The art and architecture of medieval churches was inextricably linked with the rituals that inhabited them: the Christian liturgy. Every year on November 25th, churches and monasteries across the country resounded with plainchant and polyphony dedicated to the saint that England had come to claim as its own: St Katherine of Alexandria.
Much of the groundwork for St Katherine’s late medieval popularity was laid by a plainchant liturgy composed in England in the late eleventh century and ultimately disseminated throughout the continent—a rare example of an English liturgical composition supplanting continental observations.
What was a liturgy for a saint, and why did it matter? What made these particular chants, and through them, St Katherine herself, appealing to singers and communities?
In this lecture Dr James Blasina proposes that the English liturgy for St Katherine reveals an alternative model of medieval womanhood that valorised women’s speech and political participation. With St. Katherine as a case study, attendees will discover the workings of the medieval Christian liturgy, its centrality to both spiritual and every-day life, and the ways it could be customised to meet local needs.
Dr. James Blasina, Ph.D is Assistant Professor Music at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, USA. His research currently focuses on the medieval cult of St. Katherine of Alexandria, with a focus on music in England, and the links between saints’ cults, gender, and identity.