The Ordinalia Mystery Plays

Coming again to St Just's historic open air theatre site
4 -18th September 2021

A spectacular celebration of Cornish culture and heritage

St Just Ordinalia 2021

St Just Ordinalia 2021

For two weeks in September 2021, at the historic Plen an Gwari site in St Just, we are holding open air repertory performances of all three Ordinalia plays - with an opportunity for festival ticket holders to join in with Cornish language, dancing and sea songs sessions, watch Cornish wrestling exhibitions, listen to the history of St Just's Plen an Gwari, and wander along town trails and heritage walks .

Under the autumn sunsets and the dark skies of West Cornwall, we are creating a true celebration of Cornish cultural life. Our funded project has already started with a series of exhibitions and taster sessions, to coincide with the loan of the Bodleian Ordinalia manuscripts to Kresen Kernow, Cornwall's new archive centre.

The Ordinalia play texts represent a Cornish heritage that has survived the Reformation and the destruction of the magnificent college at Glasney which created them; the whims of erratic kings and queens, the very Church itself, political rivalry and puritanical governments, rebellions, civil wars, world wars, and the loss of all but two of the playing places they were created for. In all their long history, nothing and no one has managed to suppress and stifle these plays, which can still speak to and move modern audiences.

As part of our legacy to enable the Ordinalia to be performed in St Just every three to four years as a permanent event on the Cornish cultural calendar, we will be storing and preserving our costumes, sets and equipment, and maintaining a complete blueprint and archive of activities .

We have assembled a company of professionals, semi-professionals and talented volunteers who are creating a community led production in an historic setting. The core group of people who were involved with the 2000 - 2004 productions are helping to lead the project, and to build upon and transfer experience and expertise to a new generation. We have opportunities for work shadow, paid and volunteer roles with our exciting project.

The legacy of our productions will benefit schools, the community, the Cornish language, tourism and will showcase the talents of the many participants who work with us.

Read our leaflet to find out more


The Ordinalia Trilogy

We shall be performing 6 plays each week, two evening performances of each play

A Spectacular Outdoor Setting

In the historic Plen an Gwari amphitheatre, under autumn sunsets and the dark skies of West Cornwall

Modern, secular themes

reflected within the original medieval Christian narrative

A festival celebrating Cornish culure and heritage

Choose any three of - Cornish language workshops; Cornish dancing lessons; Cornish sea songs sessions; watching Cornish wrestling exhibitions; listening to the history of St Just's Plen an Gwari; and wandering along town trails and heritage walks. And come and enjoy an evening of Cornish music, stories and culture.

Cornish language - Kernewek

Our choirs will sing in Kernewek. The plays will be mainly in English, with some interesting Kernewek features

Mynstrels, gwreugh dhen-ny pyba, may hyllyn warbarth donsya,

'Minstrels do ye pipe for us, that we may dance together'

How to book

How to book

Performance Bookings                                                are now on sale for the two week run of plays from 4th - 18th September in the outdoor amphitheatre at the Plen an Gwari, St Just.

These medieval plays are part of a wider two-week festival celebrating Cornish culture and heritage.

Tickets for the plays and festival are available now. Head to Hall for Cornwall's website to book.

Staging the Ordinalia in the 21st century – free online talk

Join Jason Squibb, Artistic Director for the 2021 St Just Ordinalia production, for a free online talk on the current production and reflections on past performances. Hosted by the fantastic Kresen Kernow, this talk looks at how St Just has put theory into practice, and how a community event from 600 years ago still resonates today. The talk is free and will be delivered on Zoom.

Read more and register for the event here.

Further Booking Information

To see the full programme click here

Before you leave

What are the COVID restrictions?
We will keep you updated by email. At present, post June 21 there should be no restrictions, and we are hopeful that September outdoor performances will be free of them. We are restricting ticket sales so that the seating can be socially distanced, but will release more tickets if the law permits.

What happens if a performance is cancelled?
We will notify you by email. Full refunds will be available. We will only cancel in the event of extreme weather conditions or COVID restrictions. The decision to cancel a performance due to extreme weather is made at the discretion of the company and is primarily for the safety of cast and crew.

