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Palm Sunday prophets and processions and Eucharistic controversy.

Item Spent Apon Pallme Sondays for flowres & kaakes and Nayles and Settyng vp of the pageanttes Summa xx d

Item paid for a parchement skyn for the prophettes sholders on palmsonday iij d

Item to the chyldern thatt playyd the proffytes on pallme Sonday ij d(1)

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as part of their Palm Sunday liturgical celebration, various London parishes purchased or rented costumes, wigs, and props for prophets, and paid to build scaffolds for them to stand on ("pageanttes"). Six other cities too had Palm Sunday prophets between 1498 and 1559 and it is perhaps significant that in all these places a substantial tradition of religious dissent existed. It is in London, however, that such Palm Sunday celebrations are first recorded and most numerous.

Of the thirty London and Westminster parishes whose pre-Elizabethan financial records survive, half certainly mounted such dramatic ceremonies; records of other similar celebrations have most likely perished.(2) A lost London payment for playing the prophet has been cited from 1451, and records of Palm Sunday carpentry survive from 1486 to 1499, but the celebration's greatest popularity comes in the early sixteenth century and continues, despite the Edwardian interruption, until Elizabeth's accession.(3)

Historians of drama have found these records interesting because the ceremonies seem frequently to tremble on the edge of mimesis, and in their somewhat indeterminate character to offer some perspectives on the relation of liturgy and drama. The ceremonies may, however, sustain a broader interpretation. Three elements in the Palm Sunday liturgy are particularly significant: first, the occasional presence of a boy prophet, initially noted in the early sixteenth century; second, the intensification of the adult prophetic role, long part of the Palm Sunday liturgy, through the dramatic embellishment of costume and props; and third, the eucharistic procession itself. Each of these elements illuminates the cultural meaning of this celebration in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries at a time of theological controversy.

The child and adult prophets have previously been viewed as curiosities constituting a taxonomic problem. Should they be considered part of an elaborate liturgical event, their costumes and props subordinated to the function of liturgical worship, indeed intensifying that act of worship? Or does their presence provide further evidence for the continuing tendency of the liturgy over the centuries to produce both dramatic and quasi-dramatic offshoots? Are they liturgical or dramatic?

If we examine these prophets' ritual function, however, the questions can be reframed. The prophets both initiate a new element of eucharistic homage (in the case of the child) and strengthen those already present in this day's liturgy (the adult prophets). This prophetic role comes to prominence at a time when eucharistic belief continues to constitute both the most crucial and the most controverted English theological issue. Since Wycliff, the precisions offered by Aquinas - that at the consecration the bread and wine were changed substantially by the priest's words, though their accidents remained unchanged - had been rejected by many. Peter McNiven says, "The implication of transubstantiation for the vast majority of the population . . . was that the consecrated Host was Christ . . . and therefore God: a fitting subject for direct devotion. . . . To Wycliff, no version of the doctrine of the real presence justified the popular practice of praying to and worshipping the consecrated elements in exactly the same manner as Christians were bound to worship God in Heaven. If acceptance of transubstantiation did not automatically produce observances which Wycliff regarded as idolatrous, he certainly believed that it led most ordinary believers in that direction" (26-27). Since by these standards the liturgical function of the Palm Sunday prophets may be seen, indeed, as idolatrous - they explicitly hail the sacrament as the historic Christ - the prophets' presence may be read as reaffirming a traditional theological position during a period of challenge to it. In a heterodox climate the Palm Sunday prophets indicate a conservative understanding of the sacrament.

Like the gesturing prophets, eucharistic procession too focuses the gaze on the sacrament. In addition, procession offers a visual statement of clerical centrality, since the priest carries the displayed host. Again McNiven: "To the ordinary believer, the priest's highest function was . . . that of 'making God.' Wycliff rejected this concept, not only because of the theological and rational objections to a creature bringing its Creator into being, but because it endowed the clergy with an unacceptable degree of power over their fellow mortals" (27). Palm Sunday procession, with its clerical and sacramental center and its singing and costumed prophets, its dependence on the sign rather than the word, constitutes a classically anti-Wycliffite statement. In it the public voice of religious authority speaks its response to dissent. This orthodox response involves danger, implying as it does the possibility of ritual counter-statement in the form of desecration or blasphemy. In its eleventh-century origins, Palm Sunday eucharistic procession began as just such a controversial expression of belief in the real presence, a statement made in reply to opposing belief. In its sixteenth-century realization likewise, Palm Sunday eucharistic procession offers an assertive, ritual formulation of orthodoxy.

Finally, the formal similarities between religious procession on Palm Sunday and the secular urban ritual of the royal entry might be thought to be mutually useful. Religious ritual's rhetorical power to confer divinity was appropriated by secular rulers as early as the Carolingians. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries too, religious orthodoxy may have found it expedient to couple the disputed sacramental presence with the uncontroverted power of temporal political authority through the ritual parallels between Palm Sunday eucharistic procession and royal entry. It is in fact the strongly stressed note of humble yet triumphant power in the Palm Sunday liturgy's presentation of the eucharist which accounts for this ceremony's contemporary centrality, as we shall see.

