The Cursed Carolers in Context (Studies in Medieval History and Culture) [1 ed.] 0367900572, 9780367900571

The Cursed Carolers in Context explores the interplay between the forms and contexts in which the tale of the cursed car

519 28 5MB

English Pages 186 [187] Year 2021

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
The tale of the Kölbigk dancers: transmissions, translations, and themes
PART 1 Setting the stage
1 Kinesic analysis: a theoretical approach to reading bodily movement in literature
2 Prefacing the marvelous: dance in popular medieval French and English literature
PART 2 Carolers and contexts
3 The cursed carolers as crusaders in twelfth-century Flanders
4 “Desturné en us de secularité”?: authority and narrative framing in the cursed dancers episode of the Manuel des Péchés
5 Priests, cursed carolers, and pastoral care in Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Instructions to His Son
6 The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin’s Legend of St. Edith and the Wilton Chronicle
7 The cursed carolers in medieval and early modern Scandinavia
PART 3 Dancing on
8 Dancing out the pest: afterlives of medieval dance plague narratives in nineteenth-century Münchner Schäfflertanz discourse
Epilogue: dancing the spaces between
Recommend Papers

The Cursed Carolers in Context (Studies in Medieval History and Culture) [1 ed.]
 0367900572, 9780367900571

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

The Cursed Carolers in Context

The Cursed Carolers in Context explores the interplay between the forms and contexts in which the tale of the cursed carolers circulated and the meanings it had for medieval and early modern authors and audiences. The story of the cursed carolers has circulated in Europe since the eleventh century. In this story, a group of people in a village in Saxony skip Christmas mass to perform a circle dance in the cemetery, only to be cursed and forced to keep dancing for a whole year. By approaching the story in specific historical contexts, this book shows how the story of the cursed carolers became a space in which medieval readers, writers, and listeners could debate the meaning and significance of a surprising variety of questions, including ecclesiastical authority, gender roles, pastoral responsibility, and even the conduct of crusades. This consideration of the interplay between text and context sheds new light on how and why the story of the dancers achieved such popularity in the Middle Ages and how its meanings developed and changed throughout the period. This book will appeal to scholars and students of medieval European history, literature, and dance, as well as those interested in cultural history. Lynneth Miller Renberg is Assistant Professor of History at Anderson University, USA. Bradley Phillis is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi, USA.

Studies in Medieval History and Culture

Recent titles include Early Medieval Venice Cultural Memory and History Luigi Andrea Berto Heresy and Citizenship Persecution of Heresy in Late Medieval German Cities Eugene Smelyansky From Justinian to Branimir The Making of the Middle Ages in Dalmatia Danijel Džino The Triumph of an Accursed Lineage Kingship in Castile from Alfonso X to Alfonso XI (1252–1350) Fernando Arias Guillén Franks and Lombards in Italian Carolingian Texts Memories of the Vanquished Luigi Andrea Berto The Bible and Jews in Medieval Spain Norman Roth The Cursed Carolers in Context Edited by Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis Women in the Medieval Common Law c.1200–1500 Gwen Seabourne For more information about this series, please visit: Studies-in-Medieval-History-and-Culture/book-series/SMHC

The Cursed Carolers in Context

Edited by Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 selection and editorial matter, Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Miller Renberg, Lynneth, editor. | Phillis, Bradley, editor. Title: The cursed carolers in context / edited by Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis. Description: Abingdon, Oxon : New York : Routledge, 2021. | Series: Studies in medieval history and culture | Includes bibliographical references and index. Subjects: LCSH: Folklore—Germany—Saxony. | Christmas—Folklore. Classification: LCC GR167.S2 C87 2021 (print) | LCC GR167.S2 (ebook) | DDC 398.20943/21—dc23 LC record available at LC ebook record available at ISBN: 978-0-367-90057-1 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-02217-6 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC


List of figures List of tables List of contributors The tale of the Kölbigk dancers: transmissions, translations, and themes

vii viii ix




Setting the stage 1

Kinesic analysis: a theoretical approach to reading bodily movement in literature





Prefacing the marvelous: dance in popular medieval French and English literature




Carolers and contexts




The cursed carolers as crusaders in twelfth-century Flanders B R A D L E Y P H I LL I S


“Desturné en us de secularité”?: authority and narrative framing in the cursed dancers episode of the Manuel des Péchés K R I S TA A . M U RCHI S ON





Priests, cursed carolers, and pastoral care in Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Instructions to His Son




The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin’s Legend of St. Edith and the Wilton Chronicle




The cursed carolers in medieval and early modern Scandinavia




Dancing on 8

Dancing out the pest: afterlives of medieval dance plague narratives in nineteenth-century Münchner Schäfflertanz discourse




Epilogue: dancing the spaces between






8.1 The Schäfflertanzer perform before the Residenz, in an 1865 lithograph by L. Singer 8.2 The Schäfflertanzer pose in “Die Krone” figure, in a 1907 photograph by X. Ostermayr

148 154



Some Medieval and Early Modern Versions of the Tale of the Cursed Carolers



Laura Clark is Professor of English at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She has previously published articles on Malory’s Morte Darthur and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Her research interests include medieval fashion, medieval food, and Middle English romance. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and two dogs. Tamara Hauser is a PhD candidate in Dance Studies at The Ohio State University specializing in late medieval German dance and dance reenactments. Her dissertation research examines issues around collective identity and social control, investigating how medieval dance acted as a site to negotiate German identity and how marginalized populations, including Jews, women, and peasants, contributed to movement practices in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. She has presented her research to the Dance Studies Association and Society for Dance History Scholars. Shaun F. D. Hughes is Professor of English at Purdue University-West Lafayette. He received his PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle, and an M.A. (Hons.) degree from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He teaches Medieval English Languages and Literatures, Film, and Tolkien among other things. His most recent publications are: “Reading the Landscape in Grettis saga: Þórhallur, the meinvættur, and Glámur” in Paranormal Encounters in Iceland 1150–1400, edited by Ármann Jakobsson and Miriam Mayburd (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Press, 2020) and “Herder’s Influence on the First Published Collection of Icelandic Folklore: Íslenzk æfintýri (Reykjavík, 1852)” in Herder und das 19. Jahrhundert/Herder and the Nineteenth Century, edited by Liisa Steinby (Heidelberg: Synchron, 2020). Lynneth Miller Renberg is Assistant Professor of History at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. She received her PhD from Baylor University in 2018 and her MLitt degree from the University of St. Andrews in 2014. Her research and teaching interests revolve around medieval religion, gender, and performance. Her most recent publications include an article on project-based pedagogy in the Sixteenth Century Journal and articles in Dance Research Journal and Church History and Religious Culture.



Clint Morrison Jr. is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at The Ohio State University. His dissertation “Dancing Descriptions: Choreographing Middle English Romance” considers the relationship between dance and poetics in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English romance. He was the recipient of the Medieval Academy of America’s 2020 Hope Emily Allen Dissertation Grant. Krista A. Murchison is Assistant Professor of Medieval English and French Literature at Leiden University in The Netherlands. Her research and publications center around the popular vernacular literature of England and the ways in which medieval textual culture and contemporary digital culture illuminate each other. She is currently leading an individual Veni Grant project, Righting and Rewriting History: Recovering and Analyzing Manuscript Archives Destroyed During World War II. Funded by the Dutch Research Council, the project is aimed at using digital technology to virtually re-create and explore medieval manuscripts destroyed during the war. She is also Principal Investigator on another Dutch Research Council-funded project, The Open Medieval Editions by Students (TOMES) Anthology (2019–2020). Previous projects include an investigation of Anglo-Norman manuscripts, which was funded by a Europeana Research Grant. Bradley Phillis is Assistant Professor of History and the Social Studies Licensure Coordinator at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He earned a PhD in history from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2018 and an MA in education from Wake Forest University in 2007. His research focuses on the interplay between crusade, memory, and political power in the medieval county of Flanders. Sarah B. Rude is Assistant Professor of English at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she teaches classes in medieval literature as well as Shakespeare and literature surveys. Her current book project examines how the sense of sight functions in Malory’s Morte Darthur, and her previous work has been featured in the journals Arthuriana and Mediaevalia. Candice Salyers is a performance artist and Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her performance work has been presented in the United States, UK, Estonia, Spain, Morocco, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic, and her research explores dance as a method of humanitarian service and a means of embodying ethical citizenship. Her work has been honored with an Alma Bucovaz Award for Urban Service, a Choreographic Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the American Association of University Women, and grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. She was recently invited to speak at the Society for European Philosophy, and her publications include contributions to Tanz, Bewegung, und Spiritualität, The Journal of Environmental Philosophy, and the Journal of Performance and Mindfulness.



Rebecca Straple-Sovers is a PhD candidate at Western Michigan University and the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at Medieval Institute Publications. In her dissertation she performs kinesic analysis of several Old English saints’ lives, including Andreas, Guthlac A, Judith, Juliana, and Ælfric of Eynsham’s Lives of Saints and examines early medieval English religious writers’ portrayals of bodily movement and stillness in discourses around control, heroism, gender, and sanctity.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers Transmissions, translations, and themes Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

Introduction On Christmas Eve, a group of merry men and women frolic into a churchyard. Hands linked, singing loudly, the men and women raucously perform a carole, a medieval round dance, about the church, ignoring the requests from the priest to stop dancing and come to mass. Frustrated with their stubborn singing and dancing, the priest asks God to work a miracle: to make the dancers continue dancing just as they are, hand in hand, for a full year. Perhaps to everyone’s surprise, this prayer works. The dancers are trapped in an endless carole. Snow and rain do not get their attention. Their clothes become thin and tattered, and their feet beat a ditch into the ground, but still they do not stop. Shelters built to shield them from the elements disappear. Attempts to pull a dancer out of the circle instead pull off an arm, and still the dance goes on. These cursed carolers become a spectacle, attracting the attention of ecclesiastical authorities. And when their dance finally stops, the carolers hop off into the distance, unable to join together and marked by the miracle until they die or until another miracle cures them of the lingering afflictions brought on by their cursed dance. This is the basic outline of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, also known as the Kölbigk dancers for the village in which the spectacle purportedly took place. In each of the many iterations of the tale that appeared throughout the Middle Ages, this general narrative remains the same. The dancers in this tale disturb a priest conducting a religious service on Christmas Eve, and for this transgression, according to the tale, they are forced to dance without ceasing the entirety of the next year. It is a tale with a specific point of origin. As Gregor Rohmann notes, there is little textual evidence for an actual historical “cursed dance.”1 However, because the earliest Latinate texts that discuss the cursed carolers appeared between 1021 and 1065, most medieval authors and indeed modern scholars accepted the historicity of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers as connected to an actual event of some sort in

1 Gregor Rohmann, “The Invention of Dancing Mania: Frankish Christianity, Platonic Cosmology and Bodily Expression,” The Medieval History Journal 12, no. 1 (2009): 32–33, https://doi. org/10.1177/097194580901200102.


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

early eleventh-century Saxony.2 From this chronological and geographic starting point, the tale of the cursed carolers danced its way throughout Europe. Alessandro Arcangeli even goes so far as to assert that this tale was one of the most widely circulated tales of the Middle Ages.3 While modern audiences might wonder whether such a dance took place, to medieval audiences, the historicity of the dance was not as important as the meanings that the tale conveyed. Accordingly, carefully constructed and reconstructed versions of the tale spread throughout Europe, with versions appearing in both Latin and vernacular languages, from Scandinavia to Malta and almost everywhere in between. This book seeks to recapture some of the medieval meanings and contexts associated with the tale of the cursed carolers. Its chapters explore the interplay between the story’s forms and meanings and the contexts in which it appeared in the Middle Ages. Recent Anglophone work addressing the tale has addressed a number of topics, ranging from the nature of ecclesiastical control over popular social practice to the poetics of medieval dance.4 Despite an extensive German historiography, however, very little has been written in English about the changes and continuities in the story itself. The chapters in The Cursed Carolers in Context investigate several of the many texts that transmit the story of the Kölbigk dancers and the medieval and early modern contexts in which they circulated. By analyzing the story in specific historical contexts, the chapters show how the story of the cursed carolers became a space in which medieval readers, writers, and listeners could debate the meaning and significance of a surprising variety of questions, including ecclesiastical authority, gender roles, pastoral responsibility, and even the conduct of crusades. This consideration of the interplay between text and context sheds new light on how and why the story of the dancers achieved such popularity in the Middle Ages and how its meanings developed and changed throughout the period. More broadly, The Cursed Carolers in Context underscores the importance of attending to the manifold meanings that even short texts and stories had in the Middle Ages. It attempts both to view the tale as medieval audiences saw it and to consider it within frameworks for understanding medieval perceptions of motion, body, and dance. In the process, this book unpacks why this odd little tale, like the wandering dancers separated after the curse’s end, hopped from place to place and context to context with such endurance.

Texts, genres, and locations As the preceding discussion suggests, the tale of the cursed carolers circulated widely in medieval Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century, versions of the

2 See, for example, Harold Kleinschmidt, Perception and Action in Medieval Europe (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005), 41–55. 3 Alessandro Arcangeli, “Dance Under Trial: The Moral Debate 1200–1600,” Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 12, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 132, https://doi. org/10.2307/1290992. 4 See, respectively, Kleinschmidt, Perception and Action; and Seeta Chaganti, Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2018).

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 3 tale found their way into histories, hagiographies, polemics, chronicles, handbooks for priests, miscellanies, and other types of books. This section presents a brief overview of the major versions of the tale, when they were created, and where they seem to have circulated. Given the tale’s popularity and the breadth of its transmission, this overview is almost certainly incomplete – the tale is surely present in places that have escaped our attention, including marginal drawings and other visual depictions that lie beyond the scope of this book.5 The two earliest texts that mention the cursed carolers are written in Latin. They date to the eleventh century and come from the Holy Roman Empire. The first is a short miracle text, the Relatio miraculi in regione Saxonum facti, which purports to be a first-person narrative of the episode written by one of the dancers, Otbert. For this reason, Edward Schröder labeled this version of the tale and its descendants “Otbert’s Account” [Der Bericht des Otbert].6 The Relatio miraculi dates itself to 1021, during the rule of Archbishop Pilgrim of Cologne and purports to be a license for Otbert to beg.7 The second text is Lampert of Hersfeld’s Libelli de Institutione Herveldensis Ecclesiae, a polemical history of Hersfeld Abbey written in the 1070s. Though no complete copies of Lampert’s works survive, a monk of Hadmersleben copied excerpts of it in 1513, including a report that one of the dancers actually came to the abbey of Hersfeld in the flesh in 1038: Among those who were healed came one from among those who had conducted that famous carole [chorea] in Kölbigk (which is translated “stream of burning coals”); he had at that time been trembling for twenty-three years. This man, Ruthart by name, having been made sound at that very moment, devoted himself to the service of Saint Wigbert, grateful to God and to his saints.8

5 For one example of the tale’s appearance in visual form, see Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 93, fol. 28r. In this book of hours, the illustration for fol. 28r depicts a group of dancers performing a carole (evident by their linked hands and arrangement in a circle) at the bottom of the page. At the top of the folio, a depiction of the Nativity hints that the carole is being performed simultaneously with the arrival of Christ. A small figure above the carolers points to the top of the folio, seemingly attempting to direct their attention to the events of Christmas Eve. While not definitively a depiction of the cursed carolers, the similarities in dance, setting, and season seem to indicate that this manuscript illumination references the tale. Other visual depictions surely exist, but are beyond the scope of this book. 6 Edward Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk. Ein Mirakel des 11. Jahrhunderts,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 17 (1897): 96–123. 7 Ernst Erich Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte der europäischen Balladendichtung. Der Tanz in Kölbigk: Legendarische Nachrichten, Gesellschaftlicher Hintergrund, historische Voraussetzungen (Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1972), 30–32; Gregor Rohmann, “‘In circuitu impii ambulant’: Goscelin von Canterbury, Petrus Damiani und das Tanzmirakel von Kölbigk,” Historische Anthropologie 19, no. 2 (2013): 249, Though there are no known eleventh-century copies of the Relatio miraculi, there is no reason to dispute this date. 8 “Inter sanatos advenit unus ex illis qui in Collebecce, quod interpretatur ‘prunarum rivus,’ coream illam famosam duxerant, tremulus per annos iam viginti tres. Hic ibidem sanus factus, Ruthart nomine, servicio sancti Wigberti se tradidit, gratus Deo et sanctis eius.” Lambert of Hersfeld, Libelli de institutione Herveldensis ecclesiae, in Lamperti monachi hersfeldensis Opera, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger, MGH SS rer. Germ. 38 (Hannover, 1894), 351.


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

Lampert’s description of the carole as “famous” [famosa] suggests that the story was well known in the Empire by the third quarter of the eleventh century.9 In the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, the story of the cursed carolers appeared, still in Latin, in a number of Anglo-Norman texts and books. The earliest of these, and perhaps the most important from a transmission standpoint, is Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s Legend of Edith (Legenda Edithae), which was written around 1080 when Goscelin, who crossed the Channel from Flanders to England sometime in the 1050s or 1060s, was serving as chaplain at Wilton Abbey.10 Goscelin’s Legend introduces a second version of the tale of the cursed carolers, called “Theoderic’s Account” [Der Bericht des Dietrich] by Schröder.11 This version served as the source for twelfth-century Anglo-Norman books copied on both sides of the Channel, including one which is partially preserved as Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 6503, copied by Orderic Vitalis at Saint-Evroul in Normandy between 1124 and 1142.12 Though BnF lat. 6503 is a composite manuscript, enough of Orderic’s work survives to show that he copied the story of the cursed carolers together with hagiographical and liturgical material, including a passio and mass for Saints Donatian and Rogation and a sermon for the dedication of a church.13 The Otbert account seems to have made its way into England at around the same time, and William of Malmesbury incorporated it in his Gesta regum Anglorum in 1125, albeit in a reworked form.14 Vincent of Beauvais later incorporated William’s version in his Speculum historiale in the mid-thirteenth century.15 A unique Latin version of the tale was also copied on

9 Hersfeld Abbey is more than two hundred kilometers from Cologne, where the Relatio miraculi seems to have originated. 10 On Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, Wilton Abbey, and the Legend of Edith, see Stephanie Hollis, ed., Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and “Liber Confortatorius” (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004). Goscelin’s Legend contains both a vita and a translatio, and there are references in this book both to the broad work and to its constituent parts. 11 Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 123–135. 12 Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 123; Leopold Delisle, “Lettre à Mr Jules Lair sur un exemplaire de Guillaume de Jumiéges, copié par Orderic Vital,” Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 34 (1873): 271, 13 Marie-Thérèse Vernet, “Notes de Dom André Wilmart† sur quelques manuscrits latins anciens de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris,” Bulletin d'information de l'Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes 6 (1957): 39–40, A high-quality color scan of the manuscript is available online via the BnF’s website, along with scans of relevant index cards left by researchers and a bibliography: “Latin 6503,” Archives et manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France, accessed July 17, 2020, 14 William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), II.174.i, I:294–295. References to the Gesta include book, chapter, and paragraph numbers, as well as page numbers in Mynors’s edition. 15 Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Maius, vol. 4, Speculum historiale (Douai, 1624), XXV.10, 1005. There is no modern critical edition of Vincent’s work. On his place within medieval encyclopedic writing, see Mary Franklin-Brown, Reading the World: Encyclopedic Writing in the Scholastic Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 5 the first page of a book of Gregory the Great’s homilies owned by the Abbey of Echternach in the Low Countries in the mid-twelfth century.16 The popularity of the tale of the cursed carolers makes it likely that it circulated in the vernacular from its inception, at the very least in oral traditions. However, the earliest surviving vernacular version dates to the thirteenth century – William of Waddington included the Otbert version of the tale in his Manuel des Péchés, a verse penitential manual written in Anglo-Norman c. 1260.17 The Manuel introduced the tale in turn to a whole family of vernacular pastoral literature, most notably Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s fourteenth-century Handlyng Synne, which is generally based upon the Manuel but replaces the Otbert version of the tale of the cursed carolers with the more detailed Theoderic version.18 The Manuel was also translated into Middle English under the title Of Shrifte and Penance.19 Finally, an Oxfordshire nobleman named Peter Idley included the tale in his Instructions to His Son, an adaptation of Handlyng Synne, which he completed sometime before his death in 1473–1474.20 Goscelin’s Legend of Edith was another common starting point for vernacular translations of the tale. An anonymous German compiler used it while assembling a collection of exempla called Der grosse Seelentrost in the fourteenth century.21 An anonymous English translator likewise used Goscelin’s text to render the tale in Middle English for inclusion in the Wilton Chronicle.22 The High Middle Ages were, then, a time of intense interest in the tale, especially in England (see Table 0.1). 16 Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 135–143. A black-and-white reproduction of this manuscript is available on the BnF’s website: “Latin 9560,” Archives et manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France, accessed July 24, 2020, For the book’s presence at Echternach, see Paul Libaert, “Notice sur 43 manuscrits d'Echternach conservés à la bibliothèque nationale de Paris,” Hémecht 1 (1985): 53–73. Echternach is closely associated with dance because its founder, Saint Willibrord, is the patron saint of epilepsy and movement disorders more broadly; a dancing procession still takes place at Echternach each Whit Tuesday. For a neuroscientific analysis of the Echternach dancers, see Paul Krack, “Relicts of Dancing Mania: The Dancing Procession of Echternach,” Neurology 53, no. 9 (1999): 2169–2172, https:// 17 For the Manuel, see Ulrike Schemmann, Confessional Literature and Lay Education: The “Manuel dé Pechez” as a Book of Good Conduct and Guide to Personal Religion (Düsseldorf: Droste, 2000); and Krista Murchison, “The Readers of the Manuel des Péchés Revisited,” Philological Quarterly 95, no. 2 (2016): 161–199, 18 Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, ed. Idelle Sullens (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1983). 19 Klaus Bitterling, ed., Of Shrifte and Penance: The ME Prose Translation of “Le Manuel des Péchés” (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1998). 20 Charlotte D’Evelyn, Peter Idley’s Instructions to His Son (Boston: D. C. Heath and Co.; London: Oxford University Press, 1935). On the lives of Idley and Robert Mannyng, see Matthew Sullivan, “Biographical Notes on Robert Mannyng of Brunne and Peter Idley, the Adaptor of Robert Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne,” Notes and Queries 41, no. 3 (September 1994): 302–304. 21 Margarete Schmitt, ed., Der grosse Seelentrost. Ein niederdeutsches Erbauungsbuch des vierzehnten Jahrhundert (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 1959). 22 See Mary Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Æthelthryth: Princesses, Miracle Workers, and their Late Medieval Audience: The Wilton Chronicle and the Wilton Life of St Æthelthryth (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2009), 16–17.

The Wilton Chronicle

Of Shrifte and Penance Peter Idley, Instructions to His Son


15th century 15th century (before 1473/1474)

14th century







Preaching manual Didactic literature

Monastic chronicle

Collection of exempla

Preaching and/or penitential manual Preaching manual

Universal history



Monastic history, polemic

Miracle tale

Holy Roman Empire/ Low Countries/ Scandinavia Wilton, Wiltshire (England) Norfolk (England) Oxfordshire (England)

Lincolnshire (England)

Cumbria (England)

Wilton, Wiltshire (England) Malmesbury, Wiltshire (England) Île-de-France

Hersfeld (Holy Roman Empire)

Cologne (Holy Roman Empire)

Otbert’s Account (I) Theoderic’s Account (II)

Theoderic’s Account (II)

Theoderic’s Account (II)

Theoderic’s Account (II)

Otbert’s Account (I)

Otbert’s Account (I)

Otbert’s Account (I)

Theoderic’s Account (II)


Otbert’s Account (I)

Middle English Middle English

Middle English

Middle Low German

Middle English







Peregrine of Cologne, Relatio miraculi in regione Saxonum facti Lampert of Hersfeld, Libelli de Institutione Herveldensis Ecclesiae Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, Legenda Edithae William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés Robert Mannyng of Brunne, Handlyng Synne Der grosse Seelentrost

c. 1021 (?)





Table 0.1 Some Medieval and Early Modern Versions of the Tale of the Cursed Carolers Location(s)

Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis



The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 7 With the advent of the early modern era, the tale of the cursed carolers started to recede from circulation, replaced by an emphasis on dancing manias and plagues. The tale still appears in its full form on occasion; the Brothers Grimm, for example, included it in the first volume of their Deutsche Sagen in 1816.23 Even where the text itself fades, however, the story survives, as does the motif of illicit dancing that lies at its heart.24 Echoes of the story appear, for instance, in a number of fairy tales. One particularly grisly example is Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes” (published in Danish as “De røde sko”). In this fairy tale, a girl named Karen persists in wearing red shoes to church despite being told that “it was naughty to wear red shoes to church. Highly improper!”25 A passing soldier curses the shoes, and when Karen starts to dance after church she is unable to stop doing so; an angel prevents her from returning to church to confess, and she is ultimately forced to have her feet chopped off to lift the curse. Though the narrative is different, this tale shares a number of features with the story of the cursed carolers: the transgression against sacred space, the curse, the uncontrollable dancing, and permanent disfigurement even after the curse is lifted. Interest in the tale of the cursed carolers continued into modernity, even into the modern classroom. The story’s staying power is demonstrated by its inclusion both in Kenneth Sisam’s Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose from 1921 and in the eighth edition of The Norton Anthology of Western Literature from 2005.26 It is also one of the three medieval stories given as representative exempla by Wikipedia.27 As story and text, then, the tale of the cursed carolers continues to circulate to this day. Though the preceding overview is but a rough sketch, some noteworthy patterns emerge from it. First, though the story of the cursed carolers originated in the Holy Roman Empire and is usually set there, it seems to have circulated most widely in the Anglo-Norman world during the Middle Ages. Indeed, as Shaun F. D. Hughes shows in his chapter in this book, English versions of the tale served as the basis for much late medieval and early modern transmission, even outside of England. Second, though the tale moved through a variety of genres during the Middle Ages, it was almost always a didactic text. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the tale was primarily included in histories and vitae, texts that aimed, among other things, to teach moral behavior. The tale later found its way into preaching manuals and collections of exempla. Even in the modern period, the 23 The Brothers Grimm, Deutsche Sagen (Berlin: Nicolaische Buchhandlung, 1816–1818), no. 231, I:312–313. 24 For a discussion of modern transmission of the tale in Scandinavia, see Shaun F. D. Hughes’s chapter in this book. 25 Hans Christian Andersen, “The Red Shoes,” trans. Jean Hersholt, H. C. Andersen Centret, accessed July 25, 2020, 26 Kenneth Sisam, ed., Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), 4–12; Sarah Lawall et al., The Norton Anthology of Western Literature, vol. 1, 8th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), 1453–1456. Both Sisam and the Norton anthology include the version of the tale from Handlyng Synne. We are grateful to Shaun F. D. Hughes for drawing our attention to Sisam’s work. 27 “Exemplum,” Wikipedia, accessed July 25, 2020,


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

tale’s use in fairy tales, textbooks, and anthologies suggests its lasting value as a teaching tool.

Overview of scholarship The story of the cursed carolers has received comparatively little scholarly attention in English, despite its fame and the predominance of medieval English versions of the tale. Much of the extant work on the tale is instead in German. Edward Schröder published a lengthy study of the different versions of the tale in 1897 in which he tried to reconstruct their relationships. He said little, however, about the story’s significance or the ways in which the contexts in which it was told and read might have affected its meaning.28 A number of German studies build on Schröder’s work, with Gregor Rohmann’s recent study on dancing manias representing the latest in a long line of German works on the tale.29 However, substantial scholarship on the tale in English is limited to two comparatively recent works: Harold Kleinschmidt’s 2005 Perception and Action in Medieval Europe and Kélina Gotman’s 2018 Choreomania: Dance and Disorder. Kleinschmidt is not interested in the story of the carolers or their dance as much as he is in the meaning of the dance as a historical event. He uses the story as one of a series of case studies in arguing for a medieval shift from process-oriented standards of perception and action to goal-oriented standards, accepting the historicity of the dance at Kölbigk rather uncritically in the process.30 Gotman, meanwhile, uses the tale as part of a much longer history of choreomania in her exploration of choreographies of unrest in the modern era. This book, The Cursed Carolers in Context, is generally unconcerned with the historicity of the episode or with the long history of choreomania, prioritizing instead the diverse ways in which medieval authors, readers, and listeners encountered this specific story qua story. While little Anglophone scholarship has focused on the tale of the cursed carolers itself, the various texts in which the tale appears are well known and often fit within much more carefully studied bodies of texts. Let us start with the best-known version of the tale, Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Handlyng Synne. Although studies of Handlyng Synne often mention the tale, article-length studies by Mark Miller and Kate Greenspan represent the sum total of work on the tale in Mannyng’s text.31 However, Handlyng Synne itself is well known, if not necessarily 28 Gaston Paris summarized and expanded upon Schröder’s findings in Les danseurs maudits: Légende allemande du XIe siècle (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1900). Paris’s work first appeared as a review of Schröder’s article; see “Les danseurs maudits,” Journal des Savants (December 1899): 733–747. 29 See, for example, Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte der europäischen Balladendichtung; Gregor Rohmann, Tanzwut: Kosmos, Kirche und Mensch in der Bedeutungsgeschichte eines mittelalterlichen Krankheitskonzepts (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013). 30 Kleinschmidt, Perception and Action in Medieval Europe, 42–56. See also Rohmann, Tanzwut. 31 Mark Miller, “Displaced Souls, Idle Talk, Spectacular Scenes: Handlyng Synne and the Perspective of Agency,” Speculum 71, no. 3 (1996): 606–632,; Kate Greenspan, “Lessons for the Priest, Lessons for the People: Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Audiences

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 9 well studied, and studies of sermons and didactic literature have proliferated in recent years.32 Similarly, while the version of the tale embedded in Saint Edith’s vita has received little to no scholarly treatment, recent translations of her vita and studies on the Wilton women have come out as part of a growing literature on medieval women and hagiography.33 And while the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in William of Malmesbury’s work has not been addressed, William’s writings and the Anglo-Norman literary culture to which they contributed have been studied within many frameworks.34 Tracing the tale of the cursed dancing carolers through these genres and contexts in which it appears highlights the ways in which this single tale intersects with some of the main concerns of current medieval scholarship, making its scholarly neglect all the more striking. Although a distinct and discrete tale, the cursed carolers tale indubitably relates to medieval dancing manias and early modern dancing plagues. However, these phenomena have been similarly neglected in most scholarship. J.F.C. Hecker’s thorough study of dancing mania represents the most extensive work on the subject and has been extremely influential for all treatments of the subject since its 1832 publication. But few works of English scholarship have taken up the topic since Hecker’s work in the nineteenth century. John Waller’s 2009 analysis of dancing mania focuses on the medical and psychological aspects of the disease, while other works that discuss dancing mania like Gilbert Rouget’s Music and Trance and H. C. Erik Midelfort’s A History of Madness focus similarly on causation.35 Recent publications are finally shifting away from this focus on causation. Both Kathryn Dickason and Lynneth Miller have published articles that address





for Handlyng Synne,” Essays in Medieval Studies 21 (2004): 109–121, ems.2005.0006. Kate Greenspan’s Oxford Bibliographies entry on Mannyng gives a good overview of his dominance in recent medieval scholarship on a variety of topics, including religion, gender, nationhood, and pilgrimage. For a full list of relevant works, see Kate Greenspan, “Robert Mannyng of Brunne,” in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Medieval Studies, accessed November 20, 2020, www. For studies of other texts within the broad literary trends into which Mannyng fits, see Alan J. Fletcher, Late Medieval Popular Preaching in Britain and Ireland: Texts, Studies, and Intepretations (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2009); and Andrew Cole, Literature and Heresy in the Age of Chaucer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Hollis, ed., Writing the Wilton Women; Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Æthelthryth; Diane Watt, Women, Writing and Religion in England and Beyond, 650–1100 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019); Catherine Sanok, Her Life Historical: Exemplarity and Female Saints’ Lives in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). See, among others, Kirsten A. Fenton, Gender, Nation, and Conquest in the Works of William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2008); Sigbjørn Olsen Sønnesyn, William of Malmesbury and the Ethics of History (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2012); and Emily A. Winkler, Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). John Waller, The Dancing Plague: The Strange, True Story of an Extraordinary Illness (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009); Gilbert Rouget, Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relationship Between Music and Possession (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); and H. C. Erik Midelfort, A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

choreomania and dancing plagues as dance performances that speak to broader cultural and religious contexts and changes.36 Kathryn Dickason’s recent monograph also considers the tale in its treatment of pastoral literature on dance.37 Yet, Gregor Rohmann’s massive Tanzwut and Gotman’s newly released Choreomania remain the only recent monograph-length treatments of dancing manias that center meaning and motion rather than medical causation.38 Medieval dance is similarly neglected, though it has recently started to receive more scholarly attention. Joanna Ziegler noted in 2001 that despite the prevalence of dance in medieval life, dance remained absent in medieval scholarship, something she challenged medieval scholars to address.39 Although her challenge has not been fully taken up, a number of scholars have worked to address this lacuna, producing both reconstructions of dance performances and studies of ideologies and approaches to dance. Many of these scholars focus on dance performance, working on recovering the details of historical dance. Robert Mullally’s recent work on the carole is a stellar example of this sort of scholarship and helps illuminate the dance performance at the heart of the tale of the cursed carolers.40 Alessandro Arcangeli has published a number of works on medieval dance, considering performance, religion, law, and re-creation. The range of his scholarship demonstrates the broad potential for using dance as a framework to explore the medieval world.41 Kathryn Dickason’s articles and book chapters have similarly 36 Kathryn Dickason, “Decadance in the Late Middle Ages: The Case of Choreomania,” in Medieval Theatre Performance: Actors, Dancers, Automata and their Audiences, ed. Phillip Butterworth and Katie Normington (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2017), 141–160; Lynneth J. Miller, “Divine Punishment or Disease? Medieval and Early Modern Approaches to the Strasbourg Dancing Plague,” Dance Research 35, no. 2 (November 2017): 149–164, drs.2017.0199. 37 Kathryn Dickason, Ringleaders of Redemption (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 105–107. 38 Rohmann, Tanzwut; and Kélina Gotman, Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). 39 Joanna E. Ziegler, “Skipping Like Camels: Or Why Medieval Studies Neglects the Dance,” Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 32, no. 1 (2001): 24–31. 40 Robert Mullally, The Carole: A Study of a Medieval Dance (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2011). For other examples of this sort of dance scholarship, see Jennifer Nevile, Dance, Society and the Cosmos in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Europe (Armidale, NSW: University of New England, 2008); Jennifer Nevile, Footprints of the Dance: An Early Seventeenth-Century Dance Master’s Notebook (Leiden: Brill, 2018); and Jennifer Nevile, “Dance Performance in the Late Middle Ages: A Contested Space,” in Visualising Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts, ed. Elina Gerstman (London: Routledge, 2017), 295–310. 41 See, for example, Alessandro Arcangeli, “Dance and Health: The Renaissance Physicians’ View,” Dance Research 18, no. 1 (2000): 3–30,; Alessandro Arcangeli, Dance and Law (Ghent: The Institute for Historical Dance Practice, 2000); Alessandro Arcangeli, “Dance and Punishment,” Dance Research 10, no. 2 (1992): 30–42, https://doi. org/10.2307/1290653; Alessandro Arcangeli, Recreation in the Renaissance: Attitudes Towards Leisure and Pastimes in European Culture, 1350–1700 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); and Alessandro Arcangeli, “Dancing Savages: Stereotypes and Cultural Encounters Across the Atlantic in the Age of European Expansion,” in Exploring Cultural History, ed. Melissa Calaresu, Filippo De Vivo, and Joan-Pau Rubiés (London: Routledge, 2017): 289–308.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 11 employed dance both as a means of analysis and as a focus of investigation, offering new insights into medieval religion particularly.42 Her new monograph is a much-needed treatment of medieval dance and is the most extensive work on medieval dance and religion; this work is sure to become an important work on a topic that remains woefully understudied.43 While recent collections such as the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Shakespeare have explored the potential in the intersection of literary and dance studies in the early modern period, this book represents one of the first attempts to bring together a similar array of voices and disciplinary perspectives on medieval dance.44 The most important recent work on medieval dance is Seeta Chaganti’s Strange Footing. Chaganti’s monograph uses a sophisticated theoretical approach to argue that audiences experienced medieval poetry through the vocabulary and culture of dance. Strange Footing is an exciting work that draws on the experience of viewing modern dance to illuminate medieval texts, both literary and material. Though she mentions the cursed carolers only in passing, Chaganti devotes an entire chapter of her masterful work to the carole, the circular dance performed by the Kölbigk dancers.45 While indebted to the work of scholars like Chaganti, The Cursed Carolers in Context takes up the topic of the carole with a different focus, emphasizing the literary and rhetorical qualities of the story of the cursed carolers rather than the role that dance played in molding its audience’s experience of it. All of these methodological and historiographical approaches contribute to shaping the perspectives and chapters in this book. This book seeks to bring these diverse approaches productively into conversation across disciplinary, methodological, chronological, and geographic boundaries. As Chaganti’s work shows with its combination of literary theory and dance studies, much can be gained from this intentionally cross-disciplinary approach and from taking dance as a serious focus of study. For medieval texts, like medieval life, are full of dance. Romances, fables, plays, sermons, treatises, histories, saints’ lives, ballads: each of these literary genres contains potential sites of kinetic exploration. A few of the chapters in this book take up this challenge of kinetic exploration, while others utilize the dance at the heart of the tale to understand not dance but instead other meanings created by the motion of the dancers and the circulation of the tale itself. While this book focuses on one specific dance and one specific tale, much work is left to be done in exploring other dances, other themes, and other stories, whether through the methods of dance studies or as a serious focus within 42 See Dickason, “Decadance”; see, too, Kathryn Emily Dickason, “Caroling Like Clockwork: Technologies of the Medieval Dancing Body in Dante’s Paradiso,” Dance Chronicle 41, no. 3 (2018): 303–334,; Kathryn Emily Dickason, “King David in the Medieval Archives: Toward an Archaic Future for Dance Studies,” in Futures of Dance Studies, ed. Susan Manning, Janice Ross, and Rebecca Schneider (Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin Press, 2020), 36–55. 43 Dickason, Ringleaders of Redemption. 44 Lynsey McCulloch and Brandon Shaw, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). 45 Chaganti, Strange Footing, 189–226.


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

other fields. By incorporating the work of dance scholars as well as historians and literary scholars, this book seeks to raise questions for future studies that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Overview of chapters This book unfolds in three sections. The first section, “Part 1: setting the stage,” engages with medieval dance broadly, looking beyond the tale of the cursed carolers to larger methodological and textual questions. Chapters in this section consider motion as a methodology of analysis and explore dance’s presence in medieval literature. Rebecca Straple-Sovers’s chapter discusses the challenges of studying dance and other forms of bodily movement, intentional and unintentional, in texts, particularly early medieval ones. Her chapter explores a methodological approach grounded in principles of kinesic analysis – a means of studying movement and the creation of meaning. Her application of kinesic analysis to Goscelin of SaintBertin’s version of the tale of the cursed carolers within his Translatio Edithe demonstrates how this centering of bodily movement enhances our understanding of dance and of the tale itself. Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude take a different approach; their chapter provides an overview of dance as a signal indicating uncanny or marvelous spectacles in two of the most popular medieval genres, romance and fabliau. By considering dance as an intentional narrative structuring device, they reveal how dance in these popular medieval genres acts both as a means to encounter the marvelous and as a marvel in and of itself. The uncanny and marvelous spectacle of the Kölbigk carolers thus participates in a broader medieval rhetoric of dance. These chapters take up the challenge of taking dance seriously in medieval scholarship – they create and demonstrate frameworks of analysis that center on the action of dancing and can be applied not only to the following chapters, but to dance in its diverse medieval contexts. These frameworks help ground the discussions of the cursed dancing carolers that act as the core of the book. “Part 2: carolers and contexts” forms the core of this book and stays tightly focused on the tale of the cursed carolers. Arranged in roughly chronological order, each chapter in this section focuses on a distinct version of the tale, considering authorial intent, audience, circulation, and revisions to the basic narrative of the tale. Bradley Phillis’s chapter opens this section with a consideration of the cursed carolers narrative in crusade books: a surprising place to find a tale about dancing in a churchyard. However, through a careful study of Flemish manuscripts in which the cursed carolers appear, Phillis shows that, in the aftermath of the Second Crusade, scribes incorporated the narrative in their codices to create space to criticize the sins of crusaders in an oblique way that did not jeopardize the delicate political balance in Flanders. While Phillis’s chapter considers the use of the tale to stabilize political authority and teach crusaders their sins, Krista A. Murchison examines the tale as part of the program of pastoral education, intended to aid in preparing penitents for confession. Murchison analyzes the tale’s inclusion in the Manuel des Péchés, showing that this version of the tale is

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 13 deeply invested in moralization and the preservation of religious authority. This investment in moralization and religious authority highlights the tensions surrounding clerical authority and the pastoral education movement of the thirteenth century. In short, both Phillis and Murchison show how a tale about rebellious dancers could be used to reinforce various forms of authority and moral behavior. Building on Murchison’s study of early pastoral literature, Lynneth Miller Renberg takes a different approach to a similar body of texts in her analysis of the most well-known versions of the tale, those that appeared in vernacular religious literature in fourteenth-century England. By reconsidering the pastoral literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as a sort of pastoral care for priests as well as for laity, she shifts the focus from the dancers to the priest, from the cursed to the curser. The priest in the tale acts as an exemplar of priestly failure, teaching the clerics responsible for pastoral care how to handle their own sins. And in learning to handle their sins, priests were encouraged to harbor suspicion toward women. Laura Clark’s chapter, focused on two English versions of the tale situated in texts associated with Wilton Abbey and its patron saint, Saint Edith, highlights a very different relationship between the tale and gender. Clark’s iterations of the tale focus on female community and sanctity, addressing both religious women and lay women in their discussion of pilgrimage, virginity, and relics. Ultimately, these iterations of the tale promote the town and abbey of Wilton as the home of pious and powerful women who contributed to rather than detracted from holiness. Clark’s Wilton Chronicle and much of Miller Renberg’s pastoral literature were produced within the same century and the same broad geographic region, yet they take strikingly different approaches to women, gender, and holiness, showing the malleability of the cursed carolers narrative and its ability to teach different messages to different audiences. The English versions of the tale that form the core of Miller Renberg’s and Clark’s studies were influential not only in the British Isles but in the North Sea more broadly, as shown in Shaun F. D. Hughes’s survey of Scandinavian versions of the tale. Hughes’s chapter acts as a fitting end to this core section of the book, tracing out connections from German, English, and Latin texts through Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, and Norwegian versions of the tale. Strikingly, Hughes shows that the tale’s impact endured well beyond the Middle Ages, with its popularity moving the account from pulpit and cloister into popular traditions and even into modern Icelandic political and economic discourse. The book’s final section, “Part 3: dancing on,” engages with the themes and topics from the tale in later chronological contexts, albeit contexts less directly connected to the cursed carolers narrative than Hughes’s nineteenth-century Scandinavian accounts. Tamara Hauser’s chapter takes a step away from the Kölbigk carolers to trace how the memory of medieval dance events continued to circulate in the nineteenth century through the discourse and choreography of the Münchner Schäfflertanz, the Munich Barrel-Maker’s Dance. Through careful study of the treatment and choreography of this curative guild dance, Hauser contends that the Schäfflertanz supported German cultural nationalism by discursively and choreographically invoking Munich’s medieval past alongside the modern


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

city’s civic virtues. The unruly medieval dancing bodies of the cursed carolers and dancing plagues informed the ordered and healing dancing bodies of modernity. Candice Salyers picks up similar themes in a much more modern context through her analysis of two works of contemporary dance, both entitled Strasbourg 1518, that invoke the 1518 Strasbourg dancing plague in response to contemporary social, political, and environmental concerns. Salyers’s chapter does more, however, than show how dancing bodies continue to serve as touchstones for broader cultural discourses; it also insists on the suprarational importance of dance, challenging and destabilizing the impulse to try to make sense of dance and movement without embodying them. While both of the chapters in Part 3 show the ongoing significance of the concerns that medieval authors used the tale of the cursed carolers to address, they also serve as reminders of the importance of the act of dancing itself, even as dancers, texts, and tales fade from memory. Prior to offering some final thoughts and conclusions, we would like to make a few editorial notes. First, the attentive reader will notice that the versions of the tale discussed in this book appear in multiple languages. For ease of use, we have chosen to have each author utilize a modern translation of the text in the body of each chapter and provide original language quotations in the notes. Second, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the geographic and religious boundaries of this book. Each of the chapters in this book focuses on a text from a region that was predominantly Christian in the Middle Ages. While dance obviously has a robust history in other spaces and religious traditions, the tale of the cursed carolers, focused as it was on Christian worship, does not appear to have circulated outside of Europe, at least to the best of our knowledge.46 As a book focused on the tale of the carolers rather than on dance more generally, this book is thus focused solely on the Christian tradition. Interdisciplinary and multiconfessional work on medieval dance more broadly remains an area of urgent need. Finally, each chapter has a section entitled “Further Reading” in lieu of a full bibliography. Rather than providing an overview of the works cited within the chapter, which is accessible through the notes, the “Further Reading” section furnishes a selection of additional works for the reader interested in pursuing the themes, topics, and questions raised by the chapter. Accordingly, works on genre, broader historical or literary context, similar texts, gender, religion, or manuscript study more broadly may appear in this list of readings. For the medieval authors and audiences who engaged with the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, the point was rarely the tale itself but the broader discourses with which this tale engaged. We hope that 46 Some excellent work on dance in medieval Jewish and Muslim cultures has been published recently and merits more space than can be provided here. See, for example, Cia Sautter, “Women, Dance, Death, and Lament in Medieval Spain and the Mediterranean: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Examples,” in Death in Medieval Europe: Death Scripted and Death Choreographed, ed. Joelle Rollo-Koster (London: Routledge, 2016), 93–113; Judith R. Cohen, “‘This Drum I Play’: Women and Square Frame Drums in Portugal and Spain,” Ethnomusicology Forum 17, no. 1 (June 2008): 95–124,; and Anthony Shay, The Dangerous Lives of Public Performers: Dancing, Sex, and Entertainment in the Islamic World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 15 these “Further Reading” sections mirror the medieval approach and help readers to engage with the tale in a similar manner, recapturing the contexts and intentions of the medieval authors and fleshing out the meanings of the tale more fully.

Themes and conclusions The cross-disciplinary collaboration behind this book has led contributors to explore disparate and widespread chronological and geographical contexts. Yet, these explorations have raised key themes that appear in multiple iterations and contexts. Perhaps the most natural of these themes, especially when the narrative of the tale itself is considered, is the interplay of the material and the magical. The tale of the cursed dancing carolers repeatedly highlights the tension and interaction between magic and matter, as do the contributors to this book, for this relationship is vital for the way in which medieval authors and audiences understood and utilized the tale. The earthly material bodies of the carolers contrast with the magical, inexplicable, and spiritual suspension that composes the plot of the tale, and both of these elements were essential for medieval audiences. Rebecca Straple-Sovers’ chapter on kinesis as a framework for analysis and Sarah B. Rude and Clint Morrison, Jr.’s discussion of spectacle and marvel in literary references to dance highlight this tension. The very framing of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers centers this tension between the solidly real and physical: dripping blood or the lack thereof; dancing and its miraculous continuance. However, as the chapters in this book show, many of the authors who copied, adapted, and dispersed this tale simply accepted this tension and focused instead on other themes and objectives. Regardless of the objectives of the author, the tension between the material and the marvelous remained, emphasizing for audiences the real power of spiritual and earthly authorities. This emphasis on the real power of spiritual and earthly authorities is perhaps the strongest theme that emerged from the studies in this book, for each time the tale of the cursed carolers was revised and redeployed in a new medieval context, authors did so in order to bolster the authority of some text or group. The tale of the cursed carolers, in its various iterations, bolstered the authority of priests, Flemish counts, saints, cities, religious communities, reformers, and nations. Yet the relationship between tale and authority is often a complicated one. In some instances, as in Bradley Phillis’s chapter on Flemish crusade books or Laura Clark’s chapter on the Wilton Abbey narratives, the tale was interwoven with texts whose authority was unquestioned, and the context in which the story was copied legitimized the tale itself. In other words, outside texts reinforced the authority of the tale of the cursed carolers, and the newly authoritative tale of the cursed carolers then buttressed political, religious, or social authorities. As Phillis’s and Krista A. Murchison’s chapters both demonstrate, this use of authority could function bilaterally: external authority could also be used to legitimize texts which, like these versions of the tale of the cursed carolers, would then communicate messages carefully crafted to preserve established authority. Similarly, as in Lynneth Miller Renberg’s study of the tale in English vernacular texts, the


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

cursed carolers narrative often acted as an authoritative text meant to solidify religious authority in the face of reforms and changes. Shaun F. D. Hughes’s and Tamara Hauser’s chapters show that this use of danced narrative as a means of creation and assertion of authority extended well beyond the lifetime of the tale of the cursed carolers. It is perhaps apt to state that the main consideration for each of these medieval authors in recirculating, repurposing, and recontextualizing the original eleventh-century narrative seems to have been communicating some form of authority to a new audience. A less overt theme that has emerged from the chapters in this book relates to this repurposing and reworking of the tale. As each author traced the tale from its purported origins in eleventh-century Saxony into other geographic and chronological contexts, it became apparent that person and place mattered in each successive version of the tale. As the chapters by Laura Clark, Bradley Phillis, and Tamara Hauser in particular demonstrate, the location of the dance and of the healing associated with it mattered for both authors and audiences. Location was used to justify regional or national prominence, whether political or religious. One of the reasons that the tale of the cursed carolers attained such popularity was the malleability of the setting. The churchyard could be moved to one’s own time and place; the dancers could hop into many different lands and be miraculously healed at various shrines and abbeys. The tale gained its intended moral weight and meaning partially through this particular emphasis on person and place. Each of us who contributed to this book was aware of the ways that medieval texts contained layered meanings and were intended for multiple purposes. However, the case study approach of this book has highlighted how much meaning we miss when we neglect focused examination of medieval narratives, suggesting that this is a fruitful avenue for new research in medieval studies. Medieval narratives such as the tale of the cursed dancing carolers resonated broadly, partially because they took on new life and new meaning with each retelling; like the dance at the heart of this particular tale, medieval texts were performances, and more scholarly attention is needed to the nuances of how these performances were adapted and readapted for multiple audiences. As recent debates in the field of medieval studies have shown, these adaptations continue to resonate throughout contemporary culture, well beyond the intended life of medieval texts.47 The early modern dancing plagues often drew on language used to describe the cursed carolers narrative; even once the dancing plagues had largely disappeared, the idea of uncontrollable dancing lived (and lives) on, in nineteenth-century literature and scholarship, in Norton anthologies, in pop songs about the dancing plague, in video games, in animated films, and in collections of poetry.48 To explore the 47 On the modern use and misuse of medieval texts, see Andrew Albin et al., eds., Whose Middle Ages: Teachable Moments for an Ill-Used Past (New York: Fordham University Press, 2019); and Amy Kaufman and Paul Sturtevant, The Devil’s Historians: How Modern Extremists Abuse the Medieval Past (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020). 48 For the 1518 Strasbourg dancing plague in contemporary music, see 3 Daft Monkeys, “Days of the Dance,” MP3 audio, track 5 on The Antiquated & The Arcane, 3DM Records, 2010; for the use

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers 17 weight of medieval discourses only as a part of the medieval past is to miss the ways in which these narratives and texts have shaped our present and to miss the ways that the present continues to reshape them in turn. Even as we assembled this book, both English film director Jonathan Glazer and New Zealand’s Borderline Arts Ensemble premiered works that invoke the Strasbourg dancing plague of 1518 to explore contemporary issues, including the social effects of the COVID19 pandemic; these new works reshaped this book by leading us to include Candice Salyers’s “Epilogue.”49 Context, it seems, still matters. The significance of careful consideration of what mattered to medieval audiences provides a second direction for further research. This tale, in and of itself, is not a particularly important one. It does not involve dramatic changes in political or social structures or even religion. It appears in odd places and at odd times and is almost always included as an aside rather than as the focal point of a medieval text. But this tale circulated widely and clearly mattered to medieval people. Taking this rather macabre and magical tale seriously – following it across languages, genres, and centuries – has helped to show how and why it mattered; doing so has also helped enhance our understanding of medieval audiences. For us, the careful consideration of the things that mattered to medieval audiences, even when that consideration pushed us outside of disciplinary specialties, underscores the fruitful nature of conversations outside of our scholarly comfort zones. In moving forward, we encourage readers to pursue similar conversations about other medieval texts and tales: to use new frameworks such as dance to discover more about the ways that the medieval world continually made and remade itself. As a final note, this book has reminded us of the importance of physical presence, of people and places, not only as a subject of scholarly study but also in the very process of doing scholarship. This reminder first appeared in the conferences and conversations in which we began to realize just how widely the tale circulated. It recurred as we undertook the manuscript analysis that helped to build arguments and connections and understanding and in the conversations and meetings that helped pull these chapters together. And, since much of this book was written and edited during the global COVID-19 pandemic, it was apparent as we confronted new limitations on research travel, the suddenly complicated process

of dancing plague as an event in the video game Crusader Kings II, see, inter alia, MagnusDux, “Dancing Plague,” Crusader Kings II (forum), Paradox Forum, March 18, 2017, https://forum.; for out-of-control dancing in film, see La Flûte à six schtroumpfs, directed by Peyo (Brussels: Belvision Studios, 1976), a Smurfs film based on a 1958 Johan and Peewit adventure; and for the Kölbigk dancers in contemporary literature, see William Bedford, The Dancers of Colbek (Reading: Two Rivers Press, 2020), a collection of poetry exploring the author’s childhood in mid-twentieth-century Lincolnshire. 49 Sarah Crompton, “Strasbourg 1518: Reliving a 16th-century ‘Dancing Plague’ in Lockdown,” The Guardian, July 19, 2020,; and Alex Braae, “Strasbourg 1518 Times Two: NZ Company ‘Crushed’ by Identically Named BBC Show,” The Spinoff, July 24, 2020,


Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis

of acquiring library books, and barriers to interpersonal communication. All of our contributors worked through these challenges to produce their chapters. As editors, we are grateful to them for their perseverance and diligence in the face of professional, personal, and physical challenges. Their dedication has made this book possible. For all of us, writing as we are at a time when we have to reconsider what “normal” social and academic life looks like, this book has reaffirmed the importance of finding some way to continue to value the physical and material, even as we rewrite the narrative for new audiences and new realities.

