Drama
 

Plays of the Annunciation in which costumed young boys played the parts of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel attracted many appreciative onlookers in former times. Sung liturgical dramas of the Annunciation were performed in the cathedrals of Cividale and Padua in Italy. The earliest of these dramatic musical productions took place in the transept of the cathedral and consisted of a narration from the Gospel sung all in Latin by a choir of deacons and subdeacons  to which was added acted out parts by boys who sang in Latin the roles of  the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. 

A high point of this sung dramatic production was when the boy who played the Angel Gabriel stood precariously balanced on a large heavy throne-like high-backed ornately carved wooden chair while it was carried by deacons through the outer door into the transept of the cathedral. Not only did the boy actor have to be careful to keep his balance on the moving chair, but he had to lean forward to counterbalance the unaccustomed weight of the gorgeous pair of wings he wore.

Yet another high point of the production was when a live dove representing the power of the Holy Ghost overshadowing the Virgin Mary was lowered through a special hole for that purpose in the transept ceiling. It was the job of the boy costumed as Mary in a veil and a beautiful voluminous cloak to put down the book he had been holding and to grab the live dove firmly and conceal it beneath the cloak.  He had to keep the dove there not only for the rest of the scene while the Angel departed to the chanting of the choir but also all throughout the next act when, still performing the role of Mary, he went to visit Elizabeth on the improvised platform on the other side of the transept.

If one goes to the Cathedral at Padua even today one can still see the plugged hole in the ceiling of the south transept where the live dove was once lowered. Such holes in cathedral ceilings were once common and were called "Holy Ghost holes." But how many cathedrals used live doves the way was done at Padua is not known.

Eventually plays of the Annunciation with extended parts in the vernacular languages were produced as one of a series of plays performed in the squares outside the cathedrals. In England these were called "mystery" plays because they were sponsored by the guilds of the various mysters or trades. These plays are available in print in modern editions today and can still be easily performed.