Conference Abstracts

Abstracts in Alphabetical order

Hazel Blair (University of Lausanne):

The Forgotten Latin Verse Life of St Robert of Knaresborough

Extant in a single copy of the late 15th century, De nobilitate vite Sancti Roberti Confessoris is a Latin verse hagiography of a northern saint that has received almost no scholarly attention. One of four surviving medieval vitae detailing the life and miracles of St Robert of Knaresborough, a cave-dwelling forest hermit from York who died in 1218, the narrative as a whole does not deviate substantially from the legend of St Robert celebrated in other hagiographies. From a literary perspective, however, the word choice, structure, and expansions and abridgements of certain episodes within the text are enough to render it ‘an original composition’ (in the words of Joyce Bazire, who transcribed the text in the appendix of her 1953 edition of Robert’s Middle English Life.) Despite Bazire’s publication of the text and her brief recognition of its unique characteristics, however, Robert’s Latin verse life has remained on the periphery of academic investigation into the hermit’s posthumous cult (itself a rarely-studied topic). This paper will offer a reading of De nobilitate vite Sancti Roberti Confessoris that takes into account its position within the wider hagiographic corpus of Robert’s cult, while appreciating the text on its own terms as a unique literary creation. Most likely penned by a northern English member of the little-known Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives (which had a house at Knaresborough dedicated to St Robert), this paper will argue that the text is a creative retelling of Robert’s story designed to encourage reflection upon the spiritual and institutional priorities of its Trinitarian author.


Cynthia Turner Camp (University of Georgia):

Praying to Northern Saints

How widespread was devotion to northern English saints in later medieval England? Which northern saints were most frequently invoked for aid and intercession? And what might that information tell us about the scope of their cults before the English Reformation? Books of Hours, as the single most common book in lay households, provide a peek into the laity’s devotional lives and thus a glimpse of the northern saints to whom they may have prayed. Looking widely across these gorgeously decorated horae, this paper will consider Books of Hours’ utility for capturing a broad picture of devotion to northern saints. It will also examine some case studies illustrating certain individuals’ particular fondness for saints like Cuthbert, John of Beverley, William of York, and Chad. The evidence in aggregate suggests that, although these saints were not commonly appealed to by laypeople, those who did embrace them did so with a fierce dedication.


James G. Clark (University of Exeter):

The reception of Saint Oswine in late medieval England

The traveling Tudor antiquary, John Leland, collected many facta and dicta about the northern saint king, Oswine of Deira. Leland’s appetite for Britain’s sacred history was all-consuming to the extent that as he passed through institutional and individual libraries other possible treasures went unrecorded. Yet the attention, and space in his sheaf of manuscript notes, that he gave to Oswine was greater than many other British saints. One reason was that he frequently found Oswine grouped with the most celebrated of all the country’s secular saints, Edmund and Edward the Confessor. But it was also that he found references to Oswine both up and down the realm. It was typical of his experience that his longest entry on Oswine was copied from a codex which he found some four hundred miles from the final resting place of the king, at Tynemouth (Northumberland). This was a book Leland picked up at St Albans Abbey. Of course, since St Albans held Tynemouth under its jurisdiction, and had sometimes (although not consistently) risen to the defence of its own spiritual domain, the keeping of some residual record of its cult tradition is not in itself surprising. Yet the book for which Leland provides a witness appears to have been quite different from the ancient, dust-covered volumes which he often described. Its condition was good enough for him to copy out at length; it contained a combination of historical and hagiographical information which was at least as extensive as the two early manuscripts which have survived, both of which were made in, and stayed in, the northern region. The scope and (apparent) condition of the book might be taken as markers of the continuing interest in Oswine far from his heartland. In fact, if St Albans’ own garnering of the cult continued down to the Dissolution, it appears it was not alone. As Leland acknowledged, Oswine was set among a sequence of saint kings and by association their celebrity appears to have given him a wider recognition. That Edmund and Edward consistently attracted conspicuous royal patronage between c. 1250 and c.1450 is well known; what is less familiar is that the sacred legacy of the Saxon kings in general was the subject of renewed historical and spiritual interest, especially in monastic circles. New records of the sanctity of these monarchs were compiled from earlier sources and transmitted through the regional networks of affiliated monasteries. The popularity of the Sanctilogium of John of Tynemouth, compiled in the second quarter of the fourteenth century, was symptom of this activity rather than its cause. There was a self-contained historical impulse behind it but it is likely that it was also associated with a new commitment to making a principal place for their commemoration in the liturgical calendar. It was one of several intellectual and devotional mind-sets which the monasteries traded with their patrons among the higher clergy. It was a reflection of the common ground between them that Archbishop Thomas Arundel, a generous patron of the Benedictine hierarchy, should commission a stained-glass scheme representing each of the Saxon saint kings in the custody of monastic churches, Edmund, Edward and Oswine. By the fifteenth century the historical and devotional tastes that kept Oswine as a known quantity beyond Northumberland were also imprinted on parish churches. In the Toppes window of St Peter Mancroft, Oswine was placed in his now familiar company alongside Edmund, Edward and St Alban, appearing in the guise of a saint king. This paper will trace the evidence for historical and devotional interest in Oswine from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. It will show that while St Albans Abbey was a depot for his history and cult, it was not – perhaps never was – the coordinating centre and perhaps as early as the fourteenth century the following of the Northumbrian saint had gathered a direction, and a momentum of its own.