Part 1

Setting the stage


Kinesic analysis A theoretical approach to reading bodily movement in literature Rebecca Straple-Sovers

Introduction Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s account of the cursed carolers of Kölbigk in his eleventhcentury Translatio Edithe closely follows the outline of the tale given in the introduction to this book, with a few key differences.1 In Goscelin’s version, the tale is relayed by an alleged participant of the dance named Theoderic, who explains that twelve people came together “in frivolity and insanity to a place called Colbek” with the express intent to “seize a girl for one of our comrades to abuse in his pride.”2 Additionally, Goscelin continues his version of the tale after Theoderic finishes his story and integrates Theoderic himself into the Legend of Edith (of which the Translatio is a part): the afflicted man, who must continue the dance and suffer spasms even after he has been separated from the other dancers, is healed by the saint, “in one day going from violent leaping to decorous stillness.”3 1 For readers without access to this book’s introduction, “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes,” a basic overview of the tale is as follows: a group of dancers gathers in a churchyard on Christmas Eve. Their carole, complete with loud singing and dancing, disturbs the priest while he is saying mass. He comes out and admonishes them, calling them into mass, but when they refuse to listen, he prays that God would cause them to dance without ceasing for a full year for their sins. The priest’s prayer is answered, and the dancers undertake a year-long dance. 2 “in uanitate et insania uenimus ad locum qui dicitur Colebecci”; “ut uni sodalium nostrorum in superbia et in abusione puellam raperemus.” A. Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith en prose et vers par le moine Goscelin,” Analectia Bollandiana 56 (1938), 287, ABOL.4.00807; Michael Wright and Kathleen Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis with W. R. Barnes, Rebecca Hayward, Kathleen Loncar, and Michael Wright (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 82. I use Wright and Loncar’s translations throughout this chapter unless otherwise indicated (many thanks to Marjorie Harrington for her knowledgeable guidance regarding Latin). See pages 17–19 of Michael Wright’s “Note on the Translation of the Legend of Edith” in the same book for a detailed explanation concerning the base texts for Wright and Loncar’s translation. The base text for their translation of the Translatio is A. Wilmart’s edition of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C 938, fols. 1–29, which I cite throughout this article: A. Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 265–307. 3 “hodie importune saltantem, modo oportune astantem.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

For a story so infamously connected with dance, the episode contains only a few details about the dance itself: the dancers “joined hands and started an unruly dance in the churchyard” and they “did not cease for one moment from dancing round, from beating the earth with [their] feet, from an exhibition of lamentable beating steps, and from repeating the same song.”4 Using only details about the movement given in the poem, their dance seems to be a series of steps performed in a circle, accompanied by a song. It’s not much to go on. This example neatly illustrates the challenges inherent in studying dance in historical sources, especially in literary scholarship: readers are dependent on the descriptive details provided by the author or poet to reconstruct or study the dance, and this is often a nearly impossible task. In this chapter I explore the challenges of studying dance and bodily movement in literature (particularly in early medieval literature) and the benefits of using a methodological approach grounded in principles of kinesic analysis – that is, a technique for studying bodily movement and the ways in which it makes meaning in texts. I then briefly demonstrate how using this methodology and reading Goscelin’s tale of the cursed carolers with an eye for bodily movement can help us frame the dance itself within the tale as well as understand the tale in the context of bodily movement and its implications, thus enhancing both our understanding of the dance as dance and of the tale within the larger hagiographic narrative of the Translatio.

The challenges of historical and literary dance scholarship Dance is an inherently active, dynamic, and ephemeral art. Thus, studying dance through textual sources comes with plenty of complexities and contradictions, regardless of the period of study. Particularly before the advent of film, practitioners of dance attempted to record and describe their art in manuscript or print in a variety of ways, from diagrams and images to developing specialist notation systems and instructional manuals.5 Even today, those who write about dance, such 4 “Conserimus manus et chorollam confusionis in atrio ordinamus”; “Nos nullo momento intermittimus chorizando circuire, terram pede pulsare, lacrimabiles plausus et saltus dare, eandem cantilenam perpetuare.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 289; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 83–84. 5 Early examples of dance manuals include, to name only a few, Fabritio Caroso da Sermoneta’s Il Ballarino, published in 1581; a significant revision, Nobiltà di Dame, published in 1600; Thoinot Arbeau’s 1589 Orchésographie; and John Playford’s The Dancing Master, published in several editions from 1651 to 1728. An English translation of Nobiltà di Dame is available: Fabritio Caroso, Courtly Dance of the Renaissance: A New Translation and Edition of the “Nobiltà di Dame” (1600), trans. and ed. Julia Sutton (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1995); a facsimile, transcription, and translation developed by amateur volunteers of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Renaissance Dance group are also available online at The group’s home page,, contains a wealth of primary resources and images of historical dance. Orchésographie is also available in an English translation: Thoinot Arbeau, Orchesography: 16th-Century French Dance from Court to Countryside, trans. Mary Stewart Evans, ed. Julia Sutton (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1967). Finally, an online “illustrated compendium” of The Dancing Master, hosted by the Country Dance and Song Society and compiled by Robert M.

Kinesic analysis 23 as dance critics, must contend with the challenges of writing about “a moving subject without the luxury of a stable material event for repeated reference after the performance has been completed.”6 Video recordings help, but as Candace Feck points out, the “viewer cum writer arrives at the performance with his or her own set of preconceptions, concerns, physicality – in short, lived experience.”7 This lived experience, and the experience of watching, receiving, and taking part in the performance, can never be repeated and will never be captured in a recording.8 In her brilliant book Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Middle Ages, Seeta Chaganti points out another barrier for understanding historical dance in particular: There is the obvious evidentiary restraint – how do we employ necessarily static vestiges of the past to understand a kinetic tradition? – but this is not our deepest problem. Rather, we need to recognize that our ability to perceive dance as a central and familiar cultural practice, one woven into various aspects of social life, might also be limited. . . . Whether vernacular or concert-based, many types of Western dance exist at a remove from their audience, a foundation in hard-won knowledge enforcing this distance.9 The challenge of decoding textual treatments of dance is familiar to any dance scholar. Studying dance in sources that are not uniquely concerned with describing and recording it – that is, historical or literary sources in which dance may play a part, but of which it is not the main focus – presents an even greater challenge. If we wish to analyze the movements of the dancers or reconstruct the actual steps, gestures, figures, and performance of a dance described in a textual source, we are often entirely dependent on the (usually scant) details supplied by the author – as we are when studying textual portrayals of the dance of the cursed carolers. When a poet or an author incorporates dance as part of his or her narrative, detailed description is not always provided – after all, the purpose of literary descriptions of dance is not to provide information on how to perform it. Goscelin and other medieval authors could expect their audiences to be familiar with common medieval dances in the same way that a modern American author, for example, can expect his or her audience to be at least marginally familiar with the general look and feeling of swing dance or salsa dance. The author need only


7 8 9

Keller, may be found at Facsimiles of these and many other social dance manuals can be found in the U.S. Library of Congress collection An American Ballroom Companion: Dance Instruction Manuals, ca. 1490 to 1920, which contains over two hundred manuals: Candace Feck, “What’s in a Dance? The Complexity of Information in Writings About Dance,” in Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies, ed. Melanie Bales and Karen Eliot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 415, Feck, “What’s in a Dance?,” 415. Feck, “What’s in a Dance?,” 414–415. Seeta Chaganti, Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2018), 4.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

mention the type of dance or a feature of it to conjure up the desired imagery in the audience’s minds. Thus, the limited descriptions of the dance in various tales of the cursed carolers most likely conjured up images of a specific type of dance for the tales’ medieval audiences. Based on the limited description given by Goscelin, informed modern readers may assume that the dancers are probably performing a carole or ronde (also known as a carolle, a reigen in Middle High German, a chorea in Medieval Latin, a carola in Italian, and a corola in Provençal), described by Richard H. Hoppin as “round dances in which group performance of refrains alternated with lines sung by the leader of the dance.”10 Curt Sachs claims that “the Reigen as a form is quite definite: a chain of dancers, who move hand in hand, either in an open or closed circle, or in an extended line.”11 Even with this knowledge, however, there are many details of the dance performed by the carolers in Goscelin’s version that are still unknown: What do the movements of the feet look like? Do the dancers locomote or stay generally in place? How are the dancers organized? Is there a formal arrangement according to gender or some other category, or are the dancers intermixed at random? Does the dance change as it goes on, in terms of shape or speed or complexity? Are there figures, such as circles, figure-eights, lines, or other shapes? Is it fast or slow? Is it highly stylized and “skilled” or more informal and social? Some of these details can be plausibly filled in by additional research and by incorporating art historical evidence into our study.12 The carole is the medieval dance for which we have the most literary and artistic evidence, and there has been at least one significant study published on the form: Robert Mullaly’s 2011 The Carole: A Study of a Medieval Dance.13 Mullaly provides a thorough overview of the various scholarly interpretations of the form and theories of its choreography; through his own detailed examination of mostly French sources, he also concludes that the carole was probably a round-dance. Thus, by examining literary descriptions alongside artistic representations of dance in literary works and medieval manuscripts, scholars may glean some information about its performance. While some medieval manuscripts do provide accompanying illustrations, thereby supplying additional visual evidence to support literary and historical dance scholarship, they are the exception – one notable example is the Roman de la Rose.14 But a wealth of truly detailed depictions of European dance does not

10 Richard H. Hoppin, Medieval Music (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978), 296. 11 Curt Sachs, World History of the Dance, trans. Bessie Schönberg (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1937), 269. 12 For an example of scholarship examining possible evidence for dance in early medieval visual art, see Martha Bayless, “The Fuller Brooch and Anglo-Saxon Depictions of Dance,” Anglo-Saxon England 45 (2016): 183–212, 13 Robert Mullaly, The Carole: A Study of a Medieval Dance (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011). 14 It is important to acknowledge here that art, like literary work, is representational, not documentary, but depictions of dance in visual art do add to our understanding of it. For illustrations depicting caroles accompanying the various versions of the Roman de la Rose, see, for example: Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS 3338, fols. 7r, 8r; and Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France,

Kinesic analysis 25 become available until about the fifteenth century, particularly just before the start of the early modern period in Italy. While there are at least some depictions of court and social dances in later medieval literary works, sources are even scarcer in the early medieval period. Additionally, almost all major works on historical dance start their coverage of medieval European dance somewhere after the eleventh century or give very short, broad overviews of dancing in an undifferentiated “Middle Ages.”15 Scholars who are interested in depictions of dance in early periods of history and literature may, then, find it difficult to locate texts to study or existing research with which to engage. Additionally, it is not always easy to determine what “counts” as dance. Does the Old English charm “For a Delayed Birth,” for example, describe a “dance”? The woman, the one who cannot nourish her child, let her go to the grave of a departed person and then step three times over the grave and then say these words three times: This as a remedy to me for the hateful late birth, This as a remedy to me for the grievous heavy birth, This as a remedy to me for the hateful lame birth.16 The charm features a repetitive, circular movement (stepping over the grave three times) accompanied by a verbal component that could even be characterized as a chant or refrain – fundamentally, a description not dissimilar to that of the carole, although the charm is performed by one person. But is this a “dance” in the same way that a carole is? Even with the superficial similarities to the carole, many

MS français 1665, fol. 7r; both of these codices are available digitally at https://dlmm.library.jhu. edu/viewer/. See, too, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 195, fol. 7r, available digitally at 15 Sachs’s World History of the Dance, for example, contains a section on “Northern Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages”; it is approximately three pages long, in a book of 448 pages. In contrast, the section on “The Late Middle Ages” numbers forty-seven pages. See also Ann Dils and Ann Cooper Albright, eds., Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001); Walter Sorell, Dance in Its Time (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1981); Melusine Wood, Historical Dances: 12th to 19th Century (London: Dance Books, 1982); and others. Even many studies that focus on “early” dance forms show a similarly limited scope, including Ann Buckley and Cynthia J. Cyrus, eds., Music, Dance, and Society: Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Memory of Ingrid G. Brainard (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2011); Louis Horst, Pre-Classic Dance Forms: The Pavan, Minuet, Galliard, Allemand, and 10 Other Early Dance Forms (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Book Company, 1987); and John Stevens, Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050– 1350 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 16 “Se wifman, se hire cild afedan ne mæg, gange to gewitenes / mannes birgenne and stæppe þonne þriwa ofer þa byrgenne / and cweþe þonne þriwa þas word: / þis me to bote þære laþan lætbyrde, / þis me to bote þære swæran swærbyrde, / þis me to bote þære laðan lambyrde.” “For Delayed Birth,” in The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems, vol. 6, ed. E.V.K. Dobbie (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), 123. The translation is my own.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

would probably say no – but that does not make the movement prescribed in this charm unworthy of consideration and analysis. Scholars of the early medieval period may then want to find ways of meeting the challenges of fewer depictions of dance, less existing scholarship, and the difficulty of defining “dance,” while continuing to study aspects of what they find fascinating or intriguing about dance: the mechanics of bodies moving; the spatial and orientational aspects of locomotory movement; the meaning-making inherent in and messages conveyed by bodily gesture; the communal and social aspects of moving, touching, and interacting bodies; and more. One way to do this might be to realign one’s inquiry to focus on the broader idea of “movement” or “gesture” within literary texts – that is, to focus on movements of the body and limbs that are not dancing, such as those involved in, for example, physical worship (kneeling, making the sign of the cross, blessing), athletics (running, throwing), or everyday life (gestures involved in communication or labor). Even this, however, does not suddenly reveal a wealth of sources and scholarship. While all of this means that studying dance, gesture, and other bodily movements in medieval literature presents significant challenges, it also means that the field is ripe with potential and presents many opportunities for groundbreaking and exciting research. Kinesic analysis, a methodological approach to reading texts with attention to the movement of bodies – or the lack thereof – can help scholars to meet those challenges and opportunities. Reading early medieval sources through the lens of kinesic analysis and with a focus on bodily movement often reveals nuances about attitudes toward a wide range of subjects, including bodies, gender, class, social norms, sanctity, performance, and more.

Kinesic analysis: a method for reading bodily movement and meaning Literary scholars have worked in the last several decades to adapt techniques of kinesic analysis from the communications field for use in literary studies. The term kinesics was coined by Ray Birdwhistell in his 1952 book Introduction to Kinesics: An Annotation System for Analysis of Body Motion and Gesture, in which he defines kinesics as “the multi-level approach (physical, physiological, psychological, and cultural) to the study of body motion as related to the non-verbal aspects of inter-personal communication.”17 Since the late 1980s literary scholars, including Guillemette Bolens, Barbara Korte, Fernando Poyatos, and others, have argued for the usefulness of kinesics in literary analysis and used it to examine how authors and poets employ representations of bodily movements in their works to make meaning.18 For these scholars, bodily movement represents “one 17 Ray Birdwhistell, Introduction to Kinesics: An Annotation System for Analysis of Body Motion and Gesture (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1971). 18 See Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012); Barbara Korte, Body Language in Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997); Fernando Poyatos, ed., Nonverbal

Kinesic analysis 27 subsystem of the text’s entire sign repertoire” – a subsystem which has largely been unexplored.19 Bolens argues that “the semantic retrieval of corporeal movements in narrative is of central importance to the understanding of major literary artworks.”20 Poyatos frames kinesic analysis of literary texts as a valuable part of “literary anthropology” and outlines a method of kinesics with which to identify, classify, and analyze movements in literature.21 And Korte’s Body Language in Literature offers a similar “critical framework that will make it possible to distinguish and describe the possible forms and functions of literary body language in a way which is not bound by author, period, or individual text,” and demonstrates that framework in action through an analysis of body language in the English novel since the sixteenth century.22 Kinesic analysis foregrounds the bodily movements performed by characters within literary works and considers how they function as a system of expression and meaning-making. A kinesic analysis of the various tales of the cursed carolers might, for example, ask such questions as: What might paying attention to the movements of the dancers reveal about those characters, their interactions, or their emotional states? What might one learn about cultural attitudes toward bodies, movement, gender, behavior, and norms by examining portrayals of the dance? How do the dancers’ movements supplement, contradict, or complicate their verbal interactions or the narrative content? How might analysis of the dance confirm or challenge the current understanding of the particular cultures, genres, or authors associated with those tales? Poyatos’s and Korte’s emphasis on classification and description may be especially helpful for scholars wishing to document dance in as much discrete detail as possible or to develop categorization frameworks for movement in literary texts. Additionally, kinesic analysis presents ways of reading that may assist scholars in unearthing more evidence of movement in texts than is immediately evident, again helping in efforts at documentation. While most studies of movement in literature focus on locomotory movements and what might more accurately be called “gesture” – that is, large movements of the limbs or clearly communicative postures or signals – kinesic analysis of literature also facilitates the consideration of a much wider range of bodily actions and responses as “movement.” Poyatos and Bolens offer precedents for considering such physiological responses as

19 20 21


Communication Across Disciplines, vol. 3, Narrative Literature, Theater, Cinema, Translation (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002). Korte, Body Language in Literature, 6. Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 2. Poyatos, ed., Nonverbal Communication Across Disciplines, III:184. Poyatos describes literary anthropology as an interdisciplinary field addressing what he sees as “the unjustified gulf between the theory and practice of literature and the various areas subsumed under anthropology”; he defines it as “the systematic study of the documentary and historical values of the cultural signs contained in the different manifestations of each national literature, particularly narrative literatures,” but also including “theater . . . poetry, and . . . autobiographies, chronicles or accounts of explorations, discoveries and missionary endeavors, travel books, and serious journalistic descriptive accounts on different cultures” (183–184). Korte, Body Language in Literature, 6.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

blushing or going pale, along with still postures and involuntary bodily reactions such as trembling, as movement. Poyatos expands on Birdwhistell’s original concept of kinesics and redefines it as: [C]onscious and unconscious psychomuscularly-based body movements and intervening or resulting still positions, either learned or somatogenic, of visual, visual-acoustic and tactile and kinesthetic perception, which, whether isolated or combined with the linguistic and paralinguistic structures and with other somatic and object-manipulating behavioral systems, possess intended or unintended communicative value.23 Indeed, kinesics, according to Poyatos, includes not only gesture but also behaviors such as “manners,” “postures,” “a sudden stiffening of the body,” “shuddering in disgust or horror, or shivering from cold or emotion,” and more.24 Similarly, Bolens also advocates for the significance of kinesic details that might normally be dismissed as “movement” or considered insignificant. These include, for example, the “varying expressive parameters” involved in a gesture such as a handshake “(e.g., the grasp pressure, the shaking tempo, the skin temperature, etc.)”; the barely noticeable intake of breath after someone has been offended but is trying to hide it; the sweating, flushing, or trembling produced by anger or panic; or even significant episodes of stillness.25 While such features might not usually be considered “movement” or “gesture,” they may in some textual episodes function with just as much communicative, emotive, or symbolic value as a larger gesture or locomotory movement and should be considered valuable kinesic description. Finally, Poyatos argues that “the explicit or implicit presence in literature of kinetic body behaviors, that is, kinesics (gestures, manners, postures), is an extremely important part in the creative-recreative processes between writers and their readers.”26 Thus, readers looking for evidence of movement should read carefully for descriptions and details that evoke movement or imply bodily action or the significant lack thereof: the sound of footsteps or even fabrics brushing against one another, the change in airflow when a door is opened in another room, details that make clear the changing position of bodies in space, stillness where movement is expected, etc. Keeping one’s eyes open for these less obvious forms of “movement” can help scholars to uncover more evidence about the nature of movement – and, when possible, dance – in texts.

23 Fernando Poyatos, “Body Gestures, Manners, and Postures in Literature,” in Body – Language – Communication: An International Handbook on Multimodality in Human Interaction, ed. Cornelia Müller et al., vol. 1 (Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2013), 288–289, 0261318.287. 24 Poyatos, “Body Gestures,” 289–290 (emphasis in original). 25 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 27. 26 Poyatos, “Body Gestures,” 287, emphasis mine.

Kinesic analysis 29 While kinesic analysis can be used as described here – to document movement, including dance, in texts; to catalog and describe it; and possibly to try to reconstruct something of what that movement or dance looked like – Bolens argues that: [T]he primary goal of this method is to perceive more keenly and with greater accuracy the potential complexity and subtlety of movements, even as those elude taxonomic descriptions. It is from within this ultimately unclassifiable complexity that kinesic expressiveness conveys its more important meanings.27 Bolens was the first literary scholar to use kinesics for traditional literary analysis in her monograph, The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative.28 For Bolens, reading literary texts with attention to kinesic details and analyzing those details leads to an understanding of the work’s “kinesic style,” which facilitates expression and makes meaning in ways more complicated and holistic than by simply using bodily movement to directly represent an idea or to physically represent a hidden or abstract meaning.29 Similarly, Shaun Gallagher argues that “the wrong way to think of expressive movement is to think of it as necessarily expressing something that is internal and already formed – a belief, or thought, or idea.”30 Rather, “gesture is an action that helps to create the narrative space that is shared in the communicative situation.”31 Under the theoretical framework of Bolens and Gallagher, the carole is not simply movement to be documented and described; it is an integral part of the kinesic style of the tale and is a fundamental part of how the tale makes meaning. As an example of how kinesic style facilitates literary analysis, Bolens examines movements and gestures in Pride and Prejudice. She argues that Darcy’s violent “start” at seeing Elizabeth at Pemberley is a significant departure from his normal kinesic style throughout the rest of the novel – as Bolens points out, “the reader knows at this stage in the narrative that self-control is a paramount virtue for Darcy.”32 Thus, this kinesic detail provides an enlightening hint as to Darcy’s agency – “defined in terms of his ability to master his reactions” – during that moment.33 It also, in marking a notable break from Darcy’s usual kinesic control, demonstrates the significance of this scene to the plot. Widening her analysis from there, Bolens does not use kinesic analysis of this episode to simply argue that Darcy’s start “symbolizes” his unease or communicates his surprise; rather,

27 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 9. 28 See Bolens’s introduction for an invaluable explanation of kinesics and kinesic intelligence and their utility for literary analysis of this type: Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 1–49. 29 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 9. 30 Shaun Gallagher, How the Body Shapes the Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 128. 31 Gallagher, How the Body Shapes the Mind, 117. 32 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 29. 33 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 31.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

she makes a broader argument about how this kinesic detail interacts with other central discourses of the novel, including “propriety in social interaction and the self-control it demands,” “emotional expression,” and “civility and composure.”34 Similarly, scholars working on the tale of the cursed carolers might connect kinesic details of the dance to broader themes and discourses present in the tale, such as “sin and punishment,” “control over the body and behavior,” or “the nature of miracles.” Finally, it is important to note that an audience accesses a work’s narrative space and kinesic style through their own “kinesic intelligence.” This is the “human capacity to discern and interpret body movements, body postures, gestures, and facial expressions in real situations as well as in our reception of visual art.”35 Ellen Spolsky explains that this intelligence comes from [o]ur sense of the relationship of parts of the human body to the whole, and of the patterns of bodily tension and relaxation as they are related to movement . . . the knowledge of one’s own body’s poise and control, or lack thereof, allows one to make analogies to other bodies and to draw inferences from those analogies.36 Kinesics and kinesic intelligence work together to make the subsystem of meaning expressed through bodily movements in literature accessible and comprehensible.37 Sarah Brazil, for example, uses literary analysis incorporating kinesics and kinesic intelligence in her reading of another excerpt in Goscelin’s Translatio, in which a monk attempts to cut off a piece of Saint Edith’s clothing: In the eleventh-century Translatio Edithe, an otherwise exemplary monk performs a transgressive act upon the corpse of the English saint. In seeking a

34 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 29–31. 35 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 1. 36 Ellen Spolsky, “Elaborated Knowledge: Reading Kinesis in Pictures,” Poetics Today 17, no. 2 (1996): 159–160, For more information on kinesic intelligence (also called kinesthetic intelligence), see Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (New York: Ballantine, 1972), particularly “Redundancy and Coding,” 411–425; Sarah Brazil, The Corporeality of Clothing in Medieval Literature: Cognition, Kinesis, and the Sacred (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2018), particularly 1–18; Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (London: Granada, 1985); Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand on (New York: Harper and Row, 1984); and Ray Jackendoff, Consciousness and the Computational Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987). 37 In her book, Chaganti is working with similar concepts; she does not use the term “kinesic analysis” or “kinesic intelligence,” but demonstrates “that in bringing dance-based perceptual practices to bear upon the apprehension of poetry, a medieval audience experiences a poem’s form as a virtual manifestation, hovering askew of worldly measures of time and space, existing between the real and unreal.” Chaganti “proposes a methodology that elucidates the collaboration of dance and text to produce an experience of poetic form.” Thus she similarly sees concrete ways in which an audience’s knowledge and understanding of bodily experiences affect their reading of and interaction with texts. Chaganti, Strange Footing, 3–4.

Kinesic analysis 31 relic of the holy body, Eadwulf of Glastonbury takes a knife and proceeds to cut off a piece of Edith’s clothing. In the midst of doing so, the blade makes contact with the saint’s breast, causing blood to gush forth. Edith’s white clothes become soaked in blood, which flows as far as the paved floor below. The terrified monk drops the cloth and knife, and quickly performs penance. The blood then recedes, as if by miracle. All is as it was, and the monk is duly chastened against the illicit acquisition of relics.38 Brazil’s reading of this excerpt pays special attention to the movements and reactions of the bodies in the text and the audience’s recognition and understanding of those movements and reactions – the cutting, the flowing of blood, the dropping of the cloth and the knife, and the monk’s act of penance – but does not simply equate the act of cutting with a specific meaning or the dropping of the knife with a certain symbolism. Instead, her reading of the entire kinesic style of the piece ultimately leads to a more nuanced understanding of late medieval sainthood as expressed in the text, which is that sainthood is “permeable and, above all, does not limit holiness to the material body of the saint.”39 As the work of scholars such as Bolens and Brazil demonstrates, kinesics and kinesic intelligence can be useful methodologies for scholars who wish to examine dance, or bodily movement more generally, in literary texts. First, they offer techniques and strategies for cataloging and analyzing movement or for uncovering formerly hidden descriptions and implications of movement. Second, especially for those scholars working on periods where there is less attested textual evidence of dance, kinesics can offer a framework that allows for the study of movement and its significant expressive and communicative properties, centering movement and its potential for making meaning in ways that have always been inherent to dance scholarship. What, then, might this kinesic methodology offer for scholars working on the tale of the cursed carolers in the various contexts within which it appears in the middle ages? In the next section, I present a case study based on Goscelin’s version of the tale and demonstrate how the methodology described earlier might be used in a reading of this work, both to more thoroughly investigate the dance described in the piece and to consider how centering bodily movement and dance in our reading can affect our analysis of the work more broadly.

Kinesic analysis and the cursed carolers of Kölbigk One way in which kinesic analysis can enrich our reading of the dance of the cursed carolers in Goscelin’s Translatio is that, by paying close attention to the “kinesic nuances” of the tale, we might glean some additional details of the choreographic

38 Sarah Brazil, The Corporeality of Clothing, 1. Brazil’s analysis of this episode in Goscelin’s Translatio Edithe also neatly demonstrates the versatility of this methodology, for Brazil and I use kinesic analysis in very different ways and to analyze very different episodes within the same text. 39 Brazil, The Corporeality of Clothing, 2.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

nature of the dance.40 While it seems clear that the dancers perform a carole – a ring-dance – some details about that dance remain unknown. Do the dancers locomote in that ring, for example, moving around it, or do they remain relatively stationary? Perhaps they move, but the movement is toward the middle of the circle and then back out. We can better understand the movements and shape of the dance by noting Goscelin’s choice of words, including gyrando (from gyrare, “[intr.] to move in a circle”) and circuire (“[of persons or animals] to go round . . . to go round [an object], encircle”).41 Theoderic also compares the movement of the dancers to the turning of the year: “a whole year had come full circle, as we went round under the open sky.”42 Here Goscelin uses the word rotatis, from the verb rotare (“to cause to revolve or rotate round a central point or axis, to cause to move with a wheel-like motion”).43 It is clear that the dancers do move in a circle, most likely traveling around a center point in the churchyard. Another detail is that the dancers’ hands are linked: Theoderic says that “we joined hands” and that, when the curse was broken a year later, “we were struck apart from each other, our hands separated.”44 The linked hands also help us understand the movement of the dance: it is clear that the dancers’ movement through space would be limited by their connection to the other dancers. They would only be able to move as far as their linked hands and the speed and placement of the other dancers would allow. While the dancers could each cover quite a bit of ground in their circular pattern, their positions in the ring relative to one another would remain consistent. Additionally, they would be limited in terms of what figures they might make. In many types of folk dance, the dancers form a variety of shapes, crossing the space in straight lines, breaking into smaller groups and forming smaller circles or lines, or remaining still while others move around them or into other figures. None of this would be possible if the dancers’ hands were linked together, unable to be separated, so that the dancers would have to remain in one large circle, traveling around it together. Goscelin’s depiction of the dance also gives us hints about its tone – that is, not just the technical aspects of its choreography, but the nature of the performance, the feeling of the dance. Theoderic says that the dancers come to Kölbigk “in

40 Bolens, The Style of Gestures, 27. 41 R. K. Ashdowne, D. R. Howlett, and R. E. Latham, eds., Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (henceforth DMLBS) (Oxford: British Academy, 2018), s. v. “gyrare,” https://logeion.; s. v. “circuire,” 42 “Sic nobis cum toto anni circulo sub nudo aere rotatis rediit.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 290; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. It is important to note that Wright and Loncar translate rotatis here as an active verb, while it is actually a passive participle in an ablative absolute. Thus, a more accurate translation of the noun and verb pair “nobis rotatis” is actually “with us having been turned about,” which I discuss further in the following pages. 43 DMLBS, s. v. “rotare,” 44 “Conserimus manus”; “manibus ab inuicem sumus excussi.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 288, 290; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 83, 84.

Kinesic analysis 33 frivolity and insanity” in order to “seize a girl” to draw into their dance.45 The especially loaded verb rapere (“to seize and carry off, snatch away [usu. person, against his will or contrary to his expectations], [usu. leg., woman, also accompanied by sexual assault or coercion]”) is important to note here.46 Immediately these details create a sense of danger, lecherousness, and uncontrolled revelry, which is continued and emphasized when Theoderic later describes the dance as “unruly” and says that the dancers “were reveling wildly with a louder uproar as if [they] wanted to drown out the ministers of God and the praises of God with [their] damnable dance.”47 These details imply that the dance is most likely fastmoving and wild, rather than stately and formal. And this persists after the dancers have been cursed to continue dancing for an entire year: “We did not cease for one moment from dancing round, from beating the earth with our feet, from an exhibition of lamentable beating steps.”48 Using kinesic analysis in this way allows one to potentially identify precise details about the performance of the dance in the specific account being studied. Small details – like the words gyrare, circuire, rotare, and rapere, or the fact that the dancers’ hands are locked together as part of the curse – can actually help those studying dance in literary texts to imagine more precisely or even reconstruct, in some cases, the movement being described. While these details can provide us with general information about the form and tone of the dance, further kinesic analysis is required to understand the significance of the carole within Goscelin’s hagiographic narrative. As explained earlier, scholars of dance or bodily movement in literature can also use kinesic analysis in a different way: centering bodily movement in literary analyses can not only help researchers identify and describe dance and movement practices, but it can also enrich understanding and offer new readings of texts. For example, Goscelin’s depiction of the dance makes clear that the dancers are performing a quick-paced, informal dance, and the characterization of the movement – “seizing,” “reveling wildly,” “unruly,” etc. – implies a rough, possibly vulgar kind of movement. Additionally, this wild and frenzied dance takes place in a churchyard, making the indecency of their movement even more clear. The dancers’ ironic (and increasingly plaintive, one presumes) refrain of “Why are we standing still? Why don’t we go?” heightens even further the jarring nature of their dance.49 Finally, the dance continues, frantic, disruptive, and unabated for an entire year – and at this point, the carole is no longer performed under their own power, but is imposed 45 “in uanitate et insania”; “puellam raperemus.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 287; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 82. 46 DMLBS, s. v. “rapere,” 47 “confusionis”; “nos maiori strepitu, quasi Dei ministros ac Dei laudes nostro perdendo choro superaturi, debacamur.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 288; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 83. 48 “Nos nullo momento intermittimus chorizando circuire, terram pede pulsare, lacrimabiles plausus et saltus dare.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 288; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 83. 49 “Quid stamus? Cur non imus?” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 288; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 83.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

upon them. As mentioned earlier, Theoderic describes the dancers not as actively having “gone round,” but with the passive participle rotatis (the dancers “having been turned about”).50 If one pictures the carole as a slow-moving or stately affair – as many illustrations of the time seemingly depict – or even as a merry caper, the sense of macabre frenzy is lost, and the helplessness of the dancers is less apparent. Thus, the kinesic style of this episode emphasizes the unsettling nature of the dance, both as an affront to God and Church during Christmas Eve mass and as a curse endured by the dancers in the following year, in a way that other ways of reading might not make so clear. Kinesic analysis also offers new ways of considering other details of the story – the fact that, for example, as part of the curse, the dancers “could not do or experience any of the human necessities” as they dance.51 Theoderic explains: For truly in that whole year of our endless activity we did not eat or drink or sleep; but we did not feel hunger or thirst or sleepiness or any bodily sensation. Night, day, hot summer, icy winter, storms, floods, snowstorms, hailstorms, and all the extremes of weather did not affect us at all; nor did we become weary through our unending round-dancing. Our hair and nails did not grow; our garments did not wear out. So merciful was our punishment, so gently did the divine mercy torment us.52 While growing hair and nails, eating and drinking, and experiencing bodily sensations are not conscious gestures with clear communicative intent, they are bodily reactions and processes, and the suspension of their normal functions is narratively significant. Kinesic analysis encourages scholars to consider such reactions and processes in a study of movement and to give equal significance to their suspension – to stillness – in addition to movement. In one very real sense, the dancers’ bodies are “standing still, not going,” even as they endlessly rotate around the churchyard in their forced dance. Paradoxically (as expressed by Theoderic – their punishment is yet “merciful,” they are “tormented” by “divine mercy”) their punishment is that they are simultaneously made to move without ceasing and seem to be frozen in

50 “Sic nobis cum toto anni circulo sub nudo aere rotatis rediit.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 290. 51 “humanae necessitatis nec fecimus nec passi sumus.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 288; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. 52 “Reuera enim in toto anno illo districte expedicionis nostre nec comedimus nec bibimus nec dormiuimus; sed neque famem neque sitim neque somnolentiam nec quicquam carnalis condicionis sensimus. Nox, dies, estas torrida, hiems gelida, tempestates, inundationes, nines, grandines uniuersaque aeris intemperies, omnino nos non tetigere; nec lassati sumus circulacionis diuturnitate. Non capilli, non ungule nostre crescebant; non sunt attrita uestimenta nostra. Ita clemens erat pena, ita suauiter nos torquebat superna clementia.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 289–290; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. To be clear, the Latin here reads “circulacionis diuturnitate” (“the duration of circling”), which Wright and Loncar have translated as “our unending round-dancing.” While the translators have supplied the idea of dancing, the Latin does make clear that the dancers continued moving in a circle.

Kinesic analysis 35 time at the point of their curse, marked by their sin and bearing the physical proof of their punishment in their body’s concurrent movement/stillness. Even after the dancers are released from the curse, their bodies are still marked by it: We, although we were separated from each other, made separately the same capers and spins which we had made together, and seemed by the spasm of our limbs to be raving by ourselves . . . wherever we flee, this turning of our bodies drives us and accompanies us, and now we are sentenced to more years of this compulsively agitated wandering.53 Not only is this an inconvenient and frustrating condition, probably intended partially as lasting punishment, it is also an indication that the dancers are, in fact, frozen in time, as their dancing continues throughout their life even after they are allowed to part hands and leave the dance. It is also a conspicuous and probably humiliating marker of their continuing punishment, thereby making the dancers into living warnings for those who encounter them to avoid the kind of behavior that merited such punishment. Additionally, not only must the dancers continue to dance, albeit alone, they are also afflicted with another kind of movement, their “compulsively agitated wandering.” Although they were allowed to stop their carole, they cannot stop their individual dancing or their movement throughout the world, and another layer of contradiction is added to their punishment; as Theoderic laments, “we who formerly were not able to travel anywhere, now are not able to stay long anywhere.”54 Thus the dancers’ own bodies and movement act as visceral, living reminders of their indiscretions (both the inappropriate dancing on Christmas Eve and the likely attempted sexual assault; losing control over one’s body is a particularly apt punishment for people possibly intending to deprive a woman of her own bodily autonomy through rape) and the horrible consequences, for themselves and for anyone who sees them. By centering the movement of the body – here, both kinesthetic and spatial movement – kinesic analysis deepens our understanding of the layers of punishment experienced by the dancers and makes clear the physical suffering and cost of their sin. By providing readers with kinesic details that so clearly emphasize the disruption and loss of bodily control experienced by the cursed dancers, Goscelin also deftly sets the stage for the centerpiece of this hagiographic episode: Saint Edith’s healing of Theoderic. Having told his tale, Theoderic, “reinforcing it yet more by

53 “Nos, licet ab inuicem essemus dissoluti, tamen eosdem saltus et rotatus quos simul feceramus fecimus singuli, atque ita singuli iactu membrorum uidebamur tumultuari”; “Quocumque fugimus, iste nos rotatus membrorum fugat et comitatur, iamque nobis plures anni tam districte euagationis censentur.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84–85. 54 “quibus antea nusquam licuit prodire iam nusquam liceat stabiles durare.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

that very motion, his disturbing, beating leap, besought Edith to be propitious.”55 He falls asleep before her grave and when he awakes, he rises up, miraculously cured. Using kinesic analysis to read this excerpt once again centers Goscelin’s depiction of Theoderic’s healing with close attention to his body and the way it moves – or, in this case, in the way it doesn’t: He saw that his agitation was gone, he was able to stand still; he saw that he had become fully master of himself; he crossed himself and marvelled at such a sudden change; he wondered at the removal of the irremovable judgement passed on him by the priest.56 Theoderic immediately rejoices over the simple ability to stand still, a state that is here directly aligned with control over one’s own body: he is “fully master of himself.” Edith has restored more than his normal power of movement; she has restored his autonomy. Additionally, the full significance of the paradox of her healing – the “removal of the irremovable judgement” – is also even more powerful here if one has read the tale with a kinesic lens, fully revealing the layers of contradiction and paradox inherent in the dancers’ cursed year of caroling and its aftermath. Cursed to continuous movement beyond their control, the dancers’ bodies are also frozen; released from their carole, they are still doomed to constant movement through wandering. In removing the irremovable curse, Edith makes it possible for Theoderic to be fully in motion or fully still, all under his own power. Theoderic’s praise of Edith reflects this – “‘See what she has done for me, a man in deepest despair, how she has restored me to myself ’” – as does Goscelin’s description of the healed man: “It was a great thing to see that man completely transformed, formerly unstable, now able to stand firm, in one day going from violent leaping to decorous stillness.”57 Thus the abstract and physical instability

55 “ipsoque adhuc motu affirmans, saltu et plausu suo iniocundo propiciatricem Editham interpellabat.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. Wright and Loncar have translated “saltu et plausu suo iniocundo” as “his disturbing, beating leap,” but Theoderic is actually being made to perform two actions here: “his leaping and disturbing clapping.” 56 “Videt se de instabili stare posse immobilem, uidet se totum factum sui compotem; signansque se miratur tam repentinam mutationem, miratur deletam sacerdotalis alligationis sententiam indelebilem.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. 57 “Videt . . . quid michi desperatissimo fecit, quomodo me michi restituit” (emphasis added); “uale tunc erat uidere eundem hominem alium atque alium factum, prius instabilem, deinde constabilem, hodie importune saltantem, modo oportune astantem,” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, trans., “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. A more accurate translation for the end of this quotation would be “in one day leaping indecorously, now standing decorously.” Wright and Loncar have used the nouns “leaping” and “stillness” here, but saltantem and astantem are present active participles. The sense of the sentence does not significantly change, of course, but close attention to verb forms and tenses is important in a method of analysis so closely focused on movement.

Kinesic analysis 37 created by the paradoxical nature of the dancers’ punishment, manifested in their bodies, is resolved, both figuratively and materially, by Edith.

Conclusion Kinesic analysis centers the movement of bodies in the reading of literary texts and considers bodily movement as central to the themes and meaning of the text. The other scholars featured in this book provide a variety of ways to approach the many versions of this tale, but we are all united in our fascination with dance and the ways in which moving bodies make meaning in literary texts. My reading offers a brief demonstration of how kinesic analysis might facilitate a more nuanced reading of Goscelin’s version of the tale of the cursed carolers, taking only the dancers’ movement into account. Focusing on the dancers’ bodies and their movement in the tale can help readers to understand their punishment in a new way – not simply as a physical inconvenience or a fitting amplification of their sin, but as a visceral and abstract loss of control and the embodiment of an unsettling and frightening state of irony and paradox. It also provides new layers of meaning to Edith’s healing, as she restores not only a man’s bodily comfort but also his personal autonomy and stability. It is important to note that the movements of the other characters in the tale are equally significant and can also be productively assessed within a kinesic framework. Other kinesic analyses of the tale might focus on such details as, for example, the movements of the priest Rodbert in and out of the church and within the graveyard, as he attempts to bury his daughter’s arm; his son Azonis’s movements into and out of the dance and his interaction with his sister, Ava; and the movements of Ava’s body, both as she participates in the dance and as it is fragmented when her arm detaches from her body and refuses to stay buried. Additionally, conducting a comparative analysis of several different versions of the tale using a kinesic lens could offer not only a better understanding of the changing ideas about the choreographic nature of the carole over the centuries in which the tale was transmitted but also insights into how the tale was incorporated into diverse narratives and used to support a variety of didactic, entertainment, and hagiographic aims. It is my hope that this introduction to the methodology of kinesics provides scholars who are interested in the moving body in literature, whether dancing or not, opportunities to explore these and other ways to attend to literary bodies and their movements.

Further reading Banks, Kathryn, and Timothy Chesters, eds. Movement in Renaissance Literature: Exploring Kinesic Intelligence. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. Birdwhistell, Ray. Introduction to Kinesics: An Annotation System for Analysis of Body Motion and Gesture. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 1971. Birdwhistell, Ray. Kinesics and Context: Essays on Body Motion Communication. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970.


Rebecca Straple-Sovers

Bolens, Guillemette. The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Braddick, Michael J., ed. “The Politics of Gesture: Historical Narratives.” Supplement, Past and Present 203, no. S4 (2009). Bremmer, Jan, and Herman Roodenberg, eds. A Cultural History of Gesture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992. Burrow, J. A. Gestures and Looks in Medieval Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Clark, Christina A., Edith Foster, and Judith P. Hallet, eds. Kinesis: The Ancient Depiction of Gesture, Motion, and Emotion. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2015. Korte, Barbara. Body Language in Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Poyatos, Fernando. “Body Gestures, Manners, and Postures in Literature.” In Body – Language – Communication: An International Handbook on Multimodality in Human Interaction, vol. 1, edited by Cornelia Müller, Alan J. Cienki, Ellen Fricke, Silva H. Ladewig, David McNeill, and Sedinha Teßendorf, 287–300. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2013. Poyatos, Fernando, ed. Literary Anthropology: A New Interdisciplinary Approach to People, Signs, and Literature. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1988. Poyatos, Fernando, ed. Narrative Literature, Theater, Cinema, Translation: Volume 3 of Nonverbal Communication across Disciplines. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002. Punday, Daniel. Narrative Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Narratology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Simons, Walter. “Reading a Saint’s Body: Rapture and Bodily Movement in the Vitae of Thirteenth-Century Beguines.” In Framing Medieval Bodies, edited by Sarah Kay and Miri Rubin, 10–23. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994. Stanley, Eric. “Dance, Dancers and Dancing in Anglo-Saxon England.” Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research 9, no. 2 (1991): 18–31. https://doi. org/10.2307/1290593. Wolf, Kirstin. “Somatic Semiotics: Emotion and the Human Face in the Sagas and Þættir of the Icelanders.” Traditio 69 (2014): 122–125.


Prefacing the marvelous Dance in popular medieval French and English literature Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude*

Introduction The cursed carole dancers of Kölbigk were a curiosity, a wonder, and a marvel for onlookers and readers alike. However, as several versions of the tale demonstrate, the cursed carole was not only a wonder to behold, but also a catalyst for further spectacles or marvels. The dance itself captures the reader’s imagination, but just as important are the spectacles that follow: severed limbs, collapsing shelters, horrifying ruts in the ground, or twitching bodies when the curse is finally removed.1 In these Kölbigk stories, the dance is an uncanny spectacle, but it also leads to additional marvels, partaking in a narrative pattern common across two of the most popular literary genres of the late Middle Ages, the romance and fabliau. Medieval literary scholars are no strangers to the rhetoric of spectacle and marvel; it is a staple framework for studying many popular texts. Moreover, as one might expect, dance is one of the most frequent spectacles in later medieval literature, in both romance and fabliau. For instance, in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, readers encounter young nobles Sir Gareth and Dame Lyoness participating in “all maner of gamys and playes” including “daunsyng and syngynge.”2 The “daunsyng and syngyne” represent celebratory spectacles in themselves; however, they are soon interrupted by another, more wondrous marvel: an armed, mechanical knight “with many lyghtes aboute hym.”3 Malory repeats this pattern * We would like to thank Bradley Phillis, Lynneth Miller Renberg, and Laura Clark for their input on this chapter. 1 In brief, a group of dancers performs a carole in a churchyard on Christmas eve. For this disruptive action, the dancers are cursed to dance for a full year without stopping. See Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis’s “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes” in this book for the details of the tale. 2 “all manner of games and playing, [with] dancing and singing.” Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, ed. P.J.C. Field (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2013): 259.14–16. Robert Mannyng also lists these items as sinful activities in Handlyng Synne; see Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, in Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with Those Parts of the Anglo-French Treatise on Which It Was Founded, William of Wadington’s “Manuel des Pechiez,” ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, o. s., vols. 119, 123 (London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903), lines 8987–9006. 3 “with many lights surrounding him.” Malory, 261.2–15.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

when Gareth recovers from a wound and once again “waxed lyght and jocounde, and sange and daunced and gamed.”4 The spectacle of Gareth’s dancing suggests that he has returned to physical health, but once again, it foreshadows another marvel when the same enchanted knight intrudes, again accompanied by a brilliant light as though there were “twenty torchis” before and behind it.5 The dances and games between Gareth and Lyoness always precede, and perhaps prefigure, the arrival of a second, more disruptive marvel, a phenomenon Malory emphasizes by repeatedly pairing dance with the marvelous in his tale. This narrative pattern, common in romance, also exists in the fabliau genre. While the earthier fabliaux may lack the magic and idealism of romance, they often include a similar cognitive dissonance as characters attempt to make sense of seemingly inexplicable events. These descriptions of bodies in motion – whether dancing like Gareth or attacking like the marvelous knight – resonate with Seeta Chaganti’s approach to the virtuality of dance movement. Chaganti describes medieval dance as “virtual forces supplementing bodily movement” in which the forces at work “hover at the periphery of the material and . . . assert themselves as forces that are apprehensible but of ambiguous reality.”6 She compares these forces to Tzvetan Todorov’s idea of the uncanny or “l’étrange”: while the invisible shapes and patterns formed by the dancers are fantastic, “the laws of reality remain intact and permit an explanation of the phenomena described.”7 In other words, for Chaganti, dance is at once material and immaterial, familiar and unfamiliar. In this chapter, we consider how dance’s possession of these opposing traits transforms narrative patterns in late medieval popular literature. While dance in these texts is presented as an uncanny phenomenon, romance and fabliau diverge slightly in their subsequent marvels. In medieval romance, dance is a spectacle that serves as a precursor to a much more marvelous spectacle, usually employing magic that defies the laws of nature. On the other hand, dance in fabliau is treated as an uncanny phenomenon that leads to situations of heightened uncanniness caused by the intentional deceit of one of the characters. Applying these principles to our example from the Morte Darthur, Gareth and Lyoness’s dancing bodies emit a kind of uncanny, virtual light: a force that draws visual attention from the reader and spectating court alike. However, in keeping with the narrative pattern we explore in this chapter, their dance is also a spectacle that binds them to the arrival of a more wondrous marvel: the mechanical knight

4 “grew light and cheerful, and sang and danced and played games.” Malory, 262.22–23. By grouping dance together with other festive activities, Malory observes dance as an expression of joy and developing intimacy between Gareth and Lyoness. In turn, Malory’s text reinforces readers’ unconscious expectations that dance in real life will mirror their experience. 5 “twenty torches.” Malory, 262.33. 6 Seeta Chaganti, Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 9, 12. 7 Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, trans. Richard Howard (Cleveland, OH: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973), 41.

Prefacing the marvelous 41 surrounded by a mysterious light.8 As a narrative structuring device, dance in popular medieval texts has the opportunity to be an uncanny spectacle in itself, and also – as we will show – a gateway to further uncanny marvels in romance and fabliau.9 Far from occurring in a vacuum, the uncanny and marvelous spectacles in the tales of the Kölbigk carolers participate in a rhetoric of dance that exists more broadly in these popular late medieval genres.

Dancing toward the marvelous in romance Medieval romance presents a stylized, fictionalized version of European court culture, in which the uncanny is not only possible, but thrives. In her comments on the genre, Corrine Saunders writes that “engagement with the magical or marvellous, whether fearful or wish-fulfilling, is expected” in medieval romance.10 These narratives, so carefully ordered by hunts, feasts, and games, are often susceptible to spectacular disruptions such as the entrance of mysterious knights, marvelous beasts, or supernatural visions. Dance also serves as an organizing pastime, often signaling the arrival of the episode’s primary marvel. Both French and Middle English romances share this template for dance’s role: dance spectacles preface a disruption by the marvelous.11 While romance rarely dwells on dance, the popular romances Roman de la Rose (henceforth, la Rose) and the French prose Lancelot provide exceptionally long episodes with characters dancing.12 In these two romances, the dances serve

8 On medieval virtuality, see Chaganti, Strange Footing, 45–53; Elizabeth Fowler, “The Proximity of the Virtual: A. C. Spearing’s Experientiality (or, Roaming with Palamon and Arcite),” in Readings in Medieval Textuality: Essays in Honour of A. C. Spearing, ed. Cristiana Marie Cervone and D. Vance Smith (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2016), 15–30; Laura Hughes, “Machaut’s Virtual Voir Dit and the Moment of Heidegger’s Poetry,” Exemplaria 25, no. 3 (2013): 192–210, 10.1179/1041257313Z.00000000031. 9 Chaganti speaks to the potential power of dance as metaphor, describing dance as a “highly visible and deeply ingrained aesthetic and social practice [capable of] conditioning an audience’s perceptual and aesthetic experiences of textual objects.” Chaganti, Strange Footing, 3. See also Chaganti, “Dance in a Haunted Space: Genre, Form, and the Middle English Carol,” Exemplaria 27, no. 1–2 (2015): 129–149, especially 146,; here she “argu[es that] the ghost constructs space for medieval generic theory to consider interstices and negative spaces, the spaces in which a virtual sense of the literary emerges. Medieval dance negotiates spaces between the real and unreal; relies on the relational dynamics of watchers who were also participants; and disorients within codes and choreographies.” 10 Corinne Saunders, Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2010), 2. Saunders builds from Northrop Frye’s theorization in Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, Press, 1957), 186. 11 We have curated the items examined in this chapter based on popularity and number of dances in a text. 12 Robert Mullally vents his frustration about the lack of dance descriptions in the fourteenth-century Middle English texts in The Carole: A Study of a Medieval Dance (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 111–118. Roman de la Rose contains the longest surviving poetic description of late western medieval dance (lines. 719–1291).


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

as one of the adventures;13 however, the dances are not the central adventure but interludes turning the texts toward their next main marvels. For example, in Guillaume de Lorris’s section of la Rose and its Middle English translation, a dance connects the entrance into the dream vision’s idyllic walled garden and the dreamer’s narcissistic moment at the fountain.14 The marvel does not occur while the dance is in motion; rather, the climax of Guillaume’s portion of the poem is only achieved after the dance has been disbanded for the lovers to enjoy more intimate activities. The dance, in this way, transitions the dreamer toward the climax of Guillaume’s section. In Lancelot, a magic carole dance provides a similar connection between episodes. Lancelot’s participation in the carole dance makes him lose his will for chivalric actions: If before he had only a mind for chivalry, leading assaults, and starting battles, now his desire had shifted and he wanted only to dance. . . . [He] entered the [carole] dance in full armor, his helmet laced on, taking the hand of the first maiden he met. Then he began singing and stamping his feet like the others, making merry and skipping much more than he had ever done before.15 Lancelot’s interior motives shift; as if possessed by the dance, the knight loses his “desire” to fight. Instead, he becomes a cursed caroler as he begins to dance. Like the cursed carolers of Kölbigk, the magic carole dance draws in its dancers – now including Lancelot in knight’s attire – and has them dance indefinitely. The magic carole episode is then divided into two sections: Lancelot’s entrance into the magic carole dance and Lancelot’s dismantling of the magic carole. As in la Rose, the magic carole momentarily pauses the action before turning the titular character toward the episode’s main marvel: a magic chess game devised by the same maiden and wizard who designed the magic carole. Overcoming the chess game is the only way to truly free the people of the land who are trapped in the magic carole. However, to even participate in the chess game and learn how the people were trapped in the magic carole, Lancelot must participate in and break 13 On this structure in the poem, see Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Seeing through the Veil: Optical Theory and Medieval Allegory (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). 14 Guillaume’s carole dance, like the garden walls, is described through a series of portraitures of the individual allegorical figures and their dance partners; while the dreamer claims he “cannot describe [the dance] to [the reader],” he follows by “examin[ing] the bodies and figures and faces of those who were dancing there, and their outward forms and manners” while they danced (trans. Frances Horgon, 13–14). 15 “Car s’il devant n’avoit talant fors de chevalerie et d’assaut et de meslees comancier, or est ses voloirs a ce menez qu’il n’a talant fors de queroler. . . . S’en vait a la querole toz armez, le hiaume lacié, et se prent a la primiere damoisele qu’il encontre. Et lors commance a chanter et a ferir del pié ausi conme li autre, si s’anvoise et joue assez plus qu’il n’avoit onques mes fet et tant que li vallez meesmex le resgarda et le tient por fol.” Alexandre Micha, ed., Lancelot, Tome IV (Geneve: Librairie Droz, 1979), LXXIX, 35. The translation is from Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, ed. Norris J. Lacy, trans. Roberta L. Krueger, vol. 3 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995), 170.

