York Mystery Plays 2000 - Photo: Kippa Matthews

York Mystery Plays – A Brief Introduction

The York Mystery Plays are a cultural treasure that the city is rightly proud of. Beyond the religious significance, they represent the values of community and togetherness as they draw on the talents of local people, who gladly give their time to present these iconic plays to the people of Yorkshire and beyond.

An important part of the rich tapestry that make up this historic city, the York Mystery Plays have gained international recognition with people travelling from far and wide to see them performed in the various incarnations they currently take.

The Bible – The Stage Show!

Telling the story of the bible, from the creation to the Last Judgement, the Mystery Plays are actually a collection of individual plays, each covering one particular biblical episode. For some, the Mystery Plays are at home on the back of waggons, taking to the streets of York and presenting individual plays, free of charge to those that pass by.

Others point to the larger scale, fixed staged productions that present a more complete version and have in recent years graced the stunning York Minster and appeared outside in the shadows of St Mary’s Abbey. Both forms are a part of our heritage and both are essential to the city’s future.

Whilst traditionally they have been presented by the guilds of York, no one individual or organisation can truly claim outright ownership of the Mystery Plays. It is only the people of York as a whole who can call them their own – and they are something that they are correctly proud of. Both families who have lived in the city for generations and newcomers alike embrace the traditions of the plays, whilst striving to add their own character and flair to each production. Together they have entertained thousands, generated a phenomenal local spirit and written their own line in the history books.

The Future Of The Mystery Plays

Whilst there have been times when the Mystery Plays have been performed less regularly it is hoped that, following recent successes, a cycle can be maintained which will see them presented every two years with the waggon plays of the Guilds alternating with a fixed-stage production.

So please join us for York Mystery Plays 2016 when the Minster will play host to the Plays – it promises to be something completely special.