This research project examines the rise of liturgical drama within the Roman Catholic church in the tenth and eleventh centuries CE, after the church had formally proscribed theatre in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries. I suggest that liturgical drama acts as an index to both the church’s internal and external growth, as it struggles to cohere into the unitary institution known as Christendom from the many regional groups, each with their own rites and traditions. I hope to demonstrate that areas with stronger ties to the central Roman church show longer, complex instances of liturgical performances like the Quem Quaeritis trope as it exists in the records of the St. Gall monastery in Switzerland and that areas less closely associated with Rome, like the kingdom of Wessex in Britain, shows a form that is only a few lines long.
I examine, in particular, three areas on the periphery of the church’s sphere of influence, each of which had a long-standing local Christian tradition that predated Roman hegemony: Southern France, Northern Spain and Britain. To carry out my original research, I need to consult period documents held both by the Roman Catholic church and in the respective countries’ national libraries, to see not just the records of the liturgical drama itself, but where within the archives these plays exist: sandwiched between treaties, for example, or in the documents that order the daily lives of monks. The placement of these records is a testimony to the importance (or lack thereof) they held at the time of recording.