Capella de Ministrers
Lluis Vich Vocalis
Sibila. Milagros, reliquias y profecías (Sibyl. Miracles, relics, and prophecies)
Friday, 21 July 2023
22:30 Archpriest Church Apostles Gate. Candlelight concert
Carles Magraner, viols
Robert Cases, harp, vihuela, lute
Silke G. Schulze, flutes, shawms
Eduard Navarro, bagpipe, shawms
Elies Hernandis, shawm, sackbut
Jordi Giménez, shawm, sackbut
Pau Ballester, percussion, cymbals
Lluis Vich Vocalis
Tenors: Vicente Abril, Jaime Flors, Jesús Navarro, Jesús Ruiz de Cenzano
Basses: José Luis Vicente, Ignacio Martí, Eduard Escartí, Ximo Martí
The Sibyl is the only character from Antiquity who found a place in Christian liturgy, thanks to the prestige of her prophecies from pre-classical Greece to the times of the Roman Empire. Some of these prophecies were recorded in writing, giving rise to a series of books called the Sibylline Oracles. One of these books, of Christian origin, contains certain verses attributed to the Eritrean Sibyl –one of the many who existed– regarding the second coming of Christ in the Last Judgment. These same verses are curiously incorporated into a sermon titled “Against Jews, Pagans, and Arians,” which was long attributed to Saint Augustine. This sermon presents prophetic testimonies about the coming of the Messiah, starting with the prophet Isaiah and ending with the Sibyl.
It was probably in the early 9th century when the sermon by Pseudo Augustine became part of the liturgy. However, it was from the mid-12th century that we have records of the sermon, with the Sibylline verses sung, being part of the Matins service on Christmas in the papal chapel. Not long after, they must have been heard in the See of Huesca, although this had to wait until Pedro I of Aragon reconquered the city in 1096 and introduced the Franco-Roman rite, replacing the old Hispanic rite. The chapter archive of the Huesca Cathedral holds four manuscripts that copy the eschatological verses of the Sibyl with musical notation. One of them is a Lectionary of probable French origin (Codex 3), like others that circulated in the Iberian Peninsula to facilitate the change of rite. The layout of the copy clearly indicates how they should be performed: preceded by a call to attention –”Audite quid dixerit” (Hear what she said)–, followed by the refrain –”Iudicii signum: tellus sudore madescet” (The sign of Judgment: the Earth will be soaked in sweat)–, and then thirteen couplets of two verses each that alternate with it.
Exceptions aside, the custom of performing the verses of the Iudicii signum, either in Latin or translated, persisted here and there until 1568 when a new breviary was imposed throughout the Western Church, which did not include the sermon to which they had always been associated. Other customs lasted for a much shorter period of time, including the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Relics, which took place in the royal chapel of Aragon during the reign of Martin I the Human (1396-1410).
Martin was an especially devout king, and one of his endeavors was to accumulate relics. Any occasion was a good opportunity to enrich his collection. For example, during his stay in the city of Zaragoza for his coronation, he acquired the supposed Holy Grail, which was in the possession of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, and took it to his palace of Aljafería. Among the many sacred relics belonging to the royal house of Aragon, those of Saint George, the protector of the Aragonese forces, always held a special place. Among them were a piece of his hand and a piece of his arm, which acquired special significance during the services dedicated to the saint on his feast day. One of these services includes the prose Gaude plebs angelica, which speaks of the military valor of the saint, through whose miraculous intervention Huesca, Valencia, and Mallorca were liberated from Saracen occupation. Equally miraculous was the intervention of Santa María de Salas in human affairs, the Virgin to whom King Alfonso the Wise dedicated the most cantigas, seventeen in total. In contrast to the solemnity of the liturgical chants in Latin, they represent a sample of popular piety in the form of brief but intense musical and literary gems, part of the rich heritage we have inherited from the past.
Maricarmen Gómez Muntané