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Sacred FollyA New History of the Feast of Fools$
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Max Harris

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449567

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449567.001.0001

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Tossing a Ball in a French Cathedral

Tossing a Ball in a French Cathedral

(p.54) Chapter 5 Tossing a Ball in a French Cathedral
Sacred Folly

Max Harris

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the liturgical ball game that was popular in some French cathedrals during the twelfth century and its connection to the Feast of Fools. Both the ball game and the Feast of Fools were mentioned by John Beleth in his Summa de ecclesiasticis officis, written between 1160 and 1164. According to Beleth, in some churches during the Christmas season, “it is customary for archbishops and bishops to play with their subordinates in the cathedral close and even to indulge in a ball game.” William Durand described the same custom in his Rationale divinorum officiorum, written while he was bishop of Mende (1285–1295), and added that the ball game was also observed at Easter and involved dance and song. A more positive early reference to the ball game is found in a document from the Vienne cathedral. This chapter discusses the ball game in more detail and how it relates to the Feast of Fools, Christmas, and Easter.

Keywords:   liturgical ball game, French cathedrals, Feast of Fools, John Beleth, Summa de ecclesiasticis officis, William Durand, Rationale divinorum officiorum, Christmas, Easter

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