Choir books and organ frame sculptures

15th-16th cent.
Cappella musicale

A series of 16th-century choral parchment manuscripts and late 15th-century gilded wooden sculptures showing angels playing music and an eagle from the organ decorations formerly in the Baptistery. Chorals differ from other liturgical books because they contain the musical score as well as the words of the prayers and hymns. During the celebration of Mass they were opened on a lectern in the centre of the presbytery, facing the “schola”, the heart of the choir, comprising its best voices. Despite standing at a certain distance from the antiphonary, the singers were helped by the large scale of its musical text. Florence Cathedral’s antiphonaries, or liturgical choral books, are richly illuminated with miniatures painted by famous artists. The gilded wooden sculptures are from the 15th-century organ decorations formerly in the Baptistery. The eagle, with the bale of cloth that was the symbol of the powerful Wool Guild between its claws, crowned the centre of the display, while the aptly decorative angel musicians were on either side.