Margaret Coombe (University of Oxford):

The late medieval and early modern reception of the works of Reginald of Durham

When Reginald presented his Life of Godric to the still-living saint in 1170, Godric remarked drily that it would not be well received. It was not, and fresh, abbreviated versions emerged very soon after, apparently to be more readable and less wordy.

Many years later, the story of Godric and his biographer was still current, taken up by a variety of authors, secular and religious.

This paper seeks to examine how the story was adapted to suit the late medieval and early modern contexts in which it was rewritten, what effect this has had on the reputation of Reginald as a writer in twelfth century Durham, and the extent to which that reputation was, or was not, justified.


Claudia Di Sciacca (University of Udine) :

Northern Lights on Southern Shores: Re-Writing St Oswald’s Life in Eighteenth-Century Friuli

Oswald, king of all Northumbria from 634 to 642, is the first and most popular of Anglo-Saxon royal saints, whose life of both military feats and Christian devotion is enthusiastically recounted in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica. Bede’s account represents the only early hagiographical tradition on Oswald and portrays the king as an all-around figure of Christian sanctity, encompassing the confessor’s missionary zeal and the resoluteness of the miles Christi, martyred at the hands of pagan enemies.

The comprehensive kind of sanctity embodied by Oswald helps to explain the rapid expansion of his cult from a regional to a national dimension – as attested by the Old English life by Ælfric of Eynsham – to, in turn, a continental one, as it spread to Scandinavia, the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, Bohemia, and Austria. It was indeed through German-speaking immigrants from Tyrol that Oswald’s cult reached Friuli in the thirteenth-century, and eventually Veneto, with Sauris, a remote village in the Carnian Alps, in particular, being a thriving centre of pilgrimages as it boasted the possession of one of the saint’s thumbs.

This paper is going to focus on the vita authored by the Friulan hagiographer G.P. della Stua in 1769, where he proposes an idiosyncratic interpretation of the raven episode, as well as an explanation of the presence of Oswald’s relic in Sauris that ideally joins the saint’s own time and place with Friuli, in that it claims that the relic was brought by a native of Carnia who served in Oswald’s army. By comparing key episodes in the original Bedan narrative and its vernacular reworking by Ælfric, on the one hand, and in the Italian vita, on the other, as well as by analysing the later elaborations of the latter, I hope to highlight the key steps in the appropriation of the legend of the Northumbrian saint in such a distant context. Thereby, I hope to provide a case study of the processes by which Oswald ‘was absorbed into the devotional symbolism of the universal church’ [Clemoes 1984: 4].


Joshua Easterling (Murray State University):

Robert of Knaresborough, Religious Novelty, and the Twelfth-Century Poverty Movement

The twelfth- and thirteenth-century Yorkshire hermit Robert of Knaresborough (d. 1218) extends a venerable lineage of northern English eremitism. He also graces several fourteenth- and fifteenth-century liturgical prayers and vitae, in Middle English and Latin, which were composed under the aegis of the order of Holy Trinity that culted him around midpoint of the thirteenth century. This essay seeks to locate Robert within a broader cultural framework of contemporary religious culture, one that extends beyond his specifically English identity or his eventual status as patron of the Trinitarians. In the Latin and English vitae, as Robert crossed the boundary between coenobitic stability and eremitic itineracy, and between tradition and innovation, his life witnesses to a host of eccentricities beyond even those that typically marked hermits.

In particular, I read these texts alongside twelfth-century religious currents, in particular the number of innovations in the religious life and the several poverty movements that emerged near the close of the century and beyond. With allowances made for partisan investments on the part of the Trinitarians, the texts that record Robert’s turbulent religious career show him in a complex relationship both with the eremitic tradition and with the contemporary religious, and especially monastic, establishment. In fact, Robert often encounters reproach, rejection, and even persecution. I argue that such passages, and the texts more broadly, are usefully elucidated in connection with twelfth-century attitudes toward innovation in the religious life—toward what Bernard of Clairvaux strongly criticized as quidquid novum (whatever is new)—and the related storms that such innovations brought in their wake.


Sandra Elliott (Northumbria University):

Conspicuous by His Absence: The Omission of Saint Oswald, King of Northumbria, in Middle English Versions of Legenda Aurea

Voragine’s original thirteenth-century Legenda Aurea contained only one English saint, Thomas of Canterbury (1118–70). As the codex was transmitted and translated across continental Europe various local saints were added, perhaps to make the text more relevant, or even lucrative, to the local population and merchants. When it reached the shores of England, this also became the case with the addition of such saints as Alban and Dunstan. However, the inclusion of these English saints, and others, is dominated by their Southern English origins. Despite a wealth of saints having existed in the North since the earliest times of Christianity in England, they are markedly neglected in Middle English versions of Legenda Aurea.

This paper examines the scarcity of Northern English saints in this popular codex, and considers why St Oswald (604–42), King of the Northumbrians, is conspicuous by his absence. Oswald first appears in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in 731AD, where Bede dedicates a significant amount of his work to the life of this remarkable saint. Bede’s allegorical account clearly demonstrates reverence for Oswald, evident in both his deeds and his character. The description emphasises Oswald’s ability to act as a reflection of the Divine, despite the almost unsurmountable dichotomy between Oswald’s position of power and authority as king, and the essence of sainthood reflected in his humility.

