Many glowing tributes to my beloved Teresa Berganza over the past week have included clips from performances and albums and all of them spotlit the warmth and sheer beauty of her voice. However I found this simple unaccompanied medieval canticle to the Virgin Mary says everything to me about why I fell in love with her and her artistry.
The court of Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise) was a centre of learning, science, and the arts in 13th century Castile. Alfonso encouraged Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars at his court and commissioned translations into Castilian of books in Arabic and Hebrew. He set the foundations for the development of Spanish sciences, literature, and philosophy. Amongst the codices on astronomy, Mediterranean history, and chronicles of Iberia, the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Canticles of Saint Mary) stands out as a singular achievement. This vast collection of 420 lyric poems in the Galician-Portuguese language is the largest collection of vernacular monophonic (solo) songs to survive from the Middle Ages.
Each song contains a reference to the Virgin Mary – many recount her miracles, some like Cantiga 10: Rosa das rosas (Rose of roses) sing her praises and others are prayers for her intercession. Cantiga 100: Santa Maria is a prayer asking for her guidance and protection. The album cover shown here is Narciso Yepes, the renowned guitarist, however Teresa Berganza recorded it a capella as part of a compilation album with him.
The word for May 18th is:
Canticle /ˈkan(t)ək(ə)l/: [noun]
A song, hymn, or chant, often with a biblical text, forming a regular part of Christian worship.
Middle English: from Latin canticulum ‘little song’, diminutive of canticum, from canere ‘sing’.