One of the greatest scourges of the later medieval period was plague. While there is a considerable scholarly literature tracing the impact of the dread disease on literature and art, the impermanence of performance has rendered the extension of such studies to the field of music problematic. These problems are to some extent surmountable in studying the fifteenth-century hymn Stella celi extirpavit, a Marian invocation unequivocally phrased as a plea for deliverance from illness. In this essay, it is proposed that the Stella celi is representative of the beliefs and skills shared by a broad spectrum of late medieval society in the shadow of the plague. Analysis of musical and textual features, and the contexts of performance, further suggest links with the artistic and intellectual concerns of the Franciscan Order, which may have thus enabled otherwise ephemeral music to be preserved as an enduring response to epidemic calamity.
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