Aelfric, using Bede as his source, includes Oswald in his tenth-century Lives of Saints. Thus, it could be assumed that this saint would continue to be remembered and venerated, as he had been in Northern Europe. However, after a brief appearance in the Early South English Legendary, along with Saint Cuthbert, this was not to be.

In following years, other Northern saints were to fare slightly better, with both St Cuthbert and St Bede being given their rightful place in Caxton’s first printed version of the Golden Legende (1483). Yet, St Oswald is conspicuous by his absence. In particular, in the earlier Lambeth Palace MS72 (1438) version as the Gilte Legende, neither Oswald nor Bede are mentioned. However, Cuthbert does appear in the Gilte Legende supplementary lives volume edited by Hamer for EETS. Ironically, however, there is an account of a Saint Oswald (925–92), who had been bishop of Worcester. Hence, evidence of the South of England impressing its dominance in Middle English versions of Legenda Aurea, at the expense of, arguably, a more worthy saint in King Oswald.


Timothy Glover (University of Oxford):

Eccentricity, Sanctity, and Richard Rolle in the Context of Northern Saints

Richard Rolle is typically portrayed as an idiosyncratic eccentric: a curious outlier in literary history. This paper aims to re-examine this portrait by uncovering its debt to Northern hagiographic conventions, allowing a reconsideration of Rolle’s supposedly peripheral relation to his literary context.

Modern reception of Rolle has been substantially driven by an Officium written to canonise him, and the major source on his life. Yet it has a clear agenda: to establish Rolle’s sanctity. This paper will firstly suggest that in the late-fourteenth century, eccentricity became a conventional signifier of sanctity (since it demonstrates unworldliness), and therefore that the Officium goes to great lengths to establish Rolle as an eccentric, which has significantly impacted his modern reception. (Margery Kempe, another Northern figure, offers a notable parallel.)

Secondly, and complicating this further, this paper will examine how Rolle actively participates in the discourse of eccentricity found in the hagiographies and personalities of his Yorkshire milieu (such as Aelred). Rolle persistently locates himself both inside and outside of tradition and emphasises a persecutory response to his teachings. This paper will explore how these examples demonstrate Rolle engaging in saintly self-portraiture, rather than transparently reflecting his contemporary reception.


Hetta Howes (City University, London):

Fluid Afterlives: A hunt for the Nun of Watton in late-medieval translations of De Institutione Inclusarum

Aelred of Rievaulx, Cistercian Father and Abbot of Rievaulx from 1147 until his death, has largely been remembered amongst scholars for his works of spiritual guidance. However, what sets Aelred’s apart from his contemporaries is his simultaneous interest in historical and hagiographical works. One of these works, The Nun of Watton, or A Certain Wonderful Miracle, survives in only one manuscript, Cambridge MS Corpus Christi College 139, whose provenance and later readership are difficult to pinpoint. Whilst a very similar miracle story, often called The Abbess Delivered, became extremely popular in later medieval Europe, Aelred’s version, in which he is a key witness to the second miracle, appears to end its life with that one manuscript.

This paper will suggest, however, that we can read this strange, gruesome, but – at its end – oddly comforting tale as a companion piece of another work by Aelred, De Institutione Inclusarum, which was far more popular in the later Middle Ages. The two works were most likely written within the same two years, and, where the history concerns a sinful religious woman who finds redemption, the latter spiritual treatise is addressed to Aelred’s anchorite sister, and offers guidance in her religious life and ways of avoiding such transgression. I will compare the two tales and highlight a number of ways in which they seem to mirror one another – with regard to their use of location and space, their exempla, their fluid imagery, and the relationship between both between spiritual anxiety and spiritual comfort which, I suggest, are in awkward tension in Aelred’s original two texts but become more balanced in later incarnations. If we read later, vernacular translations of Aelred’s De Institutione Inclusarum in light of this brief but memorable history of the unfortunate nun at Watton, then we can start to detect afterlives of Aelred’s story, and significantly for this conference, his influence, in later medieval devotional manuscript culture.


Jonathan Hughes (University of Exeter):

Hampole and St Albans: A Tale of two Cults

This paper will explore the potential conflicts and resolution between two very different worlds linked by the great north road from Canterbury to York: the Cistercian nunnery of Hampole and the Benedictine abbey of St Albans and their saints’ cults. Hampole was a small community of nuns who maintained an unofficial local cult of the recluse, Richard Rolle of Hampole, author of the first treatises in the vernacular on the devotional life in which he advocated an extreme sensory form of mysticism and a rejection of society and the world. The cult, established towards the end of the fourteenth century, celebrated miracles that defied the laws of nature and affirmed the worldly detachment of the recluse. The abbey of St Albans superficially could not have been more different. It was a sophisticated intellectual environment where the monastic chronicler, Thomas Walsingham, Abbot John Whethamstead, lay fraternity member Humfrey Duke of Gloucester and his poet John Lydgate, shared an enthusiasm for the literature of ancient Greece and Rome that revealed an interest in the natural world and an acceptance of the social duties of citizens. The cult maintained at this abbey was on a very different scale to the local Hampole cult. The Life of St Alban, translated by Lydgate at Whethamstead’s request, celebrated the martyrdom of a sophisticated Roman official who converted to Christianity: his martyrdom achieves a fusion of the values of the ancient world with devotion to Christ conveyed through alchemical symbolism. Humfrey Duke of Gloucester by choosing to be buried next to the martyr and naming his illegitimate son, Arthur was endorsing the view that St Alban in fusing Roman and British identity through his passion was the real founder of Britain in 4th century Verulanium and anticipated the coming of Arthur at Camelot.

