This family-friendly Christmas exhibit invites visitors to experience the Christmas story of the Juggler of Our Lady as it has been adapted through the centuries in books, operas, ballets and animated films. Live performances, a reading nook and a story walk highlight the interactive components of the exhibit. Visitors can also browse artifacts from the Marian Library including a selection of Nativity sets.
The exhibit draws on the research of Jan Ziolkowski and utilizes some materials from the 2018-19 exhibit “Juggling the Middle Ages” at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.
Some of the works on display in the exhibit appear here in digital form for people who could not attend in person.
This article in Ebony magazine covers the production of Ulysses Kay’s The Juggler of Our Lady and other operas by all-black casts staged by Opera/South in joint effort with Xavier University of Louisiana in 1972. Kay was a neoclassical composer known best for his symphonic and choral compositions, and The Juggler of Our Lady represented his first foray into opera. The Juggler of Our Lady was first performed in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 23, 1962 with Xavier University, and then performed again in a double bill with William Grant Still’s Highway 1, U.S.A., by Opera/South with Xavier University. The 1972 performance was also broadcast on Voice of America.
This map illustrates the cathedrals and churches in France dedicated to the Virgin Mary built between the 12th and 15th centuries. The map is cited in Jan Ziolkowski’s The Juggler of Notre Dame and the Medievalizing of Modernity. Volume 2: Medieval Meets Medievalism, to help contextualize the popularity of Mary and medieval Gothic cathedrals specifically dedicated to Mary in France, as an explanation for why the Juggler of Our Lady regained popularity as a French tale in tandem with the revival of Gothic literature and a rise in Marian devotion throughout the 19th century.
Title in French: Carte des Cathédrales et ^grandes élgises de la Vierge du XIIe au XVe siècle, with “Carte des” struck through by red ink.
The original document is held in the Marian Library, Maurice Vloberg Papers, ML-008, Box 10. Maurice Vloberg (1885-1967) was an author and art historian based in Paris, France. His work focused on Catholic themes in art history, primarily the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also the Eucharist, Christmas, and Christian holidays. He served as executive secretary to Father Ramond at l'association Notre-Dame de Salut.
University of Dayton
These coloring pages accompany the exhibit Juggling for Mary: Vocation, Gifts and Performing for Our Lady, held Nov. 7, 2022, through Jan. 27, 2023.
The artwork photographed in this storyboard is believed to have been used in the creation of film “The Juggler of Our Lady,” animated by Les Novros and produced by Cavalcade Pictures in 1957. The film was submitted as a possible nominee for the 1958 Oscars and was shown at the Stratford International Film Festival in 1960, and, but no copy of the film is known to exist.
This is a limited edition of the french-language version of The Juggler of Our Lady by Anatole France (1844-1924). The story was adapted from a medieval poem by the Nobel-winning writer in 1890 and published as a book in 1906. The manuscript includes illustrations and calligraphy by Henri Malteste (1881-1961) or “Malateste.
Sarah Burke Cahalan
The story of the juggler, in brief, is a story about vocation and the gifts we each have to offer. On Christmas Eve, a juggler performs for a statue of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, scandalizing the other monks in his community. Juggling is not appropriate — not the kind of gift one should give. In other words, not appropriately intellectual or elevated, like the gift of a book or a poem. But those judgmental observers are wrong because when the juggler has finished his performance and collapsed in exhaustion, the statue comes to life: The Infant Jesus smiles, and the Virgin Mary wipes his sweaty brow. There are connections to other Christmas stories here, such as the Biblical gifts of the Wise Men; or Nativity sets where villagers bring fish or pretzels to the Holy Family; or popular Christmas songs such as "The Little Drummer Boy."
Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique. Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame. Miracle en 3 actes de Maurice Léna. Musique de J. Massenet.
This poster by George Rochegrosee (1859-1938) was for the Paris production of Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame by Jules Massenet (1842-1912), with libretto by Maurice Léna (1859-1928), and starring Adolphe Maréchal as the Juggler, Lucien Fugère as Boniface the cook, and André Allard as the monastic prior. Printed and published by E. Delanchy (Paris). Massenet based the opera upon Anatole France’s story by the same name.
W. H. Auden
This opera is based on the legend of The Juggler of Our Lady. It was composed in 1969 for performance by students at Wykeham Rise School in Washington, Connecticut. The narration in this liturgical drama was written by W. H. Auden (1907-1973), a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, primarily known for his poetry.
Cover artwork is by Edward Gorey.
Based on the work of Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
This poster, illustrated by E. Matania, provides a brief review of the London Opera House production of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, by French opera composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912), printed in The Sphere, a British newspaper. Massenet based the opera upon Anatole France’s story by the same name, and the opera’s French libretto was written by Maurice Léna (1859-1928). While Massenet original intended the main juggler’s part as a tenor, the London Opera House’s production starred Victoria Fer. Fer’s performance was part of a shift towards women taking up the role, which according to some sources upset the composer.
Text at the bottom of the poster: “The London Opera House gave the public an excellent Massenet programme last week which included “Le Jongleur de Notre Dame.” The opera was very elaborately mounted, and Miss Victoria Fer, who took the part of the juggler, acted and sang with great charm. The juggler is reproved by the friar for his loose songs and is invited to become a monk. The sight of the well-filled kitchen decides the half-starved juggler, and he enters the abbey. Later, when all the monks are endeavoring to devote some special work to the Virgin, the little juggler finds that he can do nothing. Boniface, the cook, explains in a passage of great sweetness how the humblest offering is acceptable. The juggler decides to do what he can, and in the last act we see him dancing a heel-and-toe measure before the Virgin. The monks discover him and are shocked at what they consider an outrage, but at the same moment the figure of the Virgin comes to life and blesses the juggler. Weakened by his previous privations, the little juggler expires on the steps of the altar. M. Enzo Pozzano as the monkish painter both sang and acted with excellent effect.”