Secular Music in the 12th Century
Thu, 23 Mar 2017

This month, Clef Notes has been looking at music from the Medieval era. So far, we’ve emphasized the importance of the church in relation to the development of music. But did music exist outside of the church? Let’s find out.

Most people outside of the church did not read music during ancient times. In fact, most people were not literate, so much of the music from that time period was never written down. That makes it quite difficult for historians to learn much about the secular music from this time period! We do know that music was seen outside of the church, most commonly as settings of poetry as a means of entertainment.

During the 12th century, we know that many secular, newly-composed works were about unattainable love. There were various types of musicians, depending on the country, who performed music for entertainment purposes. One type was known as a Jongleur. A Jongleur was a lower-class musician who traveled around performing tricks, telling stories, and playing music. A Minstrel is another type of musician seen during the 13th century. A Minstrel was employed by the court as an entertainer. We also know about Troubadours and Trouvereres – poet-composers sponsored by aristocrats in the court. These secular musicians were known by different names depending on the country, but essentially performed the same role.

TroubadourCourtesy of

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