Prefacing the marvelous 43 up the dance. It is only after Lancelot enters the existing dance that he can disrupt it to overcome the magical chess game that will eventually free the romance’s cursed carolers. While Lancelot and la Rose provide some description of their respective dances, Middle English Arthurian romances contain far less description but follow the same narrative pattern. For instance, the first dance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (henceforth Gawain) features a dance that prefigures the arrival of the Green Knight:16 These noble knights jousted very jollily, and afterwards, they ride to the court, to make caroles; for there the feast lasted a full fifteen days, with all the food and the mirth that men knew how to devise: with such glorious speech and noises to hear, extravagant dining during the day, and dancing in the nights.17 The passage fails to provide descriptions of any dance movement, apparel, or the participants’ interiority while dancing. The Gawain-poet includes dance terminology – daunsyng and caroles – but provides virtually no description of the actual act itself. The Gawain dance, much like Gareth’s dances described earlier, serves as a precursor to a young Arthur demanding “an uncouth tale of some main marvel,” which turns out to be the Green Knight’s disruptive entrance.18 What these Arthurian dances – both French and English – have in common is a dance prefiguring the primary marvel of the episode or romance. The Green Knight disrupts the Gawain dance just as Lancelot disbands the magic dance to get to the next adventure.19 In both cases, the dance is not the marvel. Rather, the dances serve as minor visual spectacles that emphasize breaks in a court’s harmony. Through this patterning, the dance signals the arrival of the marvel. These longer romances – Lancelot and Gawain – are not alone in prefiguring marvels with dance. Shorter romances, such as Sir Launfal, Sir Cleges, Sir Gowther, Le Chevalier qui la Nef Maine, and Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion, also contain this pattern in varying degrees.20 Dance in these romances often turns the knight toward not only the disruptive marvel but also

16 Gawain contains five such moments of dance; see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript, ed. Malcolm Andrew and Ronald Waldron, 5th ed. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2007), lines 43, 473, 1026, 1655, 1886. Subsequent references to Gawain are to this edition. 17 “Justed ful jolilé Þise gentile knights, /SyÞen kayred to Þe court, caroles to make; / For Þer Þe fest watz ilyche ful fiften days, / With alle Þe mete and Þe mirthe Þat men couÞe avyse: /Such glaum ande gle glorious to here, / Dere dyn vpon day, daunsyng on nyʒtes[.]” Gawain, lines 42–47. 18 “an uncouÞe tale / of sum mayn meruayle.” Gawain, lines 93–94. 19 This is a substructure within the standard threefold structure of romance (death, disappearance, revival) and the dialectical component. See Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 186–206. 20 Citations from Launfal, Cleges, Gowther, and Sir Orfeo are from Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, eds. Middle English Breton Lays (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001). Citations will be to Launfal, Cleges, and Gowther.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

emotional upheaval.21 For instance, Sir Gowther juxtaposes a celebratory dance for its titular knight’s previous victories with the knight’s stillness as he meditates on his own sin:22 while “knight and ladies all danced, Sir Gowther laid in his chamber. He desired to neither dance nor play.”23 Instead of taking part in the festivities, Gowther lays in his chamber with “no thoughts other than of his sin, / and how he might win his soul, / to the bliss that God did buy him.”24 The dance transitions the romance to the final battle against the leader of the opposing forces – and a spectacular battle that sets into motion Gowther being granted God’s forgiveness for his sins. Dance in these shorter romances is once more an uncanny spectacle foreshadowing a marvel lying in wait. Some romances use dance to mark the arrival of fairies.25 Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” opens with “the elf-queen, with her jolly company,” who often danced in King Arthur’s time.26 The dancing elf-queen and her company of fairies set the Wife’s tale into motion.27 As the Wife’s protagonist knight seeks the answer for “what women love most,” the Wife uses the image of the dancing female elf troop again: “he saw a group of twenty-four ladies or more go in a dance.”28 The knight is “drawn very earnestly” toward the dancers.29 He arrives at the space to find the dancers have disappeared.30 This moment of vanishing, Chaganti writes, [I]ntimates that the spectacle of vanishing – the uncanny pivot between the material and immaterial, between the body and the forces of virtuality that originate from and surround it – represents a component of the encounter

21 To avoid confusion, we are discussing the Middle English Launfal and Cleges, rather than Marie de France’s Lanval or Chrétien de Troyes’s Cligès which do not contain moments of dance. Inversely, Chrétien’s Yvain does include dance, as does his Lancelot, but the Middle English versions of both omit dance. 22 The sin here is Gowther being fathered by Merlin’s half-brother or a fairy in some versions. See Richard Firth Green, Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 67–70. 23 “Knyghtus and ladys dancyd all / Syr Gwother in his chambur ley, / He lyst nowdur dance ne pley[.]” Gowther, lines 530–533. 24 “no thoght bot of [h]is syn, /And how he myght [h]is soule wyn /To tho blys that God con hym by.” Gowther, lines 538–540. 25 See Green, Elf Queens and Holy Friars, 5–7. 26 “Al the land fulfild of fayerye. / The elf-queen, with her joly compaigne / Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.” Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986): III.857–861. References to The Canterbury Tales are to this edition in the Riverside Chaucer; references include fragment and line numbers. 27 The action that follows this defining marker is an intrusion of a different kind: sexual assault. The Middle English Sir Orfeo also uses the marker of dancing to explore the relationship between fairies and assault; see Sir Orfeo, lines 281–302. 28 “what wommen love moost . . . In al this care under a forest syde / Wheras he saugh upon a daunce go / Of ladyes foure and twenty and yet mo,” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, III.990–992. 29 “Toward the which daunce he drow ful yearne” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, III.993. 30 “But certeinly er he cam fully there, /Vanysshed was this daunce he nyste where.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, III.995–996.

Prefacing the marvelous 45 with medieval dance. . . . But when medieval authors and artists examine dance closely, they seem responsive to its virtual forces.31 These virtual forces draw the Wife’s knight toward the dance before turning him toward the main marvel: the lone, foul woman who will solve his riddle.32 Chaucer rarely lingers on descriptions of dance; in fact, he explicitly refuses to describe the wonders of the dance in the “Squire’s Tale,” which invites meditation on the function of dance in romance more broadly. In this tale, Genghis Khan’s court celebrates the arrival of a mysterious knight bearing four mechanical gifts. The celebration results in one of the longest dances devised by Chaucer, who usually keeps his dances brief because, as he tells us, “a dull man” is not able to “describe” them well.33 The tale then goes on to explore why describing dance is a fruitless task: Who could tell you the form of dances, so uncouth, and with such fresh countenances, such subtle looking and dissimulations for dread of jealous men’s apperceivings? No man but Lancelot, and he is dead. Therefore, I pass on all of this delight; I say no more.34 The Squire employs the rhetorical device of occupatio here – describing that which he claims he will not or cannot. His “inability” to describe the dance parallels his refusal to describe how the marvelous gifts operate, such as the flying

31 Chaganti, Strange Footing, 62–63. For Chaganti’s fuller analysis of how “vanysshed was this daunce” relates to medieval reenactment, see 27–63. 32 “Save on the grene he saugh sittyng a wyf. / A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, III.998–999. When Chaucer inserts dance elsewhere in the romances of his Canterbury Tales, he uses it to similar effect, thrusting the reader or protagonist toward the marvelous. In the “Knight’s Tale,” dance is used to transition to Palamon, Arcite, and Emilie’s interactions with the gods (I.2197–2208). Similarly in the “Franklin’s Tale,” Chaucer uses dance as a marker for upcoming marvels. Chaganti examines how the dances shape the tale in “Terpsichorean Form: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty,” in The Medieval Literary Beyond Form, ed. Robert J. Meyer-Lee and Catherine Sanok (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2018), 185–212, Chaganti claims at 211 that “the Franklin’s narrative collaborates with the reader’s culturally dictated habits to produce an environment that does not stop, retard, speed, or reverse time but rather offers immersive directionality as a freeing alternative to temporal passage.” We exclude Troilus and Criseyde from our analysis as the manifestation of dance is questionable. For how the invocation of dance becomes a rhetorical strategy in the poem, see Christopher Stampone, “Choreographing Fin’ amor: Dance and the Game of Love in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde,” The Chaucer Review 50, no. 3–4 (2015): 393–419, 33 For the quotation, see Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, V.279; for full description, see V.275–290. 34 “Who koude telle yow the forme of daunces / So unkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces, / Swich subtil lookyng and dissymulynges / For drede of jalouse mennes aperceyvynges? / No man but Launcelot, and he is deed. / Therefore I passe of al this lustiheed; / I sey namoore, e.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, V.283–289.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

mechanical horse or Canacee’s magic ring.35 The occupatio meditates on the function of dance in a romance: how does the poet structure or describe the dance’s choreography when time (and lines) may be better spent on what is seen within and without the dance? The occupatio constructions throughout the tale excuse the Squire – and in turn Chaucer – from describing how both the dance and the actual mechanical gifts operate; like the mechanical gifts, the detailed inner workings of the dance do not matter as much as the marvel that follows. Chaucer’s “Squire’s Tale” is emblematic of how Middle English and French romances conceptualize dance. Regardless of how much narrative space a dance receives in a romance, the dance is never an ultimate spectacle. Rather, the structural pattern that we have described for each of these romances shows that the point of the dance is not the dance itself but the marvelous event(s) that occur afterward. The dance invites the reader to turn toward the marvel, whether that marvel is disruptive (as in Gawain), emotional (Gowther), or the magical interlocutor to the quest (“Wife of Bath’s Tale”). As with the Kölbigk carolers, the main marvel is not the dance itself but the following uncanny event; the dance anticipates a turn toward this marvel.

Dancing as common and uncommon activity in fabliaux While the stylized, idealized world of medieval romance is ripe for marvelous interruption, the medieval fabliau provides what Howard Bloch calls “a social mirror” for the habits of real-world people of the Middle Ages.36 In these short, comic tales, readers encounter descriptions (however raunchy or brief) of “how men and women worked, traveled, ate, bathed, slept, made love, eliminated, wiped their posterior parts, dressed, arranged their hair, made up their faces,” and more.37 One of the most important things that the fabliaux show us, then, is that dance belongs on this list of the habits of real-world medieval Europeans, given its treatment in these stories. Furthermore, dances and dancing in the fabliaux are often paired with situations devised by characters who intend to deceive. The effects of the deception may sometimes appear to other characters as magical or marvelous, but ultimately, the comic situations arise due to mundane events – through means existing within known laws of nature. Because these tales feature mundane people in mundane situations rather than knights or heroes within the magical world of romance, dance in these stories most often functions as a reflection or echo of the

35 On the significance of these machinations not being described, see Patricia Clare Ingham, The Medieval New: Ambivalence in the Age of Innovation (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 112–140. Kathryn Dickason provides a beautiful reading connecting machines to harmonious motion in Dante’s Paradiso in “Caroling Like Clockwork: Technologies of the Medieval Dancing Body in Dante’s Paradiso,” Dance Chronicle 41, no. 3 (2018): 303–334, 10.1080/01472526.2018.1514213. 36 Howard Bloch, introduction to The Fabliaux, trans. Nathaniel E. Dubin (New York: Liverwright Publishing Corporation, 2013), xxii. 37 Bloch, introduction to The Fabliaux, xxiii.

Prefacing the marvelous 47 schemes of the deceiver and the uncanny dissonance experienced by the deceived, rather than as a harbinger of fantastic events to come. Dance appears infrequently in the French fabliau tradition, but when it does, the authors’ treatment of it confirms the active and assumed role that dance played in medieval French society. For instance, in the fabliau of “The Three Girls,” dance provides the occasion for the antics of the titular girls.38 The story’s narrator tells us in the opening lines that, above all else in life, these girls “craved to go dancing” and that they spent much time and effort on perfecting their appearance for these dances.39 The remainder of the story focuses on the absurd situation that develops when the girls procure a cosmetic powder that needs to be mixed with human urine to adhere to their faces: one girl volunteers to pee in the dish of powder, but farts instead, scattering the powder and rendering it useless. Despite the ridiculous situation and subsequent discussion regarding who is to blame for the loss of the powder, the social occasion giving rise to this situation – a carole – is never presented or discussed as an exceptional event. The author expects contemporary readers to assume that people regularly attend dances and that looking one’s best is part and parcel in the experience. Similarly, the author of “The Story of Aloul” treats dance as an unexceptional activity, even as it provides opportunities to express one’s identity.40 The main action of this fabliau features Aloul, a cuckolded husband who orders his servants to find and capture the priest who has had vigorous sex with Aloul’s wife while Aloul attempted to sleep in the same bed. One particularly brave servant named Robin, who is described as “one of the strongest in all the house,” seems to have a good chance of catching the recreant priest based on his strength and bravery.41 As proof for this claim, the author goes so far as to praise Robin as the one “who carried the drum / On Sundays in the carole dance.”42 This brief comment regarding dance suggests that even though the weekly caroles are routine, they are also laden with social meaning: one’s place and activity in the dance suggest personal characteristics that might not be obvious from outward appearance. In this case, Robin – described as the boldest of Aloul’s men – is a servant with initiative, ambition, and physical prowess, traits which are underscored by his weekly drumming and dancing at the head of the carole. While these two French fabliaux suggest that dance is an expected social phenomenon, other fabliau writers use dance in ways that mirror uncanny elements in the stories’ plot or theme. Such treatment parallels the use of dance to prefigure the marvelous in romance. For example, in “Brother Denise the Franciscan Friar,” the lecherous friar Simon convinces a pious but credulous young woman that

38 “Les .III. Meschines,” in The Fabliaux, trans. Nathaniel E. Dubin (New York: Liverwright Publishing Corporation, 2013), 330. 39 “hantoient ces caroles.” “Les .III. Meschines,” 330, line 6. 40 “D’Aloul,” in The French Fabliau B.N. MS. 837, trans. Raymond Eichmann and John Duval (New York: Garland, 1984), 186. 41 “un des plus fors de tout l’ostel.” “D’Aloul,” 186, line 635. 42 “C’est cil qui porte le tabor / le Diemenche a la carole.” “D’Aloul,” 186, lines 644–645.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

she can follow her dream of becoming a friar in his order if she cuts her hair and wears the habit he provides.43 Of course, Simon cares nothing for the girl’s desire for piety; he simply wants her “to accompany him to the bath.”44 The Friar’s ruse succeeds for a while – “Denise” becomes “Denis” and is well liked among the order – but the scheme collapses when Simon and Denise visit a noblewoman who sees through Denise’s disguise. The noblewoman proceeds to berate the friar, calling him a rotten charlatan and hypocrite before referencing the church’s frequent warnings about dance: You tell us that young people should not be allowed dancing and balls, citterns and tabors and violes and all delights of minstrelsy. You’ve brought on yourself infamy. You tell me, Mr. Tonsured Head, Is this the life Saint Francis led? You’re a deceitful liar, clearly.45 As part of her tirade, the noblewoman holds up two behaviors for comparison: the friar’s scheming and young people’s dancing. Dance is obviously the more innocent of the two behaviors, being far less treacherous than Simon’s manipulation of Denise. The noblewoman’s comparison of scheming and dancing is also appropriate given the association between dance and the uncanny that we have already observed in the romance genre and in the tale of the cursed carolers. Without the magical or supernatural events associated with romance, the uncanny elements of fabliaux must arise from mundane means: this is exactly what happens when characters in fabliaux set out to deceive. To the uncritical eye, Friar Simon has performed an amazing feat, more or less transforming a young woman into a young man so that she can achieve her pious goals. The deception fools all but the noblewoman, and even she experiences cognitive dissonance when she first meets Denise: “the lady took to staring at the figure Brother Denise / cuts, mulling over what she sees.”46 Although the lady eventually discerns the truth and convinces Denise to confess, Simon’s deception in this fabliau causes a cognitive dissonance similar to the marvels found in a romance, and the noblewoman finds an appropriate comparison for this uncanny event in dance – an uncanny spectacle in itself.

43 “Freire Denise le Cordelier,” in The Fabliaux, trans. Nathaniel E. Dubin (New York: Liverwright Publishing Corporation, 2013), 78. 44 “acompaignier / au baig.” “Freire Denise le Cordelier,” 84, lines 103–104. 45 “Vos deffendeiz au jones gens / & les dances & les quaroles, / Violes, tabours & citoles / & toz deduiz de menestreiz. / Or me dites, sire haut reiz, / Menoit saint Fransois teile vie? / Bien aveiz honte deservie / Conme faulz traïstre provei.” “Freire Denise le Cordelier,” 92, lines 258–265. 46 “la dame s’abandona / regardeir Frere Denize, sa chiere & son semblant avise.” “Freire Denise le Cordelier,” 88, lines 186–188.

Prefacing the marvelous 49 While French fabliaux present dance as a habitual activity in keeping with the uncanny, English fabliaux employ dance more frequently and in a more consistently uncanny fashion.47 Five of Chaucer’s six fabliaux in the Canterbury Tales incorporate dance in some way: in character descriptions, as imagery, or as an actual event. Chaucer’s fabliaux confirm the central role that dance played in everyday life, but Chaucer also uses dance to emphasize the uncanny elements of his stories more frequently than his French counterparts. Indeed, he alludes to the uncanniness of dance itself in the introduction to the “Shipman’s Tale.” According to the narrator of this tale, dances are a financial burden to husbands: The innocent husband must always pay; he must always clothe and array us richly just so that he may maintain his honor and we may dance with joy.48 This burden comes with the added frustration that there is no tangible benefit for all this expense. The “cheer and reverence” and “salutations and gestures” performed at dance events, as well as the dancing itself, “passen as dooth a shadwe upon the wal”;49 this description of dance passing “like a shadow on the wall” resonates with Chaganti’s description of medieval dance as “virtual forces” that “are apprehensible but of ambiguous reality.”50 Like the money flung at dancing finery, dance in the “Shipman’s Tale” is an ephemeral, ghostly phenomenon that persuades participants and audiences that something has happened, but there is no physical, concrete product as a result of the bodies’ movement. Following this initial meditation on dancing and how to finance it, the plot of the “Shipman’s Tale” again shows how dance can open the door for further uncanny events. In this fabliau, a merchant’s wife requests some money from a sympathetic monk who has become a close family friend. She claims that she needs the money “to array [herself] / next Sunday,” and while she leaves the purpose of the clothing ambiguous, the tale’s opening thoughts on the requisite apparel for dance suggest that this is a dress purchased for the express purpose of Sunday dancing.51 In keeping with the conventions for the fabliau genre, the scheming monk finds a way to trick the wife into having sex with him while 47 Nearly all surviving English fabliaux are attributed to Chaucer, which may explain this consistency. There is only one other surviving Middle English fabliau; its author is anonymous, and the story does not include references to dance. For a discussion of this fabliau and evidence of other fabliaux in English that have not survived in full manuscript form, see John Hines, The Fabliau in English (New York: Longman, 1993). 48 “The sely housbonde, algate he moot paye, / He moot us clothe, and he moot us arraye, / Al for his owene worshipe richely, / In which array we [wives] dance jolily.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, VII.11–14. 49 “chiere and reverence” and “salutaciouns and contenaunces.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, VII.6–8. 50 Chaganti, Strange Footing, 9–12. 51 “myself for to arraye, / A Sonday next.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, VII.179–180.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

losing no money: he borrows the money from the woman’s husband, who is leaving for a business trip; gives it to the woman; enjoys some time in her bed; and later informs the merchant that he didn’t need the money after all and returned it to his wife while he was away. While there is nothing supernatural about the machinations here, the merchant and wife are certainly left confused by the apparent magic: from their perspective, the monk has somehow both borrowed and produced a large sum of money and slept with the merchant’s wife. Moreover, this marvelous effect is permanent since the wife cannot keep the money for her dancing dress without telling her husband what she did to acquire it. Once again, dance in a fabliau allows for uncanny effects for at least some of the characters even through mundane means. In Chaucer’s most famous fabliau, the “Miller’s Tale,” both Alisoun and Absolom are identified as dancers in their initial descriptions, descriptions that may prefigure their participation in the chaotic spectacle at the story’s climax. Near the beginning of the tale, the narrator tells us that Alisoun “knew how to dance and play, / as any young goat or calf following its mother.”52 Notwithstanding the barnyard imagery, the narrator holds Alisoun’s dancing up as one of her most important traits, adding a new dimension to the extended description of her youthful good looks and demeanor. Chaucer provides a similar description for Absolom: perhaps more accomplished than Alisoun, Absolom “knew how to step and dance” in “twenty different ways.”53 Given dance’s uncanny potential exhibited in other texts, these initial descriptions mark Alisoun and Absolom as characters who may experience marvelous events, which certainly occur in true fabliau fashion at the climax of the “Miller’s Tale.” Both of these descriptions are appropriate for characters who are young and lusty, but they are also appropriate for characters who take part in the deception formulated by “handy Nicholas.”54 The comic climax of the “Miller’s Tale” features a complex series of positions and postures orchestrated – one might go so far as to say “choreographed” – by Nicholas to create confusion and cognitive dissonance for other characters and humor for the reader. Nicholas directs Alisoun and John to the roof to escape a second Noah’s flood; Nicholas brings Alisoun back down to the bedroom; Nicholas approves Alisoun’s trick on Absolom and mimics her actions with a different result. While Nicholas causes all of this maneuvering through mundane means, the final effects of the manipulation undeniably cause cognitive dissonance that could be considered uncanny or perhaps even marvelous by several of the characters. Absolom expects to kiss Alisoun’s lips and instead savors her naked arse; Absolom returns expecting to burn Alisoun with a red-hot coulter and instead burns Nicholas; John expects to cut his barrel free to float in the water and ends up falling to the ground and breaking his arm. To the privileged audience – observing at a distance and aware of the dramatic irony – these 52 “koude skippe and make game, / As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, I.3259–3260. 53 “koude . . . trippe and daunce” in “twenty manere.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, I.3328. 54 “hende Nicholas.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, I.3199.

Prefacing the marvelous 51 mistaken events make for great hilarity; but for the characters involved, Nicholas has produced quite the spectacle that the characters likely experience as an exceptionally uncanny event.55 Two critical conclusions about the representation of dance emerge from this survey of French and English fabliaux. First, both French and English fabliaux assume that dance is an expected and integral part of the social fabric of daily life. Second, while dance in both the French and English traditions might be a natural occurrence, it also opens the door for experiences that are initially inexplicable or seemingly supernatural. Although fabliaux reject the magic of the romance genre, they use dance and characters who dance as appropriate points of comparison for a friar who has turned a girl into a boy, a monk who has mysteriously acquired and not acquired a large sum of money, and a houseguest who convinces his host that Noah’s flood has come again. In both the English and French traditions, these stories of ordinary characters and events employ dance to create or reflect cognitive dissonance that can be perceived as an uncanny event, even if caused by mundane means. In these stories that provide a social mirror for the Middle Ages, dance is both common and totally uncommon.

Conclusion: prefacing change We end our survey of dance in popular medieval genres with a Middle English tale that combines elements of both genres: Chaucer’s “Merchant’s Tale.” In this story, the presence of Roman deities and wealthy characters initially suggests a romance, while the final scheme between the young lovers to cuckold the old, infirm husband is more in keeping with a fabliau.56 This kind of genre blending is a common strategy for Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales. As Judith Ferster observes, Chaucer is “a master of generic combination and variation,” and an important element in appreciating the Tales is watching him “meet and evade the requirements of genre.”57 This same genre blending in the “Merchant’s Tale,” though, also provides us a single, unified case study for the meaning of dance in popular medieval literature. At important junctures in the narrative, dance functions much as we have seen in our previous analysis, as both a structural pattern turning the reader toward the main marvels of the narrative and as a metaphor for the deception that occurs at the end of the story. Near the beginning of the tale, January and May’s wedding features several romance conventions, which are ultimately disrupted by fabliau conventions. The 55 A similar pattern begins in the incomplete “Cook’s Tale”; see Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, I.4370–4371. Like Alisoun and Abolsom, Perkin first receives a physical description and then a mention of his favorite pastime: “Dauncen he koude so wel and jolily / That he was cleped Perkyn Revelour.” It is difficult to say what uncanny effects Perkin might experience, though, since the story ends abruptly after the initial introduction of the characters. 56 N. S. Thompson, “The Merchant’s Tale,” in Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, ed. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, vol. 2 (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2009), 479–534. 57 Judith Ferster, “Genre in and of the Canterbury Tales,” in A Concise Companion to Chaucer, ed. Corinne Saunders (Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell, 2006), 181, 196.


Clint Morrison, Jr. and Sarah B. Rude

romance elements include the attendance of Venus, who is portrayed “laugh[ing] at every man. . . . And with her torch in her hand, [she] dances before the bride and all the company.”58 Venus’s dancing and the brief reference to the regular human wedding guests who “dance and drink their fill” are certainly spectacles in themselves, but they are not the wedding episode’s climatic marvel.59 Instead, as we have seen in the romances discussed earlier, Chaucer uses dance as a transition to the main marvel for both May and the reader, although this spectacle’s uncanniness subverts readers’ romance expectations. In the scene immediately following these dances, Chaucer lingers over a portrait of the elderly January in bed with his young bride. January first “kisses her several times / with the thick, course bristles of his beard” and exclaims that like a good workman, he will make love to May “at perfect leisure.”60 He begins to sing, and “the slack skin around his neck quivers / as he chants and croaks so intensely.”61 May remains a silent spectator throughout January’s performance, and Chaucer can only speculate about her thoughts on her new husband: “God only knows what May thought in her heart / when she saw him sitting like this in his nightshirt.”62 Chaucer provides here an image that is an uncanny spectacle of fabliau rather than the marvel of romance. The cognitive dissonance of the finale’s marvel is also more appropriate to fabliau, despite its supernatural elements. In a scheme worthy of a fabliau, May climbs onto the back of the now-blind January and into the same pear tree where her lover Damian awaits, and the result is: “suddenly did Damian / pull up her smock, and in he thrust.”63 The fairies Pluto and Proserpina – who earlier had danced in the garden – witness the event, and both provide a supernatural effect to the scene.64 Pluto restores January’s eyesight so that he can catch his wife in the act, and Proserpina, herself a victim of a forced – and not wholly satisfying – marriage, provides May with an excuse. May’s claim that “there was nothing better for healing your eyes and making you see than to ‘struggle’ with a man upon a tree” is flimsy at best, but Proserpina’s supernatural influence convinces January that he was mistaken, and he revels in his regained eyesight.65 While there is “real” magic here appropriate to romance, the marvel itself is as simple as a young wife cheating on her impotent husband; the cognitive dissonance

58 “laugheth upon every wight, / . . . / And with hire fyrbrond in hire hand about / Danuceth biforn the bryde and al the route.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.1723–1729. 59 “daunce and drynken faste.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.1769. 60 “kisseth hire ful ofte; / with thikke brustles of his berd unsofte” . . . “at leyser parfitly.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.1824–1834. 61 “[t]he slakke skyn aboute his nekke shaketh / Whil that he sang, so caunteth he and craketh.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.1829–1830. 62 “God woot what that May thoughte in hir herte, / Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.1851–1852. 63 “sodeynly anon this Damyan / Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng.” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.2352–2353. 64 Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.2038–2041. 65 “to heele with youre eyen, / Was no thyng bet, to make yow see, / Than strugle with a man upon a tree” Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, IV.2373–2374.

Prefacing the marvelous 53 experienced by January here parallels the dissonance discussed in other fabliaux. Here, and throughout the “Merchant’s Tale,” the blurring of the genres captures these structural features: dance precedes an uncanny marvel, and dance reflects the dissonance of deceit. Whether a story is a romance, fabliau, or a blend of the two, dance in popular medieval literature serves as a preface to the central marvel or as a metaphor for the uncanny. Nearly two decades ago, Joanna E. Ziegler asserted that “dance is dead in the Middle Ages. Dead to us . . . not to the Middle Ages.”66 But it doesn’t have to be. The brilliant work done by Chaganti, Lynneth Miller, Kathryn Dickason, and Jennifer Nevile has breathed life into a field that Ziegler once declared dead. Our brief survey on dance representations in French and English romance and fabliau merely scratches the surface of the available materials and the potential for how meditating on dance in these medieval texts will continue opening new avenues of analysis. Like Kölbigk’s cursed dancers, dance was never dead in these literary texts; rather, dance was overlooked, even though it likely provided an essential framework for contemporary readers to gain meaning from these texts and simultaneously reinforced existing attitudes about dance as an uncanny phenomenon.

Further reading Chaganti, Seeta. Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2018. Chaganti, Seeta. “Terpsichorean Form: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.” In The Medieval Literary Beyond Form, edited by Robert J. Meyer-Lee and Catherine Sanok, 185–212. Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2018. https://doi. org/10.1017/9781787442191.009. Dickason, Kathryn. “Caroling Like Clockwork: Technologies of the Medieval Dancing Body in Dante’s Paradiso.” Dance Chronicle: Studies in Dance and Related Arts 41, no. 3 (2018): 303–334. Karnes, Michelle. “Marvels in the Medieval Imagination.” Speculum 90, no. 2 (2015): 327–365. Mullally, Robert. The Carole: A Study of a Medieval Dance. Surrey: Ashgate, 2011. Page, Christopher. The Owl & the Nightingale: Musical Life and Ideas in France 1100– 1300. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1989. Stampone, Christopher. “Choreographing Fin’ amor: Dance and the Game of Love in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde.” The Chaucer Review 50, no. 3–4 (2015): 393–419. Williams, Tara. Middle English Marvels: Magic, Spectacle, and Morality in the Fourteenth Century. College Park: Penn State University Press, 2018. Ziegler, Joanna E. “Skipping Like Camels: Or Why Medieval Studies Neglects the Dance.” Medieval Feminist Forum 32, no. 1 (2001): 24–31.

66 Joanna E. Ziegler, “Skipping Like Camels: Or Why Medieval Studies Neglects the Dance,” Medieval Feminist Forum 32, no. 1 (2001): 24.

Part 2

Carolers and contexts


The cursed carolers as crusaders in twelfth-century Flanders Bradley Phillis*

Introduction On July 28, 1148, the Frankish forces of the Second Crusade retreated from the walls of the Syrian city of Damascus after besieging it for a mere four days. It was a major victory for the Turkish Zangid dynasty and a complete fiasco for the Franks.1 Many of the leading men of the Frankish world had staked their reputations – and that of God himself – on the crusade’s success. Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, had preached the crusade throughout France and the Holy Roman Empire in the months before its departure, performing hundreds of miracles in the process and claiming that the campaign had divine approval.2 As a result of such activity, the crusade’s failure demanded explanation. A number of the great intellectuals of the twelfth century took up the matter. Thinkers such as Hildegard of Bingen, Otto of Freising, and Gerhoh of Reichersberg devoted time in the 1150s and 1160s to rethinking the importance of crusade in response to the disaster of 1148.3 Despite this concern about the significance of the Second Crusade, there was a pointed lack of interest in chronicling the event itself. Unlike the First Crusade, which was commemorated by more than a dozen histories within a few decades of its completion in 1099, the Second Crusade did not spark the composition of

* I would like to thank Leah Pope Parker, Lynneth Miller Renberg, Jeff Rider, and Lauren Whitnah for reading drafts of this chapter and offering numerous suggestions for improvement; naturally, any errors that remain are my own. I would also like to thank the librarians of the KBR in Brussels, the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, and especially Jean Vilbas of the Bibliothèque Marceline Desbordes-Valmore in Douai for their kindness, generosity, and patience in assisting me with my archival work. 1 On the siege of Damascus, see Paul Cobb, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 137–142; Jonathan Phillips, The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 207–227. 2 Phillips, The Second Crusade, 80–98; Jay Rubenstein, Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: The Crusades, Apocalyptic Prophecy, and the End of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 101–122. 3 Rubenstein, Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, 123–164.


Bradley Phillis

many narrative texts. It was the subject of only one full-length historical work, Odo of Deuil’s De profectione Ludovici VII in orientem, which did not enjoy a wide readership.4 In the words of Virginia Berry, who edited Odo’s history in the mid-twentieth century, the Franks’ “patent lack of success discouraged men from writing histories of the expedition.”5 The failure of the Second Crusade did, however, cause a surge in the commemoration of the First Crusade. Indeed, the production of books containing accounts of the First Crusade seems to have increased conspicuously in the quarter century after the Frankish defeat at Damascus. For instance, the earliest books containing Robert the Monk’s Historia Iherosolimitana – which would become the mostcopied Latin chronicle of the First Crusade in the Middle Ages – date from the 1150s.6 One of these early copies of Robert’s Historia was part of a cluster of crusade books produced in the quarter century after the Second Crusade in monasteries located along the river Scarpe, on the southern border of the county of Flanders. These codices interwove the triumphant story of the First Crusade and accounts of more recent events in the Latin East while omitting any direct discussion of the Second Crusade. Several of these Flemish crusade books incorporate a short text that tells the story of the cursed carolers of Kölbigk: the Relatio miraculi in regione Saxonum facti, or “Account of a miracle done in the region of Saxony.”7 This text is, at first glance, a surprising inclusion. None of the other texts in these codices have anything to do with dancing, Saxony, or Saint Magnus, whose intercession ultimately saves most of the dancers in this version of the story. Furthermore, these books contain no other exempla or miracle stories that are not directly related to crusading. Something, however, made the story of the cursed carolers special enough to merit inclusion in these codices. In what follows, I argue that the scribes working at the major Flemish monasteries along the Scarpe interpreted the story of the cursed carolers as a moral commentary on the failure of the Second Crusade. They

4 There is only one surviving manuscript of the De profectione. For a recent assessment of Odo’s agenda, see Stephen J. Spencer, “Feelings of Betrayal and Echoes of the First Crusade in Odo of Deuil’s De profectione Ludovici VII in Orientem,” Historical Research 92, no. 258 (November 2019): 657–679, In the absence of chronicle evidence, our best eyewitness and contemporary accounts of the crusade are often found in annals and local histories; see Giles Constable, “The Second Crusade as Seen by Contemporaries,” Traditio 9 (1953): 213–279, 5 Odo of Deuil, De profectione Ludovici VII in orientem, ed. Virginia Gingerick Berry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948), xiv. 6 For a complete list of manuscripts with their dates of creation, see Damien Kempf and Marcus Bull, introduction to Historia Iherosolimitana, by Robert the Monk, ed. Damien Kempf and Marcus Bull (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2013), lxv–lxxiv. 7 This tale tells the story of a group of men and women who dance a circle dance called a carole in the graveyard of the church in Kölbigk, Saxony on Christmas, are cursed by their priest for doing so, and have to keep dancing for a year until the curse is lifted by the intercession of Saint Magnus. For a more detailed overview of the tale, see Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis, “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes” in this book.

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


then transformed it into a crusade text for their readers through their decisions about how and where to copy it.

The manuscripts The Relatio miraculi appears in three Flemish manuscripts copied during the third quarter of the twelfth century: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 5129, from the abbey of Saint-Amand; Brussels, KBR, MS 9823–34, which seems to have been produced at the abbey of Marchiennes with help from the monks of Saint-Amand and perhaps the abbey of Anchin; and Douai, Bibliothèque Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, MS 365, copied at Anchin, which was Marchiennes’s daughter house.8 These three Benedictine monasteries lay a mere twenty kilometers apart on the Scarpe on the northern border of the region called the Ostrevant. They were just east of the city of Douai, which was a major stronghold of the counts of Flanders in the second half of the twelfth century.9 Thierry of Alsace (r. 1128–1168), who was among the most prolific crusaders of the age, supported these houses throughout the mid-twelfth century, favoring SaintAmand and Marchiennes in particular.10 As a result, the area became a center of crusade historiography. These Flemish manuscripts are part of a larger family of books that transmit the Relatio miraculi, which is attributed to one of the actual carolers named Otbert (or Osbert). Edward Schröder, whose 1897 article “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk” remains the basis for later studies of the tale’s transmission, identifies eight manuscripts that relate this version of the story.11 Of these eight manuscripts, three – BnF lat. 5129; KBR 9823–34; and Reims, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 1410 (olim K. 786) – form a subfamily that includes a short prologue framing the story as a letter sent from the people of Saxony “to all those loving God and embracing His powerful works with praise.”12 Schröder does not seem to have known of the existence of Douai 365, but it is also part of the aforementioned 8 By the twelfth century, Anchin was more powerful than Marchiennes; on Anchin’s twelfth-century prominence and its relationship with its parent house, see Jean-Pierre Gerzaguet, L’Abbaye d’Anchin de sa foundation (1079) au XIVe siècle: Essor, Vie et Rayonnement d’une grande communauté bénédictine (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires Septentrion, 1997), 185–212. 9 For the medieval Ostrevant and a map showing the relative locations of these three institutions, see Étienne Delcambre, “L’Ostrevent du IXe au XIIIe siècle, avec une carte hors texte,” Le Moyen Âge: Revue d’histoire et de philology 37 (January–April 1927): 241–279, id/584158. 10 Thérèse de Hemptinne and Michel Parisse, “Thierry d’Alsace, comte de Flandre: Biographie et actes,” Annales de l’Est 43 (1991): 109. 11 Edward Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk. Ein Mirakel des 11. Jahrhunderts,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 17 (1897): 96–99. Schröder also identifies two works, including William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum, that transmit slightly different versions of the tale but name Otbert as their source. 12 “Omnibus Deum diligentibus et magnalia eius magnificando amplectentibus.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101. Schröder’s published edition of the Relatio miraculi matches the versions present in the manuscripts discussed here apart from minor orthographical differences;


Bradley Phillis

subfamily (henceforward the “Prologue group”), for it begins with the characteristic prologue. Douai 365 evinces a particularly close relationship with BnF lat. 5129, with which it shares a number of distinctive spellings.13 They also share, along with KBR 9823–34, a gloss over the name of Bishop Peregrine of Cologne indicating that his name could also be spelled “Pilegrinus.”14 This gloss is absent in Reims 1410. Schröder does not provide a stemma in his study of the Kölbigk dancers, and the small number of variants makes it difficult to tease out the relationships between these manuscripts on the basis of textual analysis alone. Fortunately, however, other features of the manuscripts clarify matters. Several of the codices can actually be dated to fairly narrow windows. André Boutemy has shown that BnF lat. 5129, the Saint-Amand manuscript, must have been copied between the Second Crusade and the death of Pope Eugenius III; that is, between 1148 and 1153.15 Shortly after its creation, BnF lat. 5129 served as an exemplar for KBR 9823–34, which was probably copied at Marchiennes between 1164 and 1173.16 Given the close relationship between the versions of the Relatio miraculi transmitted in BnF lat. 5129 and Douai 365, it also seems likely that the text was copied from the former into the latter sometime after 1157, for the Douai manuscript also contains two letters written in that year. While the manuscript itself provides no terminus ante quem, the hands present in the book suggest that it was copied in the twelfth century. Thus, three of the four books in the Prologue group were copied in close physical proximity during a relatively short window in the third quarter of the twelfth century. In light of the preceding analysis, Reims 1410 is a clear outlier from the Prologue group. It is the only codex of the four that was not copied along the Scarpe; instead, it was owned by the abbey of Saint-Thierry, which lay just a few kilometers outside of the city of Reims. Consequently, it is also the only codex in the Prologue group that belonged to a monastery without strong ties to the counts of Flanders, for though Saint-Thierry had connections with Anchin, Saint-Amand, and Marchiennes – all four houses were part of a network of Benedictine monasteries


14 15


consequently, I cite it throughout this article rather than the codices themselves. All translations from the Latin are my own. The only non-orthographic difference between the versions in these two manuscripts is a slight difference in word order: BnF 5129 gives “sed ut ita cepimus” toward the end of the tale, while Douai 365 gives “sed ita ut cepimus.” Among the notable shared spellings in BnF 5129 and Douai 365 are “sollemniis” and “cimiterio”; all of the proper names in the story (Mersent, Robertus, Otbertus, Michahelis, etc.) are also spelled identically. See Paris, BnF, MS lat. 5129, fols. 67vb–68rb; and Douai, Bibliothèque Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, MS 365, fol. 3r. This gloss appears on fol. 147rb of KBR 9823–34. For the location of the same gloss in the Paris and Douai codices, see the reference in note 13. Boutemy narrows this range even further to 1150–1153, but his rationale for doing so is not compelling; see André Boutemy, “Le recueil poétique du manuscrit latin 5129 de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris,” Scriptorium 2, no. 1 (1948): 52–55, I am currently preparing an article outlining the evidence to back this claim.

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


that embraced Cluniac reforms in the early twelfth century17 – it did not share their relationship with the Flemish counts. Finally, Reims 1410 is the only surviving codex in the group in which the Relatio miraculi appears alongside hagiographical texts rather than historical texts.18 In Reims 1410, which is the second volume of the abbey of Saint-Thierry’s twelfth-century legendarium, the text is sandwiched between a life of the fourth-century Saint Severin of Cologne and the passio of Pope Urban I.19 The most likely reason for the inclusion of the Relatio miraculi in the Saint-Thierry legendary is that the dancers in the story are saved by the intercession of one Heribert, Saint Severin’s spiritual descendant as bishop of Cologne and himself a saint. Otherwise, the story seems out of place; the rest of the texts in the legendary relate the lives and miracles of much earlier saints. Whatever the reason for the inclusion of the Relatio miraculi in Reims 1410, it clearly did not have anything to do with crusading. In the other three manuscripts of the Prologue group, however, crusade is a primary, if not the primary, focus. It was in these manuscripts that the scribes of the Ostrevant transformed the Relatio miraculi into something other than a miracle story about dancing.

The cursed carolers in crusade books Though the story of the cursed carolers is well known, scholars have devoted relatively little attention to its manuscript context.20 Schröder discusses the codices that transmit the tale at length, but his interest springs from a desire to understand the process of transmission rather than from an interest in how the context in which the tale was transmitted might have affected its meaning or purpose. Understanding the tale’s meaning and purpose is, however, essential to explaining the relatively sudden interest in the Relatio miraculi that emerged in twelfthcentury Flanders. As a short text that typically occupies no more than a single manuscript leaf, the Relatio was always copied with other texts that shape its interpretation. And in the Flemish manuscripts of the Prologue group, these other texts relate to crusading.

17 On this network, see Johan Belaen, “Abbots, Confraternities, and Monastic Mobility: A ‘Cluniac Nebula’ in the Ecclesiastical Province of Reims (c. 1100–1300),” in Abbots and Abbesses as a Human Resource in the Ninth- to Twelfth-Century West, ed. Steven Vanderputten (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2018), 125–150; Steven Vanderputten, “The First ‘General Chapter’ of Benedictine Abbots (1131) Reconsidered,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 66, no. 4 (October 2015): 715–734, 18 For a description of the contents of this manuscript, see Catalogue Générale des Manuscrits des Bibliothèque publiques des Départements, vol. 39, Reims (Paris: Libraire Plon, 1904), 635–643. 19 Catalogue Generale, vol. 39, Reims, 640. Images of the manuscript are available online via the BVMM; see “REIMS, Bibliothèque municipale, 1410 (K. 786),” Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux, accessed March 1, 2020, php?reproductionId=18044. 20 For a noteworthy exception, see Krista Murchison, “The Readers of the Manuel des péchés Revisited,” Philological Quarterly 95, no. 2 (2016): 161–199,


Bradley Phillis

Two of the three Flemish crusade books that carry the Relatio miraculi can be characterized as deluxe manuscripts. Both BnF lat. 5129 and KBR 9823–34 feature neat hands and colorful initials that are the work of master illustrators.21 They are also copied on parchment of relatively high quality, particularly the latter. These books contain lengthy crusade histories (most notably Robert the Monk’s Historia Iherosolimitana), itineraries of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, poems about crusading (and other subjects), and a variety of other crusade-related texts.22 As noted earlier, BnF lat. 5129 actually served as one of the exemplars from which KBR 9823–34 was copied, so they share a number of texts beyond the Relatio miraculi. Even so, they frame the tale of the cursed carolers in different ways. BnF lat. 5129 was copied between 1148 and 1153 as part of the broad literary response to the failure of the Second Crusade discussed in the introduction to this chapter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it takes a bleak view of the trajectory of the crusading movement. Although it includes a number of texts that celebrate the triumph of the First Crusade, such as the Historia Iherosolimitana, it also incorporates a verse lament for the failure of the Second Crusade, the so-called “Lamentum Lacrymabile,” that enjoins Jerusalem itself to mourn for the crusaders.23 As we have seen, it took the leading intellectuals of Europe much of the third quarter of the twelfth century to work out their explanations for the crusade’s failure. Consequently, the Saint-Amand scribes who created BnF lat. 5129 did not have access to any written texts that could explain why the crusading movement had miscarried so badly. This did not prevent them, however, from incorporating their own conclusions in their new book. They used the Relatio miraculi as a pivot to move between the triumphal narrative of the First Crusade and the failure of the Second, copying it between Robert’s Historia, with its accompanying itineraries, and the “Lamentum Lacrymabile.”24 Placed between texts about the First and Second Crusades, the divine punishment meted out to the sinful dancers in the Relatio miraculi for defying priestly instruction becomes an argument that the fault for the Second Crusade’s failure lay with Christians who, when they should have been attending to the divinely ordained work of crusading, chose instead to pursue other ventures. They were like the carolers who, in Otbert’s words, “danced and sang in a circle in the cemetery at the devil’s urging when [they] ought to have been attending to the solemnities of the mass.”25 21 Nothing is known of the illustrator who provided the initials in KBR 9823–34. On Sawalo, the artist who produced the decorated initials in BnF lat. 5129, see André Boutemy, “Quelques aspects de l’oeuvre de Sawalon, decorateur de manuscrits à l’abbaye de Saint-Amand,” Revue belge d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art 9 (1939), 299–316, 22 For a brief discussion of the role that these two manuscripts play in the transmission history of Robert’s Historia, see Kempf and Bull, introduction to Historia Iherosolimitana, xlii–xlvii. 23 The title “Lamentum Lacrymabile” seems to have come from Migne; it is not present in either BnF lat. 5129 or KBR 9823–34. For the text of the poem, see PL 155:1095–1098. 24 For a complete list of contents of BnF lat. 5129, see Boutemy, “Le recueil poétique,” 47–51. 25 “Qui . . . cum missarum sollempniis interesse deberemus, suadente diabolo choros in cimiterio duximus.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101.

