- Hispania Vetus: Musical-Liturgical Manuscripts from Visigothic Origins to the Franco-Roman Transition (9th–12th Centuries)
Hispania Vetus is a richly interdisciplinary volume that, in spite of a handful of slight editorial and organizational problems, presents a major contribution to the study of musical-liturgical manuscripts in late medieval Spain. Susana Zapke assembled a formidable team of scholars from a variety of disciplines to address a topic of extraordinary complexity: the transition from the Old Hispanic Rite (also known as “Visigothic” or “Mozarabic”), to the Franco-Roman Rite that began in the Spanish kingdoms during the late eleventh century under Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085), who sought to unify the form and order of the Roman Catholic liturgy throughout Christendom.
The transition between these Christian liturgies entailed something far more profound than simply substituting one set of prayers for another. To offer some perspective: imagine, for instance, that President Obama were to declare Spanish the official language of all states bordering Mexico as part of an effort to stabilize the “border region” of the United States. First of all, there would have to be a large-scale and comprehensive education effort. People long accustomed to English would have to learn a new system of expression (spoken and written) in order to conduct official business. And that would be the easy part. Beyond that, there would be the inevitable pockets of resistance. (Texas might actually follow through on veiled threats to secede from the Union.) Even in those places where the implementation of Spanish was successful (southern New Mexico comes to mind), traces of the older language would remain. In some areas, “Spanglish”—an imperfect mixture of old and new—would become the dominant form of expression. Of course, one hardly needs to point out the cultural and political repercussions that would follow the official “top-down” substitution of one language for another. To stir the imagination, one might simply recall the hostile “English only” debates that resurface at every election cycle here in the United States.
As improbable as that scenario might sound, it only scratches the surface of the profound and radical changes the Spanish kingdoms experienced as the revered Hispanic Rite gave way to the newer Franco-Roman Rite that was propagated “top-down” from the Roman papacy through sympathetic political and ecclesial entities in the complex network of Christian lands that made up the Iberian Peninsula in the late eleventh century. As Zapke notes: “This ambitious project to Romanize the liturgy entailed political, ideological, social and cultural changes, and was to result in practice in the learning of a new rite and new forms of notation which were unknown to both clergy and congregations, and which were gradually to [End Page 295] displace local traditions” (p. 25). Hispania Vetus traces that radical and complex transition over nearly four centuries (beginning with the script and liturgical structure of the Old Hispanic Rite in the ninth century) by focusing on the primary witnesses of relevant changes—the musical-liturgical manuscripts that chronicled the transformation (and resistance), one pen-stroke at a time. Various case studies in Hispania Vetus show how the process was an uneven one and, with painstaking care, its contributors interrogate exemplars of the surviving corpus of liturgical music (and music-related manuscripts) to reveal—as precisely as the sources will allow—how and why this was so.
With Zapke at the helm, a total of twenty authors contributed to Hispania Vetus, which is divided into two parts. After a “Forward” by Anscari Manuel Mundó and “Introduction” by Zapke, the first part of this volume is a collection of nine scholarly studies by leading experts in the fields of textual and musical paleography, philology, history, and musicology: Ludwig Vones (“The Substitution of the Hispanic Liturgy by the Roman Rite in the Kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula”), Michel Huglo (“The Musica Isidori Tradition in the Iberian Peninsula”), Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz (“Some Incidental Notes...