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  • Liturgical Manuscripts, Liturgical Practice, and the Women of Klosterneuburg
  • Michael L. Norton and Amelia J. Carr


The Problem

For over a century, liturgical manuscripts from the Augustinian priory at Klosterneuburg have tended toward a misleading androgyny.1 While scholars have long known that Klosterneuburg was a double house, with separate precincts for men and for women,2 many have been content to [End Page 67] regard the liturgical manuscripts preserved there as reflecting the institution as a whole, or of the men in particular. To be sure, some manuscripts have always been recognized as women’s books.3 For other manuscripts, though, such gendered associations have proven elusive. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in discussions of Klosterneuburg’s twelfth-century antiphoners (A-KN 1010, A-KN 1012, and A-KN 1013). Among the earliest musical manuscripts in German-speaking Europe to show pitches on a staff,4 these manuscripts have been seen by many scholars as reflecting the use of Klosterneuburg generally, if at all, while a few scholars have associated them with the women of Klosterneuburg specifically.5 Whether the result of an unusual placement for the feast of the Dedication of the Church or the conformance of the musical notation with that of manuscripts known to be associated with the women, the occasional assignments of the twelfth-century antiphoners to Klosterneuburg’s women were more a consequence of what was not known about the women and their liturgical practice (the date for their church’s dedication, for example) than of what was known. The very lack of information about the liturgical practice of Klosterneuburg’s women, moreover, has cloaked an even larger obstacle to understanding the liturgical manuscripts used by the women and the liturgy that was expressed within them. For all the attention given these manuscripts, and for all the consideration given to the possible connection between these manuscripts and the canonesses, few scholars have considered the possibility that the liturgy celebrated by Klosterneuburg’s women might have been independent from that of the men.

The extent to which the canonesses of Klosterneuburg held sway over their liturgical practice has only recently begun to attract scholarly attention. A decade ago, we noted differences among the musical settings of the Visitatio sepulchri in manuscripts known to have been used by the men and manuscripts that we suspected were used by the women.6 More [End Page 68] recently, Robert Klugseder has made a first attempt at disambiguating the liturgical content of manuscripts known to have been used by the men of Klosterneuburg from those he assigned to the women.7 His meticulous analysis of manuscripts supposedly used by the women and his comparison of the liturgical content of these manuscripts with those used by the men, as well as others representing the usage for the diocese of Passau, show a number of clear distinctions between the two groups of manuscripts and between these two groups and the use of Passau. Despite the clarity of the differences revealed, however, one problem remained. Neither Klugseder nor we offered proof or argument that the manuscripts we had assigned to the women were used by the women in the first place. For both studies, the assignment was more assertion than argument.8

In the following discussion, we will outline a corpus of twenty-five liturgical manuscripts used by the women of Klosterneuburg for the celebration of the Divine Office and for their processions to Mass and other rites, and we will place the details of the liturgical practice revealed by these manuscripts into a broader perspective.9 Our focus on the Office and on the processions results from the centrality of these rites in the liturgical life of Klosterneuburg’s female religious, as these were the rites over which religious women in general, and the women of Klosterneuburg in particular, had the greatest degree of control.10 While the result of this survey will [End Page 69] confirm and supplement much of what Klugseder’s invaluable study has offered, we proceed by a different route, which connects the manuscripts considered directly to the women themselves. We will show not only that the holdings of the Klosterneuburg library were more...


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