What sorts of anti-sacramental activity were occurring in London during these years? Though the period from 1410 to 1420 represents the time of most intense religious controversy, Lollard activity continued in the capital at the end of the fifteenth century and in the first three decades of the sixteenth. Charles Kightley remarks that between the 1490s and "the advent of Lutheran doctrine in England . . . there were a whole series of abjurations and executions in London"(547).(4) The extremely partial nature of surviving records is remarked by all writers on this subject, but it is also frequently observed that the London records suggest much more activity than they reveal (particularly, for instance, in the accounts of their London contacts furnished by Essex or East Anglian believers).(5) John A.F. Thomson's summary of abjured or convicted London Lollards between 1482 and 1511 yields about thirty names, and he notes "there were heresy proceedings in London of which no record is preserved" (154). Drawing upon Bishop Fitzjames's register and upon notes from his lost court book, Susan Brigden cites "the testimony . . . prised from a group of some forty City Lollards who were detected and who abjured between 1510 and 1518" (85, 87n). In addition to these people Brigden notes that Bishop John Longland's "quest through his great diocese of Lincoln in 1521" netted at least twenty-five London Lollards and that more were found by the investigation of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall in 1527-28.(6)

Thus in this significant half-century, roughly 1480 to 1530, immediately before the divisive political events of the 1530s, more than a hundred London Lollard names might be assembled, seventy of them cases not just of suspicion but of conviction. Examples of London anti-eucharistic belief in these years, all of which have been printed and discussed, would include for instance the 1467 theft of the host from parish sacrament boxes; the 1496 charge that a chaplain of St. Mildred's Poultry had taught Thomas Tyrt's wife that the sacrament was material bread; Elizabeth Stamford's testimony that she had been instructed in 1506 that the sacrament was "not received with chewing of teeth but by hearing with ears . . . and wisely working thereafter"; the 1510 statement by Elizabeth Sampson that the sacrament was not Christ, since God could not be both in heaven and earth.(7)

The response of orthodoxy to such challenges has been documented in its juridical aspect. John Foxe's great compendium, the Acts and Monuments, gives legal and biographical perspectives on this theological struggle - a struggle which we may suspect was mounted in ritual forms also. It seems likely that these developments in the Palm Sunday liturgy are connected with heterodox activity during this time.

On Palm Sunday a procession, one of the most elaborate of the church year, preceded mass. The Sarum rite provided for four stops on the processional route about the church; the first two of these will be relevant in examining what the London parishes did on this feast. After the blessing of the palms in church the priests, followed by choir and people, made their way outside to the first stop where the deacon read the gospel (Matt. 21:1-9) in which Jesus sends his disciples into Jerusalem for an ass and then enters the city on the animal accompanied by cheers and crowds. It is this welcoming crowd that the procession just leaving church represented.

As the gospel concluded with the words "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," two things happened. A second smaller procession appeared carrying a feretory with relics of the saints, from which was suspended the sacrament in a pyx. This smaller procession symbolized Christ himself accompanied by his disciples. At the moment the two processions joined - that is when, symbolically, Christ met the crowd - three clerks detached themselves from the procession, turned to the people, and sang a text from the prophet Zechariah, "Lo the king comes meekly to thee Syon; He is lowly, sitting on beasts" (9:9).

Officiant and choir responded and again the three clerks sang, this time a text from Isaiah: "This is he who comes from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah, beautiful in his apparel, travelling in his strength" (63:1). After responses from officiant and choir the clerks sang a third time, this time not a prophetic text but one that underlined the central position of prophetic witness: "This is he who, like a guiltless lamb, is delivered to death, the death of death, the Devourer of hell, by his death bestowing life, as of old the blessed seers sang prophetically."(8)

In some cases these notes of eucharistic welcome and recognition were intensified by the additional presence of a boy prophet who sang a short prophetic text before each of the three performed by the clerks. When he was present, the boy sang first from Baruch: "Jerusalem look toward the east and see (5:5), lift up thine eyes Jerusalem, see the power of the king." His second text was from Luke: "Behold the Savior comes to loose thee from chains; lift up your heads" (21:28), and the third was from the same source, "Behold your redemption will draw nigh." These three exhortations are strongly connected with the presence of the sacrament.(9) At Long Melford, Suffolk, a sixteenth-century memoir reveals that the boy prophet pointed with a "thing" in his hand to the sacrament as he enjoined the congregation to "see the power of the king."(10) The procession then moved to the second station where a number of children sang the hynm "Gloria laus" from a high position, usually a platform above the church door, as they threw down cakes and flowers to the crowd.

These liturgical specifications were modified and adapted by individual London parishes, as their financial records show. Though the Sarum processional's rubrics specify a single boy ("unus puer") shall play the prophet, St. Alphage London Wall hired more than one child, paying in spring 1541 and 1546 "to the chyldern that playyd the proffytes on pallme Sonday" twopence and fivepence. Likewise in 1555 children in rented costumes played the prophets at St. Olave's, Southwark.(11) Where prophets are found elsewhere in the London accounts, however, they are uniformly adult, and it is the costuming of these men, and the staging for them, which have left traces in the parish records.

The Sarum rubrics specify that the three clerks shall not be costumed ("habitu non mutato"), although the boy, when he is present, is to be specially clothed ("ad modum prophetae indutus"). Nevertheless in four London parishes, costumes for the adult prophets (called either garments or raiment) were rented on Palm Sunday. The earliest of these records comes from St. Dunstan in the East in 1502 and 1503, the latest from St. Mary at Hill in 1531 and 1540. The third parish, St. Dunstan in the West, paid eight-pence in 1527 "in rewarde for Borowing of diuers garmentes on palme Sonday." (A fourth parish, St. Mary Magdalene Milk Street, also rented costumes on Palm Sunday, in 1536 and 1537, but the sum spent was so large - five shillings annually - that it seems clear a more complex production was being costumed, rather than simply the quasi-liturgical prophets.)(12)

In addition three parishes rented wigs for prophets on Palm Sunday (called hairs): St. Mary at Hill (already mentioned), St. Peter West Cheap, and St. Stephen Walbrook (dates range from 1519 to 1534), while beards were hired by St. Martin Orgar (in combination with hats for a rather expensive sixteen pence in 1519) and by St. Mary at Hill: "Heres. Berdis and Garmentes on palmesonday xij d."(13)

Finally, two parishes show expenses for pins on the feast. St. Mary Woolnoth puts it variously: "for great pynnes for the profyttes on palm sonday," "for pynnes to dresse profittes."(14) Meg Twycross, discussing costuming for the cycle plays, says such pinning was "quite normal in everyday life" (42) and cites parallel cases from Chester: "payd for pines to dresse the womans clothes abowte heare and to piyne the dye menes covtes j d."

