Reinventing the Cycle: The Banns, the Text, and the Pentecostal Design

  • Theodore K. Lerud
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The move to playing at Whitsuntide, then, is an important and extremely astute one on the part of Chester officials bent on preserving their civic drama. By playing also at Whitsuntide, they hedge their bet on the simultaneous continued performance of a procession and play at Corpus Christi (a move of which Bishop Bird, at least, would presumably have approved). Performance at Corpus Christi is highly charged, associated as it is with a traditional Catholic holiday and, in the characterization of the Early Banns, a procession featuring the “blessed Sacrement” (1. 161)1 at its center. Further, as we have seen, the two institutions primarily associated with the Corpus Christi procession, St. John’s and St. Mary’s, suffered substantially at the time of dissolution. Whitsuntide, on the other hand, with its Pentecostal message of the infusion of the Word, would become central to the Protestant calendar as presented in the Book of Common Prayer and elsewhere. Foxe’s 1570 title page, for example, prominently presents a Pentecostal scene, dominated by a preacher, on its lower left hand side, the side of the persecuted church. As Booty notes on the structure of the Prayer Book in relation to time:

Time was sanctified by the church’ s liturgy: personal time, social and community time, all of time. From day to day the offices infused the Word, read and preached, into the lives of people and into the lives of the community.2 (my emphasis)


Title Page Extant Version Passion Sequence Holy Ghost Prayer Book 
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  1. 25.
    Peter Travis, Dramatic Design in the Chester Cycle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 68.Google Scholar
  2. 40.
    Elaine V. Beilin, ed., The Examinations of Anne Askew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 4.Google Scholar

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© Theodore K. Lerud 2008

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  • Theodore K. Lerud

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