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  • Of Chronicles and Kings: National Saints and the Emergence of National States in the High Middle Ages ed. by John Bergsagel, David Hiley, and Thomas Riis
  • Matthew Cheung Salisbury
Of Chronicles and Kings: National Saints and the Emergence of National States in the High Middle Ages. Ed. by John Bergsagel, David Hiley, and Thomas Riis. pp. 345. Danish Humanist Texts and Studies. (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2016. €54. ISBN 978-87-635-4260-9.)

This volume is a collection of essays based on papers from a 2012 conference organized by the Danish Royal Library, which sought to present 'historical, theological, liturgical, and musicological aspects of the emergence of States and the role of the Church' (p. 7), particularly by engaging with historical and hagiographical material. Both this conference and the present volume have at their centre the publication of a facsimile and edition of liturgical material for the Danish saint Knud Lavard, whose shadow may be seen in a significant number of the thirteen chapters, which treat otherwise varied topics within this broad purview in a context wider than Denmark or indeed Scandinavia. The intention is clearly to use the Mass and Office material for Knud as the centre-point of a constellation of investigations that together illuminate the wider context, in which liturgical and historical material elucidate a wider western European phenomenon. The volume is at its best when such a vision is glimpsed in some of the essays, but many of the individual contributions are very much worth reading for their exemplary methodology and insightful close reading, and for the quantity of primary material published for the first time.

Perhaps the essay that most embodies the vision for this collection is that of Nils Holger Petersen on the 'image' of St Knud Lavard in its analysis of the text and music of the Offices in his honour and in the post-medieval appropriation of this image, the whole framed by comments on the construction, through liturgical and other means, of national collective memory. Petersen's work illustrates how the construction of the medieval Office for Knud, dependent both on 'genre features for Offices for royal saints' (p. 135) and newly composed material, helped to shape the way that his cult was received in the national cultural memory, emphasizing 'the connection between the identity of the person who venerates the saint and the identity of the saint' (p. 133).

Contributions by Roman Hankeln and Ann-Marie Nilsson, on liturgies for the saintly kings Canute (of Denmark) and Erik (of Sweden), also consider how texts and chants can build both on pre-existing material that establishes sanctity and on echoes of earlier liturgical material. Nilsson offers a comprehensive study of Erik's cult and Office, revealing that the formulation of the texts and chants seems to have been a product of several stages of development. Hankeln draws on similarities between a new musical source of Canute's Office and English Offices for Edmund and Oswald. Consequently, he argues for chant as 'an integral part of a multifaceted representation of the ideal sainted monarch' (p. 184).

David Hiley and John Caldwell each offer studies of English Offices for royal saints. The Office for St Oswin, reports Hiley, shares a number of chants with Knud Lavard and Offices for other royal saints. It also contains a rather high number of chants in mode 6 that are found to contain a particular melodic gesture, which may also be found in Knud's Office and those for St Oswald and Wulstan. Hiley suggests this may be part of the 'melodic fingerprint' of mode 6 chants emanating from England, and those influenced by them. Caldwell identifies some of the compositional strategies behind Mildred's Office that suggest the skill of its creator. He speculates that Goscelin of Canterbury, author of the Life of Mildred, may be credible as composer of her Office. The medieval and post-medieval reception of a saint as a part of national identity, earlier discussed by Petersen, is also explored by Owain Tudor Edwards in the case of St David of Menevia, who became the 'last man standing' as the patron of Wales. John Toy documents a large amount...


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