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The medieval Mystery Plays
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Throughout the medieval period the Coventry Guilds of tradesmen proudly performed their own unique Mystery Plays. (The word “mystery” means a trade or craft in medieval English. Mystery is also a religious truth or rite). In a city-wide festival of drama and spectacle the plays retold, for popular entertainment and instruction, the Christian story from Creation to Doomsday. No fewer than four Kings of England visited Coventry to witness the spectacle of these Corpus Christi pageants. Although, unlike the Mystery plays of York or Chester, little text has survived from these ancient plays, (the Coventry Carol being a significant and popular fragment), the City of Coventry and its cathedral remains a place of particular pilgrimage since its destruction and recreation in the mid-twentieth century.
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The new Coventry Mysteries
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The city’s response to its suffering and rebirth through the international promotion of the values of Peace and Reconciliation, make Coventry a uniquely significant centre for the exploration of morality through dramatic means. The old Mystery Plays told the story of Christianity; the new Coventry Mysteries hold the potential to tell the story of mankind’s search for meaning through every organized religion and none.
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The Universal Mysteries
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In a multi-faith, multi-cultural society, such as Coventry’s, the route to total inclusion cannot lie in one Religion but rather in the values and structures of morality which lie at the heart of all religions. Common to every religion are concepts such as love, compassion, forgiveness, duty, charity ... where the credo of individual faith systems divides, the presence of common values unites. The sacred texts of every religion have within them the elements that make up the human condition: the virtues, the vices, the aspirations and the failures. A Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, and Sikh will have little commonality in telling the story of their own faith, but exploration of the common moral qualities underpinning their belief systems brings all together and makes possible dramatic dialogue and a shared story-telling.
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Here is a glorious opportunity for agnostics, atheists and theists alike to explore what it means to be human through every medium imaginable: drama, music and dance, visual arts, comedy... the options for means of expression and for type of venue are enormous. A single theme each year (this year, “Forgiveness”) treated in myriad ways by groups of every kind within the community makes truly meaningful sense of multiculturalism.


The Coventry Mysteries can impact on 21st century man – locally, nationally, internationally – as powerfully as did the Mystery plays on the medieval mind.