Book Series Sermo, vol. 8

The Grammar of Good Friday

Macaronic Sermons of Late Medieval England

Holly Johnson

  • Pages: 485 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English, Latin
  • Publication Year:2012

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53339-1
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55896-7
  • E-book
  • Available

These five macaronic Good Friday sermons, preached in England, together open a window onto late medieval conceptions of the Passion, affective rhetoric, the art of memory, and the medieval imagination.


"(…) what Johnson has served us with here is a book that is to be welcomed. It will have a durable shelf life." (Alan J. Fletcher, in: The Catholic Historical Review, July 2013, p. 552-553)

"Students and teachers of medieval literature and history, theology and religion, and most importantly rhetoric and preaching will benefit from her book and her scholarship." (Phyllis B. Roberts, in: The Medieval Review, 13.09.40)

"Holly Johnson’s Grammar of Good Friday is a work of immense scholarship that draws attention to an important area of preaching relevant to sermon specialists and to those interested in late medieval and Early Modern religious devotion. Through the editions and translations of the sermons, it makes available fascinating texts that might otherwise go unnoticed by scholars, students, and nonspecialists alike." (Kimberly Rivers, in: Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 113, No. 4, Oct. 2014, p. 543)

"Johnson’s careful attention to scholarly details and her thorough familiarity with the secondary literature and scholarship on medieval English preaching (...) add to the strength of this work. (...) The volume is of high quality, as we have come to expect from Brepols, and was an excellent choice for the Sermo series. Scholars of medieval rhetoric, history, religion, and sermon studies will welcome this important addition to the corpus of edited and translated texts." (Ronald J. Stansbury, in: Speculum, 90/1, January 2015, p. 265-267)

“This fine piece of scholarship makes a serious contribution to the study of late medieval macaronic sermons and will be of interest to students and scholars of medieval preaching.” (John T. Slotemaker, in Religious Studies Review, 41.2, 2015, p. 87)

"(…) the book is an excellent and fascinating one. It is thorough, scholarly, and attractively written. It is richly informative and Johnson amply demonstrates her appreciation of the rich texture of ecclesiastical life and its importance as the principal foundation of contemporary English culture." (David Daintree, in Parergon, 33/2, 2016, p. 189)


This volume offers a study of Good Friday preaching and an edition (with modern translation) of five highly imaginative, rhetorically sophisticated macaronic (mixed Latin and Middle English) Good Friday sermons preached in late medieval England (c. 1350–1450). The study investigates the way medieval preachers made use of popular topoi and popular categorizations, reworking and recombining well-known material to create new sets of associations and images. The features that these sermons share with other genres, such as Passion plays, meditative treatises, and Middle English lyrics, reveal the rich cross-fertilization of this material and the cultural pervasiveness of topoi and images we often associate with literary works such as Piers Plowman. The sermons in this edition, all but one previously unavailable, increase our understanding of the medieval art of memory, the relationship between verbal and visual images, affective piety, and medieval rhetoric. Finally, all five of the sermons edited are macaronic, two of them switching between Latin and Middle English within almost every sentence; they thus offer a significant witness to this curious linguistic phenomenon. This volume presents new and rich source material and places this material into its wider cultural contexts with a detailed investigation of the rhetorical dimensions and intended effects of late medieval Good Friday preaching.

Holly Johnson  teaches courses in Old and Middle English Literature at the Mississippi State University. She specializes in late-medieval literature, with an interest in sermons, the art of memory and the medieval imagination.



Abbreviations of Biblical Books

Selected Macaronic Good Friday Sermons


Part 1. Preaching on Good Friday

Chapter 1. Good Friday: Liturgical and Homiletic Contexts 3

Chapter 2. Preaching the Passion in Late Medieval England 45

Part 2. Sermons for Good Friday

General Editorial Principles

Chapter 3. Dilexit nos et lauit nos a peccatis nostris in sanguine suo

Chapter 4. Christus passus est pro nobis

Chapter 5. Quare rubrum est indumentum tuum

Chapter 6. Ve michi mater mea

Chapter 7. Agnus qui in medio troni est reget eos


Index of Biblical Quotations

General Index