A Gradual is a book of chants for singing in the Mass. This example was produced in the last quarter of the 11th century for the Cathedral of St Etienne in Toulouse. It is one of a group of manuscripts from the Aquitaine region that preserve the earliest and most comprehensive collections of processional antiphons (short chants). The music is written using a distinctive Aquitanian form of notation in which small individual points are marked at precisely determined heights above the text to show particular pitches, as if plotted on a graph.
The manuscript also contains a Tonary, a book of chants grouped together according to the eight musical modes. Some of the most important chants in the manuscript are illustrated with pictures of biblical subjects, and the Tonary is accompanied by pictures of lively figures playing and dancing to music.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Nicolas Bell
- Christian religion and belief
Music played a central role in Christian liturgy throughout the Middle Ages. Nicolas Bell describes the evidence for this music in manuscripts made before 1200.