What should I bring?
Something comfortable to sit on - a folding chair or a cushion. Warm clothes and a rug are handy for later in the evening, and a waterproof if there is a prospect of rain. Picnics are permitted (although there are cafes and food outlets in the town) but glasses and glass bottles are not allowed in the Plen an Gwari. Please take your refuse home with you.

What may I not bring?
Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted - except assistance dogs. Umbrellas should be left behind. Performances are not suitable for children under the age of 8 years, but babes in arms/pushchairs can be accommodated

How do I get to the Plen an Gwari?
It is best to travel from Penzance A30 on to the A3071 to St Just. The back lanes from St Ives are narrow and not for the faint hearted. Sat Nav postcode is TR19 7HX. AA signposting will be available on performance days.

Will I be able to park in St Just?
The main car park in St Just, although free, is only small and often full. An Ordinalia Car Park (TR19 7UL) has been arranged and will be open from 5pm – 11pm on performance evenings, and from 12noon- 4pm on matinee afternoons. The Ordinalia Car Park will be signed and marshalled and is about 3-4 minutes walk to the Plen - see map and directions below. We are asking for £1 donation per car, as renumeration for the owner of the field. Disabled parking will be available in the main St. Just car park, which is about 1 minutes walk to the Plen.

Directions from Penzance to Ordinalia parking field
Turn left into South Place, then at the bottom turn left into Bosorne Terrace. The parking field is about 200 yards on your right.

Directions from Pendeen to Ordinalia parking field:
Turn right into Market Street, then left into Bosorne Terrace. The parking field is just after the St. Just Recreation Park, on your right.

When you arrive

What facilities does St Just have?
St Just is the most westerly town in mainland Britain, but is only small. There are four pubs near the square, plenty of cafes and food outlets, and many independent shops. The venue will have full toilet facilities, with additional toilets near the car park in Market Street.

When does the venue open?
Gates to the Plen an Gwari open at 6.30 pm (12.00pm in the case of matinees) so you can arrive at a leisurely pace, picnic and enjoy the surroundings.

We are arriving in a group. Can we sit together?
There is no fixed seating, but for social distancing we have provided areas for small groups. Our stewards will help you find the most suitable arrangement. Early arrival is recommended.

What arrangements are there for wheelchair users and those with additional needs?
If you have identified your needs on the booking form, we will be ready to show you where to sit.

Festival arrangements

What should I bring to the festival activities?
All the details of what you should bring to your booked festival activities will be emailed to you by the Box Office closer to the time. 
Due to many of these events being held indoors we need to evaluate COVID-19 restrictions closer to the time - exact locations in St Just will be confirmed in July. We will ensure appropriate safety measures are in place for these activities to happen. 
Will the festival concert have an interval? 
There will be a short interval as part of the festival concert with refreshments available at the venue.

What to expect

Are the performances in the round?
Not really. According to the medieval stage directions, which we are following, there are 8 mansions (or stages) and we have added one central stage on which the main action takes place. For best sight-lines the audience are now seated primarily on three sides, therefore everyone is able to hear and see the different actions taking place around the Plen - guided by the ‘Ordinary’.

Are the performances in English or Cornish?
The performances will be primarily in English with Cornish passage such as the naming of the animals entering Noah’s Ark. The choir will also sing in Cornish. We hope this will increase your enjoyment of this special Cornish event, without diminishing the audience experience. The majority of the performances will be in English

Are cameras allowed?
As in all theatre performances, you will be asked to switch off your phone. Flash photography is not allowed, but otherwise you may discreetly photograph the production without disturbing your neighbours.

Is there an interval?
Both evening and matinee performances have a twenty minute interval after the first hour

How long are the performances?
Each play is slightly different, but on average, about 2 hours

Do I have to leave the Plen an Gwari immediately after the performance?
Inevitably there will be traffic delays if everyone leaves at once. We recommend you take your time leaving, and enjoy the rest of your evening in St Just - but remember the Ordinalia car park closes at 11pm (sharp). Please be respectful of residential areas.

