Chaucer and hagiographic authority
Jennifer L. Sisk
While much has been written about Chaucer’s debt to French,
Italian and Classical literature,1 comparatively little attention has
been devoted to Chaucer’s engagement with hagiography, even
though writing about the saints was the most popular and widespread medieval narrative tradition.2 Chaucer’s own legend of
St Cecilia is generally regarded as the first (or most) literary
example of vernacular hagiography produced in late medieval
England, but his engagement with the tradition goes far beyond
Manuals and hagiography: mirrors
of French ideals?
Didactic literature for bishops was hardly a new phenomenon in the seventeenth
century; indeed its pedigree extends all the way back to the early church. Nor
was it an exclusively French tradition. During the late sixteenth century numerous efforts were made outside France to produce texts which would be sources
of both spiritual nourishment and practical administrative guidance for prelates.1
Within France itself, however, no work of this kind was produced during that
The first book-length study of the Scottish Legendary (late 14th c.), the only extant collection of saints’ lives in the vernacular from medieval Scotland, scrutinises the dynamics of hagiographic narration, its implicit assumptions about literariness, and the functions of telling the lives of the saints. The fifty saints’ legends are remarkable for their narrative art: the enjoyment of reading the legends is heightened, while didactic and edifying content is toned down. Focusing on the role of the narrator, the depiction of the saintly characters, their interiority, as well as temporal and spatial parameters, it is demonstrated that the Scottish poet has adapted the traditional material to the needs of an audience versed in reading romance and other secular genres. The implications of the Scottish poet’s narrative strategies are analysed also with respect to the Scottishness of the legendary and its overall place in the hagiographic landscape of late medieval Britain.
Poetic History (In memory of William Mark Ormrod,
David R. Carlson
The article presents a previously unpublished long version of an Anglo-Latin poem
on Henry IV’s executions of Archbishop Richard Scrope and others at York
in 1405. It is argued that the poem was not part of the well-known hagiography
of Scrope that grew quickly up for funding rebuilding programmes at York
Minster, also exemplified in the paper; rather, it is a poetic contribution to
the contemporary secular historiography of the York Rebellion against the
Lancastrian regime, implicating the archbishop in active leadership of it.
The first 100 years of printing in Europe was a vibrant period full of innovation
and adaptation. Continental printers controlled the production of Latin books,
many of which were imported into England. English printers worked hard to create
an audience for their editions and achieved,this by adopting specific design
features from the Latin editions. Yet despite this connection, English printing
is often studied in separation from European printing. This article studies the
Golden Legend, a hagiographic text popular throughout England and Europe, and
shows that the two traditions were interrelated, especially in book design. On
the continent, printers found themselves in a crowded marketplace and some
adopted established designs to target a particular audience. In contrast,
English printers were inspired by the design of continental books. Design was
governed by the intended audience but not restricted to national demarcations.
Not only was English printing integrated with European printing, it sustained a
distinctive character while remaining part of the European tradition.
This article offers the first comprehensive study of Manchester, John Rylands
Library, MS Latin 182, a twelfth-century codex formerly belonging to (and
possibly produced at) the Benedictine Abbey of (Mönchen-)Gladbach in Germany. I
begin with a full codicological and palaeographical analysis of the entire
manuscript, before moving on to a discussion of its contents. These include the
Venerable Bede‘s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum and the Continuatio
Bedae, as well as two hagiographical works copied at the end of the manuscript.
I then propose a new possible context of reception for Bede‘s Historia
ecclesiastica during the twelfth century, one that interlinked with the
prevalent discourses on secular ecclesiastical lordship and monastic reform at
Gladbach, as well as, perhaps, in Germany more widely. In doing so, I
essentially argue for the possibility that the Gladbach scribes and their
audiences may have used and understood the Historia ecclesiastica not only in
the conventional context of history and historiography, but also (and perhaps
equally important) as an example of the golden age of monasticism which during
the later twelfth century was re-framed and re-contextualised as both a
spiritual guide and a source of miracle stories.
The chapters in this volume, by established scholars and early-career researchers
in history and archaeology, shed new light on the identities and experiences of
people affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in medieval western Europe.
Building on recent research that challenges the view that people with leprosy
were excluded and stigmatised, the book demonstrates the complex and varying
status of the illness and its sufferers. The authors provide case studies from
Italy, Germany, France and England between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries,
with some chapters adding a broader global perspective. The source material
includes archival documents, archaeological data, hagiography and artworks. The
book makes a new contribution to our understanding of social provision for
people with leprosy, with chapters exploring how leprosy hospitals sat at the
boundary between integration and segregation. It also describes how some
sufferers lived outside institutional settings. The central question of identity
enables consideration of how people with leprosy related to each other, and the
extent to which their lives were transformed by the disease. While leprosy had a
significant impact on social, professional and religious identities, people
retained aspects of their previous identities after developing the condition.
Furthermore, the collective identity of leprosy sufferers was shared by
individuals who were labelled ‘lepers’ but did not have the illness. The book
reveals the cultural and social significance of leprosy, a disease with deep
metaphorical and spiritual associations. It also demonstrates how people with
leprosy exerted their agency, although their perspectives are usually absent
from the sources.
This book provides a collection of documents in translation which brings together the seminal sources for the late Merovingian Frankish kingdom. The collection of documents in translation includes Liber Historiae Francorum, Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, and Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano. The Liber Historiae Francorum was written while a Merovingian king still ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. The Vita Sanctae Geretrudis makes no mention at all of Columbanus and his mission among the Franks, a strange omission if the Irish were all one group. The Passio Praejecti provides information on the relationship between the politics of the locality and the politics of the centre, for a land dispute between Praejectus and Hector, the ruler of Marseilles, was heard at the royal court at Autun at Easter 675. The Passio Leudegarii has an overt peace-making element, although the issue of who was on which side is much clouded by the complexity of the political narrative.