Remembering the Annunciation in medieval polyphony

Speculum 70 (2):275-304 (1995)

It is difficult to piece together the repertory of polyphonic music for the feast of the Annunciation to Mary in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. On the face of it, this seems a paradox: the celebration is one of the most important in Western Christendom, and, generally speaking, the more prominent a service in the Middle Ages, the more composers wrote for it. Dating from the fifth century in the Eastern Church and from the seventh century in the West, the Annunciation was traditionally solemnized at a high level. In comparison with the three other great Marian feasts—Purification, Assumption, and Nativity—the Annunciation should rank first among equals. It recalls both the moment at which the Virgin learns she is to be the mother of Jesus and consequently the very beginning of his earthly existence. The feast is the turning point between Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and the fulfillment of those promises. In short, to Christians the Annunciation embodies the central doctrine et homo factus est
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DOI 10.2307/2864894
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