For further booking enquiries and queries please email:

Your Ordinalia 2021 Booking
Please note that by purchasing tickets for a performance or festival event(s) by St Just and District Trust CIO, charity number 1168852 (we/us), You are accepting the following Terms & Conditions and agreeing to be bound by them and complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

1.Our Box Office provider is Hall for Cornwall who offer a web and telephone service. Their charges are set out on their website, and include:
£1.50 Transaction Fee payable for bookings over the phone
£1.00 printing and postage fee if customers choose not to receive e-tickets
2. Our approved agent, The News Centre St Just, will have tickets available for sale at a discount to people within the TR19 postcode only for a limited period
3. Tickets may not be sold on for commercial gain. No more than 10 tickets per household. We accept no liability for lost, stolen or damaged tickets.
4. Once purchased, tickets may not be refunded except on cancellation of the performance. Tickets may be exchanged, subject to availability, for an alternative performance of the same play. Exchanged e-tickets will be cancelled and no longer valid. Tickets cannot be accepted for resale.
5. Only tickets purchased from our Box Office provider, our approved agent, or at the gate (if available) are valid for admission to a performance or event.
6. Family tickets may be used for four family-related persons, at least two of whom must be under the age of 16 or a student.
7. The discount for buying tickets to all three plays is only available when all three tickets are purchased at the same time.
8. Only one concession applies per ticket. Proof of eligibility may be requested at time of purchase and/or on the day of the performance. Please inform our Box Office if you are entitled to a concession at the time of booking, as concessionary rates can not be applied retrospectively.
9. Concessions are available for all performances, but all ticket sales are subject to availability. See Covid-safe arrangements below.
10. We accept no responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged tickets

Changes and cancellations
1. We reserve the right to alter advertised programme information, including cast, without prior notice, and to cancel or postpone performances and/or events.
2. If a performance or event is cancelled or postponed before it is due to commence, we will do our best to inform you of these changes using the mandatory contact details provided when you make your booking. It is your responsibility as ticket holder to check if the performance or event is going ahead.
3. As there are 12 performances over a two week period, we will do our best to offer you an alternative to a cancelled performance.
4. If a performance or event is cancelled by us, the value of tickets will be refunded after completion of our standard form - in the case of tickets purchased from the Box Office to the original payment method, and in the case of tickets purchased from The News Centre St Just, by cheque
5. Complimentary tickets may not be refunded under any circumstances
6. Performances will not generally be cancelled because of weather conditions and may continue at our discretion in wet weather conditions. Refunds will be available, at our discretion and after offering alternative performance dates where available, for a performance that is abandoned after it has started.

Festival Arrangements
1. Festival tickets are available for adults only and are not transferable.
2. Festival tickets are only available for use during a seven day period, and may not be transferred from the chosen week to another week.
3. Festival ticket holders are entitled to attend all three performances of the Ordinalia plays at any time, without prior booking, on production at the door of a valid Festival ticket.
4. Festival ticket holders wishing to attend a Sunday concert may do so without prior booking unless subject to Government COVID 19 prior booking rules.
5. Festival ticket holders wishing to attend a festival workshop must apply for it on the website, at least 7 days beforehand. Admissions on the door without prior booking are at our sole discretion.
6. Refunds will be available, at our discretion and after offering alternative event dates where available, for an event that is abandoned after it has started.

COVID 19-Safe Environment
1. When socially distanced performance rules apply you are confirming that your booking is for a single household or support bubble only up to a maximum of 6 people, and that you agree not to attend a performance if:
  • You are displaying any Covid-19 symptoms, or have done so in the previous 10 days
  • You have been in contact with anyone who has displayed Covid-19 symptoms in the last 10 days
  • You have arrived into the UK in the last 10 days and are not covered by the self-isolation exemption rules
  • You have been instructed to self-isolate
2. If you are unable to attend a performance due to these restrictions, you can apply for a refund to the Box Office where you purchased the ticket.
3. We will only share the details of the primary booker with NHS Test and Trace (or equivalent) only if asked to by a relevant authority and under the obligations of the government’s Covid-19 regulations.
4. If current Government regulations so require, you must:
  • supply a valid vaccination certificate/passport, or if allowed, a recent valid negative VOVID test at the gate to be permitted entry to a performance
  • permit us to take a non contact body temperature check
  • comply with such other requirements then in force
5. We will be issuing performance (non festival) tickets in two tranches. The first tranche will be for a seating capacity that accommodates social distancing. The second tranche will be issued if there is a reasonable prospect that social distancing restrictions will not be in place at the time of the performances. If later Government restrictions subsequently require social distancing, the second tranche of tickets will be cancelled and invalidated and holders will be entitled to a full refund of the cost.

