Best Medieval songs

5 Famous Medieval Songs List

The musical scene of the medieval period creates a clear picture of the culture and society that existed during that era. Early medieval songs were mainly vocal and mostly about religion. With time, secular music gained popularity.

Alongside these developments, instruments such as the lute, harp, and recorder started playing an important role. The music of the medieval period shows how musicians expressed themselves, their devotion towards religion, the love life of people and a lot more. 

This is what has attracted me since my middle school years. I have found the compositions of musicians such as Stephen of Liège, Pérotin, and Hildegard von Bingen quite interesting in the way they have been composed and the kind of fine taste they show.

Their charming creations take me back to an era where castles, knights, and timeless romance are brought to life through their melodies. I invite you to accompany me on a journey to discover medieval music.

Experience the Majesty of Medieval Songs with Our Curated Selection!

Famous medieval songs

Here is a list of medieval songs that were very famous in the Middle Ages:

Greensleeves: A famous English folk song, Greensleeves, was one of the most popular songs in England during the late 16th century. It was associated with Henry VIII, who wrote it to woo Anne Boleyn, his mistress and then his wife. Yet, it is believed to have no accurate historicity and is believed to be written during the Elizabethan era. The song flowed in a composition style and was heavily influenced by Italian music.

  • Song of Roland: Song of Roland was both epic poetry and a traditional medieval song. It was composed in the 10th or 11th century and told the tale of Roland, who fought in the battle of Roncevaux in 778 and was killed in it. This medieval song focused on embellishing Roland’s character and the prevalent ideals of chivalry in the upper middle ages.
  • Foy Porter: Foy Porter was a love song composed by the legendary French composer Guillaume de Machaut in the 14th century. It was a monophonic song that was an intricate love poem that dealt with chivalric love, courtly love, and states as well as how love can help someone become a better person.
  • L’autrier m’iere levaz: L’autrier m’iere levaz song was composed in France in the 12th century by an unknown composer. It was classified as a pastourelle since it depicted the love between a French knight and a woman of common origin. It was one of the best examples of pastourelle songs.
  • Lamento di Tristano: Another well-known medieval ballad depicting the story of Tristan and Iseult was Lamento di Tristano. Tristan and Iseult were medieval lovers, famous in the same way that Romeo and Juliet were in the later Renaissance period. This Italian ballad, which goes back to the 14th century, tells the story of those legendary lovebirds.

History and Origin of Medieval Songs

From the 5th to the 15th century, music in the medieval period had a major influence on culture and history. The church and Christianity played an important role in this period. Both tried hard to regulate musical practices in churches throughout Europe. Gregorian chant, known for its solo and monophonic tones, became popular as liturgical music. 

However, medieval music was not confined to just the religious context. It also evolved as a medium for spiritual expression. It helped develop unity within different kinds of communities. Musicians from different regions created their own kind of music.

Those who lived a more secular life, such as troubadour and trouvère songs, created their own style of music. Like music always has, even in medieval times, music brought people together.

Characteristics of Medieval Music:

Medieval Period Of Music by Hippopx licensed under CC0 1.0

The medieval period of music began with the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD. It advanced in the sixth century and remained popular till the end of the fourteenth throughout which, it was all about church-centered classical music. Although people loved religious music in medieval times, the majority of songs we retrieved were written as liturgical music.

Medieval music was characterised depending on different attributes. Here is a list of 4 major characteristics of the music of the medieval era:

  • Monophony: Prior to the late medieval period, the monophonic chant was popular. In monophonic chants, some other voices were added to the song and moved in synchronization with the primary voice. It was used to characterise the Renaissance and Baroque periods. 
  • Gregorian Chant: Named after Pope Gregory I, Gregorian Chant was a form of liturgical music sung in Latin. It played a central role in Christian worship, characterized by its monophonic texture and free-flowing, unmeasured rhythm.
  • Rhythmic Pattern: Most standardised characteristic, the rhythmic pattern was used in almost every medieval music. It used to add uniformity and sensibility to the entire chant and was quite famous in the 13th century.
  • Limited Instrumental: Many medieval kinds of music were vocal, but medieval people also loved instrumental music. It was composed of a wide array of musical instruments, including woodwinds, string, and brass instruments.
  • Ligature-based notation: Medieval notations differed greatly from modern notations as they were based on marks rather than rhythmic notations. There were several modifications found in ligature-based notation music between the 11th and 15th centuries. 

