The Festival of the Apostles is celebrated in the same Sens church as the Donkey Festival, and is a variant of it.

Twelve tradesmen are chosen to represent the twelve apostles, each carrying the instruments of his martyrdom.  A young girl, more cleanly dressed, is mounted on a donkey, and represents the Holy Virgin.  The apostles go through the principal streets of the town, in procession, singing the appropriate hymns and receiving offerings from the faithful.  After the procession, the twelve actors sup and dance in the company of the Virgin and her suite of female attendants.

This festival lasted until 1634, when an unfortunate incident abruptly ended it.  The young Virgin is suddenly taken with such an urgent need, that the apostles are obliged to take her off her donkey and hide her behind a well.  She is booed so much that she is too afraid to remount.  In the end, however, she gives in to the insistance of the apostles Peter and Paul.  To make matters worse, Saint John, having drunk too much, beat up his wife very badly, as soon as he arrived home.  This was too much, and never again was the Festival of the Apostles seen in Sens.

In Paris, the Fox Festival delighted the contemporaries of Philippe le Bel.

According to Sauval, a fox, covered with a sort of surplice made to its size, wearing a mitre and a tiara on its head, is installed in the middle of the clergy.  As a barbarous refinement, poultry is placed within its reach.  The naturally voracious animal leaps on the hens and devours them, giving no heed to the multitude surrounding it, which rejoices noisily at this spectacle.  The King, himself, takes great pleasure in this distraction, claiming that the fox is the image of the Pope, whose avidity is equal to that of the animal.  As for the clergy, it lends itself to this parody, without suspecting the malice of it.

In the North, the South, the East and the West, these strange festivals are celebrated, with the tacit agreement of the Church.  By an Act of 5 December 1533, the Chapter of the Amiens Cathedral allows the celebration of the Festival of the Innocents, but on the condition that no masks are worn, that no trumpets are blown, and that no-one gallops through the town on horseback.

In Vienne, in Dauphine, the archbishop is obliged to give three florins to the Bishop of the Innocents.  This “Saint Maurice money” is accompanied by a measure of wine, and wood for two years.  Each canon also gives the Bishop a load of wood.

At Chartres, whose Chapter is directly attached to the Holy See, the Papi-Fol (or Pope of the Fools) Festival is celebrated.  It takes place during the first four days of the year.

At Senlis, a Pope of the Fools is also elected.  On this day, the canons not only change places in the chancel, they also change their clothes, choosing to wear the most extravagant ones possible.  When the real bishop wanted to abolish this mascarade, he found his Chapter divided into two camps.  Some asked that the old customs be continued, that is to say, the festival inside the church.  Others consented to have it moved outside the sanctuary.  No-one agreed to abolish it altogether.  Chaplains and vicars are, in the end, authorised to do whatever they want outside, and they are even accorded ten setiers of wheat for the feast.

At Noyon, Amiens, Senlis and Lucon, it is also a Pope who is elected, instead of a King of the Fools.  It is said, in one of the Chapter’s deliberations, that the assembly allows the King of the Fools and his companions to perform their acts the day before Epiphany, as long as no infamous songs are sung, that no injurious and lewd words are pronounced, that no obscene dances are danced in front of the great door, as they were at the preceding Festival of the Innocents.  This mascarade will be totally abolished at Noyon in 1721.  It is said that it is because of the high cost of the food.

At Beauvais, it is above all the Donkey Festival which is celebrated in great pomp.  The canons precede the donkey up to the church door, a bottle and a glass in hand.  As well as this festival, there is another, where, representing the flight into Egypt, a young girl is placed on a donkey, with a baby in her arms.  She goes, in procession, from the Cathedral to the Church of Saint-Etienne, and installs herself, with her donkey, near the altar.  This procession takes place on 14 February.

At Metz, Troyes and Besancon, the Fools’ Festivals have no notable particularity.

The Bishops of the Fools at Viviers are obliged to feed their clergy.  A cleric having refused to submit to the charges of his new dignity, an arbitrary tribunal is called, composed of three canons who, after a long debate, condemn the reluctant Bishop to pay for the meal.

The ceremony of the Bishop of the Innocents is very solemn at Bayeux.  In the inventory of the treasure of the cathedral of this town, drawn up in 1476, we find mentioned:  two mitres, for the little bishop, the pastoral baton, the mittens of the little bishop, plus four little copes of vermillion satin, for the use of the choir boys.  The “little bishop” of Bayeux is paid by the principal monasteries of the town of Caen.  The Abbot of Saint-Etienne gives him twenty sous and the Abbess of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity will continue, up until 1546, to pay him “five sous for his provision, as is the custom”.

At Dijon, the Fools’ Festival is marked by a particularity which is found nowhere else.  A sort of farce is performed, on a theatrical platform, raised for this purpose, in front of the Church of Saint-Etienne.  The Precentor of the Fools has his beard publicly shaven off, the shaving of the beard and hair being a distinctive sign of fools and strolling players.  For the same reason, the vicars publicly shave themselves at the doors of the church, and also shave their Precentor, sometimes completely, sometimes on only one side of his face.  Then, they run through the streets of the town, to the sound of fifes, drums and other instruments, shaving people, by force if necessary, thereby increasing the number of those who wear their grotesque uniform.

Fifth part tomorrow.

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