On the face of it there is nothing linking these two worlds of Hampole and St Albans apart from the great North Road. However, it is possible to see in Rolle’s Incendium amoris alchemical symbolism in the form of the purifying fires of love. Walsingham and Whethamstead knew of Rolle’s writing, and there was a copy of Rolle’s Commentary on the Psalms in the abbey library. There is also evidence of Rolle’s message being transmitted to St Albans and the royal foundation of Syon through northern solitaries and preachers connected to the abbey. Thomas Fishbourne, like Rolle a recluse turned solitary from the same region in Richmondshire in Yorkshire, was steward to William Heyworth, abbot from 1420-1447 and he was ordained and enclosed in a cell in St Germain near St Albans in 1409. Fishbourne became chaplain and confessor to a number of nuns and anchoresses in religious communities under the paternalistic eye of St Albans in the leigh of the Great North Road: Flamstead, St Mary de Pre, Sopwell and the recluses attached to the chapels of St Germains and St Mary Magdalen. Whethamstead was interested in these communities, and from these there arose the St Albans connection with the Brigittine house of Syon, whose library contained the mystical works of Rolle and his northern adaptors such as Walter Hilton and early 15th century clacissism. Another Northern friar, John Waldeby of York, was connected with Thomas de la Mare, abbot of St Albans from 1349-96 and Waldeby too disseminated Rolle’s doctrine and the cult of the Virgin in his sermons.

There is consequently a sense that that the goals pursued by the mystic , the alchemist and the classical humanists were the same: the reconciliation of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit; the world and the self; which was achieved in the diocese of York in an ecclesiastical response to Rolle’s writing in the concept of the mixed life of private contemplation and public service. A similar response to this conflict between flesh and spirit; nature and the self; can be observed in the alchemists’ attempts to marry sulphur and mercury, and in the classical texts of the St Albans circle such as Plato’s Republic and Phaedro, and in the vernacular portraits of the heroes of antiquity in the works of Lydgate where the spirit lays itself down in the service of the common good following the martyrdom of St Alban.


John Jenkins (University of York):

Holy Geysers? Oily saints, devotional networks, and ecclesiastical politics in late medieval Yorkshire

In 1223, according to Matthew Paris, the clearest oil burst forth from the tomb of St William in York. From 1308, further outpourings around the saint’s feast day throughout the later medieval period established the oil of St William as one of the defining features of the cult. This phenomenon, where it is observed, is often taken to be something of a saintly commonplace. Yet closer examination suggests that the extrusion of oil from a saint’s tomb or relics was an act that was highly sensitive to particular circumstances. ‘Myroblitism’ had been known in Christendom since at least the 8th century, and was predominantly associated with St Nicholas and, later, St Catherine. From the twelfth century it has been seen as increasingly a ‘feminine’ trait associated with new trends in spirituality. Yet bucking this trend are the English holy figures (William of York, Robert of Knaresborough, Hugh of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, and John of Beverley) who, from the start of the thirteenth century through to the mid-fifteenth century, are known to have exuded oil from their tombs or their corpses. They are all northern, all male, and all but one episcopal. This paper examines this peculiar northern outbreak of the oil of saints, and how through one saintly characteristic we can reconstruct something of the highly particular devotional and political landscapes of the late medieval north.


Christiane Kroebel (Whitby Museum):

St Hilda in the Later Middle Ages: By Whom and Where was she Remembered?

Today, St Hilda is a well-known figure from early medieval England, but how was she regarded in the later Middle Ages? This paper considers that, during the eleventh century, she became the focus of renewed interest which resulted in the foundation of a Benedictine monastery at Whitby with its monastic church soon afterwards becoming known as St Peter’s and St Hilda’s. In the succeeding centuries, St Hilda’s appeal can be found in church dedications, in monastic calendars and liturgies, and in martyrologies. I argue that there was only a small number of people, and identify those, who actively promoted her memorialization or cult after the Conquest, and show how their influence affected where her name is found in locations in Yorkshire and the North-East of England as well as beyond the bounds of her traditional sphere. It seems that in later centuries her cult never reached great popularity nevertheless her following transcended diverse monastic foundations. By the fourteenth century, two myths became popular about St Hilda whose origin cannot be firmly established as coming from Whitby though there are slight indications that they derive from a local source.


Ayoush Lazikani (St Hugh’s College, Oxford):

Aelred of Rievaulx and the ‘Aural Turn’

This paper examines later adaptations of the work of hagiographer Aelred of Rievaulx. Whilst the sense of sight has been richly attended to, the sense of hearing has enjoyed less critical scrutiny. Anchoritic sound is an especially fecund area for inquiry, though little work has been done on it as yet. This paper situates itself within the ‘aural turn’ (including work by David Lawton (2017) and Maggie Ross (2018)) to focus on sound and silence in the Middle English translations of Aelred’s De institutione inclusarum.

