Music and worship of the Virgin of Montserrat

"Soy la sin espinas rosa

que Salomón canta y glosa

Nigra Sum, sed formosa

y por my se cantará."

Anonymous, Cancionero de romances

(Anvers 1550)

NIGRA SUM explores the links between the worship of the Virgin of Montserrat c. 1600, the eroticism and the music. The Trastámara and the Habsburg Houses were great devotees of the dark Virgin: Carlos V and Felipe II died with a blessed candle of the Moreneta in their hands. In the Sixteenth Century, in Rome, la Chiesa de Santa Maria in Montserrato was completed, an important political center for the ambassadors of the Crown of Aragon in Rome, and where the two Borgia popes were buried. Towards 1570 Tomás Luís de Victoria worked in this church as "cantor y tañedor de órgano".

The worship of the Virgin of Montserrat (and other dark Virgins) was related to the Song of Songs, especially because of the verse Nigra sum ("I am black"). It is the most peculiar book of the Bible: openly erotic in its content, it does not correspond to any of the main biblical genres; its inclusion in the canon is justified by a mystical reading, a lo divino. This eroticization of the cult provoked all kinds of exchanges in profane and sacred repertoires, especially in Catalan-Aragonese courts.

This programme is a collection of contrafacta, paraphrases and adaptations, which show the most sensual side of Marian music.

* This programme was commissioned by the Frederic Marès Museum, in Barcelona, as an exploration of Montserrat monastery's instrumental practices during the 17th century. It was conceived as an artistic research on iconographic and documentary sources of Montserrat and other Hispanic chapels.


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