York Mystery Plays

The plays are based on the Bible, retelling stories from creation to the last judgement including the death and resurrection of Jesus. Back in the 14th century, when church services and the Bible were both in Latin, these plays allowed the people of York to learn what each story was all about. Trade Guilds acted out the Bible narratives on wagons which toured the streets.

CREATION – THE FIRST FIVE DAYS

Performance of the plays, originally once a year at the feast of Corpus Christi, was popular because while it was a Bible story there was no pretense of holiness. Audience participation could be encouraged and the actors used both their skills and their wit to inform and entertain.

THE FALL OF ADAM AND EVE

THEN COMES THE FLOOD STORY WITH NOAH AND HIS CREW

The plays were banned at the Reformation, but were revived in 1951. A translation of the 48 plays was made by Canon J S Purvis and from these the modern scripts emerged.

HOW ABOUT THIS FOR MUSIC

The Taborer plays two instruments at once – a small drum (the tabor) and a one handed pipe. He gives the beat for the dancers and plays the melody at the same time!

Since 1998 the Mystery Plays have reverted to their original method of performance, being produced by the Guilds and other groups as outdoor tableaus.

THE NATIVITY

THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS

This scene was specifically designed for Riding Lights Youth Theatre members with additional needs or disabilities

Every four years selected plays are performed on wagons in the streets of York by local actors working with the city guilds.

THE LAST JUDGEMENT

Pretty scary and dramatic

There is no charge to watch the plays and, as you can see lots of opportunities to photograph them.