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The Consecration and Baptism of Dells is one of the most curious ceremonies of the Church in the Middle Ages. The Council of Cologne ordained as follows:-
“Let the bells be blessed, as the trumpets of the Church militant, by which the people are assembled to hear the word of God: the clergy to announce his mercy by day, and his truth in their nocturnal vigils: that by their sound the faithful may be invited to prayers, and that the spirit of devotion in them lilay be increased. The fathers have also maintained that demons affrighted by the sound of bells calling Christians to prayers, would flee away : and when they fled, the persons of the faithful would be secure; that the destruction of lightnings and whirlwinds would be averted, and the spirits of the storm defeated.”—Edinburgh. Encyclopædia. Art. Bells. See also Scheible’s “ Kloster,” VI. 776.
And a Friar who spreaching to the crotral,
In giving this sermon of Friar Cuthbert as a specimen of the Risus Paschales, or street-preaching of the monks at Easter, I have exaggerated nothing. This very anecdote, offensive as it is, connes from a discourse of Father Barletta, a Dominican friar of the fifteenth century, whose fame as a popular preacher was very great.
“Almong the abuses introduced in this century,” says Tiraboschi, “ was that of exciting from the pulpit the laughter of the hearers: as if that were the same thing as converting them. We have examples of this, not only in Italy, but also in France, where the serinons of Michot and Maillard, and of others, who would make a better appearance on the stage than in the pulpit, aré still celebrated for such follies.”
If the reader is curious to see how far the freedom of speech was carried in these popular sermons, he is referred to Scheible's “ Kloster,” vol. i., where he will find extracts from Abraham a Sancta Clara, Sebastian Frank, and others; and in particular, an anonymous discourse called Der Grattel der Veritist ung. The Abomination of Desolation, preached at Ottakring. a village west of Vienna, November 25, 1782, in which the license of language is carried to its utmost limit.
My authority for the spiritual interpretation of beil-ringing, which follows, is Durandus, as cited by Home, in the Addenda to his “Ancient Mysteries Described.”
THE NATIvity, a Miracle-Play.—p. 162
A singular chapter in the History of the Middle Ages, is that which gives account of the early Christian Drama, the Mysteries, Moralities, and Miracle-Plays, which were at first performed in churches: and afterwards in the street, on fixed or movable stages. For the luost part, the
Mysteries were founded on the historic parts of the Old and New Testaments, and the MiraclePlays on the Lives of Saints: a distinction not always observed, howevor—for in Mr. Wright's “Early Mysteries and other Latin Poems of the Twolfth and Thirteenth Centuries,” the Itesurrection of Lazarus is called a Miracle, and not a Mystery. The Moralities were plays, in which the Virtues and Vices were personified. The earliest religious play which has been preserved is the “Christos Paschon" of Gregory Nazianzen, written in Greek, in the fourth century. Next to this come the remarkable Latin Plays of Ros witha, the Nun of Gandersheim, in the tenth century, which, though crude, and wanting in artistic construction, are marked by a good deal of dramatic power and interest. \ hindsome edition of these plays, with French translation, has been lately published, cntitled, “Theâtre de Rosvitha, IReligieuse Allemande du Xe Siécle.” Par ('harles Magnin. I’aris, 1845. The most important collections of English Mysteries and Miracle-Plays are those known as the Townley, the Chester. and the Coventry Plays. The first of these collections has been published by the Surtees Society, and the other two by the Shakspere Society. . In his introduction to the Coventry Mysteries, the editor, Mr. IIalliwell, quotes the following passage from Dugdale’s “Antiquities of Warwickshire:”— “Hefore the suppression of the monasteries, this city was very famous for the pageants, that were played therein, upon Corpus-Christi day : which occasioning very great confluence of people thither, from far and near, was of no Śmill benefit thereto: which pageants being acted with mighty state and reverence by the friars of