Organistrum de Compostela. An astronomical approach

Organistrum de Compostela. An astronomical approach

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA SYMPHONIA COELESTIS

An astronomical approach

 

1 : Gate of Glory:

Gate of Glory extrados in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is crowded by statues bearing different kinds of stringed instruments. At the very top of the gate two of them are playing a beautifully carved and decorated instrument, the so calledOrganistrum.

2 : The top instrument:

This curious object has been largely studied and several reconstructions have been proposed and carried out by scholars and luthiers during the past 40 years, nevertheless some aspects are still uncertain, such as its symbolic significance and its peculiar musical role.

3 :: Symphonia::

Let’s start considering its special location.Thestatues of the extrados represent the 24 elders of Apocalypse. They can be symbols of Time (24), Music (musical instruments) and Divine symphony (they are heavenly creatures) too.

4 :: Two Performers::

The two performers at the top are very close to Christ’s head, position as usual occupied by angels.If we compare them to the other musicians we observe they look to be the only two actually playing and they are playing the most complex instrument of all. The idea that it could be given a deeper symbolic significance is strengthened by closer observation of its features. A turning object, the wheel, creates the sound from strings stretched over a sound box made of two equal circles, to which an unusual keyboard is added, equipped with 11 keys, so that the octave is divided into 12 parts.

All this is strange enough and absolutely unique, in XII century atleast !, and we need referring to any kind of theological, philosophical, mathematical and musical theory of the age to give a reasonable interpretation of it.Medieval Latin Platonism, for example, mainly related to Chartres cathedral school, well connected with Paris and Santiago, brings to us interesting suggestions.

5 :: Ordering the Heavens::

Platonists thought that at the beginning of creation, making the World Soul, Demiurgos was dealing with three abstract elements: Being, Sameness and Difference. Establishing the right proportions among sameness and difference, he gave the World Soul the shape of two circles one inside the other and put them into the material World, thus creating both the Sphere of fixed stars and the plane of planetary orbits. Circular motions of planets and stars were thus connected in perfect harmony, like the strings of a well tuned Lyre or the pipes of a well cut Pan flute[1].This set-up is reflected in our instrument.

6 :: Symphonia Coelistis::

A circular sound box, theCircle of Sameness, contains the wheel , that represents planetary motion: the Circle of Difference. This is the origin: the invisible World Soul. Thenanother circle is added, the visible world, Cosmos, with its charming beauty. At lastwe find the keyboard, with 11 keys dividing the octave in parts, the symbol of human mind, which divides and measures in order to understand Natural phenomena. Therefore, the widespread philosophical principle “Veritas est adaequatio intellectus et rei “ (translation: truth is an adjustement between intellect and things) is well represented here, as we can observe thatthe vibrating string-length (rectilinear thought) is equal to the circumference of each circle of the sound box (Nature and abstract world).

Further suggestions come fromthe analysis of instrument decorations.

  1. A long line of DOTS runs all around the outline of the instrument. They are symbols of the stars. From left to right: first circle, the idea of the stars in the abstract world; second circle, the visiblestars; keyboard, our knowledge of the stars (straightened).
  2. The large ROSETTE in the middle represents the Visible World, a circular figure divided in four equal sections by two perpendicular axes. Each section is occupied by a five lobes leaf and twigs (these leaves are similar to those sculpted all around the 24 Elders). The division in four sections may refer to the four elements of material world.

7 :: Diagram of the Seasons

This figure recalls diagrams of the seasons frequently drawn in glosses of IX-XII century astronomical manuscripts or even more elaborated drawings.The main goal of any scholar was to calculate accurately the length of each season in order to obtain an exact and affordable calendar to establish with great accuracy both the dates of Christian feasts and the right hours for prayer in monasteries[2].

8 :: IX-XII centuries decoration patterns ::

Finally, KEYBOARD LID decoration, unique among all other decorations sculpted in the Gate, shows a rare pattern, which had been popular in some areas around the Alps and in Ireland between IX and XI centuries, rather neglected in the XII[3].

9 :: Keyboard ::

Each knot of the interlace corresponds precisely to one key of the 11keys protruding out of the rectangular box. This division in fact is the most puzzling feature of all, as nobody could justify the introduction of a chromatic scale in XII century, when only strict diatonism was allowed. But we discovered that, curiously enough, both the unusualdecoration and the division of the octave in 12 semitones can be referred to diagrams of planetary latitudes, related to musical scales as well, in astronomical manuscripts of the age.

10 :: Planetary latitudes diagrams ::

Such diagrams were intended to represent planetary latitudes across the zodiacal band, divided vertically in 12 degrees. As usual the horizontal line of these grids was divided in 30 parts, but since XI century we often find 12 in order to signify the 12 zodiacal signs. The Sun and Saturn were given a serpentine path within the two middle degrees of the zodiac, Jupiter had three degrees, Mars four, Mercury eight, the Moon covered the zodiacal band with its 12 degrees of latitude. Venus was assigned a latitude of 14 degrees, one degree beyond the zodiac on each side.

11 :: Planetary latitudes diagrams ::

TCmanuscript

Then, in a manuscript by Abbo de Fleury (c 940-1004) we find a horizontal column list of the Plinian intervals between planetary orbitsattached to planetary latitudes grid[4].Whether 14 semitones can be counted in total, the musical octave spanning from Moon to Saturn is divided into 12 semitones (semitone beingthe unit of measurement of the scale, clearly enough).Thus, our XII centurychromatic scale shouldn’t be considered as a scandal any longer! Besides, experimenting with our special keyboard with keys ranging about two full chromatic octaves demonstrates that this arrangement fits quite well XII century two voices polyphonic music.

