Seeing is Believing

By: Christophe Chaguinian  

Charles Magnin’s seminal book, Histoire des marionettes en Europe (1852), has had a lasting impact on all students of Western puppetry. His narrative of the development of this art form can be found, to this day, in all subsequent histories of Western puppets (Chesnais in French, Jurkowski in Polish, Speaight in English etc.). The reason for this long-lasting influence is easy to understand: Magnin’s book is a reliable reference as the author supports his statements with many sources. This is not to say that his book is perfect. For example, Magnin’s treatment of the Middle Ages, specifically the topic of liturgical puppets, is quite weak. While he claims that liturgical puppets were widely used, he provides almost no proof of this. Nonetheless his statement about their general use in the liturgy has become an accepted truth and is found in all the aforementioned histories of puppets. It appears that facing the same paucity in documentary evidence as Magnin, subsequent scholars simply repeated his statement because of the overall quality of his book. Fortunately for them, Magnin’s hunch was right. Recent studies by liturgists (Harris, etc.), art historians (Aballéa, Haastrup, Kopania, Ulicny etc.) have brought to light liturgical practices with figures of Christ that can be construed as liturgical puppets. I will discuss three of them, that belong to the Easter season: the Palmesel on Palm Sunday, the use of a figure of Christ during the Deposition ceremony on Good Friday and the figure of the resuscitated Christ on Ascension Day.

Sculpture, Liturgy, Medieval
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Christophe Chaguinian

Associate Professor of French, World Languages, University of North Texas

I am French but live in the USA. I received my PhD in French literature from Indiana University (2003). I am currently Associate Professor of French at the University of North Texas. I am a medievalist and am interested in the literature of medieval France in toto: northern France (Old French) and southern France (Old Occitan). I have interest in lyric poetry (specifically the troubadours), theater, epic and teh religious knowledge of the laity. My interest in the history of Catholicism goes beyond the Middle Ages and I am intrigued by the changes this faith underwent in the 19th c. and its impact of the art of the period.