Jean Bodel

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Jean Bodel
Born c. 1165
Died c. 1210
Occupation poet
Nationality French
Period Medieval
Genre chanson de geste, fabliaux

Jean Bodel (c. 1165 – c. 1210), was an Old French poet who wrote a number of chansons de geste as well as many fabliaux. He lived in Arras.

Bodel wrote the Chanson de Saisnes, about the war of King Charlemagne with the Saxons and their leader Widukind, whom Bodel calls Guiteclin. He also wrote a miracle play called the Jeu de Saint Nicolas, which was probably first performed in Arras on 5 December 1200. Situated in the middle of an epic battle between Christians and Muslim, the play tells the story of a good Christian who escapes the battle and is found by the Muslim forces praying to a statue of Saint Nicolas. The Muslim leader decides to test the saint by unlocking the doors to his treasury and leaving the statue as a guardian, stipulating that if anything were stolen the Christian would forfeit his life. Three thieves attempt to steal the treasure, but Saint Nicolas stops them. As a result, the Muslim ruler and his entire army convert to Christianity.[1]

Similar to another French miracle play from the same time period, Le Miracle de Théophile, Jeu de Saint Nicolas contains an invocation to the Devil in an unknown language[2]

Palas aron ozinomas
Baske bano tudan donas
Geheamel cla orlay
Berec hé pantaras tay

Bodel was the first person of record to classify the legendary themes and literary cycles known to medieval literature into the "Three Matters"; the "Matter of Rome", or retellings of stories from classical antiquity; the "Matter of Britain", concerning King Arthur; and the "Matter of France", concerning Charlemagne and his paladins.

In 1202, Bodel contracted leprosy and entered a leprosarium.


  1. ^ Lynn T. Ramey, "Unauthorized Preaching: The Sermon in Jean Bodel's Jeu de Saint Nicolas," in n: Speculum Sermonis: Interdisciplinary Reflections on the Medieval Sermon, ed. Georgiana Donavin, Cary J. Nederman, and Richard Utz (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), pp. 221-33.
  2. ^ Discussed in: Grillot de Givry, Witchcraft, Magic & Alchemy, Courier Dover Publications, 1971, p. 109.

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