11-18 July: York Mystery Plays 2010

The York Mystery Plays date back to medieval times – their origins can be traced back to at least the middle of the 14th century. They were originally (and more properly) called the York Corpus Christi Plays as they were performed on the feast day of Corpus Christi – one of the Christian church’s movable feasts held between 23 May and 24 June.

There are 48 short plays in all and they tell the story of the Bible from Genesis to the Last Judgement and they are performed over a four-year cycle. The twelve plays this year will be performed in four different locations (or stations) on each of two days (11th & 18th July). This year’s production will, like the 2006 one, be performed on “pageant waggons”, complete with stage sets, which will move through the streets of York city centre from one station to the next.

These are the locations for the 2010 production:

11th July

  • Dean’s Park
  • College Green
  • St Sampson’s Square
  • Eye of York

18th July

  • Dean’s Park
  • College Green
  • St Sampson’s Square
  • Museum Gardens

Performances start at 12 noon and go on till around 6 pm with over 100 speaking parts, and instrumental and choral musical accompaniment.

There will be standing room at all the locations and seats will be available with a ticket at Dean’s Park and the Museum Gardens.

This year’s plays

Part One

  • Creation to the Fifth Day
  • The Expulsion of Adam and Eve
    with Cain and Abel
  • Abraham and Isaac
  • Joseph’s troubles about Mary
  • Massacre of the Innocents
  • The Transfiguration
  • The Agony in the Garden

Part Two

  • The Dream of Pilate’s Wife
  • The Merchants of the Staple
  • The Road to Calvary
  • The Crucifixion/Death of Christ
  • The Incredulity of Thomas
  • The Last Judgement

Part One will begin at noon in Dean’s Park. Part Two will begin at 2.30 in Dean’s Park.

Famous names and amateur actors

Numerous actors – mainly local amateurs – have appeared in the York Mystery Plays. Way before she became one of our most revered actors and was made a Dame, Judi Dench appeared in 1951 and 1954 as an angel and in 1957 as the Virgin Mary. Robson Green appeared in the Mystery Plays as Jesus in 1992.

There are several related events this summer:

York Art Gallery

3 April to 8 September – The Art of the Mystery Plays

An exhibition of paintings, drawings, sketches, documents and artefacts, and including the only surviving original manuscript of the plays (kindly loaned by the British Library) dating back to the 15th century. The exhibition continues unto 8 September but the manuscript is only on show until 5 August


10, 11 & 12 July – Yorkwalk: In the steps of the Mystery Plays

This walk takes walkers on the same route of the plays as held in mediaeval times. The commentary provides interesting insights into the original productions. The walk on Sunday 11th July ends in time to see a performance of the Plays.

Walk start times: 10 July: 2.15pm, 11 July: 10.30am, 12 July: 10.30am. Venue: Gates of the Museum Gardens. More information is available from: www.yorkwalk.co.uk.

Exploring York

10 & 11 July, 17 & 18 July, Exploring York: Mystery Plays Festival Medieval Walk

A series of tailor-made 90 minute walks around York, describing life during the time the Mediaeval Mystery Plays were performed in the City’s streets. Hear about the buildings – the churches, the Minster, the pubs and shops – find out about the people – monks & vicars, merchants and thieves, kings and prostitutes.

Time: 11am, venue: St Helen’s Square (look for a guide in a black & gold uniform). Price: £6.

Pre-Booking is essential. Call Matthew on: 07981 242 764 or email info@exploringyork.com

More information about Exploring York at: www.exploringyork.com

Lord Deramore’s School, Heslington

11 July – Production of ‘Moses and Pharoah’

Pupils at the school have been studying mediaeval England and will be putting on this production in the Treasurer’s House gardens – time 11.00 am.

You can find out more about the York Mystery Plays by following these links:




If you need accommodation in York over the summer, check out York hotels, York bed and breakfast, York guest houses or York holiday cottages

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