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About the project

The project “Musical and Poetic Creativity for A Unique Moment in the Western Christian Liturgy c.1000-1500” pursues a transformative focus on creative practices surrounding the ritual exclamation Benedicamus Domino.

12th-century polyphonic Benedicamus Melodies, manuscript source

End of polyphonic Benedicamus, “Stirps Iesse florigeram”, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 1139, fol. 61r, detail (Reproduced from BnF Gallica)


The exclamation Benedicamus Domino, meaning “Let us Bless the Lord”, sounded in song several times a day from c.1000 to 1500 in the Western Christian liturgy.

This moment was granted a special musical licence around the year 1000: singers of plainchant melodies could choose to reprise a favourite tune from the Church music for the day, re-texting it with the Latin words Benedicamus Domino.

In consequence, Benedicamus Domino enjoyed unprecedented longevity and significance as a focus of compositional interest. It prompted some of the earliest experiments in multi-voiced polyphonic composition circa 1100, as well as a lasting tradition of popular, devotional carols in the 1300s and 1400s.


Histories of music have principally told the stories of particular composers, genres, institutions or geographical centres. This project undertakes the first longue durée study of musical and poetic responses to an exceptional liturgical moment. It uses this innovative perspective to work productively across established historiographical and disciplinary boundaries.

The project encompasses half a millennium of musical and ritual activity, and hundreds of musical compositions, poetic texts and manuscript sources. It offers pan-European perspectives on a chronologically and geographically diverse range of musical and poetic genres that have never before been considered in conjunction.

Engaging with the beginnings of musical and poetic genres and techniques that were crucial in shaping practices still current today, the project reflects on music’s enduringly complex relationship with spirituality, ritual and the sacred.


September 1. 2020-September 1. 2025.


EU logo with 13 yellow stars in a circle on a blue background. And ERC logo with the letters ERC and orange points in a circle.

“Musical and Poetic Creativity for A Unique Moment in the Western Christian Liturgy, c.1000-1500” -  is funded by the European Research Council under agreement no. 864174 (ERC Consolidator Grant 2020).

Published Aug. 17, 2020 11:46 AM - Last modified Feb. 10, 2021 10:03 AM