Category Archives: Religion

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1574 – Patents

When dramatic representations ceased to be founded on religious subjects, they were no longer performed in churches, as was the case sometimes with the mysteries and moralities, and playhouses became necessary. The convenient form of the  inns (still preserved in many of them) in London, with an open area in the centre, and a gallery on each side of the quadrangle, presented itself as a theatre ready made, with the exception of the stage; this was easily raised either in the centre or on one side of the court, and thus many of our early dramatic pieces were performed in the yards of the inns. Even the first theatres were but a very slight improvement, for the area or pit was generally exposed to the air.

The first company of players that received the sanction of a patent, was that of James Burbidge and others, the servants of the Earl of Leicester, to whom Queen Elizabeth granted a patent in [1574]. The children of the royal chapel, afterwards called the children of the Revels, were next formed into a company; and the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange had each a company of players, who occasionally exhibited at the houses of their patrons, or in other parts of the town. Stowe states, that Lord Strange’s players performed an obnoxious play at the Cross Keys in 1589 and although the lord treasurer had requested the lord mayor to suppress it, they disobeyed the order, which induced his lordship to commit two of them to the Compter, and to prohibit all plays until the pleasure of the lord treasurer was known. Previous to this time the plays were complained of as personal satires; and so early as the year [1574], Sir James Hawes, lord mayor, issued a proclamation in which he claimed for himself and the court of aldermen, the privilege now exercised by the lord chamberlain, of perusing and sanctioning the plays previous to their being acted. A penalty of five pounds and fourteen days imprisonment were inflicted on all actors of plays, “wherein should be uttered any words, examples or doings of any unchastity, sedition, or such like unfit and uncomely matter.” Yet it was provided that this act “should not extend to plays performed in private houses, the lodgings of a nobleman, citizen or gentleman, for the celebration of any marriage or other festivity, and where no collection of money was made from the auditors.”

It appears from Stowe, that the first players were “ingenious tradesmen and gentlemen’s servants,” who united in a company of themselves “to learn interludes, to expose vice, or to represent the noble actions of our ancestors;” but that in process of time it became an occupation, when the players publicly “uttered popular and seditious matters, and shameful speeches; and these plays being commonly acted on Sundays and festivals, the churches were forsaken, and the play houses thronged.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1378 – Parish Clubs

The mysteries were succeeded by the moralities, which made a nearer approach to dramatic representation. They were, as Mr. Hone, in his work on Ancient Mysteries, observes, “dramatic allegories, in which the characters personify certain vices or virtues, with the intent to inforce some moral or religious principle. “A curious copy of one of those moralities, entitled the “Castle of Good Perseverance,” was formerly in the library of the late  Dr. Cox Macro, the first leaf of which contains not only directions to the players, but the colour of the dresses they shall wear. The three daughters are denoted to be clad, “i metelys,” that is appropriately; Mercy with righteousness in red altogether, Truth in sad green, and Peace all in black; and the person that plays Belial is particularly cautioned to have gunpowder burning in pipes in his hands, eyes, and other places when he goeth to battle.

When the reformation took place, mysteries and moralities, which had been expressly employed in favour of the Roman Catholic religion, were resorted to in order to overturn it, and was found a good auxiliary for such a purpose.

The parish clubs appear to have been rivalled in the performing of mysteries and moralities by “the children of Powles,” as a body of juvenile actors, to whom the English drama is considerably indebted, was called. They can be traced back as far as the year 1378, when they petitioned Richard II. to prohibit ignorant persons from acting the history of the Old Testament, as they had been at great expense in preparing it for the ensuing Christmas. The place of exhibition was generally their school room near St. Paul’s, where they continued to act their mysteries and moralities until the year 1580, when, on account of the plague, all interludes were prohibited and the house pulled down. The price of admission was about two pence. The children of Paul’s sometimes exhibited before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall and Greenwich, and after their school had been erased to the ground they performed at Blackfriars.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

 

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

Rude as the early dramatic and scenic representations in the metropolis may now seem, they were proofs of an advance in intellectual knowledge and refinement of manners beyond those of our continental neighbours. To England, Germany was indebted for the drama, and in France it only became worthy of notice half a century after Shakespeare had raised it to its zenith of glory in England.

