Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: troubadour from Philip's Encyclopedia

Poet in the S of France from the 11th to the 14th century who wrote about love and chivalry. Troubadors' poems were sung by wandering minstrels called jongleurs. They wrote in the Provençal tongue, the langue d'oc, and much of their work, which was highly influential in the development of European lyric poetry, survives in songbooks.


Summary Article: troubadour from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Poet-musician of Provence and southern France in the 12th–13th centuries. The troubadours originated a type of lyric poetry devoted to themes of courtly love and the idealization of women and to glorifying the chivalric ideals of the period. Little is known of their music, which was passed down orally.

Among the troubadours were Bertran de Born (1140–c. 1215), who was mentioned by Dante, Arnaut Daniel, and Bernard de Ventadour. The trouvères were a similar class of poet-musicians active during the same period in northern France and England. The troubadour tradition had a parallel in the German Minnesingers.

The troubadours' poems were usually poésies courtoises (courtly poems, mainly love-songs, but also satires and other styles), while chansons à personnages (narrative songs) belonged chiefly to the trouvères. Troubadours wrote their own poems and probably composed the tunes as well; approximately 2,500 troubadour songs have survived, and the melodies of about 280 of these are known. About 2,000 of the trouvères' poems have survived, and most of these have music. The melodies were written down in a notation which showed only the pitch of the notes. The rhythm was either committed to memory or else determined by the poetic metre, a question that has never been solved beyond controversy. It is believed that the songs were accompanied on instruments of the harp or lute type, either by the troubadours and trouvères themselves or by attendants, for many troubadours were not poor wandering musicians but nobles whose audiences were at courts and noble houses.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article troubadour
Word Origins

[18 century] A troubadour is etymologically someone who ‘finds’ - that is, ‘composes’ - songs. The word comes via French troubadour from...

Full text Article ERMENGAUD, MATFRE
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship, and Sexuality through History: The Medieval Era

The southern French Franciscan Friar Matfre Ermengaud, of whom little is known, was the author of a long encyclopedic poem, Breviary of Love ,...

Full text Article OCCITAN POETRY
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

The root of the term Occitan is the word oc (yes) in the lang. of med. southern France, in contrast to OF oïl (stressed like mod. Fr. oui) and It. s

See more from Credo