Programme Archive

Wars, Music and Liturgy at Monte Cassino and in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages – Men’s voices

The first Benedictine Abbey in the world, founded by Saint Benedict around the year 526, Monte Cassino preserves today a mysterious silence that hides its illustrious and cruel history. In the Middle Ages, it was a place of great political importance: close to Rome, involved in the schism between the Occident and the Christian Orient. The word 'Barbarians' frequently flowed from the pens of the chroniclers of Cassino, but each time it had a different signification. The Barbarians were the 'Others' in a strange history that is always written by the victors.


If one wanted to hear the chant that in the Middle Ages echoed through the great basilica on this enigmatic hill, one would be confronted with a mystery. A small collection of manuscripts has survived all the desctruction. The ancient Beneventan liturgy that attests to the Lombard presence in Southern Italy, the Greek chant, and finally, the new Gregorian tradition – all blended, with quite a surprising unity of musical languages. Monte Cassino is the place where one chants 'cum cantu promiscuo', with an incredible ambiguity in the musical traditions of men who, quite often, did not speak the same tongue, but who were obliged to live together. This powerful encounter with the mysterious Lombard (or Barbarian?) cantors brings a new light on the musical mentality of those virtuoso medieval singers who spoke 'the Gregorian language' with a charming southern accent and left behind them rich chant and polyphonic repertoire of very archaic and rare beauty.

Musical Sample

Dixit Isaac patri suo

Voices: Benjamin Bagby, Olivier Delafosse, Vincent Pislar, Branislav Rakić, Michael Loughlin Smith