The Pageant’s programme will have a history of the town including its religious heritage enshrined in the parish church
The church of St John the Baptist above the Square dates to the late 13th century but there was almost certainly a wooden Saxon church before it. The church chose as its icon the Lamb of God which was combined with the cross of St George to give the town its symbol – and the name of the pub.
When Christianity arrived most people couldn’t read or write so to bring to life the Bible stories the church had brightly painted frescoes applied to the walls inside and residents performed the Mystery Plays that allowed ordinary people to act out the Bible stories.
Performed on carts these plays gave a vibrancy to some of the best known chapters of the Bible. From Adam and Eve to the Nativity and from Cain and Abel to the Crucifixion they were immensely popular – until the Church establishment felt they had become too dramatic and banned them.
Axbridge has its own link to early Christendom and even a miracle. Let the Chronicler take up the story:
“A certain wood covers a mountain of great height, which being separated at its summit and exhibits to the spectator an immense precipice and horrid abyss, called by the local people Cheddar clyff.
“When therefore the King was chasing the flying stag hither and thither, the stag, on coming to the chasm broken in the mountain rushed into and being dashed to pieces, perished.
“Similar ruin overtook the pursuing hounds. The horse too, on which the king was riding, having unbroken its reins and becoming unmanageable, carries the King after the animals. The abyss, lying open before him, threatens the King with instant death. He trembles and is in great distress.
“Meanwhile his recent injustice to Dunstan comes to his mind: he bewails it and instantly promises God, with an unspoken vow, that if only God would avert the death, which deservedly threatened him, it should be speedily remedied with manifold recompense.
“God, immediately hearing the repentance of his heart took pity on him, inasmuch as the horse immediately stopped short and King, delivered from the danger of death, most truly gave thanks to the glory of God from the depths of his soul.
“Then the King returning to his lodging that is to the Borough of Axbridge and being rejoined by his nobles, recounted the course of the things that had happened and commanded Dunstan should be recalled with honour and reverence and thence forth held him to be a faithful friend in all things.
“And Edmund did make amends. He made Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, all due to the miracle that saved King Edmund certain death in Cheddar Gorge.”
And there we must leave the church. It’s back to the story and the arrival of the Normans.
The Pageant charts the history of the town’s spiritual heritage through 15 scenes.
The Axbridge Pageant takes place from Saturday-Monday, August 27-29, 2022
Rehearsals take place in the summer
Look out for more details soon. More at http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/axbr…/axbridge-pageant-2020/ and on social media and at http://axbridgepageant.com/Axbridge_Pageant_News