Catholic recusants in performance (Public talk, 19th May)

Gentile Bellini - Procession in St. Mark's Square, via Wikimedia Commons
Gentile Bellini – Procession in St. Mark’s Square, via Wikimedia Commons

The Reformation not only transformed Britain’s churches, it also removed many old community festivities and celebrations – or at least that’s what should have happened. In fact, some Catholics continued to participate in old dramatic traditions as a form of resistance. Join Gasper Jakovac on Thursday 19th May at 14.00, in Durham Cathedral, Chapel of the Nine Altars, to find out more.

Apart from transforming doctrine and worship, the Reformation also influenced broader religious practices and attitudes towards traditional festivity. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the celebrations of particular feast days and parish fund-raising entertainments, such as May games and Robin Hood plays, experienced decline and severe intolerance voiced by the Puritan-minded clergymen. Traditional festive customs were perceived as characteristic of the idolatrous late medieval religion. This paper will discuss some North-Eastern instances of Catholic participation in contentious customs and recreations and how they could have articulated identity and social reality of a persecuted minority. When Catholic recusants performed as players, dancers, or musicians, their entertainments could have easily been perceived by the authorities as an attack on the established religion.

This talk is attached to the exhibition Plays, Processions, and Parchment: Discovering Festive Traditions in the North East, which runs from 19th April to 22nd May in Durham Cathedral, Chapel of the Nine Altars.

3 thoughts on “Catholic recusants in performance (Public talk, 19th May)

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  1. It saddens me greatly to find another Catholic Church taken over by the protestants and “reformed” to their way of thinking. This was built to honor St. Cuthbert and the Blessed Virgin Mary and should not have been “transformed”.


    1. Durham Cathedral is (still) dedicated to Our Lady and S Cuthbert. In fact Cuthbert is buried there behind the High Altar. So Judith the Faith lives on!


    2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The talk you have commented on was recorded and will shortly be available as a podcast. You might be interested to learn from it that the “transformation” of faith in the region – albeit not the Cathedral itself – was actually not as complete or reformed as may appear on the surface. Watch this space for notification of when the podcast is out.


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