In the version in MS Bodley 423, the ‘sins of the tongue’ are foregrounded from the opening (Ayto and Barratt, eds, p. 1), and Chapter V is dedicated to silence (pp. 4-5). But the translator also here identifies the attributes of anchoritic speech: ‘mekely and esily with noon hye voice, ne sharply ne glosyngly ne with noon hye cheere’ (p. 4). This suggests the need for readers to be alert to the sounds of their own voices.

The readers are encouraged to nourish sensitive spiritual hearing and to enhance their receptivity to various sounds. Such sound included liturgical performance, confessors’ voices, their own voices in prayer or reading, and even the imagined sounds of angelic hosts (see Vernon translation, p. 40). The latter point builds on work on angelic communities undertaken by Sophie Sawicka-Sykes, among others (McAvoy and Gunn, eds, 2017).

Bodley has been localized to the south of England, whilst Vernon has been localized to the West Midlands. However, the northern provenance of the original Latin text remains significant, particularly with regard to Cistercian Rievaulx’s denunciation of unnecessary sound (cf. Aelred’s Speculum caritatis).


Julian Luxford (University of St Andrews):

‘Northernness’ as a hermeneutic: images, relics and devotional interests

Using images and evidence about relics, my paper will explore attitudes to Northern saints in different parts of England during the later middle ages. It will question the status of ‘northernness’ by reflecting on first, the interest in northern saints as agents of salvation in a wider context, and secondly, the pronounced localism of religious interests in the period. In order to do so, I will look at a range of evidence about the place of northern saints in the imagery, liturgy and relic collections of cathedrals and monasteries in the south, east and west of England, as well as in the north. To object is not to dismiss northernness as a hermeneutic for interpreting medieval attitudes to sanctity, but rather, to clarify its meaning by testing it with reference to evidence that is often set aside.


Euan McCartney Robson (University College, London):

Reusing the Cathedral: Space, Ritual and Community in Late Medieval Durham

Much of the original stone fabric at Durham Cathedral survives intact, and yet the spaces it contains have been made, unmade and remade incessantly. Not unlike a palimpsest, architectural space is often manifest at the intersection between traditional use and newly-emerging customs. In the case of the church, its various boundaries, its grades of access, and its degrees of sanctity, were all instrumental in not only reflecting but actively (re)constructing—amongst other things—local divisions of privilege, wealth, gender, race, and power. Space in the cathedral, put another way, was not only a physiological but a psychological lever. It spoke actively to as well as of its attendees. In thinking through space as a category with an innate sense of heterogeneity and flux, this paper thus aims to get a sense of how late medieval Durham situated itself, in relation both to the old cult of St Cuthbert, and to new and evolving regional structures.


Anne Mouron (University of Oxford):

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The French Life of St Godric of Finchale, or, Adventures for Thirteenth-Century Nuns

Godric of Finchale was born around 1070 in Norfolk to poor Anglo-Saxon farmers. Like the poet Caedmon celebrated by Bede, he lived the first half of his life in the secular world and was a successful mariner and merchant. But after a number of pilgrimages to Jerusalem and other places he became a hermit in Finchale for the next sixty years or so and died on 21 May 1170.

Reginald of Durham, who met Godric personally, wrote a long Latin life of the saint which was then translated into Anglo-Norman and which survives along with a number of other saints’ lives in only one manuscript: Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 1716. Although it cannot be proven beyond doubt, it would seem that this thirteenth-century manuscript was made for the nuns of Longchamp, an abbey of Poor Clares just outside Paris.

Medieval religious were often advised to read saints’ lives and imitate their good examples. However, these texts sometimes offered dry and uninspiring reading. This is certainly not the case of the French Life of Godric which provides the reader with much to meditate on through its realistic depictions and entertaining adventures.


Denis Renevey (University of Lausanne):

Aelred of Rievaulx and the Saints of Durham and Hexham

Aelred of Rievaulx’s contribution to the flourishing of Cisterician spirituality in England and beyond, can be compared to that of Bernard of Clairvaux for Western Cistercian monasticism as a whole. And yet, Aelred’s ties with the church of Hexham, Durham, and the Scottish court of King David, complicate in interesting ways our understanding of his religious and spiritual allegiances.

This paper considers first the way in which Walter Daniel’s Vita Aelredi contextualises Aelred as a Northern religious figure imitating Cuthbert and Bede as Durham models for proper monastic conduct, and Ninian as missionary model for Galloway. Northern sanctity is therefore conceived regionally, and in terms of very specific locations in Walter Daniel’s Vita. This perception of regional sanctity is corroborated further by Aelred himself, in his De miraculis Hagustaldensis ecclesie, devoted to the five Hexham saints, Eata, Acca, Alchmund, Frethbert and Tilbert, celebrated annually on 3 March by the Augustinians at Hexham. The five saints and the locality of the Hexham church receive specific attention in the tense political context between the North of England and Scotland, and the contending religious centres of Durham, Hexham and York.


