The sweet sound of sanctity: Sensing St Lambert

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Abstract

Sensory studies of medieval devotion overwhelmingly prioritize the role of smell in the perception of sainthood - the ubiquitous "odor of sanctity" - despite evidence that both scent and sound shared a prominent association in Christian worship and spirituality. Prayers and hymns, for example, were perceived to rise heavenward like the smoke of incense, while medieval visionaries imagined the saints in heaven as inhabiting a fragrant and musical realm. This article examines the interplay of sound and scent in the medieval ideal of sanctity through a case study of hagiographic texts and music dating from the eighth to twelfth centuries for the Frankish martyr, St Lambert of Liège. By studying the miracle of Lambert's posthumous singing from the perspectives of sensory symbolism, perception, and liminality, we can better understand the synthesis of sound with scent in the promotion of sanctity and in the broader representation of transcendence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-27
Number of pages18
JournalSenses and Society
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

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Keywords

  • Church music
  • Hagiography
  • Lauds
  • Liège
  • Senses
  • St Lambert of Maastricht

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication

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