six geese a-laying.
And when they're done laying, they sing.
Or rather, chant.
(Careful readers will count seven geese, not six. But look again and you'll see that goose #7 is not long for the choir, or this world.)
The manuscript illumination is from Das Gänsebuch, or, The Geese Book, a medieval German chant book, illustrated by Jakob Elsner (c1460-1517). Shortly after its completion (begun in 1270, the work took more than 200 years), the Lorenzkirche, or church of St. Lorenz, at Nüremberg commissioned a massive two-volume collection of music of the Mass liturgy for their choir, comprised of school boys and young adults; what they made of some of the illustrations one can only imagine. The volumes, completed between 1504-1510, measure 30" by 50", and the first volume alone apparently weighs 85 pounds. Both volumes can be found at The Morgan Library in New York.
Some of the music can be found on the Naxos CD, Das Gänsebuch (The Geese Book): German Medieval Chant, performed by the Schola Hungarica of Budapest, under the direction of the thoroughly unwolfish László Dobszay and Janka Szendrei. For a fascinating account of how the music came to be heard again after 500 years, and finally recorded, read this ASU (Arizona State University) Magazine article about "Opening The Geese Book", a research project by Corine Schleif, an associate professor of art history at ASU, and Volker Schier, a German musicologist.
Although the Lorenzkirche was badly damaged by air raids in 1945*, The Geese Book survived World War II unharmed, and, according to the ASU article,
came into the hands of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The group’s founders trace their roots back to a patrician family in Nüremberg. The Kress Foundation helped the church rebuild after Nüremberg was bombed. In return, the church presented The Geese Book to the foundation.Interestingly, The Geese Book project, which was started in 2000, was supported in part by a grant from the Kress Foundation.
* The church was rebuilt in 1949-52.