The Processional Theatre of Palm Sunday

Authored by: Max Harris

The Routledge Research Companion to Early Drama and performance

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472421401
eBook ISBN: 9781315612898
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043669


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On Palm Sunday, 1558, a prosperous English merchant by the name of Anthony Jenkinson was in Moscow, representing both his queen, Elizabeth I, and an international trading enterprise known as the Muscovy Company. While there, he saw Moscow’s annual “donkey walk”, like many other Palm Sunday processions an elaborate outdoor liturgical rite recalling Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey five days before his crucifixion. Despite the name of the event, no donkey took part. The metropolitan archbishop of Moscow and of all Russia was led in procession seated on “a horse, covered with white linnen down to the ground, his eares being made long with the same clothe, like to an asses eares” (Morgan and Coote, 364). The archbishop, in full pontifical regalia, played the part of Christ, while a white horse, wearing white linen ass’s ears, played the part of the donkey. Holding the end of the horse’s rein was no less a dignitary than Tsar Ivan IV, also known to history as Ivan the Terrible.

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