Privacy Policy
1. We respect your privacy and protect all personal information you provide when buying tickets. The information you provide will be used only by us and our Box Office/agents to deliver services, keeping you informed with news, offers and future events. Certain anonymous statistics regarding your booking may be used in our evaluation to funders.
2. We do not forward our database to outside companies involved in marketing.
3. If at any point, you wish to be removed from our database, please use the unsubscribe button in our marketing email.

Your Visit
1. By attending our performances you give your consent to being photographed or filmed as a member of the audience. This may be used for future promotional activity.
2. Children under 14 years old must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Some scenes are not suitable for children under the age of 8. Children and school groups are the responsibility of their parent, guardians, teachers or carers, who should ensure appropriate behaviour at all times.
3. Smoking or vaping is strictly prohibited in all areas of the Plen an Gwari amphitheatre. Please bring your own seating (chairs, blankets) and dress appropriately for the weather - umbrellas are not permitted in the theatre space
4. There is no reserved seating. Special areas will be made available for persons with mobility needs.
5. Seating areas will be marked out on the ground, where social distancing is required. Family groupings of up to 6 will be available
6. We regret that, with the exception of assistance dogs, dogs may not be admitted to performances.
7. Please keep personal items with you at all times. We accept no responsibility for personal property brought on to the premises.
8. Security searches may be carried out at certain performances and events at our discretion.
9. We reserve the right to refuse admission to a performance or event, and will do so if you are not in possession of a valid and current ticket, or any of these booking conditions applies.
10. Ticket holders must comply with all safety announcements and venue regulations whilst attending a performance. Breach of any of these conditions or any unacceptable behaviour likely to cause damage, nuisance or injury will result in removal from the venue without compensation.

Your Event
1. Theatre is a shared live experience so please show consideration to those on stage as well as your fellow audience members when attending a performance or event.
2. Latecomers may be asked to wait until a suitable break in the performance before being admitted.
3. The use of cameras, recording equipment and mobile telephones is strictly prohibited in the Plen an Gwari during performances. Any exceptions to this will be made clear on the day of the performance.
4. You are welcome to bring refreshments to the Plen an Gwari, but please note, glass and china are not permitted for safety reasons.
5. If you wish to make a complaint, please do so at the time of your visit to allow us to attempt to resolve your issues in a fair and equitable manner

The Legal Bit
1. To the fullest extent permissible in law, we shall be entitled to assign any of its rights or obligations under these Terms and Conditions
2. None of the terms of this Agreement may be relied upon or enforced under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 by any third party that is not a party to this Agreement.
3. Our liability to you for losses you may suffer while attending a performance or event is strictly limited to the purchase price of the Tickets you bought from us. This does not include or limit in any way our liability for death or personal injury caused by our negligence; for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation; or for any matter for which it would be illegal for us to exclude, or attempt to exclude, our liability.
4. We will not be liable or responsible if a performance or event is abandoned after it has commenced that is caused by events outside our reasonable control or that of the venue
5. If any provision of these Terms & Conditions is found to be invalid or unenforceable by a court, the invalid or unenforceable provision shall be severed or amended in such a manner as to render the rest of the provision/s and remainder of the Agreement valid or enforceable.
6. We reserve the right to alter or amend these terms and conditions without prior notification.

Your Thoughts
1. If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding our terms and conditions please contact our by email to and we will address these as soon as practical.
2. We would love to hear your feedback, which you can give by email or on our social media channels.

