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A Catalan Corpus Christi Play: The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the Hobby Horses and the Turks Max Harris Along a broad swathe of Spain's Mediterranean coast, stretching from Catalunya in the north to Andalucía in the south, and inland into the mountains, from the Pyrenees to the Sierra Nevada, folk dramatizations of battles between Moors (or Turks) and Christians make up a large part of the annual festive calendar . It is generally believed that the tradition originated in Lleida in 1150 with a "danza de moros y cristianos" ("dance of Moors and Christians") performed at the royal wedding of Ramon Berenguer IV, prince of Catalunya, and Peronella of Aragón. This reference, however, is more tenuous than is generally assumed and, in any case, describes an occasional rather than an annual performance.' The next extant reference to a Spanish mock battle between Moors and Christians attests to a performance, formally akin to the tournament mêlée, at the court of Jaume II, ruler of Aragón-Catalunya, in Zaragoza, cl 300. But this too is somewhat uncertain and again refers to an isolated rather than an annual event.2 Thus, the earliest well-documented reference to an annual festive Spanish mock battle between Turks (or Moors) and Christians comes from the fifteenth-century Barcelona Corpus Christi procession, which regularly included an entremés (pageant) depicting "Io martiri de S. Sebastiá ab los caballs cotoners é ab los turchs" ("the martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the hobby horses and with the Turks").3 It is this entremés, its influence on neighboring Corpus Christi pageants, and the survival of its descendants in modern Catalan festes (festivals) that I will examine in this essay. The first mention of Lo martiri de S. Sebastiá comes towards the end of a list of 108 representacions carried through the streets of Barcelona during the festival of Corpus Christi in 1424. The 224 Max Harris225 "representations" began with the creation of the world, the fall of Lucifer, the dragon of St. Michael, and a sword fight between twenty-three devils and an unspecified number of angels. Stories from the Old Testament followed, including Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, David and the giant Goliath, "las XII tribus de Israel de dos en dos" ("the twelve tribes of Israel marching two by two"), and several prophets. Then came a Nativity sequence, which started with angels singing the annunciation to the Virgin Mary and ended with the slaughter of the Innocents. The remaining pageants, almost two thirds of the total number, portrayed various saints, some of them tempted by devils and two, "Sta. Margarida" (St. Margaret) and "S. Jordi" (St. George), locked in battle with a dragon. Towards the end of the saints' pageants came "Io martiri de S. Sebastiá ab los caballs cotoners é ab los turchs" ("the martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the hobby horses and with the Turks").4 Three other fifteenth-century references to the Barcelona pageant of St. Sebastian survive. There is a 1437 contract between the city council and the confraternity of cotton weavers, who agreed to pay the "bastays e totes altres despeses" ("the bearers and all other expenses") of two "entremesos" (floats),5 one of which bore the "gran Turch" ("great Turk") while the other carried St. Sebastian. The pageant was again accompanied by "cavallets" (hobby horses) and "turchs."6 In 1446, the city council of Barcelona hired a painter by the name of Tomás Alemany to supervise work on "los antremesos del martiri de sant Sebastiá e los cavalls guodoners de la batalla deis turchs qui an de servir á la festa de Jesuchrist" ("the floats of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian and the hobby horses of the battle with the Turks that have to serve at the feast of Corpus Christi").7 And there is a description of an abbreviated version of the Corpus Christi procession that was staged for the visit of the Duke of Calabria in 1467 and included, side by side, the "entremés dels turchs" ("pageant of the Turks") and the "entremesos dels cavalls cothoners " ("pageants of the hobby horses").8 Since the Corpus Christi procession had first been celebrated in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 224-247
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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