this house, had theatres for the several scenes, very large and high, placed upon wheels, and drawn to all the eminent parts of the city, for the better advantage of spectators; and contained the story of the New Testament, composed into old English rhythm, as appeareth by fun ancient MIS, intituled “Ludus Corporis Christi,” or “ Ludus Conventriæ.” . I have been told by some old people, who in their younger years were eye-witnesses of these pageants so acted, that the yearly confluence of people to Seo that show was extraordinarily great, and yielded no small advantage to this city.” The representation of religious plays has not yet becil wholly discontinued by the Roman Church. At Ober-Ammergau, in the Tyrol, a grand spectacle of this kind is exhibited once, in ten years. A very graphic description of that which took place in the year 1850 is given by Miss Anna Mary Howitt, in her “Art-Student in Munich.” vol. i. chap. iv. She says:-“The first view of Ober Ammergau somewhat disappointed us. It lies in a smiling green valley surrounded by hills rather than mountains, and, excepting for the architecture of the got taggs and Čertain rugged lines of peaks and cliffs telling of Alpine origin, might have passed for a retired Dérbyshire dale. “We had brought from our friend, Professor R., a letter to the peasant, Tobias Flunger, who performed the character of Christ, and this circumstance won for us good respect among our fellow-travellers. The stell-wagen drove up to his house, which is the second in the village. and surrounded by a gay little garden. Tolias Flunger came out to receive us, and you may imagine our surprise, when, instead of a peasant, as we had o we beheld a gentleman to all appearance, in a grey sort of undress coat, with's scarlet fez on his head. He was certainly handsome, and welcomed us with a calm yet warm-hearted courtesy. As he removed his fez we saw his dark glossy hair parted above the centre of his brow, and falling in rich waves upon his shoulders, and that his melancholy dark eyes, his pale brow, his emaciated features, his short, black beard, all bore the most strange and startling resemblance to the heads of the Saviour as represented by the early ltalian painters. “There was something to my mind almost fearful in this resemblance, and Tobias Flunger seemed to act and speak like one filled with a mysterious awe. If this be an act of worship in him, this personation of our Lord, what will be its effect upon him in after-life : There was a something so strange, so unspeakably melancholy in his emaciated countenance, that I found my imagination soon busily speculating upon the true reading of its expression. “At the door we were also met by his wife and little daughter, themselves peasants in appearance, but cheerful and kind in their welcome, as if we had been oid friends." The whole cottage was in harmony with its inhabitants, bright, cheerful, and filled with traces of a simple, pious, beautiful existence. We were taken into a little room, half chamber, half study; upon the walls were several well-chosen engravings, after Hess and Overbeck; and oldfashioned cabinet, fronted with glass, contained various quaint drinking-glasses and exquisite specimens of carving in wood, an art greatly practised in the village. On one side of the cabinet hung a violin, and above it and another cabinet were erranged casts of hands and feet. On noticing these things to the wife, she said that her husband was a carver in wood by profession, and had brought these with him from Munich to assist him in his art. “‘ He is a great carver of crucifixes and Madonnas,” she continued: “you must see his work." He was an artist, then, this Tobias Flunger, with his grave, sad countenance, his air of superiority; yes, much was now explained. And no doubt his artist-feeling had been brought into operation for the benefit of the MiraclePlay, in the same manner that the schoolmaster of Ober-Ammergau had taxed his musical skill for the production of the music. “It was now seven o'clock; and as yet it wanted an hour till the commencement of the play, our kind artistic host, with that strange, melancholy, awe-inspiring countenance of his, insisted | accompanying us through the village, and showing us specimens of the woodo: “There was yet plenty of time, he said, ‘for him to prepare the play."
