Christ on a Donkey – Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entries, and Blasphemous Pageants

Christ on a Donkey explores Palm Sunday processions and other representations of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as both processional theater and interpretations of the biblical narrative.


£96.00 ISBN-13: 9781641892872
SKU: C-67104-116115-77-7710 Category: Tags: , , ,

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Max Harris

At once scholarly and entertaining, Christ on a Donkey is a study of Palm Sunday processions and related royal entries as both spectacular instances of processional theater and highly charged interpretations of the biblical narrative to which they claim allegiance. Harris’s narrative ranges from ancient Jerusalem to modern-day Bolivia, from imperial white horses to wheeled wooden images of Christ on a donkey, from veneration to iconoclasm, and from Christ to Ivan the Terrible. A curious theme emerges: those embodied representations of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem that were labeled blasphemous, idolatrous, or superstitious by those in power were arguably most faithful to the biblical narrative of Palm Sunday, while those staged with the purpose of exalting those in power and celebrating military triumph were arguably blasphemous pageants.


Introduction: From Pomp to Donkeys

Part One: Pomp

I. Triumphal Entries: From Charlemagne to Oliver Cromwell

1. Charlemagne’s Birthday Pomp

2. Kings Dead or Alive

3. Warrior Popes

4. Mud, Plague, and the Lord Protector

II. Palm Sunday Processions: From Egeria to Peter the Great

5. Palms of Victory

6. Exalted and Eccentric Images

7. Crusaders, Patriarchs, and Emperors

8. The Horse with Donkey’s Ears

Part Two: Parodies / James Nayler and Jesus of Nazareth

9. James Nayler’s Royal Progress

10. Jesus on a Jackass

Part Three: Donkeys

I. A Scarcity of Donkeys: From Udine to El Alto

11. Under Muslim Rule

12. White Horses and Imagined Donkeys

13. Live Donkeys at Last

II. Wooden Christs on Wooden Donkeys: From Augsburg to Chiquitos

14. An Image of the Lord Seated on an Ass

15. The Lord God Belongs to the Butchers

16. The Persecution of the Palmesel

17. Baroque Splendor and Catholic Enlightenment

18. The Donkey that Walked on Water

19. Survivals and Revivals

Conclusion: Christ Dismembered and the Bombing of Lübeck

Reviewer Quote(s)

Max Harris’ extremely well-researched book confronts the general understanding of Christ on a donkey “as a sign that he came neither as a warrior nor as one drawn to the trappings of power, but in peace and humility” (p. 2) with the various ways in which the image was used in medieval and early modern theatrical tradition. His findings are stunning. The book analyses both the development of Palm Sunday processions, and the use of Palm Sunday elements in other processions. […] The book is extremely informed and informative; it collects enormous amounts of original documents, and in a very impressive way compares phenomena of different cultures and times., Cora Dietl, University of Giessen, European Medieval Drama, 22 (2018): 213-15