Evolution of Medieval Music

As with every art form, music also evolved during the medieval period. With the roots of music from religion, medieval songs were mainly about expressing devotion, worshipping the god and praising the Almighty. Different European regions had their own kind of devotional music. 

Medieval music saw the creation and mixing of various musical instruments, significantly improving the musical landscape. Over time, medieval musicals also explored subjects like love and chivalry. However, religious music remained dominant. 

A key development in the preservation of medieval music was the introduction of musical notation. It played an important role in documenting and sharing musical compositions. Cultural exchange, aided by trade and interactions between regions, became a driving force behind the diversity and evolution of medieval songs.

Also, the Crusades gave rise to a different genre known as the Crusade song. These songs were dedicated to celebrating the heroic feats of knights engaged in the holy wars. This music showcased how historical events deeply influenced musical expression.

Themes of Medieval Songs

The themes and verses found in medieval songs were a mirror to society. These musical compositions mostly revolved around romantic stories of chivalry, the charm of castles, and the daring actions of knights. Themes such as love, war, religion, and tragedy were common in medieval songwriting.

1. Songs about Knights

 Knights were one of the main topics of songs during the Medieval era. These songs often glorified how knights fought bravely, their chivalry and how they bravely protected the honor of their women. Their loyalty to their lords was also a popular theme. A great example is the 13th-century composition “Palästinalied” or “Song of the Crusades,” which narrates the story of the Crusades from a knight’s perspective.

2. Songs about Castles

 Castles were also a central theme in many songs. They romanticized the lives of royalty and nobility. Castles were mostly described as enchanting places where the royals and nobles lived. These songs were popular amongst the common folks who would never visit the castles. The 13th-century song, “Le Châtelain de Coucy,” is one such popular song that explores a French castle and its residents.

3. Songs about Medieval Times 

As is the music of every era, even medieval songs were highly inspired by the life around them. These songs often expressed the hopes, fears, aspirations, challenges, and dreams of common people. Other themes included injustice by the system, the feudal society, the struggles against the powerful and more. A ballad from the 15th century, “Robyn Hode,” talks about a legendary English outlaw who defied societal norms by robbing the affluent to support the less fortunate.

Influence of Medieval Songs on Modern Music

You’ve probably heard this cool tune before – it’s like the OG of music notes. Back in the 13th century, some genius dropped a Gregorian chant, and now it’s basically the VIP in classical stuff, movie soundtracks, and your favorite jams. Haydn, Mozart, Verdi – they all jammed to it.

Plus, it’s in flicks like Star Wars, The Shining, and The Lion King. So, even if you can’t name-drop it, you’ve totally grooved to this ancient vibe without even knowing it.

Okay, so there’s this rad trend blowing up on socials called “Bardcore”. Basically, musicians are taking modern hits and flipping them into medieval jams. It’s not like, historically accurate or anything, but it’s a blast.

You’ve got these cool bands like Hildegard von Blingin’, the Constantine Bard, and Beedle the Bardcore rocking out and giving popular songs a medieval makeover. It’s wild but totally delightful.

Enjoy these 4 medieval covers that include some of today’s greatest hits:

The Constantine Bard

  • Iron Maiden: Fear Of The Dark
  • Lana Del Rey: Cola


  • The Cardigans: Lovefool
  • Michael Jackson: Smooth Criminal


Back in medieval times, people poured their feelings into music, showing off some serious creativity. The tunes from that era are like a time machine into the emotional vibes of the past. Each note tells a story, giving us a peek into how folks expressed themselves back then.

We hope checking out these medieval tunes sparked your curiosity and made you feel the ancient emotions through the magic of music.

Also, check out “The Legacy of Medieval Hunting” and “The Power and Privilege of Medieval Lords“.

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