“At the sound of a small cannon, the motley crowd hastened towards the theatre, which was a large, unsightly, wooden enclosure. erected on a broad green meadow, within a stone’s-throw of the yillage. A few poplars growing on either side of the enclosure, no doubt, mark from one ten years to another, the precise spot. The brightly-painted pediment of the proscenium rose above the rude wooden fence: crowds of people already, thronged the hastily-crowded flights of steps leading to the different entrances. A few moments more, and we are seated in the boxes precisely opposite the front of the stage
“With the first feeble notes from the orchestra, and very feeble at first they were, a dead silence sunk down upon the assembled multitude; as people say, ‘you might have heard a pin drop." All was loadi's expectation. And soon, beneath the blue dome of heaven, and with God's sunlight showering down upon them, a fantastic yision passed across the stage; their white tunics glanced in the light, their crimson, violet, and azure mantles swept the ground, their plumed head-dresses waved in the breeze: – they looked like some strange flight of fabulous birds. This was the chorus, attired to represent angels. Like the antique chorus, the argument of the play. With waving hands and solemn music, their united voices pealed for h words of blessing, of “Peace on earth, and good
will towards men: they sang of God's infinite love in sending among men His blessed Son: and their voices rose towards heaven, and echoed among the hills. And whilst they thus sang, our hearts were strangely touched, and our eyes wandered away from those singular peasant angels and o, peasant audience, up to the deep, cloudless blue sky above their heads: you heard the rustle of green trees around you, and caught glimpses of mountains, and all seemed a strange, fantastical, poetical dream. “But now the chorus retired, and the curtain slowly rose. There is a tread of feet, a hum of voices, a crowd approaches, children shout, wave palm-branches, and scatter flowers. In the centre of the multitude on the stage, riding upon an ass, sits a majestic figure clothed in a long violet-coloured robe, the heavy folds of a crimson mantle falling around him. His hands are laid across his breast; his face is meekly raised towards heaven, with an adoring love. 13ehind solemnly follows a group of grave men, staves in their hands, ample drapery sweeping the ground: you recognise John in the handsome, almost feminine youth, clothed in the green and scarlet robes, and with flowing locks; and there is Peter with his eager countenance: and that man with the brooding look, and wrapt in a flame-coloured mantle, that must be Judas! The children shout and wave their palmbranches, and the procession moves on, and | fatal triumphal entry is made into Jerusaeln. “Again appears that tall majestic figure in his violet robe: his features are lit up with a holy indignation : a scourge is in his hand; he overturns the tables of the money-changers, and drives before him a craven, avāricious crowd: An excited assembly of aged men, with long and venerable beards falling on their breasts, their features inflamed with rage, with gestures of vengeance, horror, and contempt, plot and decide upon his death! . He meantime sits calmly at Bethany among his friends: and a woman, with beautiful long hair falling around her. kisses his feet, and anoints them with precious ointment from her alabaster vase. And now he sits at a long table, his friends on either hand. John, leans upon his breast; he breaks the bread. Judas, seized by his evil thought, rises from the table, wraps himself closely in his mantle, bows his head, and passes out. Again the scene changes: it is a garden. That sad, grave man, gazes, with disappointed love upon his sleeping friends; he turns away and prays, bowed in agony. There is a tumult! That figure, wrapped in its flame-coloured robe, again appears! here is an encounter; a flash of swords: and the majestic. melancholy. violetrobed figure, with meekly bowed head. is borne away ! And thus ends the first act of this saddest of all tragedies. “We had come expecting to feel our souls revolt at so material a representation of Christ, as any representation of him we naturally imagined must be in a peasant's Miracle-Play. Yet so far, strange to confess. neither horror, dis gust, nor contempt was excited in our minds. Such an earnest solemnity and simplicity breathed throughout the whole of the performance, that, to me, at least. anything like anger or a perception of the ludicrous, would have seemed more irreverent on my part than was this simple, childlike rendering of the sublime Christian tragedy. We felt at times as though the figures of Cimabue's, Giotto's, and Perugino's pictures had become animated, and were moving before us: there was the simple arrangement and brilliant colour of drapery: the same earnest quiet dignity about the heads, whilst the entiré absence of all theatrical effect won. derfully increased the illusion. There were scenes and groups so extraordinarily like the
early Italian pictures, that you could have declared they were the works of Giotto and Perugino, and not living men and women, had not the figures moved and spoken, and the breeze stirred their richly-coloured drapery, and the sun cast long, moving shadows behind them on the stage. These effects of sunshine and shadow, and of drapery fluttered by the wind, were very striking and beautiful; one could imagine how the Greeks must have availed themselves of such striking effects in their theatres open to the sky.
