Chapter 3 Monks at the World’s End: Performing an Eschatological Monasticism in the Twelfth-Century Ludus de Antichristo

In: Music in the Apocalyptic Mode
Kyle A. Thomas
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The monumental Latin play known as the Ludus de Antichristo (Play about the Antichrist) was created by Benedictine monks at the imperial abbey of Tegernsee in southern Bavaria around the year 1159 CE. A musical dramatization, it survives as one of the most unique and ambitious works of theatre from medieval Europe, folding into its scope matters of global geopolitics and Latin Christian eschatology. The Ludus de Antichristo survives as an artifact from a period in which the apocalypse served to capture the heightened anxieties and concerns of communities across Europe. The play expertly theatricalizes the monastic perspective on European politics, ecclesiastical reform, education, and the rites of Christian worship, all within an eschatological frame that bends the desired dramatic affect toward a greater sense of urgency. This chapter will contextualize the play’s eschatological sources alongside its goals for dramatizing an apocalyptic narrative specifically for monastic communities. Furthermore, we will explore how the play also dramatizes the sonic conditions of its performance such that musicality, speech, and cacophony all provide an affective source of theatrical meaning-making familiar to monastic communities beyond Tegernsee.

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