The following sets out the details of St Just and District Trust CIO’s privacy and cookie policy in relation to information collected from you and used for promotional communications (when you have given your consent), market research, reporting to our digital marketing partners, and inviting you to support our work.

Privacy - St Just and District Trust CIO (“We”) collect the personal data that you may volunteer via: our website’s mailing list or volunteering list sign up form, online surveys, and audience/artist/participant surveys. The data we collect may be personal data, and may include your information including but not limited to your name, email address, postal address, age and interests.

Under no circumstances will we ever sell your personal data to anyone, or allow your personal data to be used for third party marketing. Your rights under Data Protection legislation are fully protected, and are not affected by this policy. You have the right at any time to access, correct, delete and limit processing of your personal personal data, and to opt out of our use of your personal data.

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We reserve the right to make changes to our Cookie Policy at any time and for any reason. We will alert you about any changes by updating the “Last Updated” date of this Cookie Policy. Any changes or modifications will be effective immediately upon posting the updated Cookie Policy on the Site, and you waive the right to receive specific notice of each such change or modification.

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This policy was created by Edward Lean, Trust Secretary of St Just and District Trust CIO, who can be contacted at

Updated 29th January 2021

1. We are mindful of the restrictions and recommendations imposed by the Government from time to time on our Ordinalia performances, and will at all times comply with them and act accordingly.

2. The Ordinalia plays are being performed outdoors, in a large open space. If there are no COVID 19 restrictions in place at the time, we will nevertheless respect people's expectations about social distancing and hygiene. We will:

  • ensure our car parking volunteers communicate with you at an appropriate distance
  • provide written queuing instructions at the gate
  • assist with orderly exiting from the Plen an Gwari
  • ensure the Portaloos are kept fully equipped, and cleansed regularly.

3. The performances can be held under current Tier 2 restrictions. These may be tightened and could include a number of requirements - such as providing evidence of inoculation, or a recent positive test, or temperature checking at the gate.

We want you to enjoy your spectacular Ordinalia experience, and our volunteers will be trained to ensure these requirements are enforced sensitively and fairly.

4. If performances are cancelled due to the imposition of a Government lock-down, your payments for tickets will be refunded in full.

This will be arranged by our Booking Agents, Hall for Cornwall, and we ask you to bear with them if there are restrictions on working which prevent repayment within their normal time frame. They will advise repayment arrangements on their website at the time.

Further information is to be found in our booking conditions and FAQs.


Free Online Talk 10th August

Free Online Talk 10th August

4.00pm - 5.00pm Online 'Staging the Ordinalia in the 21st Century '.

Read More  
Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunities

There are still some volunteer roles available for Event Stewards. Register your interest here.

Read More  
Work Shadow Opportunities

Work Shadow Opportunities

We still have some work shadow opportunities available. You can apply here.

Read More  


Please consider making a small donation, with our thanks to everyone who has helped realise our Ordinalia 2021 project.

Read More  

Ordinalia Plays

Ordinalia Plays

An Tas a Nev y'm gelwir, formyer puptra a vydh gwrys. Onan ha tri on yn hwir, an Tas ha'n Mab ha'n Spryt 

I am called the Father of Heaven, Creator of everything that is made. We are truly three in one, the Father, the Son and the Spirit
(Origo Mundi, verse 1)

The Ordinalia Cycle of scripts and stage plans consist of 3 plays written in the late 14th century: The Creation of the World (Origo Mundi); The Passion (Passio Domini), and The Resurrection (Resurrexio Domini). The aim of the original performances was to impress the Christian bible stories on the local population, and so they were performed by local people, with local place names, jokes etc. to have general appeal.

The three plays together cover the whole scope of the bible stories from the beginning of the world to doomsday.

The plays, although similar to the mystery plays of the North of England, are unique to Cornwall and an important part of its heritage. They are the oldest surviving trilogy of theatrical plays in Britain.