• The performance had commenced at eight o clock, and now it was one, and a pause, therefore, ensued.—the first pause of any kind during those five long hours, for tableau, and chorus, and acting had succeeded each other in the most rapid, unwearied, yet wearying, routine ! One felt perfectly giddy and exhausted by such a ceaseless stream of music, colour, and motion. Yet the actors, as if made of iron, appeared untouched by fatigue; and up to the very end of the second part, which lasted from two to five, played with the same earnest energy, and the chorus sang with the same powerful voice. “The cannon again sounded, the people again streamed towards the theatre. We were again in our places, and again commenced the iong, monotonous exhibition. But the peasant portion of the audience were as unwearying as the actors themselves: to them, indeed, the second part was the most intensely interesting of all,—Eime herzruhrende angri, fende Geschacte, whilst to us it became truly revolting and painful. There was no sparing of agony, and blood, and horror: it was our Lord's passion stripped of all its spiritual suffering.—it was the anguish of the flesh.-it was the material side of Catholicism. It was a painful heart-rending, hurrying to and fro, amid brutal soldiery and an enraged mob, of that pale, emaciated, violet-robed figure : then there was his fainting under the cross; the crowning him with thorns: the scourging, the buffeting, the spitting upon him: and the soldiers langhed, ini scoffed. and derided with fierce brutality, and the people and the high-priest jeered and shouted; and ever he was meek and gentle. Then came the crucifixion; and, as the chorus sang of the great agony, you heard from behind the curtain the strokes of the hammer as the huge nails were driyen into the cross, and, as your imagination believed, through his poor pale hands and feet: and then, as the curtain rose slowly to the dying tones of the chorus, you beheld him hanging on the cross between the two crucified thieves. Both myself and my companion turned awa from the spectacle sick with horror. They divided his garments at the foot of the cross: they ierced his side: the blood flowed apparently rom the wound, and from his martyred hands and feet. The Virgin and Mary Magdalen, and the deciples, lamented around the foot of the cross, in groups and attitudes such as we see in the old pictures. Then came Joseph of Arimathea; the body was taken down and laid upon white linen, and quietly, solemnly, and mournfully followed by the weeping women, was borne to the grave. Next came the visit of the women to the sepulchre: the vision of the angels: the surprise and joy of the women: and, lastly, as the grand finale. the resurrection! “The Miracle-Play was at an end ; and now the peasants began once more to breathe, and to return to common life; and we most heartily rejoiced that this long, long martydom was over, A martydom in two senses, for a more fatiguing summer-day's work than the witnessing of this rformance, which, with but one hour's pause, ad lasted from eight in the morning till five in the evening, cannot be conceived How the poor peasants managed to endure the burning rays
of a July sun striking upon their heads for eight long hours, to say not hisig of the heat and fatigue necessarily caused by this close pressure in the pit, I cannot imagine. In the boxes, where the people were secured from the sun by awnings, inally a face had, hours before, begun to assume a pale and jaded look, and many an attitude to betray intense fatigue.
