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Situating the holy: Celtic community in Breton and Cornish saint plays.

Although close relationships between Brittany and Cornwall in the later Middle Ages have long been acknowledged in terms of their common linguistic background, reciprocal trade, and changing political affiliations, their mutual dramatic traditions have been given less attention. (1) By the later Middle Ages, connections between these two regions dated back a thousand years, to the time of the British migrations to Brittany--popular movements now generally thought to have occurred between the late fourth and early seventh centuries, with particular concentrations of immigrants coming from the Southwest of England in the first half of the sixth century. (2) The early Breton and Cornish languages were so closely related that, perhaps not surprisingly, it remains difficult for modern scholars to distinguish between the two in documents written prior to the twelfth century. (3) Our understanding of Breton and Cornish medieval dramatic traditions is largely based on a small group of surviving dramatic texts and records from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and limited archaeological evidence. As in much of Europe, for Brittany and Cornwall this was a time of political and cultural upheaval, a time during which both communities felt the need to assert local and Celtic identity--an assertion apparent in their surviving saint plays: the Breton Buez Santez Norm and Buhez Sant Gwenole, and the Cornish Beunans Meriasek.

Since Breton drama remains virtually unknown to most students of medieval theater, a brief excursus on the manuscripts, contents, and performance traditions of these saint plays is perhaps appropriate before proceeding to a more developed statement of my argument. Written mostly in couplets and sestets, the Buez Santez Nonn survives in five copies, four of them made by eighteenth-century antiquarian Louis Le Pelletier. The fifth copy, dating to the early sixteenth century, was discovered at the beginning of the nineteenth century at Dirinon, near Landerneau in Brittany. (4) Recently reedited in a new, lavishly illustrated edition with an accompanying French translation, this manuscript seems to be a fair copy, with few corrections or marginalia, but with speech headings, stage directions, and an occasional capital in red ink. The play has many Celtic affiliations, including appearances by a number of Celtic saints: Patrick, Gildas, David, and Nonn herself. (5) Although not a saint, Celtic soothsayer Ambrosius Merlin also makes a brief showing to prophesy of David's future greatness (424-40). The plot delineates how God commands Patrick to leave Britain for Ireland, and how Nonn, a sister in a British convent, is later raped by King Keritic of Britain. (6) She then leaves England for Brittany where she gives birth to St. Davy (also known as St. David or St. Dewi) who later returns to Britain to become the archbishop of Menevia in Southern Wales. Before his holy death, Davy works many miracles, among them the healing of his blind teacher Paulinus. Nonn meanwhile goes on pilgrimage, ending up near Dirinon, her tomb itself becoming the site of many further miracles. Although no local records describe performances of the play at Dirinon, the play's repeated references to the site of her tomb there (14, 16, 1512, 1520) make such a connection highly likely.

Le Pelletier also transcribed the two existing copies of the Buhez Sant Gwenole, a play of some 1278 lines in Breton quatrains--one based on a text of 1580 and another upon one of 1608. Neither text from which he worked was the original, for the final section of both copies is incomplete. (7) Both surviving transcriptions relate the life of St. Gwenole the founder of the Breton monastery of Landevennec: his parents' flight from England, his early history, his preaching, his prophetic powers, his miracles, and his time as abbot. If the transcriptions were complete, they would probably go on to recount his holy death as described in the play's principal source, Wrdisten's ninth-century Vita Sancti Winwaloei. (8) Although conjectural, the obvious associations of St. Gwenole with the monastery of Landevennec suggest that it may have originally been composed for performance at or near the monastery, perhaps around the middle third of the sixteenth century.

The single copy of the more familiar Beunans Meriasek first came to scholarly attention in the nineteenth century, when it was found among the Hengwrt manuscripts. The text, written in Middle Cornish and now in the National Library of Wales, is dated by its colophon to 1504. (9) The story has been summarized many times, but essentially the play recounts the vita of the holy Meriasek, his Breton childhood and education, his mission to Cornwall, his persecution by the tyrant Teudar, his return to Brittany and his life as a hermit there, his healing miracles, his preaching, his conversion of bandits, his reluctant acceptance of the bishopric of Vannes, and his holy death. Into this basic narrative of St. Meriasek's life, the Cornish playwright interweaves the story of St. Sylvester, a holy man who converts and baptizes the Roman King Constantine and who later defeats a dragon; into these two strands the author braids still other elements, including a battle between Teudar and the duke of Cornwall, and yet another complementary action critics have usually characterized as "the story of the woman and her son" or "the holy hostage." (10) Again, while no records recounting specific performances of the play survive, local references within the play suggest that the Beunans Meriasek was staged near Camborne in Cornwall in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. (11)

Documentary evidence in Cornwall and Brittany as well as indications within the manuscripts provide limited evidence for common dramatic traditions in these two regions. As is well known, and recent studies and editions by scholars such as Brian Murdoch, Gloria Betcher, Sally L. Joyce, and Evelyn S. Newlyn have demonstrated even more fully, Cornwall had a rich heritage of late-medieval drama, including saint plays, miracle plays, and Robin Hood plays. (12) These were performed in a wide variety of venues: at churches, guildhalls and, most famously, in-the-round under the open air. (13) Meriasek, like the Ordinalia, includes a stage diagram that indicates plen an gwary production, with multiple scaffolds, a large cast, and even a pageant ship. (14) If these manuscripts are any indication, Cornish stagecraft could be quite sophisticated, including ascents, descents, large-scale battles, pyrotechnics, and mock sea voyages. Fifteenth-century accounts from Brittany similarly suggest that Breton drama was often performed out-of-doors, sometimes for special occasions such as the visit of Duke Jean V to Rennes in 1430, where he witnessed a Passion and Resurrection play. On a less overtly political occasion, players performed at the dedication of the Church of St. Melaine de Morlaix in 1468. By the second half of the fifteenth century, some Breton cities--for example, Rennes and Nantes (and perhaps Vitre, Fougres, and Vannes)--had permanent acting troupes. Spectacular effects like hellfire and divine descents were relatively common in Breton plays, and some unusual ones such as the miraculous appearance of a holy fountain parallel those in Meriasek. (15) Pageant ships like those in Cornish drama may also be present in the sea journeys of both Breton plays under discussion here (it is especially strongly suggested in the Buhez Sant Gwenole in which various characters have to ascend and then descend from some kind of ship stage). As in some Middle Cornish drama, the two Breton saint plays certainly employed a representation of Paradise, and both include angelic descents, as well as the maisons, familiar from French religious drama (e.g., Nonn, 168), but it is hard to know how closely these resembled the scaffolds suggested by Cornish texts.

