the depths can it descend:
It ne'er is whelmed by envious cloud
That seeks its beauty to enshroud.

Now let the baleful comet die,
The brood of blazing Sirius fly:
God's orb shall quench their sultry heats
And drive them from their haughty seats.

Lo! from the regions of the morn
Wherein the radiant sun is born,
The Persian sages see on high
God's ensign shining in the sky.

Soon as its rising beams prevail
The starry hosts in order pale:
E'en Lucifer durst not upraise
The silvery splendours of his face.

Who is this sovereign (they enquire)
That lords it o'er the ethereal choir?
'Fore whom the heavens bow down afraid,
Of all the worlds of light obeyed?

Sure 'tis the sign most reverend
Of Being that doth know no end:
Of One in state sublime arrayed
Ere sky and chaos yet were made.

This is the King of Israel,
Of all in Gentile lands that dwell:
The King to Abram and his seed
Throughout all ages erst decreed.

To him 'twas given his progeny
As stars innumerous to see:
First of believers! moved to slay
His only son, so God to obey.

Behold the Flower of David shine,
Of Jesse's root the Branch benign:
The sceptre spread with blossoms rare
Wields o'er the world its lordship fair.

Roused by the portent of the sky
The sages fix their gaze on high,
And speed them 'neath the furrowed way
Marked by the star's effulgent ray.

At length its flaming steps it stayed
Poised over where the Child was laid:
Straightway with downcast mien it shed
Its splendours on the sacred Head.

Whereat the travellers outpour
Of Eastern gifts their treasure-store,
Myrrh and sweet-smelling frankincense,
Gold meet for regal opulence.

Behold herein the triple sign
Of Thy pure being, King divine:
Seeing the Father willed in Thee
To plant a threefold majesty.

The gift of gold thee King proclaims:
Thee God the fragrant incense names:
The myrrh declares that Death shall thrust
Within the tomb Thy body's dust.

Ah! that dark sepulchre, whose fold
God's body quenched in death doth hold:
Yet shall He from that durance wake
And Death's strong prison-fetters break.

O Bethlehem! no longer thou
The least of cities: all shall vow
That thou art greatest on the earth:
For thou man's King didst bring to birth.

Yea thou didst on thy bosom bear
The All-loving Father's only heir:
Man of the Thunderer's Spirit made
And God in human flesh arrayed.

The prophets witnessed to the bond
Which sealed to Him the realm profound:
The Father's Kingdom He received
And the vast legacy perceived.

All things are His in sea and sky,
In hell beneath, in heaven on high:
From East to setting sun, in fee
He holds the earth's immensity.

Distraught, the tyrant base doth hear
That now the King of Kings draws near
To reign in David's seat of state
And Israel's empire dominate.

"Betrayed are we," he maddened cries,
"Our throne's usurper doth arise:
Go, soldiers, go with sword in hand
And slay all babes within my land.

"Spare no male child: each nurse's robe
Your scrutinizing steel must probe:
Spare not the suckling infant, though
O'er mother's breast its life-blood flow.

"On Bethlehem our suspicion falls,
On every hearth within its walls:
Lest mothers with love's tender zeal
Some manly scion may conceal."

With daggers drawn the infuriate crew
Upon their murderous errand flew:
Each latest offspring of the womb
To bloody death they foully doom.

Ah tiny limbs! 'twas hard to know
How best to strike the fatal blow:
Too wide the sword-blades are to smite
Those throats so silken-fragile, slight.

O horrid sight! the tender bones
Are dashed against the jaggèd stones:
Sightless and mangled there they lie,
Poor babes! untimely doomed to die.

Perchance the still deep river laves
Their bodies thrust into the waves:
The current with their sighing sighs,
Sobs with their latest, broken cries.

Ye flowers of martyrdom, all hail!
Of rising morn pure blossoms frail!
By Jesu's foe were ye downcast,
Like budding roses by the blast.

