- Jack Sage
A Spanish and Portuguese medieval monophonic song. The words ‘cantiga’, ‘cantica’ and ‘cantar’ were widely used in the Iberian peninsula up to about 1450 to designate a song, as opposed to decir, which was looked upon as a poem; but apart from six secular love songs by martin Codax and the seven extant songs with music by Dom Dom Dinis, the only surviving music is that of the Cantigas de Santa María of Alfonso el Sabio. This collection of over 400 songs about the Virgin Mary was made between about 1270 and 1290 under the direction of King Alfonso and illuminated with illustrative miniatures, the whole forming one of the great artistic achievements of the Middle Ages. Most of these cantigas are ballad-style accounts of miracles performed by the Blessed Virgin (cantiga de miragres) but every tenth is a hymn in her praise (cantiga de loor). The poems are in Portuguese-Galician (akin to Portuguese), a language chosen not merely because Galicia was part of Alfonso’s kingdom but because it was often considered by Spanish poets up to the 15th century to be suitable for lyric poetry. Strictly, then, the word ‘cantiga’ in Alfonso’s collection should be given a Portuguese pronunciation (stress on the first syllable, hispanicized as ...