Dissecting Jesus: The Spiritual Role of the Senses in Buxtehude’s Cantata Cycle Membra Jesu Nostri (1680)
Clemens van den Berg
PhD candidate, Utrecht University, NL
Clemens van den Berg obtained his BA in Theology and his MSc in History of Science from Utrecht University, and has since been a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the same institution. His research focuses on junctures in the histories of international relations, religion, and science.
The influence of German Pietism, a Protestant spiritual movement emphasizing the corporeal and the sensorial, on baroque composer Dieterich Buxtehude (ca. 1637-1707) has long been discussed among historians and musicologists of the seventeenth century like Martin Geck and Isabella van Elferen. However, current scholarship lacks detailed analyses of the composer’s individual works to assess how and to what extent this influence occurred. This paper, therefore, examines the contents of Membra Jesu Nostri, a peculiar composition by Buxtehude in which adoration of the limbs of Christ’s crucified body happens both textually and musically. This paper expands on the recent attention for the role of the senses in religious contexts and uses concepts from material religion to scrutinize the choices the composer made in his libretto and musical framework, thus tackling the issue of corporeal spirituality in Membra. It concludes that this specific compositional cycle does reflect Pietist inspiration, with a particularly striking role of the union of the senses: all co-operate to ensure a total immersion in the veneration of Christ’s body.
How to Cite:
van den Berg, C., 2018. Dissecting Jesus: The Spiritual Role of the Senses in Buxtehude’s Cantata Cycle Membra Jesu Nostri (1680). Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 3(1), pp.30–44.