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VR Between Invisibility and Autonomy: “In Her Own Voice: Asserting Autonomy Through Liturgy at Klosterneuburg”

Michael L. Norton, Associate Professor Emeritus
James Madison University (Virginia, US)

“Founded in 1114 and transferred to Augustinian canons in 1133, the Augustinian canonry at Klosterneuburg offers a rare glimpse into how one community of canonesses asserted their liturgical voice under the watchful eyes of the cloistered canons responsible for their care. Located on the Danube a few kilometers north of Vienna, Klosterneuburg was one of several dual-sex communities founded or resettled in the wake of the Augustinian reforms emanating from the cathedral of Salzburg. Like the Benedictine monasteries spawned by the concurrent Hirsau reforms, these canonries incorporated both male and female communities in separate and often adjacent precincts, with the canonesses placed under the administrative and spiritual direction of the canons. Despite the illusion of male control, the canonesses of Klosterneuburg charted their own course in the celebration of their liturgy throughout the Middle Ages, particularly in their daily round of offices and liturgical processions. The canonesses also used a form of musical notation that varied from that used by the canons. Given their insistence in controlling their liturgical practice, a practice expressed in a form of musical notation to which they could also lay claim, canonesses likely served as scribes for both the liturgical text and music as well. To be sure, Klosterneuburg is an outlier in the extent to which medieval liturgical manuscripts have survived, with most manuscripts remaining in situ. Thus, the liturgical autonomy gained by Klosterneuburg’s canonesses cannot be assumed for other similarly situated communities. Yet, tantalizing clues suggest there may be more to find.”

This event is a part of the lecture series Between Invisibility and Autonomy: Negotiating Gender Roles in Manuscript Cultures. Organised by Professor Dr Eike Grossmann & Dr Johanna Seibert (24.10.2022–23.01.2023, Mondays, 6–8 pm; hybrid (Pavilion CSMC; Zoom))

Click here to see the program