The mysteries, those precursors of the regular drama, which consisted of dramatic representations of religious subjects, either from the Old or New Testament, apocryphal story, or lives of the saints, are clearly proved to have been known in this country in the year 1110, which is more than a century earlier than the first record of them in Italy, where, according to  Dr. Burney, they were not known until the year 1243, when a spiritual comedy was represented at Padua. Matthew of Paris relates, that in the year 1110, Geoffrey, a learned Norman master of the school of the abbey of Dunstable, composed the play of St. Catherine, which was acted by his scholars; and Fitz-stephen, who wrote in 1174, speaks of the mysteries as quite common in the metropolis: “London,” he says, “for its theatrical exhibitions has religious plays, either the representations of miracles wrought by holy confessors, or the sufferings of martyrs.”

That the mysteries were one of the means used by the priests to sustain the Roman Catholic religion, is evident from the pope granting pardons and indulgences to those who attended some mysteries that were represented at Chester about the year 1398. By this time they had become so popular that the audience wished to have them in English, and it is related in one of the Harleian MS. in the British Museum, that the author of the Chester plays, Ranolph Higden, “was thrice at Rome before he could obtain leave of the pope to have them in the English tongue;”  the objection of the pope was no doubt that which the Roman Catholic church so often feels against the people being acquainted with the sacred Scriptures. The inference from this is, that the ancient mysteries were performed in Latin, and yet neither Matthew of Paris nor Fitz-stephen assert this.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

Farnworth – Richard Bancroft – 1604

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Farnworth is a township in the Bolton Union, and forms part of the ancient parish of Deane. It lies on the highroad from Bolton to Manchester, and overlooks the winding and picturesque valley of the river Irwell.

Richard Bancroft was born in Farnworth during the reign of Henry VIII and became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1604 during the reign of James I.

 

Richard Bancroft (1544-1610) – Archbishop of Canterbury 1604

Farnworth was the birthplace of Richard Bancroft.  He was the second son of John Bancroft, by Mary, daughter of Mr. John Curwyn, and niece of Hugh Curwyn, Archbishop of Dublin.  He was born in September, 1544, receiving his early education in the free school of his native village; was afterwards entered as a student of Christ’s College, Cambridge, took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1567, and that of Master of Arts in [1570].  He was successively chaplain to the Bishop of Ely; rector of Feversham; one of the preachers of the University; Bachelor of Divinity; rector of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, London; Doctor of Divinity; treasurer of St. Paul’s Cathedral; chaplain to Lord Chancellor Hatton; rector of Cottingham; prebendary of St. Paul’s; prebendary of Westminster; canon of Canterbury; chaplain to Dr. Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Bishop of London in 1597; Archbishop of Canterbury in 1604; a Lord of the Privy Council in 1605; Chancellor of the University of Oxford in [1608]. He was the chief overseer of the last translation of the Bible.  He died on the 2nd of November, [1610], in the 67th year of his age, and was buried in the chancel of Lambeth Church.

Whatever may be thought of his opinions there can be no doubt that he was a man of extraordinary abilities; that he gave himself with rare devotion to the service of the church; and his career is only one among many proofs of the fact that diligence, integrity, and persevering activity can command the highest honours without the aid of noble birth or family influence.

Excerpt from Proceedings at the Opening of Farnworth Park – 1864

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Further Reading and External Links

Farnworth Park Archive Pictures 

Richard Bancroft – Archbishop of Canterbury

Greek & Roman Mythology – Hades or Pluto

 

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Here we cover the Greek God Hades (Pluto) one of the deities of the highest order, other postings examine the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually.  Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897.  The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.

Hades or Pluto

Hades or PlutoWe have seen how Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon came to be conceived as the three great deities who between them controlled the elements of heaven, sky, and sea, and how a character came to lie ascribed to each of them such as was most naturally suggested by the phenomena of the provinces of the world in which they respectively ruled. But there still remained a region which could not escape the observation of people like the Greeks, gifted with so keen a sense of the various operations of nature.