Ruth J. Salter (University of Reading):

St Æbbe of Coldingham and her Cure-Seekers

In the twelfth-century, the tomb and relics of St Æbbe were translated to the church at Coldingham Priory. In the last decades of that century, the cult of this Anglo-Saxon abbess developed in this Berwickshire peninsular. However, it was an oratory built on the supposed site of her own monastery, ‘Coludi urbs’, two-miles away, that became the primary focus of Æbbe’s cult. This period clearly saw a flurry of interest in Æbbe’s cult both from the perspective of the laity who came to her oratory to seek her assistance and from the monks of Coldingham themselves. At the very end of the century, a hagiographer at Coldingham compiled the Vita et Miracula S. Æbbe Virginis, which he dedicated to the Priory’s motherhouse, Durham Cathedral.

The development of the dual location of Æbbe’s cult is an interesting feature and one which, as Hilary Powell has shown, emphasised a connection between saint and local landscape. However, this is not the only somewhat unusual feature as the posthumous miracles contain notably more accounts of female cure-seeking pilgrims than they do of their male counterparts, somewhat bucking the trend of other contemporary hagiographies. Moreover, and despite the seemingly rural location of her cult, Æbbe’s oratory attracted both local and long-distance pilgrims, including one blind woman who had travelled from London with only her young daughter to guide her.

This paper pays attention to the cure-seekers who sought out Æbbe’s miraculous aid in order to gain better insight into her cult. In so doing, this paper considers the cult’s development as well as the practicalities involved in making a pilgrimage to the oratory on Kirk Hill, St Abbs Head. Building on my own research, and that recently undertaken by Dr Hilary Powell and Dr Lauren Whitnah, this paper also raises the questions of where the late twelfth-century interest in Æbbe might have come from, and why a greater number of female cure-seekers are recorded within her miracula.


Catherine Sanok (University of Michgan) :

Hermit Saints and Human Temporalities

Reading across vernacular legends of John of Beverley and Cuthbert, this paper explores the contribution that legends of holy hermits can make to an understanding of premodern temporalities and so to a historical understanding of how temporal experience has been conceptualized. As hermits, these northern saints participate in earthly forms of time that are external to human social formations, including, for example, temporal experiences associated with non-human animals. Challenging any simple binary of secular time and sacred atemporality, their Lives probe the boundaries of human temporal identity and experience.


Jane Sinnett-Smith (University of Warwick):

Etheldreda in the North: tracing northern spiritual, spatial, and material networks in the Liber Eliensis and the Vie de seinte Audree

The seventh-century East Anglian saint Etheldreda was, throughout the Middle Ages, firmly associated with the religious community at Ely that traced its routes to her own monastic foundation and housed her incorrupt relics. Yet versions of Etheldreda’s Life produced and read in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries display an interest in the saint’s activities beyond Ely, and in particular as queen of Northumbria, that destabilises her cult’s centre of gravity.

In this paper I examine Etheldreda’s northern activities in the hagiographic tradition of the Liber Eliensis and its Anglo-Norman adaption the Vie de seinte Audree by Marie. These texts depict Etheldreda as embedded in a series of networks linking her to northern saints and religious institutions. I pay particular attention to Etheldreda’s close spiritual friendship with Saint Cuthbert, and to the inter-regional genealogies of saintly women binding Etheldreda to foundational northern saints such as Hilda of Whitby and Ebba of Coldingham. Etheldreda’s interpersonal relationships are cemented through acts of donation that leave her material traces on religious institutions across northern England: I focus in particular on her donation of vestments to Cuthbert, and the display of these items as part of Durham’s relic collection. I argue that the inter-regional material and spatial networks that Etheldreda forges in her lifetime allow her posthumous presence to be extended and accessed beyond the confines of her Ely centre. Moreover, Etheldreda’s participation in interpersonal networks allows her to share in the authority of her saintly companions, suggesting the enduring prestige of these early northern English saints in a context of East Anglian textual production.


Dan Talbot, (University of East Anglia):

Remembering St Hilda, the Revival and the Re-Foundation of Whitby Abbey

The so-called ‘monastic revival’ of the eleventh century in Yorkshire, which saw the monks Aldwin, Reinfrid, and Aelfwig travel to the North East with the apparent aim of recreating the golden age of Northumbrian monasticism recorded by Bede, led – eventually – to the re-foundation of Whitby Abbey. The re-founded monastery was dedicated to both St Peter, as it had been in the time of Bede, and to St Hilda, the first abbess of the famous Bedan era community at Whitby.

My paper seeks to use sources produced at Whitby Abbey itself to explore the role the re-foundation played in shaping the memory and identity of the monks of Whitby Abbey in the centuries which followed their foundation. I examine the stories that the monks told and re-told themselves about why, and how, they had come to occupy the site of Hilda’s former monastery. In doing so, I explore how the monks understood (and perhaps did not understand) their relationship to Hilda, the saint to whom their abbey was now dedicated.


