Mystere dou jour dou jugement

Besançon, Bibliothèque Municipale ms. [M] 579

Document Last Modified: 22 March 1999 By Jesse D. Hurlbut (
The manuscript of the 14th-century mystery play 'The Day of Judgment,' includes roles for 94 characters, 89 miniatures depicting the action of the play and three neumed musical pieces. Grace Frank gives this plot summary in The Medieval French Drama, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), pp. 132-33:

"After an introductory sermon by Le Prescheur we find Satan and his devils preparing to send one of them, disguised as an elegant youth, to seduce a woman of the tribe of Dan in Babylon. This devil, Angignars, speedily accomplishes his purpose and Antichrist is born of the union. The devils now begin instructing Antichrist in all their arts, and presently he is able to make the blind to see, to cure the leprous, rivive the dead, and heap riches upon the poor. He readily wins over the Jews and grows so powerful that even kings and cardinals pay him homage. Only the Pope himself and Enoch and Elijah who have been sent by God to wage war against the enemy are able to resist the magic of Antichrist.

[. . .] Antichrist is overthrown, Enoch and Elijah who have been killed by his orders are resurrected, and the damned, as in so many poems concerned with the Harrowing of Hell or the Dance of Death, pass in review before us. Here they include an abbess and bishop who have sinned together, a king, bailiff, provost, lawyer, adulterous queen, erring prioress, a usurer, his wife, his servant, and even his small child. Although eight pages of the manuscript are missing, it is obvious that the God of our author was especially condemnatory of all who lived on the fruits of usury and was especially concerned with those who were kind or unkind to the poor . . . . In the final reckoning angels pour out vials of wrath, apostles and saints aid in the task of separating saved from damned, and eventually the just are duly rewarded and the wicked driven to hell by menacing devils. The play ends with a few unique lines of seven syllables spoken by St. Paul, who says that the damned have been taken to hell for eternal torment."

The images in this directory are scans from color photographic enlargements made from 35mm negatives. In most cases, the miniatures occupy less than .5 square cm of negative space and the resulting scans are, therefore, somewhat blurred. Many of the original miniatures are also either dark or damaged. Each of the scanned images has been enhanced to reduce the blur and in some cases lightened. The trade-off is a slight graininess which may be detected on higher resolution monitors. The file en-sampl.jpg includes samples of an image before and after enhancement. All enhancements were made using TIFFany on a NeXT Dimension workstation.


*** A handful of close-up shots that offer higher resolution have not been enhanced. These include jdj-033, jdj-042, jdj-053, jdj-062, jdj-071, and jdj-080.

The Music

The Miniatures

Descriptions of each miniature are from the most recent edition of the play by Emile Roy (Paris: Emile Bouillon, 1902). [Enhancements listed in brackets]:

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