Mystery Play of Elche
mystery play of Elche is a sacred musical drama of the death,
assumption and crowning of the Virgin. It has been performed since
the 15th century in the Basilica of Saint Mary of Elche with
special permission from the Pope. The play is living testimony to
European religious theatre from the Middle Ages; as well as the
medieval culture of devotion to the Virgin which was influenced by
Byzantine rites. The mystery play, which is entirely sung, is
presented in two acts played on 14 and 15 August. The text,
conserved in collections dating from 1625, is written in the
Valencian language, with several parts in Latin.
Medieval songs alternate with songs from the Renaissance
and Baroque periods. The stage is organized horizontally for the
earth and vertically for heaven, a characteristic of medieval
mysteries. The play, reflecting the cultural and linguistic
identity of the people of Valencia, involves about 300 volunteers
each year and attracts the entire population.
It is difficult to find the materials and know-how to maintain the
scenery and stage devices and preserve the Valencian language
which has been largely replaced by Castillan.
mystery was proclaimed a National Monument by the Second Spanish
Republic in 1931, protecting it by law. Now training institutions
are envisaged for actors and singers. Since 1990, the City Council
and the Ministry of Culture of Valencia have organized an
international festival of medieval
theatre and music, which includes a research seminar. A museum of
mystery plays is envisaged, along with an internet site. Plans are
to restore the basilica and stage devices.