David E. Thornton (Bilkent University):

Northern Saints’ Names as Monastic Surnames in Late Medieval and Early Tudor England

Historians have long recognised that most (though by no means all) monks and regular canons in late medieval England ceased to use their hereditary family surnames on admission to their respective monasteries and instead adopted a toponymic surname, probably indicating place of birth or recent origin. Shortly before ca. 1500 however, many members of male monastic orders alternatively took on the name of a saint or figure in Christian/Biblical tradition (hagionym) or, in a very few cases, a Christian virtue, as their surname in religion. This paper proposes to consider those monastic surnames that appear to derive from Insular (Anglo-Saxon and Celtic) saints, with special reference to northern saints. To-date, the hagionyms of over 1000 monks and canons have been collected for the period ca. 1300 to the Dissolution, drawing largely upon ordination lists in episcopal registers. Of these surnames, about 60% were borne by religious who were ordained around 1490 and later. Furthermore, roughly one quarter of the hagionyms probably indicate Insular saints. Specifically northern saints commemorated in these surnames include Aidan, Bega, Bede, Ceolfrith, Cuthbert, Oswald, Oswine, Patrick and Wilfrid, among others. The paper will consider the chronological and physical distribution of northern hagionyms as monastic surnames, and correlate these anthroponymic patterns with evidence for saints’ cults, dedications, and relics associated with the relevant religious houses.


Satoko Tokunaga (Keio University):

Caxton’s Golden Legend, Medieval Liturgy and St Cuthbert

The Golden Legend (1483-84), one of the central medieval texts on liturgical feasts and saints, was translated and published by England’s first printer, William Caxton. It is well known that Caxton rearranged the structure of his French source and added new legends. According to Lotte Hellinga’s calculation, of the 214 legends in his copy text, Caxton excluded 23 legends and the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, and newly incorporated 28 saints, many of whom are English, such as St Edmund, St Thomas of Canterbury and St Cuthbert. Caxton’s most famous English source is probably the Gilte Legende. He used a manuscript which is now lost but textually close to British Library, Additional 35298, and he supplemented English saints from the so-called the Additional Lives (ALL). However, his choice of English saints from the ALL is rather limited. Of northern English saints of the ALL, St Cuthbert seems to be the only saint Caxton adopted into the Golden Legend.

In this paper, I would like to examine how Caxton reworked his French source in accordance with the liturgical calendar and to which extent the northern cults were incorporated into his work. This will lead us to consider what the presence of St Cuthbert could signify in his contemporary landscape. Caxton tells his readers in the colophon that he finished the translation of the Golden Legend in ‘the fyrst yere of the reygne of Kyng Rychard the thyrd’, i.e. 1483, a tumultuous year with the sudden death of Edward IV, followed by the coronation of his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, whose devotion to saints, including St Cuthbert, is well recorded. Indeed, Richard III’s veneration of St Cuthbert may offer new insight into understanding Caxton’s Golden Legend.


Ricarda Wagner (University of Bern):

Holy Matter, Human Ties. Community-building in the Vitae Kentigerni by Jocelin of Furness and John of Tynemouth

The Life of St Kentigern, composed by Jocelin of Furness and then adapted by John of Tynemouth, is an extraordinary tale of a late-sixth-century saint who is born of no father, becomes bishop of Glasgow, travels to Rome multiple times and is instrumental in the Christianisation of southwest Scotland. In the preface to his Vita, Jocelin explains that his “Gaelic” source contained unorthodox material undermining the text’s Christian message. While we do not know exactly what Jocelin is referring to here, scholars have established the overall intention of his textual reworking: writing in the historical context of the newly independent diocese of Glasgow, Jocelin aimed to emphasise the unique identity of the region he calls “Cambria”, whose patron saint Kentigern testified to the area’s distinctiveness even then.

In this paper, I will draw on theoretical approaches from material culture studies to explore how exactly St Kentigern shapes such a notion of Cambria-ness. Adapting Latour’s concept of the association, I will argue that the saint builds a network of persons and things that crucially increases the cohesion of his local community. By associating himself with SS David and Columba, Kentigern puts his see on the hagiographical map of the North. As his Vitae do not include reports of posthumous miracles, the saint must prove his mastery over matter during his lifetime. Kentigern’s collection of wondrous things left behind includes a hazel twig, a staff, a bell, a ring, and a ram’s head – material focal points for his Cambrian community of followers.


Christiania Whitehead (University of Lausanne):

The Production of Northern Saints’ Lives at Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumbria

The Cistercian Abbey of Holm Cultram in Cumbria was founded in 1150 as a daughter house of Melrose Abbey by the son of King David I of Scotland, at a time when Cumbria was largely under Scottish control. Reverting to English control in 1157, it nonetheless retained close links with southern Scotland (landholdings in Dumfriesshire, ecclesiastical benefactors) until the early thirteenth century, when Scottish raids, and subsequent Anglo-Scottish hostilities, meant that the abbey lost contact with its mother house and Scottish possessions, and was increasingly required to take a pro-English stance. At the same time, it also enjoyed close ties with northern Ireland as a result of the colonising drive of Sir John de Courcy, a Cumbrian knight, in the 1170s. John de Courcy granted Holm Cultram a daughter house in County Down, while his son, William de Courci, was briefly appointed as abbot to Holm Cultram, c.1215, before moving to Melrose.

