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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Feast of Fools

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a festival celebrated during the Middle Ages in many countries of Europe, especially in France, with grotesque, ceremonies. It was an imitation of the Saturnalia, and, like that festival, was celebrated in December. The chief celebration, fell on New Year's or Innocents' Day; but the feast continued from Christmas to the last Sunday of Epiphany. At first only the young boys of the choir and young sacristans played the principal parts in it, but afterwards all the inferior servants of the Church were engaged, the bishop and thee superior clergymen, with the canons, forming the audience. The young people who played the chief parts chose from their own number a bishop or archbishop of fools, as he was called, and consecrated him, in the principal church of the place, with many absurd ceremonies. This mock bishop then took the seat usually occupied by the bishop, and caused high mass to be said. During the performance, the others who took part in the play, dressed in masks and different disguises, engaged in indecent songs and dances, and practised all kinds of follies. It fell into disuse in the 15th century, but some of its features yet remain in the Carnival (q.v.).-Tilliot, Memoires pour servir 'a l'histoire de la fete des foux (Lausanne, 1751); Schrockh Kirchengeschichte, 28:271; 32:55; Siegel, Christl.-Kirchl. Alterthumer, 4:115. (See BOY-BISHOP).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Feast of Fools'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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