There are important differences, however, between these Breton saint plays and Meriasek. Contributing to the difficulty, neither of the surviving copies of these Breton dramas contains a stage plan as Meriasek does. As is often the case with medieval dramatic texts, no local extant accounts obviously relate to the performance of either the Buez Santez Nonn or the Buhez Sant Gwenole, and stage directions in the two are relatively sparse compared to those in the Cornish play. Given other local evidence of outdoor performance, it seems at least possible that they were performed in the open air; nevertheless, the manuscripts do not suggest that they were performed in-the-round like the Cornish Ordinalia or Meriasek. (16) Although they include a large number of roles (approximately sixty in Nonn, and twenty-nine in Gwenole), only rarely are large groups of characters onstage at the same time; the existing Breton saint plays contain no stage effects approaching the grand scale of the battle between Teudar and the duke of Cornwall that ends Meriasek's first day of performance and includes some forty actors. At times there is a distinctively static quality to Breton drama, which often exploits theatrical techniques that stimulate a devotional or penitential response. At times, Breton stagecraft contrasts markedly with the more active, physically boisterous nature of most surviving Cornish drama. In the relative simplicity of their staging and the lack of a stage plan, the Breton saint plays' stagecraft more closely resembles that of the somewhat later Cornish play, The Creacion of the World, but one would not want to press the analogy too far, especially since the Creacion represents only the first section of what would have been a longer and perhaps more ambitious play. (17)

My concern here, however, is to explore the ways in which the Beunans Meriasek, Buez Santez Norm, and Buhez Sant Gwenole recount a shared past. As all are saints' lives, the three express how God acts in history through the lives of holy individuals in order to arouse a wider community to a spiritual awakening. The holy persons of these plays, whether Patrick, Nonn, Davy, Gwenole, or Meriasek, have significant connections both to their places of performance and to a wider Celtic world. The saints travel between Celtic locales and, more importantly, manifest divine approval by performing healing miracles and creating sites of great spiritual power. In performing these plays, sixteenth-century Breton and Cornish people represented a local past that commemorated

present ties and helped to perpetuate a common Celtic identity,is In keeping with this emphasis, all three plays stress the importance of the divine plan in the destiny of these saints--a plan memorialized by the creation of sacred places (monasteries, churches, chapels, and holy wells). Sacred places often embody an institutional structure, but, whether or not this occurs, such places are always infused with miraculous history and divine power. For fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Breton and Cornish Celts, these plays authorized the present by representing the past, while the plays also articulated the importance of the local community and its connections to a broader Celtic world. Such a statement seemed particularly timely at the nexus of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a period when Brittany and Cornwall were undergoing rapid political, social, and linguistic change.


At the close of the fifteenth century, Brittany was in the process of becoming fully assimilated to the larger French kingdom. After establishing itself as an independent kingdom in the ninth century under Nomenoe and his successors, it had become a duchy of France subsequent to the losses it had suffered in the Viking raids in the tenth century. Norman power, however, tended to lessen contact with the French monarch, so much so that the relationship of the Breton nobility to the French crown was not closely defined until 1297, when the duke of Brittany became a peer of France. (19) Bretons claimed, however, that this had in no way diminished "his prerogatives as successor to former `kings' of Brittany." (20) Ducal Brittany itself was part of a larger Anglo-Norman world, many Bretons having accompanied Norman administrators who emigrated to England in the years following the Conquest. (21)

Late-medieval Brittany was a comparatively powerful semi-indepedent state with its own military building program, aristocratic symbolism, and local cultural aspirations. Fougeres, Vitre, Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, Dinan, Rennes, Saint Malo, and Nantes were among the many towns refortified by the Breton dukes in the fifteenth century, apparently in a conscious effort to strengthen Brittany's borders. (22) On a more ideological level, Duke Jean IV instituted the Order of the Ermine around 1381, perhaps as a means of reinforcing local aristocratic solidarity along the lines of the English Order of the Garter or the French Toison d'Or. (23) According to Michael Jones, by the fifteenth century the ducal household, consciously fashioning itself upon the Burgundian model,"helped to project the image of a powerful, ceremonial and dignified ruler." (24) Sometimes cultural aspirations extended beyond the ducal court. In 1460, after nearly fifty years of efforts on the part of the Breton dukes, the University of Nantes was finally founded, creating an avenue of local educational opportunity for young Bretons. (25) The late-medieval dukes of Brittany further fostered a local sense of identity by minting local coinage, promoting local customs, and by creating historical myths such as the Nine Barons of Brittany to act as a kind of Breton riposte to Charlimagne's douze peers and to Christendom's nine worthies. (26)

Following the Breton civil wars of the fourteenth century, Brittany enjoyed a time of relative independence, peace, and prosperity under the Montfort dukes, a period of political aspiration perhaps reaching its zenith under Jean V (1399-1442): but it did not last. The relatively weak reign of Francois II and his failure to produce a male heir left the duke-dom facing an uncertain future upon his death in 1488. After the French defeat of Breton forces at the battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier in 1488 and the fall of Rennes and Nantes in 1491, the extinction of Brittany as an independent political entity was all but completed even before the marriage of Duchess Anne to Charles VIII in December 1491. (27) Although the union of the two states was not officially concluded until 1532, for all intents and purposes by the early sixteenth century Brittany had lost whatever independent status it had once had.

Brittany itself was culturally diverse, with Breton speakers tending to aggregate in the western half of the dukedom and French speakers in the eastern. The seat of ducal power, in Vannes, was French-speaking, and there is virtually no evidence that any of the dukes of Brittany who promoted Breton autonomy through customs such as the Order of the Ermine actually spoke Breton. Toward the peninsular end of Brittany, Breton identity expressed itself in less overtly politicized forms such as the veneration of local saints, religious art, and local religious customs. (28) For example, the local custom of the "Tro-Breiz" denoted a pilgrimage that every true Breton was expected to make at least once in his or her life; the pilgrimage itself was a physically and spiritually demanding trek, an arduous journey to the shrines of the seven great Breton saints who had founded the local Church. To make this pilgrimage was, in effect, to circumnavigate the dioceses of Brittany, to identify oneself with Breton geography, history, and identity. (29) Local religious customs like this could have a powerful fascination even for the local nobility. Between June and September 1505, Queen Anne made her pilgrimage through Nantes, Vannes, Hennebont, Quimper, Brest, Saint-Pol, Treguier, Guingame, Saint-Briuec, Laballe, and Dinan before finally ending up in Vitre. She paused for a miraculous (and apparently efficacious) cure for her eye complaint at the chapel of St. Jean-du-Doigt at Plougasnou. (30) The wife of two successive French kings, Queen Anne nevertheless successfully retained her Breton identity by her observance of local religious customs, an aspect of her personality still revered by present-day Bretons.