As well as participating in these complex political and ecclesiastical networks with England, the lordship of Galloway, the Scottish throne, and northern Ireland, Holm Cultram demonstrates a significant but previously overlooked interest in a number of insular saints variously linked with Ireland, Cumbria and southern Scotland. Its first prior, Abbot Everard (1150-92), is known to have composed vitae of Waltheof of Melrose, and Adamnan and Cumen of Iona, while its medieval library holdings include two early thirteenth-century collections of native English saints’ vitae (BL, Cotton Claudius A.v; BL, Cotton Faustina B.iv), in addition to a twelfth-century collection of Cluniac vitae. Cotton Faustina B.iv is of particular interest due to its inclusion of the northern saints, St Bega of Cumbria and St John of Beverley.

This paper will consider these multiple manifestations of interest in northern English and southern Scottish saints in relation to local Cistercian networks of hagiographical production, and Holm Cultram’s changing relations with the Scottish and English crowns during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, querying how the saints’ vitae produced at the Abbey and held within their collections helped or hindered their perception of their regional and national allegiances.


Lucy Wrapson, (Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge):

Holy Apostles and Sainted Bishops: Reuniting a Hexham rood loft

In 2017, the Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge assessed the condition, materials, techniques and physical histories of Hexham Abbey’s medieval panel paintings. The Abbey’s rich collection includes schemes of bishops, saints and two narrative scenes on the pulpitum, two composite altarpieces to chantry chapels, a Passion cycle, a Dance of Death cycle, a set of seven large bishop saints, as well as two further ranges of paintings, depicting the Apostles/Virgin and Child and ten other bishop saints.

The seven canonised Anglo-Saxon bishops of Hexham, and bishop saints from Lindisfarne, feature prominently in paintings at Hexham Abbey. This paper focuses on two of the painting sets, the Apostles and ten bishop saints, now dislocated but clearly (and technically demonstrably) once together. Stylistic similarity between the two had been noted before, but until now the object type had not be securely identified.

This paper presents the technical evidence for the Apostles and bishops once forming part of the same rood loft. Moreover, the iconography, materials and technique point to a local origin. In the Abbey, a former Augustinian Priory, the depiction of Anglo-Saxon bishop saints on the west face of the pulpitum (conspicuously commissioned by Abbot Thomas Smithson) demonstrates Augustinian succession to a lineage of ancient saintly predecessors. This is particularly poignant in the light of the destruction of the Bishops’ shrines and relics during the 1296 Scots invasion. The rood loft, however, demonstrates a broader local pride in Hexham’s sainted bishops and its early history, most likely outside the reach of the Augustinians and instead located in the parish church.


Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa (Shizuoka University):

Three Continental Female Mystics/Saints and Northern Readers of Saints’ Lives

The Boke of Gostely Grace (Boke) is the Middle English translation of Liber Specialis Gratiae (Liber), the revelations of Mechthild of Hackeborn (1240–98), a German mystic of Helfta. The Liber was translated into English in the early fifteenth century; during this same period Birgitta of Sweden’s Liber Celestis and Catherine of Siena’s Dialogo were also translated into English in a Carthusian or Birgittine milieu. The Boke survives in two manuscripts, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 220 (written in the London dialect) and London, British Library, MS Egerton 2006 (written in a northern dialect). The ownership as well as readership of MS Egerton 2006 illuminates its close connection with a northern reading community, in particular, with that of the Yorkshire nobility and gentry linked to Richard III and his wife.

This interest in Mechthild is also attested by the piety of Cecily Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III. Her daily devotional reading included Walter Hilton’s treatise on the mixed life, Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, the Golden Legend, the revelations of Birgitta and Mechthild, and a life of Catherine of Siena. In 1495 she left her granddaughter, Brigitte, ‘a boke of St Matilde’, along with the Legenda Aurea and the life of Catherine of Siena.

Focusing on the household of Cecily Neville, whose biography has recently been the focus of J. L. Laynesmith (Cecily Duchess of York, 2017), I will explore how the texts of the continental female mystics/saints travelled to the North and attracted both female and male audiences. I will also hope to reveal the impact that these saints had on late fifteenth-century aristocratic reading communities, such as Cecily Neville’s.


Katherine Zieman (Trinity College, Dublin):

Of Canonization and Canons: The Office of Richard Rolle of Hampole and His Claims to Literary Sanctity

Though Richard Rolle was never canonized, it was not for lack of trying. Perhaps the most extensive evidence of the desire to canonize him is the office that was prepared for his hoped for canonization, probably in the 1380s, though perhaps earlier. This paper will explore features of the office along with contemporary manuscript evidence to consider how they represent Rolle’s sanctity. On the one hand, the service contains features that are relatively formulaic. At least part of its hymns, for example, are contrafacta of melodies used for the feast of Corpus Christi, a common practice. On the other hand, some features are distinctive: the contrafacta for Rolle’s hymns also make use of his trademark stylistic gesture of excessive alliteration. The use of alliteration is one among many aspects of the office that suggest Rolle’s claim to sanctity, and his construction as a saint, was based on his reputation not merely as a ‘confessor’, but more specifically as a writer. The promotion of his cult is contemporary with the migration of many substantial northern works of religious instruction (Cursor Mundi, The Northern Homily Cycle, Speculum Vitae) to more southern book-makers and readers. This movement of texts ultimately created a larger ‘national’ audience for, and awareness of, the possibility of an ‘English’ religiosity promulgated by and English canon of texts. Among some readers, Rolle became a figurative patron saint of this English canon of writing, allowing him to be canonized as an English auctor, if not and English saint.