Gregorian Chant of Celebration of Saint Nicola in Bari cathedral - 13th Century
The Office of Saint Nicholas belongs to the musical-liturgical genre of history, which spread throughout Western Europe in around the 11th century. By means of a series of antiphons and responsories, the texts of which were drawn from the more noted vitae (or Lives of the Saints); the history was a free hagiographic representation destined primarily for the prayers of Matins. Matins itself was divided into three distinct moments called “nocturns”. According to the testimony of Anonimus Haserensis, a chronicle from the 11th century concerning the diocese of Eichstatt, the history of St. Nicholas was composed around 960 by Reginold, who would later become bishop of Eichstatt as a result of the great success of his compositions. A careful reading of the chronicle suggests a non-monastic destination of the Divine Office. Nonetheless, the series of pieces for Matins would have respected the structure of the so-called Roman or cathedral cursus, comprised of three antiphons and three responsories for each of the three nocturnes. The history of St. Nicholas is one of the oldest, tracing the Latin Vita written by John the Deacon in around 880. The presence of the Office of St. Nicholas in a great number of codices from every region of Europe demonstrates the existence of a compact tradition: both the succession of the antiphons of Matins and the appearance of the melodies reveal, in fact, a substantial homogeneity among the sources. The manuscript used for this recording is the Breviario 1 preserved in the library of the Basilica of San Nicola in Bari.