That region was, however, itself invisible, being under the surface of the earth. The growth of vegetation was seen to be steadily upward, as if impelled by some divine force below. The metals which experience showed to be most precious to mankind could only be obtained by digging into that dark region under the earth. Thither returned, after its day on earth was spent, every form of life. In conceiving a god who should be supreme in the management of this region, it was necessary to attribute a double character to him: first, as the source of all the treasures and wealth of the earth, as expressed in his name Pluton (Pluto); and secondly, as monarch of the dark realm inhabited by the invisible shades of the dead, as expressed in his name of Aides (Hades).

While by virtue of his power of giving fertility to vegetation, of swelling the seed cast into the furrows of the earth, and of yielding treasures of precious metal, he was justly viewed as a benevolent deity and a true friend of man, there was another and very grim side to his character, in which he appears as the implacable, relentless god, whom no cost of sacrifice could persuade to permit any one who had once passed his gates ever to return. For this reason, to die, to go to Hades’s house, to pass out of sight, to be lost in the darkness of the lower world, was looked forward to as the dismal inevitable fate awaiting all men. Yet there must have been some consolation in the belief that the life thus claimed by him had been originally his gift, as were the means of comfort and pleasure in life thus cut off. In later times, when the benevolent side of his character came more into view, assuring hopes arose concerning a future happy life that robbed death of its terrors. To impart such hopes was the purpose of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

More on Hades or Pluto from Pagan News

More on Pluto

Greek & Roman Mythology – Zeus or Jupiter

Here we cover the Greek God Zeus one of the deities of the highest order, other postings examine the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually.  Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897.  The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.

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Zeus, or Jupiter

Zeus or JupiterThird and last on the throne of the highest god sat Zeus. The fertile imagination of early times had, as we have seen, placed his abode on Mount Olympus in Thessaly. But a later and more practical age usually conceived him as inhabiting a region above the sky, where the source of all light was supposed to be. He was god of the broad light of day, as his name implies, had control of all the phenomena of the heavens, and accordingly sudden changes of weather, the gathering of clouds, and, more than all, the burst of a thunder-storm made his presence felt as a supernatural being interested in the affairs of mankind. Hence such titles as “cloud-gatherer,” “god of the murky cloud,” “thunderer,” and “mighty thunderer,” were those by which he was most frequently invoked. On the other hand, the serenity and boundless extent of the sky, over which he ruled, combined with the never-failing recurrence of day, led him to be regarded as an everlasting god: “Zeus who was and is and shall be.” To indicate this feature of his character he was styled Cronides or Cronion, a title which, though apparently derived from his father Cronus, must have assumed even at a very early time a special significance; otherwise we should expect to find it applied also to his two brothers, Poseidon (Neptune) and Hades (Pluto).

The eagle soaring beyond vision seemed to benefit by its approach to Zeus, and came to be looked on as sacred to him. Similarly high mountain peaks derived a sanctity from their nearness to the region of light, and were everywhere in Greece associated with his worship, many of them furnishing titles by which he was locally known as, for instance, Aetnaeus, a title derived from Mount Aetna in Sicily, or Atabyrius, from a mountain in Rhodes.  Altars to him and even temples were erected on hill tops, to reach which by long toiling, and then to see the earth spread out small beneath, was perhaps the best preparation for approaching him in a proper spirit.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Greek God Zeus 

Zeus family tree

Greek Mythology – Rhea

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Here we cover the Greek God Rhea, other postings examine the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually.  Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897.  The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.

Mountain Goddess – RHEA

Greek God RheaAs Uranus, the representative of the fertilizing force in nature, was superseded by Cronus, the representative of a ripening force, so Gaea, the primitive goddess of the earth with its productive plains, gave way to Rhea, a goddess of the earth with its mountains and forests. Gaea had been the mother of the powerful Titans. Rhea was the mother of gods less given to feats of strength, but more highly gifted: Pluto, Poseidon (Neptune), and Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Demeter (Ceres), and Hestia (Vesta). Her titles as, for example, Dindymene and Berecynthia were derived for the most part from the names of mountains in Asia Minor, particularly those of Phrygia and Lydia, her worship having been intimately associated with the early civilization of these countries. There her name was Cybele or Cybebe, which also, from its being employed to designate her sanctuaries (Cybela) in caves or mountain sides, points to her character as a mountain goddess.

