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By Pamela M. King

WINNER of the 2007 David Bevington Prize The York Play is the earliest near-complete English civic secret cycle. It advanced regularly all through its lengthy functionality background, however the textual content that was once recorded within the York check in indicates that it used to be already a mature and difficult civic competition by the point it used to be written down. This learn uncovers the Cycle's reference to worship in York, within the experience either one of devotional perform and of civic honour, informing a selected interval within the cultural background of the town. The pageants within the sign up convey of their alternative ways how the group which devised and played the Cycle seemed the party of the nice summer season ceremonial dinner of Corpus Christi. furthermore the rules of choice that provide the Cycle its constitution replicate the wider development of the liturgical calendar, with its different feasts and fasts. The Cycle bears witness not just to the practices of spiritual observance in York, but in addition to the ecclesiastical politics within which the town used to be stuck up from the very starting of the 15th century. PAMELA KING is Professor of Medieval reports on the collage of Bristol.

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See Breviarium ad usum insignis ecclesie Eboracensis (York Breviary), ed. S. W. Lawley, 2 vols, Surtees Society Publications 71 (1880 for 1871) and 75 (1883 for 1882), vol. 1, col. 167, where the rubric suggests that a mechanical dove might have descended in a similar manner to the star in the Ordo Stellae. 15 The pageant as enactment of a sacrament is dealt with in detail in Chapter 7: see pages 171–3 below. 16 Manuale et Processionale ad usum insignis ecclesiae Eboracensis, ed. G. Henderson, Surtees Society Publications 63 (1875), hereafter York Manual and Processional, 17: Accipe lampadem ardentem: irreprehensibilem custodi baptismum tuum; serva mandata; ut cum venerit Dominum ad nuptias possis occurrere ei una 12 42 FROM AFTER EPIPHANY TO SEPTUAGESIMA the pageant John prophesies that Jesus ‘schall giffe baptyme more entire / In fire and gaste’ (12–13), which looks forward to Pentecost.

Contemporary illustrations of the Mass also tend to single out the Elevation of the Host as the defining moment, as can be seen from modest English Seven Sacraments sequences, such as that displayed around the font in the parish church of Salle (Norfolk), to the famous Antwerp altarpiece by Van der Weyden. 34 Fifteenth-century Books of Hours, written for the pious and affluent laity, often go one step further, illustrating the Host miracle known as ‘the Mass of Pope Gregory’, where Gregory is shown kneeling at Mass as the wounded Christ emerges from the altar as from the tomb.

27 THE YORK MYSTERY CYCLE AND THE WORSHIP OF THE CITY to endings, the alpha to the omega. After this brief account the pageant contains a half-stanza which suggests that after (sethen) the Harrowing of Hell, ‘in erthe þan gonne he [Christ] dwelle’ (37–40), giving humankind ‘ensaumpill … heuene to wynne’ (38). What is referred to is, logically, the continuing presence of Christ on earth. Angels then stress that everyone should ‘fetch’ their flesh (86). Christ the Judge then descends. The moment of Christ’s descent to earth in this final pageant is clearly spectacular.

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