Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550

Editor: E.A. Jones

This source book offers a comprehensive treatment of the solitary religious lives in England in the late Middle Ages. It covers both enclosed anchorites or recluses and freely-wandering hermits, and explores the relation between them. The sources selected for the volume are designed to complement better-known works connected with the solitary lives, such as the anchoritic guide Ancrene Wisse, or St Aelred of Rievaulx’s rule for his sister; or late medieval mystical authors including the hermit Richard Rolle or the anchorite Julian of Norwich. They illustrate the range of solitary lives that were possible in late medieval England, practical considerations around questions of material support, prescribed ideals of behaviour, and spiritual aspiration. It also covers the mechanisms and structures that were put in place by both civil and religious authorities to administer and regulate the vocations. Coverage extends into the Reformation period to include evidence for the fate of solitaries during the dissolutions and their aftermath. The material selected includes visual sources, such as manuscript illustrations, architectural plans and photographs of standing remains, as well as excerpts from texts. Most of the latter are translated here for the first time, and a significant proportion are taken from previously unpublished sources.

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‘Hermits and Anchorites in England, 1200-1550, the latest addition to the Manchester Medieval Sources series, serves as a complement to this literary and spiritual emphasis (11), presenting an extraordinarily rich range of extracts translated from Latin, French and Middle English primary sources, which collectively illuminate the more external and material aspects of the solitary vocation. […] . This unparalleled command of the field makes him the ideal expositor of these complex, often obscure sources, allowing him to shape them into a series of coherent narratives. The international community of anchoritic scholars will be indebted to this work and the insights it enables for many decades to come.’
TMR - Christiania Whitehead
August 2020

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