The York Guilds and Companies’ production of the York Mystery Plays, using waggons moved between playing stations, recreates the spectacle of the medieval festivities. The plays are performed from noon until early evening on two Sundays in July. This once annual event, organised by the York Guilds and Companies, is now staged every four years.
The next production is in July 2014.
Residents and visitors to the city can see the plays in many city centre locations, including Dean’s Park and the Museum Gardens. The plays can be viewed for free, without a ticket. Tickets can be purchased if you prefer the comfort of a seat in a covered area.
A brief history of the Mystery Plays
The word ‘mystery’ means a ‘trade’ or ‘craft’ in medieval English. ‘Mystery’ is also a religious truth or rite.
The medieval plays were sponsored and subsidised by the city’s craft guilds.
Traditionally, the plays were played on the feast day of Corpus Christi, a movable feast occurring between 23 May and 24 June.
The solitary surviving manuscript of the York plays, dating from around 1463-77, is kept at the British Library. It was the centrepiece of an exhibition in York in 2010, organised to accompany the 2010 production of the plays.
The York Mystery cycle usually comprised some 48 pageants, illustrating the Christian history of the world. The Guilds’ production presents a selection — 12 plays were performed in 2010.
For more information on particular aspects of the Plays — including the staging practicalities, the literary significance, and the music accompanying the plays — see the background pages.
The archived website of our 2002 production may also be of interest.