“In our moment of hurried departure, however, behold the sad, pale face of Tobias Flunger, bidding us adieu ! He had again assumed his fez and his gray coat: but the face was yet more gentle and dreamy, as though the shadow of the cross still lay upon it; and your eyes sought with a kind of morbid horror for the trace of the stigmata in those thin, white hands, as they waved a parting signal. It was a relief to see tit his side the pleasant, bright, kind faces of his wife and little daughter. There was a wholei. look of happiness and common life about them.” Mr. Bayard Taylor, in his “Eldorado,” gives a description of a Mystery he saw performed at San Lionel, in Mexico. See vol. ii, chap. xi. He saw's : – “...Against the wing-wall of the Hacienda del Mayo, which occupied one end of the plaza, was raised a platform, on which stood a table covered with scarlet cloth. A rude bower of cane leaves, on one end of the platform, represented the manager of Bethlehem; while a cord, stretched from its top across the plaza to a hole in the front of the church, bore a large tinsel star, suspended by a hole in its centre. There was quite a crowd in the plaza, and very soon a procession appeared, coming up from the lower part of the village. The three kings took the lead; the Virgin, mounted on an ass that gloried in a gilded saddle and rose-besprinkled mane and tail, followed them, led by the angel: and several women, with curious masks of paper, brought up the rear. Two characters of the harlequin sort, —one with a dog's head on his shoulders, and the other a bald-headed friar, with a huge hat hanging on his back,-played all sorts of antics for the diversion of the crowd. After making the circuit of the plaza, the Virgin was taken to the platform, and entered the manger. King Herod took his seat at the scarlet table, with an attendant in blue coat and red sash, whom I took to be his Prime Minister. The three kings remained on their horses in front of the church : but between them and the platform, under the string on which the star was to slide, walked two men in long white robes and blue hoods, with parchment folios in their hands. These were the Wise Men of the East, as one might readily know from their solemn air, and the mysterious glances which they cast towards all quarters of the heavens. “In a little while a company of women on the platform, concealed behind it curtain, sang an angelic chorus to the tune of ‘O pescator dell onda. At the proper moment, the Magi turned towards the platform, followed by the star, to which a string was conveniently attached; that it might be slid along the line. The three kings followed the star till it reached the manager, when they dismounted, and inquired for the sovereign whom it had led them to visit. They were invited upon the platform, and introduced to Herod as the only king: this did not seem to satisfy them, and, after some conversation, they retired. Iły this time the star had receded to the other end of the line. and commenced moving forward again, they following. The angel called them into the manger, where, upon their knees, they were shown a small wooden box, supposed to contain the sacred infant: they then retired, and the star brought them back no more. After this departure, King Herod declared himself greatly confused by what he had witnessed, and
was very much afraid this newly-found king would weaken his power. Upon consultation with his Prime Minister, the Massacre of the Innocents was decided upon as the only means of security.
“The angel, on hearing this, gave warning to the Virgin, who quickly got down from the platform, mounted her i.o. donkey, and hurried off. Herod's Prime Minister directed all the children to be handed up for execution. A boy, in a ragged sarape, was caught and thrust forward ; the Minister took him by the heels in spite of his kicking, and held his head on the table. The little brother and sister of the boy, thinking he was really to be decapitated, yelled at the top of their voices in an agony of terror, which threw the crowd into a roar of laughter. King Herod brought down his sword with a whack on the table, and the Prime Minister, dipping his brush into a pot of white paint which stood before him, made a flaring cross on the boy's face. Several other boys were caught and served likewise; and finally, the two harlequins, whose kicks and struggles nearly shook down the platform. The procession then went off up the hill, followed by the whole population of the village. All the evening there were fandangos in the méson, bonfires and rockets on the plaza, ringing of bells, and high mass in the church, with the accompaniment of two guitars, tinkling to lively polkas.”
In 1852 there was a representation of this kind by Germans in Boston: and I have now before me the copy of a play-bill, announcing the performance on June 10, 1852, in Cincinnati. of the *: Great Biblico-Historical Drama, the Life of Jesus Christ.”
A most interesting volume might be written on the Calligraphers and Chrysographers. the transcribers and illuminators of manuscripts in the Middle Ages. These men were for the most part monks, who laboured sometimes for pleasure and sometimes for penance, in multiplying copies of the classics and the Scriptures.
