Mother & Child: Dynasty of Founders


Songs and texts about women and by women

Sacred music and texts from the late 14th and early 15th centuries from Austrian and Swiss sources during the reign of the Albertinian line of the Habsburg Dynasty.

History has been predominately written by men and thus history has been made by men.


The picture of a dynasty is often illustrated with the figure of the king and his heirs, narrating his victories and losses. The chronicles of his decisions and creations constitute much of what we know today as the foundation of the modern world.


The role of the woman in the late Middle Ages and early Modern Period has often been neglected and therefore her function in the development of dynasties, historical events and artistic creation is overlooked. This program tries to draw attention to the accompanying role of the woman in the early Habsburg dynasty. She is presented in music and text as mother, wife, daughter and sister, portraying the role of the female figure both as the subject of devotion in Marian songs as well as an active player in the development of early humanism.


In the 14th century, the slow spread of humanist education for women, led to a critical re-thinking of the misogynist tradition accepted during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. By the 15th century important authors such a Christine de Pizan, Helene Kottaner, Katharina von Gebersweiler, and Laura Cereta gave testimony to the often unheard feminine questions concerning their view on woman’s nature and their role in society. Although most of the time their voice stayed in the shadows of anonymity, the female figure of the early Habsburg period also held a crucial role in the development of the dynasty‘s cultural impact. The dynasty’s women not only increased their family’s influence through their inherited lands, but also acted as prominent patrons of the arts in Austria and Switzerland and became founders, peacekeepers, regents and even protectors of the Holy Crown.


Elizabeth of Tyrol, Queen of the Romans and duchess of Austria was married in Vienna to Albert I, one of the first members of a still humble dynasty with its origins in Switzerland - the Habsburgs. To her dismay, Albert was murdered at young age, in the Battle of Königsfelden (Switzerland) by his own nephew. Elizabeth decided to found a monastery there in memory of her late husband. This place became a center of devotion and contemplation for nuns and Elizabeth’s daughter, Agnes of Hungary, was named its patroness. At that time convents were the main institution for the education of women, not only for the ones pursuing a religious life but also for lay-sisters and aristocrats. They allowed women to become considerable scholars and authors, as well as scribes, artists and musicians.


Albert I’s grandson, Rudolf IV, der Stifter, was the founder of Vienna’s University in 1365, imitating his father-in-law’s (Charles IV) foundation of the University of Prague, which had led the city to become the cultural center of the Empire. Albrecht the V (II) reigned as King of Hungary, the Romans and Bohemia through his marriage with Elizabeth of Luxembourg. He continued the construction of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle. At this point the Habsburg court had become a new center for the arts, with international composers such as Dufay and Sarto finding a warm reception and patronage there. He died in 1439, leaving his wife as regent of Hungary and pregnant with the posthumous son Ladislaus. Despite Elizabeth’s political leadership and efforts to preserve the Holy Hungarian Crown (acquiring it with the help of Helene Kottaner), Ladislaus died childless, ending the history of the Albertinian line of the Habsburgs.


The music of this program, although often by anonymous or foreign composers, portrays the music cultivated in the cultural centers of the Albertinian line of the Habsburgs in the 14th and 15th centuries. Revolving around late-medieval musical settings to the Virgin Mary, symbol of the nurturing mother and the nurturing wisdom, and complemented by the readings of contemporary texts by female authors, ensemble Servir Antico gives homage to the “other voice” of early humanism.


Catalina Vicens


Line-up: 4 Musicians

- voice

- medieval fiddle

- slide trumpet

- portative organ

- percussion 

- gothic organ (optional)





G. Dufay, J. de Sarto, Hermann Edlerawer, W. Chranekker, anonymous (various)


Main sources:

-St. Emmeram Codex, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14274

-Buxheimer Orgelbuch, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus.3725

-Vienna, Nationalbibliothek Cod. 5094

-Engelberg, Stiftsbibliothek 314



-early humanism in Austria

-Swiss cloisters 

-early Habsburg dynasty

-'the other voice'

-early feminism

-sacred music

-late medieval mondy

-late medieval polyphony

-medieval keyboard sources









Picture: Women Building. Roman des Girart von Roussillon, Cod. 2449, 1447, Österreichishe Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. 

© 2017 Servir Antico