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

6 sessions - Self-paced | Not available this term

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.

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 song. The main objective of this course is to explore all the information given by medieval sources about the performance of the Cantigas repertoire in order to construct solid theories about their performance practice.

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 on the Cantigas the Santa Maria, 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



Not available this term




Non-credit: 260€
1.5 credit ECTS: 310€


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 15 minutes each (total 1.5 hours)
    • 6 recorded lectures of 1 hour each (total 6 hours)
    • 3 live Q&A sessions of 1hour and 15 minutes each conducted biweekly through the first six weeks of the course and will be recorded so that students can access them at any time (total 3 hours and 45 minutes)
    • Downloadable materials and links to additional resources

Schedules and assignments:

    • The course is self-paced. The majority of lessons will be posted on the first day of the term and students can work at their own pace until the platform is closed for the semester, with access to the pre-recorded video lessons, accompanying materials, and the course forums
    • 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: