ST JUST ORDINALIA
The oldest surviving trilogy of medieval Cornish Plays
Origo Mundi (The Creation of the World), The Passion & The Resurrection
This September, all three plays in the historic Ordinalia Cycle will be performed over two weeks in St Just in Penwith’s Plen an Gwari (Playing Place).
The staging of the plays are part of a wider 2021 celebration which will see the return of the original Ordinalia manuscripts to Kresen Kernow, home of Cornwall's archives, and will be supported by other programmes of activity including a series of Cornish language workshops and activities.
The powerful, open-air performances of these medieval plays will be part of a wider two-week festival in St Just, celebrating Cornish culture and heritage and comprising a variety of workshops for festival ticket-holders, including Cornish language, singing, dancing and wrestling, as well as local town trail tours.
The plays are said to be the oldest surviving trilogy of play texts in Britain, written in Cornish in the 14th century, with Latin stage directions. All the plays - Origo Mundi (The Creation of the World), The Passion and The Resurrection will be performed in St Just’s Plen an Gwari – one of two surviving playing places or 'places of the play' in Cornwall.
Likely to have been written by the clerics of Glasney College, Penryn and older than Shakespeare's plays, the Ordinalia plays were originally performed to spread Christian ideas and messages to the local population and collectively cover the whole scope of the bible stories from the beginning of the world to doomsday – with plenty of humour and drama in their delivery. It has been said that they were ‘The EastEnders of the time’ and because they are written in Medieval Cornish, they actually form the basis for our understanding of today’s contemporary Cornish language.
All three plays were originally performed in the Plen an Gwari in St Just, as well as across Cornwall. When else, where else, can you stand in a spot and know you are enjoying a shared experience with people 500 years ago?
Funding for the project, which has been three years in the planning, comes from Cornwall Council, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, FEAST and other public and private charitable bodies.
Each play will be performed twice in each week with an additional matinee in the second week. Gates will open at 12.00pm for matinee performances and 6:30 pm for evening shows.
Play 1 - Origo Mundi - (The Creation of the World)
Epic, biblical stories on a spectacular scale. Lucifer has fallen and Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise. It's a long road back to redemption and the fulfilment of the prophecy. Three pips from the Guardian of the Gates are all that's needed. The Legend of the Rood has begun.
Play 2 - The Passion of Christ - (Passio Christi)
St Just's colourful characters tell the story of Christ's final week leading up to his Crucifixion. What should be a time of celebration for Passover instead finds Jesus preparing his disciples for his imminent death, as he awaits betrayal, accusations and torture, knowing there is no escaping his destiny. Meanwhile Lucifer realises he has gone too far and the final battle awaits. Deeply moving and poignant amid beautiful storytelling.
Play 3 - The Resurrection of Christ - (Resurrexio Domini )
The Shepherd has been smitten and the sheep are dispersed. Angels and Devils fight for supremacy, the spirit of Christ has risen and Hell is harrowed on a spectacular scale. Within the disciples there is a crisis of faith, and Lucifer has one more trick up his sleeve. We conclude the story, with much bawdy humour at the expense of Pilate along the way, leading to the climax of the Ascension. The trilogy is complete.
Visit www.stjustordinalia.com for more information
Please click 'Read More' on each event for full booking information