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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages


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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11. Lower Tiers of Sacrality


The transfer of the sacred to the sphere of transcendence compels the believers to seek other behaviors that fulfill similar functions or merely create a place for them. Both animate movement among the lower tiers of the sacred on the Becker scale. Behaviors of that kind could have functioned in parallel to the sacred as more visible signals, in which the sacred found its competitors, accompaniment, or strengthening.316 “[R];ituals consecrate Life. This consecration can also be effected in an indirect way, by transforming life itself into a ritual” (Eliade 1958: 460). The splendor of the temples, chasubles, processions, and paintings are quite important elements of religious participation for many believers. This explains not only the development in the forms of piety but also their coexistence, which does not necessarily mean “two cultures.”

1. THE NON-SACRAL LEGITIMIZATION OF POWER. We deal here with a specific inter-branch flow at the tiers of sacrality. This flow was even bigger on the side of secular power. The exclusion of the king from the Church forced many feverish and intense ideological efforts to legitimize the prestige legitimize and to compensate for its deficit. Nieto (1992) provides a textbook description of the construction of royal majesty in the Castilian monarchy of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. It is hard to find a more complete and systematic list of the tools of rhetoric and apologetics used in the service of propaganda and legitimization of power; and all of this seems to be...

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