Parishes that did not rent costumes but made do with pins probably used liturgical vestments, variously manipulated, for the prophets' robes. These alternatives for Palm Sunday costuming - renting both costumes and wigs, renting costumes only, renting wigs only, paying merely for pins - represent various levels of expense, ranging from two shillings fivepence annually down to a penny each year. Survival of a 1552 St. Magnus inventory, which contained garments, collars, crowns, and wigs for five prophets, means too that some parishes were well-enough off to possess their own equipment for this occasion.(15)

At five parishes the prophets were further defined by an identifying label. Since the descriptions of these properties vary widely, I give all five:

1519 Item for hyere of A borde for A Proffyt on palme sondaye ij d

(St. Stephen Walbrook)

1520 Item paid for a parchement skyn for the prophettes sholders on palmsonday iij d

(St. Martin Orgar)

1531 paid for papar for the profettes on pahncsonday in ber hondes j d

(St. Mary at Hill)

1534 Item paid ffor profettes nanes [sic] wrytyng & ffor a horse to Ryde on viij d (St. Mary Magdalene Milk St.)

1554 Item for iij billes for the proffittes on palme sonday ij d

(St. Dunstan in the West)(16)

Identifying scrolls are common in medieval and Renaissance art, especially in characterizing prophets. Claus Sluter's carved prophet figures outside Dijon, the Puits de Moise (before 1406) carry such scrolls, whose texts has been identified as coming from a religious play, and they wear characteristic soft hats or turbans.(17) In England the well-known prophet windows at St. Mary Fairford, Gloucestershire, display the costume elements that have been called "high fashion of the period 1495-1505."(18) The prophet Micah, reproduced here, shows the soft hat, luxuriant beard, and scroll found in the parish accounts [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].

Where do these costumes and wigs come from? The accounts reveal one surprising source. In 1531 St. Stephen Walbrook spent sixpence "ffor heryng off the herys off Iohn Englys."(19) English was the leader of Henry VII's King's Players, "the first actors' troupe ever to enter the service of an English king," according to Gordon Kipling (151). His initial appearance as a member of the troupe was at Epiphany 1494; the last mention of him occurs in 1516 as the recipient of an annuity.(20) Thus the St. Stephen's reference extends our knowledge of English by fifteen years, by which time he may have been an independent costumier,(21) though his history of employment in the Great Wardrobe (building pageants; making the funeral effigy of Elizabeth of York, 1503) may indicate that it was in this capacity that the St. Stephen's parishioners hired wigs from him.

Royal storehouses of ceremonial equipment such as clothes, wigs, and hangings, included the Great Wardrobe on Carter Lane at the extreme western edge of the City and the Tower on the eastern edge. These royal deposits of ceremonial equipment were frequently borrowed from. Chambers tells us (13, 16) that under Sir Thomas Cawarden (1544-59) the Revels office (housed in the Charterhouse in Cawarden's time, but earlier in the Great Wardrobe) outfitted some London citizens for a coronation and lent to both gentlemen and players.(22) Parish drawings upon royal stores, however, have not previously been shown. Yet it is from the Tower wardrobe that the nearby parishes of St. Andrew Hubbard and St. Mary at Hill both hired cloths, or hangings, for Palm Sunday.(23)

A private source for such hangings is revealed by St. Clement Danes accounts, where in 1557 "those clothes which seruyd on the churche wales on palme sonnday" were borrowed from the Earl of Arundel and his servants tipped tenpence for bringing them.(24) Other parishes must have owned hangings, since accounts from, for instance, St. Dunstan in the West and St. Michael Cornhill show payment for nails to tack them up on Palm Sunday.(25) A 1469 inventory from St. Nicholas Shambles describes what one such hanging looked like: "Item a clobe of grene worsted for Palmesonday hauynge at the iiij cornerys ysteyned the passion of our lorde of the gifte of Alice hunte."(26)

Though the first payment for costume comes in 1502, payment for carpentry begins earlier - in 1469, if St. Michael Cornhill's two hurdles for stages for the church wall are really for Palm Sunday.(27) Definite Palm Sunday carpentry is found at St. Andrew Hubbard in 1486, 1493, and 1499 (frame and workmanship over the church door on Palm Sunday),(28) but more explicit statement of purpose is delayed till 1525, when St. Mary at Hill's accounts read "paid for A quarter [of board] . . . for the fframe over pe North [church] dore . . . pat is for pe profettes on palmesonday."(29)

Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547, and indeed spring 1546 registers the last of these Palm Sunday celebrations in three parishes (St. Alphage, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary Woolnoth). Edward VI's August 1547 injunction forbidding all processions except those of Rogationtide made clear the new dispensation. No London parish accounts show any expenditures for Palm Sunday scaffolds, garments, wigs, pins, from the death of Henry to the first year of Mary's reign. On 4 March 1554 the queen issued a series of injunctions accompanied by a letter to the bishops directing their enforcement. The eleventh of these reinstituted processions, the twelfth holy days "kept m the latter time of King Henry VIII," while the thirteenth restored the "laudable and honest ceremonies [which] were wont to be used."(30) In what seems an astonishingly swift reaction (Palm Sunday in 1554 fell on 18 March, just two weeks after the injunctions' appearance) two parishes' records suggest that they presented both procession and prophets that spring. St. Dunstan in the West bought three bills for prophets while St. Mary Woolnoth purchased girdles, needles, thread, and palms(31) - and the old ritual order was temporarily restored.

The accumulation of detail that these records offer may at first seem overwhelming. Yet this wealth of particulars can yield some general observations. First, these Palm Sunday ceremonies are profoundly eucharistic. Second, they treat the sacrament as a royal figure through the identification of the sacramental Christ with the historic Christ entering Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. In presenting the eucharist framed by Christ's moment of earthly recognition, the liturgy suggests a pattern for contemporary behavior, in the affirming response which the original crowds offered "Hosannah."

