lauda. Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature

A lauda (plural, laude) was a popular religious
poem or “song of praise,” adapted from the Christian liturgy and widespread in Italy in the 14th and
15th centuries. The earliest
laude were 13thcentury Latin hymns, the best known being the
Stabat Mater and the Dies Irae. St. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
wrote some of the first laude in the vernacular,
called the
Cantico delle Creature.
The popularity of the lauda was augmented by
the rise of the religious Order of the Flagellants (a
group devoted to public penance, whose members
paraded through European cities, beating each
other with ropes or chains). This group, originating in Umbria (in central Italy north of Rome) in
about 1260, practiced fraternal singing of
laude in
their rituals, which helped spread the genre to Umbrian composers, the best known of whom was JACOPONE DA TODI, the most famous practitioner of
the form.
laude followed no standard metrical form.
However, as more came to be written, the
came to imitate the form of the ballata, an Italian
dance song with a refrain. Most commonly Jacopone’s
laude were written in octosyllabic (or eightsyllable) lines. Sometimes seven- or 11-syllable
lines are used. In the
ballata, individual stanzas
were sung by a soloist and the refrain by a chorus.
This responsive format, coupled with the fact that
laude were often verse narratives of Christ, the
Virgin, or one of the other saints, encouraged the
development of the
laude into a dramatic form. In
laude, an actual dialogue was created, rather
than a simple alternating solo and chorus, so that
singers took the parts of various characters.
By the 15th century, the
laude had moved out of
Umbria and become widespread throughout Italy.
Such early Renaissance writers as Lorenzo de’
Medici and Girolamo Savonarola were interested
in the form. By the following century, however, the
form had declined significantly in popularity.