Fourteenth Passion Play


Did you know that the earliest reference to a performance of a Passion Play goes back to a fourteenth-century sermon?

A Good Friday sermon dating back to the second half of the fourteenth century, refers to a Passion Play performance. The sermon is based on the passage “Christ has suffered for us, leaving you an example that you may follow in his footsteps,” 1 Peter 2.21. The writer of the sermon urges his listeners to hold on to the true happiness that Christ offers and to scorn worldly pleasures and riches. He refers to a group of actors who were involved in a Passion Play to illustrate his point:

I knew where there once was a play in summertime. One person was Christ, another Peter, another Andrew, some were the tormentors, and some the devils. Christ was stretched out, crucified, and beaten, mocked, and held a fool; he was hungry and thirsty and no one gave him anything but strokes and scorn. And whoever knew how to torment and scorn him best was reckoned to play the best. When the game was over, all the players talked among themselves and considered playing again; and one of them said, “Who shall be Christ?” The others said, “He who played today, since he played well.” This player then said to them: “I was Christ and was crucified, beaten, mocked, held to be a fool; I was hungry and thirsty, and nobody gave me anything. I looked down below and saw tormentors and demons in great joy. For he who could make them drink and eat was well pleased. I looked to the right and saw Peter on the cross, and I looked to the left and saw Andrew on the cross, so that for me and my apostles everything was a pain, but for our tormentors and the demons everything was comfort. And therefore I tell you for sure that if I must play again, I do not want to be Christ nor an apostle but a tormentor or a demon.” One of his companions said to him: “I am astonished that you say so. Don’t you know that it is the nature of our play that the stretched-out Christ and his apostles fare badly and suffer much while the play goes on, and the tormentors and demons are well off? Wait till the end of the play and you shall be well off!”

The sermon writer went on to say:

It goes similarly in this life, in every estate and rank. He who wants to play Christ’s pageant will suffer a lot, will be held to be a fool, will be hungry and thirsty, and nobody will give him anything; but his tormentors and the demons are invited to comforts, and whoever knows how to torment, mock, and do the rest best, he will be held to be a master. And this is the reason why so few play Christ’s pageant and so many become tormentors and demons, so that they draw from the good and move to evil’.

You can read more about this fourteenth-century reference to a Passion Play in the following journal article:

Siegried Wenzel ‘“Somer Game” and Sermon References to a Corpus Christi PlayModern Philology 86 No 3 1989 pp. 274 -283.


Is fundraising like online dating?

Online dating is trying to find the right match among many differnet people. Fundraising for Passion Plays is similar to online dating in one respect: trying to find the right match for your Play among different trusts and funding charities. Finding this perfect match is the key to raising funds to tell the Easter story!

Once you find trusts and funders who are of a similar mindset and value the things you value, you are well on the way to a perfect match.


How do we find potential funders?

The Charity Commission’s Register of Charities allows you to search for free by using filters to narrow your search. (Remember, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate registers.)
Funding Central is another register that is free to access.
For a more expensive option, you can try the Directory of Social Change’s Funds Online website which is regularly updated.
Since Passion Plays bring many churches of all denominations together, your diocese can be a good source of information and signposting. For example, see the Diocese of Bristol and their list of funders here.
The Christian Funders’ Forum is also a useful source.


How do we let funders know our project is a good match for them?

Now is the time to do some research and really think about compatibility with the funders you are researching.

You can research their online content, websites, and also Further information will be inread through their annual reports published on the Charity Commissions website (click ‘Documents’ tab). These annual reports will give useful imformation about projects they have previously funded.

A quick phone call can also be helpful in establishing contact and goodwill as you will be able to find out more about them and let them know what you do.

Remember here that one of the key elements is timing! Some funders have a set application process that requires you to apply before a deadline. Other funders have trustees’ meetings at set times during the year and those times are good to work with.

The timing of your project also matters. Some funders like to fund projects in the early stage of development, while others like to give funding when they see other funders have already contributed.

There is a lot to think about with fundraising! But Passion Plays are such unique projects that it can also be an enjoyable process. Many funders like to hear about large community arts events that tell the Easter story in fresh and inspiring ways. Not only do Passion Plays have large outdoor audiences across the UK each Easter, they are also unique spaces of community, skill-sharing, mentoring and investing in the lives of volunteers across all sections of society. They are more than a one-off performance and the impact spreads across the whole community for many months.


Where can I find more help with fundraising?

If you want more help with fundraising, we have plenty more tips and advice on our website here.

We have recorded sessions from previous Passion Trust Conferences including sessions looking at Finance & Fundraising, Administration and Practical Considerations, and Q&A sessions. You can see more information and watch short helpful videos on our website here.

You can also find lots of helpful tips and advice at The Benefact Trust here or click on the image below.

three bullet points with rows of text and images in blue bubbles with white icons for help with fundraising


Looking to connect with other Christian arts organisations?

Passion Plays are unique arts projects because they are community-based,...

A stone image of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Staging the crucifixion

Staging the crucifixion is a topic that comes up time...