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The Trinity, in a Cornish Passion Poem

The Trinity, in a Cornish Passion Poem

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1450

Shelfmark: Harley MS 1782

Item number: f.1r

Length: 17.1

Width: 12

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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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.

The poem begins with a statement of its theme and purpose: to understand how the three persons of the Trinity worked for human salvation through the sacrifice of Christ. At the bottom of the first page, a picture of the Trinity shows the Father / Creator behind the cross bearing the Son, with the dove of the Holy Spirit hovering above. This kind of depiction of the Trinity is typical of late medieval art all over western Europe.

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