Giovanni Varelli

Giovanni Varelli

Ahmanson Fellow
Processionalia Italica – Music in Motion and the Shaping of Processional Books in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy
Varelli, Giovanni


Giovanni Varelli's research focuses on how diverse musical cultures within the ‘Latin’ world theorized and organized tonal space, especially in relation to text and meaning, and how such relationships were expressed visually by early communities of singers. Giovanni studied at the universities of Pavia (BMus) and London (MMus). After his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Giovanni joined the University of Oxford as Prize Fellow in Music at Magdalen College (2016–2020). In 2019, he was the recipient of research grants from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and was visiting fellow at the University of Würzburg (Institut für Musikforschung) and Regensburg (Fakultät für Katholische Theologie).


Project Summary

The project will investigate the most mobile, outdoor, urban, and public of all liturgical books in late medieval and early Renaissance Italy, the Processional. Music was a crucial component for the performance of complex rituals taking place in spaces ranging from the innermost dimensions like a church, cloister, or routes through chapels within the city walls, to the outermost settings with the blessing of agricultural fields on Rogation days. Exceptionally diversified in their typologies and contents, Processionals were small-format, portable books to be carried in the hands of singers, containing those prayers and chants sung during itinerant liturgical processions. Popular devotion, religious beliefs, and communal self were inscribed in the choice of texts and saints, decoration and layout of Processional books; these choices reflected the musical and liturgical identity of ecclesiastical centers, as well as of the particular societal contexts in which these communities were rooted. Processionalia Italica will trace and define the intersections between cultural processes of canonization of public liturgical ceremonies, and their diverse transmission in material, manuscript form, set in their broader historical contexts. The primary focus of the research will be on the cultural significance of Processionals, as well as on the impact of processional music performance in community-forming rituals beyond strictly ecclesiastical settings.