Trondheim Team



Research personnel:


Postdoctoral researcher: Dr. SEBASTIÁN E. SALVADÓ


Institution: Institute for History and Classical Studies, NTNU, Trondheim

The project is based at the Institute of History and the Institute of Music of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim, Norway. Trondheim’s Department of History and Classical Studies offers the unusual interdisciplinary collaboration between the departments of history and music. (English: and (English:

Project: Chants that bind and break? Saints’ offices and history

Rooted in the Divine Office of the Western church, the liturgy of the saints was part of the daily structure and rhythm of life across medieval Europe. The liturgical celebration of a saint’s feast (so called “office”) spanned a day and a night and consisted of a set of about thirty chants. Together with readings from the saint’s life, and the recitation of psalms, these chants re-tell the story of their protagonists by placing them, like sculpture and painting, in the midst of their contemporary world.
Socio-political topics. The central topic of these chants was the concrete relationship between the patron saint and his/her community, representing thereby early vestiges of corporate consciousness. The European repertory of saints’ offices, from the earliest times to the late Middle Ages, demonstrates that many of them challenge and rework important ideological themes in social and political history and themselves adapt over time.
Identities. The identities of groups, communities, and corporations can be detected by investigating expres-sions of their changing attitudes to key socio-cultural ideas and values. The chants of saints’ offices are a means of identifying these ideas and values. In that sense they can be understood as depositories of im-portant aspects of regional and trans-regional identity.
Self-representation. Saints’ offices can be seen as a part of the self-representation of early European societies. Every larger medieval political and ecclesiastical institution invested considerable resources not only in the continuous maintenance and performance of the liturgy and its artistic sheathing by music, but also in the creation of a ‘proper’ (i.e. individual) set of office chants for their most prominent patron saints. Illustrious members of the higher clergy are commonly reported to have written offices for saints; the examples range here from Bruno of Toul, the later pope Leo IX in the eleventh century, to Birger Gregersson, archbishop of Uppsala in the fourteenth century.
Communication. The chants of saints’ offices stand at the official centre of ecclesiastical and political rituals, voicing their contents in a particularly intense way: by music. By focusing on these chants the present project emphasises the special relevance of the interplay of historical, textual and musical meaning and communication for the history of regional identities. The communicative impact of these chants far exceeds that of other socio-political and hagiographic texts and visualisations which form the image of a patron. This is due to their performative and symbolic power. Like saints’ images the texts are designed to allude to well-known and familiar stories. Yet they tend to concentrate their message in their prose/poetry and to expand their meaning by a network of allusions to other stories and contexts. Their music can enhance and interpret this textual concentration structurally, and add rhetorical emphasis. This music is even capable of establi-shing a range of associative contexts by itself, through its intertextual qualities, for example by citing melodies associated with other saints.
The project will decipher the ecclesiastical symbolic language and the role of music in these office chants, in order to reveal not only early representations of regional identity, but also glimpses of the shared socio-political systems of the lay and clerical elites who helped forge the shape and destiny of the regions of Europe.
The nature and availability of the extant documents mean that the study will span from early liturgical manifestations (texts!) till the radical revisions at the Reformation era. Analysis will be initially pan-European, employing a comparative perspective, but then home in on specific regions at specific moments in history, where a) relevant sources are available, and b) where thematically relevant saints figured as key saints for communities.
Thematic fields. The project will approach its aims by taking three thematic fields which provide exemplary access to key-components of European (trans-)regional identities:
1. Patron saint, socio-political identity and their reflection in the chants of saints’ offices
2. Representations of violence, warfare and military service in the chants of saints’ offices
3. Chants of saints’ offices and the changing images and ideals of rulership
Music. Within each of these fields, the musical aspect will be significant. Studies of the specific forms of relationship between the music, its stylistic context and the texts will therefore play a vital role:
1. What relationship do these chants show to previous or current musical styles and their social and political contexts?
2. In what ways do the chants convey the contents and meanings of their texts?
3. What do, for example, borrowings of melodies tell us about the underlying cultural and historical ideology of the place and period and the (trans-)regional contacts of the compilers or composers?