The plays were written in medieval Cornish with Latin subtitles by the clerics of Glasney College in Penryn, when Cornish was the predominant language spoken in Cornwall, to teach ordinary people the stories of the bible in an accessible and appealing manner. Only three manuscripts still exist, two of which are held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and one which is in the National Library of Wales.

In July 1969, Bristol University Drama Department performed the Ordinalia cycle at Perran Round, Perranporth. This was believed to be the first production of the Ordinalia for 300 years

From 2000 to 2004 the St Just community instigated a series of productions of the Ordinalia Cycle of plays. These productions involved over 150 community volunteers (across a multi- faith /no faith sector) as actors, musicians, choir, makers and crew. Each play consisted of a circle of eight stages (mansions) with large set pieces on a central stage e.g. Noah's Ark, the Crucifixion. Our modern playwright, guided by the 14th century stage plans & scripts produced highly engaging and successful plays accessible to all.

A small paid production team comprised of skilled local professionals with an eye for detail and authenticity of staging, ensured high quality, spectacular results. The plays attracted larger audience numbers each year, with over 15,000 people coming to see them.

St Just's Plen an Gwari is the oldest working open air theatre space in Britain.

Past Productions

Origo Mundi - 'The Creation of the World'

September 2000

Our First Production, being a new adaptation from the original Cornish manuscripts by Pauline Sheppard, Cornish playwright and author, who represented Cornish theatre at the 1981 International Berlin Festival

The Passion

August and September 2001

Building on the success of the previous year, with the same experienced production team led by Dominic Knutton, artistic director of the Cornish Theatre Collective

The Resurrection

August and September 2002

Our productions received funding support from Millenium Festival; Heritage Lottery Fund; European RD Fund; Penwith DC; Cornwall CC; and commercial sponsorship

The Ordinalia Full Cycle

August 2004

All three plays performed in repertory, at the Plen an Gwary in St Just - the historic theatrical site used for all our earlier Ordinalia productions

Sponsors and Supporters

Sponsors and Supporters
The main sponsor of our Ordinalia Project is the charity St Just and District Trust, founded in 1997. The Trust has specific objects linked to the culture and heritage of the area, which lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site.

The Trust raised the funds for, built and operates the Knut in St Just - 'the big little space for creative community contributions and collaboration' - which is a heritage centre and backspace facility specifically designed to support Ordinalia productions.

As a community initiative, our project is supported by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of St Just Town Council, by the creative faculties at Falmouth University, and by the talented actors, singers, makers and musicians of St Just.

The St Just Ordinalia project is also supported by Sir Mark Rylance, actor, theatre director and playwright; Emma Rice, actress, director and theatre professional; and Michael Eavis CBE, creator of Glastonbury Festival.

Below is an extract from Sir Mark Rylance's letter of 6th May 2019

'I am delighted to support this visionary project, and lend my name to its promotion. I have always been an avid supporter of community theatre, and the benefit it brings, helping people to feel more confident, that they matter, and have a contribution to make, where they can be part of a larger wonderous and joyful thing. Ever since I created a performance at The Rollright Stone Circle in Warwickshire, I have been excited about the potential of our ancient sites for gathering a community in a profound experience of story, history and nature. Our culture is old and intimately connected to the land. A sense of belonging is the obtainable objective, belonging to something sustainable and unique. This must be one of the deepest satisfactions possible.

This project is special in that the St Just community have already raised money for, and successfully produced the Ordinalia Cycle of plays from 2000 to 2004, and subsequently raised money for, and built, a backstage facility adjacent to the historic Plen an Gwari in St Just - the oldest working theatre in Britain, a project I supported at the time...........'

And an extract from Emma Rice's letter of support to our project:

'These astonishing plays are a wonderful resource that span centuries of Cornish culture and
allow Cornwall to celebrate its own history, landscape and unique brand of theatrical spirituality.

I had the pleasure of seeing a production of these rare plays in 2000 - 2004 and it was a profoundly moving experience to see members of the community, young and old alike, coming together with such diverse creativity and joy.

think this would be a wonderful addition to the Cornish cultural calendar and one that could attract much needed business to the area, as well as offering a meaningful large scale community event that.......would bring joy, meaning, pride and hope to the community.'

