that English reformers in the
sixteenth century – a most formative time for medievalism as the study
of a discontinuous past – took special interest in these relics because
the supernatural presence they conjured was a challenge to their
capacity to reconfigure or reform the past. Their main point of attack
was to claim that these objects were exactly what they seemed – a bone,
a lock of hair, a piece
irrational to prepare documentation for it. Reynolds has rightly questioned whether the Middle Ages was an ‘Age of Faith’, in which all individuals believed in the supernatural, but there is no doubt that the authorities promoted Christian teaching about an afterlife. 29
Geary, who discusses record-keeping two centuries earlier (his subtitle is Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium ), makes a similar point to Britnell’s, this time in criticism of my From Memory to Written Record : ‘Preservation of documentation was seldom random. We thus do not have
The judicial duel under the Angevin kings (mid–twelfth century to 1204)
’s patrimonial lands’ and in the duchy of Aquitaine, acquired through marriage to its heiress Eleanor. 10 Those were years when procedures which legal historians have comprehensively dismissed as ‘irrational’ were increasingly coming under attack by learned clergy, and also being replaced at law by methods of proof which did not leave ‘to supernatural powers the task of indicating which side was in the right’. 11 But, in spite of these attacks, the judicial duel survived the abolition of other ‘irrational’ ordeals by Pope Innocent III at the Lateran Council of 1215; and
Pauline Stafford, Janet L. Nelson, and Jane Martindale
merely allow us to see a complexity which orality was already able to accommodate and address in social practice? Wood throws sidelights on this question as he reflects on the capacity of relics as symbols to substitute for words, and to express the duality of earth and heaven, holding together a doubled meaning in which the physical object can still evoke laughter whilst its supernatural significance remains untouched. Clanchy explicitly invites us to rethink or at least re-examine our categories, specifically the rational/irrational distinction. Both Martindale and
), 226, 227.
4 William of Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I , ed. R. Howlett, Rolls Series 82 (London, 1884–85), at vol. 82 part 1, 153; C. S. Watkins, History and the Supernatural in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 55.
5 Discussed briefly above in Chapter 3.
6 Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology (New York: Semiotext(e), 1977 ).
7 C. F. Goodey
In the Scottish compilation, however, we find many of
such ‘subtle and skilful strategies’, based on romance motifs and
patterns of narration, which serve the edifying purposes of the legends by making them more entertaining.
The list of features typical of romances generally comprises
the following themes and motifs: characters of aristocratic background, quests, courtly life, chivalry, love, supernatural and marvellous events, punishment and reward, and family. The majority of these themes can also be found in hagiography. Most of the
The Scottish Legendary
On a more general level, these findings can be tied in with previous work on saints’ legends and aspects of gender.59 A study
that focuses on female saints’ direct discourse specifically, though,
has not been conducted before. Donald Weinstein and Rudolph
M. Bell, who have approached saints’ lives from a quantitative
angle, note that lives of female saints contain more supernatural
influence than those of male saints (almost twice as much). Men,
in contrast, are more often active themselves, for instance in working miracles.60 They do
and the spiritual, natural and supernatural, human
and nonhuman, are continuously overlapping in this scene.
Cuthbert, endowed with superhuman strength, physically reshapes
the earth and stone in order to make a visual bridge to heaven,
directly connecting the local, tangible Farne Island to a universal,
Even as Cuthbert’s watery crucifixion shows the influence of
Adomnan’s Life of St Columba on the anonymous and subsequent
Lives, so too does Cuthbert’s solitary battle against demons recall
Evagrius’ translation of Athanasius’ Life of St Antony.27
artefacts (whatever it was attached to,
whether a leather scabbard or gabled shrine) and maybe even gods
or other supernatural beings. Somehow, though, the fitting found
its way to the bottom of the River Thames –discarded, torn apart
from the context which would have imbued it with meaning. This
shift from object to thing alerts us to the difficulties of ‘knowing’
an entity that has been broken, or spoiled, or dispersed, or abandoned. Yet, as Ian Hodder reminds us, it is only because we take
things for granted that they become invisible to us, that we fail
supernatural forces’ 70 or ‘a passport to mystical experience’ 71 are fanciful. The drinking has more to do with easing social relations, creating community, transforming (perhaps literally) the vertical to the horizontal, 72 which is not to say that disputes might not, and according to Hincmar often did, break out over a few drinks too many. Insistence on sobriety could be seen as social discipline 73 but it was not only a matter of control by the authorities of church and state: Charlemagne’s intent was to involve patresfamilias even at the level of the vulgaris