Watch the Crucifixion and the Death of Christ (10th July)


Hammering the nails into Christ, in the York mystery play of the Crucifixion. Reproduced courtesy of York Festivals Trust.

Hammering the nails into Christ, in the York mystery play of the Crucifixion. Reproduced courtesy of York Festivals Trust.

Experience drama as it would have been presented 700 years ago, with a performance reflecting the crucifixion and the death of Christ, from the York Cycle of medieval mystery plays. The performance starts at 18.00 on 10th July on Palace Green, against the spectacular backdrop of Durham Cathedral; it’s completely free to attend.

The York Mystery Plays – a collection of dramas retelling the story of Christ’s life – have entertained residents and visitors to York since the 1300s. Now York’s Worshipful Company of Butcher’s, in conjunction with St Chad’s and the York Festival Trust, are bringing the tradition to Durham, in their combined version of two plays. Durham has its own heritage of plays and performances dramatising the life of Christ, so this is just the sort of event that local people might have attended hundreds of years ago.

Performed on a custom-built wagon based on textual clues from the medieval script, it tells the story of the last hours of Christ and the immediate aftermath of his death. This literally iconic play retains members of the cast across several years through multiple interpretations. As such it highlights two communities, the soldiers and the disciples. While the disciples are strengthened by Christ as a family and fellowship, the soldiers find their squad fragmenting. In this way the Play of the Crucifixion becomes a testament of renewal and rebirth, for us as individuals and as a community.

This play is just one of many performances of medieval and Renaissance drama taking place in Durham from 7th to 12th July as part of the Theatrum Mundi festival. Other performances on the bill include the earliest known work of drama from Britain, a stage dragon that will prowl the city, and a spectacular torchlit show resurrecting some of Durham’s theatrical traditions.

Theatrum Mundi, 7th to 12th July 2016

Frontispiece showing the stage design for a medieval mystery play, by Hubert Cailleau. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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