[Paper:] Isabel Monteiro (Lisbon): Music in Portuguese Renaissance Courts: Performers, Contexts and Places

John of Gaunt dines with John I of Portugal (from Jean de Wavrin’s Chronique d’Angleterre, London, BL Royal MS 14 E IV via Wikimedia)

The expression ‘heraldic music’ has been used to describe musical bands of a significant number of trumpets, kettle drums and shawms suitable to accompany solemn courtly and other ceremonial events, although we do not know much about the music they actually played.

It is certainly not necessary to remind the fact that no great lord did not make use of music to present his class and power, standing in a tradition which reaches back to the roman triumph and which was so well appropriated by the Renaissance culture.

Although the loud music is expected to be heard outdoors, we should not be surprised to find these bands also inside the palace during official receptions or banquets. If the shawms are repeatedly mentioned together with the trumpets heading courtships and processions, they are also required to play at the evening festivities in the great hall where the court – and sometimes the monarch himself – attended to balls, etc.

We have only little information about the location of the musicians in the palaces – like the interior balconies made in the wooden wall of the huge hall built for the royal festivals in 1490, in Évora – but it is possible to find them playing on a stairway or at the windows, which occasionally assume the same role.

While we lack specific musicological sources, chronicles and diverse other documentations on important courtly events disclose relevant elements about the contexts and places where the musicians did perform during those ceremonies, becoming themselves part of the visual and acoustic décor of the rooms.


This paper will be presented at the international conference:

State-Rooms of Royal and Princely Palaces in Europe (14th-16th c.): Spaces, Images, Rituals – Lisbon/Sintra, 15-17 March 2017 (link)

which aims to put the Sala dos brasões in Sintra in its European context as a royal/princely state-room. It is a follow up to the “Heraldry in Medieval and Early modern State-rooms” held in March 2016 in Münster, which, for its part, focused on the heraldic décor of medieval and early modern state-rooms as such.


Cite the article as: Torsten Hiltmann, "[Paper:] Isabel Monteiro (Lisbon): Music in Portuguese Renaissance Courts: Performers, Contexts and Places", in: Heraldica nova. Medieval Heraldry in social and cultural-historical perspectives (blog on Hypotheses.org), published: 06/03/2017, Internet: https://heraldica.hypotheses.org/5507.

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in new approaches to late medieval and early modern heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities. On hypotheses.org, he is maintaining, among others, the blog “Heraldica Nova”.

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