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


The decision to use the story of the cursed carolers to move from an account of the First Crusade to a lament for the Second was an inspired choice by the scribes of Saint-Amand. The idea that the sin of the crusaders had caused the failure of the Second Crusade was widespread in the mid-twelfth century.26 However, it was potentially imprudent to attribute the expedition’s lack of success to any particular sinner or sin. As an allegory, the story of the cursed carolers had the virtue of being wholly unspecific about the identities and crimes of the individuals who were responsible for the failure of the Second Crusade. Some readers surely identified the dancers as the nobles from the Kingdom of Jerusalem who, according to William of Tyre, had betrayed the Christian forces during their siege of Damascus in 1148.27 For others, the tale served as a critique of knights who did not take the cross. It may even have been read as a criticism of Count Thierry of Flanders, who, though a great patron and friend of Saint-Amand, was rumored to have damaged relations between the crusaders and the local nobility of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1148 by seeking (and obtaining) assurances from Louis VII of France, Conrad III of Germany, and Baldwin III of Jerusalem that he would be granted the city of Damascus after it fell.28 The Relatio miraculi could be read as a rebuke of any and all of these figures without actually naming names. The ambiguity of the tale would also have allowed different interpretations depending on who was reading BnF lat. 5129. Though the manuscript was probably intended primarily for private monastic reading (like most Latin histories of the twelfth century), it could also have furnished lectiones for meals or chapter meetings. In the latter context, the Relatio miraculi may have provided readers with an opportunity to offer their own interpretations to listeners as spoken asides.29 As a deluxe book, BnF lat. 5129 may also have been shown and even read to important lay guests, especially if those lay guests were interested in crusading. It is tempting to imagine that the monks might have shown the book to Count Thierry himself. As noted earlier, the count was involved in Saint-Amand’s affairs: he granted the monks land in 1142,30 intervened to protect their property from usurpation in 1154,31 confirmed the expulsion of a usurping advocate in 1163,32 and confirmed a gift to the abbey after he returned from his fourth crusade

26 Elizabeth Siberry, Criticism of Crusading, 1095–1274 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 69–108; Martin Aurell, Des chrétiens contre les croisades (XIIe–XIIIe siècle) (Paris: Fayard, 2013), 52–94. 27 William of Tyre, Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum, ed. R.B.C. Huygens (Turnhout: Brepols, 1986), XVII.5, 765–767. All references to the Historia include book, chapter, and page numbers. 28 See William of Tyre, Chronique, XVII.7, 768–769. Jonathan Phillips notes the plausibility of this accusation, though he stops short of endorsing it; see Phillips, The Second Crusade, 222. 29 I am grateful to Lynneth Miller Renberg for suggesting this possibility. 30 “DiBe 4974,” Diplomata Belgica, Koninklijke Commissie voor Geschiedenis, accessed August 5, 2020, 31 DiBe 467,” Diplomata Belgica, Koninklijke Commissie voor Geschiedenis, accessed August 5, 2020, 32 DiBe 5273,” Diplomata Belgica, Koninklijke Commissie voor Geschiedenis, accessed August 5, 2020,


Bradley Phillis

in 1166.33 Though none of these acts were explicitly given at Saint-Amand, it is reasonable to think that Thierry visited the monastery during the period in which they were given. It would have been to the monks’ advantage to show off the book during such a visit and thus important that it not directly attack the count’s behavior on crusade. However, by the time KBR 9823–34 was created, sometime between 1164 and 1173, attitudes toward crusading in southern Flanders had changed.34 The military and diplomatic situation in the East was precarious throughout the 1150s and 1160s, prompting the clergy and nobility of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to send repeated requests for aid to the western Franks.35 While most Franks were skeptical of calls for new expeditions, as they had been ever since the Second Crusade, Count Thierry undertook two more crusades to Jerusalem, in 1157–1158 and 1164–1166.36 Rather than critiquing crusaders, then, the scribe who copied KBR 9823–34 likely wished to encourage men to emulate Thierry by going to the aid of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; it is even possible, given the care taken in its creation, that the codex itself may have been intended for a lay nobleman.37 To that end, the scribe did not choose to include the “Lamentum Lacrymabile” from BnF lat. 5129 in his new crusade book, perhaps because its pessimistic tone and dour reminders of the failure of 1148 were unlikely to inspire men to go on crusade. The copyist chose to retain the Relatio miraculi from BnF lat. 5129 while creating KBR 9823–34. Without the “Lamentum Lacrymabile,” however, the story of the cursed carolers takes on a new meaning. It still rebukes the sort of sinful inattention to God’s work that had caused the failure of the Second Crusade according to the copyists of the Saint-Amand codex. However, in KBR 9823–34 this rebuke serves as a warning rather than an indictment, for the Brussels codex looks forward rather than backward. That the manuscript looks to the future rather than the past is demonstrated most clearly by the presence of a letter written to King Louis VII of France by Aimery of Limoges, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, in 1164, one of a number sent from the crusader states to Louis in the third quarter of the twelfth century asking him to mount a new crusade.38 There is no reference in the codex to any reply or response from Louis, but readers in Flanders would 33 DiBe 5306,” Diplomata Belgica, Koninklijke Commissie voor Geschiedenis, accessed August 5, 2020, 34 The creation of KBR 9823–34 can be dated on the basis of its contents and its use in the revision of another manuscript, Douai, Bibliothèque Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, MS 882. I am preparing an article analyzing this process of revision. 35 Jonathan Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations between the Latin East and the West, 1119–1187 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 100–224. 36 On Frankish reticence to mount new expeditions, see Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land, 100–139. 37 On another Latin book given to a lay leader for precisely this purpose, see Jay Rubenstein, “Putting History to Use: Three Crusade Chronicles in Context,” Viator 35 (2004): 131–168, https://doi. org/10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.300195. 38 Brussels, KBR, MS 9823–34, fols. 125vb–126vb. For the published text of the letter, see Regis Ludovici VII et variorum ad eum volumen epistolarum, ed. Martin Bouquet, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, vol. 16 (Poitiers, 1878), no. 196, 61–62. On letters and other entreaties

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


have known that Count Thierry himself had answered Aimery’s call by taking the cross for a fourth time in 1164. Yet the codex does not mention Thierry’s crusade, either. Instead, it leaves the call from the East unanswered. Though the two texts are separated in KBR 9823–34, there is good reason to think that Aimery’s request for aid is meant to contextualize the warning offered by the tale of the cursed carolers in the Relatio miraculi. All of the short texts that lie between Aimery’s letter and the Relatio miraculi are descriptive, taking the reader on a tour of the holy places and listing the popes and religious leaders of the important sites in the Holy Land all the way back to the time of Christ.39 These texts show the reader what is at stake in Aimery’s plea for help. Then the Relatio miraculi reminds the reader of the consequences of refusing to do God’s work when called. The codex leaves the reader with a decision to make – will he answer the call and go to the East, or will he allow the devil to drive him to some other activity instead? Even without an explicit reference to the Second Crusade, any knowledgeable reader of the twelfth century would have remembered what the consequences of such a choice had been in 1147–1148. In summary, the scribes who copied BnF lat. 5129 and KBR 9823–34 used the story of the cursed carolers as a moral commentary on the failure of the Second Crusade. In the context of these books, the purpose of the Relatio miraculi is to remind readers that there are real consequences for failing to do God’s work. Why the scribes at Saint-Amand chose to use the Relatio miraculi for this purpose rather than some other miracle text is something of a mystery. Other historians, including William of Malmesbury and Lambert of Hersfeld, had included the story of the cursed carolers in narrative histories much earlier, so it was not exactly an obscure tale.40 Whatever their reason for choosing it, the Saint-Amand scribes’ strategy of using the tale of the cursed carolers to comment on particular historical events was successful enough to be emulated by the copyist of KBR 9823–34 more than a decade later.41 sent to Louis from the East between 1163 and 1165 (including this one), see Phillips, Defenders of the Holy Land, 140–149. 39 For the contents of KBR 9823–34, see Frédéric Lyna, Catalogue des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, vol. 11, Histoire de Hollande. Mélanges d’histoire – Géographie. Voyages, itinéraires, expeditions (Ronse: J. Leherte-Courtin et Fils, 1927), 295–297. 40 See William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. R.A.B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), II.174.i, 294; Lambert of Hersfeld, Libelli de institutione Herveldensis ecclesiae, in Lamperti monachi hersfeldensis Opera, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger, MGH SS rer. Germ. 38 (Hannover, 1894), 351. 41 It is possible that the Relatio miraculi was already paired with Robert the Monk’s Historia Iherosolimitana in the exemplar from which BnF lat. 5129 was copied. As already noted, Reims 1410 belonged to the abbey of Saint-Thierry, which lay less than ten kilometers northwest of the cathedral at Reims, and the author of the Historia claims in his apologeticus sermo that he wrote in “the cloister of a certain cell of Saint-Rémi established in the diocese of Reims” [claustrum cuiusdam celle sancti Remigii constitute in episcopate Remensi]. As Kempf and Bull note in their introduction to the Historia, this means that the history was likely written at a priory of Saint-Rémi, possibly Saint-Oricle of Sénuc (a house associated with a former abbot of Saint-Rémi who is usually identified as the text’s author), and the author goes out of his way to emphasize his connection


Bradley Phillis

The Relatio miraculi as a crusade text The story of the cursed carolers told in the Relatio miraculi can only work as an allegorical commentary on the failure of the Second Crusade in BnF lat. 5129 and KBR 9823–34 because of the texts that accompany it. These texts – especially the “Lamentum Lacrymabile” in the former and the Aimery of Limoges letter in the latter – do the rhetorical heavy lifting required to transform an eleventh-century miracle story into a twelfth-century warning. In the third Flemish codex of the Prologue group, however, things are different. Though Douai 365 transmits the same version of the tale of the cursed carolers as BnF lat. 5129 and KBR 9823–34, it does so in a very different kind of book and within a different constellation of texts. Unlike BnF lat. 5129 and KBR 9823–34, Douai 365 is not a book about the crusades. Instead, it is a twelfth-century compilation of the works of Hugh of Saint-Victor that includes De vanitate mundi, the Tractatus de Trinitate, De tribus maximis circumstantiis gestorum, and a collection of Hugh’s sententiae, as well as a number of other works.42 Though well-crafted, it is not a particularly fancy manuscript and was probably intended for devotional reading or, perhaps, to teach novices how to read correctly.43 Thus, in contrast to the other two Flemish manuscripts in the Prologue group, Douai 365 was not intended to make an overarching rhetorical point about the nature of crusading. In fact, there is only one text in the entire manuscript overtly concerned with crusade. This crusade text is part of a short cycle of texts copied into the beginning of the codex. This prefatory cycle comprises five texts, copied on the first four pages of the codex (fols. 1v–3r). Four of the texts were written by a single scribe: a letter written by Adrian IV to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1157 (fol. 1va); the emperor’s response (fol. 1va–b); a letter written by a Flemish priest named Arnulf describing the capture of Lisbon during the Second Crusade (fol. 2ra–vb); and, finally, the Relatio miraculi in regione Saxonum facti (fol. 3r). Someone – perhaps the same scribe or perhaps a rough contemporary – squeezed a fifth text onto the bottom of fol. 2vb, between the Lisbon letter and the Relatio miraculi; this is a short report of the debate between Gilbert de la Porrée and Bernard of Clairvaux at the Council of Reims in 1148.44 This appears to be an addition to the prefatory

to both Saint-Rémi and to Reims. Given that the medieval library at Saint-Rémi included multiple copies of the Historia Iherosolimitana, the decision to juxtapose Robert’s history and the Relatio miraculi may have been made there or at Saint-Thierry. On Robert the Monk and the authorship of the Historia, see Kempf and Bull, introduction to Historia Iherosolimitana, xxvi–xxxiv. 42 For a complete list of contents, see Catalogue Générale des Manuscrits des Bibliothèque publiques des Départements, vol. 6, Douai (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1878), 197–199. 43 On De tribus maximis circumstantiis gestorum (listed in the Catalogue Générale as De tribus locis), see William H. Green, “Hugo of St Victor: De Tribus Maximis Circumstantiis Gestorum,” Speculum 18, no. 4 (October 1943): 484–493, 44 For the council and an analysis of the passages present in this manuscript, see Jean Leclerq, Recueil d’études sur Saint Bernard et ses écrits (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1966), II:341–347. The papal and imperial letters are also present in the Anchin continuation of Sigebert of Gembloux’s

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


cycle: it is rubricated differently than the other four texts, features smaller letters and more abbreviations, and overruns the end of the ruling by three lines. Since it does not appear to have been part of the original prefatory cycle, it is not considered in the following analysis. The relationship of the short text cycle at the beginning of Douai 365 and the works of Hugh of Saint-Victor that make up the bulk of the book is not completely clear. The same scribe who copied the prefatory cycle appears to have copied the Victorine material; however, the texts in the former lack the running headers, colored capitals, and ornate zoomorphic initials present in the latter, and they seem in general to have been copied with less care. The prefatory cycle and the beginning of the first book of Hugh of Saint-Victor’s De vanitate mundi are written in the same quire, which has been pricked for thirty-eight lines to the column, but while De vanitate mundi is copied exclusively on the lines provided, the scribe added additional lines to the bottom of many of the columns on fols. 1v–2v. This indicates that he worried that he might run out of space as he copied the cycle of short texts, suggesting that the beginning of De vanitate mundi was already present on fol. 3v when he began work on the short texts. Thus, the scribe seems to have copied the Victorine material first, but planned to add something to the beginning of the codex from the start. Whether the prefatory cycle he ultimately copied was intended from the beginning is impossible to say.45 Although only one of the texts in the prefatory cycle – the Lisbon letter – is explicitly concerned with a crusade, all of them have historical relevance for the crusading movement. The exchange of letters between Adrian IV and Frederick Barbarossa, for example, highlights the arguments over how to balance papal primacy and imperial prerogative that had been at the center of the conflict between popes and emperors since the Investiture Controversy. Adrian begins his missive to Frederick by noting that “divine law, just as it promises longevity of life to those honoring their parents, threatens nothing less than a sentence of death for those who slander their father and mother.”46 He then takes the emperor to task,

Chronicon, on which see Mireille Chazan, L’Empire et l’histoire universelle: De Sigebert de Gembloux à Jean de Saint-Victor (XIIe-XIVe siècle) (Paris: Editions Champion, 1999), 328–331. 45 The scribe may have wished to leave some space for short historical texts to be used as analysis exercises for students learning about how to read history from Hugh’s texts – as noted earlier, the De tribus maximis circumstantiis gestorum, which teaches the basics of historical reading, is among the texts copied in this manuscript. See Green, “Hugh of St. Victor: De Tribus Maximis Circumstantiis Gestorum,” 484–493. Green does not include Douai 365 in his list of manuscript copies of the De tribus, perhaps because it bears a different title in the catalog. For the text in situ, which ends at 491, line 33 of Green’s edition of the De tribus, see Douai 365, fols. 141r–143r. 46 “Lex divina, sicut parentes honorantibus vite longevitatem repromittit, ita maledicentibus patri et matri sententiam nichilominus mortis intendit.” Sigebert of Gembloux, Chronographia, ed. L. C. Bethmann, MGH SS 6 (Stuttgart, 1844), 408. As with the Relatio miraculi, I have cited published versions of the material in the prefatory cycle in Douai 365, and all translations are my own.


Bradley Phillis

not only for various injustices committed against the clergy and against papal rights but also for having poor epistolary etiquette: I wonder not a little, my beloved son in the Lord, at your judgment, that you seem to show less reverence than you ought to Blessed Peter and the holy Roman church entrusted to him. For in letters sent to us, you place your name before ours, and in so doing you assume the stamp of insolence (not to say arrogance). What shall I say concerning the fidelity you promised and owed to the Blessed Peter and to us, and how you observe it, you who require homage from those who are all of God and his Highest son, namely bishops, you who demand fealty from them, who entangle their consecrated hands in your own, and you who, having been made manifestly more hostile to us, close to the cardinals sent out from our side not only the churches, but even the cities of your kingdom?47 Frederick’s response is a tour-de-force of self-assured sass. He rebuts Adrian’s complaints point-by-point while mimicking the style and vocabulary of the papal letter, responding to the pope’s invocation of divine law [lex divina] with the claim that “the law of justice [lex iusticie] restores to each one that which is his own,” and asking why he should not demand homage and fealty from those who, while they do ultimately owe allegiance to God, also “hold our regalia” [regalia nostra tenent].48 Such arguments about the relationship between papal and imperial power had been bound up in the story of the crusades since the movement’s beginning in the fourth quarter of the eleventh century, but they gained new vehemence in the mid-twelfth century as papal claims to power gained traction under the auspices of the so-called papal monarchy.49 As this papal monarchy extended its control over the crusading movement, the connection between crusade and questions of imperial authority gained new relevance, a phenomenon illustrated by the depth of ecclesiastical irritation at Frederick II’s unsanctioned recovery of Jerusalem from the Ayyubids in 1229. The Lisbon letter that follows the correspondence between Adrian and Frederick Barbarossa gives a concise account of the conquest of that city during the Second Crusade.50 It is addressed to Milo, “venerable bishop of Thérouanne,” and written by a Flemish priest named Arnulf.51 Arnulf begins his description 47 “Quapropter, dilecte mi in Domino fili, super prudentia tua non mediocriter admiramur, quod beato Petro et sancte Romane ecclesie illi commisse non quantam deberes reverentiam exhibere videris. In litteris enim ad nos missis nomen tuum nostro preponis; in quo insolentie, ne dicam arrogantie, notam incurris. Quid dicam de fidelitate beato Petro et nobis a te promissa et iurata, quomodo eam observes, qui ab his, qui Dii sunt et filii Excelsi omnes, episcopis scilicet, hominagium requiris, fidelitatem exigis, manus eorum consecratas manibus tuis innectis, et manifeste factus nobis contrarius, cardinalibus a latere nostro directis non solum ecclesias, sed etiam civitates regni tui claudis?” Sigebert of Gembloux, Chronicon, 408. 48 “Lex iusticie unicuique quod suum est restituit.” Sigebert of Gembloux, Chronicon, 408. 49 See Brett Edward Whalen, Dominion of God: Christendom and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), especially 72–99. 50 The letter is published as “Epistola Arnulfi ad Milonem episcopum Morinensem,” Portugaliae Monumenta Historica SS, vol. 1 (Lisbon, 1856), 406–407. The letter appears under the title “Quomodo Vlixisbona capta est” in Douai 365. 51 Catalogue Générale des Manuscrits, vol. 6, Douai, 198.

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


of the campaign by noting the power of a blessing the bishop had offered before the army’s departure, for they had enjoyed fair weather during the first leg of their maritime journey. After reaching Dartmouth in England, the Flemish forces, which were under the command of Count Arnulf IV of Aarschot, formed one large fleet with their English allies and sailed for Spain.52 They ran into bad weather before eventually landing in Galicia, from whence they sailed ultimately to Portugal. They arrived at Lisbon in late June 1147 and promptly came to an agreement with the King Afonso I of Portugal to besiege the city, which was controlled by the Almoravids.53 After a relatively straightforward description of the course of the siege, Arnulf relates how the city ultimately fell, emphasizing the role that the Flemish and their Lotharingian compatriots played in the victory. He lays particular stress on the contrast between the quality of the Flemish troops and the Portuguese in his account of the dramatic struggle that took place once the attackers had succeeded in placing their siege tower alongside the city wall: The knights of the king [i.e., the Portuguese], who were fighting at the top of the tower, were terrified by the mangonels of the Saracens and fought less manfully, to the point that the Saracens, sallying forth, would have burned the tower, if indeed they had not been blocked by our men, who had come against them by chance. When this rumor of danger came to our ears, the superior troops of our part [of the army] moved to defend the tower, lest our hope should be lost with it. Then the Saracens, seeing the Lotharingians and Flemings climbing to the top of the tower with such fervor, were terrified by such dread that they threw down their arms and begged that our right hands be given to them as a sign of peace.54 Arnulf describes the Christian victory as “divine, not human” [divina non humana] and notes that a number of those who died on the expedition were buried near Lisbon. He indicates that “certain men, mute from birth” [quidam muti a nativitate], having been led to the tombs of these martyrs by divine mercy, prostrated themselves and were healed of their disabilities. This is a surprising, even shocking claim, for though crusaders who died were widely considered to be martyrs, accounts that mention miracles being performed at their tombs are rare. 52 “Epistola Arnulfi ad Milonem episcopum Morinensem,” 406. Arnulf indicates that the Flemish sailed to the English port of “Tredemunde,” which Benjamin Thorpe identified as Dartmouth in the nineteenth century. See J. M. Lappenberg, A History of England under the Norman Kings, ed. and trans. Benjamin Thorpe (Oxford, 1857), 450. 53 “Epistola Arnulfi ad Milonem episcopum Morinensem,” 406. 54 “Interim milites regis, qui in arce turris pugnabant, magnellis Sarracenorum territi, minus viriliter pugnabant, usque adeo quod Sarraceni exeuntes turrim concremassent, siquidem de nostris, qui casu ad eos venerant, non obstitissent. Haec periculi fama cum ad nostras venisset aures, meliores exercitus nostrae partis ad defendendam turrim, ne nostra spes in ea adnullaretur, transmissimus. Videntes autem Sarraceni Lotharingos et Flamingos tanto fervore in arcem turris ascendentes, tanta formidine territi sunt, ut arma submitterent, et dextras sibi in signum pacis dari peterent.” “Epistola Arnulfi ad Milonem episcopum Morinensem,” 407.


Bradley Phillis

In addition to commemorating Flemish deeds by copying this short text, then, the monks of Anchin created a permanent and powerful reminder of the fact that Flemish crusaders were buried in Portugal and that their crusading activity had brought them a sanctity enduring enough to make them agents of divine grace. The cycle concludes with the Relatio miraculi.55 As noted earlier, the scribe at Anchin who created Douai 365 probably copied this text directly from BnF lat. 5129, perhaps at the same time that the latter was being used in the production of KBR 9823–34. Like his predecessors from Saint-Amand and Marchiennes, this Anchin monk probably intended the story of the cursed carolers to serve as a parable about the dangers of shirking one’s divinely imposed duty and perhaps as a metaphor for crusading itself. Readers must have noticed the similarity between Frederick Barbarossa’s scorn for papal authority and the terrible punishment meted out upon the disobedient carolers. There is also a striking juxtaposition between the Flemish soldier-martyrs buried in Portugal and the cursed carolers, who, according to the Relatio miraculi, danced themselves into their own graves in the church cemetery at Kölbigk – indeed, it is worth noting that in the Relatio version of the miracle story the narrator specifies that the dancers were kneedeep in the graveyard after six months and buried up to their waists by the end of the year. This may be meant to remind the reader of crusading’s redemptive potential. What is especially striking in Douai 365 is how much rhetorical work the copyist of the Anchin manuscript seems to have expected the Relatio miraculi to do. He had only four pages in which to present his reader with the conflict between papal and imperial power, the divine blessing visited on those who heed papal and episcopal imperatives such as crusading, and the consequences of the kind of attitudes articulated by Frederick Barbarossa, and he considered the Relatio the appropriate text to articulate the stakes involved. That the Anchin scribe chose to employ the text in this way suggests that during this brief moment in the third quarter of the twelfth century the story of the cursed carolers became a crusade text in Flanders. That is, within the network of monasteries in which it was copied during this period – Saint-Amand, Anchin, and Marchiennes – it was more a commentary on crusading than a tale about an eleventh-century miracle. The “social logic of the text,” to invoke Gabrielle Spiegel’s formulation, bent toward crusade;56 the tale of the cursed carolers evoked a particular set of questions about crusading and invited its readers to think about those questions in particular ways. This might also account for the fact that it does not appear in any Flemish legendaria or hagiographical collections from the period. Flemish

55 Though the manuscript program suggests that the material on fol. 2vb relating to the 1148 Council of Reims was probably not originally intended to be part of the prefatory cycle, its ultimate inclusion amplifies the theme of the importance of obeying ecclesiastical (and, by extension, divine) authority by contrasting Gilbert de la Porrée’s heresy with the orthodoxy of Bernard of Clairvaux; see note 44. 56 Gabrielle M. Spiegel, The Past as Text: The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), especially 3–28.

The cursed carolers as crusaders in Flanders


scribes and readers were not approaching it as a text about a curse, a miracle, a carole, or the intervention of a saint. They were, instead, approaching it as a text about crusading that was to be incorporated in crusading books.

Conclusion The moment in which the story of the cursed carolers was read as a crusade story did not last very long. No copies of the Relatio miraculi seem to have been made in Flanders after the third quarter of the twelfth century, and the crusade associations this text had in Flanders during this period do not seem to have migrated out of the county or indeed out of the Ostrevant. As a result, there is a kind of fragility to the story of the cursed carolers that was copied and read in Flanders in the 1150s and 1160s. It appeared in a particular moment, when the failure of the Second Crusade was a pressing concern for the monks of the southern part of the county, only to see its importance wane as the years passed and other political and religious concerns emerged. Nevertheless, the manuscript context in which the Relatio miraculi circulated in twelfth-century Flanders serves as an important reminder that texts do not have set meanings. Just as texts act upon readers, readers act upon texts. This is especially true in the medieval world of manuscript transmission, in which each individual book presented scribes with an opportunity to frame and reframe texts in ways that were useful, interesting, or compelling to them. Without paying careful attention to the context in which stories like that of the cursed carolers were written, copied, read, and told, modern readers may miss the ease with which a twelfth-century reader might have seen Jerusalem instead of Kölbigk and crusaders instead of carolers.

Further reading Belaen, Johan. “Abbots, Confraternities, and Monastic Mobility: A ‘Cluniac Nebula’ in the Ecclesiastical Province of Reims (c. 1100–1300).” In Abbots and Abbesses as a Human Resource in the Ninth- to Twelfth-Century West, edited by Steven Vanderputten, 125–150. Münster: LIT Verlag, 2018. Gabriele, Matthew. An Empire of Memory: The Legend of Charlemagne, the Franks, and Jerusalem before the First Crusade. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Guenée, Bernard. Histoire et culture historique dans l'Occident médiéval. Paris: Aubier, 2011. Koziol, Geoffrey. The Politics of Memory and Identity in Carolingian Royal Diplomas: The West Frankish Kingdom (840–987). Turnhout: Brepols, 2012. Lifshitz, Felice. Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia: A Study of Manuscript Transmission and Monastic Culture. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014. McKitterick, Rosamond. History and Memory in the Carolingian World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Naus, James. Constructing Kingship: The Capetian Monarchs of France and the Early Crusades. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016. Nicholas, David. Medieval Flanders. New York: Longman Publishing, 1992. Phillips, Jonathan. Defenders of the Holy Land: Relations between the Latin East and the West, 1119–1187. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.


Bradley Phillis

Rubenstein, Jay. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: The Crusades, Apocalyptic Prophecy, and the End of History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. Spiegel, Gabrielle M. The Past as Text: The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Spiegel, Gabrielle M. Romancing the Past: The Rise of Vernacular Prose Historiography in Thirteenth-Century France. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.


“Desturné en us de secularité”? Authority and narrative framing in the cursed dancers episode of the Manuel des Péchés Krista A. Murchison

Introduction William of Waddington’s Manuel des Péchés (c. 1260) was a remarkably influential poem. It survives in twenty-eight manuscripts and fragments and inspired several adaptations and translations, the most famous of which is Robert Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne (1303–1317).1 This circulation evidence, considered alongside references to the Manuel scattered among wills and book lists, suggests considerable medieval popularity, and the work should be counted among the first vernacular “best sellers” of medieval England.2 The Manuel was positioned on the cusp of a wave of vernacular pastoral writing that swept through medieval Europe following the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. The council mandated that each parishioner who had reached the age of majority had to make an annual confession of their sins to a priest, and this mandate led to a significant increase in texts aimed at teaching both how to recognize sin in its manifold forms and how to prevent it.3 While many of these texts were in Latin, the Manuel stands as a fascinating early example of the vernacular being employed for these purposes. The Manuel therefore provides powerful insight into a broader movement of vernacular education about sin. The text’s educational program is reflected in its treatment of the cursed dancers episode and, as this chapter aims to show, the episode serves as a valuable witness to emerging tensions surrounding this program. In its most complete form, the Manuel covers a wide range of essentials of the faith, starting with the articles of the faith (or Creed), the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue), the Seven Deadly Sins, and various forms of sacrilege. It then 1 Copies of the Manuel (Dean no. 635) are listed in Ruth Dean and Maureen B. M. Boulton, AngloNorman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999), 349–351. 2 I have explored the circulation of the Manuel in Krista A. Murchison, “The Readers of the Manuel des péchés Revisited,” Philological Quarterly 95, no. 2 (2016): 161, 184–185, http://hdl.handle. net/1887/50536. 3 The seminal work on this wave of pastoral writing is Leonard E. Boyle, “The Fourth Lateran Council and Manuals of Popular Theology,” in The Popular Literature of Medieval England, ed. Thomas J. Heffernan (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), 30–43.


Krista A. Murchison

discusses how to avoid sin, how to promote virtue, how to make a complete confession, and how to pray. In some manuscripts, the Manuel ends with some brief prayers.4 In many copies, a prologue announces that the text is aimed at helping people identify and reform their sins: “Therefore no one should read this particular work too hastily; the one who wants to amend his soul should read it over twice, (there) where he will find diverse sins broken up into paragraphs.”5 The poem is thus cast as a tool for helping penitents prepare for annual confession to a priest, and in this respect it functioned much like the continental Somme le roi (c. 1280), which the Manuel preceded by about two decades. While it was once believed that the Manuel was designed exclusively for religious penitents, recent work has shown that it was also intended for – and indeed circulated among – a relatively vast cross-section of lay society.6 The text therefore stands as a remarkable early witness to the kinds of pastoral material that were circulating among lay audiences in the wake of the Fourth Lateran Council.

Authority in the Manuel des Péchés The Manuel’s particular approach to pastoral education is reflected in how it draws on and incorporates its sources. The text is remarkably concerned with 4 For an overview of different forms of the Manuel, see Matthew Sullivan, “The Original and Subsequent Audiences of the Manuel des Péchés and its Middle English Descendants” (D.Phil. thesis, Oxford, 1990), ProQuest (U481994), 18. 5 “Pur ceo nul trop hastiuement / Cest escrit lise nomement; / Dou feiȝe le deit rehercer / Qe sa alme uodera amender, / La ou il trouera diuers pechiéȝ / Sicum il ert pirografés.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, in Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with Those Parts of the Anglo-French Treatise on Which It Was Founded, William of Wadington’s “Manuel des Pechiez.” ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, o. s., vols. 119, 123 (London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903), lines 73–78. Sullivan finds that in nine of the surviving copies of the Manuel des Péchés, “dis” (“ten”) appears instead of “deu” or “dou” (“two”); this is likely a scribal error, but it nevertheless suggests that some copyists did not consider it entirely impractical to recommend reading the text ten times; see Sullivan, “The Original and Subsequent Audiences of the Manuel des Péchés,” 22. Furnivall’s edition is the only complete published version of the Manuel des Péchés, but it has well-documented limitations; see Sullivan, “The Original and Subsequent Audiences of the Manuel des Péchés,” 1–2. Furthermore, Furnivall only published those parts of the Manuel that appear in its English translation, Handlyng Synne. The edition is based on a relatively small number of manuscripts; Furnivall’s base text is that of London, British Library, Harley MS 273 (marked A in his variant list) and it is supplemented with variant readings from London, British Library, Harley MS 4657 (marked B in his variant list); Furnivall himself notes, however, that the manuscripts have been “imperfectly collated” (see 1n17 in the first volume of his edition). Nevertheless, for ease of reference, I have cited from Furnivall’s edition throughout, while also checking it against Wilhelm G. Busse and Barbara Dohm’s unpublished transcription of the copy in Cambridge, University Library, MS Mm. 6.4. I am very grateful to Professor Busse for providing me with a copy of this transcription. Citations of the Manuel refer to line numbers in Furnivall’s edition, and all translations from it are my own. 6 For the argument that the Manuel anticipated a lay audience in addition to its clerical one, see Ulrike Schemmann, Confessional Literature and Lay Education: The “Manuel dé Pechez” as a Book of Good Conduct and Guide to Personal Religion (Düsseldorf: Droste, 2000), 324. For the circulation of the Manuel among lay and clerical audiences, see Murchison, “Readers,” 186–187.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


authority. Waddington stresses that all his material about the sins is taken from other sources and is, therefore, authoritative: “And for this I willingly let the sins that I will put here be confirmed by authority – because I have taken them from holy writings, and, for this reason, everything will be authoritative.”7 Waddington then writes: “I will add nothing of my own.”8 While this claim is clearly an exaggeration, much of Waddington’s material was indeed drawn from other authorities. The ultimate source for much of the discussion of the sins and essentials of the faith has been found in Guilelmus Peraldus’s famous Summa de vitiis and his Summa de virtutibus (both c. 1236), although Fritz Kemmler, in his exploration of the sources of the Manuel, identifies closer parallels between the Manuel and Richard of Wetheringsette’s Summa (c. 1230–1240) and suggests that this Summa or a similar priests’ guide may have served as an intermediary text.9 While the Manuel displays marked similarities to these priests’ guides, its advice is not, in general, aimed at a priest conducting confession but at an individual preparing for confessing – whether lay or religious. The text outlines the essentials of the faith in a way that extends beyond the purely didactic, calling on its readers to use these as tools for self-examination and, through it, self-improvement. So, for example, in the section on the seven deadly sins, the Manuel warns: “If you ever in your life sin through hypocrisy – that is, for those who are paying attention to me – if you make yourself other than you are . . . don’t expect to be praised for this.”10 Other articles of the faith are also explained in a way that encourages selfreflection. The section on the Ten Commandments, for example, offers various examples of ways through which a person can sin by taking God’s name in vain: “Whoever makes an oath by the name of God, and lies maliciously, or whoever swears by habit in vain sins against this commandment.”11 Indeed, the Manuel’s treatment of the sins and other essentials of the faith is similar to that of another guide about virtuous living: a Latin poem known as Floretus. In an 1834 study, Gervais de la Rue suggested that Floretus may have been a source for the Manuel, although the idea was rejected by Thomas Warton and Frederick Furnivall on the grounds that Floretus, at 1161 lines, is too short to be considered a viable source.12 The origins of Floretus are obscure; it survives in 7 “E pur ceo lesse ieo de grée / Cunfermer par auctorité / Les pechiéȝ qe ci mettrai; / Car de seins escrit les ay; / Pur ceo, tut ert auctorité.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 53–57. 8 “Rien del mien n’i mettrai.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, line 59. 9 For the suggestion that the link between the Manuel and Peraldus’s Summae has been overstated, see Fritz Kemmler, Exempla in Context: A Historical and Critical Study of Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne” (Tübingen: G. Narr, 1984), 25; for parallels between Wetheringsette’s Summa and the Manuel, see Kemmler, Exempla, 48, 59. 10 “Si vus vnqes en uostre vie / Pechisseȝ par ypocrisie, / Ceo est a dire, qe me entendeȝ, / Si autre vus feites qe ne fusseȝ / . . . Ne quideȝ ia en cel luer.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 3275–3281. 11 “Ki par le nun deu, funt serement, / E mensunge, & faucement, / Ou qe par custume iurent pur nient, / Il pechent en cel comandement.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 1335–1338. 12 Gervais de la Rue, Essais historiques sur les bardes, les jongleurs, et les trouvères normands, 3 vols. (Caen: Imprimerie de F. Poisson, 1834), III:226; Thomas Warton, History of English Poetry from the Twelfth to the Close of the Sixteenth Century, 4 vols. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1871),


Krista A. Murchison

at least seventeen manuscript copies and several print editions, the latter of which attribute it to Bernard of Clairvaux.13 It is not clear where the text originated; the copies with known origins were all produced on the continent, many in Germany. The text has not been dated conclusively, and estimates for its date range from the middle of the thirteenth century to the fourteenth.14 A later dating would, of course, preclude it as a source of the Manuel. Yet it is worth noting that the two poems have much in common. Floretus includes sections dealing with the articles of the faith, commandments, sins, sacraments, virtues, and “how to die.” Aside from the latter (which is, in effect, a discussion of the pains of purgatory and the joys of heaven), these sections, and their order, agree almost exactly with those of the more complete copies of the Manuel des Péchés. Although this shared order alone is not particularly notable, the specific sins described in Floretus are markedly similar to those in the Manuel. These similarities suggest shared source material if not direct influence, although a full comparison of the two works is still wanting and is beyond the scope of the present investigation.15 Yet despite these similarities, the Manuel differs from Floretus in terms of its treatment of each of the individual essentials of the faith. In general, the Manuel offers far more extended accounts of each subject than Floretus, and the Manuel accounts are marked by more explicit moralization and greater specificity. These features can be exemplified through a comparison of the ways in which the Manuel and Floretus treat one particular species of pride. Floretus provides the following discussion: “When one believes certain good things [were] earned by himself, or [that he] possesses or falsely attributes to himself [things] that are lacking.”16 The Manuel des Péchés, by comparison, offers the following statement: If you ever believe that the goods that you have in yourself, come from yourself – and not from God, this will be revealed to be pride! If God has once given you,



15 16

II:73; Frederick J. Furnivall, ed., Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with Those Parts of the Anglo-French Treatise on Which It Was Founded, William of Wadington’s “Manuel des Pechiez,” Early English Text Society, o. s., vols. 119, 123 (London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903), I.xxi. A list of Floretus manuscripts is available online; see “Liber floretus,” MIRABILE: Digital Archives for Medieval Culture, accessed August 17, 2020, For the mid-thirteenth century dating, see “Liber floretus”; for the fourteenth-century dating, see István Bejczy, Cardinal Virtues in the Middle Ages: A Study in Moral Thought from the Fourth to the Fourteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 231. I intend to explore the relationship between these two works at greater length in a future study. “Cum bona quis credit, ex se meritis, vel habere / Vel false tribuit sibi, quo se credit egere.” Liber Floretus: hrsg. nach der Hs. Utrecht, U.B.283, ed. A. P. Orbán (Kastellaun/Hunsrück: Aloys Henn Verlag, 1979), 6, lines 123–124.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


strength, power and beauty, do not use these gifts that he has loaned you to wage war against the son of God. This is done by those who spend the good things they possess on sin – if they do not amend! Those who brag all day of the good things that they have received from our Lord – [and] some of good things that they do not possess – this is sin and great foolishness.17 The passage in the Manuel is marked by an extended interest in moralization and a delight in specificity not found in the analogous passage in Floretus. Floretus does not contain the colorful exempla material for which the Manuel (and its English translation) are famous, and there is good reason to suspect that William of Waddington added much of this material himself, though with frequent recourse to existing sources. The Manuel’s exempla, which number up to seventy in some copies, are drawn from a variety of different authorities; stories from Gregory the Great’s Dialogues and the Vitae Patrum – both of which feature prominently – are nestled alongside exempla from the Bible, Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, and Jacques de Vitry’s Sermones Vulgares.18 Here, too, Waddington is concerned with authenticity and citation; E. J. Arnould, in his study of the poem, finds that of the fifteen exempla taken from Gregory the Great, eleven come accompanied by source information, and of the thirteen taken from the Vitae Patrum, eight include citations to this work.19 These citations tend to stress that their sources are written and authentic: “I will gladly tell you a tale through which this is confirmed that I have found in a book that is called ‘Dialogue(s).’”20 In most cases, the citation information given appears to be accurate, and there are solid grounds for supposing that the author of the Manuel worked directly from the sources he cites. Thus, while Waddington’s use of these exempla appears to be original, the exempla themselves are marked by the same concern for authenticity and authority that can be found in the rest of the text. Waddington, then, casts his work as a source of authoritative, written wisdom.

17 “Si vus unques quidissez, / Qe les bien qe en vus auiez / De vus venisent, ne mie de dee, – / Ceo serreit apert orgoil proue. / Si deu vus ad dunc sen done, / Force, poer, e beaute / Guerreier ne deuez le fiz dee / Des biens qe il vus ad preste; / Ceo funt qe en peche despendent / Biens qe en euz sunt, s’il ne se amendent. / Cels qe se auantent tute iur / Des bens qe il unt dune de notre seignur, / Les vns des biens qe n’unt mie, – / Ceo est peche et grant folie.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 3204–3217. 18 E. J. Arnould, who gives the count of seventy exempla, notes that this number varies widely among copies of the Manuel; see E. J. Arnould, Le Manuel des Péchés: Étude de Littérature Religieuse Anglo-Normande (XIIIme siècle) (Paris: Droz, 1940), 112. 19 See Arnould, Manuel, 124. 20 “Un cunte vus cunterai de grée / Parunt ceo ert cunfermé, / Qe en vne liure ai troue / Qe ‘dialoge’ est apelé.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 1925–1928.


Krista A. Murchison

The tradition of the cursed carolers and the Manuel’s exemplum The tale of the cursed carolers, which lies at the center of this investigation, occurs in the section warning against the sin of sacrilege. The poet introduces this exemplum in his typical manner, by issuing a warning: “no one should participate in carols or games in Church.”21 He then tells the story in brief: on Christmas Eve, mass is interrupted by a group of rambunctious dancers composed of three women and four men.22 The priest overseeing the mass asks them to stop, but they refuse to abandon their dancing. The priest then calls on God to keep the dancers in their dance for a whole year. A curse falls upon the dancers, including a woman named Marcent in this version. Her brother tries to pull her out of the dance and, in so doing, dislocates her arm, although the injury causes no blood. Finally, after a year of this cursed dance, the bishop of “Koloyne” (Cologne) named Herbert prays to God, and the dancers receive God’s mercy – presumably this means that their dance comes to an end, though this is not stated explicitly. By the time William of Waddington was writing, the story of the cursed dancers was circulating in multiple versions. In his seminal study of the tradition, Edward Schröder helpfully divides these versions into two main branches: the “Otbert account” (“Der Bericht des Otbert”) and the “Dietrich/Theoderic account” (“Der Bericht des Dietrich [Theodericus]”). These branches are grouped by their relationship to two apparently independent short letters, both in Latin and both purporting to be firsthand accounts written by participants in the cursed dance. While in its broadest strokes the story of the cursed carolers is consistent across these branches, the details of the narrative exhibit significant differences.23 Of these two Latin letters, the Otbert account provides the closest analog for the Manuel des Péchés, while its English translation Handlyng Synne largely replaces it with a much longer version of the Theoderic account. The Otbert account appears to have circulated widely; it has been identified in eight copies, dating from the twelfth to thirteenth centuries, and these circulated in Northern France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Schröder divides these copies into a “German version” and a “French version” and suggests that the German one represents a more original version of the text. In these manuscripts, the account appears alongside a variety of different works, including Latin historical accounts, visions, and saints’ lives. It was, in many of its manuscripts, copied alongside other short texts; in one of its surviving manuscripts, it was added retrospectively to empty manuscript lines (as indicated in Appendix A). In all of its surviving copies, the text is wholly distinct from the material that surrounds it.

21 “Karoles ne lutes nul deit fere / En seint eglise.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6874–6875. 22 William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6919–6920. 23 Edward Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk: Ein Mirakel des 11. Jahrhunderts,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 17 (1897). Schröder’s discussion of the Otbert account starts on page 96; his discussion of the Dietrich account starts on page 123. See the introduction to this book for an overview of the various versions of the episode.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


Three of the manuscripts of the “newer” French recension seem to have originated at the Norman monastery in Mont-Saint-Michel, and it may be from this area that the account made its way across the channel.24 Yet it is the “German version” that, according to Schröder, influenced William of Malmesbury when he added the episode to his Gesta regum Anglorum.25 The Gesta version does not seem to have been a source for William of Waddington, since his version in the Manuel preserves details that are found in the Otbert account but not in William of Malmesbury’s work. The similarities between the Manuel’s account and the Otbert one are notable, and although the Manuel is in verse, it offers a remarkably faithful translation in places. The descriptions of the midway point of the curse, for example, use similar wording. The Otbert account gives “thus six months passed, until we were sunk to [our] knees on the ground,”26 and, aside from the shift in narrative perspective, the Manuel is nearly identical: “after six months had passed they were sunk to their knees.”27 Given such similarities, the places where the Manuel differs from the Otbert account are particularly interesting. Perhaps the most striking difference between the two episodes is how they are framed. The Otbert letter opens in the firstperson narrative voice of an eyewitness who claims to have participated in the cursed dance: “Even if I, a sinner named Otbert, wanted to conceal my sins, the disturbance of my veins and the movements of my members would be evidence of them.”28 In the Manuel, the episode is introduced in a third-person narrative voice as an example of why it is wrong to distract a priest during his duties: [I]t is a serious sin to disturb the priest when he should be performing observances – either within the Church or outside it – when he should be performing the service. God is poorly served by this! It will be illustrated through an example.29 William of Waddington’s introduction not only explains the tale’s moralization, but also hints at the kind of response it is expected to elicit, announcing that it 24 For the manuscript copies and the circulation of the text, see Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 96–98. 25 See Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 99–100; the episode is printed in William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Regum Anglorum, ed. W. Stubbs, Rolls Series 90, 2 vols. (London, 1887–89), I:203. 26 “Ergo VI mensibus evolutis usque ad genua terre immersi sumus.” All excerpts from the Otbert account are taken from Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101–103. Translations from the Latin are my own. 27 “Apres qe sis meis sunt pazseȝ / Iesqes les genols sunt enfundreȝ.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6977–6978. 28 “Ego peccator nomine Othbertus, etsi vellem tegere peccatum meum, indicium esset mearum inquietudo venarum et motus membrorum.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101. 29 “Qe grant peché est, disturber / Le prestre quant deit celebrer, / De denȝ ne de-hors l’eglise / Quant fere deit le seuise; / Deu en est mal paié; / Par vn ensample a mustré.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6925–6930.


Krista A. Murchison

is “a tale of great woe.”30 These framing approaches anticipate – and, arguably, establish – how the tale is supposed to be interpreted. A tendency toward moralization continues throughout the tale itself and represents a marked departure from the Latin analog. In the Latin version, the narrator insists that the decision to dance in the churchyard was made under diabolical influence: “Those who, during the time of the Holy Nativity of the Lord, should have been present at early morning in the solemn masses – we led dances under the influence of the devil in the churchyard.”31 In the French version, the dance is not said to have been provoked by the devil, and its participants are described bluntly as “fole” (“foolish” or “mad”): “It happened the night of Christmas, when the king of heavens was born: people took up dancing in a mad company singing near a monastery at the hour and disturbing the priest.”32 The omission of the reference to the devil here is worth noting given the penitential context of the episode. Medieval penitential manuals stressed that for a confession to be truly sincere, it had to be made on one’s own behalf, without implicating or blaming anyone else. So, Raymond de Pennaforte, in his highly influential guide for medieval priests, states that confession must be “one’s own – one should accuse only himself, and no other.”33 By implicating the devil in his description of the dance, Otbert is, according to the logic of medieval contritional theory, shielding himself and his sinful companions from blame. It is therefore notable that no attempt is made to shield the dancers from blame in the Manuel and that they are explicitly condemned by the narrator. Relative to its source, then, this passage is more concerned with depicting the dancers as sinful and more focused on condemning them. In both versions, the dancers’ decision to interrupt mass provokes the priest to call for a curse to fall upon them. The Latin account, presented from Otbert’s perspective, spells out the curse that the priest apparently shouts at the dancers: “May the power of God, and the justice of Saint Magnus the martyr, keep you in this restless song for a year!”34 In the French version, the priest arguably exhibits more restraint and mercy toward the dancers: The priest then prayed to God for this: that, by showing His power to them, they would continue to dance in this way for one whole year without end,

30 “[u]ne cunte de mult grant pité.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, line 6933. 31 “Qui in sanctissima nativitate Domini expletis matutinis cum missarum sollempniis interesse deberemus, suadente diabolo choros in cœmiterio duximus.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101. 32 “Il auint la nuyt de noel, / Quant nasqui li reis du ciel, / Genȝ menerent la Karole / En vne compainie fole; / Iuste vn muster al oure chaunterent / E le prestre desturberent.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6937–6940. 33 “Propria, ut seipsum tantum accuset, et non alium.” Raymond de Pennaforte, Summa de paenitentia, ed. Javier Ochoa and Luis Diez (Rome: Commentarium pro religiosis, 1976), 821. 34 “Utinam potentia Dei et merito sancti Magni martiris sic inquieti annum cantando ducatis.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


since they did not want to leave any night to honour God; in the same way, he prayed to Saint Magnus that he would take vengeance on them.35 The priest in this version, like the priest in the Latin version, calls for vengeance, but he is also particularly concerned that the dancers will dedicate themselves more thoroughly to God – an addition which clarifies that the priest is acting out of concern for the dancers’ souls rather than out of any kind of personal vendetta against them. The words used to describe the priest’s call for vengeance reinforce this difference; while in the Latin version the priest’s call to God is “imprecatus” (“invoked through an evil manner” or “spoken as a curse”), the French version has a more restrained priest who merely “ad Deu prié” (“prayed to God”). The French version, then, leaves little ambiguity about the conflict: the dancers act foolishly against a priest who reacts with restraint and out of concern for their souls. The other significant difference concerning the priest is his response to the cursed dance. In the Latin version, his daughter Mersent is one of the participants, and the priest instructs his son to pull her from the dance: There was, however, one of the three women, the daughter of the priest, by the name of Mersent; this same woman’s brother, called John, was trying to drag her from the dance by grabbing an arm, by the order of the father. But then he pulled the arm from the body! Yet not a single drop of blood dripped – which is a miracle to tell!36 The attempted intervention here, in which the priest seeks to break the curse he had previously invited, suggests a change of heart – one motivated by his personal connection to the dancers. It clearly fails to overpower the curse, and the priest has to leave his daughter trapped in the dance without an arm. When the dancers finally cease their cursed dance, there is no mention of what happens to Mersent’s arm. The French version also mentions the arm episode, but Mersent and John have no relationship to the priest, and the attempt to overpower the curse is John’s own idea: God took vengeance on one of these women, called Marcent. Her brother, who was called Jon, pulled her by the arms to draw her out of the dance but

35 “Le prestre pur ceo ad Deu prié / Qe en euȝ mustrast sa posté, / Qe vn an entier, sanȝ cesser / I poeint ensi karoler, / Pus qe il ne voleint lesser / Tiele nut pur Deu honurer; / Pria seint grant ensement / Qe de euȝ prist vengement.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6951–6958. 36 “Erat vero una trium mulierum filia presbiteri nomine Mersint. Quam iussu patris frater ipsius mulieris vocatus Johannes brachio apprehendens conabatur a choro retrahere. Sed mox brachium a corpore abstraxit: attamen una gutta sanguinis non manavit. Quodque est mirabile dictu.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 101–102.


Krista A. Murchison he pulled her arm from collarbone! Not a drop of blood flowed out – the wondrous event becomes all the more pronounced!37

The French version here keeps the priest at a distinct remove from the dancers’ sin. Since he has no personal connection to the dancers in this version, the priest is more clearly dissociated from their sin than he is in the Latin text. Moreover, the priest in the French version shows greater resolve; there is no evidence here that he regrets having called for the dancers’ punishment. He is, in this version, a mouthpiece for divine punishment and his portrayal is marked by none of the ambiguity found in the Latin text. This difference, considered alongside the priest’s concern with the dancers’ dedication to God, suggests that the Manuel is particularly concerned with presenting this religious authority as one who upholds unambiguously the tenants of medieval Christianity. Much more than the Latin text, the Manuel paints a stark contrast between the priest – a symbol of unflinching moral virtue – and the sinful dancers. Immediately after the priest’s curse, the French version – despite an overall tendency toward abridgment – adds a moralization for which no parallel is found in the Latin: “Now listen to great woe: just as the priest had prayed from God, they danced the entire year. It would have been better for them if they had stopped!”38 The moralization mentioned here leaves little space for ambiguity and distills a lesson from the tale not found explicitly in the Latin original. The endings of the two tales diverge considerably. In the Latin tale, the cursed dancers continue a year until Herbert, the Bishop of Cologne, prays for them. They then fall into a deep sleep lasting three days and three nights. But after the curse is apparently lifted, some of the dancers have died, and those who remain have not returned to their previous corporal state: “After our rousing we accepted our own returned provisions and now the tremor of our limbs will not leave us – a token of remembrance, or rather of proof.”39 The narrative thus ends as it begins – with the dance that has left its memory permanently set on the dancers’ bodies. The echo of the dance both introduces and concludes the story and, in the sense that it remains after the dancers are supposedly cured and their story has concluded, extends beyond the narrated action indefinitely. This echo of the dance,

37 “Vne aueit a nun Marcent; / De ki Deu prist vengement; / Sun frere, qe Iohan fu apelé, / Par les bras l’ad saké / Pur luy estrere de la karole, / Mes le bras estret de la cauole; / Nule gute de sane ad seigné, / Le miracle par tant est agregé!” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6967–6974. The word “cauole” presents some difficulty; while the Harley manuscript, edited by Furnivall, gives “cauole,” the Anglo-Norman dictionary cites the reading in manuscript “l,” “canole” (“collarbone”), which is clearly the intended meaning here. Busse’s transcription from the Cambridge manuscript has “carole” which is almost certainly a scribal error made under the influence of the previous line. 38 “Ore escuteȝ grant pité! / Sicum le prestre out Deu prié, / L’an entier vnt karolé. / Meus lur vaudreit auer cessé.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6960–6963. 39 “Post excitationem nostram ad propria reversi accepimus cibum, et ita hactenus tremor membrorum in signo recordationis, vel potius approbationis non nos deserit.” Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 102.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


extending as it does beyond the framework of the tale, gives it an unfinished quality; while the narrative apparently concludes, the dancers’ situation does not. This lasting echo of the dance – cast as “a token of remembrance” – haunts beyond the very limits of the narrative. The ending of the French version differs significantly in this respect: But God, who is full of mercy, visited them at that moment, because the bishop of the town of Cologne – who is named Saint Herbert – prayed for them. May Jesus, the son of God be gracious, for through them He has instructed us!40 The French version here stresses the mercy of God and the lifting of the curse. It makes no reference to what happens afterward: the death of some of the dancers, the lasting effects of the dance on the carolers’ bodies, their permanent token of remembrance. Indeed, the emphasis on mercy in the passage suggests that the dancers’ condition ceases through the intercession of Herbert. It presents, then, what could be considered a tidier narrative, in which the dancers return to their pre-cursed state having learned a lesson and having been transformed into better Christian subjects. This tidier narrative structure is reinforced by a moralization at the end of the passage, which explains that the dancers’ transgression should serve as a lesson. The narrative ends with additional moralizations that continue for another sixteen or so lines and therefore represent, in terms of length, approximately one-fifth of the episode as a whole (though the exact number of lines differs by manuscript copy).41 The lessons described in this section are wide-ranging. The episode, we are told, illustrates: That it is no joke nor game to sing by the church or jest in the churchyard in order to disturb the priest when he is singing in the church. But each man knows in his heart that it is a sin to talk foolishly in church. One should truly fear that whatever he spoke foolishly in that place will be enumerated to you by the devil when his roll is revealed.42 The episode ends with an insistence that those who have committed these sins should confess them.43 The extended moralization in this section ties up the narrative and represents a significant departure from the haunting echo of the dance 40 “Mes Deu, qe plein est de pité, / A cel hure les ad visité; / Car, pur euȝ ad prié / L’euesqe de Coloine, la cité, / Qe seint Herbert est nomé. / Gracié seit Ihesu, le fiȝ Dé, / Car par euȝ nus ad chaustié.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6981–6987. 41 In Busse’s (unpublished) transcription based on the Cambridge manuscript, the full episode occupies 73 lines; cf. William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6793–6808. 42 “Qe ceo ne est mie gas ne iu, / Iuste l’eglise karoler, / Ou en cymiter pleder, / Pur le prestre desturber, / Quant il chante al muster. / Mes chescun home soet par qeor / Qe een eglise est peché, iangler, / Duter poeȝ pur verité / Qe, quant qe aueȝ la ianglé, / Del deable vus ert rehercé / Quant sun roule ert mustré.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6990–7000. 43 William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 7001–7002.


Krista A. Murchison

found in the Latin tale. While the Latin tale ends with uncertainty and lasting suffering, the French tale ends with recovery and moralization. The Manuel narrative, then, is tidier than its Latin analog; sin is defined more starkly, rectified more clearly, and condemned more explicitly.

The framing of the Manuel’s exemplum The differences discussed thus far concern the narrative elements of the two tales, but they find productive parallels in the ways in which the two tales present their sources. While the Otbert episode is, supposedly, an eyewitness account, the French tale contains an odd attribution: “We have found a tale of great pity condemning this [sin] in the Itinerarium of Saint Clement, which is such a fine document.”44 William of Waddington’s claim that he uncovered the episode in the Itinerarium Clementis is odd. The origins of the Itinerarium Clementis (also known as The Recognitions of Clement) are unclear, but the Latin text is generally ascribed to the fifth-century Rufinus of Aquileia. It circulated widely in the medieval period, but this is the only place in the Manuel where this particular saint’s life is cited as a source. Insofar as it is only cited once, it stands in contrast to sources such as Gregory’s Dialogues that the author draws on multiple times. The cursed dancer episode does not appear in the Itinerarium and the Manuel’s citation of this saint’s life, which is omitted in some copies, has been considered a mistake.45 William of Waddington’s tale is set in the diocese of Cologne and so would of course be out of place in a life of Pope Clement I, the first-century bishop of Rome. Edward Schröder, in his exploration of the sources for the tale of the cursed dancers, suggests that Waddington found the Otbert account interpolated into a manuscript containing the Itinerarium.46 While no manuscript of the Itinerarium has been found with the Otbert account interpolated into it, this explanation is plausible, since, judging from its manuscript history, the account was often inserted into collections of devotional and religious material without any explicit interpolation or contextualization.47 Alternatively, Waddington may have invented this attribution. Although most of his attributions prove correct, Waddington does seem to have taken some liberty with these; his exemplum of the

44 “En le itineraire de seint Clement, / Qu fu de si beal document, / Vne cunte de mult grant pité / Encuntre tiels auum troué.” William of Waddington, Manuel des Péchés, lines 6931–6934. 45 The absence of the episode in the saint’s life is noted by Gaston Paris in “Wilham de Wadington,” in Histoire littéraire de la France, ed. B. Hauréau, vol. 28 (Paris: Académie des inscriptions & belleslettres, 1881), 204. For those who consider the attribution a mistake, see, for example, Arnould, Manuel, 165. 46 Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 99. The same conclusion is arrived at by Paris (“Wilham,” 204), is shared by Arnould (Manuel, 164–165) and posited by Furnivall in his edition (Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” II:283n4). 47 See the earlier discussion of the Otbert account’s manuscript contexts and in Appendix A.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


Death of Lucretius, for example, likely stems from the Life of St Beatrice and it is unclear whether Waddington’s claim that he heard it in church is accurate.48 Either way, the Manuel’s claim that the episode originated in a first-century bishop’s saint’s life ascribes the story legitimacy and adapts it to fit with the Manuel’s approach of using well-documented exempla. It also smooths over the real material history of the Otbert account, which circulated without explicit contextualization or direct links to its surrounding texts. In this way, Waddington’s framing of the episode reins in some of the mystery surrounding the Otbert account. Insofar as it ascribes the story legitimacy and transforms it from a mysterious letter into a familiar exemplum, the Manuel contains and curbs some of the haunting qualities of the Otbert account – in much the same way as, on a narrative level, it eliminates the haunting echoes of the cursed dance. The French version, then, is in many ways a more controlled narrative than the Latin. It has been packaged into a familiar exempla framework and ascribed legitimacy not granted to it by the Otbert account. The haunting conclusion of the Latin account, with lasting effects of a curse that exceed the account’s narrative framing, is omitted in the French text, and ambiguity about the characters and the tale’s meaning is reduced through moments of moralization. The Manuel is deeply invested in ensuring that the tale is well understood and its moral correctly interpreted. The reason for this narrative recasting is never given, but one likely solution may be found in the audience of the Manuel. The Manuel circulated widely and, as I have argued elsewhere, seems to have been equally interesting to lay and clerical audiences. In this respect, it was positioned on the cusp of an emerging democratization of pastoral writing.49 The careful framing of the tale, then, with its profound investment in moralization, may have been introduced for the sake of this lay audience. These features may suggest anxieties that a lay audience might interpret the poem in the wrong way – anxieties that participate in a broader concern over textual interpretation that emerged in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as religious writing moved increasingly out of the cloister and into the home.50 To this end, it is worth noting that evidence from the circulation history of the cursed carolers tale suggests that this exemplum may have been associated with the text’s lay audiences, even though many of the Manuel’s exempla seem to have been of particular interest to the clergy. Although the story of the cursed carolers appears in most, if not all, of the more complete manuscripts of the Manuel, it appears in only one of the five surviving collections of exempla extracted from the

48 See Sullivan, “The Original and Subsequent Audiences of the Manuel des Péchés,” 88n49; and Arnould, Manuel, 152. 49 See the earlier discussion of the audience of the text. 50 On concerns over the movement of religious writing into lay hands see, for example, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, “Time to read: Pastoral Care, Vernacular Access and the Case of Angier of St. Frideswide,” in Texts and Traditions of Pastoral Care: Essays in Honour of Bella Millett, ed. Cate Gunn and Catherine Innes-Parker (Woodbridge: York Medieval, 2009), 77.


