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Important Conference on the Influences of the Dominicans in the Middle Ages

Monday, July 13, 2015

Important Conference on the Influences of the Dominicans in the Middle Ages With the 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order approaching in 2016, Dr Eleanor Giraud of Lincoln College, Oxford, is organising a significant 3-day conference on the influences of the Dominicans in the medieval period.

 We spoke with Dr Giraud in order to discover her motivation and something of the outstanding programme being offered to participants.

1. How did you first become interested in the study of the Dominicans of the middle ages?
As a doctoral student, I was interested in the production of music books in Paris—thirteenth-century Paris was a hub of book-making activity, and a site of much music-making, but how music books were made had not previously been examined. Over the course of my first year, I kept finding connections between Dominican chant books: books that had been decorated by the same group of artists, books that were supposedly copied from one another, and so on. By the end of the year, I had decided to focus on the production and notation of Dominican manuscripts in particular. I was lucky to meet Br Matthew Jarvis in my Latin class, who was a novice in Cambridge at the time. He helped me greatly in my studies, and introduced me to the librarian in Cambridge, Fr Aidan Nichols, who was very accommodating in letting me use the Blackfriars’ library whenever I needed. I’ve been touched by the kindness that Dominicans have shown me over the years: I certainly picked a good Order to study! I’ve since moved on from studying book production, but I’ve stuck with the Dominicans: I’m now examining the early forms of Dominican chant.

2. As a specialist in medieval Dominican chant, what do you find most distinctive about it?

One of the distinctive aspects about Dominican chant is its brevity in comparison to other chant repertories: the Dominicans tended to eliminate repetitions of notes or melodic patterns, and cut down on extensive melismas (that is, several notes sung to one syllable, e.g. saaaaanctus). This was probably related to the focus in Dominican life on dedicating oneself to study, even over worship. One of the early Master Generals of the Order, Humbert of Romans, said ‘A short Office with study is better than a long [Office] with study hindered’ and he even recommended that if the brothers accidentally slept in, then the Cantor should hurry things along and shorten the length of the readings at Matins! So it’s no surprise that the early Dominicans sought to cut down the length of their chant.

3. Looking ahead to the conference you are organising in Oxford this year, on the Influences of the Dominican Order in the Middle Ages, can you give us a flavour of what is on offer for participants?

As the conference is interdisciplinary, there is probably something here for everyone! We have various panels covering how the Dominicans influenced art history, music, liturgy, and book production—the latter being the subject of our keynote paper, given by Mary Rouse. In addition, there are panels looking at the interaction of medieval Dominicans across different parts of Europe. With the conference taking place in Oxford, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear more about the early history of the Dominicans in the city, both through academic presentations as well as through a walking tour of medieval Oxford, led by archaeologist George Lambrick. Another highlight of the conference will be a concert of music that can be associated with the Dominican Order—both Dominican chant, and scraps of polyphony found as binding fragments in Dominican books.

4. If our readers are interested in taking part in the conference, how can they book a place?

Further details about the conference, including the programme and link to the registration page, are available on our webpage, but should they have any further questions, please contact me: Dr Eleanor Giraud.

Conference dates: 10-12 September 2015. Please note, registration deadline is Friday 21st August!
Important Conference on the Influences of the Dominicans in the Middle Ages

Picture credits: Fran May, top photo; Alexandra Franklin, second photo.




Leo Raph. A. de Jong o.p. commented on 14-Jul-2015 11:49 AM
Beautifull indeed.
But I miss one very important issue:
The influence of the great Dominican Mystics: Eckhart, Suzo, Tauler, (1300-1360) on the thoughts and arts of that time and of our times. So Etty Hillesum, Rilke, Cusanus, etc. And many other writers and poets where very influenced by the Dominican Rhineland mysticism.
Arts as well?Musicians as well? I think so.
And Eckhart himself made a beautifull hymn, named : Granum Sinapis" Probably sung in the church during a provincial chapter, or so., .They had a big influence on the female Dominicans and the more critical and educated lay persons of those times.
I know: you can not speak about everything in three days.
. But a remembrance of their influence should be appropriate, I think.
Greetings and good wishes.
Leo Raph. A. de Jong o.p.
Rotterdam. The Netherlands.

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