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SOCIAL EVENTS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval York socio-religious guilds morality plays prayer processions feasts

Subject: Gild for performing the Pater Noster play at York
Original source: Public Record Office, Chancery Miscellanea, Gild Certificate 454
Transcription in: Toulmin Smith, ed. English Gilds Early English Text Society, old series, vol.40 (1870), 137-39.
Original language: Latin (translated by Smith)
Location: York
Date: 1389


As to the beginning of the said gild, be it known that, once on a time, a play, setting forth the goodness of the Lord's Prayer, was played in the city of York; in which play all manner of vices and sins were held up to scorn, and the virtues were held up to praise. This play met with so much favour that many said:–"Would that this play could be kept up in the city, for the health of souls and for the comfort of the citizens and neighbours." Hence, the keeping up of that play in times to come, for the health and amendment of the souls as well of the upholders as of the hearers of it, became the whole and sole cause of the beginning and fellowship of the bretheren of this brotherhood.

....they are bound to make, and as often as need be to renew, a table showing the whole meaning and use of the Lord's Prayer, and to keep this hanging against a pillar in the said cathedral church near to the aforesaid candle-bearer. Also they are bound, as often as the said play of the Lord's Prayer is played in the city of York, to ride with the players thereof through the chief streets of the city of York; and, the more becoming to mark themselves while thus riding, they must all be clad in one suit. And, to ensure good order during the said play, some of the bretheren are bound to ride or to walk with the players until the play is wholly ended.

....There do not belong to the gild any rents of land, nor any tenements, nor any goods save only the properties needed in the playing of the before-named play; which properties are of little or no worth for any other purpose than the said play. And the gild has one wooden chest, in which the said properties are kept.


The document of which only a few extracts are given here was one of numerous whose production was the result of a national survey of gilds and fraternities ordered by a parliament of 1388; the survey wanted information about when gilds had come into existence, what purposes they served, and what property they owned. Most that replied were fairly typical socio-religious gilds.

In the present case, however, the gild had been created specifically to produce the Pater Noster play, although it had other characteristics similar to typical gilds (e.g. charitable works, burial of members, annual feast). Its return does not state when it was founded, but Wycliffe had made mention in 1378 of performance of the Pater Noster play in York. In 1399 the gild had 76 male and 57 female members. To prepare its feast, 6 cooks were hired with 4 women to help them; the menu included beef, pork, calves feet, sucking pigs, young pigeons, eggs, honey, wine, and ale. In the mid-fifteenth century the gild united with St. Anthony's Gild, which henceforth took responsibility for production of the play. Although it was not performed every year, performances were still going on as late as 1558 when the Pater Noster was performed instead of the Corpus Christi play.



"Lord's Prayer"
The Lord's Prayer has and had a prominent place in Church liturgy. That name (oratio dominica) was not actually used much during the Middle Ages, however. The prayer, which was said in Latin, was better known by its opening words, in Latin Pater noster.

"one suit"
I.e. everyone was to dress in the same uniform or livery.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 27, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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