Krista A. Murchison

Manuel that seem to have been aimed at the clergy.51 The story does appear in the most lengthy of these exempla collections, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson Poetry 241, but the other four surviving collections omit it – including Blackburn, Stonyhurst College, 27 (A.VI. 22) (HMC 31), which seems to have been based on the Rawlinson collection.52 The tale of the cursed carolers, in other words, does not seem to have been particularly attractive to the clergy, and it could be that its framing was considered more appropriate for lay instruction than for clerical use. The episode of the cursed dancers found in the Manuel, then, provides a valuable example of a medieval writer reshaping a familiar story to a new end. Its divergences from the original suggest a pronounced interest in moralization and in removing ambiguity in the characterization of religious authority. These features, and the careful framing of the narrative, suggest an author concerned about the potential for misunderstanding. In this way, the work participates in, and reflects, broader thirteenth-century concerns over a lack of control that could arise as religious and doctrinal material increasingly moved into lay hands. While the Church benefited from, and promoted, lay access to pastoral material, it also recognized the possibility that this access could escape the control of religious authorities and lead to misinterpretation. Much like the dancers themselves, then, the cursed dancers exemplum in the Manuel stands as a powerful representation of evolving thirteenth-century conflicts over pastoral education, access to religious ritual, and the relationship between the laity and the established Church.

51 Given the present lack of a fully collated edition, I have verified the following manuscripts containing longer versions of the poem and found that they contain the episode; they are listed here under the sigla assigned by Arnould and supplemented in Murchison, “Readers”: A, B, C, D, E, H, O, Z, Pr, S, and T. I have not been able to check F, G, I, K, L, M, N, or W due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of the episode in P and Q can be explained by loss of folia. 52 The collections of exempla excerpts that omit the dancers episode are V, X, Y, and Pc. While the original intended audience of R is uncertain, three of the remaining four exempla collections (V, Y, and Pc) appear to have been produced for the clergy while the fifth (X) was in clerical possession by the fourteenth century.

Appendix A Manuscripts containing the Otbert account

The following summaries are intended to provide insight into the material history of the Otbert account; more complete descriptions are available in the catalogs and references cited here. Merseburg, Dombibliothek, MS Perg. 4to Nr. 96 (late 12th century or early 13th century)53 This codex contains the visions and letters of Elisabeth von Schönau and other letters; the Otbert account (fol. 131) was added at the end of the manuscript in a more recent hand in a space that had been left blank.54 The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliothek, MS 128 E 14 (formerly The Hague MS No. 906) (12th century)55 This manuscript, dated to 1106–1111, originated among the Benedictines at Saint-Wandrille-Rançon, in Normandy. It contains the Annals of Fontanelles (fols.1r–11v), Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum (fols. 12r–21v), and an exposition on the Gospels beginning “Appropinquans Jesus Jerosolimis” (fols. 22r–49v). The Otbert account (fols. 49v–50r) is the final text in this manuscript, where it is attributed to “Ego peccator nomine Stephanus.”

53 The descriptions of the manuscripts that follow have been supplemented with additional information from William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Regum Anglorum, lxxiv–lxxvi and Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 96–99. 54 A fuller description is available in F.W.E. Roth, Die Visionen der hl. Elisabeth: Scriften der Aebte Ekbert und Emecho von Schönau (Brünn: Verlag der Studien aus dem Benedictiner-und Cistercienser-Orden, 1884), xxxvi–xxxix. 55 See J. P. Gumbert, “Un manuscrit d'annales de Saint-Wandrille retrouvé,” Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 136 (1978): 74–75, See also Georg Heinrich Pertz, Archiv der Gesellschaft für Ältere Deutsche Geschichtskunde, vol. 7 (Hannover, 1839), 430–431. The codex’s contents may also be found by searching the KB’s database of manuscripts in Dutch collections; see Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections, accessed September 17, 2020,


Krista A. Murchison

Reims, Bibliothèque de la ville, MS 1410 (12th century)56 This manuscript contains saints’ lives and other miracle stories; the Otbert account (fols. 211v–212r) follows immediately after the life of Saint Severin (fols. 207v–211v), where it is demarcated from the previous text by a rubricated initial. It is followed by the passion of Pope Urban (fols. 212r–220v). Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS no. 9823–34 (12th century)57 This manuscript contains histories of the First Crusade by Fulcher of Chartres and the Benedictine Robert the Monk, among other texts. The Otbert account is preceded by a description of Jerusalem (fols. 139v–140v), a related text beginning “Hec est parrochia sante Dei civitatis Jherusalem” (fols. 141r–142r), and a description of the Lateran basilica entitled “Descriptio sanctuarii Lateranensis ecclesiae” (fols. 142r–146r). The Otbert account (fols. 146r–147r) is followed by a text on miracles that begins “De septem miraculis mundi” (fol. 147r–v). Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 5129 (12th century)58 This manuscript contains a wide variety of texts, including many of the works found in the Brussels manuscript. The account of Robert the Monk (fols. 1r–54v) appears first, followed by a description of Jerusalem (fols. 54v–66r) and various lists, including a catalog of the bishops and patriarchs of Jerusalem (fols. 66r–67r). These lists are followed by a tract entitled “Beda in expositione super Evangelium Marci” (fol. 67v). After a space left blank, the incipit to the Otbert account appears. The account itself follows in the next column, on fols. 67v–68r.

56 For a description of this manuscript, see the chapter in this book by Bradley Phillis and the Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, vol. 39, Reims (Paris: Plon, 1904), 635–643. The digitized manuscript is available via the BVMM; see “REIMS, Bibliothèque municipal, 1410 (K. 786),” Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux, accessed September 17, 2020, COMPOSITION_ID=4157. 57 For further information about this manuscript, see Bradley Phillis’s chapter in this book and Frédéric Lyna, Catalogue des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, vol. 11, Histoire de Hollande. Mélanges d’histoire – Géographie. Voyages, itinéraires, expéditions (Ronse: J. LeherteCourtin et Fils, 1927), 295–297. 58 For a description of this manuscript, see André Boutemy, “Le recueil poétique du manuscrit latin 5129 de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris,” Scriptorium 2, no. 1 (1948), 47–48, https://doi. org/10.3406/scrip.1948.2110. The manuscript has been digitized and can be viewed online; see “Historia et carmina de Hierosolyma,” BnF Gallica, accessed September 17, 2020, https://gallica.

“Desturné en us de secularité”?


Douai, Bibliothèque Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, MS 365 (12th century) This manuscript contains primarily theological material, including writings by Hugh of Saint-Victor.59 The Otbert account appears toward the start of the manuscript (fol. 3r), following fragments of the writings of Saint Bernard of Claivaux (fol. 2v) and preceding Hugh of Saint-Victor’s De vanitate mundi, which begins on fol. 3v.60 Leipzig, Stadtbibliothek, Handschrift C X C IV (or Rep. II, 64) (13th century) The Otbert account appears on fol. 64, surrounded by the lives of saints Heinrich and Kunegunde. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 18108 (12th century)61 Described by Hauréau as “un assemblage confus” of theological works, including the first 26 chapters of Alcuin’s Treatise on Vices and Virtues (fols. 1r–11v), an excerpt of Hugh of St Victor’s De sacramentis (fols. 12r–12v) and a letter by Peter Damian to Pope Alexander (fol. 66r–v). The Otbert account (fols. 75r–76r) is nestled among various extracts and sententiae. In the fifteenth century, the manuscript was in the collection of the convent of St Denis in Reims, according to an ex libris inscription. Missing copy noted by Schröder Schröder writes that Christiani Knaut, in his Antiquitates Comitatus Ballenstadiensis Et Ascaniensis (Cöthen 1698), published a version of the Otbert account from a poster that had been in a church but had since been destroyed.62

Further reading Arnould, E. J. Le Manuel des Péchés: Étude de Littérature Religieuse Anglo-Normande (XIIIme siècle). Paris: Droz, 1940. 59 I am grateful to Bradley Phillis for bringing this additional copy to my attention. A description of the manuscript is available via the CCFr; see “365. [Titre absent ou non renseigné],” BnF Catalogue collectif de France, accessed September 17, 2020, 06871/004D06A11233. 60 For more detailed information about this manuscript and the three that precede it on this list, see Bradley Phillis’s chapter in this book, where these manuscripts are identified, based on a shared prologue, as forming a group. 61 A description of this MS and digitized copy are available online; see “Latin 18108,” BnF Archives et manuscrits, accessed September 17, 2020, See also Barthélemy Hauréau, Notices et extraits de quelques manuscrits latins de la Bibliothèque nationale, vol. 6 (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1893), 35–45. 62 Christiani Knaut, Antiquitates Comitatus Ballenstadiensis et Ascaniensis (Cöthen, 1698), 97–98; Schröder, “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk,” 97.


Krista A. Murchison

Bejczy, István. Cardinal Virtues in the Middle Ages: A Study in Moral Thought from the Fourth to the Fourteenth Century. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Boyle, Leonard E. “The Fourth Lateran Council and Manuals of Popular Theology.” In The Popular Literature of Medieval England, edited by Thomas J. Heffernan, 30–43. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985. Furnivall, Frederick J., ed. Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with Those Parts of the Anglo-French Treatise on Which It Was Founded, William of Wadington’s “Manuel des Pechiez.” 2 vols. Early English Text Society, o. s., vols. 119, 123. London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903. Garrison, Jennifer. “Mediated Piety: Eucharistic Theology and Lay Devotion in Robert Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne.” Speculum 85, no. 4 (2010): 894–922. stable/41105417. Kemmler, Fritz. Exempla in Context: A Historical and Critical Study of Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne”. Tübingen: G. Narr, 1984. Murchison, Krista A. “The Readers of the Manuel Des Péchés Revisited.” Philological Quarterly 95, no. 2 (2016): 161–199. Schemmann, Ulrike. Confessional Literature and Lay Education: The “Manuel dés Pechez” as a Book of Good Conduct and Guide to Personal Religion. Düsseldorf: Droste, 2000. Schröder, Edward. “Die Tänzer von Kölbigk: Ein Mirakel des 11. Jahrhunderts.” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 17 (1897): 94–164. Sullivan, Matthew. “The Original and Subsequent Audiences of the Manuel des Péchés and Its Middle English Descendants.” D.Phil. thesis, Oxford, 1990. ProQuest (U481994).


Priests, cursed carolers, and pastoral care in Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Instructions to His Son Lynneth Miller Renberg*

Introduction To teach the unlearned, in their own tongue, what was sin and how to live a holy life: this was the stated goal of Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Handlyng Synne, perhaps the best-known medieval text in which the Kölbigk dancers narrative appears.1 This goal was echoed in Peter Idley’s adaptation of Handlyng Synne and in the other vernacular versions of similar texts circulating in late medieval England.2 These texts covered the basics of late medieval religion – the Ten Commandments, the seven deadly sins, the sacraments, and the means of shrift and penance. They laid out, in “simple” English, a model of piety and morality for the unlearned, focusing especially on lay audiences. The effort to teach people how to practice their faith using the vernacular had its origins in the Fourth Lateran Council, held in 1215. Fourth Lateran aimed at improving clerical and lay education and at providing better regulation within the medieval church. Its reforms created a significant break between the high and late medieval periods, although they were not based on new or original impetuses. Although the first and foremost of the Council’s goals was the reform of the clergy, the Council’s canons called for clerical reform as a precursor to broader

* My thanks to the librarians at Anderson University, particularly Darlene McKay and Frederick Guyette, for their help in acquiring the resources needed to complete this chapter in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d also like to thank Adam Renberg, Beth Allison Barr, Elizabeth Marvel, Bradley Phillis, and Irene Poulton for their feedback on early versions of this chapter. 1 In the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, a group of men and women gather in a churchyard to dance on Christmas Eve. Their festivities interrupt the priest at mass, and he admonishes them to come into mass and stop dancing. When they ignore him, he prays that they be cursed to dance for a full year, joined just as they are. The prayer is answered and the dancers are cursed, dancing without ceasing for a full twelve months. For a fuller overview of the tale, see Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis, “The Tale of the Kölbigk Ddancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes” in this book. 2 Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, in Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with Those Parts of the Anglo-French Treatise on Which It Was Founded, William of Wadington’s “Manuel des Pechiez,” ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, o. s., vols. 119, 123 (London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903), lines 11–29. Subsequent references to Handlyng Synne are to Furnivall’s edition.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

spiritual change. Thus, the reforms set in motion by Fourth Lateran were not confined to the clergy. Instead, the newly educated and reformed clergy were to communicate their knowledge to their parishioners, creating a more educated laity that could avoid profane or sacrilegious practices and engage in true Christian worship. What ecclesiastical officials viewed as most important – education of the faithful on the purpose and meaning of the sacraments and the basic creeds of the faith – came through clearly in thirteenth-century English synodal statutes and in the vernacular texts created to teach these principles of the faith.3 The tale of the cursed dancing carolers played a prominent role in some of these vernacular English texts, including Handlyng Synne, the anonymous Of Shrifte and Penance, and Peter Idley’s Instructions to His Son. Within each of these texts, the tale functioned as an exemplum, a didactic moral story. In the aftermath of Fourth Lateran Council, exempla became a central part of church teaching and preaching as a tool utilized to communicate moral standards to medieval audiences, either through sermons for the illiterate or through beautifully decorated compendia of tales intended for a wealthy lay audience. Teaching played a key role in pastoral care, the shepherding of souls. This chapter contends that the audience and message of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in these penitential and pastoral texts was two-pronged, aimed not just at the laity but also at the priests themselves. By reconsidering the pastoral literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as a genre aimed at those delivering pastoral care – as a sort of pastoral care for priests – the centrality of the priest in the tale of cursed dancing carolers takes on new significance. Just as the cursed dancers in the tale demonstrate the dangers of sinfulness by parishioners, the priest embodies the concerns about clerical failure that Fourth Lateran sought to address. These failings drive the action of the tale and tie into the tale’s larger moral message regarding sacrilege and “mysdedë to holynes.”4 By modeling priestly failure, the priest in the tale teaches the clerics responsible for pastoral care how to handle their own sins. And in learning to handle their sins, priests were taught what (and whom) to avoid. Exempla like the tale of the cursed dancing carolers were aimed as much at priests as at parishioners, but not for the sole purpose of moral reform or the buttressing of clerical authority. The concern was actually the pastoral care of both priests and laity. Yet, this concern had unintended and unfortunate consequences for the further development of medieval Christianity. As pastoral care and conduct were reformed, the end result was not merely the care of souls, but growing suspicion toward women.

3 For a detailed study of Fourth Lateran canons as represented in English statues and for Lang’s conclusion that bishops and abbots present at the Council were the sole means of introducing Fourth Lateran’s stipulations into England, see Marion Gibbs and Jane Lang, Bishops and Reform, 1215– 1272: With Special Reference to the Lateran Council of 1215 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 105–130. 4 Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, line 8597.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


Manuscripts and sources Handlyng Synne and Of Shrifte and Penance both presented the exemplum within a religious text with a larger theological agenda. Both the exemplum and the broader text were intended for use in the preparation of sermons and in the instruction of lay audiences in penitential practices. Handlyng Synne was produced almost simultaneously with the French Manuel des Péchés, which also circulated widely in England. Robert Mannyng of Brunne, a Lincolnshire cleric believed to have been a canon with the Gilbertine order, began work on the Middle English text Handlyng Synne in 1303, completing the work around 1333. Nine manuscripts of Handlyng Synne survive, suggesting that the work was fairly popular in the Middle Ages.5 Furthermore, the work’s popularity was both enduring, with adaptations and transcriptions created until the sixteenth century, and widespread, with the location of surviving manuscripts indicating that the text circulated from Durham to Essex.6 Of Shrifte and Penance, a fifteenth-century English prose version of the Manuel, only survives in a single manuscript, but shows the continued importance of this genre. The third English vernacular version of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers considered here appeared in a text with a markedly different context, Peter Idley’s Instructions to His Son. Surviving in seven manuscripts, Idley’s work was not in the same genre as the Manuel, Handlyng Synne, or Of Shrifte and Penance, belonging instead to the tradition of didactic literature written from a father to a son. It was meant to be read by individuals or within households, not recited to laity like the earlier works, and had broader aims than the cultivation of proper Christian faith. Book I of Idley’s text drew from two Latin treatises by Albertanus of Brescia, the Liber Consolationis et Consilii and the Liber de Amore et 5 Sullens provides an extensive discussion of the manuscript families of the text and of the surviving manuscripts themselves. See Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, ed. Idelle Sullens (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1983), xviii–xxxviii. 6 Pamela J. Yount, “Handlyng Synne: An Unconventional Conventional Poem,” M.A. thes. (Vanderbilt University, 1982), 4. Within both branches of manuscript families of Handlyng Synne, significant dialectical revision occurred. Robert Mannyng and Betty Marie VanderSchaaf, “An Edition of Robert Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne,” PhD diss. (University of Iowa, 1978), 6–12. Although the number of known manuscripts has doubled since the creation of Furnivall’s Early English Texts edition, Charlton Laird’s analysis of variations in the various manuscripts shows only spelling variations in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. See Charles Laird, The Source of Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Handlyng Synne; a Study of the Extant Manuscripts of the Anglo-Norman Manuel Des Pechiez, PhD diss. (Stanford University, 1940). I have consulted seven of the nine extant manuscript copies of Handlyng Synne (Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.4.9; London, British Library, MS Harley 1701; London, British Library, Add MS 22283; Oxford, Bodleian, MS Ashmole 61; Oxford, Bodleian, MS 415; and Washington, DC Folger, MS V.b.236). I have also consulted the only extant copy of Of Shrifte and Penance (Cambridge, St. John’s College, MS 197), and three copies of Idley’s Instructions to His Son (Cambridge, Magdalene College, MS Pepys 2030; London, British Library, MS Arundel 20; and New Haven, Beinecke, MS Osborn fa50 [consulted online]). This manuscript work has shown no variants beyond spelling variations in the quoted passages dealt with in this chapter, and thus, for the ease of the reader, citations will be to the published, edited versions of each text.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

Dilectione Dei et Proximi. Each of these works was composed in the thirteenth century for Albertanus’s sons and discussed both divine love and human love, as well as practical advice about human relationships, worldly possessions, arts and virtues, settling one’s grievances, and the choice of counsel.7 But, in the portion of the Instructions in which the tale of the cursed dancing carolers appeared, Idley turns from his child to all children in the church, from a fatherly role to a pastoral one of sorts. Thus, his version of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers can be read both as evidence of the prevalence of the morality communicated in exempla within society as a whole and as a part of the dialogue laid out in explicitly religious compositions like Handlyng Synne. In each of these texts, the tale of the cursed carolers’ intended lessons revolved around sacrilege, with the tale used to communicate a proper respect for sacred space and for the authority of the church. Thus far, studies of these texts and their lessons have largely focused on their lay audiences. Works like Mark Miller’s article on the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in Handlyng Synne have shown that the message conveyed to lay audiences was far more complex than a simple “do not dance in church.” In fact, these sermon tales presented nuanced lessons about moral behavior, the human condition, agency, and interiority. As Miller put it, in Mannyng’s text the problem of sin “is a global one, and no package of representations, at the level of specific acts or desires or at the more general level of kinds of act or desire, can definitively capture it.”8 The goal of late medieval sermon tales was ultimately to instill not a rigid list of rules but a sense of vigilance against complex problems of sin and depravity into medieval audiences. But largely unnoted in scholarship is the way these tales were likewise meant to reform and educate the priests who delivered them. Kate Greenspan’s chapter “Lessons for the Priest, Lessons for the People: Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Audiences for Handlyng Synne” is the exception. Greenspan notes Mannyng’s focus on clerical corruption, arguing in her close study of the text that the cleric offers two kinds of instruction to two distinct audiences: one by direct address to laymen, admonishing them to respect their priests, no matter what; the other, by implication for the most part, to the preachers using his manual, from whom he expects a more developed sensitivity to hidden layers of meaning.9

7 Charlotte D’Evelyn, “Introduction,” in Peter Idley, Instructions to His Son, ed. Charlotte D’Evelyn (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), 36–37; for a full exploration of the author’s life, see 5–35. 8 Mark Miller, “Displaced Souls, Idle Talk, Spectacular Scenes: Handlyng Synne and the Perspective of Agency,” Speculum 71, no. 3 (July 1996): 629, 9 Kate Greenspan, “Lessons for the Priest, Lessons for the People: Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s Audiences for Handlyng Synne,” Essays in Medieval Studies 21, no. 1 (2005): 109, https://doi. org/10.1353/ems.2005.0006.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


In contrast to this trend in the study of vernacular didactic literature and exempla, most work on pastoral manuals focuses exclusively on how these texts taught priests to care for lay audiences. For instance, while Beth Allison Barr’s work provides the most comprehensive treatment of vernacular English literature and pastoral care to date, Barr retains a focus on texts meant to teach priests how to care for parishioners, including pastoral manuals like John Mirk’s Instructions to Parish Priests.10 Likewise, in its thorough exploration of lay religiosity and church life, William Campbell’s recent monograph on pastoral care in thirteenthcentury England follows the standard medieval definition of pastoral care: the shepherding of lay souls, not priestly ones.11 These works, like other works on pastoral care, neglect to discuss the dual audience for the didactic literature of the late medieval era. They do not analyze the care of priestly souls through the same exempla used to care for laity. The literature produced in the wake of Fourth Lateran was intended not just for the education for the laity, but for the education and reform of the clergy. The education and reform of the clergy was the focus of a number of Fourth Lateran’s canons, yet is often overlooked in the study of the pastoral works produced in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Exempla like the tale of the cursed dancing carolers served as pastoral care for the priests delivering their sermons, for these exempla taught priests how to properly perform their roles and how to reform their conduct in order to shepherd their own souls safely to heaven.

Reforming pastoral care Although not always explicitly acknowledged by medieval authors, the first step in pastoral care was the training and care of clerical souls. Accordingly, the first sort of pastoral care provided for clergy in the tale of the cursed dancers appears in the ways in which the priest of the tale, with his failures, helps teach parish priests how to avoid such sins in their own parishes. In the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, the priest’s most apparent failures lay within the realm of proper pastoral care: his failure to administer confession and penance, his inappropriate cursing of his parishioners, and his heated vowing driven by emotion rather than concern for his flock. In a text developed as part of a program of pastoral care, these failures support the idea that the tale had a dual audience. The canons of Fourth Lateran repeatedly highlighted confession and penance as tools of pastoral care. The seventh canon decreed that “prelates of churches should prudently and diligently attend to the correction of their subjects’ offences, especially of clerics, and to the reform of morals.”12 This canon then discussed the 10 See especially Chapter 2 in Beth Allison Barr, The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2008). 11 William Campbell, The Landscape of Pastoral Care in 13th-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). 12 Norman P. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (London: Sheed & Ward; Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990), I:237.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

regulation of ecclesiastical offices, with a repeated emphasis on the weighty need for the care of both clerical and lay souls. In the twenty-first canon’s better-known discussion of pastoral care, Fourth Lateran made the administration of confession and penance vital parts of a priest’s role, mandating that: [A]ll the faithful of either sex, after they have reached the age of discernment, should individually confess all their sins in a faithful manner to their own priest at least once a year, and let them take care to do what they can to perform the penance imposed on them.13 This same canon also laid responsibility for receiving confession and assigning penance effectively upon the parish priest, allowing parishioners who “wish[ed], for a good reason . . . to confess their sins to another priest” to do so.14 Priests were to “carefully inquire about the circumstances of both the sinner and the sin,” and to thoroughly discuss the confessed sin with the parishioner, assigning fitting and appropriate penance.15 Only if the parishioners refused to confess and to submit to the priest’s authority was the priest to excommunicate them. Furthermore, Fourth Lateran made clear the proper criteria for excommunication by addressing unjust applications, laying out the following principles: With the approval of this sacred council, we forbid anyone to promulgate a sentence of excommunication on anyone, unless an adequate warning has been given beforehand in the presence of suitable persons, who can if necessary testify to the warning. . . . Let him carefully avoid proceeding to excommunicate anyone without manifest and reasonable cause . . . since it is not a trivial fault to inflict so great a punishment on an innocent person.16 In spelling out guidelines for pastoral care for laity through discussions of excommunication and the steps of pastoral care that preceded it, Fourth Lateran’s canons laid out a framework for proper pastoral care, a framework then taught to parish priests through vernacular texts. For example, John Mirk’s Instructions to Parish Priests, a text produced in the late fourteenth century explicitly to teach proper parish care in medieval England, provided a model as to how the administration of these duties should look. The bulk of Mirk’s relatively brief manual is concerned with confession and the assignation of penance, instructing readers in their obligations in administering care, points of inquiry and examination, and the assignation of penance and absolution.17 In addition to this lengthy discussion, Mirk’s

13 14 15 16 17

Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:245. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:245. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:245. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:255–256. John Mirk, Myrc’s Instructions for Parish Priests (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1996), 21–54.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


Instructions discussed excommunication and curses that priests should administer if parishioners prove unrepentant or commit certain actions.18 Mirk’s whole work reflected the practical application of Fourth Lateran’s reforms, but his section on excommunication and cursing speaks directly to the importance of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in implementing conciliar reforms. In his model of priestly cursing, Mirk instructed priests to pronounce a year-long curse upon unrepentant parishioners. The priest was to use “cross and candle and bell tolling” as he “pronounced this hideous thing” through the “authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our lady Saint Mary, and Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and all holy ghosts, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the holy company of heaven.”19 Included in the list of those the priest was to curse were those who “disturbed the peace of holy church” as well as those who “befoul the holy church, or sanctuary, or churchyard, where through this God’s service is not said nor done as it should be.”20 The curse was to last “within and without, sleeping and waking, going, sitting, and standing, lying above the earth and under the earth, speaking, riding, going, sitting, standing, eating, drinking, in woods, in water, in fields and in town.”21 The dancing carolers of the tale certainly met the conditions for cursing and excommunication with their sacrilegious behavior, and the effects of the hasty words of Mannyng’s priest on the dancers seem to be a literal interpretation of this unspoken part of the excommunication procedure spelled out by Mirk. Read against Fourth Lateran’s canons and Mirk’s Manuel, the priest’s curse in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers is much more than a simple prayer for vengeance – it is, instead, an improperly administered pastoral curse. The priest’s curse pointed to his failure to properly administer confession or pastoral care and provided an anti-model of pastoral care to the parish priests for whom Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Mirk’s Instructions were prepared. The priest did not follow the very explicit wording and pattern laid 18 Although his work postdates Handlyng Synne, Mirk drew upon an earlier Latin work, indicating that priestly cursing was not a late fourteenth-century phenomenon. O. S. Pickering’s work on priestly cursing points to over forty Middle English manuscripts that give instructions for excommunication, indicating that this was a widely accepted priestly tool, but one that had to be handled according to a set procedure; Mirk’s Instructions provides one of the fullest discussions of this practice. See O. S. Pickering, “Notes on the Sentence of Cursing in Middle English or, a Case for the Index of Middle English Prose,” Leeds Studies in English n. s. 1 (1981): 229, http://digital. 19 “cros and candul, and belle knyllynge” as he “pronownce[d] þis hydowse þinge” through the “auctorite of our lorde ihseu cryste, & off oure lady seynte mary, and seynte petur and seynte poule, & alle holy halowes, apostelus, martyrres, confessoures, virgins, & alle þe holy company of heuen.” Mirk, Instructions, 60–61. All translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 20 “disturbulleth pes of holy chirche” as well as those that “defoylum holy chirche, or seyntwary or chir[che]ȝarde, where þorough goddys seruice is note sayde nor done os hit felle for to be.” Mirk, Instructions, 62, 66. 21 “wit-inne and wit-oute forȝþe, sclepynge & wakynge, goynge, syttynge, and standing, lyggynge of-bowne þe erthe & vndur þe erthe, spekynge, rydynge, goynge, syttynge, stondynge, etynge, drynkynge, in wode, in watur, in felde & in towne.” Mirk, Instructions, 67.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

out by Mirk: rather than a planned, organized, and specifically worded curse, delivered on the mandated day, the priest delivered an extemporaneous and vague curse.22 Furthermore, the priest neglected to ask any questions or give the dancers a chance to consider his words and confess. After admonishing the carolers a single time, Mannyng’s priest was “sore aggrieved” and prayed that God and Saint Magnus would work “such a vengeance” that “they might ever right so wend unto that time in twelvemonth end.”23 In short, the priest simply left the mass, asked the dancers to stop, and then, after their initial refusal, immediately prayed vengeance upon them. This failure to allow for adequate time for confession and repentance indicated a failure on his part to satisfactorily perform his priestly duties and to care for his parishioners’ bodies and souls.24 Additionally, “he cursed them all the same,” without seeking to discern the motivations behind their sins.25 Even the priest’s son recognized his father’s failure to properly administer confession, penance, or excommunication to the cursed dancers: Your cursing, now see that it is fallen With vengeance on your own flesh. Foolishly you cursed, and oversoon. You asked for vengeance, you have your boon.26 And indeed, later in Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne, he made this message about the difference between excommunication or proper cursing and the priest’s actions even clearer, in a discussion of how priests were forbidden to curse their parishioners: The priest is never certain what he means When he for little cause curses his parishioners; That each shepherd gives no good care That gives the wolf his sheep; At the last account shall he fall When he shall answer for them all.27

22 Katharine Goodland, Female Mourning in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama: From the Raising of Lazarus to King Lear (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006), 57. 23 “sore a-greued” . . . “swych a veniaunce” that “they myȝt euer, ryȝt so wende / Vnto that tymë tweluemonth ende.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 9075, 9079, 9081–9082. 24 Mary Flowers Braswell, The Medieval Sinner: Characterization and Confession in the Literature of the English Middle Ages (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1983), 31. 25 “he cursed hem there alsaume.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, line 9085. 26 “Thy cursyng, now sene hyt ys / with veniaunce on thyn ownë flesh / Fellyche thou curesedest, and ouer sone / Thou askedest veniaunce, thou hast thy bone.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 9115–9118. 27 “Þe prest wote neuer what he menes, / Þat for lytyl, curseþ hys parysshenes; / Þat yche shepard ȝyueþ no gode kepe / Þat betecheþ þe wulfe hys shepe; / At þe last acounte shal he mysfalle, / Whan he shal answere for hem alle.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 10881–10886.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


At the time of the production of Handlyng Synne, texts like Mirk’s on the administration of pastoral care were not yet extant – indeed, they would not appear until almost a century after the composition of Handlyng Synne. Priests, particularly parish priests serving in more rural contexts, would have learned how to handle their own sin and fulfill their pastoral duties not through pastoral manuals but through priests in sermon tales, like the priest in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. As Greenspan notes, in Mannyng’s text specifically: [T]he priest, too, “handles” the text by reading to his lay listeners, for, as he reads and interprets it for them, he actively explains it to himself. He is as much his own audience as is his flock. . . . Exempla . . . demonstrate Mannyng’s typical strategies for addressing his two sets of auditors in one breath.28 Priests could not obtain a full model of how to administer confession, penance, and excommunication from the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, but in teaching their parishioners about the sins of sacrilege, they were certainly taught how not to administer pastoral care. The priestly cursing and prayer for vengeance that drove the action of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers taught priests not only how to handle pastoral care but also how to handle their own sins of hasty oaths or wrathful speech, sins clearly committed by the priest in his improper administration of pastoral care. The sin of hasty oath-taking was the focus of Peter Idley’s discussion of the commandment regarding false testimony, the eighth commandment in his text. Idley warned his audience that: And if you any such oaths make or vow To do any deeds that are unlawful Avoid that oath, for you know nothing how God of such oaths a vengeance will see And also it is unknown which time that we Shall depart from this woeful world And whether we shall to bliss or to hell. Therefore be advised to make such a behest For any haste, wrath, or sudden fortune Keep your breath close within your breast And be not suddenly hot without measure; Sufferance in season will longest endure. Therefore be never hasty in a vow making Lest you soon repent after your heat slaking.29 28 Greenspan, “Lessons for the Priest,” 110. 29 “And if thow ony suche othes make or avowe / To doo any deedis that vnleefull bee, / Avoide that othe, for / thow woste nothing howe / God of suche othis a vengeaunce woll see; / And also it is vnknowe whiche tyme that we / Shall departe from this woofull vale, / And whether we shall to


Lynneth Miller Renberg

This passage specifically cautioned against hasty and wrathful vows, such as the prayer made by the priest in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. Mannyng’s version likewise counseled its audience that “God had rather you the oath withdraw than do evil deed after foolish vow.”30 The parallels between these presentations of the perils of hasty oaths and sudden anger and the repentance that follows remind the priest delivering these texts to a lay audience that he, too, is not exempt from the sins of anger or hasty oath-taking. In fact, as shown in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, he might be more liable to these sins than some of his parishioners, and his word carried weighty consequences for those he is supposed to guide and protect. Idley’s abridged text draws an additional connection between this discussion of hasty oaths and the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. For his examples of hasty oath-making, Idley referenced two narratives: the tale of Herod’s hasty oath to Salome, the dancing girl; and Jephthah’s rash oath that led to the death of his dancing daughter. Although none of these vernacular texts – Mannyng’s, Idley’s, or the anonymous Shrifte and Penance – specified that Jephthah’s daughter was dancing, all of them highlighted the connection between dance and hasty oaths in their discussion of Herod and the dancing girl Salome. Idley presented the narrative to his readers as a well-known biblical example of the dangers of hasty oaths, reminding them: How Herod vowed in his mad heat Because his daughter tumbled indeed He bid her ask what that she would – If it were half his kingdom, have it she should. The maid asked by the advice of her mother In a dish to have the head of Saint John – This was her petition, she desired none other. And thus in haste she would have it done; Wherefore the emperor made great moan, And because he would not break his simple behest, He had her do as she liked best . . . Of such oaths, therefore, be not too broad, And if you make a vow with an evil mind, Change that oath into a better kind.31 blisse or to bale. / Therfore be avised to make such a behest / Ffor ony haste, wrathe, or sodden aventure. / Keepe thy breith cloos withyn thy bresste / And be not sodenlie / hoote without mesure; / Sufferaunce in season woll longest endure. / Therfore be neuer hasti in a vowe making. / Lest thow sone repent after thy hete slaking.” Idley, Instructions to His Son, 153. 30 “God haþ leuer þou þe wyþdrow / þan do euyl dede after foly vow.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 2811–2812. 31 “how Herod avowed in his madhede / Because his doughter tombled in dede / He bad hir aske what that she wolde – / If it were half his region, haue it she sholde. / The maide asked by the avice of hir modir / In a disshe to haue the hede of seynt Iohn – / This was hir petitcion, she desired noon other, / And thus in haste she wolde haue it don; / Wherfore themperoure made grete moone; / And

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


Although the oath-maker at the center of this narrative is a king, not a priest, the broad moral appears to be much the same: dancing causes men to make hasty, impassioned oaths that lead to death. There is a repeated connection in these texts of dance with the sin of hasty oaths, and a repeated identification of women as the dancing problematic perpetrators of this chain of sins. To return to the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, perhaps it is out of frustration at his daughter’s failure to heed his admonition that the priest issued his hasty and impassioned prayer for vengeance. Priests were fully aware of the potential dangers women posed to the proper administration of pastoral care. As Beth Allison Barr has noted, women presented both particular needs and dangers to the priests charged with the care of their souls. Often presented as “prone to sexual sin, dubious about sacerdotal powers, [and] fearful of confession,” women were considered “problematic parishioners.”32 In short, women could prove an obstacle to proper pastoral care. Consequently, part of teaching priests to handle their sin in these texts involved teaching them to avoid the passions that could be provoked by dance or by women. And in teaching priests to handle their sin, those creating and circulating vernacular texts were again seeking the care of clerical souls, as is made clear in the statutes of Salisbury, Canterbury, and Durham: “we enjoin upon priests, on peril of their souls, that in exercising their duties they do not follow their personal motives, such as grudges, hatred, or carnal affections.”33 Reforming pastoral care required the pastoral care of priests, a difficult task given the close-knit nature of the medieval parish and the potential for sin created by living in a community.

Reforming pastoral conduct This concern about priestly passions provoked by parishioners was not restricted to the ways in which these emotions could jeopardize the proper performance of pastoral care. As the statutes of Salisbury, Canterbury, and Durham made clear, there was also explicit concern with “carnal affections” and issues of conduct. These vernacular English versions of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, therefore, did not just provide examples of poorly performed pastoral care. They also taught priests how to conduct themselves, again by presenting priestly failures and their consequences. The sinful priest in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers was intended to teach parish clergy how to handle their passions without sin, just as the sinful laity in these tales were meant to teach ordinary men and women how to handle their sin. Furthermore, the intentionality with which the authors of

for he wolde not breke his simple beheeste, / He had hir doo as she liked beste . . . / Of suche othis, therefore, be not to large, / And if ye make a vowe with an euell mynde, / Chaunge that othe into a better kynde.” Idley, Instructions to His Son, 153. 32 Barr, The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England, 3. 33 F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, Councils and Synods, with Other Documents Relating to the English Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), II:95; translation from Campbell, The Landscape of Pastoral Care in 13th-Century England, 40.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

these texts followed the canons of Fourth Lateran makes it clear that the parallels between literary priests and conciliar recommendations were not accidental. Authors like Mannyng and Idley included specific recommendations that seem to be drawn from Fourth Lateran’s canons in order to educate one of their two audiences: priests who delivered both sermons and pastoral care. Reading each of these three versions of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers highlights the various sins priests were taught to handle, in accordance with thirteenth-century reforms. Some of the failures of clerical conduct in the exempla surrounding the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in Mannyng, Idley, or Of Shrifte and Penance were relatively minor, like priestly speech or dress. In Idley’s discussion of the fifth commandment, he included a discussion about purity of speech in priests: And especially priests and men of religion Ought to have their words clean and pure And not befoul their mouths in any season. Of Christ’s body they have wholly the cure – To keep their mouths clean they should be sure, To receive that Lord, maker of nothing, In as clean a manner as could be thought.34 Reform of priestly speech dovetailed with the concern about priestly oaths and vows highlighted elsewhere in Idley’s and Mannyng’s texts, particularly in passages tied to dance. But Idley’s discussion of priestly conduct did not end with priestly speech: it proceeded into a discussion of priestly dress: But now it is hard in all towns To know a secular man from a priest Unless he may happen to see his crown – He is so fresh and gallant at each feast; With homely words he will jest As a boy or a knave at the brothels use There is no manner of game he will refuse. Now lest I be blamed I dare say no more – To see a priestly priest is greatly rare He would be shrined and kept in store.35 34 “And specially priestis and men of Relegion / Owe to haue her words cleene and pure / And not defoule her mowthes in noo season. / Of Cristis bodye they haue hoolly the cure – / To kepe that mowthe cleene they shold be sure, / To resceyue that Lorde, maker of nought, / In as cleenlie wyse as cowed be thought.” Idley, Instructions to His Son, 133. 35 “But now it is harde in all a towne / To ken a seculer man froo a priest, / But if he may happe to se his crowne – / He is so fresshe and galant at eche a feeste; / As homly wordis he woll geeste / As a boy or a knave that the stues vse – / Ther is no maner game he woll refuse. / Now lest I be blamed I dar sey no more – / To see a priestly priest it were grete deyntee: / He wold be shrined and kept in store.” Idley, Instructions to His Son, 133.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


While priestly dress and games do not appear as explicit concerns in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, this passage provides a similar example of how these pastoral texts served both lay and clerical audiences. This discussion of priestly decorum, although couched as lay criticism of clerics, likewise conveyed to clergy how priests should behave, communicating many of the principles laid out in Fourth Lateran’s sixteenth canon. This canon not only commanded that clerics avoid dishonorable or secular entertainments and spaces but also ordered: They should have a suitable crown and tonsure. . . . Their outer garments should be closed and neither too short nor too long. Let them not indulge in red or green cloths, long sleeves or shoes with embroidery or pointed toes, or in bridles, saddles, breast-plates and spurs that are gilded or have other superfluous ornamentation. Let them not wear cloaks with sleeves at divine services in a church, nor even elsewhere, if they are priests or parsons, unless a justifiable fear requires a change of dress. They are not to wear buckles or belts ornamented with gold or silver, or even rings except for those whose dignity it befits to have them.36 For rural English priests not likely to encounter the canons of Fourth Lateran in synodal decrees, the discussions of clerical conduct in vernacular literature served as a means of pastoral care in much the same way that discussions of lay morality served as pastoral care for the laity. Through Idley’s list of complaints against clerical dress, parish clergy could learn how best to handle themselves and avoid sin, in a model of care of souls not greatly distinct from the care of lay souls, different standards for clergy and laity notwithstanding. Issues such as inappropriate dress or foul-mouthed priests were worrisome, but the tale of the cursed dancing carolers highlighted an even graver concern with priestly conduct. Fourth Lateran’s fourteenth canon stated that clerics should “strive to live in a continent and chaste way” and called for punishment “according to canonical sanctions” for those who “are caught giving way to the vice of incontinence.”37 And yet, the priest at the center of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers had children – both a son and a daughter in these Middle English versions. As multiple scholars have noted, the emphasis on clerical celibacy evolved from a recommendation to a requirement during the Gregorian Reforms of the eleventh century. Each of the previous three Lateran councils had, in some way, sought to eliminate clerical marriage. Thus, Fourth Lateran’s continued emphasis on this point was no different from what had come before. But, as Ruth Mazo Karras explains, while concern with clerical celibacy remained rather constant, “the idea that no woman – indeed, no layperson – could ever be of equal standing with a priest changed dramatically over the course of the Middle Ages.” She points out that earlier arguments for clerical celibacy treated it as

36 Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:243. 37 Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I:242.


Lynneth Miller Renberg a more perfect form of an asceticism that was an unenforceable ideal for both clergy and laity. In the reform era, it became part of a general effort to separate the clergy from the laity and increase the power and superiority of the church.38

And, as Jennifer Thibodeaux has shown, the thirteenth century saw a push to take these ideas about clerical marriage (or rather, the lack thereof) and put them into practice in England and Normandy.39 This is why almost all of the thirteenth-century constitutions put forth in England forbid the clergy to marry or have wives.40 Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that the area of pastoral conduct paid the most attention in Handlyng Synne and its contemporary texts was that of clerical celibacy. Indeed, the tale of the cursed carolers played a significant part in Mannyng’s critique of married priests. The very framework of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in these texts displayed the repercussions of unpriestly conduct in this area. The existence of the priest’s children represented a violation of Fourth Lateran’s standards for priests; his failure to properly teach his daughter and his lack of authority in her conduct highlighted the priest’s failure to live chastely. That misstep begat pastoral failures, in a kind of genealogy of sins. And, notably, in all three of these vernacular English versions of the tale, it was the daughter of the priest who was called out to join in the caroling. It was the daughter of the priest who seemed to have a reputation for dancing, and it was the sin of the priest’s daughter that seemed to drive the priest’s failure to properly administer pastoral care, delivering a curse instead. Concerns about the efficacy of a married or unchaste priest were not limited to considerations about the sacraments. The authors’ insistent focus on the transgressions of the priest’s daughter positions these vernacular English versions of the tale of the cursed carolers squarely as part of the discourse about clerical celibacy discussed by Thibodeaux and Mazo Karras. A lengthy discussion of priests’ wives elsewhere in Handlyng Synne expanded on some of the issues merely hinted at in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. Mannyng warned his audiences, both the priests engaging the text and the laity listening to sermons, about the dangers to the souls of both priests and women posed by priests’ wives: If there be either maiden or wife That disturbs the holy life Of the priest through lechery 38 Ruth Mazo Karras, Unmarriages: Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 116, 118–119. 39 See especially Chapters 5 and 6 in Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, The Manly Priest: Clerical Celibacy, Masculinity, and Reform in England and Normandy, 1066–1300 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). 40 Gibbs and Lang, Bishops and Reform, 1215–1272, 126.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


Against her shall call and cry All that are in paradise And all that in purgatory lie; And all that are in this life.41 Following this blanket condemnation of women who jeopardize the conduct, impartiality, and body of the priest came a list of the weighty duties of the priest: breaking God’s body in prayer and offering the sacred body for the saints, the earthly congregation, and the souls in purgatory. Mannyng concluded that, given the importance of pastoral care and sacerdotal duties, “certainly, she does much amiss, the woman that disturbs all this.”42 Such a woman, according to Mannyng, was cursed and bound to be carried off to hell unless she repented and performed significant amounts of penance. While this tale clearly issued a warning to the women in the roles of priests’ wives, its implications also warned priests earnestly seeking to fulfill their pastoral duties and follow ecclesial standards of clerical conduct that these ambitions were incompatible with relationships with women. To further illustrate his point, Mannyng followed this discussion of priests’ wives with a tale about the body of a priest’s wife being carried off to hell and then with a more general discussion of lechery and sexual sin. Immediately after this discussion came the section on sacrilege and within it the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. The tale of the cursed dancing carolers implied the presence of a priest’s wife or partner: in none of the three versions of the tale examined here does a priest’s wife appear. But despite this absence of priests’ wives, the section on sacrilege points to a similar concern about the presence and bodies of women that Ruth Mazo Karras noted in her discussion of exempla featuring priests’ partners.43 And the proximity of Mannyng’s discussions of priests’ wives to the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, with its illegitimate and sinful children of the cleric, communicated a clear message about pastoral conduct to both clerical and lay audiences. While thirteenth-century authors focused on priests’ wives as one flashpoint of clerical reform, women in general served as another target for those set on reforming clerical conduct. Each of these vernacular English texts includes prohibitions against women standing in sight of the clergy in their sacrilege sections. In every case, authors placed this prohibition near the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. As articulated in Of Shrifte and Penance,

41 “Ȝyf þer be oþer mayden or wife/ Þat dysturbleþ þe holy lyfe / Of þe prest, þurgh lechery / Aȝens here shal kalle and crye / Alle þat are yn paradys / And all þat yn purgatory lys; / And alle þat are yn þys lyue.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 7941–7947. 42 “Certys, she douþ ful moche a-mys, / Þe woman þat dysturbleþ alle þys.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 7961–7962. 43 Mazo Karras discusses a number of exempla from Handlyng Synne that focus on the priest’s wife in Chapter 3 of her work on medieval unmarriages. See especially Mazo Karras, Unmarriages, 139–141.


Lynneth Miller Renberg a woman should not come in the choir among clerics, while men do the service and the sacrament, for they might tempt the clerics and disturb them in their song. In beholding of a fool there comes foolish thought in heart.44

The tale of John Chrysostom’s deacon was placed immediately adjacent to the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in each of the three texts. This exemplum gave a vivid example of the consequences of such proximity with women, describing how a deacon’s lustful thoughts about a woman prevented the presence of God in the sacrament of communion.45 Thus, when books like Handlyng Synne are read as texts aimed not just at laity but also at clergy, it becomes clear that the warnings about women in sacred space were meant to teach priests about the boundaries necessary to avoid the fate of the priest in the tale of the cursed dancing carolers. The push to reform clerical conduct became a push to exclude problematic female bodies, in the name of the care of clerical and lay souls. Unfortunately, the authors seeking to care for clerical and lay souls saw “women” as a generic and problematic category, leaving little room for female parishioners or worshippers within their reformed churches.

Conclusion: priests and parishioners The tale of the cursed dancing carolers carefully taught priests how to perform their pastoral roles well, but as the tale and other exempla show, carefully reformed priests had to be carefully protected. Imagining priests as a literal part of the church that could be sacrilegiously violated helped accomplish this goal. This definition of priests as a physical part of the church permeated vernacular English texts: Mannyng, for example, defined sacrilege as “misdeed to holiness,” which could include not only stealing from the church, defiling the churchyard, improper burials in sacred ground, sexual intercourse in holy places, playing in churchyards, and using the church for unholy purposes but also striking clergy or the tempting of clergy by women.46 This definition, placed at the beginning of the section in which Mannyng relays the tale of the cursed dancing carolers, makes it clear from the start that his goal was to protect and reform both church and clergy. The sins around which the tale of the cursed carolers dances violated both aims and showed how to reform both sacred spaces and bodies, making the choice of the tale in Idley’s abridged version only logical. Scholars have generally read these admonitions to protect and respect clerical figures as part of a push to establish and reinforce sacerdotal authority – that is,

44 “A woman schulde nat come in þe quere amonge clerkes, þe whyle men doth þe seruise and þe sacrament, for he myȝhte tempte þe clerkes and sturble hem of here song. In byholdinge of a fole þer comyth foly þowht in herte.” Klaus Bitterling, Of Shrifte and Penance the ME Prose Translation of Le Manuel Des Péchés (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1998), 100; St. John’s College 197, fol. 60r. 45 Of Shrifte and Penance, 100; St. John’s College 197, fol. 60r–v. 46 “mysdedë to holynes.” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, line 8597.

Priests, cursed carolers and pastoral care


part of broader movements to separate clergy from laity.47 As the text’s emphasis on respect for clergy makes clear, this is clearly part of the motivation behind these versions of the tale. Part of the tale’s message was meant to communicate respect for priests, even flawed, sinful human ones like the priest at the center of the tale of the cursed carolers. But considering a priestly audience as well as a lay audience offers another possibility. These sermon tales also served as warning signs for priests seeking to reform, to follow the guidelines and precepts laid out by the medieval church. Priests working through these exempla in preparation for teaching would have learned about the dangers to their authority posed by lay conduct, but also about the dangers to their own conduct inherent in these lay challenges to their authority. A carefully reformed priest could still be corrupted or compromised by an unreformed laity. And thus, sermon tales like the tale of the cursed dancing carolers delineated careful boundaries between priest and laity. Priests were warned of the potential dangers to their authority and holiness posed by lay individuals, and laity were simultaneously taught to respect the voice and authority of their priests, regardless of whether they were properly performing their duties or not. Dancers needed to be kept out of the churchyard to prevent the provocation of priests to hasty oaths. Ribald singing needed to be silenced to help priests remember the words of the mass. And women needed to stay out of sight in order to stay out of the minds of easily tempted priests struggling to maintain celibacy. Reading exempla as texts aimed at priests as much as at laity shifts ideas about the audience of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers and other medieval exempla. These texts indubitably reinforced sacerdotal authority, but they did so not for the mere sake of clerical authority. They did so as a means of pastoral reform as much as pastoral care. Significantly, in both this sermon tale and its contemporaries, the figures portrayed as most dangerous to priestly piety and authority were women. A careful reading of the tale of the cursed dancing carolers in Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Idley’s Instructions to his Son showed that in order to reform both audiences targeted by the tale of the cursed dancing carolers – priests and laity – the danger represented by women needed to be contained. The models of moral behavior and reform for the tale’s two audiences were different. But the tale and the vernacular texts in which it appeared were consistent in identifying women as the individuals most likely to jeopardize the creation of an educated, reformed, and faithful church. Fourth Lateran’s canons did not explicitly make this connection, but the authors who chose the tales used to teach these canons did, and so did their audiences.

Further reading Barr, Beth Allison. The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2008. 47 See, for example, Alessandro Arcangeli, Dance and Law (Ghent: The Institute for Historical Dance Practice, 2000), 52–53.


Lynneth Miller Renberg

Boyle, Leonard. Pastoral Care, Clerical Education and Canon Law. London: Variorum Reprints, 1981. Campbell, William. The Landscape of Pastoral Care in 13th-Century England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Elliott, Dyan. Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Evans, G. R. A History of Pastoral Care. London: A&C Black, 2000. Gunn, Cate, Catherine Innes-Parker, and Bella Millett, eds. Texts and Traditions of Medieval Pastoral Care: Essays in Honour of Bella Millett. Woodbridge and Rochester: York Medieval Press, 2009. Pantin, William A. The English Church in the Fourteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955. Powell, Susan. “John Mirk’s Festial and the Pastoral Programme.” Leeds Studies in English 22 (1991): 85–102. Reeves, Andrew. Religious Education in Thirteenth-Century England: The Creed and Articles of Faith. Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, vol. 50. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2015. Rentz, Ellen K. Imagining the Parish in Late Medieval England. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2015. Schulenburg, Jane Tibbetts. “Gender, Celibacy, and Proscriptions of Sacred Space: Symbol and Practice.” In Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church, edited by Virginia Chieffo Raguin and Sarah Stanbury, 185–206. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. Stansbury, Ronald J., ed. A Companion to Pastoral Care in the Late Middle Ages (1200– 1500). Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010.


The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin’s Legend of St. Edith and the Wilton Chronicle Laura Clark

Introduction The tale of the Kölbigk dancers was widespread during the Middle Ages. As a natural result, there are many variations of the story, each version retold and repurposed to suit a particular time, place, and rhetorical context. At the same time, however, the base story is easily recognizable in all its forms. This chapter studies two versions of the tale, both produced in the English market town of Wilton, that contain many identical details despite being written at a remove of more than three hundred years. Most notably, in both versions, the story ends at Wilton Abbey, where one of the cursed dancers is healed through the intercession of the abbey’s patron saint, Edith of Wilton. These two versions – Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s Legend of St. Edith and the anonymous Wilton Chronicle – offer striking details that demonstrate the story’s adaptability and its usefulness in producing a variety of rhetorical effects. They stand out from other versions of the tale (some of which are discussed in other chapters in this book) in that they are most concerned with the aftermath of the curse and the healing of the afflicted dancers, rather than with the episode itself. They are also remarkable in their positive treatment of the women in the story, both the woman who joins the dance in Kölbigk and the community of women at Wilton Abbey who facilitate the healing of the cursed dancer. While both texts affirm the goodness of the Wilton community, the authors use this affirmation to achieve different rhetorical goals. In the case of the vita written by Goscelin, the goodness of the community encourages the women at Wilton to appreciate the stability and steadfastness offered by the monastic lifestyle. It is focused inward and concentrates on the edification of the women who make up the existing community. The Wilton Chronicle, on the other hand, focuses on attracting outside attention. It reaches outward and attempts to draw others in by extolling the virtue and power of Wilton’s patron saint. The story of the Kölbigk dancers offers a compelling microcosm with which to explore this rhetorical difference, which appears throughout many episodes in both works. The authors’ disparate historical contexts and intended audiences color their treatment of the tale, yielding different attitudes toward pilgrimage, different treatments of the virtue of virginity, and different descriptions of the bodily remains of the dead women in the story.