Local independence was less an issue in Cornwall, which had been a part of a larger English polity since Anglo-Saxon times, but its relations with the central authority could be ambivalent, to say the least. Although it had supported the rise of the Tudors, by the end of the fifteenth century many individuals in Cornwall felt betrayed by Henry VII's brutal fiscal policies--a discontent most obviously manifested in the rebellion of the early summer of 1497 and in the local support for Perkin Warbeck a few months later. (31) Both Cornish insurrections resulted in social and financial disaster: not only did the local people suffer the loss of hundreds of men, but the Tudor government imposed fines totaling more than 120 marks on a large portion of the county's leading gentry. (32)

Political and financial pressure was reinforced by increasing linguistic pressure from the counties to the east. Although there seems to have been no conscious attempt to suppress the Cornish language, English ineluctably advanced. Even Richard Carew admits that his principal informant about the Cornish language had died by the time he composed his Survey at the end of the sixteenth century (published 1602). By this time, it seems, most Cornish people not only knew English, but knew English almost exclusively. Nevertheless, the Cornish could be insular and even prickly to outsiders; Carew describes how, although "most of the inhabitants can no word of Cornish," if they meet a foreigner by chance, inquiring "the way or any such matter, your answere shalbe, Meea nauidua covasawzneck, I can speake no Saxonage." (33)

In the later Middle Ages in Cornwall and at least occasionally in Brittany, there was also ecclesiastical pressure to rededicate the churches of local saints to others more generally recognized throughout Europe. For example, St. Selevan (i.e., Solomon) in Cornwall was rededicated to St. Levan. (34) Such rededications could reinforce connections between Cornwall and Brittany, as for example when St. Ia became St. Ives, named after the great Breton saint of the thirteenth century (canonized in 1347). Most famously, the Church of St. Meriasek in Camborne was rededicated to St. Martin, just as the Church of St. Meriasek in Brittany at Plougasnou became the Church of St. Jean-de-Doigt, both rededications seemingly taking place during the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. (35) Such changes could be resisted, however, both in the promotion of the original name and in stubborn resistance to change of a common usage. Thus in the Cornish parish of Fowey, despite a rededication by Bishop Grandisson to St. Nicholas in 1336, the church has continued to be known as St. Barry (i.e., Finbar). (36)

While it may be impossible for twenty-first-century academics to recapture the original reception of these late-medieval plays, some of their dramatic power may well have been a product of such political, linguistic, and cultural pressures. Whether consciously or not, in dramatizing the lives of these local saints, Breton and Cornish playwrights reasserted their common cultural history. In their assertion of a communal past, all three plays define their communities as both broadly international and local. From a perspective articulated by modern sociologists and anthropologists, of course, we can see that they were less concerned with history than with myth, articulating the beginnings of local communities in an imagined past.


Late-medieval Bretons and Cornishmen were joined by a common homeland in late classical Britain, a common ethnic and cultural heritage, and languages that were, at the time, closely related--all factors that sociologists recognize as contributing to a sense of emotional attachment to a particular ethnic group. (37) For Anthony Smith, "the collective cultural units and sentiments of previous eras" constitute what he terms an ethnie, a particular ethnic consciousness that manifests itself in form, identity, myth, symbol, and communication codes. By "identity" Smith means "a sense of community based on history or culture," while "myth" "symbol," and "communication codes" examine the "shared meanings and experiences of individuals"--in particular, their "crystallizations over generations in such varied types of phenomena as sacred texts and languages, religious shrines and tombs, styles of dress, art and architecture, music, poetry, and dance," and other factors. (38) Some of the key elements in the formation of such an ethnie include differentiating elements of common culture such as a common language, a common name, a myth of common ancestry, shared historical memories, and an association with a specific "homeland" For sociologists like Smith, such factors can provide a sense of solidarity for significant sectors of the population. (39)

Ethnic consciousness is, of course, the product of many contingencies, but an association with a specific territory can act as a common cultural unifier. The landscape inhabited by a particular ethnie could be physically marked with fences, roads, and monuments, and the landscape itself might be recorded on maps. An example of physical marking is still notable in Brittany in the proliferation of late-medieval crosses, associated by Herve and Louis Martin with the sacralization of space. (40) Existing landscape features could also be incorporated into cultural myth, creating a sense of space that allowed the immediate physical environment to embody the cultural history of its people. (41) These inscriptions of cultural history upon local space are elements of what Stanford Lyman has called the "domestication" of space--that is, the conversion of a piece of land into a "home territory." (42) In its most developed forms, this can result in what Lyman terms the "territorialization of the body politic," where a single people claims exclusive right to a particular territory. (43) Linking peoples with a specific homeland, in particular, could provide them with a type of geographical power in the sense that their claim to a specific locale is presented as predestined or as authorized by divine fiat as well as being the product of both real and imagined history.

Drama, especially mythical or religious drama, can imagine a shared past for a given cultural community. Religious dramatic narratives can potentially articulate key events for that community, in essence explaining how things came to be and reaffirming a local sense of identity and its relation to other cultures. Usually, at least in the surviving religious theater of the Middle Ages, dramatic literature recounts a history that is shared among most European countries of the time. Although local and national differences certainly do exist, Greban's Passion and the N-Town Passion Play largely recount narratives that are a part of the general inheritance of Western Christendom. But other kinds of drama could also function on a more parochial level to incorporate references to local people, places, and events, sometimes anachronistically, in order to make a more immediate claim on the spectators' attention. (44) These Breton and Cornish saint plays present us with an unusual opportunity to study dramatizations of Brittonic saints with a perceived local significance and to examine the ways in which these narratives express both parochial and supranational meanings.


The connections between Brittany and Cornwall are evident both in the plays' probable sources and in the widespread cults of Meriasek, Nonn, and Gwenole. The closest source for the Cornish Beunans Meriasek is, according to Canon Doble, most probably from Treguier, one of the centers of Meriasek's cultus in Brittany and a pilgrimage center. (45) The principal source of the Breton Buez Santez Nonn, Rhigyfarch's Latin vita of David, was composed in Wales, and Norm has churches dedicated to her at Altarnun in Cornwall and perhaps another in neighboring Devon. (46) The Buhez Sant Gwenole was based on a Latin source composed in Brittany, but his cult extended beyond local bounds. He was especially honored at Quimper and Landevennec, but Gwenole also had a cult in Cornwall, where he has given his name to the parish of Gunwaloe in the Lizard District, and three pre-Reformation churches and two chapels are dedicated to him in Cornwall and Devon. (47) Such multiple foundations are quite characteristic of Celtic saints, for whom the idea of peregrinatio had something of the force of an apostolic calling. (48) Generally speaking, old Breton and early British genealogies are notoriously interwoven, with many Breton, Welsh, and Cornish figures ("saintly and otherwise") having careers and family relationships in more than one country. Although there are numerous possible reasons for the appearance of Samson, David, Winwaloe, and others in oral and written traditions on both sides of the channel, these early records suggest a common core of cultural history that incorporates both historic and mythic narratives. (49)

Given the importance of migrations and peregrinations to Celtic history and culture, it is not surprising to find that journeys figure prominently in all three plays. The "Episcopi Kernov" who blesses Meriasek just before he leaves to do his missionary work in Cornwall (581-86) is the bishop of Cornwaille, a district in southwestern Brittany largely settled by British refugees. In an action we do not find in the play's surviving sources, Meriasek has the opportunity to evangelize the home of his ancestors and thus to reclaim the spiritual, if not the geographical, territory from which his home in Brittany derived its name. (50) A different sort of territorial imperative colors the Buez Santez Nonn; in it, Patrick leaves Cardiganshire so that he might become "the chief apostle" to the inhabitants of Ireland ("te vezo apostol ha penn// do quelenn en enesen man," [142]) and, not incidentally, so that Patrick's home becomes a vacated territory and thus a perfect spot for David to initiate a career that will result in his spiritual patronage of Wales. Davy's mother, Nonn, insists on her own holy journey, visiting churches in Brittany before dying near Dirinon, where a church that laid claim to her relics probably produced her play. (51) She is also the object of a devotional journey by a group of priests wishing to attend her death; they all desire to see "the true and great Breton saint" ("an guir sanctes bretons expreset" [1423]). At times, clearly drawn geographic lines blur in a manner that underscores the fundamental unity of Brittonic Celts. For example, in Rhigyfarch's Vita St. David's birth and education take place in Great Britain; in the play Nonn apparently journeys to Brittany to give birth to her son. Nevertheless, when he reaches maturity he becomes abbot of Menevia in southern Wales. While a holy man and a notable abbot in Britain, David remains a source of honor for the people of Brittany ("He cals enor da consquor Armory" [563]). (52) Although conceived in Britain, Davy remains a native son of Armorica, the relics of his mother at Dirinon providing a tangible link to this most Welsh of saints.

