The Plen-an-Gwari (Cornish for ‘Playing Place’ or ‘Place of the Play’) is one of only two surviving original medieval amphitheatres of scores believed to have been constructed across Cornwall to perform religious community miracle plays in the Cornish language. Texts and stage plans from the Ordinalia Cycle of plays performed in this space from the late 14th century are among the oldest theatrical documents in Europe.
It is a miracle that our plen has survived at all. This may be due to its ongoing importance within the small town of St Just in Penwith, in the far west of Cornwall, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries when tin mining was at its height and the town was bustling.
On high days and holidays it was used for tin miners rock drilling competitions and by the Methodists Sunday School tea-treats. More recently Cornish Gorsedh, and many fairs, fetes, barn dances, music and theatre performances. Since 1997 it has been the main focus for the town's annual Lafrowda Festival.
The plen is being constantly reinvented. In 2000 – 2004 large scale re-enactments of the Ordinalia (Cornish miracle) plays were staged here, in their original home, involving over 250 local people and attracting many visitors to the town.
"Our plen is not a museum nor simply a tourist attraction. It is a real theatre with a real history and a real part to play in Cornwall's future"
More than this, the plen is used every day for playing, reflecting and eating - there really is no better place to eat a pasty.
"Plen-an-Gwari... Beacon in history... Let's light it!"
- Dominic Knutton April 2000