The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos are based in the Silos Monastery located near Covarrubias in the south of Spain. The abbey was first established under the Rule of Saint Benedict in the year 954, and then re-founded by the monk Dominic in 1041, acting as its first abbot until his martyrdom in 1070. St. Dominic of Silos established a scriptorium at the abbey, and despite its being dispersed at one point, the library still holds someRead more of the oldest sacred manuscripts in Europe -- some dating even to the ninth century. The famed Codex of the Monastery of Saint Domingo de Silos (British Library Add. Ms. 11695) is not a musical manuscript, but a Beatus prized for its extraordinary and elaborate miniatures; it has been in the possession British Museum since 1840.
In 1835, the Monastery at Santo Domingo de Silos was forced to close under local political pressure, and its library was split up among various hands. In 1880, a group of monks from the Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes in France arrived to reclaim the Silos monastery, and by 1888 they had located 14 of the 20 missing manuscripts held there prior to 1835, in addition to salvaging others that were endangered. In re-establishing the order, the Solesmes monks also re-founded the choir under their own then newly devised guidelines for plainchant singing, which is yet the recognized standard for Gregorian plainsong performance within the Catholic Church. The Chorus of Monks of the Monastery of Silos has long been recognized as one of the finest in the world, and began to make recordings early as 1957. Several of these were made under the direction of Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta, who went on to become President of the Spanish Musicological Society after leaving the order in 1973.
In 1993, Hispavox in Spain issued a two-disc set chronicling the Silos Monks recordings, some two decades old, entitled Canto Gregoriano. This sold very well in Europe, and Angel Records (EMI) cut the set down to one disc for the English-speaking market, illustrating it with a "new-agey" painting by Marvin Mattelson and re-issuing it as Chant. Issued in 1994, this became one of the best selling compact discs of classical music in history, moving millions of units and staying on the Classical charts for close to three years. A flurry of similar recordings, some featuring the Silos Monks, quickly entered the market thereafter. Chant was widely touted as the perfect antidote to a world overrun with stress and media smog; many Classical music fanciers and experts groused that the disc was indistinguishable from countless others of its kind. Controversial matters aside, the success of this recording spurred on a great deal of interest in the Silos Monastery, not to mention an unexpected upturn in its financial fortunes. The Monastery of Santo Domingo of Silos quickly became a popular destination point for tourists travelling to Spain, and the year 2001 not only marks the Monastery's entry into its third millennium of service, but the expected completion date of its long-needed physical restoration. Read less
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