New Scholarship: Eleanor Giraud on Dominican Nuns’ Processionals

September 23, 2019

By Nancy Kuhl

Dominican Processionals in the Beinecke, and the liturgical practices of Dominican nuns in the middle ages by Eleanor Giraud

Project summary: Scholarship on the medieval chant and liturgy of the Dominican Order has tended to focus on friars, with the assumption that nuns would have followed the same practices as their male counterparts.  While there was good reason for the liturgical practices of the friars to be tightly controlled and unified (in order to facilitate their movement between communities), Dominican nuns resided in a single enclosed community, which may have afforded more scope for local practices to emerge.  The Beinecke’s three Dominican nuns’ Processionals (books containing chants and prayers, used for processions) provide the opportunity to examine the nature of the relationship between the liturgy of Dominican nuns and friars.  During the project, Eleanor has also identified a fourth Dominican Processional at the Beinecke, MS 1168, which was previously of unknown Italian provenance; this book was made for use in a priory, which provides a helpful point of comparison to the books made for the nuns. Considering the four Processionals together, this project seeks to define the types and extent (if any) of adjustments made to Dominican nuns’ liturgical books.

Dr. Eleanor Giraud is a Lecturer above the bar and Course Director in Ritual Chant and Song at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland.  Her research trip to the Beinecke has been enabled by a short-term collections-based research fellowship from Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music. 

Collections consulted:

Beinecke MS 205 Processional, c. 1440, southern Germany, gift for Barbara Pfintzing for her use in a house of Dominican nuns. 

Music deposit 60 Processional, 15th century, Germany, produced for use in a house of Dominican nuns. 

Music deposit 61 Processional, 14th/15th century, Germany, produced for use in a house of Dominican nuns. 

Beinecke MS 1168 Processional, 14th century, Italy, produced for use in a house of Dominican friars.

Photo: Dr. Eleanor Giraud with the Dominican nuns’ Processional Music Deposit 60 (photo by John Monahan)