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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Corpus Christi in Durham

5th May 2016, 14:00 to 15:00, Chapel of the Nine Altars, Durham Cathedral, Mark Chambers

A free public talk to accompany the exhibition Plays, Processions and Parchment.

On 26 May, the Cathedral will be celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi. This annual feast, celebrating the ‘Body of Christ’ represented by the bread and wine of the sacrament of Communion, has been a highlight of the Christian calendar for nearly 700 years, and is still the premier feast day following the celebration of Easter.

In the medieval period, Corpus Christi day would be celebrated with an elaborate procession by clergy and assembled dignitaries. It would also include Corpus Christi plays, specially put on by the city’s trade guilds and fraternities. The famous York Corpus Christi plays are part of this tradition. In Durham, the assembled procession would carry the spectacular shrine of Corpus Christi from its resting place in St. Nicholas’ church in the Market Place, up the hill to the Cathedral, where prayers would be said, hymns sung and a special service celebrated. On the same day, Durham’s dozen or so trade guilds would each be responsible for putting on their ‘Corpus Christi play’ – each play presumably enacting a scene from Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

In his talk, Dr Chambers will discuss the Corpus Christi festival in Durham, tracing its history before the reformation and highlighting evidence for the Corpus Christi plays. He will also investigate theories as to what plays were played, by whom, and how. Please join us for this 20-minute talk with question-and-answer session to follow."

Contact d.k.j.wyatt@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

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