Book Series Studia Traditionis Theologiae, vol. 36

The Litany in Arts and Cultures

Witold Sadowski, Francesco Marsciani (eds)

  • Pages: xiv + 317 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:32 b/w, 14 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58670-0
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58671-7
  • E-book
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The book encompasses a broad historical panorama and considers the presence of litanic prayers and songs in different religions, beginning with written records in the Egyptian, Sumerian and Hebrew languages and finishing with Christian works of diverse denominations.


"Ce livre, avec ses riches bibliographies, décrit donc un état de recherche en cours, montrant combien les caractéristiques de la litanie se retrouvent au coeur des cultures et des religions, depuis le fond des siècles et jusqu’à notre époque sur YouTube (comme en témoigne une liste des vidéos de litanies de saints, p. 299-300)", Léonard Appel, dans: Collectanea Cisterciensia 82 (2020), Bulletin de spiritualité monastique, p. 430-432.

« Les éd. ont mis au point un livre passionnant révélant les diverses facettes et significations de la litanie dans différents contextes culturels. Il s’avèrera très utile pour les recherches futures. » (Julia Exarchos, dans Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, 116/3-4, 2021, p. 1088)

“Il punto di forza del volume è l’approccio multidisciplinare e l’ampio arco cronologico considerato. Questi aspetti, insieme ai numerosi casi di studio presi in esame, ne fanno uno strumento privilegiato per lo studio della litania. Il testo è ricco di spunti per studiosi di semiotica, letteratura e musicologia, ma anche gli storici, in particolare quelli del cristianesimo e delle religioni, potranno trovare materiale prezioso.” (Marco Papasidero, in Studi Medievali, LXII/II, 2021, p. 960)

“This collection amply accomplishes its goal of gathering an initial series of studies on the litany in a variety of cultures, religious contexts, and media. In addition, it sparks the same questions in the reader that concern its editors, about the historical development of the litany as a phenomenon)…) This volume will, it is to be hoped, spark future research along these lines, which will illuminate not only the concept of the litany but also broader questions about historical development of ritual practices.” (Sarah Roumas, in Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies, 6, 2023, p. 126)


Witold Sadowski is professor of literary theory at the University of Warsaw. His latest book European Litanic Verse: A Different Space-Time (2018) describes enumerative versification from Antiquity to Early Modernity with a particular focus on the space-time matrix within which the world is depicted in litanic poems.
Francesco Marsciani is professor of semiotics and ethnosemiotics at the University of Bologna. He was a student of Umberto Eco in Bologna and Algirdas Greimas in Paris. Among his publications are the following books: Ricerche Semiotiche I and II, and Tracciati di Etnosemiotica (recently translated into French).


The articles in this book encompass a broad historical panorama and consider the presence of litanic prayers and songs in different religions, beginning with written records in the Egyptian, Sumerian and Hebrew languages and finishing with Christian works from diverse denominations. The research presents the litany as an exceptionally long-lasting genre which for several thousand years existed in the Middle-Eastern and European traditions, easily conforming to changes in religious or historical circumstances. An interdisciplinary approach by scholars representing different fields of study, including the history of liturgy, Egyptology, Assyriology, literary studies, musicology and ethnosemiotics, allows the eclectic character of litanies to be revealed, litanies which not only were a form of church prayer but also had an impact on the organization of social rituals as well as being appropriated by all the major fields of art, oetry, the fine arts and music. The musicological articles in the book address the performance of Sumerian prayers, the liturgical songs of the Middle Ages, litanies in Tudor England and polyphonic works of the great composers, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Witold Sadowski, Magdalena Kowalska, & Magdalena Maria Kubas, Studies on Litanies in the Past and Present

Roland Enmarch, Litanies in Ancient Egyptian Written Culture

Uri Gabbay, Litanies in the Sumerian Liturgy of Ancient Mesopotamia: A Typology of a 2,000-Year-Long Transmission History

Sam Mirelman, Performative Aspects of Litanies in Sumerian Liturgical Prayers, According to Selected Late Manuscripts

Christos G. Karagiannis, Aspects of Litany in the Old Testament

Marie-Emmanuelle Torres, 'Πολλὰ ἔτη εἰς πολλά': Some Litanic Practices in Byzantine Imperial Ceremonies?

Bernard Sawicki OSB, A Litany in the Rule of St. Benedict

Mary Channen Caldwell, Litanic Songs for the Virgin: Rhetoric, Repetition, and Marian Refrains in Medieval Latin Song

Joris Geldhof, The Litany of Saints of the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite

Magnus Williamson, Singing the Litany in Tudor England, 1544-1555

Karina Zybina, When Music Takes Over: Sacramental Litanies in the European Music History

Tiziana Palandrani, Sardinia

Jenny Ponzo, Francesco Galofaro, & Gabriele Marino, The semiotics of litanies from the Middle Ages to the YouTube era: Interpretative, intersemiotic, and performative issues