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Part IV: Bernard Clarke's Evocative Commentary on The Red Book of Ossory/Anakronos

July 10, 2020 | By Heresy Records

Bernard Clarke's Final Segment on THE RED BOOK OF OSSORY BY ANAKRONOS from July 9 Show "In the Blue of the Night" on RTE Lyric FM

Part 4

(Scroll ahead to 2:06:20)

Instruments Of The Middle Ages And Renaissance Early Music Consort of London/ David Munrow

Anonymous Saltarello 1’56

Marcabru is one of the earliest troubadours whose poems are known. But there is no certain information about him; the two “vidas” attached to his poems tell different stories, and both are built on hints in the poems, not on independent or verifiable information.

According to one Marcabrun was from Gascony (and was the son of a poor woman named Marcabruna. He made bad poems and bad satires, and spoke evil of women and of love. This comes one of  the vida’s.

According to the other Marcabru was abandoned at a rich man's door, and no one knew his origin. He was brought up, learned to make poetry, was at first nicknamed Pan-perdut and later Marcabru. He became famous, and the lords of Gascony, about whom he had said many bad things, eventually put him to death.

Forty-five poems are attributed to Marcabru, learned, often difficult, sometimes obscene, relentlessly critical of the morality of lords and ladies. He experimented with the pastorela, which he uses to point out the futility of lust.


Troubadours Art Ensemble

Lo vers comens quan vei del fau T12 4’23

Early Music Consort/Munrow

Pax in nomine Domini  (T solo - chorus - treble & bass rebecs) T2 3’16

De Machaut Dame, a qui – virelai T6 5’43


Marcabru. Why Marcabru? Because he’s yet another one of the models for Anakronis’ The Red Book of Ossory.


Maria Decoquit Panem Salvificum 3’39

Maria Decoquit by Anakronos on their The Red Book of Ossory, on Heresy Records, and released tomorrow

If there’s just one thing this week of this album proves it’s that there is a striking similarity between Marian devotional songs and secular love songs of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Two seemingly quite different genres-one sacred, the other secular-both pressed into service here right across this new album.

In the case of The Red Book of Ossory the lyrics that Anakronos are using are by Bishop Ledred/Ledrede, in praise of the Virgin Mary.

And that is one of the reasons for the international fame of the Red Book this collection of 60 Latin lyrics. And all but around 13 of these appear to have been composed by Ledrede. In one entry, Ledrede explains what he had in mind when he composed them:

Be advised, reader, that the bishop of Ossory has made these songs for the vicars of the cathedral church to be sung at the great festivals and for entertainment, so that their throats and mouths, consecrated to God, may not be polluted by songs that are lewd. Since they are choristers, let them provide tunes suitable for these verses.

If we turn to Amoris Vinculo amore is vink ello  –in English the first verse is

Chain Of Love

With the chain of love the Son of God has

sweetly pulled us to him

Eternal life, born of the father

With the chain of love the Son of God

God made man, humbly born of his mother’s womb?

With the chain of love the Son of God has sweetly pulled us to him


Amoris Vinculo 3’40

Amoris Vinculo by Anakronos on their The Red Book of Ossory, on Heresy Records.

Music inspired by French medieval sources, lyrics by Ledrede.

Today Ledrede’s fame, or rather infamy, is founded on his obsession with witchcraft.

Born in England, but trained in France, Ledrede was well aware of the French heresy and sorcery trials. He welcomed himself to his new diocese in Kilkenny by organising a council where he immediately made vociferous allegations of clerical abuses. He then went on to rebuke and implore the cowering faithful to perform their Christian duty of reporting heresy. This despite the fact that previous bishops had not expressed any concern about heresy in Ossory.

There were arrests but little came of it –as far as I know. So, a few years later he decided to intensify his efforts against suspected heretics. He called on local nobles and even summoned five knights to this new council. Yes, power and muscle.

Amoris Vinculo With the chain of love the Son of God has sweetly pulled us to him

And, remember, brothers and sisters in Music: Regine Glorie…

Just at what point Ledrede specifically focused on Alice Kyteler as “the mother heretic” is unclear. But mother she was, and though not the queen of heaven –perhaps the most powerful and wealthy woman in Kilkenny

Regem adoremus…  

Let us adore the king of the celestial court/Let us rejoice in his mother, the queen of glory

Regine Glorie 6’27

Dame Alice Kyteler, of a Flemish family originally, grew up to be a very successful, extremely well-connected innkeeper and moneylender – and now the first person to be condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.

Dame Alice outlived not one, but four husbands and managed to accumulate a vast fortune in the process. Did she kill them? Rumours and whispers abounded. But there was no actual proof and she had the political clout to make any whispers go away.