The lofty hills of Asia Minor, while sheltering on their cavernous sides wild animals, such as the panther and lion, which it was her delight to tame, also looked down on many flourishing cities which it was her duty to protect. In this latter capacity she wore a mural crown, and was styled Mater turrita. But though herself identified with peaceful civilization, her worship was always distinguished by wild and fantastic excitement, her priests and devotees rushing through the woods at night with torches burning, maiming and wounding each other, and producing all the din that was possible from the clashing of cymbals, the shrill notes of pipes, and the frantic voice of song.

To account for this peculiarity of her worship, which must have been intended to commemorate some great sorrow, the story was told of how she had loved the young Phrygian shepherd, Attis, whose extraordinary beauty had also won the heart of the king’s daughter of Pessinus; how he was destined to marry the princess, and how the goddess, suddenly appearing, spread terror and consternation among the marriage guests. Attis escaped to the mountains, maimed himself, and died beside a pine tree, into which his soul trans migrated, while from his blood sprang violets like a wreath round the tree.

The goddess implored Zeus to restore her lover. This could not be. But so much was granted that his body should never decay, that his hair should always grow, and that his little finger should always move. The pine was a symbol of winter and sadness, the violet of spring and its hopeful beauty.

There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Rhea – Titan Queen

Santa Claus and St Nicholas

 

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Old years have been – new years have been – and fleeted away, since the first brave Father Christmas came and caroll’d at the door.  He always found a cheerful cup and a jesting word to say, and a thousand fervent wishes – he deserves a thousand more.

The excerpt below is from the book – The Life Story of Father Christmas by Sarah A Tooley in the English Illustrated Magazine December 1905

The Good Bishop St Nicholas

Santa Claus began his career as the good Bishop St. Nicholas, and doubtless considers that he scores heavily over Father Christmas by having a recorded history.  St. Nicholas was born of wealthy parents, in the City of Patara, in Asia Minor, and gave evidence that he was not an ordinary child by standing upright in his bath, immediately after his birth. He appears to have known nothing of original sin, for such was his infantile piety, that on fast days he declined the natural nourishment offered by his mother.  Of course he entered the Church, and became a bishop.

For many years he ruled over the See of Myra, and by several miraculous deeds on behalf of young people, became known as the special benefactor of children. There are several versions of the famous miracle he performed in raising three boys to life.  One relates that a wealthy gentleman sent his two sons to Myra to pay their respects to the good Bishop Nicholas.  As the youths arrived late in the city they went to an inn for the night, intending to call on the bishop next morning.  During the night they were murdered by the landlord, in order to secure their belongings, and he concealed their bodies in a pickling tub.

St. Nicholas saw in a vision what had taken place, and, crozier in hand, went to the inn.  The landlord confessed his crime, and the bishop, on being shown the pickling tub, waved his hand over it, and the boys hopped out alive, none the worse for their adventure.

Although two boys are mentioned in this story, the representations of St. Nicholas performing the miracle invariably show three.  There is a picture over the altar of the Church of St. Nicholas, in Ghent, in which the bishop, in full robes, stands with uplifted forefinger beside a tub, in which the three boys, restored to life, are praising him with uplifted hands.  There is a similar representation in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

One of a more gruesome character appears in the Salisbury Missal of 1534, in which a butcher man is shown in the act of chopping the limb of one of the unfortunate boys, while under the table is seen the pickle tub, in which the three boys have been brought to life by St. Nicholas, who stands over them.  This latter picture illustrates another version of the legend which has been described in doggerel verse, and is the favourite with children.

Excerpt from the English Illustrated Magazine – 1905

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Further Reading and External Links

The History of Santa Claus and Father Christmas

The Great Charter – 1215

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Below is an Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ancient and Mediaeval by Josephus Nelson Larned – 1907 – it covers one of the most celebrated documents in history – The Magna Carta.