Lambs of the flock too early slain,
Ye first fruits of Christ's bitter pain!
Close to His very altar, gay
With palms and crowns, ye now do play.

Of what avail is deed so vile?
Doth Herod gain by murderous guile?
Of all to death so foully done
Escapes triumphant Christ alone.

Amidst that tide of infant gore
Alone He wins the sheltering shore:
The virgin's Child survives the stroke,
When every mother's heart was broke.

Thus Moses 'scaped the mad decree
Of evil Pharaoh and set free
The flock of God, prefiguring so
Christ spared from fate's malignant blow.

Vain too the king's hostility
Who framed the pitiless decree
That Israel's mothers should not rear
To manhood's strength their offspring dear.

Quickened by love, a woman's mind
Found means to thwart that law unkind,
And, falsely true, the child concealed
Destined to be his people's Shield.

On him it was that God did place
The august priesthood's holy grace,
The law on stony tablets writ
Did to his trembling hands commit.

And may we not with prophet's eye
In such a hero Christ descry?
The proud Egyptian's might he broke
And freed his kinsmen from the yoke.

So we by Error's might hemmed round
Were by our Captain's strength unbound:
His foe He wounded in the fight
And saved us from Death's horrid night.

Cheering by sign of flame their feet,
Moses renewed with waters sweet
His folk, albeit purified
From stain, what time they crossed the tide.

And he, remote on peaceful height,
Amalek's banded hosts did smite:
He prayed with arms stretched out above,
Foreshadowing the Cross of Love.

Yet truer Jesus surely he,
Who after many a victory
And labours long the tribes' renown
With promised heritage did crown;

Who when the waters rose on high
And now the Jordan's bed was dry,
Set up twelve stones of memory,
Types of apostles yet to be.

Rightly the Wise Men said, I ween,
That they Judaea's King had seen,
Since noble deeds of other days
Prophetic chant the Saviour's praise.

Of those old rulers He is King
Who did to Jacob judgment bring,
King of the Mother Church divine,
God's ancient and God's present Shrine.

Of Ephraim's sons He is adored:
Manasseh's sacred house as Lord
Reveres Him: to His might the seed
Of brethren twelve their fealty plead.

Nay, each degenerate race hath fled
Its shameful rites and orgies dread:
Grim Baal in glowing furnace cast
Sinks to the earth, forsook at last.

Idols smoke-blackened, wooden-hewn,
Of brass and stone, in dust are strewn:
The chiselled deities downtrod:
For all confess in Christ their God.

Rejoice all peoples, Jewry, Rome,
Fair Hellas, Thrace, Aegyptus' home:
Persians and Scythian land forlorn,
Rejoice: the world's great King is born!

Behold your Chief! His praise forth tell:
Ye sick, ye hale, all heaven and hell:
Ay, you whose vital spark hath sped:
For lo! in Him e'en Death is dead.

4 January 2013


These fourteen miniatures added to an early 16th century Cistercian epistolary form the largest extant illustrative cycle by the late 19th or early 20th century medievalist known as the Spanish Forger, whose true name and nationality remain unknown. The manuscript is now owned by Yale University.

3 January 2013


Her life, according to the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Genovefe solemnitas
Solemne parit gaudium;
Cordis erumpat puritas
In laudis sacrificium!

Felix ortus infantule,
Teste Germano presule:
Quod previdit in spiritu,
Rerum probatur exitu.

Hie ad pectus virgineum,
Pro pudoris signaculo,
Nummum suspendit eneum,
Crucis insignem titulo.

Genovefam divinitus
Oblato dotat munere,
In templum Sancti Spiritus
Sub Christi dicans federe.

Insontem manu feriens,
Mater privatur lumine;
Matri virgo compatiens
Lucis dat usum pristine.

Genovefa magnanimis
Carnem frangit jejunio,
Terramque rigans lacrymis,
Jugi gaudet martyrio.

