Latin Passion Play, The

Its Origins and Development

By Sandro Sticca

Hardcover : 9780873950459, 220 pages, June 1970

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In this first comprehensive study of the Latin Passion play, Professor Sticca examines the medieval liturgical ceremonies commemorating the events in Christ's Passion and traces their gradual change in character from the contemplative to the dramatic.

The author shows that while Christ's Passion became increasingly popular as one of the sacred mysteries beginning in the tenth century, new forces that allowed a more eloquent and humane visualization and description of Christ's anguish first appeared in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Professor Sticca analyzes the earliest extant Latin Passion play, the twelfth-century Montecassino codex, and compares it with other Latin and vernacular Passion plays. He refutes the traditional view that the Planctus Mariae is the germinal point of the Latin Passion play and then offers a new theory of its inception.

As a literary form, the Latin Passion play appears to Professor Sticca as a creation of the Montecassino monastic circle which was inspired by the liturgical services of Good Friday and the Gospel accounts. Particularly influential also were three themes that developed in the eleventh century: in liturgy, a concentration on Christocentric piety; in art, a more humanistic treatment of Christ; and in literature, a consideration of the scenes of the Passion as dramatic and human episodes.

In the course of this investigation, Professor Sticca also reappraises traditional views of the origin of the medieval liturgical drama, indicating that it should not be traced exclusively to the tropes from the schools of St. Gall and St. Martial of Limoges, but rather to a number of sources.

Sandro Sticca is associate professor of French and comparative literature at the State University of New York at Binghamton.