The Great Charter – 1215

King John signs the Magna CartaThe Great Charter (signed at Runnymede on the 15th of June, 1215) provided, says Bishop Stubbs, “that the Commons of the realm should have the benefit of every advantage which the two elder estates had won for themselves, and it bound the barons to treat their dependents as it bound the king to treat the barons.  Of its sixty-three articles, some provided securities for personal freedom; no man was to be taken, imprisoned, or damaged in person or estate, but by the judgment of his peers and by the law of the land. Others fixed the rate of payments due by the vassal to his lord.  Others presented rules for national taxation and for the organization of a national council, without the consent of which the king could not tax.  Others decreed the banishment of the alien servants of John.  Although it is not the foundation of English liberty, it is the first, the clearest, the most united, and historically the most important of the great enunciations of it.”

Most of the other peoples in Europe, as a German historian has remarked, obtained from their rulers, at some time in their history, agreements of the nature of the, English Magna Charta, but allowed them to become a dead letter. The English never suffered their charter to be forgotten, but kept it in force by confirmations, which, first and last, were repeated no less than thirty-eight times.

A few weeks after signing the great charter John tried to annul it, with authority from the pope.  Then certain of the barons, in their rage, offered the English crown to the heir of France, afterwards Louis VIII; and the French prince came to England with an army to secure it.  But, before the forces gathered were brought to any decisive battle, John died.  Louis’ partisans then dropped away from him and the next year, after a defeat at sea, he returned to France.  John left a son, a lad of nine years, who grew to be a better man than himself, though not a good king, for he was untruthful and weak. He held the throne for fifty-six years, during which long time, after his minority was passed, no minister of ability and honorable character could get and keep office in his service.  He was jealous of ministers, preferring mere administrative clerks, but was docile to favorites, and picked them for the most part from a swarm of foreign adventurers whom the nation detested.

Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ancient and Mediaeval by Josephus Nelson Larned – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

The Magna Carta at the British Library

The Magna Carta at the National Archives

Norse Mythology – Odin

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Odin

OdinThe physical origin of the idea of Odin is evident, first from the moaning of his name, and, secondly, from the various attributes assigned to him.  The word Odin is simply another form of Woden, or Wuotan, which Grimm connects with the Latin vadere.  He is thus the moving, life-giving breath or air of heaven; and as such corresponds to the Hindoo Brahmin – Atman (German, Athem), or ever-present life and energy.  His Greek correlative is, of course, Zeus, who is likewise spoken of as All-father.  The name Zeus is derived from a root signifying “to shine,” and thus the King of the Greek Asgard was originally “the glistening ether.”  

It was but natural that Odin, as the personification of the blue sky, should rule the rain-clouds and the sunlight; hence as Odin the rain-giver he corresponds with Zeus Ombrios (the showery Zeus), while as the light-god he is merely a Norse Phoebus or Apollo, whose spear – the sun rays – disperses the darkness.  As sky-god, and god of the moving air, he was, no less naturally or inevitably, invoked as the protector of sailors.  In this respect he corresponds or is interchangeable with Thor.  But this interchange, or overlapping, of functions is as distinctive of Norse as of Greek mythology,

Finally, Zeus and Odin resemble each other in their development from purely physical into spiritual beings.  Odin, the ever-present ether, becomes the ever-present and ever-knowing spirit, the Father of all.  And as Zeus is the father of the Muses, so Odin is the father of Saga, the goddess of poetry. The two ravens that sat on the shoulders of Odin, and every morning brought him news of what was passing in the world, were called Hunin and Munin – Thought and Memory.  Memory, or Muemosyne, was the mother of the Greek Muses.  

A trace of the worship of Odin survives even to the present day.  In one of the Orkney islands is an Odin stone, in a hollow of which superstitious people thrust their hands, by way of testifying on their most solemn oath.  The island of Heligoland is said to have derived its name from Odin, who was also named Helgi (der Helige), or the Holy.  “Charles’s Wain” as we now call it, was named Odin’s Wain; and the “Milky Way” was also known as Odin’s Way.  Unlike Zeus – the Greek All-father – Odin was also a god of war.  Hence it was that, as already observed, he received into Walhalla one-half of the heron slain in battle.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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Further Reading and External Links

Norse Mythology

Odin – Ruler of the Universe