Sacred Songs: Antiphonals and Illuminations

Sacred Songs Exhibition Title

Douglass Gallery

For more than a thousand years music alongside prayer has played a key role in services among many Christian orders. Prayers were given melodies that led to songs incorporated in daily rituals for clergy. Many people today are familiar with Gregorian Chant, one of the earliest examples introduced in the Medieval period. In time, clergy presented songs to parishioners as a part of mass and other religious festivals.

Beginning in the 10th century musical notation was developed into a universal written system to unify liturgy, chants and response songs called antiphons. Creating leafs or pages on which antiphons are written evolved out of illuminated manuscript traditions featuring hand-rendered images and decorative elements. Many antiphonals were made large to provide ease of reading by a choir, while smaller examples were used by a choirmaster or personally owned by wealthy parishioners. 

Most of the antiphonal leafs featured in Sacred Songs are from the Art Museum’s collections as a result of donations from Orpha Webster, Walter I. Farmer and Frank Jordan. Additional leafs and a bound Book of Hours are generously loaned by the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives at Miami University. This exhibition is curated with assistance from Curatorial Intern Lydia Jasper who co-majored in Art History and Music.

FREE & OPEN TO ALL with advanced reservation
Monday-Friday 10 AM-5 PM

Related Programming [ALL VIA ZOOM]

Visualizing the Unseen: Gregorian Chant and the Arts

Robert Benson, Emeritus Professor, Department of Architecture

WED, MAR 24 | 6 PM [Virtual]

Although sung music was always important to Christian spirituality in worship and monastic life, in the early middle ages, chant and other music could only be learned by rote. The invention of musical notation made what had only been heard visible and readable. This permitted Gregorian chant to become one of the driving forces in the arts of painting, metalwork, sculpture and architecture where the unseen was also given visual expression.

All Programs are FREE and held online.