Church Spectacle Drama

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Church Spectacle Drama


a theatrical ritual of the Russian Orthodox Church. Such dramas were first mentioned in the 16th century.

Several spectacle dramas belong to the Easter cycle (Jesus on the Donkey, The Washing of the Feet) and the Christmas cycle (The Fiery Furnace). Jesus on the Donkey, performed on Monday of Passion Week, illustrated the Gospel story of the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. In it, the patriarch, seated on a horse, and the tsar, holding his horse by the bridle, made a solemn procession across Red Square to the Uspenskii Cathedral; the retinue included the clergy, the tsar’s guard, and members of the aristocracy. The Washing of the Feet, a scene from the Last Supper, was enacted on Thursday. The bishop, performing the part of Christ, washed the feet of priests, who represented the apostles.

The most theatrical spectacle drama was The Fiery Furnace, performed on December 17 in Moscow in the Uspenskii Cathedral. This was a dramatization of the biblical story of Daniel’s three companions, who refused to worship the idols of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and were cast into a fiery furnace, from which they were saved by an angel sent by god. Skomorokhi (itinerant performers) usually appeared in the role of the Chaldean soldiers. Ordinary dialogue was spoken not in Church Slavonic, but in colloquial Russian.


Vsevolodskii-Gerngross, V. Russkii teatr: Ot istokov do serediny XVIII v. Moscow, 1957. Pages 37–42.
Aseev, B. N. Russkii dramaticheskii teatr XVII–XVIII vekov. Moscow, 1958. Pages 30–32.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.