Laura Clark

Context Goscelin of Saint-Bertin includes his version of the tale of the Kölbigk dancers – one of the earliest written accounts of the tale – in the Legend of St. Edith, written in Latin around the year 1080. At the time, Goscelin, a Flemish monk, was likely serving as the chaplain at Wilton Abbey, and in the vita he includes a comprehensive history of the abbey from the time of its founding to the eleventhcentury stewardship of the abbess Godiva.1 Written less than twenty years after the Norman Conquest, the vita participated in a movement among pre-Conquest monasteries that aimed to preserve the commemoration of local saints and the legitimacy of their associated houses of worship in the face of intense scrutiny from outsiders. Lanfranc, the new Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, characterized the English church as “backward and corrupt,” and openly doubted the sanctity of English saints whose reputations persisted only through tradition.2 Many monasteries faced a loss of status as their local patron saints were removed from liturgical calendars and the authenticity of their relics questioned. Antonia Gransden describes the resulting mania for hagiography in the eleventh century as a result of these threats: The monasteries responded by writing down the lives of the saints associated with them. These works were much more than edificatory hagiographies. To some extent they were local histories. The hagiographer tried to discover the origin of the monastery of which his saint was patron. He tried to trace the monastery’s history through the saint’s cult. And his passion for relics made him try to account for antiquities surviving in his own day.3 Goscelin’s work certainly fits this description. Since Edith was an uncanonized, pre-Conquest royal saint, her sainthood and relics would have been targets of the Norman clergy’s scrutiny. Likewise, Wilton was a haven for several relatives of Harold Godwinson, the English king defeated at the Battle of Hastings and hence linked politically with the pre-Conquest rulers of England.4 Historians are divided on how to interpret this political context. Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis argues that the 1 Stephanie Hollis, “Goscelin’s Writings and the Wilton Women,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 220. 2 Richard Huscroft, Ruling England, 1042–1217, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016), 42. 3 Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England: 550–1307 and 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 106. 4 Stephanie Hollis, introduction to Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 2. Most notably, Harold’s daughter Gunhild and his sister Edith (Edward the Confessor’s widow) were residents at Wilton. While the status of Wilton Abbey was uncertain immediately after the Conquest due to its royal connections and the new religious seat at Sarum (near present-day Salisbury and near to Wilton), Richard Pfaff refutes the idea that Lanfranc had an agenda of purging the liturgical calendar of pre-Conquest saints. He adds Edith of Wilton to a list of saints whose inclusion in the liturgical calendar indicates the use of the Sarum Rite. Ultimately, Saint Edith was retained in the post-Conquest liturgical

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 111 abbey needed to curry favor with the new Norman ruling class in order to secure financial stability. By contrast, Sally Vaughn claims that things were the other way around – the Norman regime needed to find a place for pre-Conquest saints in their histories in order to ensure its legitimacy.5 Either way, Stephanie Hollis cautions against limiting interpretations of Goscelin’s work on the basis of its political context alone. She downplays Goscelin’s efforts to impress Archbishop Lanfranc and focuses her attention on the Wilton community itself as Goscelin’s primary audience.6 She highlights Goscelin’s reliance on the nuns at Wilton for his source material: “The Legend of Edith is a rare instance of a Life of a female saint which is based on the oral traditions of the female community who owned her relics; it is an inside story.”7 As a compilation of stories told by the Wilton women and for their edification, Goscelin’s Legend of St. Edith – and particularly his version of the tale of the Kölbigk dancers – provides a remarkable look into the ways in which the nuns perceived their own patron saint and their own community. As he introduces the tale, Goscelin situates it within the context of recent events, claiming that “the Roman world knows, and people still young today remember.”8 He boosts the credibility of the story by citing eyewitness accounts of the wandering dancers: “four of them were seen by us, and some may survive to this day.”9 One of these formerly cursed dancers, Theoderic, even produces a letter that has been verified by Pope Leo IX, which he reads to the people at Wilton. Goscelin’s account derives from the contents of this letter. After relating the tale, he reinforces its veracity by summarizing all of the sources of evidence: Theoderic, himself relating these matters by his speech, and validating them with his testimonial letters, and reinforcing it yet more by that very motion, his disturbing, beating leap, besought Edith to be propitious. . . . These things were publicly described in the presence of the Abbess Brihtgifu, who is well remembered.10


6 7 8

9 10

calendar in the Wiltshire region. See Richard Pfaff, The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 450. See Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis, “Recovering the Histories of Women Religious in England in the Central Middle Ages: Wilton Abbey and Goscelin of Saint-Bertin,” Journal of Medieval History 31, no. 3 (2016): 289,; and Sally N. Vaughn, St. Anselm and the Handmaidens of God: A Study of Anselm’s Correspondence with Women (Turnhout: Brepols, 2002), 179. Hollis, “Goscelin’s Writings,” 236. Hollis, introduction to Writing the Wilton Women, 12. “Romanus orbis nouit et hodierna iuuentus recolit.” André Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith en prose et vers par le moine Goscelin,” Analecta Bollandiana, no. 56 (1938): 285, https://doi. org/10.1484/J.ABOL.4.00807. For the corresponding translation, see Michael Wright and Kathleen Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 82. “ex quibus quatuor nobis conspecti et adhuc superesse possunt aliqui.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 286; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 82. “Hec Theodericus ille et ore referens et litteris testibus ostendens, ipsoque adhuc motu affirmans, saltu et plausu, suo iniocundo propiciatricem Editham interpellabat. . . . Hec in presencia memorate


Laura Clark

In his version, Goscelin claims to present a true historical and verified report of the events and ensures the trustworthiness and reliability of the Wilton nuns’ account of the story.11 In contrast, the Wilton Chronicle, written by an anonymous author in 1420 using Goscelin’s account as one of its source texts, does not share the same commitment to historical rigor. The only source the chronicler cites for the incident is the verbal testimony of the cursed dancer (called Theodoric in this version). The chronicler merely places the churchyard events in the year 1061 and the healing six years later, with no mention of a papal letter or of other eyewitness accounts. Rather than privileging proofs of the tale’s veracity, the chronicler concentrates on its popularity and its impact on the abbey’s renown. The chronicle repeatedly mentions how widespread the story had been, and while both versions include details about the Holy Roman Emperor’s sympathy for the dancers, only the Wilton Chronicle records that the emperor himself went to Kölbigk to witness the spectacle in person.12 Most importantly for Wilton Abbey, the Wilton Chronicle attributes Theodoric’s arrival at Wilton to the fact that “he had knowledge about St. Edward and he had heard much spoken about St. Edith also.”13 This foreknowledge is absent from Goscelin’s tale, in which Theoderic wonders at the intercessory power of “this blessed lady, whom I scarcely knew how to call upon, scarcely knew how to name correctly.”14 Goscelin’s Theoderic comes to Wilton through random wandering, not because he has a particular destination in mind. The Wilton Chronicle’s preoccupation with fame and renown flows from its rhetorical purpose, which is bound up with the abbey’s economic situation. In 1086, records indicate that Wilton Abbey was the wealthiest nunnery in England.15 By the thirteenth century, however, both the town of Wilton and the abbey had fallen on hard times: the completion of the cathedral in New Salisbury and the building of a bridge that granted access to Salisbury from the west proved disastrous for


12 13

14 15

abbatisse Brihgtive declarata.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291–292; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. Hollis notes Goscelin’s efforts to ensure the credibility of the nuns as witnesses to Edith’s memory, and she observes that he includes their oral testimony in his list of sources. As a work written for the Wilton community, it is appropriate that he would incorporate the abbey’s own oral traditions in his vita. See Stephanie Hollis, “St. Edith and the Wilton Community,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 276–277. Mary Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth: Princesses, Miracle Workers, and their Late Medieval Audience (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 287. “For knowlage of Seynt Edward forsothe had he. / And of Seynt Ede meche he herde speke þere also.” Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 290–291. All translations of the Middle English Wilton Chronicle are from Dockray-Miller’s edition. “hec benedicta domina, quam uix inuocare, uix nominare recte sciebam.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. “Houses of Benedictine Nuns: Abbey of Wilton,” in A History of the County of Wiltshire, vol. 3, ed. R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (London: Victoria County History, 1956), 231–242, www.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 113 the house.16 Previously, travelers would have had to take the bridge into Wilton in order to make their way east, but the new bridge allowed them to bypass the town. As a result, much of the business, trade, and administrative offices located in Wilton moved to New Salisbury. By the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, Wilton Abbey was likewise a shadow of its former self. In 1379, the Bishop of Salisbury’s inspection of the abbey revealed that the “buildings were apparently in a ruinous state” and its administration had become unacceptably lax.17 Another inspection in 1400 showed that the abbey had again lapsed into a state of dilapidation and needed extensive restoration. Wilton was not alone in its financial woes. By the fifteenth century many traditional local shrines such as Cuthbert’s in Durham and Becket’s at Canterbury had also fallen into decline and disrepair.18 One of the measures undertaken by the sponsors of these neglected shrines was to commission propaganda pamphlets in order to promote pilgrimage.19 John Ayto has argued convincingly that the Wilton Chronicle manuscript has been partially marked up for printing, and it seems likely that a printed version of the chronicle was in the works as a way to attract pilgrims. Ayto remarks that there is no evidence that the chronicle ever actually was printed, and he suggests the possibility that the printing project was abandoned before it was completed.20 Taking the abbey’s financial situation in mind, this abandonment may be another indicator of the abbey’s economic trouble. Both the markup for printing and the use of Middle English vernacular suggest that a broader audience was intended for the Wilton Chronicle than the community of nuns residing at Wilton. While the Wilton Chronicle was certainly intended to be read by the Wilton sisters, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne suggests that the text also participated in a wider political context and is “inflected with Lancastrian concerns.”21 These political concerns may have been directed toward the noble women who were students at Wilton and whose families were patrons of the abbey. As such, the commission of a new history of the abbey and an updated life of Saint Edith written in Middle English verse would have been part of the abbey’s efforts at renewing and renovating its tarnished finances and reputation.22 16 “Wilton: Decline,” in A History of the County of Wiltshire, vol. 6, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London: Victoria County History, 1962), 15–16, 17 “Houses of Benedictine Nuns: Abbey of Wilton.” 18 Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 195. 19 Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, 78–79. 20 John Ayto, “Marginalia in the Manuscript of the ‘Life of St. Edith’: New Light on Early Printing,” The Library s5-XXIII, no. 1 (1977): 35, 21 Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, “Outdoing the Daughters of Syon?: Edith of Wilton and the Representation of Female Community in Fifteenth-Century England,” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 396, 22 The abbey was repeatedly reprimanded throughout the fourteenth century for lax discipline and violations of the papal bull Periculoso, which ordered that all nuns remain enclosed in their convents and forbade them from receiving outside visitors. The Wilton community’s failure to enforce


Laura Clark

In short, the political and economic contexts of both versions of the life of Saint Edith produced at Wilton Abbey reflect the need to bolster the reputation of the abbey and to attract patronage, albeit at a remove of several centuries. While their goals may have been similar, however, their flattering depictions of the Wilton community serve quite different rhetorical purposes: while Goscelin uses the stability and holiness of the abbey as qualities that make Wilton a great place to remain for the women in residence, the chronicler’s descriptions of travel and pilgrimage clearly include an outside audience.

Pilgrimage and the value of the Wilton community One of the reasons the tale of the Kölbigk dancers is an apt inclusion in a book written for the nuns of Wilton Abbey is its emphasis on the importance of participation and inclusion in a community. Goscelin’s version focuses especially on the negative effects caused by the dancers’ separation from others. While the dancers suffer from continuous bodily spasms after the curse is lifted, Theoderic – the formerly cursed dancer who comes to Wilton to pray for healing – emphasizes the isolation they experience as he describes their inability to remain either in the company of their fellow dancers or in one location: So it is as if our liberation has been turned into another punishment; we are divided, so that we who previously could not be separated now can no longer gather together. We wander scattered about through all lands, so that we who formerly were not able to travel anywhere, now are not able to stay long anywhere. Wherever we flee, this turning of our bodies drives us and accompanies us, and now we are sentenced to more years of this compulsively agitated wandering.23 In this passage, Theoderic presents the true punishment not as his physical ailments (although they are certainly a part of the penance), but rather as the social isolation and instability brought about by that physical suffering. Goscelin’s presentation of the hardship of the pilgrimage and the dancers’ suffering as a continuation of their punishment is in keeping with contemporary views of pilgrimage, which was often used as penitential practice.24 In addition, Goscelin’s emphasis these dictates is reflected in the Wilton Chronicle’s participation in political and economic spheres. For a record of the abbey’s history of Periculoso violations, see “Houses of Benedictine Nuns”; and Eileen Power, Medieval English Nunneries, c. 1275–1535 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), 350. 23 “Ita ergo ab inuicem quasi conuersa in aliam uindicta penam sumus seiuncti, ut qui prius non poteramus separari iam non possimus amplius aggregari; ita uagamur per omnes terras disperse, ut quibus antea nusquam licuit prodire iam nusquam liceat stabiles durare. Quocumque fugiamus, iste nos rotatus membrorum fugat et comitatur, iamque nobis plures anni tam districte euagationis censentur.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. 24 Diana Webb, Medieval European Pilgrimage, c.700–c.1500 (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 51.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 115 on the pilgrims’ isolation and inability to settle stresses the positive and stabilizing aspects of communal religious life that would be relevant and affirming to his cloistered audience at Wilton Abbey. In contrast, the Wilton Chronicle downplays the role of physical suffering after the dancing curse is lifted. The chronicler records that after the curse ended, the men’s bodies shook and they were “never as able-bodied as they were before,” but what Goscelin describes as “violent leaping” and “spasm” is described almost pleasantly in the Wilton Chronicle: “they danced instead of walked.”25 The wording in the Wilton Chronicle removes much of the horror of physical discomfort suggested by Goscelin’s text, and it downplays the dancers’ suffering when it adds that they no longer had to sing. Not only is the dancers’ physical suffering diminished, but the rupture in their community is not as severe as in Goscelin’s version. The Wilton chronicler does not include the detail that the dancers could not gather in one another’s company. The former dancers’ solitary wandering is presented instead as a conscious choice on their part: “Every man went by himself, hoping to be unbound from his sickness through good prayers to good saints – that was the reason they went on pilgrimage.”26 By emphasizing pilgrimage as a positive experience, the Wilton Chronicle therefore reduces the threat of instability and “agitated wandering” that Goscelin describes.27 Moreover, by reworking the details of Theodoric’s visit to Wilton, the author of the Wilton Chronicle frames the tale of the Kölbigk dancers as one of many illustrations of the benefits of pilgrimage. Throughout the text, stories of healing and answered prayers occur when pilgrims visit Edith’s shrine. In other words, travel is the most important element of the pilgrimage. While there are a few stories in which miracles occur outside Wilton, the vast majority of miracles that occur both during Edith’s life and after her death happen at the abbey. The claim that saints’ power would be more effective in proximity to their shrines is hardly unusual, but the emphasis on location is unusually strong in the Wilton Chronicle. For example, during the chronicle’s account of a miracle involving a disastrous fire in which Edith’s clothes remained unburned, the nuns emphasize the location of the event: “here, right here in this same house.”28 The argument that the Wilton Chronicle was commissioned, at least in part, for an audience outside of Wilton in order to encourage pilgrimage to Edith’s shrine is also supported by a passage in which the chronicler repeatedly addresses readers who are clearly not present at the abbey. Because Mary Dockray-Miller’s modern English translation removes 25 “And nere never so able as þey werone byfore, / for ever where ever þey hedone, þey wentone dauncynge.” Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 288–289. 26 “And every mon by hym self dude þo go / hopyng þorowe gode preyours of gode seyntes of here sekenes to be unbounde. / For þat was þe cause þat þey wentone on pylgrimage þo so.” DockrayMiller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 288–289. 27 Of course, the difference in historical contexts may contribute to this more open attitude toward travel and pilgrimage, which was more feasible in the fourteenth century than in the eleventh. This point does not, however, change the rhetorical effect of the text and still points toward a more external focus for the Wilton Chronicle. 28 “Ryȝt now here in þis same place.” Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 118–119.


Laura Clark

much of the repetition highlighted here, this passage is worth considering in its original Middle English: For ichemone þat had ony sekenesse in þe contre þer bysyde, Ȝyff he wolde come to hurre tombe, myȝt have his hele þere. For bleynde men hadden þere hurre seyȝt, and crokette and maymotte fatton þere hurre hele. Miracules weron do þere þus day and nyȝt, and sekemen come þedur mony and fele. Lepros men weron clansud mony one þere. Frantyke men haddne þere hurre wytte. Of what sekenesse þat ony mon inne were, his bodylyche hele he myȝt þere feytte. Of what maner diseyse þat ony monn hadde þo, ȝyf he wolde mekelyche prey to Seynt Ede, and mekelyche in pylgrimage come hurre to, he hadde þere help or he þenne hede.29 This short passage makes reference to the location of the healing eleven times in fourteen lines and focuses on the necessity of being “there” at Wilton in order to experience the saint’s power. Instead of presenting leaving the home community as a punishment, the Wilton Chronicle presents pilgrimage as an opportunity to become closer to God and receive his blessings through the intercession of the local saint. Though pilgrimage is presented differently in the two Wilton versions of Edith’s life, both texts achieve a common rhetorical end: to advocate for Wilton as the place where Saint Edith’s power is most accessible. And in both texts, the tale of the Kölbigk dancers serves as proof of this claim. In both Wilton versions of the tale, a cursed dancer wanders the world for years, praying at shrine after shrine without being healed. After the man arrives in Wilton, he tells his tale to the women and sleeps on the floor next to Edith’s tomb. When he rises, he has been healed of his spasms. At this point in the story, Goscelin takes the opportunity to accentuate the man’s renewed capacity for stillness: “It was a great thing to see that man completely transformed, formerly unstable, now able to stand firm, in one day going from violent leaping to decorous stillness.”30 He also highlights the 29 “Any person who had any sickness in the surrounding countryside could have healing if he came to her tomb there. Blind men were given their sight there, and crippled and maimed people received their healing. Miracles were performed there day and night, and many crowds of sick people came there. Many lepers were cleansed there; delirious people regained their wits. Whatever sickness any person had, he could find bodily healing there. If someone would meekly pray to St Edith, and meekly come to her in pilgrimage, he would have her help before he left Wilton.” Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 178–179. 30 “Quale tunc erat uidere eundem hominem alium atque alium factum, prius instabilem, deinde constabilem, hodie importune saltantem, modo oportune astantem.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 117 restoration of Theoderic’s ability to participate in community. Immediately after the healing, “People from all around ran together to see . . . with what joy he was able to cry out to all those who came.”31 After wandering alone for years, Theoderic now finds himself surrounded by people and able to remain among them without suffering ill effects. The Wilton Chronicle describes the man’s physical recovery in similar terms (“as stable and still as any stone”), but it underscores the location of the miracle: “Every man was glad for this miracle done right there.”32 Both Goscelin’s text and the Wilton Chronicle highlight Wilton Abbey as a powerful place with a stable religious community.

Virginity Just as Goscelin and the Wilton chronicler adapt the tale of the Kölbigk dancers to suit their views on pilgrimage and community, they also use it to highlight their views of virginity. Goscelin upholds virginity as the highest feminine virtue and the source of Edith’s saintly power; the Wilton Chronicle, while not discouraging virginity by any means, alters many of the details of the story to deflect attention from the virgin status of the women in the text. These differences once again reflect the potential concerns of their respective audiences: Goscelin’s text is directed primarily at the cloistered women at Wilton Abbey, while the Wilton Chronicle’s changes to its source material indicate an audience to whom perpetual virginity would not have been as important or as accessible. Goscelin’s Kölbigk account begins on Christmas Day and ends on the day of the Annunciation, both holy days which he explicitly connects to the virgin birth: “The man who had been sentenced on the day of the Lord’s nativity was indeed appropriately freed through a virgin on the day of virginal joy, on the day of the conception of the Lord.”33 This passage links Edith with the Virgin Mary, citing their virginity as the connecting thread. Goscelin frequently uses the epithet “holy virgin” for Saint Edith and describes the group of women at Wilton collectively as “the holy virgins.”34 Elsewhere in the Legend, virginity is stressed even further through repeated references to Edith as the bride of Christ.35 In one remarkable

31 “Concurrunt passim ad maius spectaculum. . . . Superuenientibus quibusque qua leticia poterat exclamare.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. 32 “And everymon was gladde for þis miracle þere þus ydo.” Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 292–293. 33 “Competenter etiam solutus est per uirginem in die gaudii uirginalis, in die dominice concepcionis, qui ligatus fuerat in die dominice natiuitatis.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 292; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. 34 “sacre virgines.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 287; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 82. 35 While it may seem paradoxical to use a marital metaphor to emphasize virginity, Stephanie Hollis presents these images as a precursor to “the bridal mysticism associated with twelfth century Cistercian writings, which gave new prominence to the exegetical interpretation of the Song of Songs as an expression of the relationship between God and the individual soul.” Stephanie Hollis, “Edith


Laura Clark

passage describing Edith’s reaction to the martyrdom of her brother King Edward, Goscelin paints the following picture of the two siblings: [T]he sister on one side and the brother on the other touch one another in an adjacent constellation: he reaches out with his rose of martyrdom, she responds with the lily of virginity; together they lead the snow-white armies of virgins.36 While Goscelin’s commendation of virginity to the sisters at Wilton undoubtedly stems from his pastoral role, these recurring and prevalent images also reflect virtues valued by the Legend’s religious audience. It is impossible to know the exact makeup of the Wilton community at the time of Goscelin’s sojourn there, but it is clear that the abbey functioned partly as an “elite boarding school” where aristocratic daughters were sent for their education.37 The community, therefore, comprised a mix of lay and religious women. Hollis concludes that Wilton served as a repository for young women who, by virtue of their birth or wealth, posed a potential threat either to the interests of the king or to their relatives, and also for those for whom no husband of sufficient standing could be found.38 Although with royal permission a Wilton woman could leave the Wilton community and rejoin secular life, the number of stories of women who remained at the abbey outnumber those of women who left.39 Moreover, one of the reforms that Archbishop Lanfranc tried to implement after the Norman Conquest was to encourage lay women who were living in convents but had not taken vows either to commit fully to a religious life by becoming nuns or to leave.40 Hollis has demonstrated many of the ways in which Goscelin’s writing appealed to the Norman archbishop’s policies, and I suggest that this focus on the virtues of virginity forms part of that appeal. Knowing that there were lay women at Wilton who would most likely never marry, but who had not yet taken religious vows, Goscelin


37 38 39


as Contemplative and Bride of Christ,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 281. “Tum hinc soror, inde frater uicino se sidere tangent; hic rosa martyria, hec uirginitatis lilio respondet; utrique niuea castra ducunt uirginum.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 83; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 51. Stephanie Hollis, “Wilton as a Centre of Learning,” in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 336. Hollis, “Wilton as a Centre of Learning,” 326. As historical examples, Hollis cites Eadflaed and Aethelhild (two daughters of Edward the Elder) and Gunhild, the daughter of Harold Godwinson, who lived at Wilton as lay sisters – that is, without taking formal vows – at the same time as Goscelin. Hollis, “Wilton as a Centre of Learning,” 319, 338. Hollis, “Wilton as a Centre of Learning,” 319.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 119 may have intended his effusive praise of virginity as a nudge at them to formalize their status and thus increase the wealth and reputation of the abbey. In contrast, the Wilton Chronicle removes many of the small nods to virginity found in the Legend – scriptural annotations, for example – and, while the chronicle praises Edith’s virginity, it highlights her other saintly qualities equally. The chronicle’s account of the Kölbigk dancers, for example, places the initial churchyard events on midwinter day instead of Christmas, and although Theodoric’s healing still takes place on the Day of the Annunciation, the connection between the two religious holidays is lost. As a result, the connection between the Virgin Mary and the virgin Saint Edith is also obscured, and the author of the Wilton Chronicle leaves out Goscelin’s interpretive remarks praising their mutual virginities. This type of omission appears elsewhere in the poem, as well. For example, the chronicler completely omits the image of Edith and her martyred brother leading armies of virgins, focusing instead at the same narrative moment on how Edward’s martyrdom fulfilled a prophetic dream of Edith’s.41 These changes imply an audience for whom vows of chastity and perpetual virginity were less relevant than they were to the readers of Goscelin’s text, an audience which would include both the women students who were at Wilton for an education before marriage and a wide variety of potential pilgrims. DockrayMiller notes that the original manuscript of the chronicle almost certainly included the story of the courtship of Edith’s parents, which she describes as a romantic tale “wherein the young, lusty, brave valiant king falls in love with the beautiful, young, noble, conveniently not-yet-consecrated Wilton resident.”42 She uses the evidence of a substantial gap in the narrative to suggest that someone in authority removed a quire that contained the romantic episode. The motivation behind this removal was twofold: to prevent the promulgation of the royal romance fantasy and “to reinforce the audience’s choice of the religious life.”43 Wogan-Browne has extensively discussed the various ways in which the Wilton Chronicle appeals specifically to an aristocratic lay audience, such as its interest in noble lineages and its emphasis on the luxurious quality of Edith’s clothes.44 Clearly, the chronicle’s author assumed that the intended fifteenth-century audience was more interested in worldly affairs than Goscelin’s had been. While one of the purposes of Goscelin’s writing was to encourage the women at Wilton Abbey to remain there, the later writer focuses more on attracting interest in Edith’s shrine and establishing Wilton’s prestige. One of the ways in which the author established Wilton’s prestige in the tale of the Kölbigk dancers is by making the Wilton women themselves participants in the story. In Goscelin’s version, Theoderic arrives at the abbey and relates his

41 42 43 44

Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 140–141. Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 20. Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 21. Wogan-Browne, “Outdoing the Daughters of Syon?,” 407.


Laura Clark

story to the “holy virgins” at the abbey.45 Theoderic’s healing occurs after “everyone had gone outside” and is attributed solely to Saint Edith’s intercession.46 The Wilton women do not play an active role in the story. On the other hand, the Wilton Chronicle describes the “ladies” of the abbey praying for Theodoric for three days and nights before his healing takes place.47 The ladies rejoice in Theodoric’s healing by singing a hymn.48 As Wilton women, they share in the power of the healing. The chronicle’s version demonstrates that it is not just Saint Edith, and not even just the nuns at the abbey, but all Wilton ladies who have intercessory powers. The Wilton Chronicle’s inclusion of the ladies of Wilton in such a significant role bolsters the reputation of the Wilton women hearing the story and encourages noble patrons to support the abbey by continuing to send their daughters there for a good religious education.

Relics Despite their different audiences and rhetorical contexts, the two Wilton texts about Edith share a positive treatment of women. Edith herself, of course, meets the saintly standard, but the saint’s many virtues are also extended to the Wilton community through the presence of her relics. In both versions of her hagiography, Edith’s body and relics feature prominently in many episodes of miracles and healing. This is true of the story of the Kölbigk dancers, which creates a parallel between the translation of Edith’s relics and the attempted burial of the arm of the young woman who is the object of the dancers’ desire. The similarities between Edith’s relics and the remains of the young woman also bolster their respective local communities and serve as reminders of Edith’s intercessory power. In the case of the young woman (called Ava in the Legend and Anna in the Chronicle), after she becomes stuck with the other dancers, the priest in the story sends someone out to try to save her. Instead of freeing her whole body, however, only her arm is freed as it detaches from her body. Several attempts are made to bury the arm, but each time it is buried, the arm rises to the surface. In both versions, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry, after hearing about the Kölbigk dancers, orders that the arm be gilded and hung inside the church as a reminder. Though both texts say that the gilded arm is supposed to commemorate “this true miracle,”49 neither of them says precisely what the miracle is. It could be the divine punishment or the miraculous way in which the dancers are preserved during their punishment:

45 “sacre virgines.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 287; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 82. 46 “omnibusque egressis.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 85. 47 Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 290–291. 48 Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 292–293. 49 Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 284–285.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 121 For truly in that whole year of our endless activity we did not eat or drink or sleep; but we did not feel hunger or thirst or sleepiness or any bodily sensation. Night, day, hot summer, icy winter, storms, floods, snowstorms, hailstorms, and all the extremes of weather did not affect us at all; nor did we become weary through our unending round-dancing. Our hair and nails did not grow; our garments did not wear out. So merciful was our punishment, so gently did the divine mercy torment us.50 The miracle could equally be an interpretation of divine punishment or of divine preservation. Both versions praise the punishment of the dancers as appropriate, yet both the priest and the emperor express regret and sympathy for the dancers. Thus, the tale paints a complex picture of retribution and mercy. This complexity is mirrored in the ambiguity of the gilded relic itself. The severed arm’s ambiguous status as a memorial of the miracle at Kölbigk brings to mind Caroline Walker Bynum’s study on the fragmentation of medieval bodies. Bynum discusses the contradictory reminders that are inherent in all bodily relics: they are reminders of mortality and decay, but at the same time of the resurrected bodies believers will receive in heaven.51 This mix of gloom and hopefulness is also inherent in Ava-Anna’s severed arm, which serves as a reminder both of divine punishment and wrath and of God’s mercy and healing power. As Goscelin writes, the arm is “transformed by gold and silver into a demonstration of the mighty works of God.”52 Along with the fragmentation of her body, Ava’s reputation is divided after her death in Goscelin’s version. At her death, Theoderic calls her “the cause and exemplar of so great a punishment” and states that she “became a cause of amazement and fear to all who saw these things.”53 Despite these admonitions, Theoderic recognizes that God spares Ava from the wandering punishment that the other

50 “Reuera enim in toto anno illo districte expedicionis nostre nec comedimus nec bibimus nec dormiuimus; sed neque famem neque sitim neque somnolentiam nec quicquam carnalis condicionis sensimus. Nox, dies, estas torrida, hiems gelida, tempestates, inundationes, niues, grandines uniuersaque aeris intemperies omnino nos non tetigere; nec lassati sumus circulacionis diuturnitate. Non capilli, non ungule nostre crescebant; non sunt attrita uestimenta nostra. Ita clemens erat pena, ita suauiter nos torquebat superna clementia.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 289–290; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. In the Wilton Chronicle, the text reads as follows: “Bot þey dauncedone and songen ever yliche fast, / and restede hem never nyȝt ny day, / Ny eton, ny dronken, bot ever duden fast / Evere more in on aray. / For hem lettede never nomonere thynge, / Snowe, forste, wynde, ny reynne” (They still danced and sang continually together, and never rested, day or night; they did not eat or drink, but always stayed precisely in their array. Nothing whatever could stop them: snow, frost, wind, nor rain). Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 286–287. 51 Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 201. 52 “auro argentoque fabricatum ad exemplum Dei magnalium.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 291; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. 53 “causa et exemplum tante animaduersionis”; “stupor et tremor omnibus hec uidentibus facta.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 290; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84.


Laura Clark

dancers suffer; her penance has been sufficient to atone for her sin, and she is now “given over to the sleep of perpetual peace.”54 This judgment stands in stark contrast to other versions of the story, which condemn the young woman as a temptress and use the tale to warn against allowing women too much freedom.55 Like Ava-Anna’s severed arm, Edith’s relics serve multiple purposes. Thirteen years after her death, Edith appears to Saint Dunstan. She tells him to go to Wilton, where he should exhume her body, which he will find has risen to the surface in preparation for its own translation. This body rising up from the ground echoes the pattern of Ava-Anna’s arm resurfacing each time it is buried. Edith tells Dunstan that he will find her body incorrupt: [E]xcept for the organs of the body which I used in girlish light-mindedness, that is my eyes, my hands, and my feet, you will find the rest of my body both unharmed and incorrupt. You will also see that the thumb of my right hand, with which I continually used to make the sign of the cross upon myself, is undamaged, so that the kindness of the Lord may be seen in the part which is preserved, and his fatherly chastisement in the part which is consumed.56 When the body is exhumed, it appears just as Edith said it would, although the gruesome description of the missing parts contrasts starkly with the description of the beauty of the remains: Her extremities were destroyed, from the elbows and knees, and also her face; the rest of the body, together with the thumb, the standard-bearer of the holy cross, as it was called, was quick with firmness and beauty, so that the marvelous grace of God might be praised equally in her blooming and in her death, and that her heart and flesh might flourish again and rejoice in the living God.57 Edith’s intact limbs represent the grace and kindness of God, while both Goscelin and the Wilton chronicler state that the decayed limbs represent God’s 54 “somno perpetue pacis.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 290; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 84. The Wilton Chronicle does not comment on Ava’s death except to say that it occurred: “Bot þat mayden dyede anon ryȝt þo. / And in same place yburyede he was” (The maiden died right away, and she was buried in that same place). Dockray-Miller, Saints Edith and Aethelthryth, 288–289. 55 For examples of these other versions, see the chapter by Lynneth Miller Renberg in this book. 56 “preter officia membrorum quibus in puellari leuitate abusa sum, idest oculorum, manuum, pedum, inuenies reliqum corpus meum sicut illibatum, ita incorruptum. Pollicem quoque dextere manus quo mihi assidue sancte crucis impresseram signum uidebis nihilominus illesum, ut appareat benignitas Domini in parte seruata et paterna castigatio in parte absumta.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 266; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 69. 57 “supreme partes demolite ab ulnis et genibus ac facie; reliquum corpus cum signifero, ut dictum est, sancte crucis pollice sua soliditate uiget ac nitore, ut eque mirabilis laudetur Domini gratia et in florenti et in occidua, et refloreat ac exulted in Deum uiuum cor et caro sua.” Wilmart, “La légende de Ste Édith,” 269; Wright and Loncar, “Goscelin’s Legend of Edith,” 71.

The tale of the Kölbigk dancers in Goscelin 123 punishment. Her body is eventually placed in a gilded casket, where it serves the same memorial purpose as Ava’s gilded arm: it reminds the observer of both the decayed body inside the reliquary and the miracle of her intact limbs, along with the promise of a bodily resurrection in heaven.58 That both women’s bodily remains consist of incorrupt arms and fingers reinforces the theme of communal good that undergirds their texts. As Cynthia Hahn observes in her analysis of medieval arm and hand reliquaries, “arms are quintessentially part of a larger whole – never the ‘whole’ of the human body, but perhaps representing the whole of the community of persons and actions that make up the church.”59 Hands and digits, as parts of the arm, serve a similar if not identical symbolic purpose. If arms, hands, and digits represent the church community, then Ava-Anna’s arm hanging in the church at Kölbigk and Edith’s preserved thumb in her tomb at Wilton are testaments to the stability and constancy of their respective communities.

Conclusion Positive communal qualities play a large part in the message that Goscelin and the Wilton chronicler share. Although both authors have distinct rhetorical purposes and cater to specific audiences, they share a belief in the value of the Wilton community. Details from the life of Saint Edith and the story of the Kölbigk dancers in particular serve as poignant illustrations of how the economic fortunes of the abbey and the changing audience could affect the ways in which those values were expressed. The Wilton Chronicle’s reworking of Goscelin’s hagiography produced a text that extends its audience beyond the walls of Wilton Abbey to include aristocratic students and potential pilgrims. By advocating for Wilton as a place of pilgrimage, downplaying the importance of virginity as a virtue, and portraying the women of Wilton positively, the chronicler creates an expansive, outward-focused narrative that contrasts with the inward-looking reverence of Goscelin’s writing. The tale of the Kölbigk dancers provides a dramatic window through which these pervasive differences can be observed. Despite their differences in purpose and audience, both versions of the life of Saint Edith produced at Wilton promote the town and abbey as communities of the highest quality.

Further reading Bell, David N. What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medieval English Nunneries. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1995. Dockray-Miller, Mary. Saints Edith and Aethelthryth: Princesses, Miracle Workers, and their Late Medieval Audience. Turnhout: Brepols, 2009.

58 Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 209. 59 Cynthia Hahn, Strange Beauty: Issues in the Making and Meaning of Reliquaries, 400–Circa 1204 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 141.


Laura Clark

Foot, Sarah. Veiled Women: The Disappearance of Nuns from Anglo-Saxon England. New York: Routledge, 2017. Hollis, Stephanie, ed. Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius. Turnhout: Brepols, 2004. Love, Rosalind. “‘Torture Me, Rend Me, Burn Me, Kill Me!’: Goscelin of Saint-Bertin and the Depiction of Female Sanctity.” In Writing Women Saints in Anglo-Saxon England, edited by Paul E. Szarmach, 274–306. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Whalen, Brett E. Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages: A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn. “Outdoing the Daughters of Syon?: Edith of Wilton and the Representation of Female Community in Fifteenth-Century England.” In Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain, edited by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Rosalynn Voaden, Arlyn Diamond, Ann Hutchison, Carol M. Meale, and Lesley Johnson, 393–409. Turnhout: Brepols, 2000.


The cursed carolers in medieval and early modern Scandinavia Shaun F. D. Hughes

Introduction In the second half of the fourteenth century a large collection of exempla was compiled in Middle Low German, divided into two parts, and intended as a “comfort for the soul” (Seelentrost). The first part, organized according to the Ten Commandments, became known as the “great comfort” (Der grosse Seelentrost),1 while the second part, organized according to the seven sacraments, was the “little comfort” (Der kleine Seelentrost).2 Of the many exempla collected in the former to illustrate the third commandment, three are warnings about what happens to people who are immoderately enamored of dancing. The first of these exempla (no. 3) deals with a young woman who was punished by the devil for dancing on holy days, and the third (no. 5) tells of a young woman who loves dancing so much that she would rather dance than eat or drink. She is converted to a pious life when her brother promises her that she will be able to dance eternally in heaven with Mary and the saints.3 The second exemplum, “Die Tänzer von Kölbecke” (no. 4), is an abbreviated version of the well-known story about the Cursed Carolers of Cölbigk.4 1 Der grosse Seelentrost. Ein niederdeutsches Erbauungsbuch des vierzehnten Jahrhundert, ed. Margarete Schmitt, Niederdeutsche Studien 5 (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 1959). 2 This work remains unedited. There is some indication that it is in fact longer than Der grosse Seelentrost. 3 “dat se leuer dansede wan se ete edder drunke.” If one considers the priest’s daughter in number four, “Die Tänzer von Kölbecke,” it appears from these examples that it is women who are the main transgressors who need to be punished. The Icelandic tale “Móðir mín í kví, kví” is another such story, but because it involves a single individual is not considered here. See Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, “How Icelandic Legends Reflect the Prohibition on Dancing,” Arv 62 (2006): 25–52 at 36–37. 4 Der grosse Seelentrost, 69–71. The Kölbigk episode is first referred to by Lambert of Hersfeld (d. 1082/1085) in his Libellus de institucione Herveldensis Aecclessiae under the year 1038. Earlier that year the monastery had burned to the ground, but the monks were comforted by the miracles attributable to their patron saints: “Inter sanatos advenit unus ex illis qui in Collebecce, quod interpretatur ‘prunarum rivus’, coream illam famosam duxerant, tremulus per annos iam viginti tres. Hic ibidem sanus factus, Ruthart nomine, servicio sancti Wigberti se tradidit, gratus Deo et sanctis eius” (“Among the cured was present one from those who participated in that notorious dance at Collebecce, which is interpreted as ‘River of Coals’, who now had had the trembles for

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia


Shaun F. D. Hughes

As Ernst Erich Metzner and Gregor Rohmann document, it has long been known that there are three versions of this story: the first (I), the account of an eyewitness named Otbert; the second (II), the account of an eyewitness named Theoderic; and the third (III), the so-called anonymous account.5 Otbert’s account is supposedly the narrative of one of the participants in the event. He explains that his limbs shake as the result of dancing in the churchyard on Christmas eve at the church of Saint Magnus the Martyr in Colouize in Saxony. There were eighteen dancers in all, fifteen men and three women. They make so much noise that they disrupt the mass which the priest, Růothbert, is celebrating. When he tells the group to be quiet they pay no attention, so he curses them to sing for a year. The priest’s son, Johannes, tries to extract his sister, Mersint, from the group, but all he manages to do is tear off her arm. The group continues to dance; after six months they have worn a knee-deep groove in the earth – by the end of the year it will be thigh-deep. Finally, after a year, Herbert, bishop of Cologne, releases them from their ordeal and absolves them before the altar of Saint Magnus. The three women and Johannes (another one of the dancers) die. The others are left with tremors in their limbs as a sign of their sin.6 The general consensus is that the version in Der grosse Seelentrost is a variety of Otbert’s account.7 The only names that survive are of the place where the event occurred “in deme lande to Sassen in eyneme dorpe, dat het Kolbeke” (in the land twenty-three years. This same one, Ruthart by name, having been cured, devoted himself to the (manual) service of Saint Wigbert (Wihtberht), thanks to God and his saints”). Lamperti monachi Hersfeldensis Opera, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger, MGH SS rer. Germ. 38 (Hannover: Bibliopolius Hahnianus, 1894), 333–354 at 351. The significance of this episode is subject to widely different interpretations. Some scholars such as Harald Kleinschmidt treat it as an historical event with profound sociopolitical implications. Others such as Gregor Rohmann see the episode as one with its roots in Merovingian times being used in an eleventh-century campaign to sacralize the church and the adjacent graveyard. 5 The Latin originals can be found in Ernst Erich Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte der europäischen Balladendichtung: Der Tanz in Kölbigk. Legendarische Nachrichten, Gesellschaftlicher Hintergrund; Historische Voraussetzungen, Frankfurter Beiträge zur Germanistik 14 (Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Verlag, 1972), 29–48. They are also translated (into German) in Gregor Rohmann, Tanzwut. Kosmos, Kirche und Mensch in der Bedeutungsgeschichte eines mittelalterlichen Krankheitskonzepts, Historische Semantik 19 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013), 394– 422. For a detailed examination of the relationship among the three versions, see Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte, 49–104; Dag Strömbäck, “Kölbigk och Hårga I. En sägenhistorisk undersökning.” Arv 16 (1961): 1–48 at 6–21. 6 Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte, 38. In this chapter I have paraphrased the original Latin, Old Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic texts when necessary rather than translating literally in order to save space. 7 Strömbäck, “Kölbigk och Hårga I,” 27; see Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte, 101. Otbert’s version survives in seven manuscripts from before 1300 and most famously is found in William of Malmesbury (d. c. 1143), Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. R.A.B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson, and M. Winterbottom, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), chaps. 174–175, I:294–297. The Otbert version is assumed to have been prepared by Pilgrim (Peregrinus), Archbishop of Cologne (1021– 1030), to confirm a license to beg (and preach) and invokes his predecessor Heribert, Archbishop of Cologne 999–1021, who in Version I releases the dancers from their ordeal. Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte, 30–32; Gregor Rohmann, “‘In circuitu impii ambulant’: Goscelin von Canterbury,

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 127 of Saxony in a village that is called Kolbeke) and the name of the saint to whom the church is dedicated, “Sunte Magnus,” whom the priest invokes in an attempt to get the carolers to stop dancing.8 Collections of exempla like Der grosse Seelentrost were assembled as aides to preachers which provided them with a wide range of short narratives to use in their sermons.9 Soon after its compilation, a version or versions of Der grosse Seelentrost made their way to Scandinavia. Whether the text was carried by the merchants of the Hansa or by way of traveling clergy is unclear, but it was almost immediately translated into Swedish10 and Danish.11 There is every reason to suspect that the exemplum about the cursed carolers was as popular a choice in Sweden as it was in the rest of Europe.12 A popular story deserves to be retold, and if it is retold often enough it can be remembered as a record of actual events.13 This is certainly what appears to have happened in both Sweden and Denmark. The story of the cursed carolers passed from the pulpit into the repertoire of storytellers who soon associated it with particular places: Hårga in Sweden, Graven in Norway, and Nørre Nissum in Denmark.14 There is no reason to doubt that these stories have their ultimate origin in the vernacular translations of Der grosse Seelentrost. Similar stories are also found in Iceland, but they have their origins not in Der grosse Seelentrost but rather in a Middle English version of the story which came

8 9






Petrus Damiani und das Tanzmirakel von Kölbigk,” Historische Anthropologie 19 (2011): 245– 272 at 249, Der grosse Seelentrost, 70. See further, Shaun F. D. Hughes, “The Old Norse Exempla as Arbiters of Gender Roles in Medieval Iceland,” in New Norse Studies: Essays on the Literature and Culture of Medieval Scandinavia, ed. Jeffrey Turco, Islandica 58 (Ithaca: Cornell University Library, 2015), 255–300 at 264–266, https:// The translation is thought to be from around 1420. See Siælinna Thrøst. Første delin aff the bokkinne / som kallas Siælinna Thrøst. Kritisk upplage, ed. Samuel Henning, Samlingar utgivna av Svenska Fornskriftsällskapet 209, 211, 217 (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1954–1956). This translation from around 1425 survives only in two fragments. See Sjælens Trøst (“Siæla Trøst”) (Cod. Ups. C. 529 og Cod. Holm. A 109), ed. Niels Nielsen, 2 parts (Copenhagen: J. H. Schultz, 1937–1952). The surviving Danish fragments are missing the entries for the Third Commandment. Version I is the basis for the accounts in Jean Gobi (d. 1350), La scala coeli, ed. Marie-Anne Polo de Beaulieu, Sources d’Histoire Médiévale (Paris: Édition du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1991), #342, 312–313; Johannes Pauli (c. 1455–1530), Schimpf und Ernst, ed. Hermann Österley, Bibliothek des litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart 85 (1886; repr., Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1967), #388, 236–237; Johannes Pauli, Schimpf und Ernst, ed. Johannes Bolte, 2 vols., Alter Erzähler 1 (1924; repr., Hildeshein: George Olms, 1972), #388, I:232. In his note to this tale, Bolte lists more than thirty other medieval and early modern texts which contain this version of the exemplum (II:346). Thus, an abbreviated form of Version I was included by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their Deutsche Sagen, ed. Heinz Rölleke (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsche Klassiker Verlag, 1994), 268– 269, commentary, 808, “Die Bauern zu Kolbeck” (#231); The German Legends of the Brothers Grimm, trans. Donald Ward, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1981), I:196–197 (#232), commentary I:388–389. From 1397 to 1814, Norway was part of Denmark, so it is likely that the survival of the story there was thanks to the Danish translation of Der grosse Seelentrost.


Shaun F. D. Hughes

to Iceland in the fifteenth century. What the tradition in all four countries has in common is that it took on new significance during the early modern period when, under the influence of Pietist reformers, there was official disapproval of the popular festivities which featured dancing and other forms of popular entertainment.15 Therefore, an exemplum such as the one involving the cursed carolers must have been a staple in the parish priest’s repertoire of sermon material, and from the pulpit the story made its way into popular folklore.

Swedish accounts As Dag Strömbäck has shown, there are numerous Swedish folktales which deal with the moral dangers of dancing, although their focus is typically on dancers who are unable to stop their activity until rescued.16 However, there are several references to an event which was supposed to have happened “på sin tid” (some time ago) in the village of Hårga in the parish of Hanebo in east-central Sweden, an event clearly based on the exemplum of the cursed carolers.17 In the folktale, a wicked group of people in the village is very much given to dancing, especially on Saturday and Sunday evenings – and sometimes all through the night. One evening before a high holy day they dance until the church bells ring the next morning. Then they are joined by an elegantly dressed man who wants to participate and is made welcome. They join hands for a ring dance and dance out the door.18 A young man who has been observing because his fiancée is part of the circle notices that the newcomer has horse’s hooves for feet and tries to extricate his beloved from the company. He does his best, but all he comes away with is one of her arms. The company continues dancing all the way to the top of a nearby mountain and does not cease until all that is left of them is their skulls.

15 For a survey of attempts to ban dancing in Europe (including Scandinavia), see Eugene Louis Backman, Den religiösa dansen inom Kristen kyrke och folkmedicin (Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt, 1945), 203–212; Backman, Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine, trans. E. Classen (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952), 154–161. Only in Iceland was such a ban successfully enforced. On the other hand, the ring dance, the carole, became a staple of popular culture on the Faroe Islands. See Jonathan Wylie and David Margolin, The Ring of Dancers: Images of Faroese Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 99–100. 16 Dag Strömbäck, “Kolbigk och Hårga II,” Arv 24 (1968): 91–132. For two of these stories, “Dancing in Dalarna” and “The Dance at Frisagård,” see John Lindow, Swedish Legends and Folktales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 150–152; Swedish texts (“Daldansen” and “Frisagårds dans,” respectively) are in Strömbäck, “Kolbigk och Hårga II,” 95, 100. 17 For the Swedish text, see Strömbäck, “Kölbigk och Hårga I,” 38; for an English translation and commentary, see Lindow, Swedish Legends and Folktales, 148–150. The informant was a peasant woman born in 1846 in Hanebo. Omitted from the English translation is the coda to the story: “Så barättades sägnen mig i min ungdom och det var ju känt att det bodde ett ogudaktig folk därborta i Hårgabyn på denne tid – många hundra år tilbaka” (“Thus the story was told to me in my youth and it was well known that there lived an ungodly folk over there in Hårga village at that time – many hundreds of years in the past”). The earliest known mention of the dance at Hårga is from 1783 and was published 1784; Strömbäck, “Kölbigk och Hårga I,” 33–34. 18 They are apparently dancing inside the church.

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 129 This folktale seems to derive directly from the tale of the cursed carolers included in the Siælinna Thrøst. But the version found in Der grosse Seelentrost was not the only account of the dancers of Kölbigk to reach Sweden in the Middle Ages. So, too, did an account of the event attributed to the eyewitness Theoderic (Version II) and compiled by the monk Goscelin of Saint-Bertin (d. c. 1100). Goscelin was a monk at Saint Bertin’s monastery in St. Omer, France before coming to England in the third quarter of the eleventh century. He served as chaplain to the nuns at Wilton Abbey. After 1078 he went to Peterborough Abbey, and it is there that he wrote both a Vita and Translatio sanctae Edithae (Eadgyth) of Wilton (d. 984/987).19 The Translatio relates that in the time of Edward the Confessor (1003–1066), a man named Theodericus arrived at Wilton seeking the help of the blessed Edith. He was afflicted with shaking and, to prove he was not mad, he produced a document composed by Bruno, “Bishop” of Toul,20 which explained what occurred in the town of Colebeca at the Church of Saint Magnus the Martyr and his sister, Saint Buccestre.21 A company had gone there to carry off a girl, Ava, who was the daughter of Robert, the parish priest.22 They began a rowdy dance in the courtyard and their behavior led them to be cursed to dance forever. However, on Christmas Eve the following year, the same force that bound the carolers together separated 19 For the Latin text, see André Wilmart, “La légende de sainte Édithe en prose et vers par le moine Goscelin,” Analecta Bollandiana 54 (1938): 5–101, 265–307 at 285–292, ABOL.4.00807; for an English translation, see “The Translatio of Edith,” trans. Michael Wright and Kathleen Loncar, in Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, ed. Stephanie Hollis, Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts 9 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 69–93 at 82–85. There is also a verse Life of Saint Edith composed in the 1420s. See Carl Horstmann, ed., S. Editha sive Chronicon Vilodunense, im Wiltshire Dialekt, aus MS. Cotton, Faustina B III (Heilbronn: Henninger, 1883). The story of the cursed carolers is found in lines 4069–4254 and Theodoric’s journey to England where he is cured through the intercession of Saint Edith in lines 4255–4298. See further Laura Clark, “The Tale of the Kolbigk Dancers in Goscelin’s Legend of St. Edith and in the Wilton Chronicle” in this book. 20 That is, Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg who ruled as Leo IX (1049–1054). He had been a canon at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Toul which is why Goscelin calls him “Bruno Tullanus.” 21 Version II does identify where “Colebeca” is. Saint Buccestre is otherwise unknown. But the account is correct in that the church at Cölbigk was dedicated to two individuals. Caspar Ehlers notes that a cloister was founded in Cölbigk in 1016 with the church dedicated to “St. Magnus und Stephanus.” See Caspar Ehlers, Die Integration Sachsens in das fränkische Reich (751–1024), Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte 231 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 64. If this is the case then the most likely candidates would be Magnus and Stephanus who were martyred in 258 along with their fellow deacons, Januarius and Vincentius, together with Pope Sixtus II. 22 The text adds “in superbia et in abusione.” This is a quote from Psalm 30:19 (in the Vulgate). Wright and Loncar translate: “for one of our comrades to abuse in his pride”; “The Translatio of Edith,” 82. However, I think it is an adverbial phrase qualifying “reperemus” (“we should carry off”) meaning “in pride and in a reprehensible fashion.” Thus, the condemnation is of the deed, not of the individuals involved. Ava appears to join the group without protest. The collocation is used in this meaning in the Gesta Regis Ricardi from around 1191: “propter supurbiam et abusiones suas” (“on account of pride and his reprehensible acts”). See Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, ed. R. K. Ashdown et al., 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), I:14.


