antiphonal, Basilica of San Silvestro, Capite, Christ, Elizabeth Peterson, Flavius Josephus, France, Gospel of Saint Mark, Herod, Herodias, hymn, Italy, James T Svendsen, Jewish, John, John the Baptist, Latin, lauds, medieval, parchment, Philip, Pontius Pilate, Pope Benedict XVI, prodromos, psalm, relic, Rome, Salome, Samaria, The University of Utah, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Vespers
Her mother ordered the dancing girl
that you (she) seek nothing other than
the head of John Psalm. Blessed is the man (who fears the Lord)
John kept censuring Herod
because of Herodias the wife
of his brother Philip whom he had married.
Psalm. You servants, Praise the Lord…Give me on a dish
the head of John the Baptist; and the king was saddened…
The hymns of this fragment relate the story of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist and are sung at vespers and lauds on August 29th. The story in its entirety is told in the Gospel of Saint Mark (6, 14-29). In these two passages Mark focuses on the machinations of Herodias, Herod’s wife, with her daughter Salome and king Herod’s contrition after the fact. The passage also mentions the reason why Herodias was so angry with John, the fact that John was censuring Herod for marrying his brother Phillip’s wife. Note that Herod’s infamous step-daughter Salome is not named in Mark’s narrative. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, however, does name her as Salome. He also states that the real reason that Herod killed John was “lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his head to raise a rebellion” (Antiquities of the Jews) One of John’s frequent epithets is prodromos, translated as “the forerunner,” and some see him as a forerunner of Christ put to death at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Others see in the story the conflict between earthly power (Herod), revenge (Herodias), carnality (Salome) with spirituality and asceticism (John the Baptist). On August 29, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the dedication of a crypt in Samaria where the head of Saint John the Baptist had been commemorated for centuries. He also mentioned the transfer of the relic to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite in Rome.
~Transcription, translation, and commentary by James T. Svendsen, associate professor emeritus, World Languages and Cultures, The University of Utah
MS chant frag. 7 — Parchment leaf from an Antiphonal, 16th c Italy/S. France.
~Description by Elizabeth Peterson, associate professor, Dept. of Art & Art History, The University of Utah, from Paging Through Medieval Lives, a catalog for an exhibition held November 2, 1997 through January 4, 1998 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.