These saintly peregrinations are not haphazard, for all three plays explore historical cause and effect, each creating its own distinct interpretation of how the divine works in history. The Buhez Sant Gwenole, for example, is marked by repeated descriptions of the Anglo-Saxon invasions (85-92, 185-200, 267-74) that had necessitated the migrations to Brittany a thousand years before. The play characterizes the Saxons as rapists and butchers (89-92) who act "without reason" ("hep raeson" [274]), laying waste to a land and a people already weakened by famine (194-200). As in Gildas's De Excidio Britanniae or Wrdisten's Vita, the play interprets the Anglo-Saxon invasions as God's punishment on a sinful people, a motif recapitulated later in the play when the doomed people of Ys ignore Gwenole's prophecy of destruction and his lengthy call to repentance (474-794). The play presents Gwenole's parents, Fragan and Alba, as refugees from Dumnonia in the southwest of England--an area encompassing present-day Devon and Cornwall. (53) Fragan is a Breton, brother of King Gradlon of Brittany, while his wife Alba is native to Great Britain. Although they flee to Fragan's friends and relations across the Channel, their exile is still a sad event. Gwenoles mother, Alba, in particular movingly mourns the loss of her homeland:
 An coffat bro ne vezo scaf
 hyrvot hyrder a quemeraf
 Ma bro expres pa ez lesaf,
 ne deou am grat e quymyadaf.

 Muy ne guelaf ez duhen quet
 bro Saux nep quentel daz guelet.
 Dyf glachar am goan parfet
 oz leser bro, an pez so ret.

 (To forget this country will not be easy;
 I suffer anguish and concern.
 My country, although I leave,
 I do not willingly say farewell.

 I do not see that I will come [here] more,
 Saxon country, ever again to see you.
 To me comes sorrow that causes great pain
 While leaving the country, [but] it is necessary.)

What she had once called "my country" becomes the "Saxon country," and her separation from her homeland, the play suggests, will remain a poignant grief. The drama's deliberate evocation of these cataclysmic events connects the late-medieval people performing this play to their own British past, for the play memorializes, in miniature, a key cultural event for these Celtic Bretons: the migrations of their ancestors to a new home on the European mainland.

These forced emigrations, while sorrowful, are not entirely to be lamented, for the play repeatedly insists that only by leaving Greater Britain for the Lesser will Alba's divine destiny as the mother of Gwenole be fulfilled (22-27). This insistence on a providential scheme in Gwenole demands that the Anglo-Saxon invasions be interpreted as a felix culpa, a divinely ordained stimulus to a chosen remnant of devout British Celts to journey to a new promised land across the sea. No less an authority than Christ himself describes Brittany in the play's opening lines as "the delightful country of Armorica" ("Da bro an Armoye blysyc" [6]). Only if Gwenole's parents emigrate, the play suggests, can this blessed land be reached and the saint fulfill his preordained role as abbot. (54) Similarly, in Nonn and Meriasek Celtic lands have an important place in the providential design: in the former play, God orders Patrick to leave Britain and evangelize Ireland (1-73); in the latter, "a vision" reveals to Meriasek that he must return from Cornwall to Brittany (984-85). In all of these cases, the journeys expressly fulfill a providential scheme. In the Buez Santez Nonn, in particular, Davy's divine destiny is repeatedly signaled; for example, Nonn's rape takes place in "the predicted place" ("En placc man me guel diouganet" [498]), and from this brutal but divinely mandated event will spring Davy, the "virtuous and true Breton" ("parfet ha guir breton" [44]), "who is destined and chosen to govern piously in a Breton country" ("so aeurus ha diuset/da renaff net e bro breton" [824-25]). A similar emphasis on the divine plan also colors Meriasek, where the playwright deliberately parallels the evangelization of Cornwall and Brittany by Meriasek to the conversion of Constantine and the Roman Empire by St. Sylvester. All three saint plays thus insist that Brittonic people play an integral part in the larger scheme of salvation history and, perhaps more importantly, that they remain under God's special care.

The three plays do more than simply suggest the place of the Celts in the providential design; in the popular imagination of Cornish and Breton people, at least, their saints played an intimate part in the foundation of local institutions. Indeed, there is some evidence that early missionary saints or their immediate followers did in fact found ecclesiastical institutions in both Cornwall and Brittany. (55) One of the earliest and most reliable of Celtic saints' lives, that of Samson, tells how he was born in South Wales, visited Ireland, and then returned to Wales where he became a prominent ecclesiastic. Next, he went to Cornwall where, among other things, he founded a monastery (perhaps at St. Sampson or at South Hill) before proceeding on to Brittany where he founded the monastery of Dol. (56) Although in many cases the historical existence of early Celtic saints is doubtful at best, medieval monasteries and churches dedicated to a Celtic patron often traced their foundation to the acquisition of a saint's relics or to a saint's actual visit to the site. Late-fifteenth-century antiquarian William Worcestre recounts a local tradition that St. Nonn's corpse lay at her church at Altarnun in Cornwall and that she had given birth to David there. (57) While this belief does not seem to have been widely accepted even in the Celtic world, all of these plays document an enduring interest in the relationship between Celtic saints and local ecclesiastical establishments: Gwenole founds and becomes the first abbot of the monastery of Landevennec, Nonn dies at Dirinon where a church laid claim to her body, and Meriasek establishes the nucleus of what would eventually become his church at Camborne. (58) Quite probably all of these places were involved in the production of these plays, and, in dramatizing these events, these institutions make implicit claims for their spiritual and temporal authority.

If these ecclesiastical centers marked the saints' continuing presence in the lives of medieval people, another enduring marker would have been the existence of other types of sacred sites. One of the most common miracles in Celtic saints' lives is the sudden appearance of holy wells. St. Meriasek, for example, completes his foundation of the chapel of St. Mary of Camborne with the miraculous creation of asacred fountain:
 Inweth an dour ov fenten
 Rag den varijs in certen
 Peseff may fo eff ely
 Thy threy arta thy skyans
 Ihesu arluth a selwans
 Gront helma der 3e vercy.

 (Likewise the water of the fountain
 For a man insane certainly
 I pray that it be a salve
 To bring him again to his sense.
 Jesu, lord of salvation
 Grant this, through thy mercy.)

