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14 Memory and Remembering: Sacred History and the York Plays

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Chapter Summary

The York Corpus Christi play cycle was a remarkably long-lived civic event requiring concerted and enthusiastic local effort. The plays dramatized sacred history from Creation to Doomsday. Sponsored by the city Corporation rather than the Church, they were designated as a work of charity for the benefit of the spectators. Their object was not didactic but rather a representation of salvation history that would be held in the memory of participants and spectators for their spiritual benefit. Designed to make the past present, they were expected to reinforce cultural memory of the Christian narrative, especially the events at the centre of history (the time of Jesus the Saviour). A goal was the formation of civic identity as catholic Christians. The plays, using canonical and other sources available to the authors of the texts, provided a view of the past from biblical history that would make the central events of past salvation history to be present for spectators. In conclusion, the Doomsday play brought to mind that which was expected to come at the end of history.



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