This reading of the sacrament is, of course, one among many. If we compare it with the way in which the eucharist figures in the popular late-medieval mass of St. Gregory legend, for instance, the difference will be clear. Here an unbeliever is converted by the vision of Christ crucified seen in the elevated host. The historic moment commemorated is one of suffering and stresses the familiar loci of flesh, wounds, blood, while the witness's human response must be one of pity and sympathy.

In the Palm Sunday liturgy, however, the sacramental incarnation is a triumphant one. Here Christ is manifested in power rather than with the more characteristic notes of pain and degradation. On this occasion, too, mystery is publicly acknowledged as incontrovertible, through its linkage with the first Palm Sunday's homage. In the ritual presentation of this understanding - that the eucharist symbolizes the royal Christ - we can see a studied response to doctrinal challenge. Faced with theological denial of the real presence, the Palm Sunday liturgy offers a ritual anagnorisis. Consequently the elements comprising this recognition receive increasing emphasis: the boy prophet, the adult prophets, the eucharistic procession.

As early as the fourth century, the pilgrim Etheria's account of her visit to Jerusalem describes a processional liturgy in which "the bishop will be escorted in the same figure as formerly the Lord was escorted" by a palm-bearing crowd repeating the antiphon "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Bevington, 10-11). In the High Middle Ages, the twelfth-century Benediktbeuern passion play contains boys who sing the antiphon "Pueri hebraeorum" as Christ enters Jerusalem, commemorating the Palm Sunday events by "strewing fronds and garments" ("prosternentes frondes et vestes") (Bevington 204-05). E. K. Chambers (105-18) printed a remarkable dramatic excrescence produced by the Palm Sunday liturgy from about 1300: a speech in English of Caiphas the high priest that followed the singing of the antiphon "Unus autem ex ipsis, Caiphas nomine" and was delivered at the third stage of the Palm Sunday procession (the liturgy at stages one and two is summarized above). In a later example, a Sarum processional of about 1425 written for the nuns of Chester specifies in its English rubrics that the Palm Sunday procession's first station shall be held at the "cyte of Jerusalem." The text's editor confesses his bafflement, but the association of Palm Sunday with mimetic reenactment seems constant in all these examples (Legg, 1899, vii, 5).

Of the ceremonies described above, one element, however, is new: the appearance of the boy prophet. Investigation of the twenty-seven printed Sarum processionals (from 1501 to 1558) that provide rubrics and texts for the Palm Sunday liturgy confirms the findings of Henderson, who believed that the ceremony of the boy prophet appeared only in the editions of 1508, 1517, and 1555. Publication of the revised Short Title Catalogue has made it possible to add two Marian editions to Henderson's list (1557; two variants from 1558).(32) In addition, it suggests the boy prophet's popularity that in the unique British Library copy of the 1523 edition, a contemporary hand has written his part into the margins of the Palm Sunday service (STC 16236, ff. xlvij [v], xlviij, xlviij [v]). The boy prophet has not yet been discovered in any manuscript processionals,(33) though no entirely systematic search has been carried out. Presently, however, his appearance seems to be a sixteenth-century development.

Hence, during the forty-year period between the boy prophet's first appearance in the 1508 Sarum processional and St. Alphage's 1546 payment to its prophetic children, this childish presence represents a profoundly conservative theological statement. The affirming line that the boy prophet sings to command the community's demonstration of assent, "Lift up thine eyes Jerusalem, see the power of the king," may be contrasted with the provocative words spoken by London Lollard Thomas Wassyngborn in 1482 on seeing a similarly public display of the sacrament en route to the sick: "Wher gothe ye costardmonger [fruitseller]?"(34)

If the boy prophet is new, however, the adult prophets are not. The three men who sing the prophetic words of recognition appear to have been present in the Sarum liturgy from its thirteenth-century beginnings.(35) Given their longstanding presence, what accounts for their more fully dramatic treatment at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century? Why are the prophetic singers more strongly characterized by the wearing of costume and wigs, and by the carried labels that identify them? Although this intensification of effect may be seen to serve the sanae purpose as the boy prophet's introduction, providing a sharper focus on the miraculous eucharistic presence, it may also owe something to secular urban ceremony.

Prophets and citizens are conflated in two of the great medieval play-cycles, illustrating the close link that contemporaries saw between liturgical gestures of welcome offered by prophets and parallel secular gestures initiated by the city or its representatives. In the N-Town Passion Play's treatment of Christ's Jerusalem entry, the welcoming figures are citizens:

1 Ciues de Jerusalem: Neyborys, gret joye in oure herte we may make pat pis hefty king wole vycyte pis cyte.

2 Ciues: Yf oure eerly [earthly] kyng swech a jorne xuld take, To don hym honour and worchepe besy xuld we be.

3 Ciues: Meche more pan to pe hevynly kyng bownd are we For to do pat xuld be to his persone reuerens.

4 Ciues: Late vs pan welcome hym with flowrys and brawnchis of pe tre

For he wole take pat to plesawns becawse of redolens. (lines 442-49)(36)

A reviser, coming after the mid- or late-fifteenth-century main hand, has changed the assignment of these speeches from the four citizens to "pe fyrst prophete" and given the following speech to "pe ijde prophete."(37) That the play was influenced by the Palm Sunday liturgy (even, according to one critic, is attempting to reproduce that liturgy)(38) is further shown by the subsequent appearance of "a serteyn of chylderyn" who cast flowers before Christ and sing the Palm Sunday hymn "Gloria laus." Christ's entry is here viewed through the double lens of urban and liturgical ceremonial, since the important welcoming function is assigned to figures that are ambiguously secular or religious, either citizens or prophets.

