‘The trumpets were sounded, the canon fired and the galeotti shouted’: The Soundscape of a Fifteenth-century Pilgrimage

The writings of visitors to Renaissance Venice, without exception, make a reference to the role music played in the life of the city: in its churches; streets and lavish palaces. Among the first visitors to record their experience of life in early modern Venice were the pilgrims passing through on their way to the Holy Land. Their impressions are detailed in their travelogues, diaries and collections of advice for prospective fellow pilgrims. One such religious traveller was the Milanese priest, Canon Pietro Casola. In his Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 1494, Casola provides written accounts which speak of his enthralment at the employment of music in Venetian religious public life. Even in an age when religious feasts were commonly accompanied by the carrying of richly-housed relics, ceremoniously-dressed clerics and specially arranged music, Venice’s abundance of paraded wealth strikes Casola as remarkable. But music is not the only sound he encounters on his pilgrimage. In Venice Casola boards a vessel, filled with pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. Casola’s account of galley life is full of sound, including: the beating of drums; the blowing of trumpets; the praying of pilgrims; and the lowing of animals. As an account of fifteenth-century pilgrimage soundscape, Casola’s diary is invaluable, and its contents will be investigated in this paper. Through this investigation we can re-create the sounds Casola encountered and understand the juxtaposition of the musical harmony of Venetian churches with the cacophony of Eastern bazaars.

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