O VERGIN SANTA, NON M'ABBANDONARE
The religious poems of Leonardo Giustiniani
The lauda is a religiously inspired poetic composition. Originally written in Latin, using a dimetric or trimetric iambic pattern, it celebrated the glory of God, the Virgin and the Saints. Complementary to the divine office, it was increasingly encouraged by the clerics to give lay people a more active part in Church rites. As early as the ﬁrst decades of the thirteenth century confraternities of laudesi were formed and it was their task, after religious services, to sing the praise of the Virgin Mary.
From the very beginning the Venetian lauda aimed at stylistic autonomy, not finding its expression so much in the poetic and textual profile as in the purely musical aspects. ln Venice the practice of borrowing the tunes of secular songs for singing laude (”cantasi come...”: sung like...) was abandoned in favour of composing new melodies, specifically conceived for the religious texts which had to be performed. The lauda became as much as a pretext for the composition of new airs and new songs.
At every stage of its evolution, the lauda - whether monophonic, dramatic or polyphonic - always remained the most popular form of non-liturgical religious expression. Most typical are the tight development of the different parts and the transparent architecture of the melodic lines. Over 200 laudarii (lauda compilations) have been preserved, leaving us a strikingly evocative repertoire of great dramatic intensity - the sound of a passionate religion that did not require or even welcome any intermediaries, and found its deepest expression in song.