El son del purgamẽo: The Rabab in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and its Reconstruction

Hirsch, Thilo (6 July 2022). El son del purgamẽo: The Rabab in the Cantigas de Santa Maria and its Reconstruction (Unpublished). In: Annual Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference – MedRen. Uppsala University Sweden. 4.–7.7.2022.

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The Cantigas de Santa Maria, written between ca. 1264 and 1284 on the commission of and with the collaboration of Alfonso the Wise, are among the most important sources of the Middle Ages, in respect both to music and music iconography. Of the four surviving Cantigas manuscripts, two have numerous miniatures, although the underlying concept is completely different. In Codex E (Códice de los músicos), the division of the 416 cantigas into groups of ten is underlined by 40 miniatures each depicting one or two musicians (with a total of 40 different types of instruments). Among them are three two-stringed bowed rababs with a parchment top. The full-page miniatures of Codex T (Códice Rico), in contrast to the catalogue-like arrangement of musical instruments in Codex E, are illustrations of the action described in the song texts in several successive comic-like picture fields. Although proportionally far fewer musical instruments are depicted, they are shown in a narrative context and therefore contain an additional level of information. For example, a rabab is played here together with various other instruments. The aim of this lecture is to show what organological and performance-practical information about the rabab can be gained from these representations and their medial context, and how they relate to the written Arabic and European sources. For the reconstruction of the instrument, historical and contemporary ethnomusicological sources from Morocco were also included, since the rabāb played in the moroccan andalusi music is very similar to the medieval instrument in many respects. Finally, on the basis of a first reconstructed rabab prototype - in connection with the preserved cantigas melodies - the musical possibilities and performance-practical impact of the use of rababs in the music of the (Spanish) Middle Ages are discussed and demonstrated.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation > Performance and interpretation
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation > Musical Instruments


Hirsch, Thilo0000-0001-7707-7469


D History General and Old World > DP Spain
M Music and Books on Music > M Music


[7] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Rabab & Rebec - Erforschung von fellbespannten Streichinstrumenten des späten Mittelalters und der frühen Renaissance und deren Rekonstruktion




Thilo Hirsch

Date Deposited:

16 Nov 2022 11:07

Last Modified:

16 Nov 2022 11:07

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