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The Mass on the Medieval Stage Lynette R. Muir The Mass is dramatized or provides a dramatic element in plays from all the main language groups of medieval drama. Two principal types of plays can be distinguished: the sacramental plays where the essential element is the Corpus Domini and the exegesis of the doctrine of Transubstantiation; and the biblical plays of the Last Supper with the types and figures of the Institution of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday. There are, in addition, three plays which specify an actual on-stage re-enactment of the Mass.1 The Mystere de Saint Martin was composed by Andrieu de la Vigne for a performance at Seurre in Burgundy in 1496.2 After Martin has become archbishop of Tours he asks "tres humblement" (very humbly) that they should prepare for him a chalice, book, alb, and tunic1e "car ainsi que bon catholique/ Je veulx une messe auctentique/ s'il plaist a Dieu, dire et chanter" ("For like a good catholicI wish, if it please God, to say and sing a true Mass" [11. 7841-421). Preparations are made and described in an extended stage direction. Pause. Icy doibt avoir ung aultel bien acoustre de toutes chases auquel sainet Martinviendra pour chanter messe. Lors on Ie revestira et fera on ne plus ne mains qu'a ung arcevesque. n pourra dire la messe toute mais il ne consacrera point. Puis quant se viendra a la levacion du corps de Dieu, jusques a la poitrine seulement, il doibt venir dessus son· chief ung tourbillon de feu subtilement fait sans toucher a sa teste et y demeurer une petite espace de temps. . .. (p. 473) Pause. Here there shall be provided an altar well supplied with all things needful to which Martin will come to say Mass. Then he shall be vested, and they will do neither more nor less than as for an archbishop. He can say the whole Mass but he will not couseLYNETI 'E R. MUIR was Reader in French Literature at the University of Leeds before her retirement. She has published extensively on medieval French drama; her most recent book is Literature (l11.d Society in Medieval Fr(l11.ce: The Mirror (l11.d the Image, 1100-1500. 314 Lynette R. Muir 315 crate. Then when it comes to the elevation of the Corpus Domini, as far as the chest only, a cunningly contrived flame shall come and hover over his head without touching it and remain there a short time.... No such detailed arrangements are mentioned for the performance of the Geu Saint Denis in the early fifteenth-century manuscript from the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve.3 In the Geu the ultimate martyrdom of the patron saint of France is preceded by the usual torture scenes; then the action moves to the prison where, conveniently, "soient vestemens pour prestre, pour dyacre et soudiacre; autel et calice et du pain ("Let there be vestments for priest, deacon, and sub-deacon, altar and chalice and bread" [po 116]). Denis and his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius prepare to celebrate Mass "pour vous et moy communier" ("For you and me to take communion" [1. 848]). While they are vesting, Jesus, in Heaven, summons Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael to accompany him, for he wishes to honor his royal knight Denis and, giving him communion with his own hand, to exalt him as an apostle. When the divine party reaches the prison, Jesus takes the "oiste" (wafer) from the altar and gives if to Denis with the words: "Recoif Ie propre corps de moy/ Dont tu as fait Ie sacrament" ("Receive my true body which you have consecrated" [II. 874-75]). The rite was presumably , therefore, celebrated by Denis during the scene in Heaven. The incident seems to be associated with the weIIknown iconographical motif of the Communion of the Apostles found widely in both Eastern and Western ArtA French tradition strove to present Denis always as one of the original apostles, and the episode of the communion in prison is part of the traditional Acts of the saint. It is also mentioned in the list of special effects for the Acts of the Apostles performed at Bourges in 1536...


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