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SOCIAL EVENTS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Beverley socio-religious guilds assemblies saints festivals processions mass meals

Subject: Processions on saints' days
Original source: Public Record Office, Chancery Miscellanea, Gild Certificates
Transcription in: Toulmin Smith, ed. English Gilds, Early English Text Society, old series, vol.40 (1870), 148-49.
Original language: Latin (translated by Smith)
Location: Beverley
Date: ca. 1388


[1. St. Helen's Gild]

At the year's end, the alderman and stewards, and the bretheren and sisteren of the gild, meet together, on the feast of St. Elene [18 August]. And then a fair youth, the fairest they can find, is picked out, and is clad as a queen, like to St. Elene. And an old man goes before this youth, carrying a cross, and another old man carrying a shovel, in token of finding of the Holy Cross. The sisteren of the gild follow after, two and two; and then the bretheren, two and two; and then the two stewards; and after all follows the alderman. And so, all fairly clad, they go in procession, with much music, to the church of the Friars Minor of Beverley; and there, at the altar of St. Elene, solemn mass is celebrated, and every one of the gild makes offering of a penny. The mass ended, and all prayers said, they go home; and, after dinner, all the gild meet in a room within the hall of the gild; and there they eat bread and cheese, and drink as much ale as is good for them.

[2. St. Mary's Gild]

Every year, on the feast of the Purification of the blessed Mary [2 February], all the bretheren and sisteren shall meet together in a fit and appointed place, away from the church; and there, one of the gild shall be clad in comely fashion as a queen, like to the glorious Virgin Mary, having what may seem a son in her arms; and two others shall be clad like to Joseph and Simeon; and two shall go as angels, carrying a candle-bearer, on which shall be twenty-four thick wax lights. With these and other great lights borne before them, and with much music and gladness, the pageant Virgin with her son, and Joseph and Simeon, shall go in procession to the church. And all the sisteren of the gild shall follow the Virgin; and afterwards all the bretheren; and each of them shall carry a wax light weighing half a pound. And they shall go two by two, slowly pacing to the church; and when they have got there, the pageant Virgin shall offer her son to Simeon at the high altar; and all the sisteren and bretheren shall offer their wax lights, together with a penny each. All this having been solemnly done, they shall go home again with gladness. And any brother or sister who does not come, unless good cause for staying away be shown, shall pay half a pound of wax to the gild. On the same day, after dinner, the bretheren and sisteren shall meet together, and shall eat bread and cheese and drink ale, rejoicing in the Lord, in praise of the glorious Virgin Mary.


Nothing is known of St. Helen's gild other than what is revealed in its response in 1389 to the king's demand for information about the character, purposes, and possessions of socio-religious gilds. It appears to have been associated with a chapel dedicated to St. Helen that was later absorbed into the Franciscan friary. The description of its celebrations on its saint's day is strikingly similar to that of the gild of St. Mary.

St. Mary's gild is better known than St. Helen's. It was founded in 1355 by the vicar of St. Mary's, nine married couples, and two unmarried women. Its procession is its most notable feature. In the following century, the gild went on to found a hospital/almshouse.



"St. Elene"
The mother of Constantine the Great, and incorrectly believed by the English during the Middle Ages to have been the daughter of a British king.

"fairly clad"
There is no indication here of a formal livery, but members were evidently expected to dress decently for this occasion.

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

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