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Organistrum versus Symphonia/Zanfona (Our talk in Santiago, 2017)

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WHAT HAVE WE DONE IN SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SEPTEMBER 2017?

OUR TALK WAS ABOUT THE FAMOUS ORGANISTRUM....BUT WITH SOME NEW IDEAS!

EVENTUALLY, A WRONG NAME FOR AN INSTRUMENT WITH A DEEP DIVINE AND COSMIC SIGNIFICANCE THAT WE WOULD RATHER CALL SYMPHONIA

 

Santiago de Compostela Organistrum: an astronomical approach
Giuseppe Severini
Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana, Italy
Associazione Culturale Secoli Bui, Italy
APEMUTAM, France
Andrea Orlando
Istituto di Archeoastronomia Siciliana, Italy
Laboratori Nazionali del Sud (INFN), Italy


The famous Gate of Glory in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (Galicia), dedicated to
St. James (Unceta, 2004), recently  examined in an interesting archaeoastronomical perspective
(Vilas Estevéz and Gonzalez-Garcia, 2016) too, has been built following an iconographic project
inspired by St. John’s book of Apocalypse (Moralejo, 1988). At the top of main arch, in the middle
of the 24 venerable men’s row around Christ’s throne, there is a peculiar musical instrument (Fig.
1) -equipped with a wheel- played by two of them (Luengo, 1988). The particular position, the
extremely accurate details and the peculiarity of the instrument underline the importance of an
object whose origins, symbolism and actual musical role (Lopez-Calo, 1988) have never been
completely explained.
The most intriguing features are: a) 12 intervals division of the octave; b) wheel used to produce
sound; c) general shape and decorations. In this article we introduce a possible interpretation of
Organistrum as a sampler of cosmological and astronomical knowledge typical of European culture
from IX to XII century (Eastwood, 1997; McCluskey, 1998). Close relationship between astronomy
and music in platonic-pythagorean doctrines (Albertazzi, 2010) is confirmed through detailed
analysis of astronomical texts in manuscripts copied in Benedictine scriptoria from Carolingian
Renaissance onwards (Eastwood, 2007).
Beyond general reference to Plato’s Timaeus, through Macrobius and Calcidius commentaries
(Martello, 2011), main suggestions to our study come from interesting diagrams (Eastwood and
Grasshoff, 2004) found in these manuscripts (e.g.: clm 14436, f.61r, Munich Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek). Organistrum could be considered a representation of Cosmos, a sort of acoustic
planetary, the Christian answer to Oud’s astronomical interpretation proposed by Arabic school
(Severini, 2015), that by the ninth century had moved from Baghdad to Cordoba (Godwin, 1993;
Lindberg, 1992).


References
Albertazzi, M. (ed.), Philosophia. Lavìs. La Finestra editrice, 2010.
Eastwood, B., Ordering the Heavens. Roman Astronomy and Cosmology in the Carolingian Renaissance. Brill, 2007.
Eastwood, B. and G. Grasshoff, Planetary Diagrams For Roman Astronomy In Medieval Europe, ca. 800-1500,
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 94, No. 3, 2004.
Godwin, J. (ed.), The Harmony of the Spheres: A Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition, in Music, Inner Traditions
International, Rochester, Vermont, 1993.
Lindberg, D.C., The Beginnings of Western Science: the European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious and
Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Lopez-Calo, La musica en la Catedral de Santiago, A.D.1188, in El Portico de la Gloria. Musica, Arte y pensamento.
“Cuadernos de Musica en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Luengo, F., Los instrumentos del portico, in El portico de la Gloria. Musica, Arte y pensamento, “Cuadernos de Musica
en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Martello, C., Platone a Chartres. Palermo: Officina di Studi Medievali, 2011.
McCluskey, S.C., Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Moraeljo, S., Marco historico y contexto liturgico en la obra del Portico de la Gloria, in El Portico de la Gloria.
Musica, Arte y pensamento, “Cuadernos de Musica en Compostela II”, Santiago de Compostela, 1988.
Severini, G., La reconstitution des Rebabs d'après les peintures du XII siècle de la Chapelle Palatine à Palerme, in
L'instrumentarium du Moyen Age. La restitution du son. Paris: l'Harmattan, 2015.
Vilas Estévez, B. and C. González-García, Illuminating effects at the cathedral of Saint James (Galicia): first results,
Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 465-471, 2016.

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