Boy bishop

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Boy bishop was a name given to a custom very widespread in the Middle Ages, whereby a boy was chosen, for example among cathedral choristers, to parody the real Bishop, commonly on the feast of Holy Innocents. This custom was linked with others, such as that of the Feast of Fools and the Feast of Asses.right|thumb|300px|19th century depiction of a medieval boy bishop, attended by his canons


In England the boy bishop was elected on 6 December, the feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron of children, and his authority lasted till Holy Innocents' day (28 December). The real Bishop would, symbolically, step down at the deposuit potentes de sede of the Magnificat ("he hath put down the mighty from their seat"), and the boy would take his seat at et exaltavit humiles ("and hath exalted the humble and meek").

After the election, the boy was dressed in full bishop's robes with mitre and crozier and, attended by comrades dressed as priests, made a circuit of the town blessing the people.

Typically the chosen boy and his colleagues took possession of the cathedral and performed all the ceremonies and offices, except Mass. Originally, it seems, confined to the cathedrals, the custom spread to many parishes.

Notwithstanding the intervention of various Church authorities (see Feast of Fools), the popularity of the custom made it resistant. In England it was abolished by Henry VIII in 1542, revived by Mary I in 1552 and finally abolished by Elizabeth I. On the...
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