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.
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