Before being driven away by the persecutions of King Teudar, (59) Meriasek blesses the place (1011), in effect confirming the sacredness of the spot. (60) The fountain itself to some extent acts as a symbol of the sacramental grace administered by the local church (995-98). (61) Furthermore, its water miraculously creates a kind of mental integrity by driving away evil spirits in a manner that complements Meriasek's many cures of the infirm. Even more strikingly, Meriasek then flees into the Cornish countryside to "hydde hym sylfe vnder ye rokke" (1016 s.d.), apparently a good hiding place because Teudar's torturers are completely unable to find him despite the fact that one specifically mentions looking for him at this exact spot (1023-24). It appears as if he has disappeared into the local landscape; at the time of the play's performance, the Carrek Veryasek where he hides would probably have been recognized as a regional landmark (perhaps now to be equated with Reens Rock near Troon village). (62) An intimate association with nature is a recurring theme in Celtic saints' lives, and Meriasek is, in fact, revivified by his experience. (63) Similarly, his later retreat to a hermitage near Pontivy in Brittany (1139-42) embodies a comparable movement into a geographically precise landscape.

A linkage of a saint to sacred wells and the local landscape can also be found in Nonn, where the title character's son Davy twice prompts the appearance of sacred fountains. (64) The first fountain emerges at the moment of his baptism and immediately starts to perform healing miracles (1062 s.d.; cf. 1916-17). Nonn herself leaves the impress of her hands on a stone (1023-26) as she endures labor pains in giving birth to St. Davy, a detail drawn from Rhigyfarch's Vita, but one that also echoes Breton devotion to a "stone of St. Nonn" that still exists about a kilometer southeast of Dirinon, near one of St. Davy's fountains. (65) Finally, this play also portrays Breton traditions that recount how Nonn's burial site near Dirinon became a site of great spiritual power that manifests itself as a long series of legal miracles (1398-1668). In all of these, perjurers are punished and true judgments made, in large part because the community holds the trials at her tomb. While there are no magic fountains in the Buhez Sant Gwenole, the play dramatizes the miraculous resuscitation of the mother of Riou, who is a monk at the saint's abbey. Gwenole himself gives Riou some blessed water that revives her from death (999-1114). In this comparatively late play, the abbot who presides over the abbey personally dispenses divine power, but in the earlier plays Patrick, Davy, Nonn, and Meriasek more liberally distribute sacred sites as they create places where sanity, physical integrity, and grace are available to all who ask in the proper manner. To one degree or another, all three plays dramatize how these holy persons transform physical space, often leaving a visible mark upon the local landscape.

The connection between these saints, their healing miracles, and the manner in which they transform the physical landscape also has an international aspect, all three saints having sacred sites on both sides of the English Channel. We see this not only in the church dedications described above but also in the multiple holy wells connected with these saints. St. Meriasek thus had or has wells associated with him at Camborne in Cornwall and at Pontivy in Brittany; St. Nonn has wells at Altarnum in Cornwall and at Dirinon in Brittany; and St. Gwenole at Gunwalloe in Cornwall and at Landevennec and Gouezec in Brittany. (66) While these plays recount the miraculous creation of only a few of these many wells, their portrayals of the journeys, foundations, and miracles of Patrick, Nonn, Davy, Gwenole, and Meriasek evoke something of this larger geography of sacred sites that formed an integral part of Celtic spirituality. (67)

In all three plays these sacred sites promote physical, spiritual, and--ultimately--social integrity. Repeated miracles of restoration figure prominently in all three plays. Meriasek heals the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the feverous, the leprous, and the sick. In the Buez Santez Nonn Patrick revivifies Reuniter, and afterward Davy heals a blind man, a lame man, a leper, and a man with fever (1919ff). Their supplicants' miraculous physical well-being is often coupled with a spiritual rebirth; as Reuniter says to Patrick after five years in the tomb, "I am completely revived to life, in order to rekindle the faith" ("maz off duet pep tu e buhez//eguit an fez he neuezhat" [210]). While cures are a standard motif in saints' lives generally, we should note how these physical miracles complement the social ones that these saints offer: their foundation of monasteries, churches, and chapels. All these saints are people of noble birth, and they fulfill the implications of their aristocratic status in part by promoting the formation of a new, healthy social body, which they accomplish by accepting new roles (usually after a period of protest) in the Church hierarchy. Gwenole becomes an abbot, and Meriasek and Davy become bishops, while Nonn realizes the more limited religious opportunities available to women by becoming first a nun and then a pilgrim. All three plays suggest a spirituality that first rejects the world and realizes its unimportance, but then actively engages with the world and ultimately leaves a permanent mark on both the physical and social landscape. All three plays finally invite their audiences to see the enduring presence of these saints across both time and space, to see them as holy personages immanent in the local landscape since their community's foundation, and to see them as still present in relics, in ecclesiastical buildings, and in the landscape itself, both near and far.

In many ways the Buez Santez Nonn, Buhez Sant Gwenole, and the Beunans Meriasek are stereotypical Celtic saints' lives, containing such common elements as a nobly born protagonist, education by a figure of spiritual authority, journeys, holy fountains, miraculous cures, the reluctant acceptance of an ecclesiastical office, and a divinely predicted death. (68) While generally following their nondramatic sources, the anonymous authors sometimes show a willingness to modify them in order to embody local traditions. Consequently, Nonn's son Davy is born and raised in Brittany; Gwenole preaches in the doomed city of Ys; and Meriasek leaves Brittany for a mission in Cornwall. These moments are exceptional, but even when these dramas more rigidly adhere to their sources and to stereotypical narrative structures, they show their concern with stimulating a sense of Celtic identity. In retelling common foundational myths in culturally recognizable patterns, the original authors (whoever they were) enhance the concern evident in all of these plays with a Celtic identity that is both local and international. (69)

These dramatists had many goals, including the authorization of local centers of religious authority such as the monastery of Landevennec and the churches of St. Meriasek and of St. Nonn. The need to assert that authority may have seemed particularly pressing in the later Middle Ages, a time when Brittany's political autonomy was waning and during a time of crisis for the ever-shrinking population of Cornish speakers. By recounting the past, by enshrining the foundation of local ecclesiastical structures, and by commemorating holy sites, these Celtic saint plays allowed these communities to define themselves on two levels: as local, with ties to the local institutional structure; but also as international, reaffirming historical ties among Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland. They did this by representing a mythic history that suggested the providential ordering of space and time and the spectators' place within it, and they did so in the local tongue. Brittany might be united to France, but at least God spoke Breton. Similarly, in Cornwall, salvation history unfolded as in the Ordinalia or the Creacion and as portrayed in St. Neot's parish church. (70) Cornwall's unique and special role in the divine plan was precisely articulated through God and his earthly instruments--his saints. In Brittany, of course, the tradition of Breton literature would continue to have a long history, perhaps assisted by the publication of Jean Lagadeuc's Catholicon, the first Breton-French lexicon, printed by Jehan Calvez at Treguier in 1499. Breton literature was, by the sixteenth century, a printed literature, producing such plays as the Aman ez dezrou an Passion Burzu (1530), the Buhez Santez Barba (1557), a significant body of poetry, and--at the beginning of the seventeenth century--even a Breton-French dictionary. (71) In Cornwall however, vernacular writing tended to languish in manuscript so that, in the words of P. Berresford Ellis, "the development of Cornish literature stopped with its miracle play output:" (72) Although in recent years there has been a movement to revive the Cornish language, and while traces of the old language remain evident in dialect words, Cornish has for the most part--like the blessed Meriasek himself--disappeared into the local landscape. (73)

