Monday, June 19, 2006

Christian Culture

Described below from Katherine Longley's book on the Pearl of York is a series of plays performed in York on the feast of Corpus Christi. Apparently there were stations about the city where people would gather. 45 wagons, each with a play or skit would pass by each station, stopping to perform its play. It was an all-day event. America (United States that is) has never had this kind of coherent Christian culture. Read the description (and note who ran the plays.... )

One inescapable sign of changed belief was the suppression of the traditional religious pageants which had been played by members of the various trade guilds of York for two centuries. It was not with a sense of religious dedication that they acted; this was their entertainment as well as their instruction. The Creed Play and the Paternoster Play were still sometimes performed, but the great favourite was the Corpus Christi Play ... Protestant Archbishops hardly knew how to tackle the problem of the plays: year by year on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, the whole population of York, with the exception of a handful of Protestant objectors, encamped in the streets along the route of the forty-five wagons on which the mystery plays were acted. The clergy could with difficulty interfere, for the plays had long ago passed from control of the Church; each was performed by a different 'mystery' or trade guild, or group of guilds. ... The first half of the cycle of plays covered Salvation history from the creation of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve, and three Old Testatment 'types of redemption (Noah's Ark, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the deliverence of the Jewish people from Egypt), down to Christ's entry into Jerusalem; the second half dealt with the Passion, death and victory of Christ.

St. Margaret Clitherow by Katherine Longley (1986)

(Here is another site with more information about these plays.)

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