The Medieval Offices of Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Medieval Offices of Saint Thomas Aquinas is a joint volume by Hilkka-Liisa Vuori, Marika Räsänen and Seppo Heikkinen (DocMus Research Publications, 14, Sibelius Academy, Uniarts Helsinki, 2019). You can download the book from here.

In this book, a culture historian, musicologist and Latin philologist investigate the medieval lyrics and notations of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s feasts and analyse the perception of the Saint through the spatial, musical and linguistic emphases in his festivities. The book is a result of a joint research and artistic project with a strong multidisciplinary approach entitled Touching, Tasting, Hearing and Seeing. Sensorial Experiences in the Feasts of St Thomas Aquinas.

The study focuses on the relationship between the music and the text in Saint Thomas Aquinas’s medieval offices. Singing and listening are central to sensory experience in medieval liturgy. The combination of the melodies and words is strongly emotional, having the capacity to transform the mood of a person and the environment of the church, metaphorically transporting singers and listeners to the spiritual realm of the saint. Liturgical chants had a great potential to convey devotional and even political messages: the different sensorial stimuli of the liturgy made them attainable and understandable to everyone in medieval communities, without making a sharp distinction between religious and secular audiences. In Thomas’s Dies natalis and Translatio offices, the devotional and political aspects were deliberately taken into consideration by the friars of the Order of Preachers who prepared the offices. In addition to the obvious benefit that it has preserved something of aesthetic value, such written music provides some of the best surviving evidence of the veneration of the saint. The book includes the musical notations of the chants.

The project is funded by the Kone Foundation.