Thursday, July 22, 2021

Introduction to the Lauds Antiphons for St. Ursula

by Nathaniel M. Campbell

Hildegard composed an elaborate series of eight antiphons for use in an expanded edition of the office of Lauds for the feast of St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgin-martyrs of Cologne. This is the largest single office that she composed and indicates the special value that she placed on developing the feast of St. Ursula into an important celebration affirming the life and mission of the religious women (virgins) of her monastery.

Reconstructed Order for the Office

The Table of Contents for our edition of Hildegard’s Symphonia follows the ordering found in the manuscripts and given in the modern editions. However, for reading or performance order, we highly recommend the reconstruction proposed by musicologist William Flynn, which makes the most sense out of the difficulties of the manuscript presentation. The following table summarizes this suggested order of service according to the likely usage of Hildegard’s time and place, showing which psalm or scriptural canticle would have been paired with each antiphon; as well as the corresponding order in each of the two manuscripts and in Barbara Newman’s edition of the Symphonia:
Antiphon Psalm / Canticle Dendermonde Riesencodex Newman
1. Studium divinitatis Ps 92(93) 1 (167v) 1 (471vb) 1
2. Unde quocumque Ps 99(100) (secular cursus) or Ps 117(118) (monastic cursus) 2 (167v) 2 (472ra) 2
3. De patria etiam earum Ps 62(63) 3 (168r) 3 (472ra) 3
4. Deus enim in prima muliere presignavit Benedicite (Dn 3:57-88, 56) 4 (168r) 4 (472ra) 4
5. Aer enim volat Ps 148 5 (168r) 5 (472ra) 5
6. Deus enim rorem in illas misit Ps 149 7 (168r) 7 (472rb) 7
7. Sed diabolus Ps 150 8 (168r-v) 8 (472rb) 8
8. Et ideo puelle iste Gospel: Benedictus
(Lk 1:68–79)
6 (168r) 6 (472ra) 6
A typical Lauds office would normally only have five antiphons for the psalmody (which includes the canticle Benedicite taken from the expanded Septuagint / Vulgate text of the book of Daniel), plus an antiphon for the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah from the Gospel of Luke. But Hildegard has composed a tightly woven series of eight antiphons that tell a coherent narrative, indicating that they should all go together in a single office. Flynn suggests that Hildegard invoked an alternative psalmody known to have been used sometimes in twelfth-century monastic communities, which expands the final psalm unit of Lauds (a combined singing of Pss 148-150) into its three individual psalms, each with its own antiphon. Furthermore, he believes it likely that, because the community of Augustinian nuns in Cologne dedicated specifically to the cult of St. Ursula followed what is known as a secular rather than monastic usage (cursus) for the divine office, Hildegard may have borrowed some slight modifications from the secular cursus in determining the psalms to be sung for festal Lauds.

The manuscript ordering for the antiphons may further be designed to allow for easy navigation when recycling a subset of them for Second Vespers, sung at the end of the day that would open with the Lauds office. A common monastic practice for Second Vespers of major feasts was to reuse the first, second, third, and fifth antiphons from Lauds. The placement of the Gospel antiphon after the fifth antiphon, rather than at the end of the series, helps demarcate this subset. Finally, this reconstruction allows the triumph of the Gospel antiphon, Et ideo puelle iste, to have the last word, rather than the invidiousness of Sed diabolus. In this way, the narrative produced by the antiphon series coheres with Hildegard’s overall ideas about the virginal mission shared between St. Ursula’s ancient band and her own monastery.

  • Flynn, William. “Reading Hildegard of Bingen’s Antiphons for the 11,000 Virgin-Martyrs of Cologne: Rhetorical ductus and Liturgical Rubrics.” Nottingham Medieval Studies 56 (2012), pp. 174-89.
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 236 and 309-11.

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