University of Texas at Tyler


(1) L. Feuriot, "Breton et Cornique a la fin du Moyen-Age," Annales de Bretagne et des Pay de l'Ouest 76 (1969): 705-21. For example, in 1498-99, Breton trade represented 59 percent of the traffic at Salcomb, 24.5 percent at Fowey, 47.3 percent at St. Ives, 54 percent at Penzance, 62.8 percent at Padstow, and 94 percent at Mount's Bay. On the hot and cold relation of both Brittany and Cornwall to Henry Tudor, see F. E. Halliday, A History of Cornwall (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1959), 150-52, 164-68; C. S. L. Davies, "Richard III, la Bretagne et Henry Tudor (1483-85)," Annales de Bretagne et des Pay de l'Ouest 102 (1995): 33-47. On the large number of Bretons in Cornwall, see Gloria Betcher, "Culture and Society in Fourteenth-Century Cornwall: Textual Evidence in the Cornish `Ordinalia'" (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1994), 118-25. The possible connection between Breton and Cornish plays has briefly been remarked upon by Edouard Privat, Documents de l'Histoire de la Bretagne (Toulouse, 1971), 162-65; P. Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and Its Literature (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 37-38; Brian Murdoch, Cornish Literature (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), 104.

(2) Nora Chadwick, Early Brittany (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1969), 162-237. Chadwick sees the immigration as caused by pressure from the raiding Irish from the west, the Anglo-Saxons from the east, and plague. Also see E. G. Bowen, Saints, Seaways and Settlements in the Celtic Lands (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1969), 160-90, and Patrick Galliou and Michael Jones, The Bretons (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 129-39.

(3) Murdoch, Cornish Literature, 2.

(4) The manuscript (now Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. fonds celt. no 5) is described in Christian-J. Gyonvarc'h, "Le theatre breton medieval et postmedieval," in Histoire littaeraire et culturelle de la Bretagne (Paris: Champion; Geneva: Slatkine, 1987), 216-18. The manuscript and play are also discussed by Yann-Ber Piriou, "Notes de Lecture: `La Vie de Sainte Nonne,'" Etudes Celtiques 23 (1986): 215-29. The most authoritative text is Buez Santez Norm. Mystere Breton. Vie de Sainte Nonne, ed. Yves Le Berre, Bernard Tonguy, and Yves-Pascal Castel (Dirinon: C. R. B. C., Minihi-Levenez, 1999). This is an emended version of the text (with different line numbering), previously printed as "Le Vie de Sainte Nonne," ed. E. Ernault, Revue Celtique 8 (1887): 230-301, 405-91. References to the Buez Santez Nonn will be included parenthetically in the text (the translations are my own).

(5) J. W. James, Rhigyfarch's Life of St. David: The Basic Mid Twelfth-Century Latin Text with Introduction, Critical Apparatus and Translation (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1967). Most of the plot elements concerning David in the play can be found here. For an analysis of the historical element in Rhigyfarch's Life, see E. G. Bowen, Dewi Saint: Saint David (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1983).

(6) For an account of St. Non, see Sabine Baring-Gould, The Lives of the British Saints: The Saints of Wales and Cornwall and Such Irish Saints as Have Dedications in Britain, 4 vols. (London: C. J. Clark, 1913), 4:22-25; Nicholas Orme, The Saints of Cornwall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 205-07. In the version of Rhigyfarch's Life printed by James, the King is simply called Sanctus. In the Breton play the equivalent figure is King Keretic (or Ceretic), King of Cardiganshire. In the play he mentions his need to go to "Demetri" (258), which would seem to be Demetia (Dyfed) in Southern Pembrokeshire. On Ceretic, see John Morris, The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973), 204.

(7) For a fuller description and summary of the play, see Amy Varin, "A Breton Mystery Play and the Catholic Reformation" Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 1 (1981): 80. The most easily available text is "L'Anciene Mystere de Saint Gwenole avec Traduction et Notes," ed. E. Ernault, Annales de Bretagne et des Pay de l'Ouest 40 (1932-33): 2-35; 41 (1934): 106-41, 318-79. This text is based on the 1580 manuscript that was copied by Le Pelletier in 1716. All parenthetical references to the play will be to this published text (the translations are my own). E. Ernault refers to other existing fragments; see his "Noms Bretons des Points de l'Espace," Revue Celtique 12 (1891): 413-19, esp. 417-18; "Sur la rime interieure en Breton moyen" Revue Celtique 13 (1892): 228-47, esp. 244-47; "Sur le Mystere de Saint Guenole" Revue Celtique 20 (1899): 213-47. Also see Anatole Le Braz, Le Theatre Celtique (1904; reprint, Geneva and Paris: Editions Slatkine, 1981), 336-40, for a brief account of the play.

(8) Wrdisten, Abbot of Landevennec, "Vita S. Winwaloei," ed. Carolus de Smedt et al., Analecta Bollandiana 7 (1888): 167-264; Orme, Saints of Cornwall, 256-59.

(9) Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., Beunans Meriasek: The Life of Saint Meriasek, Bishop and Confessor, A Cornish Drama (London: Trubner, 1872), iv. All parenthetical references to this play will be to this edition (the translations are Stokes's). On Meriasek generally, see Orme, Saints of Cornwall, 188-89.

(10) For other summaries, see Stokes, ed., Beunans Meriasek, vi-viii; Henry Jenner, "The Cornish Drama: II," Celtic Review 4 (1907-08): 55-64; Markham Harris, trans., The Life of St. Meriasek (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1977), 10-16; Brian O. Murdoch, "The Cornish Medieval Drama," in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 230-34. On education in the play, see Nicholas Orme, "Education in the Medieval Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek," Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 25 (1993): 1-14; for an analysis of the "woman and her son" episode, see Brian Murdoch, "The Holy Hostage: De Filio Mulieris in the Middle Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek," Medium Aevum 58 (1989): 258-73.

(11) On Camborne, see Charles Thomas, Christian Antiquities of Camborne (St. Austell: H. E. Warne, 1967), 21-39. This Cornish saint's play is often associated with the dramatic fluorescence connected with Glasney College where the Ordinalia may have been compiled. John Nans exchanged his position at the college with rector Alexander Penhylle (or Penhale) at Camborne at about this time. Thomas goes on to add: "It may be significant that John Nans, when he managed to get his institution recorded in the Episcopal register as being to the church of sancti Meriadoci de Cambron and not, as one would expect at this late date, sancti Martini. Were John Nans and Alexander Penylle, successive rectors of Camborne and clerics of the drama-writing centre of Glasney, anxious to push the claims of the local saint" (35). On Glasney College, see Thurstan C. Peter, The History of Glasney Collegiate Church, Cornwall (Camborne, Cornwall: Camborne Printing and Stationary Company, 1908), esp. 78-80; and Gilbert H. Doble, The Saints of Cornwall, pt. 1: Saints of the Land's End District, ed. Donald Attwater, 5 vols. (1960-97; reprint, Felinfach: Llanerch, 1997), 1:111-12. Gloria Betcher has recently argued, however, that the Ordinalia are not to be associated with Glasney College but with Bodmin ("Culture and Society," 78-105).