Shaun F. D. Hughes

them, forcing them to enter the church, where they slept for three days. When the dancers awakened, the priest’s daughter, Ava, was lying dead on the floor. Her father died soon after. The Emperor Henry23 ordered Ava’s arm, which her brother Azonis had pulled off trying to extract her from the dance, to be installed in a reliquary made of gold and silver. The surviving dancers were afflicted with spasms, and now they can never be together again or obtain peace in any place. It is as if the act of being freed had been converted into another punishment, because they are forced to wander without respite. According to the Translatio, Theoderic confirmed his story with the letter from Bruno and his visible spasms and entreated the holy Edith for intercession. On Our Lady day,24 Theoderic remained in the church after the service and fell asleep on the floor before the image of Saint Edith. When he awoke, he was completely cured. The abbess Brichtiva was made aware of these events and they were committed to writing in the language of the country.25 Goscelin’s version of the tale became widely distributed in England because a version of it was incorporated into the poem Handlyng Synne (finished c. 1333) composed by Robert Mannyng of Brunne,26 itself an expanded translation of the anonymous thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman poem, Le Manuel des Péchés.27 Mannyng found the tale of the sacrilegious carolers in his French original,

23 Henry II, former Duke of Bavaria, ruled as Holy Roman Emperor 1014–1024. He was canonized in 1200. 24 March 25, otherwise celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation. 25 Little is known about Abbess Brightgifu, who ruled c. 1040–1064; see Stephanie Hollis, ed., Writing the Wilton Women: Goscelin’s Legend of Edith and Liber Confortatorius, Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts 9 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 231. 26 Handlyng Synne survives in full or in part in nine manuscripts. For the cursed carolers episode see, Robert Mannyng of Brunne, Handlyng Synne, in Robert of Brunne’s “Handlyng Synne,” A. D. 1303, with the French Treatise on which It Is Founded, “Le Manuel des Pechiez” by William of Wadington, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, o. s., 119, 123 (London: Oxford University Press, 1901–1903; Millwood, NY: Kraus, 1988), lines 8987–9260; Robert Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, ed. Idelle Sullens, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 14 (Binghamton, NY: MRTS, 1983), lines 8991–9266. See further Lynneth Miller Renberg, “Priests, Cursed Carolers, and Pastoral Care in Handlyng Synne, Of Shrifte and Penance, and Instructions to His Son” in this book. 27 See, Le Manuel dé Pechez (Cambridge University Library MS Mm.6.4), ed. D. W. Russell, 3 vols. Anglo Norman Text Society 75–77 (Oxford: Anglo Norman Text Society, 2019–2021). Furnivall also provides the relevant sections in his EETS edition alongside the passage in Mannyng’s poem cited earlier in note 26. See also E. J. Arnould, Le “Manuel des Péchés”: Étude de literature religieuse Anglo-Normande (XIIIme siècle) (Paris: Droz, 1940). Arnould dates the poem to the second half of the fourteenth century (253) and concludes that the question of authorship remains open (245–249), since it is not even clear which Waddington this William is associated with. There is also a Middle English prose translation of the Manuel des Péchés; see Klaus Bitterling, ed., Of Shrifte and Penance. The ME Prose Translation of “Le Manuel des Péchés.” Edited from St. John's, Cambridge, MS G. 30, Middle English Texts 29 (Heidelberg: Winter, 1998). In this version of the cursed carolers exemplum, the episode takes place in “a chircheӡerde of Synt Maune [Magnus] in France” and it is not the priest’s daughter who loses an arm, but one of the men taking part in the dance (102).

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 131 although in a very abbreviated form based on Version I, the account of Otbert.28 He must have been dissatisfied with this version and had knowledge of and access to Goscelin’s Translatio in the library of the Gilbertine Priory of St. Mary’s at Sempringham where he was a monk. In his adaptation Robert followed Goscelin’s text closely, including all the personal names and retaining in Latin the verse that the carolers sang to accompany their dance. Sometime around 1300, a collection of legends was translated into Swedish, largely drawing upon the popular Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine (d. 1298).29 The translation of this text, called the Fornsvenska Legendariet, seems to have been done at one of the Dominican Priories in Götaland, Skänninge, Kalmar, Skara, or Lödöse.30 After the main body of the text there is an addition which deals with the Scandinavian Royal Saints including Saint Magnús Erlendsson of Orkney (d. 1115). This additional section begins with a brief paragraph in praise of the martyr who is honored by a church dedicated to him in the Orkneys. There follow two miracles: the first, “Järtecknet med de dödas hänfärt” (A miracle with the dead driven off), recounts how Saint Magnús forced a plague of revenants to return to their graves, and the second, “Den undabara Års-dansen” (The marvelous year-long dance), is a Swedish version of Theoderic’s eyewitness account of the Cölbigk affair as reported by Goscelin (Version II).31 According to the 28 For the French version, see Le Manuel dé Pechez, lines 6721–6808 (2:7–10); Furnivall’s Le Manuel des Pechiez, lines 6919–7002, cited earlier in note 26. The names in the text – Saint Magnus, the girl Marcent, her brother Jon who tears her arm off trying to extract her from the dance, and Saint Herebert the bishop of Cologne – confirm it is based on version I. See further Krista A. Murchison, “‘Desturné en us de secularité’?: Authority and Narrative Framing in the Cursed Dancers Episode of the Manuel des Péchés” in this book. 29 Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea con le miniature del codice Ambrosiano C 240 inf., ed. Giovanni Paolo Maggioni, 2 vols., Edizione Nazionale dei Testi Mediolatini 20 (Florence: SISMEL, Edizioni del Gulluzzo, 2007). For the Old Swedish text with a modern Swedish translation, see Per-Axel Wiktorsson, ed. and trans., Fornsvenska Legendariet, 4 vols., Skara Stiftshistoriska Sällskaps Skriftserie 100 (Skara: Skara Stiftshistoriska Sällskap, 2020). At one point the Swedish test mentions: “Rikardh fadher brodher konungx euærdh ’ af ænglande som en lifwer” (“Richard, father’s brother of King Edward of England who is still alive”); Fornsvenska Legendariet, III:503. [Note that in Wiktorsson’s edition, ’ marks the end of a line.] The reference is to Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209–1272), nominal King of Germany (Rex Romanorum, Römische-deutscher König) (1257–1272). This means that the text was composed sometime during the reign of Edward I (1272–1307). See Valter Jansson, Fornsvenska legendariet. Handskrifter och språk, Nordiska texter och undersökningar utgivna i Uppsala 4 (Stockholm: Hugo Geber, 1934), 2–4. 30 Per-Axel Wiktorsson, “Inledning,” Fornsvenska Legendariet, I:12–13 at 12. See Valter Jansson, Fornsvenska legendariet, 12. 31 For the Old Swedish text, see Fornsvenska Legendariet, III:566–576 with a Modern Swedish translation: IV:331–334. Another modern Swedish translation of the second miracle is in Dag Strömbäck, “Den underbara årsdansen,” in Folklore och Filologi (Uppsala: Almkvist & Wiksell, 1970), 54–69 at 58–59 [First published Festskrift till Jöran Sahlgren, ed. Karl Gustav Ljunggren (Lund: Gleerup, 1944), 431–446 (= Arkiv för nordisk filologi 59, 111–126)]. For an English translation of both miracles see, Evan MacGillivray, trans., “Legends of St. Magnus Extracted from the Thirteenth-Century Fornsvenska Legendariet,” in St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney’s Twelfth-Century Renaissance, ed. Barbara Crawford (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1988), 264–267,; and the commentary by Ingrid


Shaun F. D. Hughes

Swedish text, many miracles happened in God’s name in Saint Magnús’s church in the Orkneys, and Pope Leo himself specifically ordered that the one involving the cursed carolers be recorded to honor Saint Magnús.32 The narrative in the Fornsvenska Legendariet related that one Christmas eve a group of twelve men came to the Church of Saint Magnús at a place called “celoberka.”33 Their leader is “gerlekir” and they intend to snatch the daughter of the priest (so that she can join their dance).34 The priest is called “robertir” and the daughter “anna.35 The group send in two maids to hurry away the priest’s daughter even though they can hear mass is in progress. When Anna joins them, they begin dancing in the church porch36 and Gerlekir begins to sing a song: The well-prepared company rode through the thick forest And enticed with sin37 the fair maid Why do we stop? why do we not go?38 But, thanks to Saint Magnús, they will not be able to stop singing or dancing for a year. The priest comes and exhorts the dancers, by the grace of God and Saint Magnús, to come into the church. When they did not heed him, he prays to God and to Saint Magnús to let them dance for a year and not be separated. A little later the priest sends his son, Azone, to fetch his sister because he remembers too late that she is one of the dancers. Azone does his best, but all he is able to achieve is to

32 33



36 37


De Greer, “Commentary on the Legends of St. Magnus,” in St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney’s Twelfth-Century Renaissance, ed. Barbara Crawford (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1988), 268–271, Unfortunately, MacGillivray’s translation is not always reliable. While “atrium” is usually translated as “churchyard,” it may also refer to a galilee or church porch, which is how it is understood here. As the Swedish text makes clear, so far as it is concerned, the church there is dedicated to Saint Magnús of the Orkneys. However, Ingrid De Greer is incorrect when she states that the event takes place “not in Kölbigk in Saxony but in the Orkneys”; cf. De Greeg, “Commentary,” 269. MacGillivray does not recognize that “gerleker” is a proper name and translates it as “swordplay.” Also, he translates “waltaka” as “rape,” when it more properly means “seize,” “snatch,” or “abduct.” But here there is no indication that the priest’s daughter is forced to join the dancers. For comparison, Version II calls the priest “Rodbertus” and the daughter “Ava,” and Mannyng has “Robert” and “Aue.” “Ane” is a plausible misreading of “Aue.” See Metzner, Zur frühesten Geschichte, 43; Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 9031, 9033. The “vapenhuset” (weapon-house) or church porch was where individuals bearing arms would store them before entering the church. This is a possible translation of Version II’s “atrium.” “synd.” This could be a scribal misreading of “gildo mȝ sinom” (“enticed with them”), which would have been closer to Rohmann’s translation of “ducebat sibi” (“führte heim”) than Mannyng’s “wyþ hym he leddë.” See Rohmann, Tanzwut, 409; Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, line 9050. “Redhu kompana redhobone jwer thiokka skogha: / Og gildo mȝ synd venisto jomfrw / Hwi standom vi hwi gangom vi ej.” Fornsvenska Legendariet III:569. In Version II the verse is: “Equitabat Bouo per silvam frondosam, / ducebat sibi Mersuinden formosan. / Quid stamus? cur non imus? (“Bovo rode through the leafy forest, / he led with him the fair Merswinden / For what reason do we stand still? Why do we not go?”). Mannyng translates the verse as: “By the leued wode rode Beuolyne / wyþ hym he leddë feyre merswyne; / why stondë we / why go we noght?” Mannyng, Handlyng Synne, lines 9049–9051.

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 133 tear off one of Anna’s arms. The priest sorrowfully regrets his prayer (“angradhe sorgh’fullir sina bøn”) and buries the arm. But it refuses to stay buried, and after the third futile attempt the priest takes the arm into the church. The dancers are in no way affected by bodily needs or the vagaries of the weather, so mild is their torture and sweet the revenge on them, thanks to the grace of God and of Saint Magnús. A Roman Emperor (unnamed) hears of this and comes to observe the event. He is so moved he has a shelter built three times to protect them from the elements, but each night the shelter collapses. After a year they are separated by the intercession (“bøn”) of Saint Magnús. They run into Saint Magnús’s church and sleep there for three days. When they awake, they are flogged by the priest who then notices that his daughter is dead. The next person to die is the priest. The emperor takes Anna’s arm and has a gold and silver reliquary made for it. The dancers now exchange one torment for another. They are scattered through all lands, but in no place could they ever be “steady” (“stadhelika”) (i.e., stop imitating the dance moves). At this point the narrative gets a little murky. The narrative introduces Theodoric, who had been an eyewitness to this event and who has to explain that he was one of the dancers. There is no mention of his coming to England, let alone the Orkneys, but it becomes clear that that is where he is. Nor is there any mention of Saint Edith. Rather he vows privately (“hæt han innerlika”) to Saint Mary and to Saint Magnús. And on Our Lady Day, he fasts and remains in the church (of Saint Magnús on Orkney) after the congregation leaves and falls asleep. When he awakens, what before was unsteady was steady, and what before was useless is no longer so.39 The harsh judgment of the priest (in Celoberka) is now lifted. The narrative ends with Theodoric saying: “See what the Virgin and Saint Magnús have given me who had become steady. That happened through Saint Magnús, to his praise and honor.”40 It is quite clear that this session is based on Goscelin’s text and the account contains numerous details that are found only there.41 Also, Theodoric’s cure at Magnús’s shrine closely parallels the healing by Saint Edith in the Translatio. But how did this very English story get to Sweden? Around 1100, Benedictine monks came from England and established a monastery at Uppsala.42 Wilton Abbey was a Benedictine institution, so perhaps these monks could have brought a copy of Goscelin’s Translatio of Saint Edith with them. In 1164, Uppsala became an archbishopric, which meant that it was a major church center. Therefore, the Translatio 39 Although this narrative is not connected in any way to the other collections of miracles concerning Saint Magnús, it is consistent with them. Of the twenty-four miracle accounts surviving in other sources, “eight miracles involve the cure of madness and devil possession. The rest include the cure of leprosy, paralysis, blindness and other ailments.” See Háki Antonsson, St. Magnus of Orkney: A Scandinavian Martyr-Cult in Context, The Northern World 29 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 73. In this context it is more than appropriate that Saint Magnús should cure Theodoric of his infirmity. 40 “Seen alle hwat Jomfrv maria ok sanctus magnus hafwa mik gifwit som ær wor-’dhin stadhuger thȝta timde sancto magno till loff ok hedher.” Fornsvenska Legendariet III:576. 41 See Strömbäck, “Den underbara årsdansen,” 60–66. 42 J. Gallén, “Den Engleska munkarna i Uppsala – ett katedralkloster på 1100-talet,” Historisk tidskrift för Finland 61 (1976): 1–21.


Shaun F. D. Hughes

of Saint Edith, if it did exist at Uppsala, would have been available to visitors more so than if it had been at in a house library controlled by a single order.

Norwegian and Danish variations These Swedish texts are the only Scandinavian texts that are clearly based on one of the original accounts of the dance at Cölbigk. But in Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, there are other accounts which must ultimately depend on them. Some of these are mentioned by Dag Strömbäck in his article on the Scandinavian distribution of the narrative motif of being punished for dancing in a churchyard.43 He refers to, for example, a Norwegian tale published in 1885,44 which supposedly took place in the Parish of Graven.45 In this story, there was once, a long time ago, a parson in the parish who was so extraordinarily accomplished and godly that he could virtually perform miracles. Once there was a wedding and among the celebrants was a group of boys and girls who were so proud and frivolous that they even went to dance in the churchyard. They were told this was a grievous sin, but they kept on dancing and behaved arrogantly. This distressed the parson and he called on God to punish these base sinners who thus violated the church’s sanctity and the resting places of the dead. He desired that they should dance unceasingly and without rest in the churchyard for seven years and have nothing to drink but the water that dripped from the church roof. The parson’s word was so powerful that what he said came to pass. While Strömbäck includes this Norwegian example, he does not mention several Danish stories involving cursed carolers. These are found in Evald Tang Kristensen’s two collections of Danish legends46 and associated with the church at Nørre Nissum on Jutland.47 The oldest of these accounts was included by Christian P. Bruun, parson at Nørre Nissum 1752–1768, in a report to Antonius “Tønne” Bloch, who was Bishop of Ribe, 1775–1786. Bruun says that old and 43 Dag Strömbäck, “Kyrkogårdsdans,” Kulturhistoriskt Lexikon för nordisk mediltid från vikingatid till reformationstid (Malmö: Allhems förlag, 1956–1978), IX:697–688. 44 Thrond Sjursen Haukenaes, “De Dansende paa Kirkegaarden,” Natur, Folkeliv og Folketro i Hardanger, 11 vols. (Hardanger and Bergen: 1884–1896; New ed. Voss: IS Haukenæsbøker, 2002–2006), II:77. 45 From 1838, Graven – at the head of the Granvin Fjord, an arm of the larger Hardanger Fjord in Western Norway – was a separate municipality until it was merged with Voss in 2020. The principal village, Graven, also known as Granvin or Eide, was the home of Haukenaes from 1871 onward. Graven (Granvin) church, on the farm of same name several miles outside the village, was built in 1726. 46 Evald Tang Kristensen, Danske sagn som de har lydt i folkemunde, new ed., 8 vols. (1892–1901; Copenhagen: Nyt nordisk forlag Arnold Busck, 1980); Evald Tang Kristensen, Danske sagn som de har lydt i folkemunde – Ny Række, ed. Johannes Evald Tang Kristensen, 7 vols. (Copenhagen: Woels Forlag and Reitzel, 1928–1939). On these stories, see Axel Westh, “Sjældne fortællinger i vestjysk folketradition,” Hardsyssels Årbog, 2nd ser., 9 (1975): 33–45. 47 Nørre Nissum is a village in the north-east of the Lemvig municipality in western Jutland on the south shore of the Nissum Bedning, an arm of the inland sea. The church at Nørre Nissum was built around 1100 and the tower in the late fifteenth century.

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 135 faithful men in the parish have a tradition that on one occasion long ago wild youth on their Christmas run entered the churchyard (cemetery), which a hundred years ago was on a high hill southwest of the church. About thirty men and girls danced in a ring in the bright moonlight and sang the following song while moving around in a circle: “the sun, moon, planets and stars notwithstanding, why then would the Creator bring forth these blasphemers like Choran, Dathan and Abiram.”48 According to the legend, a man standing outside saw that those drawn up in the circle were sinking into the ground and rushed in to rescue his beloved, who was one of the participants. He took her by the hand, thereby saving her from the total destruction which befell the others as they suddenly sank into the ground and disappeared. However, writes Bruun, the earth must have given way under the man’s feet as he left with the girl, because there are still tracks from the circle up to the cattle-stop which are not yet overgrown and which bear witness to the tradition’s veracity.49 There are several later accounts relating to this narrative. The first tells how one day three young women from the Royal Manor (Kongensgård) in Nørre Nissum went to the market at Lemvig. When they come to the Nørre Nissum church on their return, around midnight, they think it would be amusing to dance in the churchyard (cemetery). They enter it and begin to sing and dance in a most inappropriate manner. But they are punished for this. The earth opens under them and they sink down into the abyss. In the story, the place where this happened remains visible because no grass grows there.50 The second account tells how a boy and girl come home from the heath because it is raining so much that they cannot cut heather. As they are passing the churchyard at Nørre Nissum, they see a man and a woman dancing there. But the mysterious couple sinks into the earth and vanishes completely.51 One market evening, a large group of people who had been

48 “og der i Kreds omløbende sjunget en Sang, Sol, Maane, Planeter og Stjerner til Trods, hvorfor da Skaberen ville sætte dise Bespottere som Choran, Dathan og Abiram.” In Numbers 16, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rise up against Moses and Aaron, and in verses 31–33 their punishment is that the earth opens under their feet swallowing them and all their substance so that they go alive into hell, the ground closing up after they vanish. 49 Kristensen, Danske sagn – Ny Række, II:185 (G [Religiøse sagn] 129). Note that in this version the young man is successful in his quest, unlike his counterpart in Hårga, Sweden. Christian Søgård Pedersen, who was the teacher at the school in Nørre Nissum (1867–1907), tells virtually the same story: Young people go dancing on New Year’s Eve in the churchyard, but a man stays outside, although his beloved was within. When he notices that the earth is sinking, he jumps in and pulls his beloved out of the circle. The others sink down, and the indentations that remained where they sank can be seen southwest of the church. Oddly enough, there are graves everywhere else, but not there. See Kristensen, Danske sagn – Ny Række, II:184 (G 127). The kirkeriste is a pit the width of the gateway with iron bars laid over it in a grid. This is sufficient to keep any cattle from crossing so the gateway to the churchyard can always remain open. 50 Kristensen, Danske sagn, II:286–287 (G 159). The informant was Karl Kristian Jensen from Gudum, south east of Nørre Nissum. 51 Kristensen, Danske sagn, II:287 (G 160). The informant was Peder Christensen (1819–1890), Rottesgård. See Timothy R. Tangherlini, Interpreting Legend: Danish Storytellers and their Repertoire (New York: Garland, 1994), 98 (no. 40).


Shaun F. D. Hughes

at Lemvig are on their way home. As they pass by the churchyard at Nissum, a man and a woman enter and begin to dance. All at once, they sink into the ground, and there is a green spot, which remains there for many years a little within the churchyard wall, a little to the west of the northern stile.52 Still another version says that there was a hawthorn bush in the churchyard until recently, and perhaps it still stands there in the southwest corner. Once some men and girls were passing by the churchyard on a moonlit night and they asked among themselves if any of them dared to enter and dance in the churchyard. There are several who so dared and they entered the gate and danced among the graves. Suddenly, they sank into the ground, and on that spot grew the hawthorn bush.53 Just like the Norwegian story of the dancers at Hårga, this Danish tradition appears to owe something to the narrative of the Cursed Carolers of Cölbigk, but the relationship is more distant.54 Even though the Danish Sjælens Trøst does not seem to have been as popular as its Swedish counterpart, there is every possibility that it is the ultimate source for the tradition of cursed carolers in the churchyard at Nørre Nissum, particularly since the motif of the cursed carolers is not widespread in Denmark. It should be noted that the innovation in this Danish tradition is that the dancers are chastised by being swallowed by the earth (which may owe something to the Old Testament parallel noted by Pastor Bruun, although the people there were being punished for rebellion not dancing), and this invites Westh to make a rather rash generalization: that the earth suddenly opens up and swallows the remaining dancers is something apparently not found anywhere else.55

Cursed dancers in Iceland The history of dancing in Iceland is relatively well documented for the medieval and early modern period as a function of repeated attempts to ban the activity in public.56 Most of the research on dancing itself has concentrated on the songs that accompanied medieval and early modern dances (the texts of which are relatively well preserved) or on determining the nature of the dance performance itself.57 Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir also argues that the prohibition on dancing

52 Kristensen, Danske sagn – Ny Række, II:181 (G 111). The informant was Karen Marie Jensen from Tovstrup Mark, west of Aarhus. 53 Kristensen, Danske sagn –Ny Række, II:184 (G 126). The informant was Anders Hovmøller Jensen from Nørre Nissum. 54 Westh, “Sjældne fortællinger,” 34–37. 55 “At jorden pludselig åbner sig og opsluger de øvrige dansende finds tilsyneladende ikke andre stede.” Westh, “Sjældne fortællinger,” 36. 56 See Jón Árnason and Ólafur Davíðsson, eds., Íslenzkar gátur, skemtanir, vikivakar og þulur, 4 vols. (Copenhagen, 1887–1904; Repr. in 2 vols, Reykjavík: Lithoprent, 1964), III:6–95; Jón Samsonarson, ed. Kvæði og dansleikir, 2 vols., Íslenzk Þjóðfræði (Reykjavík: Almenna Bókafélagið, 1964), I:vii–ccxliii; Sigríður Þ. Valgeirsdóttir, Íslenskir söngdansar í þúsund á: Andblær aldanna (Reykjavík: Háskólaútgáfan, 2010), 17–42, 54–68. 57 Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, “Siðferði gleðinnar: Um danskvæði og dansmenningu fyrri alda,” Saga 47 (2009): 102–121.

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 137 may have led to dancing being assigned as a significant feature of the lives of the “Huldufólk” or Elves as recorded in the folklore.58 But of interest here are the legends about cursed carolers, which are associated with at least four different places, rather than being linked with individual churches as in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. This difference is probably due to the fact that the tale reinforced clerical and secular displeasure with dancing. In one Icelandic tale, once a long time ago there was a parson at Hruni in Hrunamannahreppur in the south of the island who was very fond of public entertainment (gleði). It was his custom when people came to church on Christmas Eve not to hold any service the first part of the evening but to initiate a public dance in the church with his parishioners, complete with alcohol, card games, and other unseemly entertainment, lasting long into the night. The parson’s mother, Una, was very displeased with her son’s behavior and often rebuked him for it, but he paid no attention to her. So it went on for many years. Then one year the priest prolongs the festivities beyond the usual time. His mother, who is both prescient and a psychic, goes into the church and tells her son to stop the entertainment and begin the service. The parson says there is plenty of time for that and adds: “one more round, mother of mine” (“Einn hring enn, móðir mín”). His mother returns to her quarters. This happens three times and each time she gets the same response. As she is about to leave the third time, she hears someone chanting the following stanza: There’s lots of noise at Hruni, people rush thither, so shall the dance resound that the lads will remember it. She is still Una, and she is still Una.59 When Una comes out of the church, she sees a man outside the church. She does not recognize him and has a bad feeling about him, but she is certain that it is he who has chanted the verse. All of this upsets her greatly, and she is sure the man was the devil. She takes her horse and rides in haste to the closest parsonage and bids the parson to come as quickly as possible to deal with this problem and save her son from the danger he is facing. The parson goes with her and many people as 58 Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, “Icelandic Legends.” It should be noted that the dancing of the huldufólk in Iceland is usually benign so far as human beings are concerned, whereas elsewhere in Scandinavia, the dancing of the hidden people offers dangerous and often fatal enticements to humans. 59 “Hátt lætur í Hruna, / hirðar þangað bruna; / svo skal dansinn duna / að drengir mega það muna. / Enn er hún Una, / og enn er hún Una.” The verse and the tale are first mentioned in the unpublished Dictionary (Orðabók) of Jón Ólafsson úr Grunnavík (1709–1779), who dated it before the Reformation. See Jón Árnason and Ólafur Davíðsson, eds., Íslenzkar gátur, III:47; Jacqueline Simpson, Icelandic Folktales and Legends (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 196. The stanza is probably adapted from a dance verse. So popular is this tale that the word “hrunadans” has entered the language with the meaning “heading obliviously towards disaster.”


Shaun F. D. Hughes

well, because those who had been at the service there had not yet left. And when they get to Hruni, the church and the churchyard with all the people in it has sunk into the earth and they can hear howling and shouting from deep in the ground. According to the tale, one can still see the signs where the church used to be up from where the present church stands. Needless to say, there has never been any dancing on Christmas Eve in the church at Hruni since then.60 A very similar tale is told about the church at Bakkastaður in Jökuldalur, Norður-Múlassýsla, in the eastern part of Iceland. One Christmas eve the parson and the congregation begin to dance in the churchyard around the church, holding hands and with much noisy merriment. The parson’s mother hears the racket and goes out and earnestly begs her son to stop. He pays her no heed. She does this three times and as she leaves the third time, she sees a man holding the ring on the church-door and chanting a verse in a deep voice. I’m holding on to the door ring whoever wishes to blame that; here knights have recited poetry all around, it comes to a turn it comes to my turn.61 60 Jón Árnason, ed., Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, new edition, ed. Árni Böðvarsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, 6 vols. (Reykjavík: Þjóðsaga, 1954–1961), II:11–12. The informants were Jón Norðmann (1820–1877) and Jóhann Briem (1818–1894), parson at Hruni. There is a translation in Simpson, Icelandic Folktales, 194–196. Another version in Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, IV:51 describes the man chanting the verse standing by the church door as having a red beard, one eye, and very evil-looking in a gray cloak. People said that was the devil (but it is actually a standard description of Óðin). 61 “Held ég mér í hurðarhring, / hvör sem það vill lasta; / hér hafa kappar kveðið í kring, / kemur til kasta / kemur til mínns kasta.” This is clearly a dance verse which also appears in other stories. An unpublished manuscript by Guðmundur Einarsson (1816–1832) relates a story of how the devil came to the popular dance entertainment at Jöfri in Haukadalur, Dalasýsla (Jöfragleði), held every Holy Cross Day (September 14). He comes to the building where the dance is taking place, quotes this verse, then yanks the house and all inside with him into the infernal depths. See Jón Árnason and Ólafur Davíðsson, eds., Íslenzkar gátur, III:47. Konrad Maurer reports how students at the Lærði Skóli (Learned School, Gymnasium) used to hold a Christmas feast in the church during which they sang all kinds of inappropriate verses, presumably when it was situated at Bessastaðir (1805–1845). On one occasion an unknown man came to the door of the church and quoted this verse in a deep voice. They recognized him as the devil by his feet. That was the last such winter feast. Maurer adds that many say that the chuch sank in to the ground as soon as the evil one had finished the poem. See Konrad Maurer, Isländische Volkssagen der Gegenwart (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1860), 191. This is probably a version of a similar story with the same verse which supposedly took place at the Cathedral School at Hólar in the North of Iceland during the bishopric of Steinn Jónsson (1710–1739). The students are holding their annual winter feast (leikveizla). The evening is replete with scurrilous verses when they hear the aforemetioned verse chanted in a deep voice at the door. They recognize that the devil has arrived and the building begins to shake in preparation for sinking into the earth. However, a sharp-witted student starts to chant “Jésus rímur” at which point the devil sinks into the earth and his howls are heard for a long time. “Jésus rímur,” otherwise known as the “Rímur af barndómi Jesú Krists” (“Rhymes of the Childhood of Jesus Christ”) was a popular poem in ten fitts by Guðmundur Erlendsson (c. 1595–1670). This was

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 139 It is now midnight and she is so afraid that she takes a horse and rides to Valþjófsstaður, the closest parsonage and asks the parson there for help. He comes immediately, but then they get to Bakkastaður, they see that the earth has broken off at the wall surrounding the church and the churchyard and congregation have sunk out of sight. But the parson and his warden are not yet completely swallowed up, and they are rescued. They hear the dancers’ sounds of merriment echoing from deep in the earth. After that the church is abandoned, but people say that signs of the churchyard wall remain and outside it there is an incredibly deep pit.62 Stories about cursed carolers are associated with at least two other places in Iceland. In former days it is said that the farmstead at Skinnastaður in Öxarfjörður (Axafjörður), Norður-Þingeyjarsýsla, was not situated where it is now, but in a hollow called Olnbogi (“Elbow”) above the present farm. At one time a parson lived there who, along with his household, was most irregular in his habits. They often went to dance in the church. This they did one Christmas Eve and were making an unholy racket when, all of a sudden, the church and the farmstead and all creatures living and dead sank into the earth, never to be seen again. When a new parson comes into the district it is unclear where the farm and the church should be rebuilt. When the debate is at its most intense, people see a great light down from Olnbogi on the slopes now called Skinnastaðarbrekka. People decide that this is a divine indication of where God wants the farm and church to be built. This is done, and the place is first called Skinstaður (“Radiant Place”).63 The final Icelandic example comes from 1821 when Árni Illugason (1754‒1825) from Hof on Skagaströnd (the father of the folklorist, Jón Árnason) wrote in a report that a large field fence is still visible around a waterfilled pool on the farm Óssland north of Hof, into which is said that a large farm called Gullbrekka had sunk in the past during a Christmas merry-making, with people and property, all at once during the night.64

the last such winter feast. See “Um leikveizlu á Hólum,” Blanda 7 (1940–1943): 89–90. This episode comes from a manuscript written in 1854 by Friðrik Eggertsson Eggerz (1801–1894) whom Maurer visited on Akureyjar in Skarðstrandarhreppur on August 21, 1858. 62 Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, II:10–11. The informant was Jón Sigurðsson í Narðvík. There is another version in Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, IV:51–52. The informant was Sigfús Sigfússon á Skjögrastöðum (1834–1895). A further, much more detailed version is in Sigfús Sigfússon, Íslenzkar þjóð-sögur og –sagnir, ed. Óskar Halldórsson et al., 11 vols. (Hafnarfjörður: Þjóðsaga, 1982–1993), I:47–49. 63 Þorsteinn M. Jónsson, ed., Gríma hin nýya, 5 vols. (Reykjavík: Þjóðsaga, 1969), III:169. The informant, Svava Þorsteinsdóttir (1886–1978), who was born at Skinnastaður, recorded this story in 1911. There is no record of the farm, first mentioned in the thirteenth century, ever being called Skinstaður. 64 See Shaun F. D. Hughes, “Assembling Memory: The Questionnaire of 1817 from Den kongelige Commission til Oldsagers Opbevaring and the Origins of Icelandic Romantic Nationalism,” in Myth, Magic, and Memory in Medieval and Early Modern Scandinavia, ed. Jürg Glauser and Pernille Hermann, Acta Scandinavica 11 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021), 247–261 at 254–255. In Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, I:246, the story is that Gullbrekka sank in an earthquake which occurred at the death of the wise woman, Þorbjörg (Þorgerður) kolka. The informant was Hjalmar Jónsson í Bólu (1796–1875).


Shaun F. D. Hughes

In Iceland, it is not just the dancers who sink into the ground as punishment, but the church and the churchyard as well, even though the stories make it clear that dancing is actually taking place inside the church rather than in the churchyard (a necessary adjustment given the weather in Iceland in late December). Even so, it is clear that these stories, like the ones from elsewhere in Scandinavia surveyed earlier, go back to the narrative of the cursed carolers of Cölbigk. But how did the narrative reach Iceland in the first place? There is no known translation of Der grosse Seelentrost into Icelandic nor are there records of any of the other sources of the tale of the cursed carolers circulating in Iceland. The answer may lie with Robert Mannyng’s aforementioned Handlyng Synne. During the first half of the fifteenth century, there was extensive English influence in the country, and English clerics served as Bishops of Hólar between 1425 and 1440. During this period a number of exempla were translated into Icelandic, but whereas earlier translations had come from collections in Latin such as the Disciplina Clericalis, these were made from English sources.65 Of the thirty-four exempla identified by Einar G. Pétursson as translated from English during this period, twelve of them derive from Handlyng Synne.66 “The Tale of the Sacrilegious Carolers” is not one of them, but pre-Reformation manuscripts containing exempla are haphazardly and badly preserved, making it impossible to claim that the version found in Mannyng did not make it into Icelandic texts. Indeed, the Icelandic folktales discussed earlier provide strong evidence that the tale did at one time exist in Iceland and proved sufficiently popular, at least among the clergy seeking to reinforce opposition to people gathering to dance, that it entered the popular imagination and attached itself to local histories in the south, north, and east of the country.

Conclusion While the exemplum of the cursed carolers of Cölbigk may have begun as a tool in the struggle to sacralize the church and adjacent graveyard,67 when this was no longer a pressing issue, the exemplum continued to circulate, both because it reinforced the notion of sacred space and also it could be used against what could be deemed as unseemly social behavior.68 The tale is one of very few such stories to survive the Reformation in Scandinavia, where church and state joined forces to 65 See Hughes, “The Old Norse Exempla,” 263. 66 Einar G. Pétursson, ed., Miðaldaævintýri þýdd úr Ensku, Rit 11 (Reykjavík: Stofnun Árnamagnússonar á Íslandi, 1976), lxxxviii–xc. 67 See Rohmann, “The Invention of Dancing Mania”; and Rohmann, Tanzwut. Joseph Balogh gives a list of local church ordinances beginning around 1200; their number suggests that it was a difficult task. See Balogh, “Tänze in Kirchen und auf Kirchhöfen,” Niederdeutsche Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 6 (1928): 1–14; see also J. Meier, “Zu dem Aufsatz ‘Tänze in Kirchen und auf Kirchhöfen’ von J.Balogh,” NZfV 6 (1928): 112–115; and Balogh, “Noch Einmal: ‘Tänze in Kirchen und auf Kirchhöfen’ – Ein Entgegnung,” NZfV 6 (1928): 254–256. 68 A century after the “Jöfragleði” was abolished in 1707, the reformer Magnús Stephensen (1762– 1833) was still able in 1806 to be outraged at the fact that nineteen children were born as a result of the “gleði” of 1706. See Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, “Icelandic Legends,” 36.

The cursed carolers in medieval Scandinavia 141 regulate morality. It had sufficient impact that it became associated with individual churches in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. But nowhere in Scandinavia was the campaign against dancing so impassioned or so successful as in Iceland. And nowhere in Scandinavia did the story flourish as in Iceland, where it was associated with several different sites and eventually entered the national consciousness. When the Icelandic economy collapsed spectacularly in 2009 and people needed a metaphor to explain what had gone wrong, they turned to the story of the dancers at Hruni and their heedless pursuit of their immediate pleasure despite the warnings they received.69 Thus, more than six centuries after its arrival in Scandinavia, the story of the cursed carolers has not lost its relevance.

Further reading Antonsonn, Háki. St. Magnus of Orkney: A Scandinavian Martyr-Cult in Context. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Backman, Eugene Louis. Den religiösa dansen inom Kristen kyrke och folkmedicin. Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt, 1945. Backman, Eugene Louis. Religious Dances in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine. Translated by E. Classen. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952. Guðmundsdóttir, Aðalheiður. “How Icelandic Legends Reflect the Prohibition on Dancing.” Arv 62 (2006): 25–52. Hughes, Shaun F. D. “The Old Norse Exempla as Arbiters of Gender Roles in Medieval Iceland.” In New Norse Studies: Essays on the Literature and Culture of Medieval Scandinavia, edited by Jeffrey Turco, 255–300. Ithaca: Cornell University Library, 2015. Kleinschmidt, Harald. “Folgen einer Ekstase: Die Kölbigker Tänzer und Sänger und ihre Bedeutung für die Geschichte der Migration.” Historische Anthropologie 12 (2004): 264–275. Kleinschmidt, Harald. Perception and Action in Medieval Europe. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006. Lindow, John. Swedish Legends and Folktales. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Rohmann, Gregor. “The Invention of Dancing Mania: Frankish Christianity, Platonic Cosmology and Bodily Expressions in Sacred Space.” The Journal of Medieval History 12, no. 1 (2009): 13–45. Rohmann, Gregor. Tanzwut. Kosmos, Kirche und Mensch in der Bedeutungsgeschichte eines mittelalterlichen Krankheitskonzepts. Historische Semantik 19. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013. Simpson, Jacqueline. Icelandic Folktales and Legends. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. Wylie, Jonathan, and David Margolin. The Ring of Dancers: Images of Faroese Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981.

69 See Styrmir Gunnarsson, Hrunadans og horfið fé (Reykjavík: Forlagið, 2010). The title involves an untranslatable pun, for “hrunadans” refers not just to the dance at Hruni but also the dance around the economic collapse or “hrun.”

Part 3

Dancing on


Dancing out the pest Afterlives of medieval dance plague narratives in nineteenth-century Münchner Schäfflertanz discourse Tamara Hauser

Introduction The city legends of Munich recount a unique plague dance tradition that reappears every seven years: Der Münchner Schäfflertanz (The Munich Barrel-Makers’ Dance). In popular retellings, the dance began after a deadly plague, when quarantined city residents continued to fear the contagion. Hunger threatened the city as trade with surrounding regions failed to resume. To coax the city into returning to public activities, the Schäffler (barrel-maker) guild and the Metzger (butcher) guild publicly performed their rituals throughout the city. The Schäffler danced through the streets and the Metzger jumped into a city fountain, symbolically demonstrating the cleanliness of the air and water and proving that the plague had passed.1 The guildsmen’s boisterous performance drew people outside and revived Munich’s trade and spirit. In thanks, the Bavarian Duke granted the Schäffler the privilege to dance every seven years in commemoration of their heroic act, a dance cycle which the guild continues to follow to the present day. In the nineteenth century, the Schäfflertanz became a popular subject among Bavarian historians as they sought to contextualize the dance within their city’s heritage. Through these historians’ writings and the guild’s performed reenactments, the Schäfflertanz brought late medieval dance narratives into a modern context, mobilizing new sociopolitical functions for medieval dance. In this chapter, I turn away from the Kölbigk carolers story to trace how the memory of medieval dance events continued to circulate in the nineteenth century through the discourse and choreography of the Schäfflertanz.2 Unlike earlier 1 For more on the Metzgersprung (Butcher’s Jump) see Günther Kapfhammer, “Der Münchner Schäfflertanz: Geschichte und Gegenwart,” in Der Münchner Schäfflertanz, eds. Günther Kapfhammer, Corbinian J. Lachner, and Friderica Derra de Moroda (Munich: Heinrich Hugenubel, 1976), 21–24; August Hartmann, “Metzgersprung und Gildentaufe,” Correspondenz Blatt deutschen Gesellschaft für Anthropologie Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, no. 2 (1894): 13–15. 2 The book Cursed Carolers in Context primarily focuses on iterations of the Kölbigk carolers’ story. In this medieval story, eighteen dancers interrupt Christmas mass by caroling in the church courtyard. The priest implores them to stop, but when they do not, he asks for a miracle from God. Cursed, the dancers continue their carole for an entire year. Four of the dancers eventually die and the others suffer from bodily twitches as a reminder of their sin. For more on the Kölbigk story, see


Tamara Hauser

medieval dance plague narratives that situated dance as an affliction, this tradition distinguished itself by figuring dance as a palliative cure. Analyzing written and visual accounts of the dance and Schäffler guild activities between 1830 and 1907, I trace how the dance and its story became significant for modern audiences within developing nationalist movements in Germany, especially as historians recounted the medieval period through their search for the dance’s origins. Through my analysis, I argue that in the nineteenth century, the Schäfflertanz supported German cultural nationalism by discursively and choreographically invoking Munich’s medieval past while representing the city’s modern civic values of Catholicism, health, industry, and discipline. This dance tradition demonstrates how the cultural memory of unruly medieval dancing bodies circulating in the modern period informed conceptions of modernity. My analysis employs a twofold approach of discourse and choreographic analysis through the lens of cultural nationalism. Nineteenth-century authors often wrote about the Schäfflertanz in the context of news reports or short historical studies, where they described dance events, recounted the dance’s origin story, and sometimes debated about when the Schäfflertanz tradition actually began. While previous scholars have focused on evaluating nineteenth-century writers’ historicizing efforts, I focus instead on the issues and interpretations that arose in the discourse’s dating debate and dance descriptions. I further place the written discourse in conversation with the choreographic text by analyzing how the Schäfflertanz choreography embodied national values and produced meaning for nineteenth-century audiences. Utilizing choreographic analysis, I interpret how the dance’s choreographic conventions, bodily techniques, and intertextual references contributed to the sociopolitical discourse of the period.3 I primarily refer to written accounts and visual depictions of the dance in the 1800s, but when needed, I call upon my observations of the March 2019 reenactment and the guild’s 2019 performance program to reconstruct elements of earlier performances. Generations of Schäffler guildsmen kinesthetically transmitted the choreography from the nineteenth century to today, and though adjustments probably occurred during transmission, the dance’s overall structure remains the same. Together, the two parts of my analysis interrogate how the Schäfflertanz discursively and choreographically symbolized modern-day Munich as a tradition of the city’s past. Within nationalism, dance may play a significant role in shaping and representing nationalist values. Benedict Anderson conceptualizes national identity around “imagined communities,” which are built around shared cultural practices and histories.4 While Anderson primarily considers print-capitalism, dance scholars have demonstrated that dance may significantly contribute to nationalist movements “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes” by Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis in this book. 3 I draw upon Susan Leigh Foster’s model of dance analysis in Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986). 4 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 2006), 6–7.

Dancing out the pest 147 too. Susan Reed explains that nineteenth-century romantic nationalism identified folk culture as integral to a nation’s “spirit” and prioritized preserving folk poetry, song, and eventually dance as forms of national heritage.5 Further, dance serves as an ideal medium to transmit national identity, as it trains and displays bodily techniques specific to a particular culture and “combin[es] music, dress, body, and movement to convey ideas of a group’s distinctiveness.”6 To demonstrate how the Schäfflertanz discourse and choreography contributed to nationalist discourse, I begin by describing the major components of the dance and outlining prominent origin theories espoused by historians. Then, I analyze how the dance’s origin debate and choreographic elements intersected with nationalist discourse of the period and promoted Munich’s modern civic values. Finally, I consider the most popular origin theory of 1517 more deeply, arguing that this date aligned the dance with early modern events significant to Munich’s identity and positioned the Schäfflertanz as a representative cultural tradition of Bavaria.

Dancing guildsmen: choreographic elements of the Schäfflertanz The majority of nineteenth-century Schäfflertanz authors wrote to inform the public about the dance performances through newspaper reporting and historical studies. Consequently, many authors describe the same codified performance events and roles that encompass the dance tradition. The guild journeymen began each performance season in January by parading with musicians from their guild headquarters, a local brewery, to the royal Residenz, home to the Bavarian king. Around noon, the Schäffler performed first for the King and his family and then performed in front of other royal and civic leaders’ homes. These performances continued in public plazas and outside beer and coffee breweries until Shrove Tuesday. Within the performance, the guildsmen executed specific roles. An Umfrager (inquirer) arranged the performance locations. Sixteen to twenty Schäfflertanzer (Schäffler dancers), led by the Vortänzer (lead dancer) bearing a fringed scepter, performed intricate weaving patterns with large wooden hoops wrapped in boxwood and ribbons. The Reifenschwinger (hoop swinger) exhibited a challenging display of hoop twirling with wine glasses balanced inside, which he used to toast royal and civic authorities. Finally, one or two Spaßmacher (fools) facilitated the group’s props and interacted with the crowd (See Figure 8.1). While authors clearly described the course of events, they were less descriptive about the specific choreography. However, visual sources and the 2019 reenactment help demonstrate some of its key features. During the main dance section, the Schäfflertanzer execute the “großere Achten,” which writers vaguely describe as a bounding contra dance.7 In 2019, the guildsmen mostly locomoted using a pattern 5 Susan Reed, Dance and the Nation: Performance Ritual, and Politics in Sri Lanka (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), 5–6. 6 Reed, Dance and the Nation, 4–5. 7 Anton Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München (Munich: Franz Seraph Hübschmann, 1830), 15; Albert Czerwinski, Brevier der Tanzkunst: Die Tänze der Kulturvölker von den ältesten Zeiten


Tamara Hauser

Figure 8.1 The Schäfflertanzer perform before the Residenz, in an 1865 lithograph by L. Singer. Source: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München / Bildarchiv.

of three quick steps followed by a raised-knee hop. These steps remained low to the ground and isolated to the lower body so that the dancers glided through space and their upper bodies and boxwood hoops stayed perfectly still. While locomoting in a long, connected chain, the dancers manipulate their boxwood hoops into large architectural figures. In today’s version, the dancers create six figures that represent the plague origin story, including “Die Laube” (the arbor) representing Munich’s citizens quarantined inside, “Das Kreuz” (the cross) representing renewed Christian faith, and “Die Krone” (the crown) representing the ruling Wittelsbacher family and Duke William IV, whom the guild credits with first granting the Schäffler permission to dance. Although nineteenth-century writers did not describe these figures in detail, iconographic sources demonstrate that they existed in the nineteenth century. Photo collages of the guildsmen in 1865, 1872, bis zur Gegenwart (Leipzig: Otto Spamer, 1879), 56; F. L. Schubert, Die Tanzmusik: dargestellt in ihrer historischen Entwickelung nebst einer Anzahl von Tänzen aus alter und neuer Zeit (Leipzig: C. Merseburger, 1867), 22; Rudolph Voss, Der Tanz und seine Geschichte: Eine kulturhistorischechoreographische Studie (Berlin: Oswald Seehagen, 1869), 157; Franz M. Böhme, Geschichte Des Tanzes in Deutschland (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, [1886] 1967), I:66.

Dancing out the pest 149 and 1886 show the Schäfflertanzer posing in the aforementioned figures.8 Despite the nineteenth-century authors’ limited choreographic descriptions, the details they do provide, along with additional information about the dance’s and guild’s history, contextualized the dance as part of larger cultural trends.

Searching for origins: dating debates in Schäfflertanz discourse Today, the guild confidently claims 1517 as the dance’s founding year, but in the nineteenth century, the Schäfflertanz origin was a highly debated topic. To date, historians have not located any concrete evidence of Schäfflertanz performances prior to a 1702 city record which suggests that the dance tradition was already established at that time.9 Lacking documentary evidence, most nineteenth-century writers referred to oral tradition, cited vague documents, or relied on earlier writers’ statements. Over the course of the century, three major origin theories circulated in the discourse that dated the dance to ancient Rome, a plague in 1517, or a medieval plague in 1349–1350 or 1463. In the discussion that follows, I briefly outline these three origin theories and their history inside the Schäfflertanz discourse. The first two origin theories developed relatively early in the century within the earliest published accounts of the dance by archivist Felix Joseph von Lipowsky and Anton Baumgartner. These authors’ publications established general trends in Schäfflertanz writings, as subsequent writers copied, revised, and debated Lipowsky’s and Baumgartner’s origin theories. In his 1823–1830 collection National-Costüme des Königreichs Bayern (National Costumes of the Kingdom of Bavaria), Lipowsky attributes the dance to an ancient Roman ritual. He claims that King Numa Pompilius created a group of dancing priests and priestesses during his reign to commemorate the end of a plague. Likening this event to the Schäffler’s post-plague tradition, Lipowsky argues that the Schäfflertanz is a continuation of Numa’s pagan tradition. Baumgartner’s 1830 study, Der Schäfflertanz in München (The Schäfflertanz in Munich), allows for the Schäfflertanz to be part of a longer, pagan lineage but argues that the guild’s memorable post-plague performance occurred in 1517. In his text, he offers detailed description of the guild’s customs and current dance activities. Although Baumgartner references preserved guild regulatory documents from 1637 and 1778, he does not offer any documentation supporting his origin theory. Instead, he relies heavily on oral

8 Erinnerung an den Schäfflertanz 1865 (Fotomontage), 1865, Historischer Verein von Oberbayern, Stadtarchiv München,; München: Erinnerung an den Schäfflertanz 1872 (Fotomontage), 1872, Historischer Verein von Oberbayern, Stadtarchiv München,; Georg Fuhrmann, Schäfflertanz in München 1886, 1886, Bildarchiv der Bayerisch Staatsbibliothek, https:// 9 Kapfhammer, “Der Münchner Schäfflertanz,” 18, 83–84. Subsequent records of the dance date from 1730, 1746, 1749, and 1760. The seven-year cycle has been recorded since 1760, with the exception of 1942.


Tamara Hauser

tradition through interviews of current guildsmen and argues that five generations of people could have plausibly orally transmitted information about the original event.10 Baumgartner’s 1517 date enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the nineteenth century. Many scholars and reporters copy Baumgartner without providing additional evidence, such as dance historian Rudolf Voss who cites 1515 or 1517 in his 1869 Der Tanz und seine Geschichte (Dance and its history) and an 1851 reporter who explains that “the origin of the latter [Schäfflertanz] dates back to the time of the great plague in Munich, the year 1517.”11 In 1865, Anton Mayer published a four-part newspaper feature on the Schäfflertanz, in which he openly supports the 1517 origin date. He cites a plague painting in St. Peterskirche dated to 1517 as proof of the year’s significance.12 Other writers approach the origin story as a city legend, but nonetheless continue to use the 1517 date, such as Johann Michael Söltl who states that “the origin of the Schäfflertanz is also unknown,” but “a legend tells that it emerged after a plague epidemic (1515 and 1517) to cheer up the people [Volk] again.”13 Toward the end of the century, visual depictions of the Schäfflertanz began to cite the 1517 origin date in captions, including a lithograph by L. Singer printed in 1865 [Figure 8.1] and an 1879 illustration by Georg Fuhrmann.14 Beyond the nineteenth century, Baumgartner’s 1517 date endures as the accepted origin date, as evidenced in the guild’s current tagline of “Seit 1517” (Since 1517). Although Lipowsky and Baumgartner’s theories dominated the Schäfflertanz discourse, one other theory is worth mentioning. Around mid-century, Bavarian historian Joseph Heinrich Wolf introduced 1349–1350 and 1463 as possible origin dates. Although this dating more closely aligned the dance with other known medieval dance phenomena like the Kölbigk dancers and guild rituals, Wolf was eventually discredited and his theories fell out of fashion. Wolf cited a 1349 document from the mayor’s office that thanked a Bindermeister (Schäffler) for

10 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 18. 11 Voss, Der Tanz und seine Geschichte, 155; “Der Ursprung desselben datirt auf die Zeit der großen Pest in München, das Jahr 1517,” “München, 21. Jan.,” Deutschland, Allgemeine Zeitung München, January 22, 1851, 338. 12 Anton Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung: Versuch einer historischen Beleuchtung dieser Münchener Wahrzeichen,” Münchener Sonntagsblatt, March 12, 1865, 88. 13 “Auch des Schäfflertanzes Ursprung ist nicht bekannt . . . Eine Sage erzählt, er sey nach einer Pestseuche (1515 und 1517) entstanden, um das Volk wieder aufzuheitern,” Johann Michael Söltl, “Das Brunnenspringen und der Schäfflertanz,” in München mit seinen Umgebungen: historisch, topographisch, statistisch (Munich: Georg Franz, 1837), 62. All translations are my own, with thanks to Christina Grundmann for her assistance. 14 L. Singer, Der Schäfflertanz in München, 1865, Bildarchiv der Bayerische Staatsbibliothek,; Fuhrmann, Georg Fuhrmann, Erinnerung an den Schäfflertanz in München, 1879, Bildarchiv der Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 80758&View=bildarchiv.

Dancing out the pest 151 performing to cheer up the plague-ridden city.15 Soon after, Wolf amended that date to 1463 while lamenting the lack of evidence.16 Music historian F. L. Schubert and dance historian Albert Czerwinski both cite 1350 as the year of the Schäfflertanzer’s notable performance, though Schubert also continued to uphold Lipowsky’s theory by noting that “[t]he old origins of the cooper dance disappear into the pagan times.”17 However, historian August Hartmann vigorously discredited Wolf’s theories, calling Wolf a Fälschers (counterfeit).18 Employing an empirical approach, Hartmann revealed that Wolf invented his sources.19 Therefore, while closely linking the Schäfflertanz tradition to the medieval period, Wolf’s theories did not have a lasting impact on the discourse. More recent studies interpret the lack of documentation as evidence that nineteenth-century writers invented the dance’s history altogether. Günther Kapfhammer postulated in 1976 that Baumgartner devised the plague story and 1517 date because the few surviving records prior to the 1800s do not mention a plague.20 While Kapfhammer demonstrates the impossibility of accurately dating the tradition, he does not address the significance of how nineteenth-century authors contextualized and discussed the Schäfflertanz tradition. While they lack evidence, I argue that the writers’ discourse reveals larger social attitudes about medieval dance and the role of the Schäfflertanz in developing cultural nationalism in the context of nineteenth-century Germany. In the section that follows, I revisit Lipowsky’s and Baumgartner’s origin theories and postulate how the dating debate responded to nationalist trends and situated the dance as a representation of Bavarian heritage.

Choreographies of empire Lipowsky’s early theory of ancient Roman origins first established the Schäfflertanz as an imperial tradition. His theory discursively tied traditions of the Roman Empire to the newly established Kingdom of Bavaria, significantly contributing to the interwoven imperial and nationalist discourse in Germany. Stefan Berger explains that Humanist writers as early as the fifteenth century fueled a nationalist vision of a German nation by arguing that Germans inherited the Roman Empire as the final successors of the Holy Roman Empire.21 However, following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and prior to the formation of 15 Joseph Heinrich Wolf, Allgemeine bayerische Chronik oder Geschichts-Jahrbücher (Munich: J. Deschler, 1846), V:89. 16 Joseph Heinrich Wolf, Urkundliche Chronik von München und aller umliegenden Orte: Von der ältesten bis zur neusten Zeit (Munich: Joseph Wolf, 1854), II:684. 17 “Das alte Herkommen des Böchtertanzes verliert sich bis in die Heidenzeit.” Schubert, Die Tanzmusik, 22; Czerwinski, Brevier der Tanzkunst, 55. 18 Hartmann, “Metzgersprung und Gildentaufe,” 13. 19 Hartmann, “Metzgersprung und Gildentaufe,” 14. 20 Kapfhammer, “Der Münchner Schäfflertanz,” 16, 31. 21 Stefan Berger, “Building the Nation Among Visions of German Empire,” in Nationalizing Empires, ed. Stefan Berger and Alexei Miller (New York: Central European University Press, 2015), 266.