Celesti duce previo,
Celos lustrat et tartara,
Civesque precum studio
Servat a gente barbara.

Divino diu munere
Sitim levat artificum;
Confractum casu misere
Matri resignat unicum.

Ad primam precem virginis
Contremiscunt demonia;
Pax datur energuminis,
Spes egris, reis venia.

In ejus manus cerei
Reaccenduntur celitus;
Per hanc in sinus alvei
Redit amnis cercitus.

Ignem sacrum refrigerat,
Post mortem vivens meritis,
Que prius in se vicerat
Estus interni fomitis.

Morti, morbis, demonibus,
Et dementis imperat:
Sic Genovefa precibus
Nature leges superat.

Operatur in parvulis
Christi virtus magnalia:
Christo, pro tot miraculis,
Laus frequens, jugis gloria! Amen.

Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Genevieve a holy mirth
Brings forth upon her holy day;
Then let the chastened heart break forth,
The sacrifice of praise to pay!

Blest was that infant's birth of yore,
As Bishop Germain witness bore.
And what in spirit he foreknew
The issue of events proves true.

Upon the virgin's bosom laid,
To mark her spotless chastity,
A medal, that of bronze was made.
Stamped with a cross suspendeth he.

Genevieve he then endows
With gifts that heaven-sent power can boast,
And consecrates through Christian vows
A temple for the Holy Ghost.

For striking at the guileless maid
Her mother's eyes lose all their light
The virgin, for her mother sad,
Restores to them their former sight.

Genevieve, the great-souled, wears
Her fleshly frame by fasts away,
And joys, bedewing earth with tears,
In martyrdom from day to day.

'Neath angel guidance she surveys
The heavens above and hell below;
And saves, so fervently she prays.
The people from a barbarous foe.

Long doth she with unearthly power
Some workmen's thirst alleviate;
And at a mother's tears restore
Her only son, struck down by fate.

At the pure maiden's earliest prayer
Trembles and quakes all Satan's race;
While rest and peace demoniacs share,
The sickly hope, the guilty grace.

Some waxen tapers in her hand
With heaven-sent flame are made to burn;
Its waters too at her command
Back to a river's bed return.

She by her merits, - living still
When dead, - cools down "the Ardents'" fire,
Who in herself before could quell
The flames within of hot desire.

Disease, death, powers of the air,
And elements, all own her sway;
So Genevieve by force of prayer
Makes Nature's laws her will obey.

In very babes Christ's power alone
Works mighty deeds effectually:
To Christ for such great wonders done
All praise and endless glory be! Amen.

2 January 2013


Institute for Studies of Illuminated Manuscripts in Denmark:
The Cisiojanus is a medieval composition of 24 hexametrical verses with a syllable for each day in the year. Its purpose is to memorize the most important feasts. The name is taken from the incipit Cisio Janus Epy... (Circumsision, January, Epiphany...). It originated probably in Northern Germany (Cologne or Aachen) in the 12th century, and spread to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia... After a Cisiojanus in the Speculum Humane Salvationis I have demonstrated how it is possible in some cases to reconstruct a calendar on basis of the Cisiojanus alone. In France was it not commonly known before the end of the 15th century, when vernacular versions began to circulate, mainly spread with the calendars in printed books of hours.
Cisiojanus attributed to the Venerable Bede:

Cisio Janus Epiphaniis die dona magorum
Vincit ovans Agne nova Paulum lumina vertunt.

Et purgata parens ad templum ducit Jesum
Sede doces sacra cum Petro Matthia gentes.

Evocat ad studium puerile Gregorius agmen
Eterni Patris gratum Marie tenet alvus.

Presulis Ambrosii laudes imitare sacerdos.
Et pellant equites Georgi more tyrannos.

Leta Crucis Helene reperit pia cura trophea
Vinea quam floret plebs Urbanum celebrabit.

Ardua solis equos trahis ad fastigia Vite
Agni monstrat onus sed Baptistes tibi Petre.