In York the eutry to Jerusalem play was presented by the skinners, a guild whose additional responsibility it was to produce civic ceremonial costumes for the York office holders. This guild's familiarity with civic regalia makes it likely that the men who welcome Jesus to the city in the skinners' play (which calls them burgesses) would be costumed like urban officials.(39) In this fusion of liturgical and civic ritual the latter might be thought to triumph as the play ends with the eighth burgess's welcome, not only to Christ, but to the entire urban audience: "Hail! welcome of all about/To our city" (lines 544-45).(40) The play's economic importance to the city is here implicitly acknowledged, as the tourist audience from outside of York is greeted.

The late-medieval bourgeois consciousness that informs these literary texts demonstrates the emphasis of an urban oligarchy upon civic identity and civic hospitality. In York the prophets' liturgical function of welcome becomes a civic greeting, as the welcoming figures are titled "burgesses." In N-Town, influence moves in the other direction as the welcoming citizens are changed to prophets. The plays thus do not allow a satisfactory conclusion regarding the direction of influence: rather they strongly suggest the interconnections of parallel secular and religious ritual.

The indebtedness of London's Palm Sunday liturgy to secular sources (sometimes royal ones) for its spectacular physical elements has been described above. As these parishes borrowed Palm Sunday hangings from royal wardrobes and rented Palm Sunday prophet costumes from secular sources, we see typified a larger indebtedness to secular ritual. It might then be suggested that the sharp visual definition that the liturgical prophets receive at the beginning of the sixteenth century comes from the visual power of well-developed parallel urban ceremonial.

Like the adult prophets, eucharistic procession was long part of the Palm Sunday liturgy. This procession, which much antedates the better-known fourteenth-century Corpus Christi one, has been considered the creation of Lanfranc of Bec in the eleventh century, at a moment when the nature of eucharistic presence was, as at the beginning of the sixteenth century, severely controverted. Lanfranc's opponent, Berengar of Tours (c. 1088) saw in the sacrament a figure for Christ's real, though spiritual presence, serving to draw the worshiper to a consciousness of this transcendent reality - a reality that did not depend on changing the nature of the bread and wine. Lanfranc's understanding (to be refined by Aquinas's later distinction between substance and accident) asserted the bread and wine's change into Christ's body and blood, though he distinguished between Christ's flesh, received by the communicant, and his glorified body existing in Heaven.(41)

The Palm Sunday procession, instituted by Lanfranc at Canterbury and described in his Monastic Constitutions, offered a response to this controversy - a response in which academic disputation was given a public and popular realization (151-52). The tenth-century Regularis Concordia had described a Palm Sunday procession, as had the Romano-Germanic Pontifical, c. 950, but in both texts the objects of veneration were cross, relics, or gospels.(42) By contrast, the focus of Lanfranc's procession was the sacrament, carried in a shrine with candles, banners, and incense through the city streets. Dennis Devlin says, "There is no evidence of any public pressure for this form of the Palm Sunday procession. . . . The desire of the people to see the host and to organize extraliturgical activities around it was still about a century in the future. . . . [Rather] Lanfranc's procession was . . . to state openly, and none too subtly for that matter, the fact of Christ's real presence in the sacrament."(43) In its origins, then, the Palm Sunday procession constitutes a response to controversy, a confident translation of academic theological disputation into a popular, visual mode.

Procession expresses certain ideas held in common with secular ritual. Visually and verbally the Palm Sunday liturgy constitutes a royal entry; or to put it the other way round, contemporary royal entries share certain features with the feast's liturgy. What Kantorowicz calls the "mutual borrowing" between such secular and religious ritual is extremely ancient, beginning in the late Roman Empire. "Indeed every liturgical celebration of the adventus of a monarch reflects, or even stages, the Christian archetype of the performance: that is, the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, which was depicted time and again after the model of an imperial adventus."(44)

Fifteenth-century English royal entries drew explicitly upon the Palm Sunday liturgy. For instance at the 1415 celebration that London made for Henry V's return from Agincourt, "innumerable boys representing the hierarchy of angels" stood in a house at the foot of London Bridge "clad in pure white, their faces glowing with gold, their wings gleaming, and their youthful locks entwined with costly sprays of laurel, who, at the king's approach, sang together . . . this angelic anthem: 'Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.'" This is, of course, the text from Matthew which on Palm Sunday at the first station greets the approach of the sacrament.(45) At the cross in Cheap a second boys' choir sang again "like a host of archangels and angels, beautiful in heavenly splendour, in pure white raiment" and they let fall golden coins and leaves of laurel upon the king, recalling the second station of the Palm Sunday liturgy, at which boys, from a high place, threw down cakes and flowers.(46)

The presence of Palm Sunday liturgical ritual in Henry V's entry is not surprising given his well-known support of religious power. Henry's suppression of the London Lollard rebellion in 1414, the year before Agincourt, made him immensely popular with ecclesiastics. Wylie says, "No words were strong enough for the churchmen to express their gratitude . . . [to] Christ's champion and God's holy knight . . . [the] mighty wall of Holy Church."(47) Three months later in 1414 Parliament effectively linked religious orthodoxy and state power by passing the statute that permitted the secular arm to hunt and punish Lollards.(48) Thus in the case of Henry V religious rhetoric supports not only the Lancastrian dynasty but a ruler who was remarkable in his conflation of secular and religious authority.

