For almost 400 years this small town in Spain has had the papal privilege to present The Mystery of Elche. The show was cancelled for many years because the Council of Trent prohibited the performance of plays inside churches.
Today the town of Elche brought this spectacular sacred play to Rome. It depicts the death, ascension and coronation of the Virgin Mary.José Antonio Román
It's based on the apocryphal gospel and narrates the last days of the Virgin Mary. An angel comes to announce her death so she can meet and say goodbye to the apostles, this occurs like a miracle.
The Mysteries of Elche are performed on the 14th and 15th of August, when the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin. Some of the melodies date back to the 13th century, but most were composed during the 15th century.
For hundreds of years, Elche has used the Virgin's image as patroness of their city. The cast is entirely male, even for the roles of the Virgin and the Solomon Mary. The actor that plays Saint Peter is always a priest. The highlight of the show is the Assumption itself, when actor use rare antique props.José Antonio Román
Choir Director There are several flying machines, for example the drop of an angel from a height of 80 to 90 feet, the angel goes back up and then down again for the Virgin's soul.
The play doesn't portray exact history but it does give insights into the theological reflection during the Middle Ages and includes some interesting notions. For example, Saint Thomas the Apostle arrives late to say goodbye to the Virgin because he was preaching far away in India.
The play is best described by the Bishop of Alicante who says the Mystery of Elche are an example of how faith can feed culture to actually become a catechesis.