For over thirty years St Kinga's Clarist monastery, Stary Sacz, Poland, has been known to musicologists for its holdings of ars antiqua music: liturgical items set in archaic-style polyphony, and fragments of the Magnus liber organi and associated Latin motets, i.e. the thirteenth-century Parisian repertoire commonly referred to as Notre Dame polyphony. Given the severity of the Order's Rule and the common presumption that the Clarisses did not sing the liturgy, it has long seemed somewhat incongruous that such music should be found in a Poor Clare house.
The author's discovery of additional fragments of Notre Dame polyphony at Stary Sacz provided the impetus for a thoroughgoing study of this source, which collates all the extant fragments. Previous musicological investigations had not addressed the issue of the relationship between the material and its locale, the connection (if any) between the ars antiqua repertoire and the musico-liturgical practices of the Order which is custodian of this material. Since information on this latter topic was negligible, it was apparent that a study was also needed of the Poor Clares, their Rule, and particularly of the evolution of their Order in Central Europe during the first century of its existence.
The Order had five different Rules and special dispensations abounded. In the Polish-Czech province the earliest Clarist foundations were royal double monasteries, a phenomenon hitherto not associated with the Franciscans. The study locates the Stary Sacz ars antiqua material in this mixed aristocratic milieu.