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The Oxford Companion to Music

Alison Latham


(Fr.). A name given to medieval French musical or literary societies, or guilds, that flourished in northern France up to the early 17th century. Their roots sprang from the *troubadour tradition, and they held annual song or poetry competitions (also known as puys) originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary; one at Évreux, founded about 1570, was held in honour of St *Cecilia. The contestants stood on a raised dais (Lat.: podium) to sing or recite, and it is thought that the name puy derives from this, rather than from the geographical formations of the Massif Central after which such towns as Le Puy are named. The winner of the competition was crowned ‘Prince du Puy’. The song contest in Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg probably reflects the existence of a similar tradition among the German *Meistersinger.