Palm Sunday Prophets and Processions and Eucharistic Controversy

By Erler, Mary C. | Renaissance Quarterly, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

Palm Sunday Prophets and Processions and Eucharistic Controversy


Erler, Mary C., Renaissance Quarterly


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. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Palm Sunday Prophets and Processions and Eucharistic Controversy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.