“Of all bodily, labours which are proper for us,” says Cassiodorus, the old Calabrian monk, “ that of copying books has always been more to my taste than any other. The more so, as in this exercise the mind is instructed by the read. ing of the Holy Scriptures, and it is a kind of homilly to the others, whom these books may reach. It is preaching with the hand. by coliverting the fingers into tongues: it is publishing to men in silence the words of salvation. in fine. it is fighting against the demon with pen and ink. As many words as a transcriber writes, so many wounds the demon receives. In a word, a recluse, seated in his chair to copy books, travels into different provinces, without moving from the spot, and the labour of his hands is felt even where he is not.”
“Nearly every monastery was provided with its Scriptorium. Nicolas de Clairvaun. St. ișor. 11ard's secretary, in one of his letters describes his cell, which he calls Scriptoriolum, where he copied books. And Mabillón. in his “Etudes Monastiques,” says that in his time were still to be seen at Citeaux many of those little cells, where the transcribers and bookbinders Worked.'”
Silvestre's “Paleographic Universelle “ contains a vast number of fac-smiles of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts of all ages and all countries: tind Montfaucon, in his “Palooo3raphia Grocca,” gives the names of over three hundred caligraphers. He also gives an account of the books they copied, and the colophons, with which, as with a satisfactory flourish of the pen, they closed their long-continued labours. Many of these are very crous; expressing joy, hui
mility, remorse :, entreating the reader's prayers and pardon for the writer's sins; and sometimes pronouncing a malediction on any one who o steal the book. A few of these I subJolll:“As pilgrims rejoice, beholding their native land, so are transcribers made glad, beholding the end of a book.” “Sweet is it to write the end of any book.” “Ye who read, pray for me, who have written this book, the humble and sinful Theodulus.” “As many, therefore, as shall read this book. pardon me, I beseech you, if aught I have erred in accont acute and grave, in apostrophe, in breathing soft or aspirate : and niay God save you all. Amen.” ... If anything is well, praise the transcriber; if ill, pardon his unskilfulness.” “Ye who read. pray for me, the most sinful of all men, for the Lord's sake.” “The hand that has written this book shall decay, alas! and become dust, and go down to the grave, the corrupter of all bodies. 13ut all ye who are of the portion of Christ, pray that I may obtain the pardon of my sins. Again and again I beseech you with tears, brothers. and fathers. o iny misgrable supplication, O holy choir : I am called John. woe" is me: I am called Hiereus, or Sacerdos, in name only, not in unction.” “Whoever shall carry away this book, without permission of the Pope. may he incur the malediction of the Holy Trinity, of the Holy Mother of God. of Saint John the optist of the one hundrol and eighteen holy Nićene Fathers, and of all the Saints, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah: allol. he halter of Jutlas: anathema, amen.” ” Keep Safi', O Trinity, Father, Son. and Holy Gh St. Joy three singers, my three singers, with which I have written this book.” “Mathus:tlas Machir transcribed this divinest book, in toll, infirmity, and dangers many.” “Bacchius; 13arbardorius and Michaei Sophiamus wrote this book in sport and laughter, heing the guests of their noble and common friend Win: ! entius I’īneilus, and Petrus Nunnius, a most learned man.” This last colophon, Montfaucon does not suffer to pass without reproof. ‘. Other caligraphers,” he remarks, “demand only the prayers of their readers, and the pardon of their sins; but these glory in their wantonness.
Sharpe, in his . History of the Kings of England," says:– “Our ancestors were formerly tumous for compotation. their liquor was alé. and one method of amusing themselves in this Way was the peg-tankard. I had lately one of them in my hand. It had on the inside a row of eight pins, one above another from top to bottom. It held two quarts, and was a noble piece of plate, so that thiere was a gill of ale, half il, pint, Winchester measure, between each peg. The law was, that every person that drank was to empty the Space between pin and pin, so that the pins were so many measures to make the company all drink alike, and to swallow the same quantity of liquor. ... This was a pretty sure method of making all the company drunk, especially if it be considered that the rule was, that Whoever drank short of his pin, or beyond it, and even as deep as to the next pin.”