le miroir de musique

The Pilgrimage of the Soul

Harbingers of Reformation

Brotherhoods in 14th/15th century as harbingers of Luther‘s ideas


In the course of the 14th century various lay-brotherhoods developed in the Burgundian Netherlands, consecrating themselves to a Devotio Moderna, a modern devotion. After the example of Gerard Groote these Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life tried to follow suit with the first apostles and gave themselves over to meditation and study, whilst sharing property and knowledge - anticipating the Reformational idea of a mix between monastic and worldly live. But they also strived for a rather practical form of Christian life in showing love towards Christ actively through works of love in the world - an ideal which was adopted by Martin Luther one century later.

Thus the Brothers of the Common Life integrated rather well in cities as Deventer, Zwolle, Utrecht, Cologne or Kassel and enjoyed a certain independence from the institutional church, anticipating the spirit of Reformation and humanism in their way of living and believing in Christ.


As Luther did some decades later, they also created a special sort of music for their services, including music from the liturgical repertoire as well as elements from secular music. Two huge manuscripts give proof of this musical practices: Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 270 Ms II, and the Utrechter Liederhandschrift, today in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, signature Ms germ. oct. 190.

This 15th century-collections contain a huge variety of forms (Tropes, Cantiones, Christmas songs, arachaic polyphony, adaptions of secular songs...). Among these are also several pieces attributed to Thomas a Kempis (ca 1380-1471), a pupil of Gerard Groote. His compositions evoke the elevation of the soul through a simple and pure life - ideals, which he presents in his work Imitatio Christi (which is said to be the most-read Christian book of all times aside from the bible!) and his nearly 40 other books; ideals also, which seemed to stroke a chord of this period shortly before and after the Reformation: the complete edition of Thomas‘ ascetic-spiritual works was printed for the first time in 15th century already and was reprinted nine times between 1600 and 1759!



Sabine Lutzenberger, soprano

Dina König, mezzo-soprano

Tore Tom Denys, tenor

Raitis Grigalis, baritone

Elizabeth Rumsey, fiddle

Marc Lewon, lute

Tobie Miller, Soprano, hurdy-gurdy

Baptiste Romain, fiddle, baritone & direction