Dame Alice’s main problem was simply that she was a rich and powerful woman. In other words her gender.

Gender was a rising concern in the 14th century colony, Ireland. This concern would reach its apex under poet and lord Edmund Spenser in his A View to the Present State of Ireland, where he presented “Irishness” as an infection spreading among the “Old English,” that is, the colonists who had been in Ireland for generations. According to Spenser, the disease was carried mainly by women, the Gaelic Irish wives, mothers, and nurses of the “Old English,” men and children.

So the affluence and wealth that Dame Alice had amassed at the expense of her stepchildren made them angry and suspicious. They reasoned that she was practising witchcraft and accused her to the ecclesiastical authorities of witchcraft. This was a fairly common charge or accusation and one that was usually treated by English law as small potatoes, a petty common criminal offence. One that could be settled, pardoned, even forgiven. Christe Redemptor Omnium -Christ, redeemer of all?

Christe Redemptor Omnium 2’39


Christ, redeemer of all?

You who alone rules the orbiting heavens

Since before the beginning?

Grant us everlasting joy

The routine legal suit made by Dame Alice’s aggrieved stepchildren derived from a common dispute: inheritance.

Bishop Ledrede, however, transformed this routine property issue into a sensational run in between the Church and State.

Before he was finished, Ireland would kill its first “heretic,” Ledrede himself would be imprisoned, the chancellor of Ireland would be labelled a “fautor” that is a  patron of heresy until apparently in tears he begged Ledrede’s pardon. And Dame Alice, the accused, would disappear from Ireland forever.

Seven charges were brought against Dame Alice and her infernal companions. In a brilliant article Bernadette Williams, lecturer in medieval history at Trinity College, Dublin, writes:

They included that they were denying Christ; that they cut up living animals and scattered the pieces at cross roads as offerings to a demon called Robert son of Art in return for his help; that they stole the keys of the church and held meetings there at night; that in the skull of a robber they placed the intestines and internal organs of cocks, worms, nails cut from dead bodies, hairs from the buttocks and clothes from boys who had died before being baptised; that, from this brew, they made potions to incite people to love, hate, kill and afflict Christians; that Alice herself had a certain demon as incubus by whom she permitted herself to be known carnally and that he appeared to her either as a cat, a shaggy black dog or, wait for it, as a black man, from whom she received her wealth; and that Alice had used sorcery to murder some of her husbands and to infatuate others, with the result that they gave all their possessions to her impoverishing her stepchildren.

Amazing! To cut a long story short: soon the Church was in the ascendant against the State and, Dame Alice sensing that public opinion was changing for the worst, fled and was never heard of again. Alas her much less wealthy associates remained in prison. And quickly confessed before Ledrede to an almost infinite number of crimes and maintained that Alice was and had been their mother and mistress, chief witch.

And it’s here that we turn to Petronilla de Midia, or de Meath, Dame Alice’s maid, or companion, who now became a witch by association.

The use of torture to extract confessions was legal according to church law but not according to secular law. That didn’t stop the bishop, who by the way now stood to gain: heresy trials meant the seizure of the convicted’s property, to which the bishop of the diocese held a claim.

Petronella testified against Alice in court, and she was accused of heresy, sacrifices to and intercourse with demonic entities, making love and hate potions to corrupt Christians and so on. A star witness even if she had been tortured into it. Alas her testimonies against Dame Alice stacked the cards against both of them in the end: it became a popular belief that Petronella assisted Alice in her crimes, and Petronella was a witch.

According to an account of the trial by Ledrede, Petronella claimed both women could fly. She confessed, was flogged “through six parishes” and burnt at the stake in Kilkenny on November 3rd, 1324 – the first person to be burnt for heresy, as witchcraft was not yet on the statute books here.

The Burning of Petronilla de Meath 2’26


All this week we have praised Caitriona O’Leary’s research, reinterpretations, singing. But Anakronos is more than Caitriona. The playing is world class and though it owes as much to jazz as it does to early music it also avoids the wilful impression typical of so much intended “crossover”. These are musicians who know improvisation and jazz from the inside and sound ready for anything you can throw at them.

Anakronos are Caitriona O’Leary, Deirdre O’Leary, Nick Roth, and Francesco Turrusi.

The medieval songs and dances Anakronos build this album on rarely lose their identity as the music of their times. And yet there is a freedom in the performances that sets them apart from the usual-be it early music or jazz.

In the end, there is a sense of a community of performers here, a sense of theatre, but an improvising one, always listening and thinking, ready to jump into the mix when the musical moment is right, and the results are often brilliant, a revelation.. 

This disc is released tomorrow by Heresy Records-get it

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus 5’42




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