Passion Week

Passion Play, Passion Cycle

General Information, Outline

The 'Passion' comprises the very last week of Jesus' life on Earth. It began on Palm Sunday and concluded on the morning of Easter Sunday.

The First Day in Passion-Week, Palm Sunday

The Royal Entry into Jerusalem.

The Second Day in Passion-Week

The Barren Fig-Tree, The Cleansing of the Temple, The Hosanna of the Children.

The Third Day in Passion Week

The Question of Christ's Authority, The Question of Tribute to Caesar, The Widow's Farthing, The Greeks who sought to see Jesus, Summary and Retrospect of the Public Minsitry of Christ.

The Last Controversies and Discourses, The Sadducees and the Resurrection, The Scribe and the Great Commandement, Question to the Pharisees about David's Son and Lord Final Warning to the People: The Eight 'Woes', Farewell.

The Last Series of Parables: To the Pharisees and to the People, On the Way of Jerusalem: The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, In the Temple: The Parable of the 'No' and 'Yes' of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Evil Husbandmen Evilly Destroyed, The Parable of the Marriage of the King's Son and of the Wedding Garment.

The Evening of the Third Day in Passion-Week

On the Mount of Olives: Discourse to the Disciples concerning the Last Things

Last Parables: To the Disciples concerning the Last Things, The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Talents, Supplementary Parable of the Minas and the King's Reckoning with His Servants and His Rebellious Citizens

The Fourth Day in Passion-Week

Jesus in His Last Sabbatic Rest before His Agony, and the Sanhedrists in their Unrest, The Betrayal, Judas: His Character, Apostasy, and End

The Fifth Day in Passion-Week

'Make Ready the Passover!'

The Paschal Supper, The Institution of the Lord' Supper

The Last Discourse of Christ, The Prayer of Consecration


Thursday Night, Before Annas and Caiaphs, Peter and Jesus

The Morning of Good Friday

'Crucified, Dead, and Buried'

Easter Sunday

On the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead

'On the Third Day He rose again from the Dead; He ascend into Heaven'

Passion Play

General Information

Based on events relating to the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the passion play enacts the central drama of the Christian faith. The episodes of the passion play are performed at a series of shrines, or "mansions," one for each episode. Mansions are arranged in various ways, most often so that both performers and audience can move to each in turn.

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Mansions may be arranged side by side in a line, as in the Valenciennes Passion; grouped around a courtyard; or spread out over a countryside. The passion play derives from the devotions made by parishioners inside the church before the Stations of the Cross, which show the same events depicted in the play. The passion play was performed in many small towns in Europe during the Middle Ages, but for the most part disappeared soon thereafter. The Oberammergau Passion in Bavaria, still enacted once every 10 years, was inaugurated in thanksgiving for the end of the Black Death in 1633. The Black Hills Passion Play is given annually in Spearfish, S.Dak.

E. T. Kirby

Blackburn, Henry, Art in the Mountains: Story of the Passion Play (1870; repr. 1978); Edwards, Robert, The Montecassino Passion and the Poetics of Medieval Drama (1977); Sticca, Sandro, The Latin Passion Play: Its Origins and Development (1970); West, Larry E., The Saint Gall Passion Play (1976).

Passion Cycle

General Information

The events of the Passion are among the most frequent subjects of religious art. They are popular because the sacrifice of the Crucifixion is central to Christian belief and because Holy Week, during which the events of the Passion occur, marks the culmination of the liturgical year.

Some scenes from the Passion appeared in Christian art as early as the 4th century. These subjects became especially common, however, in the late Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance, probably because depictions of Christ's suffering were in keeping with the heightened religious emotion that followed the Black Death and the Hundred Years' War. Also during this period the Pieta was introduced and developed. Although without biblical authority, this scene became part of the Passion cycle.

The wide appeal of the Passion cycle is clearly shown by the prints of Albrecht Durer. Durer executed woodcut series known as the Small Passion (1509-11) and the Large Passion (1510-11) as well as another sequence called the Engraved Passion (1507-13). The scenes included in these cycles differ considerably, as they contain, respectively, 11 woodcuts and a title page, 36 woodcuts and a title page, and 15 engravings. This variation is typical of Passion cycles, because artists frequently added scenes to provide a historical context for the Passion or an epilogue to emphasize its importance.

Eric G. Carlson

Fergusson, George, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art (1959).

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

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