(12) Gloria J. Betcher, "Makers of Heaven on Earth: The Construction of Early Drama in Cornwall" in Material Culture and Medieval Drama, ed. Clifford Davidson, Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series 25 (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999), 103-26; Records of Early English Drama: Cornwall, ed. Sally L. Joyce and Evelyn S. Newlyn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).

(13) See Evelyn S. Newlyn's introduction in REED: Cornwall, 397-401.

(14) For a survey of the surviving dramatic records, see Betcher, "Makers of Heaven and Earth," 109-26.

(15) Herve Martin, "La Christianisation dense de la Bretagne a la fin du Moyen Age," Fastes et malheurs de la Bretagne ducale 1213-1532 (Rennes: Ouest France, 1982), 359. Breton drama continued to thrive throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. At this time Breton drama was staged in the open, often in conjunction with a fair, and we have records of performances at Breton schools dating back to the seventeenth century. See Le Braz, Theatre Celtique, 252-58, 472-76.

(16) On this kind of staging in Brittany, see Hersart de la Villemarque, ed., Le Grand Mystere de Jesus, Passion et Resurrection: Drame Breton du Moyen Age avec une Etude sur le Theatre chez les nations Celtiques (Paris: Didier, 1865), xvi.

(17) Paula Neuss, ed. and trans., The Creacion of the World (New York: Garland, 1983), 1-lxii.

(18) On the actual history of the period of the migrations, and especially on the saints, see William Copeland Borlase, The Age of the Saints: A Monograph of Early Christianity in Cornwall with the Legends of the Cornish Saints and an Introduction Illustrative of the Ethnology of the District, 2nd ed. (Truro: Joseph Pollard, 1895), 62-105; Chadwick, Early Brittany, 162-237.

(19) Michael Jones, The Creation of Brittany (London: Hambledon Press, 1987), 287.

(20) Ibid., 292.

(21) Galliou and Jones, The Bretons, 152-58, 181-91; Alain Raison du Cleuziou, La Bretagne de l'Origine a la Reunion. Son Histoire, Ses Coutumes, Ses Maeurs, 2nd ed. (Saint-Brieuc: Imprimerie-Librairie de Rene Prud'Homme, 1914), 123-228; Andre Chedeville and Noel-Yves Tonnerre, La Bretagne feodale [XI.sup.e]--[XII.sup.e] siecle (Rennes: Ouest France, 1987), 21-112.

(22) Michael Jones, The Creation of Brittany, esp. 44-56; Andre Mussat, Arts et cultures de Bretagne un millenaire (Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1979), 65-74.

(23) Michael Jones, Ducal Brittany, 1363-1389: Relations with England and France During the Reign of Duke Jean IV (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 140, n. 1.

(24) Jones, The Creation of Brittany, 339.

(25) Jones, The Creation of Brittany, 309-28.

(26) Galliou and Jones, The Bretons, 243-46; also see Michael Jones's discussion of the Chronicon Briocense, in The Creation of Brittany, 139-42.

(27) Galliou and Jones, The Bretons, 250-52; Yvonne Jones, "An Outline of Breton History," Celtic Review 6 (1906-07): 38-40; Pitre-Chevalier, La Bretagne Ancienne et Moderne (Paris: W. Coquebert, [18457]), 496-556.

(28) On the proliferation of Calvary crosses in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Brittany, see Mussat, Arts et cultures, 213-21; Gwenc'hlan Le Scouezec and Jean-Robert Masson, Le Guide des Calvaires Bretons (Spezet: Coop Breizh, 1999). On the Breton pardons, see Joseph Chardronnet and Daniel Mingant, Pardons et Pelerinages de Bretagne (Rennes: Editions Ouest-France, 1996).

(29) Charles Mendes, Au Sujet du `Tro-Breiz' Pelerinage Medieval des Sept Saints Bretons, 2nd ed. (Editions du Moulin vieux, [1991]). On the popularity of the pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Yves at Treguier in the later Middle Ages, see G. Minois, "Culte des saints et vie religieuse dans le diocese de Treguier au [XV.sup.e] siecle," Annals de Bretagne et des Pays de L'Ouest 87 (1980): 17-42.

(30) Anatole le Braz, The Land of Pardons (New York: Robert M. McBride, 1927), 107-08; Jean-Pierre Leguay, "Le cheminement vers l'assimilation 1491-1532," Fastes et malheurs de la Bretagne ducale 1213-1532 (Rennes: Ouest France, 1982), 431-32; Herve le Boterf, Anne de Bretagne (Paris: Editions France Empire, 1976), 209-14.

(31) Halliday, A History of Cornwall, 164-68.

(32) Thomas Taylor, St. Michael's Mount (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932), 141-43, 176-90.

(33) Richard Carew, The Svrvey of Cornwall (1602; facsimile reprint, Amsterdam and New York: Da Capo Press, 1969), 56.

(34) Nicholas Orme, English Church Dedications with a Survey of Cornwall and Devon (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1996), 97. Thomas Taylor, The Celtic Christianity of Cornwall (1916; reprint, Felinfach: Llanerch, 1995), 86-87, finds four possible rededications in the county of Penwith.

(35) Thomas, Antiquities of Camborne, 21-22; Le Braz, Land of Pardons, 103-04.

(36) L. E. Elliott-Binns, Medieval Cornwall (London: Methuen, 1955), 281. On the rededications, see Orme, Saints of Cornwall, 35-38.

(37) See Walker Conner, "Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond" Ethnic and Racial Studies 16 (1993): 373-89, for the emotive appeals to historical identity and metaphors of family in ethnic and nationalist rhetoric.

(38) Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 13-14.

(39) Anthony Smith, National Identity (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991), 21; Smith, Ethnic Origins, 22-31. The relation between ethnic consciousness and national identity is often a blurred one; many of these elements are included in V. H. Galbraith's discussion of nationalistic sentiment, "Nationality and Language in Medieval England," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th ser., 23 (1941): 113-28. Also see John A. Armstrong, Nations before Nationalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982). For an overview of theories of territoriality, see Stanford M. Lyman, "Interstate Relations and the Sociological Imagination Revisited: From Social Distance to Territoriality," Sociological Inquiry 65, no. 2 (1995): 125-42; David M. Smith, "Introduction: The Sharing and Dividing of Geographical Space," in Shared Space: Divided Space, Essays on Conflict and Territorial Organization, ed. Michael Chisholm and David M. Smith (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 1-20.

(40) Herve and Louis Martin, "Croix rurales et sacralisation de l'espace. Le cas de la Bretagne au Moyen Age," Archives de sciences sociales des Religions 43 (1977): 23-38. On the same subject, although not specifically about Breton crosses, see Herve Martin, "La Fonction Polyvalente des Croix a la Fin du Moyen Age," Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'Ouest 90 (1983): 295-310.