12 :: The name

For these reasons we feel the name of Symphonia or Symphonia magna or Symphonia coelestis would be more appropriate for this instrument than the usual, uncertain and rather mocking name of Organistrum.

Its representationin Santiago could have been an exclusive message for a restricted group of scholars capable of understanding the cosmological and musical implications of a non-traditional object that had been invented of course by monks  trained in the liberal arts of Quadrivium.

 

[1]Bruce S. Eastwood.Ordering the Heavens. Roman astronomy and cosmology in the Carolingian renaissance. Brill, 2007   Reasoning about circular and rectilinear motions in: Guglielmo di Conches, Glosae super Platonem. See: Martello Concetto,Platone a Chartres. Palermo, Officina di studi Medievali, 2011, p.86.

[2]Stephen C. McCluskey.Astronomies and cultures in early medieval Europe.Cambridge University Press, 1998, p 97-113.

[3]Giulia Marrucchi e Riccardo Belcari, La grande storia dell’arte. Il Medioevo. Firenze, E-ducationS.p.A., 2005, p 146-7

[4]Bruce S. Eastwood.,Astronomy in Christian latin Europe c.500-c.1150.

in JHA, xxviii (1997) Science History Publications Ltd. p 250-3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6vv4IPGgRk

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Salva

Read more...
Organistrum versus Symphonia/Zanfona (Our talk in Santiago, 2017)

Organistrum versus Symphonia/Zanfona (Our talk in Santiago, 2017)

WHAT HAVE WE DONE IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SEPTEMBER 2017?

OUR TALK WAS ABOUT THE FAMOUS ORGANISTRUM....BUT WITH SOME NEW IDEAS!

EVENTUALLY, A WRONG NAME FOR AN INSTRUMENT WITH A DEEP DIVINE AND COSMIC SIGNIFICANCE THAT WE WOULD RATHER CALL SYMPHONIA

Santiago de Compostela Organistrum: an astronomical approach
Giuseppe Severini
Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana, Italy
Associazione Culturale Secoli Bui, Italy
APEMUTAM, France
Andrea Orlando
Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana, Italy
Laboratori Nazionali del Sud (INFN), Italy


The famous Gate of Glory in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (Galicia), dedicated to
St. James (Unceta, 2004), recently  examined in an interesting archaeoastronomical perspective
(Vilas Estevéz and Gonzalez-Garcia, 2016) too, has been built following an iconographic project
inspired by St. John’s book of Apocalypse (Moralejo, 1988). At the top of main arch, in the middle
of the 24 venerable men’s row around Christ’s throne, there is a peculiar musical instrument (Fig.
1) -equipped with a wheel- played by two of them (Luengo, 1988). The particular position, the
extremely accurate details and the peculiarity of the instrument underline the importance of an
object whose origins, symbolism and actual musical role (Lopez-Calo, 1988) have never been
completely explained.
The most intriguing features are: a) 12 intervals division of the octave; b) wheel used to produce
sound; c) general shape and decorations. In this article we introduce a possible interpretation of
Organistrum as a sampler of cosmological and astronomical knowledge typical of European culture
from IX to XII century (Eastwood, 1997; McCluskey, 1998). Close relationship between astronomy
and music in platonic-pythagorean doctrines (Albertazzi, 2010) is confirmed through detailed
analysis of astronomical texts in manuscripts copied in Benedictine scriptoria from Carolingian
Renaissance onwards (Eastwood, 2007).
Beyond general reference to Plato’s Timaeus, through Macrobius and Calcidius commentaries
(Martello, 2011), main suggestions to our study come from interesting diagrams (Eastwood and
Grasshoff, 2004) found in these manuscripts (e.g.: clm 14436, f.61r, Munich Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek). Organistrum could be considered a representation of Cosmos, a sort of acoustic
planetary, the Christian answer to Oud’s astronomical interpretation proposed by Arabic school
(Severini, 2015), that by the ninth century had moved from Baghdad to Cordoba (Godwin, 1993;
Lindberg, 1992).


References
Albertazzi, M. (ed.), Philosophia. Lavìs. La Finestra editrice, 2010.
Eastwood, B., Ordering the Heavens. Roman Astronomy and Cosmology in the Carolingian Renaissance. Brill, 2007.
Eastwood, B. and G. Grasshoff, Planetary Diagrams For Roman Astronomy In Medieval Europe, ca. 800-1500,
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 94, No. 3, 2004.
Godwin, J. (ed.), The Harmony of the Spheres: A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition, in Music, Inner Traditions
International, Rochester, Vermont, 1993.
Lindberg, D.C., The Beginnings of Western Science: the European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious and
Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Lopez-Calo, La musica en la Catedral de Santiago, A.D.1188, in El Portico de la Gloria. Musica, Arte y pensamento.
“Cuadernos de Musica en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Luengo, F., Los instrumentos del portico, in El portico de la Gloria. Musica, Arte y pensamento, “Cuadernos de Musica
en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Martello, C., Platone a Chartres. Palermo: Officina di Studi Medievali, 2011.
McCluskey, S.C., Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Moraeljo, S., Marco historico y contexto liturgico en la obra del Portico de la Gloria, in El Portico de la Gloria.
Musica, Arte y pensamento, “Cuadernos de Musica en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Severini, G., La reconstitution des Rebabs d'après les peintures du XII siècle de la Chapelle Palatine à Palerme, in
L'instrumentarium du Moyen Age. La restitution du son. Paris: l'Harmattan, 2015.
Vilas Estévez, B. and C. González-García, Illuminating effects at the cathedral of Saint James (Galicia): first results,
Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 465-471, 2016.

(FULL TEXT WILL BE PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY SEAC)

http://it.ivoox.com/en/infiltrados-no-road-to-the-stars-audios-mp3_rf_21778808_1.html

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed