THE FEAST OF FOOLS
Amen, Amen, itcra, Aspernare vetcra. Hez va, hez va ! hcz va, hel ' Bialx Sire Asncs, car allcz : Belle bouche, car chantez." TO
An ass, it would seem, was actually brought into church, at Beauvais at all events, during the singing of this song on the feast of the Circumcision. On January 14 an extraordinary ceremony took place there. A girl with a child in her arms rode upon an ass into St. Stephen's church, to represent the Flight into Egypt. The Introit, " Kyric," "Gloria," and "Credo" at Mass ended in a bray, and at the close of the service the priest instead of saying " Ite, missa est," had to bray three times, and the people to respond in like manner. Mr. Chambers's theory is that the ass was a descendant of the cervulus or hobby-buck who figures so largely in ecclesiastical condemnations of Kalends customs.
The country par excellence of the Feast of the Fools was France. It can also be traced in Germany and Bohemia, while in England too there are notices of it, though far fewer than in France. Its abuses were the subject of frequent denunciations by Church reformers from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. The feast was prohibited at various times, and notably by the Council of Basle in 1435, but it was too popular to be quickly suppressed, and it took a century and a half to die out after this condemnation by a general council of the Church. In one cathedral, Amiens, it even lingered until 1721.
When in the fifteenth century and later the Feast of Fools was expelled from the churches of France, associations of laymen sprang up to carry on its traditions outside. It was indeed a form of entertainment which the townsfolk as well as the lower clergy thoroughly appreciated, and they were by no means willing to let it die. A Prince des Sots took the place of the " bishop," and was chosen by societes joyeuses organized by the youth of the cities for New Year merry-making. Gradually their activities grew, and their celebrations came to take place at other festive turns beside the Christmas season. The sots had a distinctive dress, it.