St. Mary’s University Sessional Instructors, Dr. Maria Oss-Cech and PhD Candidate Monica Di Rosa, have been working on unearthing the content of a rare sixteenth-century manuscript. After being hidden for centuries, Maria and Monica are sharing their experiences and learnings from the voices of this long hidden piece of history.

Magl. Cl109 XIX – Biblioteca Nazionale of Florence (Italy)

Discovered in the Biblioteca Nazionale of Florence (Italy), it is believed that the manuscript made its way to Florence due to Eleonore de Toledo, an arts patron. She moved to Florence when she married Francesco De Medici I. Eleonore herself may have brought the manuscript from Naples or had a copyist write the performances at a court in Florence.

This manuscript was discovered thanks to the support of many scholars, across the world, during Maria Oss-Cech Chiacchia’s Phd research. Thanks to Dr. Ralph Maier and SSHRC funding, further investigation was made possible. Monica joined the team bringing extensive paleographic and research experience.

Presently, Maria and Monica continue to research into the content and the context from which the manuscript dances, poetry and music arise.

Upon this discovery, Maria travelled to Italy to study at the Medici Institute to research further the historical context of the manuscript while Monica dove into transcribing all the poetry in the manuscript.

Maria’s research at the Biblioteca Nazionale and the Medici Institute of Florence (Italy)

This authentic sixteenth-century manuscript is remarkable because of the new perspectives this finding offers. It presents a unique opportunity to learn about Renaissance literary and musical contexts by teaching us fresh ways of thinking – including new modes of inquiry, interpretation, and understandings of poetry and music.

We also gain a historically accurate glimpse through this manuscript into what the performances at a sixteenth-century renaissance court may have been like; through revelations that highlighted the scopes of music and language.

Maria and Monica felt involving as many students as possible in their research was crucial to the academic community. They both continue to share their findings with the community and students because they believe “research is only worthwhile when it has the power to inspire students and enhance the human experience.”

Through Maria’s research and discoveries, she developed a deeper appreciation for the Renaissance world of music and poetry. She is grateful that this manuscript could connect her with scholars of poetry and music worldwide—she recalls the fantastic research journeys she experienced in libraries in Spain and Italy.

Monica describes this research journey as feeling like she was “putting the puzzle pieces together” while working on the manuscript. She explains how the manuscript reveals the intricate relationships between the Renaissance period. The great artists and individuals who shared ideas, poetry, and music— “the classical world is coming back into the current light and influencing the new poetic practices,” says Monica.

Ralph, Monica and Maria presenting to the students of St. Mary’s High School (Calgary)

Maria and Monica further explain that while this discovery and their subsequent research has been an incredible journey, they are only at the beginning of their understanding of the Renaissance intellectual and literary world. By sharing their content with the community, scholars, and students, we learn the value of looking at these poems and music through an interdisciplinary lens.

“It is our intention as passionate researchers to convey the sense of awe and amazement at the different trails of inspiration and learning that come together into the crafting of poems and songs – a power that still has a great effect on us as we organize, and enjoy, performances of these works of art in the fullest meaning of the word,” explains Maria and Monica.

Indeed, one of the reasons why they continue studying these poems and stories is because they feel that their interpretation can change with time – allowing them to maintain a structure and fill it with new meanings, understandings, and interpretations.

“The language of poetry and music from the manuscript convey feelings of love, suffering, personal aspirations and other profound emotions integral to the human experience. This is a reminder that poetic voices have the power to transcend cultures, lands, oceans, and centuries,” says Maria.