(41) Robert David Sack, Human Territoriality: Its Theory and Its History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 58.

(42) Lyman, "Interstate Relations," 128-29.

(43) Ibid., 133-36.

(44) This subject is more famously discussed by V.A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 101-23.

(45) Gilbert H. Doble, The Saints of Cornwall, pt. 2: Saints of the Lizard District, 5 vols. (1960-97; reprint, Felinfach: Llanerch, 1997), 2:118-28; Murdoch, Cornish Literature, 101. Robert T. Meyer provides a detailed comparison between the play and the Latin vita of St. Mercadocus given in the Propre de Vannes of 1630 for 7 June in his article, "The Middle-Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek," Comparative Drama 3 (1969): 54-65.

(46) Orme, English Church Dedications, 68, 135; Taylor, St. Michael's Mount, 75. On the cult of David, see Heather James, "The Cult of St. David in the Middle Ages," in In Search of Cult: Archaeological Investigations in Honour of Philip Rahtz (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1993), 105-12.

(47) Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 2: 59.

(48) On the Celtic perigrini, see Nora Chadwick, The Age of the Saints in the Early Celtic Church (1960; reprint, Felinfach: Llanderch, 1997), 91-103; Bowen, Saints, Seaways, and Settlements, 67, 76-78, 164, 167, 189.

(49) L. Fleuriot, "Old Breton Genealogies and Early British Traditions," Bweletin Y Bwrdd Gwybodau Ceataidd; The Bulletin Board of Celtic Studies 26 (November 1974): 1-6; for Welsh examples (including David and Winwaloe), see Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, ed. P. C. Bartrum (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1966), 22-31. For another example (on King Gradlon, who appears in the Buhez Sant Gwenole), see Andre Chedeville and Hubert Guillotel, La Bretagne des saints et des rois [V.sup.e]-[X.sup.e] siecle (Rennes: Ouest-France, 1984), 78.

(50) Markham Harris, in his introduction to his translation of The Life of St. Meriasek, 7-10, summarizes the critical controversy surrounding Meriasek's sources.

(51) See Baring-Gould, British Saints, 4:23, for a drawing of her tomb at Nonn's chapel in Dirinon, near Brest, in Finistere.

(52) As the scribes in both the Buez Santez Nonn and Buhez Sant Gwenole spell British and Breton virtually identically (usually as Breton or Bretonet), it is often possible to tell in which country the action is occurring only by paying attention to more particular place names and context (see for example, the Buhez Sant Gwenole, 172-73, where the same word plainly refers in the first case to the British in Great Britain and, in the second, to the Bretons in Brittany--an indication that, to a certain extent, this Breton scribe thought of the Celts in both places as one people).

(53) On Fragan and Alba's homeland, see the legend printed by Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 2:66. Present-day Devon takes its name from Dumnonia (Orme, Saints of Cornwall, 2). Susan Pearce, The Kingdom of Dumnonia: Studies in History and Tradition in South-Western Britain A. D. 350-1150 (Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1978), esp. 122-38, and the map on p. 107.

(54) Chedeville and Guillotel, La Bretagne des saints, 136-38, on the monastery at Landevennec.

(55) See Bowen, Saints, Seaways, 72, on the churches in Cornwall dedicated to St. Breaca and her companions: "most ... are located within easy access of the coast, and it is obvious that either these saints themselves, or some of their immediate followers (desirous of honouring their names) did use the sea-routes, linking Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany to propagate their cults."

(56) Orme, Saints of Cornwall, 228-30. Orme's account is based on a seventh-century life by a monk of Brittany that is considered unusually reliable both because of its early date and because the monk seems to have tried to research his subject by visiting Cornwall. Both Brittany and Cornwall had developed an early ecclesiastical structure of monastic bishoprics, and it was only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that these became assimilated into national ecclesiastical hierarchy. On the identification of St. Samson's monastery with the Church of St. Sampson, Golant, see Lynette Olson, Early Monasteries in Cornwall (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1989), 914. On diocesan organization, see ibid., 105-08, and Thomas Taylor, "The Monastery Bishoprics of Cornwall" Revue Celtique 35 (1914): 193-202; Thomas Taylor, "Evolution of the Diocesan Bishopric from the Monastery Bishoprics of Cornwall," Revue Celtique 35 (1914), 301-16; Nichols Orme, "From the Beginnings to 1050," Unity and Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, ed. Nicholas Orme, Exeter Studies in History 29 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1991), 19-22.

(57) William Worcestre, Itineraries, ed. John H. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 63. This is part of Worcestre's description of Tintern Abbey, so this may well reflect a Welsh tradition rather than a Cornish one.

(58) Although Meriasek founds "an oratory," he seems to envision its evolution into a church where the sacraments are administered (990-99). See Thomas, Christian Antiquities, 33.

(59) On Teudar, see Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 1:106, 117-18.

(60) See Borlase, Age of the Saints, 85-86, on how places, churches, and the names of early Cornish saints came to be associated with one another.

(61) Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 1:116. According to his sources (not cited, but presumably interviews with local people in the late nineteenth century), the site was drained dry by mining operations (1:132-33).

(62) Thomas, Antiquities of Camborne, 37-38.

(63) See Borlase, Age of the Saints, 89-94, on holy rocks in Celtic devotions; Chadwick, Age of the Saints, 108-10.

(64) On the fountains of Davy and Nonn in Brittany, see Yves-Pascal Castel, "L'Iconographie de Sainte Nonne et de Saint Divi," in the Buez Santez Nonn, 40-43.

(65) Michel le Goffic, "Une Pierre Propitaitoire, Objet d'un Culte Vivace, La Pierre de Sainte Nonne," in the Buez Santez Nonn, 71-73.

(66) On the wells of St. Meriasek see Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 1:116-17, 132-33, 128-29; on those of Nonn, see "St. Non, or Nonnita," in Butler's Lives of the Saints, ed. Herbert Thurston and Donald Attwater, 4 vols. (London: Burns and Oates, 1956), 4:468-69; on those of St. Gwenole, see Doble, Saints of Cornwall, 2:85, 105.

(67) On the importance of rocks, wells, and other natural features in Celtic spirituality, see Borlase, Age of the Saints, 82-105.

(68) See Bowen, Dewi Sant: Saint David, 17, and Le Braz, Le Theatre Celtique, 335-37, for a list of stereotypical features.

(69) In some ways this is an extension of the soteriological theme prominent in many saint plays. See Murdoch, Cornish Literature, 116.

(70) Joyce and Newlyn, REED: Cornwall, 408-11; for a more detailed analysis, see the exemplary account by Gordon McN. Rushforth, "The Windows of the Church of St. Neot," Exeter Diocesan Architectural and Archaeological Society 15 (1937): 150-90.

(71) P. Berresford Ellis, The Cornish Language and Its Literature (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 37-38; also see de la Villemarque, "Le Theatre chez les Nations Celtiques," cvii-cviii.

(72) Ellis, Cornish Language, 38.

(73) On the Cornish language movement and on recent Cornish literature, see Murdoch, Cornish Literature, 127-50.
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Author:Scherb, Victor I.
Publication:Comparative Drama
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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