Tamara Hauser

the Second German Empire in 1871, large territorial states like Bavaria asserted their independent identities as nation-states through the promotion of national culture. King Maximillian II (r. 1848–1864) and his successors, “sought systematically to construct Bavarian national consciousness through political celebrations, customs, heritage, dress, language, monuments, science, educational policy, history, and popular festivals such as the Oktoberfest.”22 While these efforts served the interests of Bavaria, Berger notes that cultural projects also promoted a larger German national and cultural identity in “Germandom”.23 Lipowsky contributed directly to these nationalist projects through his National Costumes of the Kingdom of Bavaria collection. This text documented examples of regional Trachten (traditional garments) and fueled the Bavarian folk movement and developing national consciousness. By including the Schäfflertanz, Lipowsky clearly identified the dance as an exemplar of Bavarian national culture. Choreographically, the Schäfflertanz reinforces the hierarchical state powers of the Bavarian state. Unique to Munich, the dance relied upon ongoing support from the ruling Bavarian king, as he alone renewed the Schäffler’s imperial privilege to perform every seven years. The Reifenschwinger’s toast to royal family members served as an ongoing deference to hierarchical order. Baumgartner and Reinsburg-Düringsfeld note that correctly pronouncing the authorities’ names was a crucial component of the Reifenschwinger’s role to properly pay his, and by extension the guild’s, respect.24 Further, Baumgartner explains that following his toast, the Reifenschwinger tossed the glasses over his head to the Spaßmacher to ensure no one else drank from the cup used to honor an authority.25 The strict order of dance locations, descending from the highest to the lowest authority, also followed hierarchical structures of rank and power. Lastly, the guildsmen signaled their Bavarian identity and status as the King’s subjects through their costume, as an imperial privilege allowed the Schäffler to wear their signature red coats, green felt caps, Manchester trousers, and black, buckled shoes.26 Thus, Bavarian politics impacted many key elements of the dance’s appearance, location, and even continued repetition, and in turn the dance supported its state sponsor through acts of deference. The Schäfflertanz further emphasized deference to Bavarian royal power in a key moment of its choreography. Among the many architectural figures that the Schäfflertanzer create with their boxwood hoops, “Die Krone” figure most explicitly references imperial power. In the early modern period, dance figures commonly appeared in court ballet, where they allegorically represented performance themes and politically arranged courtiers’ bodies by rank to symbolically

22 Berger, “Building the Nation,” 269. 23 Berger, “Building the Nation,” 269. 24 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 16; Otto von Reinsberg-Düringsfelt, Das Festliche Jahr.: In Sitten und Gebräuchen Germanischen Völker (Leipzig: Otto Spamer, 1863), 50. 25 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 16. 26 Czerwinski, Brevier der Tanzkunst, 56; Schubert, Die Tanzmusik, 22; Voss, Der Tanz und seine Geschichte, 156.

Dancing out the pest 153 support the sovereign’s position of power.27 Similarly, the Schäfflertanzer demonstrate their role in the body politic of Bavaria by forming the imperial symbol with their bodies. In a 1907 photo-postcard captioned “Kronengruppe,” the Schäffler pose in the crown figure (see Figure 8.2).28 A Spaßmacher holds a central, crosstopped pole, and the Schäfflertanzer arrange their hoops in outward spokes and a large outside ring. This posed photograph emphasizes the finalized design of “Die Krone” as a recognizable feature of the choreography, one which could be identified and interpreted by its audience. An illustrated postcard from 1900 stamped with the seal of the official Schäfflertanz dance committee also shows the dancers posed in “Die Krone”. In the illustration, the dancers pause in the figure even as the musicians in the lower right corner continue to play, suggesting that the choreography emphasized its spatial designs during the performance. Although writers rarely describe this figure, its repeated appearance in visual sources suggests that the guild and audiences recognized it as a significant moment. Further, performing the figure had political implications as the physical act of the Schäffler placing their bodies into the symbol of the Bavarian Kingdom aligned the guildsmen, and by extension the dance, with the hierarchical power structures and identity of the Bavarian nation-state. Lipowsky’s ancient Roman theory situated the Schäfflertanz within a long imperial tradition and accounted for the strong national imagery in the choreography, but later writers disputed the theory because it failed to account for Germanspecific cultural production and strong Catholic identification in Bavaria. A reporter for the 1830 Münchner elegantes Sonntasblatt asserted that the Schäfflertanz must have different origins than Rome because the dances have different qualities: “Our Schäffler have nothing in common with the Roman priests except that like them, they also dance and jump, whereas their different attributes reveal a completely different origin of their dances.”29 By arguing that Germans, not Romans, devised the dance, this author suggests that the dance represents the distinct nature of Germans. About thirty years later, Mayer vehemently refutes Lipowsky’s theory. He doubts that occupied Germans would easily adopt the customs of their Roman occupiers, especially in the isolated area of Munich.30 Similar to the Münchner elegantes writer, Mayer champions Germans as the active creators

27 See Mark Franko, Dance as Text: Ideologies of the Baroque Body (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Skiles Howard, The Politics of Courtly Dancing in Early Modern England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998), 19–20. 28 Fr. X. Ostermayr, Der Schäfflertanz in München 1907. Kronen-Gruppe, 1907, Bildarchiv der Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 130830&View=bildarchiv. 29 “Unsere Schäffler haben mit den römischen Priestern nichts gemein, als daß sie, wie diese, ebenfalls tanzen und springen, während schon die vershiedenen Attribute derselben einen ganz verschiedenen Ursprung ihrer Tänze verrathen.” “Der Schäfflertanz.” Nachrichten aus Bayern. Münchner elegantes Sonntagsblatt für das Jahr 1830, no. 46 (1830): 2. object/bav:BSB-MDZ-00000BSB10347161. 30 Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung,” Münchener Sonntagsblatt, March 12, 1865, 87.


Tamara Hauser

Figure 8.2 The Schäfflertanzer pose in “Die Krone” figure, in a 1907 photograph by X. Ostermayr. Source: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München / Bildarchiv.

of the dance rather than the passive recipients of a tradition, assigning creative agency to his Bavarian home. By asserting the superiority and distinctiveness of German culture, both Mayer and the news reporter exhibit a strong sense of German nationalism. Mayer and the Münchner elegantes reporter propose alternative origins of the dance more specific to its context. The Münchner elegantes writer explains that the dance structure mirrors the Schäffler’s work as the guildsmen circle around barrels, forming the dance’s basic circular shape, and they hammer on barrels, producing rhythmic sound.31 His observations suggest that the Schäfflertanz is better viewed as a performative version of the guild’s labor rather than an ongoing pagan ritual. Mayer rejects the idea of a pagan custom becoming a Christian custom, and he cites Christian devotion as a guiding factor in the guildsmen’s decision to dance. Mayer concludes that the Schäfflertanz is “a testimony of the firm trust in God and the noble courage of honest Munich craftsmen.”32 His rebuke of pagan roots indicates that while centered in a

31 Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz,” 87. 32 “und darum sei jederzeit der Schäfflertanz willkommen, als Andenken an das Vorübergehen schwerer Trübsal, aber auch als Zeugniß festen Gottesvertrauens und edlen Muthes braver Münchner Handwerker.” Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung,” Münchener Sonntagsblatt, March 26, 1865, 103.

Dancing out the pest 155 civic context, the dance still bore deep religious significance for its observers. Writers like the Münchner elegantes reporter and Mayer problematized Lipowsky’s theory, seeking to contextualize the dance within German history. Consequently, many writers including Mayer looked to the other prominent theory of 1517, a theory which, as I will argue in the following pages, better supported the Schäfflertanz as a representation of Bavaria’s distinct medieval heritage and modern identity.

Dancing into modernity: discursive and choreographic entanglements Baumgartner’s 1517 origin theory most adequately attended to nationalist and medievalist discourse by situating the dance temporally at a key moment between Munich’s medieval past and modern present. Baumgartner did not outright reject Lipowsky’s theory that pagan Roman rituals set a precedent for post-plague dances, meaning that even as authors overwhelmingly agreed upon the 1517 date, the imperialist ties of Lipowsky’s earlier theory and the dance’s choreographic ties to German imperial power remained.33 However, the 1517 date better served nationalist discourse as it called upon the Reformation and Bavaria’s staunch Catholic stance, situated the Schäfflertanz alongside the Beer Purity Law of 1516 that significantly shaped Bavaria’s modern brewing industry and public health movements, and finally entangled the dance with choreomania discourse circulating in the period. Although the Schäfflertanz is a lay custom, it exhibits Christian values through its eligibility requirements, guild regulations, and Christian imagery. The 2019 performance program details requirements enforced by the journeymen’s guild association in 1886, including being “a respectable journeyman; physically healthy and strong; morally worthy with an impeccable reputation; unmarried, born in Bavaria.”34 These requirements exhibit the double importance of Bavarian identity and Christian ideas of respectability and morality. Baumgartner’s description of the guild’s regulations in 1832 explains more explicit behavioral expectations, such as attending worship services and abstaining from swearing, gambling, or hiring prostitutes.35 He also describes the guild’s involvement in Catholic worship activities, such as honoring their patron saints, Saint Urban and Saint Florian, as well as participating in Corpus Christi processions.36 Within the choreography, the “Das Kreuz” (the cross) figure most explicitly references Christianity, as well as the cross-topped pole used to form “Die Krone” (the crown). These choreographic references do not dominate the dance, but the continued 33 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 11–12. 34 “Ein ehrbarer Schäfflergeselle; Körperliche Gesundheit und kräftig; Moralisch würdig mit einwandfreiem Leumund; Unverheiratet; Geborener Bayer.” Fachverein der Schäffler Münchens, Der Original Münchner Schäfflertanz (Munich: Alpha-Teamdruck GmbH, 2018), 17. 35 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 8. 36 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 9–10.


Tamara Hauser

enforcement of Christian identity and practice within the guild ensured that the dance aligned with the Bavarian state’s Catholic identity. By dating the dance to 1517, the Schäfflertanz discourse temporally aligned the tradition with the Reformation period and called upon Munich’s steadfast Catholic identity. Following the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 theses in the fall of 1517, Bavaria remained a stronghold of Catholicism as Duke William IV (r. 1508–1550) served as a leader in the Counter-Reformation. The state’s confessional mandates impacted guilds such as the Schäffler that relied upon favorable protections by the state, especially as the Reformation brought about a decline in the political and economic status of guilds.37 The Schäffler guild remained Catholic in their regulations and activities and represented the state interests in their performance. Metaphorically, the Schäfflertanz could have reminded viewers of Bavaria’s efforts to rid itself of the Protestant “pest” associated with Luther’s dissent in 1517. Outside of religious discourse, the Schäfflertanz could also be symbolic of Bavaria’s large beer industry and modernizing efforts to improve public health. The Schäfflertanz’s story calls upon a pre-modernity marked by plague and death and the promise of future health and prosperity in the modern period. Within the choreography, the guild’s work is visibly present and symbolically tied to Bavaria. The wooden hoops carried by the Schäfflertanzer and Reifenschwinger incorporate barrel building materials as well as blue and white ribbon adornments that showcase the Bavarian state colors. The Schäffler collect wine in a blue and white jug, another Schäffler product, while parading to performance locations, and they also utilize a large beer barrel as an elevated stand for the Reifenschwinger during his hoop swinging display.38 Mayer notes that the Reifenschwinger’s toast to the good health of royal members and dignitaries called upon the memory of plague, and the act of toasting symbolically brought Munich into a healthful future.39 Although the Schäffler never directly cure ailments, their labor, dancing and building brewing barrels, positions them within the modern city’s processes of recovery and development. The identity of the Schäffler as crucial contributors to the brewing trade also links them to Bavaria’s identity as a center of brewing, a distinction due in part to the Reinheitsgebot, or Beer Purity Law, of 1516. Enacted by Duke William IV, this food law limited beer ingredients to barley, hops, and water. The law built upon existing regulations and significantly improved overall beer quality in Bavaria. Munich first adopted these regulations in 1487, but the 1516 version of the law became more significant, especially as Bavaria expanded its political influence.40

37 R. Po-Chia Hsia, “The Structure of Belief: Confessionalism and Society, 1500–1600,” in Germany: A New Social and Economic History, ed. Bob Scribner (New York: Arnold, 1996), I:371. 38 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 16. 39 Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung,” Münchener Sonntagsblatt, March 26, 1865, 103. 40 “The Reinheitsgebot as a Guarantee of Quality,” German Brewers Association, accessed March 20, 2020,

Dancing out the pest 157 The Second German Empire adopted a revised version of the law in 1906, and Bavaria made the law’s adoption a precondition of joining the Weimar Republic in 1918 and the German Federal Republic in 1949, demonstrating the law’s longstanding political and cultural significance to the Bavarian state.41 Later in the sixteenth-century, Duke Albrecht V created a secondary law that forbade brewing in the summer months due to low-quality summer beer. Bavarians responded with larger spring brewing activity and developed March beers that could be preserved in underground casks throughout the summer.42 The summer brewing prohibition lasted until 1850, meaning both brewing laws shaped the culture of Munich in the nineteenth century. As Bavaria became a center of high-quality beer, it relied upon the Schäffler’s labor to produce barrels for brewing and storage. Baumgartner sings the guild’s praises in his book, noting that the Schäffler’s products are necessary for drinking, extinguishing fires, and storing beer and salt, making the guild an essential part of Munich’s modern development.43 Citing the Schäfflertanz’s origin as 1517 thus closely associated the dance tradition with Bavaria’s brewing tradition and 1516 Reinheitsgebot, especially as the dance and law both guided Munich into a modern era of public health. Dating the Schäfflertanz to 1517 also highlighted Munich’s civic health and order by significantly juxtaposing the dance with another prominent nineteenthcentury discourse, choreomania. The last major outbreak of choreomania, a phenomenon also known as dancing mania or Veitstanz (Saint Vitus’s dance), occurred in 1518 Strasbourg, where hundreds of people danced uncontrollably and many died of exhaustion. Lynneth Miller identifies the 1518 episode as a turning point in early modern thinking from considering the dancing as a God-inflicted curse to conceiving of the dancing as a curable disease.44 The Strasbourg city council prescribed several solutions, including encouraging people to dance through their ailment, banning music, and eventually sending dancers to the shrine of Saint Vitus. Although the Strasbourg event occurred outside of Munich and did not directly impact the city in 1518, circulations of choreomania writings in the nineteenth century closely mirrored the developments of Schäfflertanz writings and likely influenced the modern reception of the dance. Kélina Gotman analyzes the prominent recirculation of choreomania discourse in the 1800s, approaching choreomania as a concept that moved across disciplinary boundaries and acted as another form of orientalism.45 She finds that ideas of unruly bodies disrupting the modern body politic appear in writings within the medical, psychological, and sociological fields, and Europeans projected this state of unruliness onto the bodies of 41 Horst Dornbusch and Karl-Ullrich Heyse, “Reinheitsgebot,” in The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 42 Horst Dornbusch and Karl-Ullrich Heyse, “Bavaria,” in The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 43 Baumgartner, Der Schäffler-Tanz in München, 3–4. 44 Lynneth J. Miller, “Divine Punishment or Disease? Medieval and Early Modern Approaches to the 1518 Strasbourg Dancing Plague,” Dance Research Journal 35, no. 2 (2017): 149–164, https://doi. org/10.3366/drs.2017.0199. 45 Kélina Gotman, Choreomania (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 4.


Tamara Hauser

colonial subjects. Gotman identifies German medical historian J.F.C. Hecker as one of the influential forerunners of nineteenth-century choreomania concepts, arguing that “with Hecker, choreomania became a disorder of collective chaos increasingly mapped onto marginal bodies seeming to impede the rise of modern nation states.”46 Hecker’s text Die Tanzwurth circulated broadly; it was first published in Berlin in 1832, translated into multiple languages, released in an English public edition in 1859, and later republished in German in 1865. This circulation mirrors many of the trends in Schäfflertanz publications as the first wave appeared in the early 1830s and more popular accounts arose in the 1860s, such as Mayer’s newspaper feature. Gotman’s study indicates that the medieval dancing phenomena of dance curses or plagues would have been well known by nineteenth-century Schäfflertanz writers. Prior to Hecker, I find that another German publication likely influenced popular memory of medieval dance and Veitstanz. Early modern chronicler Johann Ludwig Gottfried (1584–1633) included the story of the Kölbigk carolers in his Historiche Chronica, published first in 1630 and again in 1710. He titles the entry as the “history of a wonderful and protracted Veitstanz.”47 Significantly, this story is the only dance-centered story featured in the massive chronicle that spans from the ancient period to 1619, and Gottfried notes that at least ten contemporary witnesses wrote about the Kölbigk dance event. Thus, Gottfried’s chronicle promotes the Kölbigk event as both a credible story and the only representative story of medieval dance. His chronicle likely impacted nineteenth-century historians such as Hecker and influenced how modern readers conceptualized medieval dancing. Within the Schäfflertanz discourse, I postulate that popular ideas of unruly medieval dancing shaped how Schäfflertanz writers interpreted the significance of the Schäffler’s curative and disciplined dancing. Mayer is the only writer I found that directly references Veitstanz. In his feature’s final installment, he creatively retells the origin story with added details, characters, and dialogue. When the main character, Master Schäffler Martin, arrives at the idea of playing music and dancing to convince his fellow citizens that the plague has passed, his wife Elsbeth initially responds in horror, believing Martin to be afflicted with a dancing disease. She cries out, “Now the Veitstanz has even seized him!”48 Laughing in response, Martin replies, “Old woman, be quiet, I am not mad, and I am not troubled by Veitstanz; but I want to help.”49 He proceeds to explain how his dancing will solve the lack of work and impending starvation. This reasonable attitude, with its mindfulness toward the household economy and middle-class work ethic, 46 Gotman, Choreomania, 26. 47 “histori von einem wunderbahren und langwierigen Veitstanz.” Johann Ludwig Gottfried, Historische Chronica, oder Beschreibung der fürnemsten Geschichten, so sich von Anfang der Welt biß auff das Jahr Christi 1619 (Frankfurt am Main: Merian, 1657), 506. 48 “Nun hat ihn gar der Veitstanz erfaßt!” Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung,” Münchener Sonntagsblatt March 26, 1865, 100. Mayer also provides a footnote describing Veitstanz as “a dangerous disease, epileptic type, which manifests itself with jumps and gestures.” 49 “Alte, sei ruhig, ich bin nicht närrisch, und plagt mich kein Veitstanz; aber helfen will ich.” Mayer, “Der Schäfflertanz und der Metzgersprung,” 100.

Dancing out the pest 159 contrasts sharply with the idea of irrational, uncontrollable dancing characteristic of choreomania. Mayer is also a proponent of the 1517 origin date, meaning that while drawing a distinction between the Schäfflertanz and Veitstanz, he also closely associates the two dance traditions temporally. In descriptions of the choreography, writers and illustrators further distinguish the Schäfflertanz from popular conceptions of choreomania by emphasizing the choreographic elements that most required bodily control: spatial design, unison, and posture. The group figures created by the Schäffler require total group cohesion to execute. Holding their large boxwood hoops overhead, the Schäffler visually demonstrate unity through coordinated timing, facings, and positions. Voss interprets the significance of the hoop designs, explaining that the dancers “often form a circle, holding their own hoop with one hand and the hoop of the neighboring man with the other, to represent the unity of the tightly closed guild.”50 This highly choreographed display required extensive rehearsal. In preparation for the 1886 season, guildsmen rehearsed three to four nights a week from mid-October to January with royal ballet dancer Wilhelm Reitmayer.51 The bodily training of the Schäffler dancers is apparent in illustrations of the dance, which emphasize their linear body posture. For example, an illustration in Reinsberg-Düringsfeld’s 1863 book shows the Schäffler encircling the Reifenschwinger, who maneuvers two hoops overhead.52 The Schäffler lift their left legs up slightly with a raised right heel and buoyant knees and hips. However, they exhibit bodily control in their upper bodies, as they hold their hoops at an even height, place their left arms akimbo, and maintain erect spines. Identically dressed and postured, the dancers form one unified group as a visual display of disciplined, trained bodies. This performance starkly contrasts the jerking and hopping choreomaniacs of popular imagination. Choreomania discourse othered marginalized groups by labeling their bodies, minds, and spirits as disruptive to the hierarchical order, creating an “othered” body that German nationalist discourse could utilize while constructing its own identity. In dance curse and plague stories, the dancers exceed the bounds of normative social behavior by disrupting Christian worship or abandoning noble positions to dance. Physical punishments or cures attempt to rebalance the dancers’ morality or physiology, understanding the dancing to be an ailment or symptom of deeper moral or physical abnormalities. In both dance curses and choreomania, dancing does not have a positive, intended outcome. It emerges either as irrational, uncontrollable behavior, or as knowingly devious behavior that directly challenges social and religious values. The Schäfflertanz reverses this discourse to situate dancing, by morally qualified dancers, as a relieving agent that helps cure a population of an outside affliction. Instead of indicating a deeper moral problem, 50 “Oft bilden sie, den eigenen Reif mit der einen und den des Nebenmannes mit der andern Hand haltend, einen Kreis, um die Einheit der festgeschlossen Zunft darzustellen.” Voss, Der Tanz und seine Geschichte, 155. 51 Fachverein der Schäffler Münchens, Der Original Münchner Schäfflertanz, 18. 52 Reinsberg-Düringsfelt, Das Festliche Jahr, 51.


Tamara Hauser

the dancing is a rational, orderly answer to a shared civic threat. When viewed in contrast to choreomania, the Schäfflertanz propagates Munich as a disciplined city, historically and contemporarily, which is both morally and politically superior to other regions that produced unruly dancing.

Conclusion The major discursive entanglements invoked by Baumgartner’s 1517 origin theory demonstrate that efforts to historicize the Schäfflertanz tradition and ongoing circulation of the tradition had huge sociopolitical implications for how the dance contributed to German nationalist movements. The theory’s close temporal proximity to the Reformation period, the Beer Purity Law, and the last major choreomania event combined with the dance’s imagery, technique, structure, and props to allow the Schäfflertanz to choreographically represent and formulate Munich’s modern identity as a center of Catholicism, productive industry, and civic order under the guidance of the Bavarian kings’ authority. Lipowsky’s earlier ancient Roman theory further invoked legacies of imperialist state power and aligned the Schäffler’s use of imperialist symbols and acts of deference with developing territorial nationalism. Although Baumgartner and Lipowsky could not substantiate their theories with concrete evidence, their efforts to historicize the dance contributed to a larger discourse that retooled the medieval dance tradition as usable cultural heritage. The Schäfflertanz tradition demonstrates that circulations of medieval dance narratives extended well beyond the bounds of the medieval period. Reenacted and recounted throughout the nineteenth-century, the Schäfflertanz continued to invoke past episodes of medieval dance, even while taking on modern significations. Although a separate narrative tradition than the Kölbigk dancers, the Schäfflertanz likely drew upon popular conceptions of medieval dance curses as its own discourse intersected with later circulations of the Kölbigk story and dance mania in early modern chronicles and choreomania discourse, and its choreography juxtaposed itself as a curative and disciplined event. Through each repetition, the dance provided an effective practice to remember historical events and enact current values. Thus, positioned on the precipice of modernity, the Schäfflertanz acted as a link to Munich’s medieval past while performatively dancing Munich into a healthy modernity.

Further reading Baumgartner, Anton. Der Schäffler-Tanz in München. Munich: Franz Seraph Hübschmann, 1830. Berger, Stefan. “Building the Nation Among Visions of German Empire.” In Nationalizing Empires, edited by Stefan Berger and Alexei Miller, 247–308. New York: Central European University Press, 2015. Dean, David, Yana Meerzon, and Kathryn Prince, eds. History, Memory, Performance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Dancing out the pest 161 Franko, Mark, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Gotman, Kélina. Choreomania. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Kapfhammer, Günther, Corbinian J. Lachner, and Friderica Derra de Moroda, eds. Der Münchner Schäfflertanz. Munich: Heinrich Hugenubel, 1976. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Miller, Lynneth J. “Divine Punishment or Disease? Medieval and Early Modern Approaches to the 1518 Strasbourg Dancing Plague.” Dance Research Journal 35, no. 2 (2017): 149–164. Oetke, Herbert. Der deutsche Volkstanz: Mit einer Auswahlbibliographie und einem Notenanhang von Dr. Kurt Petermann. Wilhelmshaven: Heinrichshofen’s Verlag, 1983. Salmen, Walter. Tanz und Tanzen vom Mittelalter bis zur Renaissance. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1999. Stephenson, Barry. Performing the Reformation: Public Ritual in the City of Luther. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Epilogue Dancing the spaces between Candice Salyers

Introduction Couples of all genders and generations join together in swaying embraces. Gradually, the stage clears except for one pair of dancers who accelerate beyond the polite conventions of a waltz into more frenetic jumping and turning patterns. Each sauté embodies the ecstasy that the dancers’ facial expressions portray. At first glimpse, these breaks into more ebullient dancing could be construed as a simple rhapsody of romantic love. Yet, with their attention directed less at each other than at their own experiences of moving, the dancers reveal the rapture to be in and of the dancing itself. Inspired by Strasbourg’s dancing plague of 1518, this contemporary performance by New Zealand’s Borderline Arts Ensemble explores how the medieval choreomania of the past has relevance for today. As Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis propose in their introduction to this book: To explore the weight of medieval discourses only as a part of the medieval past is to miss the ways in which these narratives and texts have shaped our present, and to miss the ways that the present continues to reshape them in turn.1 Similarly, to explore the impact of dancing bodies only on the past is to miss the embodied knowledge that historical dancing can offer to the present. Two contemporary dance works bearing the same title, Strasbourg 1518, engage such knowledge from different perspectives and with distinct intentions, though both appeared publicly in the spring of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world. The aforementioned live performance by Borderline as well as a dance film directed by Jonathan Glazer both encounter the present-day pandemic from echoes of 1518’s dancing plague. How does contemporary performance inspired by this historical story, and perhaps in part by the cursed carolers narrative that preceded it, reveal the relevance of dancing in our time? While Glazer’s Strasbourg emotionally evokes the lived experience of the uncontrollable, Borderline’s 1 Lynneth Miller Renberg and Bradley Phillis, “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers: Transmissions, Translations, and Themes,” in the present book, 16–17.

Epilogue 163 production utilizes 1518’s events to craft a more political message for the twentyfirst century. In both works, dance evidences its capacity to conjure and contain opposites – historical and present tense, dancing as both symptom and healing, and a tension between “the material and the magical”2 that Miller Renberg and Phillis reference in the introduction. This epilogue considers ways in which these two contemporary dances invite viewers to understand dance as a liminal space in which apparent contradictions necessarily coexist.

Historical present With a clap of hands, a character stage left interrupts the dancing couple and shouts, “Enough! I can’t stand this dancing! It’s just the same thing over and over again. What’s the point?”3 This scholar character, named “The Rational Man,” continues his tirade: “These days dance has absolutely no relevance or purpose. And, yet, I’m drawn to this history. There’s something in it that’s important, vital even.”4 Borderline’s Strasbourg 1518 was co-created by director/choreographer Lucy Marinkovich and composer/writer Lucien Johnson who began researching the vitality of this history in 2017. Simultaneously “taken by”5 the story and frustrated with written accounts of the events which attempted “to understand this kind of instinctive and human experience in a rational, academic way,”6 the artists began to develop a way of telling the story that includes what can only be known through dancing. The result is their evening-length immersive dance theatre performance, which premiered in March 2020 but was unable to complete its run of shows in the New Zealand Festival of the Arts as the country and world went into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filmmaker Jonathan Glazer and Artangel’s co-director Michael Morris specifically created their film in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and enlisted a cast of performers isolated in their own homes, including celebrated dancer Nazareth Panadero. Standing alone between two white walls, her hands mask her face. Panadero spirals toward the corner until her back presses against both walls. In another room, a dancer repeatedly ricochets from wall to wall, until she reaches a wooden bucket full of water, propelling herself into a compulsive washing of hands and forearms before circling to the center of the room with arms raised overhead. Strands of drenched hair drape over her face as she repeatedly rocks forwards and backwards mimicking the act of hand washing while involving her whole body.7 For viewers in lockdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2 Miller Renberg and Phillis, “The Tale of the Kölbigk Dancers,” 15. 3 Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble, Circa Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand, March 12, 2020. 4 Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble. 5 Lucien Johnson and Lucy Marinkovich (co-directors of Borderline Arts Ensemble), in discussion with the author, September 2020. 6 Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion. 7 Strasbourg 1518, directed by Jonathan Glazer (London: Academy Films, 2020), https://us.strasbourg


Candice Salyers

dancers’ actions may seem eerily familiar. Reflecting on the creation of this film which premiered in July 2020, Morris proposes, “The appeal of the story is that it rhymes with our own times – our own lockdown, our own epidemic, our own confinement and fear of catching something.”8 Although he and Glazer initiated it in response to the 2020 lockdown, he goes on to suggest: There’s a timeless quality about the film. We wanted the viewer to feel the dance has been going on for centuries, and it continues after the viewer finishes watching it. There’s a continuum through time. It’s not exactly set in the present, or in the past.9 Simultaneously evoking both the current pandemic and that of 1518, the dancing itself becomes a space in which past and present exist together. Similarly, while describing the cursed carolers in Chapter 4, Krista A. Murchison points out that the “lasting echo of the dance – cast as a ‘token of remembrance’ – haunts beyond the very limits of the narrative.”10 The tendency for impressions of dance to linger in the imagination of the viewer reflects what dance critic Arlene Croce termed “afterimages.”11 Yet dance’s capacity to exist beyond the moment, to echo and reverberate across time, can enact more than memory. Dance’s potential to evoke a type of kinesthetic empathy between the historical and the present reveals that those who are dancing may express understanding that goes beyond their individual bodies and potentially even beyond their time. The presence of these two contemporary dances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates dance’s appeal as a response to cultural disturbance. The year 2020 is not the first time that humans have danced as a result of social upheaval. Recounting numerous dancing plagues and tales they have inspired over time, The Rational Man in Borderline’s Strasbourg reminds viewers of, “the dance macabre, the tarantella, Odette and Siegfried, the Rite of Spring, and Queen Myrtha forcing her victims to dance until they’re so tired they die.”12 As he speaks, a dancer emerges from behind the curtain. With wrists flexed and fingers gripped into her palm, she staggers between recognizable dance technique and spontaneous movement. The extension of her leg into what could be a typical arabesque becomes distorted. Her movement initiates from contraction rather than expansion, while her wideopen eyes seem unfocused and unable to see what is immediately in front of her.

8 Sarah Crompton, “Strasbourg 1518: Reliving a 16th-century ‘Dancing Plague’ in Lockdown,” The Guardian, July 19, 2020, 9 Crompton, “Strasbourg 1518.” 10 Krista A. Murchison, “‘Desturné en us de secularité’?: Authority and Narrative Framing in the Cursed Dancers Episode of the Manuel des Péchés,” in the present book, 83. 11 See Arlene Croce, Afterimages (New York: Knopf, 1978). 12 Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble.

Epilogue 165

Symptomatic healing Skillfully demonstrating movement that appears to operate outside of her conscious control, dancer Jana Castillo pitches herself forward into an off-kilter balance. As her head nears the ground, the backwards arcing of her left leg sweeps her off of both feet. After regaining her verticality, her choreographed stumbles lead her to The Rational Man’s desk and into her next tumble to the floor. This time, she takes his books and a stage curtain down with her. In a perfectly rehearsed balance of technical dance movement and awkward distortion of that technique, she flings her legs and a ballonné becomes the impetus for succumbing to, rather than defying, gravity. Her limbs fold and reach as if something inside her body is invisibly manipulating her movement, as The Rational Man introduces her: This is Frau Troffea. She loves to dance, or maybe I should say she is compelled to dance. Who can say? It is the beginning of summer 1518, and she started dancing and she just won’t stop – not for anything.13 Collapsing from exhaustion, Castillo exhales into the floor, and her gripping toes curl toward the center of her foot. Rising again, she springs to retiré, her right toes beating at her left knee in representation of the resurrected Frau Troffea who resumed her dancing at the breaking of dawn each day. In her article, “Divine Punishment or Disease? Medieval and Early Modern Approaches to the 1518 Strasbourg Dancing Plague,” Miller Renberg describes how “the events in Strasbourg in 1518 mark a significant turning point in which older medieval views appeared alongside new perspectives on the causes behind uncontrollable dance.”14 Conceptualizations of manic dancing as a curse for sin, like in the tale of the cursed carolers, gave way to ideas about danced mania as disease, resolved not through absolution but through a cure. Similarly, Borderline’s production cycles through theatrical demonstrations of each approach that attempted to find a cure for the dancing plague, including spiritual, philosophical, and medical interventions. Donning black-beaked masks, “doctor” characters pluck at a dancer’s torso before propelling him forward into a series of weightless lifts. Hoisting him onto their shoulders, they drape him over their bending bodies before soundlessly lowering him to the floor. The back of his hand covers his right eye as his fingertips gently coil toward his palm. Delicate gestures mix with frenetic full-bodied movement until his arms are captured and manipulated as a marionette by The Rational Man. Yet, creators Johnson and Marinkovich deride attempts to reduce Strasbourg’s dancing to a “rational” explanation. Johnson remarks, “For us, it’s obvious why they were dancing.” Despite, “the whole history of this rational way of looking at it,” he proposes, “for us as artists, it’s

13 Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble. 14 Lynneth J. Miller, “Divine Punishment or Disease? Medieval and Early Modern Approaches to the 1518 Strasbourg Dancing Plague,” Dance Research 35, no. 2 (Nov. 2017): 150, https://doi. org/10.3366/drs.2017.0199.


Candice Salyers

the same reason why anyone dances. When you ask people, ‘Why are you making art?’ The response is always something like, ‘I have to, I’m compelled to do this.’”15 While individual compulsion may be viewed as irrational, the events of 1518 resulted in hundreds of people feeling compelled to dance – and was thus considered a contagion. Johnson and Marinkovich suggest that such compulsion signals a larger societal, rather than individual, disease. Glazer also reflects on this idea: “What caught my attention was the people of Strasbourg, 500 years ago, dancing in despair, and the connection between them and Pina Bausch saying, centuries later, ‘dance, dance or we are lost.’”16 His film flashes from room to room, each containing an isolated dancer lost within a fragmented moment of collective movement. One dancer flings her arms, jutting into space with no discernable pattern until she slides in exhaustion down the wall. The film jumps to another room where acclaimed Senegalese dancer Germaine Acogny already slumps against the wall, her arms repeatedly reaching to grasp the air in front of her.17 Describing this work, film critic Peter Bradshaw writes, “As an artefact, it brilliantly spoke to my own feelings about the lockdown, with dance being both symptom and cure, both deterioration and therapy, both constriction and freedom.”18 Terming the dancing a “cathartic, declamatory spasm of protest,”19 Bradshaw highlights movement’s potential to become a type of empowered release, and as such, a means of healing rather than simply a symptom of disease. Even in 1518, dancing was one of the methodologies explored for curing choreomania. As Miller Renberg explains, “Early modern medical theory held that most continuous dancing would eventually be cured if the dancers danced vigorously and lengthily enough.”20 Yet, while dancing was explored as a treatment for choreomania in this situation, it was not necessarily considered a cure for anything other than the dancing itself. Such perspectives perpetuated the idea of dancing as evidence of something wrong with an individual rather than as a process of righting a society. By contrast, in Chapter 8 in this book Tamara Hauser describes how the ritual of Schäfflertanz reverses this discourse to situate dancing, by morally qualified dancers, as a relieving agent that helps cure a population of an outside affliction. Instead of indicating a deeper moral problem, the dancing is a rational, orderly answer to a shared civic threat.21 15 16 17 18

Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion. Crompton, “Strasbourg 1518.” Strasbourg 1518, directed by Jonathan Glazer. Peter Bradshaw, “Strasbourg 1518 Review – Jonathan Glazer’s Cathartic Spasm of Protest for Our Times,” The Guardian, July 20, 2020, 19 Bradshaw, “Strasbourg 1518 Review.” 20 Miller, “Divine Punishment or Disease?,” 158. 21 Tamara Hauser, “Dancing Out the Pest: Afterlives of Medieval Dance Plague Narratives in Nineteenth-Century Münchner Schäfflertanz Discourse,” in the present book, 159–160.

Epilogue 167 In this case, dancing is not a disease, but a communal healing: “Unlike earlier medieval dance plague narratives that situated dance as an affliction, this tradition distinguished itself by figuring dance as a palliative cure.”22 Herein lies the perspective and intention of Borderline’s production. When asked what captured his imagination about the events of 1518, Johnson revealed his perspective that it connects with current events through “the political resonance of it – the climate change they were going through, the starvation, the inequality.”23 Citing the existence of “an oppressive force throughout history – of which Strasbourg 1518 is the perfect example – of people physically trying to stop other people expressing themselves through music and dance,”24 he considers the choreomania to be a form of resistance, protest, and transformation. In an enactment of this dancing as “a political act of rebellion,”25 the stage scene in Borderline’s production devolves into rhythmic chaos. Swirling smoke and harsh lighting surround the writhing, intertwined bodies and undulating spines that conjure an uncommon public intimacy. Shaking and screaming, the dancers begin to disrobe, blowing whistles while marking time with marched steps. Their flailing arms now bear banners with messages including, “If only everything would change,” “Each disaster replaces another,” and “So dry the Earth is dying.” Authentic exhaustion shows in the sweaty tangle of bodies until most dancers descend to the floor now cluttered with a mess of banners, books, and paper. As they fall and rise, they effectively clear the stage of its obstacles and merge again into synchronized movement, drawn by the beat of the music into a repeated triplet foot pattern.

Magical material Balancing the intentions of moving themselves and allowing themselves to be moved in the actual moment of performance, the dancers unfold a mesmerizing mix of physical exertion and surrender. In a ritualized manipulation of one dancer’s body, bishop and nun characters repeat frantic gestures. Hovering over him while miming attempts to pull an unwanted spirit out of the dancer, they seem to affirm a separation between his physical body and what moves him. Although he pauses momentarily, as soon as they release their grip, he descends again into his ecstatic dancing, now joined by others in their unbound sweeping and tumbling across the stage. A duet moving with measured precision counterposes this action, as they discuss the dancing plague as an enactment of God’s anger on the sinners of Strasbourg. In the space surrounding them, whirling bodies unleash an organized pandemonium as dancers accumulate on stage. The remnant of the veil separating upstage from downstage falls. Cajoling each other into buoyant turns that carry them momentarily into a single line before erupting again into their 22 23 24 25

Hauser, “Dancing Out the Pest,” 145–146. Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion. Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion. Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion.


Candice Salyers

individualized leaps, spirals, and stomping, the dancers engulf the previously immune couple in the contagious action. The genuine exertion of the dancers shows on their skin, clothing, and hair as they become increasingly disheveled. As demonstrated in Borderline’s production, dance frequently bridges any divide between the material and the magical through its mysterious demands on a practitioner’s commitment – far from simply requiring movement of her body, it necessitates a dedication of her whole being. To maintain some degree of conscious control over one’s physical actions while simultaneously surrendering to an authentic state of trance-like bewilderment within and through preplanned choreography requires a certain fortitude of both body and mind. Surrender into dancing, whether it is contemporary performance or ritual tradition, does not signify the weakness of character that those with choreomania were often perceived to have. Instead, complete submission of oneself to the dancing often requires extensive training (physical, spiritual, or both), although the movement itself may be interpreted as lacking virtuosity or appearing untrained from a historical European perspective drenched in the aesthetics of court ballet. Amidst this dancing, The Rational Man’s query continues as he seeks to understand the unknowable, crying, “None of [the historical texts] talk about what it was to be inside it – inside the trance! To have no control over your actions, to lose all sense of temporality, and location, and self.”26 Glazer’s film attempts to capture this dissolution of categorical reality by accelerating shifts between spaces, thus condensing temporality and blurring locations. As dancers laugh, slap their bodies, and thrash against walls, the film cuts between scenes in rapid succession. Within this progression, one dancer wearing a red dress reappears between scenes.27 Reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Red Shoes,” she seems caught in unstoppable dancing, repeatedly throwing her head back and her dress up. Bradshaw picks up the thread of this story with his final assessment of the film’s relevance for 2020: “Covid or not, mass hysteria or not, we are all condemned to wear the red shoes, all condemned to dance (quickly or slowly) to the end of our days.”28 Similarly, at the conclusion of their performance, Borderline’s dancers slip their feet into red shoes and travel to meet “an old friend”29 – New Zealand arts laureate Michael Parmenter, who is embodying the character of Death. With interweaving step patterns that mirror myriad folk dance traditions, each performer comes to embrace this friend individually before they gather as a group to witness Death dancing the final solo of the evening. In a refrain of his waltz from the beginning of the show, he sweeps across the stage with turns and jumps that resolve into smooth, slow gestures until only the subtle swaying of his silhouette remains. Leaving a trace of movement written in light, he dances into the mysterious space between the known and the unknown. 26 27 28 29

Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble. Strasbourg 1518, directed by Jonathan Glazer. Bradshaw, “Strasbourg 1518 Review.” Strasbourg 1518, Borderline Arts Ensemble.

Epilogue 169

Writing dancing As the chapters of this book demonstrate, that which can only be known through the dancing body continues to intrigue our minds and inspire our writing. With a respectful nod to Sally Banes30 and countless other scholar artists who have brought dance into formal academic discourse, I conclude this epilogue with an invitation from inside both writing and dancing. In my experience of straddling both of these forms of creative research, I encounter dancers hesitant to be interviewed by me because they assume that my writing will fail to honor dance as a legitimate way of knowing, separate from rational academic analysis. Simultaneously, I find scholars skeptical about the rigor of my research because it speaks from an embodied understanding that emerges while engaged in ritual dance forms. I consider neither dancing nor writing to be a superior approach to human knowing. Instead, I am interested in what they can do together. As dance anthropologist Judith Lynne Hanna describes, “the understanding of dance in its full complexity must necessarily be multidisciplinary.”31 Therefore, all of the authors featured in this book contribute not only to their own fields, but also to a deeper consideration of how dance can enhance the vitalities and mysteries of human experience. Writing and dancing do not accomplish the same objectives, thus writing dancing is obviously not the same as embodying or even viewing it. Yet, the distinct contributions both writing and dancing can offer to human knowing make them excellent companions as they have the capacity to expand one another. They can learn from each other just as our contemporary societies can learn from the events of 1518 – and from the medieval tale of the cursed carolers, in its many iterations. Reflecting on what the creation of Strasbourg 1518 has brought to her own awareness, choreographer Marinkovich observes: It reminded me of things that I know deep down. We know how to help one another, how to come together, how to move together – politically, socially, personally, emotionally, psychologically – and the power of that, and the joy of it.32 Facing upstage with arms raised, the dancers press palm to palm, creating a sculptural line stretching the length of the stage. As dancers break from the group, they weave through the spaces between bodies, occasionally clap overhead, or revolve downstage before rejoining the line again. Continually finding ways to vary the rhythm of the movement, the dancers ride atop the relentless, unbroken beat of the music for a seemingly endless duration until the scene accelerates. Revisiting shades of previous characters, including the bishop and doctors, dancers suspend

30 Sally Banes, Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994). 31 Judith Lynne Hanna, To Dance Is Human (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), xiii. 32 Johnson and Marinkovich, discussion.


Candice Salyers

each other in versions of the original partner waltzes. The chaos finally calms to a more ethereal tone with dancers spinning into and out of the dim lighting, their white garments conjuring a ghostly mirage. Duets and trios grasp hands and find weightless moments to hover each other’s feet above the floor. Like the carolers described in Straple-Sovers’s chapter, the dancers in this production will “only be able to move as far as their linked hands and the speed and placement of the other dancers would allow.”33 The same can be said for writing and dancing. In this book, dancing and writing meet in a waltzing embrace, and such a partnership requires the tension of engagement – tension between the past and the present, between dance as symptom and healing, between the material and the magical, between two contemporary dances titled by the same historical event, and between the embodied acts of dancing and writing. It is their collision, their joining, and the tensile push and pull between them that produces movement – and perhaps movement is what our current times need most.

33 Rebecca Straple-Sovers, “Kinesic Analysis: A Theoretical Approach to Reading Bodily Movement in Literature,” in the present book, 32.


Note: Page numbers in bold indicate a table on the corresponding page. Andersen, Hans Christian 7, 168; see also red shoes; “Red Shoes, The” (“De røde sko”) authority: clerical 2, 82, 92–97, 106–107; political 12, 15–16, 68, 152, 160; religious 13, 15–16, 70, 80–84; textual 15, 74–75, 77 Ave/Ava/Anna/Ana 37, 120–123, 129–130, 132n35 Bakkastaður, Iceland 138–139 Bavaria, kingdom of 147, 149, 151–153, 155–157, 160 beer 147, 155–157, 160 bodily autonomy 35–37 body/bodies 14–15, 30–37, 42n14, 44, 98, 106; and fragmentation 81, 120–123; motion 26–28, 39–43, 49, 82–83, 114–115, 162–169; rhetorical 152–153, 157–158; women’s 105–106; see also gesture; stillness Borderline Arts Ensemble 17, 162–165, 167–168; see also Strasbourg 1518 (live performance) Brothers Grimm 7, 127n13 Canterbury Tales 44–46, 49–53; see also Chaucer, Geoffrey carole 3–4, 29, 42–43, 47, 128n15; and details of performance 10–11, 24–25, 32–37 Chaganti, Seeta 40, 44, 49, 53; and Strange Footing 2n4, 11, 23, 30n37 Chaucer, Geoffrey 9n32, 44–46, 49–52; see also Canterbury Tales choreography 46, 50, 165, 168; and caroles 32; of Schäfflertanz 13, 145–149, 152–153, 155–160

choreomania 8–10, 155, 157–160, 162, 166–168; see also dancing plague; veitstanz civic order 157, 160, 166 confession 12, 73, 75, 80, 95–99, 101 COVID-19 17, 162–164, 168 dance figures 148–149, 152, 159 dance manuals 22 dancing plague 7, 9–10, 146, 158–159, 164; and 1518 Strasbourg 14, 16–17, 157, 162, 165–167; see also choreomania; veitstanz de Lorris, Guillaume 42; see also Roman de la Rose Der grosse Seelentrost 5, 6, 125–127, 129, 140 Duke William IV 148, 156 Edith of Wilton see Saint Edith exemplum/exempla 5–7, 58, 77–78, 84–86, 140; and sermons 92–95, 99, 127–128; about women 105–107, 125 fabliaux 12, 39–41, 46–53 fairy/fairies/elves 7–8, 44, 52, 137 Flanders 4, 12, 58–61, 63–64, 70–71, 129 Floretus 75–77 Fornsvenska Legendariet 131–133 Fourth Lateran Council (1215) 73–74, 91–92, 95–97, 102–104, 107; see also reform gesture 23, 26–30, 34, 49, 158n48, 165–168; see also body/bodies; stillness Glazer, Jonathan 17, 162–164, 166, 168; see also Strasbourg 1518 (film)



Goscelin of Saint-Bertin 4, 110–119, 121, 123, 129–131; see also Legend of St. Edith; Translatio Edithe Gotman, Kélina 8, 10, 157–158 Graven, Norway 127, 134 Guðmundsdóttir, Aðalheiður 136–137, 140n68 Gullbrekka, Iceland 139 hagiography 3–4, 9, 61, 70, 110, 123; and Saint Edith 22, 33, 35, 120 Handlyng Synne 39n2, 73, 91–92, 140; and manuscript relationships 5–9, 75n9, 78, 93–94, 130, 132n35; pastoral conduct 97–99, 104, 106–107; see also Mannyng, Robert (of Brunne) Hårga, Sweden 126n5, 127–128, 135n49, 136 healing 14, 16, 109, 112; and by dance 163, 165–167, 170; by saints 35–37, 114–117, 119–121, 133 Historia Iherosolimitana 58, 62–63, 65n41 Holy Roman Emperor 66–67, 112, 120, 130n23, 133 Holy Roman Empire 3, 6, 7, 57, 151 Hruni, Iceland 137–138, 141 Idley, Peter 5, 6, 91–94, 99–100, 102–103, 106–107 Itinerarium Clementis 84 Johnson, Lucien 163, 165–167, 169 kinesic analysis/kinesics 12, 15, 22, 26–31, 32n38, 33–37 kinesic intelligence 29–31, 37 kinesic style 29–31, 34 Kleinschmidt, Harold/Harald 3n4, 8, 126n4 Kölbigk 1, 58n7, 125n4, 126–127, 129n21 Lambert/Lampert of Hersfeld 3, 65, 125n4 lay theology 74–75, 85–86, 94–95 Legend of St. Edith 4–5, 6, 21, 109–112, 117–120, 129; see also Goscelin of Saint-Bertin; Translatio Edithe Magnus see Saint Magnus Magnús Erlendsson of Orkney see Saint Magnús Erlendsson of Orkney Malory, Thomas 39–40 Mannyng, Robert (of Brunne) 5, 6, 8–9, 73, 91, 130, 140; and audience 97–100, 102, 104–106; biographical information 93–94; see also Handlyng Synne

Manuel des Péchés 5, 6, 12, 73–74, 130–131; and exemplum framing 84–86; and sources 75–77; and tale of the cursed carolers 78–82; see also William of Waddington manuscripts 4–5, 12, 24n14, 58–67, 78–79, 85–89; and relationships to print editions 73–76, 93n6, 113 Marcent/Mersent 78, 81, 131n28 Marinkovich, Lucy 163, 165–167, 169 Metzner, Ernst Erich 3, 8n29, 126 Mirk, John 95–99 monks 3, 30–31, 59–65, 70–71, 110, 133–134 moralization 13, 76–77, 79–80, 82–86, 155–156 Morte Darthur 39–40 Munich 13, 145–150, 152–160 narrative structure 39–46, 51, 83, 85–86, 119 nationalism 13, 146–147, 151–155, 159–160 Nørre Nissum, Denmark 127, 134–136 nuns 111–115, 118, 120, 129, 167 Of Shrifte and Penance 5, 6, 92–93, 97, 100, 102, 105–107 Otbert’s account 3–5, 6, 78–80, 84–85, 87–89, 126, 131; see also “Prologue group”; Relatio miraculi Otbertus/Otbert/Osbert 59, 62, 78–80 pastoral: care 13, 92–93, 95–97, 99, 101–107; literature 13, 73–74, 85–86 pilgrimage 9n32, 13, 109, 113–117, 123 Pilgrim/Peregrine, archbishop of Cologne 3, 6, 60, 126n7 plague 145, 148–151, 155–156, 158 priestly cursing 94, 97–99 priests’ wives 103–105 “Prologue group” 60–61, 66, 89n60; see also Otbert’s account; Relatio miraculi public health 155–157 rape 33, 35, 132n34 red shoes 7, 168; see also Andersen, Hans Christian; “Red Shoes, The” (“De røde sko”) “Red Shoes, The” (“De røde sko”) 7, 168; see also Andersen, Hans Christian; red shoes reform 16, 60–61, 67–71, 95–107, 128; see also Fourth Lateran Council (1215)

Index Reformation 140–141, 155–156, 160 Relatio miraculi 3–4, 6, 58–66, 70–71; see also Otbert’s account; “Prologue group” relics 13, 31, 69–70, 110–111, 120–122 revenants 131 Rohmann, Gregor 1, 3n7, 8, 10, 126 romance 11–12, 39–48, 51–53, 119 Roman de la Rose 24, 41–43; see also de Lorris, Guillaume sacrilege 73, 78, 92, 94, 99, 105–106 Saint Edith 9, 12–13, 109, 129–130, 133–134; and biographical information 110–114, 117–119; miracles 30–31, 35–37; relics 115–116, 120–123 Saint Magnus 58, 80–81, 98, 126–127, 129n21 Saint Magnús Erlendsson of Orkney 131–133 Saxony 2, 16, 58–59, 126–127, 132n33 Schäffler 145–150, 152–154, 156–160 Schäfflertanz 13, 145–147, 151–160, 166; and origin debates 149–151 Schröder, Edward 3–5, 8, 59–61, 78–79, 84, 87n53 Second Crusade 12, 57–58, 60, 62–66, 68, 71 Siælinna Thrøst 127n10, 129 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 43, 46 Sir Gowther 43–44, 46 Sjælens Trøst 127n11, 136 Skinnastaður, Iceland 139 spectacle 1, 12, 15, 39–46, 48–52, 112 stillness 21, 28, 32–36, 44, 116–117; see also body/bodies; gesture Strasbourg 10n36, 14, 16n48, 17, 157 Strasbourg 1518 (film) 14, 162–164, 166, 168; see also Glazer, Jonathan


Strasbourg 1518 (live performance) 14, 162–170; see also Borderline Arts Ensemble Theoderic’s account 4–5, 6, 78, 126, 129–131; see also Theodericus/ Theoderic Theodericus/Theoderic 21, 32–36, 111–117, 119–121, 129, 133; see also Theoderic’s account Todorov, Tzvetan 40 Translatio Edithe 4n10, 12, 21–24, 30–37, 129–133; see also Goscelin of SaintBertin; Legend of St. Edith uncanny 12, 39–41, 44, 46–53 veitstanz 157–159; see also choreomania; dancing plague virginity 13, 109, 117–120, 123 William of Malmesbury 4, 6, 9, 65, 79, 87n53 William of Waddington 5, 6, 73–75, 77–79, 84–85, 130n27; see also Manuel des Péchés Wilton Abbey 4–5, 6, 13, 15, 109–110, 129, 133; and financial struggles 112–114, 119; Norman Conquest 110–112, 118; pilgrimage site 115–117, 123 Wilton Chronicle 5, 6, 13, 109; and pilgrimage 115–117; reputation 112–113, 119–120 Wilton women 9, 109, 111, 116, 117–120 women 9, 13, 44, 92, 109, 120; and lay women 13, 113, 117–120, 122; religious 13, 109, 117–120; sin and temptation 101, 104–107, 125n3, 135