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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

CANCELLED: History of the Book Lecture:Pilgrim Songs, Silence and Noise on the Way to Santiago

19th May 2020, 18:00 to 19:00, Professor Emerita, George Greenia

Silence was the base line for medieval life. In the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims made their sacred treks mostly in an arduous hush, punctuated by entertaining recita­tions, the rhy­thms of walking songs, mem­or­ized Latin hymns and comfortingly predictable sung liturgies at each stop. The familiarity of well-known communal music and song marked their pro­gress toward sonic sacredness in echoey stone chambers. While music and language were the crafted sounds of life, background was created by nature and purposeful human effort. The acoustic landscape of medieval life changed while journeying, every city and settlement a coming ashore on an “acoustic island” where there were new forms of song and speech, but also different noises for labor and even law, such as calls to shelter, commerce and curfew. Sacred silence could be imposed on an enemy. Conquering Muslims carried off Christian church bells as war trophies to silence their infidel calls to worship, while ascendant Christians turned minarets into bell towers. It’s not all muted piety: raucous pilgrim parties could even stop storms.

Booking Details to follow shortly