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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages

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Andrzej Dąbrówka

The book presents a theory of relationships between the forms of devotion
and early drama genres. The historical background is the circumstances of the Church becoming independent of the Empire. A theological and philosophical aspect of the transformation of piety at the time was the specification of the ontological status of the sacred (spiritualization) and "shifting it to Heaven" (transcendentalization). In opposition to a theory of Western civilization as a process of increasing individual self-control, the author argues for the need to take into account purely religious conditions (the idea of recapitulation). This allows the author to develop a holistic aesthetics for the religiously inspired creativity in the period spanning the 11th-15th centuries and to propose a new typology of medieval drama.

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10. The Transcendentalization of the Sacred as a Civilizational Transformation

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1. POWER AND CIVILIZATION. Taking into account the social phenomena that determine the conditions and consequences of the process of spiritualization of the sacred, we may speak of a civilizational transformation. The course of this change more or less corresponds with Elias’ theory. In the first stage, the group of initiators and pretenders assimilates the formulas and values of the higher class. Then, they oppose the values of the higher group against those of their own, that is those selected and defined as own; for instance, the burghers opposed the aristocratic idleness with work, etiquette with nature, conventions with knowledge, and promiscuity with virtue (Elias 1980: 480). We may model the process of the separation of the Church as a social power that was an alternative to the power of the secular princes:

1) The overcoming of a threshold: the capture (or maintainance) of the necessary social prestige.

2) The adoption of a value scale, adjustment to the hierarchy by joining the elite, and seizure of the top of the social ladder; observation and annexation.

3) The spiritualization of power: a reinterpretation in spiritual terms, such as the Kingdom of Heaven; partly also assuming the forms of the cult of Roman emperors (Pontifex Maximus),277 and in some cases actually intercepting the administrative prerogatives and political position. In the Late Antique Church, the bishops became alternative centers to the imperial governors (Brown 1992). Later emerge prince-bishoprics with full secular power guaranteed by...

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