Jam Marie sobolem Baptista salutat in alvo
Afacit Herodes nece Jacobum Zebedeum.

Vincula post Petri patitur Laurentius ignes
Impie meche dabas meretrici colla Joanni.

Egidius celebrat Marie virginis ortum
Quo combusta die Solymorum menia narrant.

Christe tuas leges Celtis Dionysius affert
Scriptis Luca tuis fruimur docuit Simo Persas.

Pannonius docuit Gallorum Martius oras
Fertilis Elisabeth cantat Turingia laudes.

Post casti sacra Nicolei longissima nox est
Fausta dies celebrat tibi Christum virgine natum.

1 January 2013


Its significance, explained in the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Hac die festa concinat multimoda camena, 
Collaudans celi Dominum cum dulci cantilena. 

Per hec enim solempnia sunt cuncta renovata, 
Humano quoque generi est venia donata. 

Invenit drachma mulier; accenditur lucerna, 
In carne dum comparuit mens Deo coeterna. 

Dum cadit secus Jericho vir Hierosolomita, 
Samaritanus affuit quo lapso datur vita. 

Perduxit hunc in stabulum clementia divina, 
Vinum permiscens oleo suavi medicina. 

Curantis egri vulnera sunt dulcia fomenta, 
Dum cunctis penitentia fuit reis inventa. 

Bini dati denarii sunt duo Testamenta 
Dum Christus, finis utriusque, complet sacramenta. 

En tellus rore germinat nec patet madefacta, 
Dum virgo Deum partuit, et mater est intacta. 

In tenebris exortus est Puer, lux sempiterna: 
Octava circumcisus est hac die hodierna. 

Hec ab antiquis patribus dies fuit previsa 
Dum se prolemque Domino dant carne circumcisa. 

Hac die circumcisio fiebat sub figura 
Octavo, qua salvabitur humana creatura. 

Ergo nos circumcidamus, non carnis preputia, 
Sed a nobis abscidamus sordes et vitia. 

Ut mundati mente, carne, capiamus premia, 
Que octava confert etas merenti celestia. 

Eya, die ista, 
Omnis organista 
Cantor et psalmista 
Cum cytharista. Amen. 
Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

This festal day our Muse should be a varied song upraising, 
In strains of sweetest melody the Lord of heaven praising. 

For all things by this festival have been renewed from heaven, 
And pardon to the human race for all their misdeeds given. 

The woman finds her silver piece; her candle she hath lighted, 
What time to flesh the mind, with God co-equal, is united. 

When from Jerusalem the man nigh Jericho is lying, 
The good Samaritan comes by and rescues him from dying. 

By clemency divine he is into the inn attended, 
Whilst wine and oil, as remedy to soothe his pain, are blended. 

Sweet are the balms of Him, who gives to sick men's wounds their healing, 
The way of penitence for all their sinfulness revealing. 

Of the two Testaments the gift of the two pennies telleth, 
Since Jesus Christ, the end of both, their mysteries fulfilleth. 

Lo! now the earth buds forth with dew and yet abideth rainless, 
Whilst bears a maid our God Himself, and is a mother stainless. 

In darkness was the Infant born, Who light eternal giveth; 
And circumcision on this day, the eight day, He receiveth. 

This day the Patriarchs of old foresaw in clear pre-vision, 
Who gave themselves and progeny to God by circumcision. 

That circumcision was performed this eighth day in a figure, 
Which shall a human creature save from God's most righteous rigour. 

Ourselves, and not our foreskins, then let us be circumcising, 
And cut away the lust and sin for aye within us rising. 

That, cleansed in heart and flesh, to us those prizes may be given, 
Which the eighth age confers on him deserving joy in heaven. 

Come ye then to-day here, 
Every organ player, 
Singer and psalm-sayer! 
Lift your praise, 
And upraise, 
Minstrel! your lay here! Amen.

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