St Kea

Creek where St Kea landed and Mission Church
Legend says St Kea landed here from a stone trough.

The mission church at Old Kea.

The discovery of the manuscript of the Miracle play about St Kea was reported on this website in 2002. Kea or Ke was known in Wales as Cai, and in Brittany is remembered as the Seneschal of King Arthur. So few of these plays have survived that the discovery was an event of European significance. Kea parish is between Glasney (Penryn) and Truro.

The manuscript, copied by a scribe in the late 16th century, was found in the National Library of Wales/Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru in 2002.

On the 24th February 2006 Dr Oliver Padel braved the icy weather and travelled from St Neot to the Tolmen Center in Constantine to outline his studies of the play.

Dr Padel explained that the scribe recorded that some pages were missing from the original (probably written about a hundred years earlier). Suggestions to fill the gaps can be deduced from a Breton-Latin Life of St Ke - itself lost, but surviving in a French language summary.

As in other stories of Celtic Saints their respect for animals is shown when St Ke shields a stag being hunted by the tyrant Teudar. The grateful stags pull a plough for Kea. Eventually the wicked Teudar gives Kea as much land as he can hedge (Ke also meaning hedge in Cornish) while Teudar is in the bath. The Cornish audience at the Playing Place/ Plen an Gwary must have laughed heartily when King Teudar gets stuck in the bath and Kea encloses a lot of land as a result.

Playing Place
This curved wall is all that remains of the playing place at Playing Place.

The second part of the play is about King Arthur and is the only known ancient play about that King. Cador, Duke of Cornwall, and King Augelus of Scotland/Alban refer to a place called Kyllwyk which some people think could be Callington. Arthur calls his sword “Calesvol”. Dr Padel noted the way to woo a lady in medieval times was shown by Modred saying to the Queen (Gwenyfer) “me agys car dek myl blek moy agys ow mam” (I love you ten thousand fold more than my mother).

The play is of interest to Theologians, Historians and Linguists. It provides a useful addition to the known Cornish Vocabulary. Two books have been produced by different publishers.

Kea Plaque
PLAQUE: This plaque is between the sites of the 2 rounds. It states

In the field beside this footpath are the remains of two round enclosures. One is an iron age settlement and the other is the Plain an Gwarry or Playing Place after which this village is named. Plays celebrating the Life of St Kea would have been performed here in Medieval times.


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