Instructional Religious Plays, instructional drama of the Catholic orders from the 16th to the 18th century, cultivated in Austria from the time the Jesuits were called to the country (Jesuit drama) and soon adopted by other orders, such as the Benedictines (Salzburg, Kremsmünster), the Piarists (Krems, Horn), the Cistercians (Heiligenkreuz), and the Schotten in Vienna. The "Ratio studiorum" of 1599 made instructional religious plays serving the cause of the Counter-Reformation obligatory for every Jesuit school. The plays were written in Latin, and the lay-people watching were given programmes containing a synopsis of the story in German ("Periochae"). The performances served both proselytising purposes and as oratorical training for the students. The subject matter was taken from the Bible as well as from legends of the saints and martyrs. Powerful and moving scenes of martyrs and their sufferings, staged effectively in increasingly lavish productions, were meant to shock the audience and convert them to the true faith. This development reached its climax in "Ludi Caesarei" by N. Avancini, pieces from Southern Tyrol glorifying the house of Habsburg. In order to compete with Opera, the plays were increasingly interspersed with musical interludes by acclaimed local composers, as well as with popular traditional songs. The most important writer of instructional religious plays in the late Baroque was the Silesian J. B. Adolph, who also used songs in Viennese dialect in his interludes.
Benedictine religious drama refrained from the use of excessive didacticism and favoured comic interludes with popular appeal in the vernacular (Vernacular Literature); the rustic characters were later adopted by the Altwiener Volkstheater. The most important author was the Benedictine S. Rettenpacher of Salzburg; the transition to the drama of the Enlightenment was achieved by M. Lindemayr of Lambach Monastery, with his comedies in Upper Austrian dialect.
Literature: K. Adel, Das Jesuitendrama in Österreich, 1957; E. M. Szarota, Das Jesuitendrama im deutschen Sprachgebiet, 3 vols., 1979-1987; R. Wimmer, Jesuitentheater, 1982; J.-M. Valentin, Le Théâtre des Jésuites dans les pays de langue allemande, 1983/1984 (Bibliography).
References to other albums: