British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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may 21.]                  corpus christi day.                             299
play of 1564 is: " Item, for 3 yards of lyn cloth for God's coat, 3s. 2d. ob." About the year 1578, the Corpus Christi plays seem to have been on the decline; for the Ordinary of the millers, dated that year, says, " Whensoever the general plaies of the town shall be commanded by the mayor, &c," they are to play, "the Antient playe of, &c." Similar expressions are used in the Ordinary of the house carpenters in 1579, in that of the masons in 1581, and also in that of the joiners in 1589. Weaver, in his Funeral Monuments, says that these plays were finally suppressed in all towns of the kingdom, about the beginning of the reign of James I. The only vestige that remains of the Newcastle Mysteries was preserved by Bourne. It is entitled " Noah's Ark; or, the Shipwright's Ancient Play or Dirge," wherein God, an Angel, Noah and his wife, and the Devil are the characters. Mackenzie, History of Newcastle, 1827, vol. ii. p. 708; Hone's Ancient Mysteries Described, 1823, p. 213.
The play of Corpus Christi was acted in the City of York till the twenty-sixth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign, 1584.
It consisted of a solemn procession, in remembrance of the Sacrament of the Body of Christ; the symbolic representa­tion being borne in a shrine. Every trade in the city was obliged to furnish a pageant at its own expense, and join the procession, and each individual had to personify some particular passage in the Old or New Testament, and to repeat some poetry on the occasion. The whole was pre­ceded by a great number of lighted torches, and a multitude of priests in their proper habits; after which followed the mayor and citizens, surrounded by an immense concourse of spectators. Commencing at the great gate of the priory of the Holy Trinity, they proceeded to the Cathedral Church and thence to St. Leonard's Hospital, where they left the sacrament. There are several public orders yet remaining in the old register of the city relative to the regulation of this ceremony; and indulgences were granted from the Pope to those who contributed to the relief of the fraternity, or who observed the annual ceremony in the most devout manner,.
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