chapter  9
21 Pages

Playing at crusading: cultural memory and its (re)creation in Jean Bodel’s Jeu de St Nicolas

WithJeu de St Nicolas Sarah Lambert

Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom

(Received 31 December 2013; final version received 9 March 2014)

This article is an analysis of the text of a play written by Jean Bodel, c.1200 (surviving in a manuscript of c.1288), in which the late classical legend of St Nicolas is updated within the context of the crusades. After a massacre of a Christian army, a statue of St Nicolas is charged with the protection of an African king’s treasure, and when he ultimately proves successful, the pagan king and his followers convert to Christianity, abandoning their statue of Tervagant. The article explores the ways in which memories of crusade wars, both accurate and mythologised, can be traced in the writing of the play and thus how its construction, performance, copying and preservation can be seen as contributing to the further reconstruction, preservation and circulation of those memories. The play can be seen as a vital step in the process of ‘social memory’.