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a musical work set to a Gospel text of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, imprisonment, and execution. Passions were introduced into Catholic practice in the fourth century and were performed during Holy Week. They were originally performed in a psalmodic manner, but, beginning in the 14th century, the type of passion based on a dialogue between a soloist, or deacon, and a choir prevailed. The roles of the characters in the drama gradually became more soloistic. In the 16th century the polyphonic motet passion took shape, and Protestant passions in German appeared, which made considerable use of the Protestant chorale. Folk stagings of passions, in which scenes of everyday life were included, developed simultaneously with the ecclesiastical dramatizations.
In the early 18th century the oratorio passion became established. This genre later lost its religious significance, and oratorio passions were performed as concert works. Outstanding examples of the oratorio passion are J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion.