The Passion Cycle in the English Parish Church
The painted Passion Cycle, like the Passion sequences that were a vital part of the English Mystery Play cycles, tells, in narrative sequence, the story of Christ’s Passion and death, sometimes continuing to the Resurrection and beyond. Several of them are represented here; some are shorter and less comprehensive than others; they span almost three centuries; they are all battered to some extent by time.
The general source for the painted Passion Cycle is the Bible, specifically the four Gospels, but there are other sources too, such as the various apocryphal gospels and the famous Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, all of which had acquired, in the popular mind at least, the same authority as the Biblical accounts. It is always difficult if not impossible to be certain which (anonymous) painter used which source – in all probability the true source was other paintings and a tradition-hallowed understanding of the story which needed no book-reference. Perhaps the best example of this kind of ‘accreted’ source in action is the story of Longinus, the blind Roman soldier who gave the crucified Christ the death-blow with his lance and was instantly healed of his blindness by the spurting blood. The incident is found in English Passion Cycles more often than not.
The links in the table will take you to individual pages on the various Passion Cycles in the various churches.