Preacher and prophet: Intersecting voices of St John the Evangelist in late medieval 's-Hertogenbosch

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The church of Sint-Jan in the town of 's-Hertogenbosch, on the northern frontier of the medieval diocese of Liège, cultivated unique local devotions to the widely venerated apostle St John the Evangelist. Most notable are five annual feasts, two of which are unknown elsewhere in Western Christendom-John's Exile on the Island of Patmos (27 September) and Return from Exile (3 December). Although Patmos figured prominently in the Western iconography of John's prophetic vision and writing of the Apocalypse, this event was largely overlooked in the Western Johannine liturgy. Drawing from an exhaustive study of all extant service books, my comparative analysis of the office chants and readings for John's Exile and Return examines how the 's-Hertogenbosch clergy synthesised Eastern and Western narratives of John's evangelical and prophetic activities on Patmos. A previously ignored liturgical imprint sheds new light on local reception of a fifth-century text of Syrian origin-the Acts of John by Prochorus-widely disseminated in Byzantium but little known in the Latin West. The Matins readings from this source contradict the Western prophetic association of Patmos by imagining this island as the locus for John's preaching and writing of the Gospel, yet the concluding versified responsories, unique to 's-Hertogenbosch, call on John as both a preacher and a prophet-attributes that merge in the musical form and melodic embellishment of these previously unstudied chants. More broadly, this case study demonstrates how the office liturgy might conflate different hagiographic narratives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-65
Number of pages33
JournalPlainsong and Medieval Music
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music


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