Article Title

A Catalan Corpus Christi Play: The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the Hobby Horses and the Turks


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Along a broad swathe of Spain's Mediterranean coast, stretching from Catalunya in the north to Andalucia in the south, and inland into the mountains, from the Pyrenees to the Sierra Nevada, folk dramatizations of battles between Moors (or Turks) and Christians make up a large part of the annual festive calendar. It is generally believed that the tradition originated in Lleida in 1150 with a "danza de moros y cristianos" ("dance of Moors and Christians") performed at the royal wedding of Ramon Berenguer IV, prince of Catalunya, and Peronella of Aragón. This reference, however, is more tenuous than is generally assumed and, in any case, describes an occasional rather than an annual performance.1The next extant reference to a Spanish mock battle between Moors and Christians attests to a performance, formally akin to the tournament mêléé, at the court of Jaume II, ruler of Arag6n-Catalunya, in Zaragoza, c.1300. But this too is somewhat uncertain and again refers to an isolated rather than an annual event.2Thus, the earliest well-documented reference to an annual festive Spanish mock battle between Turks (or Moors) and Christians comes from the fifteenth-century Barcelona Corpus Christi procession, which regularly included an entremès (pageant) depicting "lo martiri de S. Sebastiá ab los caballs cotoners é ab los turchs" ("the martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the hobby horses and with the Turks").3 It is this entremès, its influence on neighboring Corpus Christi pageants, and the survival of its descendants in modem Catalan festes (festivals) that I will examine in this essay.

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