Song by a Saint for a Saint (Maybe?)

St. Lorenzo Giustiniani (aka St. Lawrence Justinian) was the first Patriarch of Venice, because it was in his time that the Pope folded the patriarchate of Grado into the archbishopric of Venice.

Lorenzo came from one of those super-rich and super-noble Venetian families, but his family also was known for having a lot of saints as well as a lot of merchants. Lorenzo decided early that he was ambitious to become a saint and ascetic, had mystical visions, persuaded a friend to enter the order who had come to dissuade him from doing it, and ended up reforming the order which he entered. He wasn’t best pleased to be made a bishop for his pains! He promptly started the time-honored practice of giving away all his personal funds to the poor, which probably made diocesan finances rather interesting! (Although God usually provides in these cases.)

But he was also known for writing books (sixteen or seventeen of them!), and even for writing songs.

(Though his brother, Leonardo Giustiniani, was the humanist and poet of the family. For a while in Venice, love poems were called “Giustiniane” after him. The lyrics in the Laudario seems to be more often attributed to him, so I don’t know if this one is an exception.)

Anyway, here’s a praise song (“lauda”) with lyrics atributed by Joglaresa to the protopatriarch, St. Lorenzo: “O Madalena che portasti”. It’s a song about St. Mary Magdalene.

O Madalena, che portasti
magna amore Jesu Christo.

(O Magdalena, you who carried great love for Jesus Christ.) says it’s “Number 91 from the Laudario Giustinianeo – MS40 Biblioteca dei Padri Somaschi della Salute.” They say they took the tune from a different lauda by somebody else: “Fa mi cantar amor de la biata” (“I’m going to sing my love of the blessed woman”) – from the Cortona Laudario (C. 19 v. / 22 r.).

A lauda, or “lauda spirituale,” was a vernacular song dealing with holy or sacred subjects (like the lives of saints). But they were devotional in nature, sung at home or in religious confraternities of laypeople, or sometimes on the street for processions, rather than being sung in church. They were also used to comfort and cheer up prisoners facing execution or people who were dying. So basically, the same sort of thing as a carol or villancico.


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