Later kings too used the Palm Sunday liturgy. When the three-year-old Prince Edward visited Coventry in 1474 "at the Crosse in the Croschepyng were iij prophettes standyng at the Crosse Seynsyng and vpon the Crosse a boven were Childer of Issarell syngyng and castyng out Where obles [cakes] & ffloures and iiij pypes rennying wyne."(49) Again the second station is recalled: in the liturgy the boys are titled "pueri Hebraeorum," in the royal entry, "Childer of Issarell." Henry VII's 1486 visit to York provides a parish-centered, processional analogue: "& then the generali procession of al the parisshe Chirches of the saide Citie with merveolous great nombr of men women And Childern on foote whiche in ReIoysing of his commyng Criden king henry king henry And saide our lorde preserue that swete And welefauerde face."(50)

Such acclamation on these occasions might be thought to echo the Palm Sunday liturgy's "Hosanna to the son of David." Kantorowicz prints two types of such acclamations, both ninth-century.(51) Their epithets ("lumina pacis," "lumina mundi") are similar to Henry V's greeting "stiling him Lord of England! Flower of the World! and Soldier of Christ!"(52)

The identification of prince with divinity in these secular ceremonies, though startling to modern sensibilities, was exceedingly common. The benefits conferred upon the ruler are obvious, but we may wonder if some reciprocal transfer of power did not occur. To what extent might the "lord in form of bread" carried about the churchyard space on Palm Sunday draw support from the community's shared familiarity with a body of parallel secular ritual? Perhaps the controverted bread receives validation, not only from its identification with the historic Christ but from its identification with the contemporary Tudor king. In this case religious belief would be reinforced culturally by secular ritual.

Or perhaps the ruler's role in these ceremonies, secular or religious, is not so important as the crowd's. Although procession can be the locus of disturbance and controversy, its central social function is the provision of au ordered reading of existence in which dominance and subordination are acknowledged. In eucharistic procession and royal entry both, the opportunities to recognize subordination are particularly strong. The believer's gaze, the citizen's gaze, at the central object, the eucharistic or secular lord, acknowledges the viewer's own status as affiliated. The social ritual offers a pattern; participation in the ritual gives assent to that pattern. Hence procession is usually, though not always, employed by the agents of power and is an instrument of conservatism. As Charles Zika has noted of religious procession, "The very marking-out of territorial space in regulated fashion demonstrated an identification with the authorities who exercised jurisdiction over that space."(53)

Both prophets and procession furnish ceremonial enhancement of the prestige, and hence the power, of a particular theological understanding. As a strategy, this enhancement might, however, be judged only partially successful. The use of dismissive and reductive verbal formulae such as Thomas Wassyngborn's, quoted above, constitutes one sort of counter-strategy, but the full force of opposition is conveyed not through words but through parodic ritual. From the period's end we might consider the 1552 New Year's revels at Edward's court, where the Lord of Misrule in addition to some "witty and harmless pranks" played "other quite outrageous ones, for example, a religious procession of priests and bishops. They paraded through the Court, and carried, under an infamous tabernacle, a representation of the holy sacrament in its monstrance, which they wetted and perfumed in most strange fashion, with great ridicule of the ecclesiastical estate."(54)

The mock eucharistic procession serves to expose the sacrament as powerless through inversion and degradation. For believers' affirmation, blasphemous urination is substituted. The dangerous possibility of humiliation always inherent in a strategy of triumphalism is here realized, as ritual display affirms an understanding of religious mystery entirely opposite to that provided by Palm Sunday prophets and procession.


1 The first entry comes from the 1536 Allhallows Staining accounts (Guildhall Library MS 4856/1, f. Cxlj); the second occurs in the 1520 records of St. Martin Orgar (Lambeth Palace MS Cart. Misc. 9/14). The third is from St. Alphage parish, 1541 (Guildhall Library MS 1432/1, f. 71v).

2 Lancashire prints references from nine London parishes having such Palm Sunday celebrations: Allhallows Staining, St. Alphage London Wall, St. Andrew Hubbard, St. Magnus, St. Mary at Hill, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Olave Southwark, St. Peter Cheap, St. Stephen Walbrook. Of the three Westminster parishes (St. Clement Danes, St. Margaret Westminster, St. Martin in the Fields), Lancashire lists Palm Sunday activity at the last, while Sheila Lindenbaum has discovered Palm Sunday material at the first. In addition I have found Palm Sunday quasi-dramatic activity in the parish records from St. Dunstan in the East, St. Dunstan in the West, St. Martin Orgar, St. Mary Magdalene Milk St, and less definitively dramatic records of expenditure from St. Michael le Querne (pins), and St. Michael Cornhill (Palm Sunday hangings and their keeping).

The following 27 London parishes have pre-1558 financial records: Allhallows London Wall; Allhallows Staining; Christchurch Newgate St; St. Alphage London Wall; St. Andrew Hubbard; St. Benet Gracechurch; St. Botolph Aldersgate; St. Botolph Aldgate; St. Dunstan in the East; St. Dunstan in the West; St. James Garlickhithe; St. Lawrence Jewry; St. Lawrence Pountney; St. Margaret Pattens; St. Martin Orgar; St. Martin Outwich; St. Mary at Hill; St. Mary Magdalene Milk St; St. Mary Woolnoth; St. Matthew Friday St; St. Michael Cornhill; St. Michael le Querne; St. Nicholas Shambles; St. Olave Southwark; St. Peter West Cheap; St. Stephen Coleman St; St. Stephen Walbrook. Together with the three Westminster parishes mentioned above this brings the total to 30, of which either 14 or 26 (depending on whether St. Michael le Querne and St. Michael Cornhill are counted) have Palm Sunday quasi-dramatic ceremonies. The relevant records are, with the exception of the St. Magnus inventory, churchwardens' accounts. Except for St. Martin Orgar's records at Lainbeth Palace Library and St. Nicholas Shambles' at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, all the records quoted from in this essay are held at Guildhall Library, to whose staff I am grateful for many courtesies. Though this essay discusses only London and Westminster records, Palm Sunday prophets are found elsewhere. Lancashire gives references from Cheshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Leistershire, Berkshire, Lincolnshire (nos. 532, 1429, 1154, 834, 1323, 1434). The dates range from 1498 to 1559; most are after 1540. Lancashire's work subsumes that of Lawrence Blair and J. C. Cox.

