Item No: mca2110150
Additional Title: Noels (Christmas carols)
Rare Book Department
This manuscript can be dated to ca. 1520, with sixteenth-century additions.
This manuscript contains a rare collection of French "Noels" or Christmas carols, many of which are unpublished. These were popular songs sung by the laity in celebration of Christmas and outside of a liturgical or ritual context. The agrarian and pastoral themes that appear in the illustrations throughout the manuscript reflect the rustic associations that this form of popular song carried, due in part to the fact that according to the Bible, it had been the lowly shepherds who had been the first to hear of Christ's birth. This noel celebrates the Flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph fled with the Christ Child to escape Herod. The man reaping wheat refers to the Miracle of the Cornfield. When the Holy Family was on its way to Egypt, they passed by a farmer sowing a field of wheat (called "corn" in the Middle Ages). The Virgin told him to tell anyone who asked that he had seen the Holy Family pass by at the time of sowing. The wheat miraculously grew overnight so that when Herod's soldiers came, the farmer could tell them truthfully that the Holy Family had passed by at the time the field was sown.
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Lewis E 211