Ecclesia Triumphans

George Frideric Handel’s Marian Cantatas & Arias, 1994 Deutsche Grammophon GmdbH, Hamburg [76’20] — from the liner notes:

Reinvigorated by the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church drew ever more northern Protestants back into her enfolding arms. Ecclesia was truly triumphans when Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated in 1654, after ten years on the throne, converted to Catholicism the following year, and settled in Rome, in sight of the Vatican, surrounded by art and music. Her reward from a grateful Church was to be buried in St. Peter’s: the only woman in history to receive this signal honour. Numerous other Protestant dynasties had members who followed her back to the bosom of the One True Church, including the Elector of Saxony and his entire family in 1697. The composers Johann Adolf Hasse and, later, Johann Christian Bach (born 1735), a son of no less a Protestant icon than Johann Sebastian, took the same step. Clearly, those elements of Roman Catholic doctrine which fed the senses and the emotions, the ancient rituals attending the public appearances of doges and popes, and perhaps, too, the overwhelming impression made by thos Italian cities where Classical antiquity conjoined with modern pomp, cast a spell over nearly every feeling heart. The ardour with which Handel infused his settings of Marian texts — not only the works in this recording — provides grounds for at least a little skepticism about the claims that are sometimes made concerning his indifference in religious matters. Iconologically, after all, the Mother of God was identified largely with ecclesia triumphans, a fact that must have been brought home to Handel by the images on the ceiling or the altar-piece very nearly every time he entered an Italian church.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Wasn't there some kind of Liv Ullman movie about that?

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