Barbara Santi's 'Creation' Documentary

September 2000

Barbara Santi's 'Passion' Documentary

September 2001

Schools and Resources area

All the Ordinalia information you need in one place, here in Goggle Drive - or if you prefer here in Dropbox..

This is accessible to schools, colleges and universities by appointment, and ranges across:

  • the books, studies and materials used to research the context and settings of the plays; 
  • the history of the Plen an Gwari site; 
  • the development of the project and funding arrangements; 
  • the original and final scripts used for the performances; 
  • flyers and brochures for the productions, newspaper cuttings, and photographs of the cast, the sets, the costumes and the performances; 
  • cast lists, cue lists and rehearsal schedules; and
  • the working diary of the director of the performances, Dominic Knutton, after whom the building at the Knut was named.
According to different sources, they may pre-date or post-date  the York Cycle of Mystery Plays - a cycle of 47 extant pageants or plays performed by the craft guilds of that city. They are believed to have been written in the second half of the 14th Century, after the devastation of the Black Death plague in 1349.

However, the tradition of these mystery plays emanates from France, and it is more likely that Cornwall, with its traditional close links to Brittany, was the point of entry in England for this new type of theatrical production.
​​​​The opening words of the written text for the first play are 'Hic incipit Ordinale de Origo Mundi'. A free translation may be 'Here begins the script of the play Origin of the World.'

The text then continues in Cornish with Latin stage directions
The Ordinary was on stage directing the amateur actors, the majority of whom had not been taught to read. He carried the entire script,  and acted as the prompter when lines were forgotten.

The nature of the role would have depended on the character of the 'Ordinary' - some of whom were probably far from that!
There is reference in the Ordinalia scripts to pipers - '

Origo Mundi - Abarth an Tas, Menstral a ras, Pebough ware (In the name of the father, Minstrels of grace, pipe at once)

Passio - Mynstrels, gwreugh dhen-ny pyba' (Minstrels do ye pipe for us).

There is an example of Cornish pipes carved in the early sixteenth century on a bench end in Altarnun Church, Bodmin Moor. Other examples of carvings of Cornish pipes are in churches at nearby Davidstow, St Austell and Braddock,

The bagpipe shown has two long chanters of slightly different lengths with small bell ends. The chanters are fingered independently - one playing the upper half of the octave, the other the lower half.
Glasney was a centre of ecclesiastical power in medieval Cornwall and probably the best known and most important of Cornwall's religious institutions. It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1548.

It was a college, or collegiate church, not an abbey (there were no monks there). It had an establishment of one provost and 12 secular canons and held the patronage of sixteen parishes.

Glasney College composed the Ordinalia trilogy, and another miracle play Bewnans Meriasek (the Life of St Meriasek)
Plen an Gwari survives as a name for two Cornish villages, one near Redruth and one near Goldsithney. There is also a village called 'Playing Place' near Truro. However,  there are only two remaining surviving complete circular theatrical structures  - one in St Just in Penwith, and the other at Perran Round, near Perranporth.
The Cornish Language  is one of the six European Celtic languages, and is in the Brittonic Group comprising Breton and Welsh - although more closely linked to the former.

Cornish died out as a spoken language in the late eighteenth century, and much of our understanding of it and usage of Cornish today comes from the Ordinalia plays. Apart from Old Cornish fragments in the Bodmin Manumissions, and some references in a Latin manuscript of Boethius, the only complete references are to be found in Middle Cornish manuscripts.

With the Ordinalia plays are the two other important records of the Cornish language - Beunans Meriasek, written around 1504, and Bewnans Ke, written around 1500, respectively commemorating the lives of the Saints Meriadoc and Kea.
The plays attracted larger audience numbers each year, with over 15,000 people coming to see them. We used a dilapidated shed as a backstage resource for the above, but in 2014 after generating over £30,000 from local fundraising initiatives and over £150,000 in grants, our beautiful purpose built facility was opened - called ‘The Knut’ in memory of Dominic Knutton who directed all four re-enactments of the Ordinalia plays, and who sadly died in 2007.

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