Here are a few photos from last week’s trip to New Norcia. I thought it was one of those lovely coincidences that the Divine Comedy was being performed on the Feast Day of the Cistercian Abbot, St Bernard of Clairvaux, the saint whom Dante held up as the paragon of mystical contemplatives and has himself meeting in the highest level of the Paradiso.
Walter Cerquetti Lippi at the age of 79 is still a powerhouse of activity. His passion for Sacred Theatre has spurred him to produce at least 125 Mystery Plays since 1967, as well as other plays with a religious theme, such as the Ecstasies of St Therese of Lisieux, St Francis of Assisi and Murder in the Cathedral, in venues as diverse as Rome, Florence, Vienna, the Festival of Canterbury, Slovakia and Australia.
Sacred Theatre has a long tradition dating back to the fall of the Roman Empire, around 500 A.D. Abbeys used drama and Mystery plays to explain the Passion, the Nativity, and the Miracles of Jesus to the largely illiterate population. Indeed, the first published woman playwright was a Benedictine nun – Hildegard of Bingen, with the oldest surviving morality play being her Ordo Virtutum.
Walter described for us how he sees his role in the production of Sacred Theatre as a form of self-development for his own interior life, in the manner of Dante whose writing of the Divine Comedy was itself a guide for his soul’s journey.