Adam, Eve and the Serpent, in a Cornish Passion Poem
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Thought to have been found in Sancreed church, this manuscript contains a Passion poem in Middle Cornish. The people of medieval Cornwall loved Passion plays, and there can be no doubt that the words of this poem were enacted and recited many times over the years. Its verses are marked for reading aloud using square brackets at the ends of lines to indicate the parts of the characters. The lower margins of eleven of its pages bear illustrations of the action or themes of the play. The coloured drawings represent a version of 15th-century manuscript decoration as produced outside major centres such as London and Oxford. The play is a valuable document of the variety of language, culture and religion in late medieval Britain.
Motivation for the story is briefly recounted: the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Satan's deceit and "mankind's sinning" are straightforwardly stated, and the action moves quickly on to the temptation and miracles of Christ. At the bottom of the page, the serpent coils around the apple tree as Adam and Eve stand on either side.