3 Dating the beginnings of London Palm Sunday activity is difficult. Feasey reported a 1451 payment for playing the prophet on Palm Sunday at St. Mary at Hill (75-76). However Littlehales does not print the reference in his edition of St. Mary at Hill's manuscripts, and I have been unable to locate it in the St. Mary at Hill records now at Guildhall Library. It has generally been assumed that the manuscript existed and is now lost. Nichols cites another reference from St. Mary's 1485-87 accounts which are now missing but were seen and listed by him in 1797. If this 1451 reference is disallowed, the earliest indication of Palm Sunday quasi-dramatic activity would be the stages at St. Andrew Hubbard in 1486.

4 For a narrative of religious controversy in the capital covering the years 1348-1521 to which recent work is much indebted, see Jeffries-Davis et al.

5 Hudson, 474. Chapter 10, "The Re-emergence of Reform." provides an account of Lollardy from the 1430s on that includes London in its discussion. A summary of surviving London materials is found on 459-60, 473-74. In the absence of full evidence from episcopal registers, Hudson has suggested that three anecdotes in More's 1533 Apology show the strength of London heresy: all involve popular groups of 100 or more sympathizers (480).

6 Based on his analysis of the London commissary court records Wunderli says, "Although no more than six people were charged for heresy [in this court] during the thirty-four years for which we have records, this does not mean that there were no heretics in London [which] was a haven for Lollards. Records of heresy prosecutions were kept elsewhere, apart from normal court records" (124).

7 The evidence for women's role in Lollardy is discussed by Cross, 359-80; Thomson, 153-61; Brigden, 91-92. Thomson suggests (161) that Joan Baker's 1511 statement that she knew the sacrament of the altar better than the priest did may indicate the existence of alternative Lollard services.

8 The narrative of the Palm Sunday liturgy given here follows the account of Tyrer, 49-65. It also draws on the texts printed by Henderson and by Legg, 1916, 92-96. A contemporary account of the Palm Sunday ceremonies, heavily allegorized, was published by Thomas Becon in 1542. Modern discussions of the Palm Sunday procession include Bailey and Davison. Duffy's treatment (22-27) is less strictly liturgical and more social in emphasis.

9 Visual depictions of Christ's entry to Jerusalem regularly feature the Palm Sunday procession's second station. Anderson notes (21) that in the Fairford (Glos.) parish windows "the boys shown singing on the battlements of the church gate hold a scroll inscribed with the first words of the Palm Sunday antiphon Gloria laus." The window is reproduced in Joyce, plate 29.

10 Parker, 72. This rare eyewitness account of a sixteenth-century Palm Sunday procession, perhaps during the Marian years, was written by Roger Martyn, whom Parker identifies with one "Roger the Recusant," a churchwarden at Long Melford from 1554 to 1558/9.

11 Guildhall Library MS 1432/1, f. 71v and 93 (St. Alphage). Lancaster no. 1407 (St. Olave). These two London references, and the one from Long Melford, are so far the only records of the boy prophet's actual appearance. St. Olave's and Long Melford's dates indicate that they are Marian revivals of an earlier custom.

12 St. Dunstan in the East, Guildhall Library MS 4887, ff. 30 41v, and 46v; St. Mary at Hill. Guildhall Library MS 1239/1, pt. 3, ff. 601 and 717v; St. Dunstan in the West, Guildhall Library MS 2968/1 f. 51v; St. Mary Magdalene Milk St. Guildhall Library MS 2596/1.

13 St. Mary at Hill, Guildhall Library MS 1239/1, pt. 3, f. 601; St. Peter West Cheap, Guildhall Library MS 645/1, ff. 210, 190, 213; St. Stephen Walbrook, Guildhall Library MS 593/1, 6:3v; 7:4v,7; 9:4; 11:4v,6v; 12:4.

14 Guildhall Library MS 1002/1A, ff. 10, 15.

15 Guildhall Library MS 2895/1, f. 90.

16 St. Stephen Walbrook. Guildhall Library MS 593/1, 5:2v; St. Martin Orgar, Lambeth Palace MS Cart misc 9/14, f. 74; St. Mary at Hill, Guildhall Library MS 1239/1, pt. 3, f. 601; St. Mary Magdalene Milk St, Guildhall Library MS 2596/1, f. 65v; St. Dunstan m the West, Guildhall Library MS 2968/1, f. 161v. Though it may be thought that St. Stephen's board served for standing upon rather than for identification, if this were so it would have been purchased rather than hired.

17 Newton, 144. Interestingly, Newton suggests that in Sluter's sculpture both Zacharias's beard and the hair of his companion King David are clearly false, and hence are derived by the sculptor from theatrical costume. If so, bearded and wigged prophets would be recorded in continental drama about fifty years earlier than m the London parish accounts.

18 Wayment, 64. The scrolls here do not carry the prophets' names, but a phrase from the Creed.

19 St. Stephen Walbrook, Guildhall Library MS 593/1, 9:4v.

20 Lancashire, no. 960, no. 976; in addition see nos. 965, 968, 1664.

21 Kipling, 152.

22 The Prince's Wardrobe, on Lothbury between Old Jewry and Ironmonger Lane, has recently been shown to have been one of the principal storehouses for the royal tapestries, at least until the 1460s. Keene and Harding, 95/8-12, 141 (microfiche). For the Great Wardrobe, Tout. 4:469ff. For the Great Wardrobe and Prince's Wardrobe. Colvin, 2:980-82.

23 St. Mary at Hill, Guildhall Library MS 1239/1, pt. 3, f. 717v. Similarly, on their patronal feast St. Margaret Westminster rented hangings both from Westminster Abbey and from the "King's Place" - the royal privy wardrobe in Westminster Palace. Westminster City Library MS, St. Margaret's churchwardens' accounts 1484-85: "Item paid to the Keper of the Kynges place for Clothes of Arras to hang aboute the Chirche on Sainte Margaretes daye, ij s." I am indebted to Sheila Lindenbaum for this and the following Westminster reference. For the King's Place, Colvin, 1:535.

