The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City

November 2006
1 colour illustrations
258 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Westfield Medieval Studies
ISBN: 9781843840985
Format: Hardback
Library eBook

The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City

Pamela M. King

An investigation into the connections between the York Plays, religious observance, and the role played by the city itself.
WINNER of the 2007 David Bevington Prize

The York Play is the earliest near-complete English civic mystery cycle. It evolved constantly throughout its long performance history, but the text that was recorded in the York Register shows that it was already a mature and elaborate civic festival by the time it was written down.
This study uncovers the Cycle's connection with worship in York, in the sense both of devotional practice and of civic honour, informing a particular period in the cultural history of the city. The pageants in the Register show in their different ways how the community which devised and performed the Cycle regarded the celebration of the great summer feast of Corpus Christi. Moreover the principles of selection that give the Cycle its structure reflect the broader pattern of the liturgical calendar, with its other feasts and fasts. The Cycle bears witness not only to the practices of religious observance in York, but also to the ecclesiastical politics in which the city was caught up from the very beginning of the fifteenth century.

PAMELA KING is Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Civic Drama and Worship
The York Cycle and Corpus Christi
From after Epiphany to Septuagesima
Septuagesima and Organistation of the Cycle
Quadragesima to Palm Sunday
The Christmas Season
Holy Week and After
The Sacraments of the Church
Feast of Fools?
Select Bibliography
Index of Liturgical References
General Index


There is a great deal in this open-minded and sane study that is valuable and timely. It deserves to be read widely, not least because its feel for what the cycle was really about is far better informed and more consistently illuminating than much other recent work. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY
This fascinating book.takes its place as one of the half-dozen essential works on the subject. [...] This one of those rare books which expands our mental horizons by taking a well-known subject but going well beyond the standard interpretations, and it makes indispensable reading. [...] Study of the York Cycle will - or should - never be the same again. NORTHERN HISTORY A major contribution to the study of the York Plays and to the general field of English scriptural drama. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, June 2008 Excellent.offers a sustained and insightful close reading of the city's cycle play. YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES

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