String instruments in the Middle Ages

Capa pluvial de Daroca Pulse para ampliar Capa pluvial de Daroca. Sala 27, vitrina 27.17

Cape. Daroca

This liturgical garment from the end of the 14th century is made out of colored silk upon golden threads with linen lining. It is an example of the so-called opus anglicanum, a complex and laborious embroidery technique of which only five specimens remain in Spain. It was donated by Pope Benedict XIII, known as “Papa Luna”, to the Aragonese collegiate church of Daroca. Accompanying the scenes from Genesis, six medallions adorn the front portion upon which we can observe six angel musicians playing various instruments. One is playing the flute and the tabor drum, a combination that is still alive even to this day in many Spanish towns. Another angel is playing a citole, a plucked string instrument with a neck. Another two are holding vielles or bowed vihuelas, although one of them has almost completely disappeared. Finally, a fifth angel is playing a gothic harp and the sixth one, a psaltery, an instrument of eastern origin.

It should be noted that, with the exception of the flute and the tabor drum, the rest of the instruments are string instruments with or without a neck that are plucked, struck or stroked. String instruments may have been considered to be more important than other families of instruments given that they were placed in the hands of angels.