24 Westminster City Library MS B9A, f. 15v.

25 Guildhall Library MS 2968/1, f. 83 (1536); Guildhall Library MS 40711, f. 15v (1467).

26 St. Bartholomew's Hospital MS SBL 9/2, f. 8. Such hangings were not only used for Palm Sunday, but, since they both decorate space and define it, they were a staple of public ceremonial occasions and were often rented by parishes for royal entries. For instance at St. Benet Gracechurch in 1552/3 cloths of arras were hung "all Alongest our churche in ffanchurche strete" for Queen Mary's entrance into the city (Guildhall Library MS 1568/1, p. 58).

27 Guildhall Library MS 4071/1, f. 17v.

28 Guildhall Library MS 1279/1, ff. 51, 64v, 77.

29 Guildhall Library MS 1239/1, pt. 2, f. 508v. Continuity of purpose is demonstrated by the same parish's entry for 1494, 31 years earlier, which records payment for cleaning the churchyard and setting up the frame over the church door on Palm Sunday (MS 1239/1, pt. 1, f. 108v).

30 The Edwardian and Marian documents are printed in Gee and Hardy, 379, 382, 425.

31 Guildhall Library MS 2968/1, f. 161v: Guildhall Library MS 1002/1A, f. 64v.

32 I have examined all of the Sarum processionals listed by RSTC, either on film or in libraries, except for the first edition of 1501 which is privately held. Of the remaining 26 editions. the only ones to contain the boy prophet's part are the three given by Henderson (RSTC 16233, 1508; RSTC 16234, 1517; RSTC 16248, 1555) and the three I have found (RSTC 16249, 1557; RSTC 16249.5, 1558; and 16250, 1558). See Henderson, Vi.

33 Davison, 12; Henderson, introduction.

34 Hale, nos. 34 and 35. Wassyngborn was from Allhallows Staining, one of the London parishes with Palm Sunday prophets.

35 Bishop, 292. Bishop also believes that "the Sarum rite as originally settled in the thirteenth century knew nothing of the Corps-Saint" [the smaller procession] but he suggests that by the close of the thirteenth century it had been adopted in some places.

36 Spector, 1:262-63.

37 For discussion of the main hand's date, see Spector 1:xxii; for the additions, xxiv-xxv. The additions can be viewed in facsimile; see Meredith and Kahrl, f. 145r-v, no page.

38 JoAnna Dutka, quoted in Spector 2:494.

39 For discussion of York's connections between commerce and drama, see Justice. Heal points out that such welcomes involved the collective honor of the city which, if the welcomes were inadequate, was "liable to suffer a withdrawal of favour" (309).

40 Beadle and King, lines 544-45.

41 Mitchell, 137-51. See also Rubin, 18-21.

42 Mitchell, 131.

43 Devlin, 96-98.

44 Kantorowicz, 71-72. Analyzing Henry's 1432 London entry, Osberg (1990) has recently speculated that the secular-divine ruler correspondence was not always well-received. Elsewhere (1986) Osberg has shown the iconographic and literary parallels between Christ's Jerusalem entrance and Henry VI's London entrance in 1432, describing what he calls the latter's "messianic scenario" (219).

45 Taylor and Roskell, 105. At the next stopping place m the Agincourt triumph, the tower of the conduit in Cornhill, "under an awning was a company of prophets with venerable white hair, in tunicles and golden copes, their heads wrapped and turbaned with gold and crimson," who sang Psalm 97 "Cantate domino canticum novem," (107) which is not part of the Palm Sunday liturgy. The description of their appearance, however, offers suggestions as to the attire of the parish prophets a hundred years later.

46 Ibid, 111. Christ himself (and sometimes his contemporary royal representative) was linked with David, whose parallel triumphant Jerusalem entry after slaying Goliath (1 Kings 17) constitutes an iconographic convention. For woodcuts and text from a Netherlandish blockbook c. 1470, see The Bible of the Poor, 28, 112.

47 Wylie, 1:280.

48 Aston, 42-43.

49 Ingram, 53-55. Prophets figure in at least three other royal entries, from 1432 to 1501, but m these instances they dramatize some scriptural text unrelated to the Palm Sunday liturgy. First, Lydgate composed verses for Henry VI's 1432 return to London after his coronation in Paris. Here Enoch and Elias speak to the king on the texts, "Nihil proficiat inimicus in co" and "Dominujs conservet eum." Second, in 1456 when Henry's wife Margaret of Anjou visited Coventry, Isaiah and Jeremiah compared her to the root of Jesse. Third, London presented a series of pageants in 1501 to welcome Katherine of Aragon; at the fifth of these was displayed a building with four great pillars occupied by "sum with mervelous hoods and sum with hatts . . . and wer semblaunt like the prophetts," but these figures did not speak. Accounts of all three occasions can be found in Withington, 1:79, 146, 149.

50 Meagher, 51. Meagher points out that this acclamation was not spontaneous but staged: York's common council had arranged for "a certaine nowmbre of childrine as shal be gaddard togiddre aboute sanct Iames Chappell, calling joyfully 'king Henrie' after the manner of children."

51 Kantorowicz, 69, n. 15, 73-75.

52 Withington 1:133.

53 Zika, 63. At the Smithfield burning of London Lollard John Badby in 1410, the prior of St. Bartholomew's arrived in eucharistic procession, bearing the host accompanied by twelve lighted torches (McNiven, 211). Badby's case comprised two strands, anti-eucharistic and anti-clerical - he denied both transubstantiation and the special nature of priesthood - and procession here emphasized both sacramental and priestly power. The prior's use of the eucharist to outline physical space implies an interpretation of clerical authority which includes both the physical and the theological.

54 Calendar of . . . State Papers . . . Spain, x. 443-44.


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Date:Mar 22, 1995
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