The Cantigas of Santa Maria of Alfonso X: Context, Notation, Performance

6 sessions - Self-paced

 Course Description

The Cantigas de Santa Maria is a collection of over four hundred monophonic pieces in Galician-Portuguese, composed and compiled in the court of King Alfonso X “the wise” (1252-1284). This repertoire stands as the largest extant collection of songs written in any European vernacular language before the fourteenth century. The poetry of most of these pieces is narrative and usually recounts miracles performed by the Virgin Mary throughout the known world.

While most songs in the Cantigas collection are composed following a zejel-virelai structure (autochthonous to the Iberian Peninsula), other Iberian and pan-European forms such as that of the troubadour chanson, the cantiga de amigo, the rondeau, and the sequence are also displayed. The melodies of the songs are copied in some type of mensural notation which can be “decoded” in different ways: through the application of simple mensural rules or through the use of more flexible systems which in some case might reflect the use of Arabic rhythmic concepts.

Some musicologists and performers have proposed the use of Arabic musical practices and instruments in the performance of the Cantigas. This “oriental” approach is principally based on the observation of certain contemporary musical iconography, the structures and content of Cantigas’ poems, and some particularities of their musical notation. However, there is also extant data that indicates that the repertoire was closely related in composition and performance to European Liturgical music, paraliturgical dance and processional music, and troubadour-trouvère song.

In this course, students will explore and get familiar with the sources of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, study possible interpretations of their music notation, look for connections between them and other contemporary repertoires, and analyze and discuss all available information about their performance which is recorded in medieval sources and/or advanced by modern musicologists and performers. By the end of the course, students will be able to read directly from the manuscripts and produce historically-informed performances based on their analysis and understanding of all medieval and modern information connected to the repertoire.

In this hands-on course, students will:


Learn about the production, sources, and cultural context of the collection


Learn how to read their music notation following different musicological theories


Analyse their melodic construction, and the relation between their text and music


Examine the most common performance theories advanced by musicologists and performers


Study the connection between the Cantigas and other European repertoires and their performative contexts (Liturgical music, paraliturgical dances and processions, Troubadour/Jongleur song)

Dr. Mauricio MolinaInstructor:
Dr. Mauricio Molina



February 19 to June 10, 2024
6 sessions – Self-paced



Price 1.5 creds

1.5 credit ECTS: 320€


English - Spanish


Session 1 | Production, Sources, and Cultural Context of the Collection

Session 2 | The Rhythmic Notation of the Cantigas

Session 3 | Poetic Construction and Melodic Composition

Session 4 | The Cantigas and the Liturgical Context: Psalmody and Religious Songs

Session 5 | The Cantigas and the Paraliturgical Context: Dance and Procession

Session 6 | The Cantigas and the Secular Context: Trobadour/Jongleur Song

Teaching Methodology

This course will be comprised of:

    • 6 tutorial videos of 20-35 minutes each (total 3.5 hours)
    • 6 recorded lectures of 45 minute each (total 4.5 hours)
    • 3 biweekly live Q&A sessions of 1hour and 15 minutes each (total 3.5 hours) conducted through the course. The sessions will be recorded so that students can access them at any time.
    • Downloadable materials and links to additional resources

Schedules and assignments:

    • The course is self-paced.
    • The majority of pre-recorded video lessons, lectures, and study materials will be posted on the first day of the term.
    • Students will have access to all session and their materials until the last day of the term.
    • The student workload to review the materials and complete the assignments is approximately 6.25 hours per session
    • There will be some suggested deadlines to submit assignments
    • Homework will be accepted until a week before the end of the term
    • Students taking the course for credit must complete all assignments and class requirements

Technical Requirements

    • Broadband Internet connection / WIFI

    • External or internal webcam
    • External or internal microphone
    • Speakers or headphones
    • Possibility of printing downloaded materials
    • Possibility of scanning your assignments
    • Possibility of auto-recording (audio and video)

Enroll Now

Places are limited for each section, so sign up early.

The International Course of Medieval Music Besalú offers singers and instrumentalists the possibility of studying the repertoires of monodic and polyphonic music composed between the 11th and 13th centuries.

With the support of: