Saints and Their Communities: Miracle Stories in Twelfth-Century England (Oxford Historical Monographs) 019928363X, 9780199283637

Saints and their Communities offers a new approach to the study of lay religion as evidenced in collections of miracle n

249 0 1MB

English Pages 258 [262] Year 2006

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
List of Maps
1. Introduction
2. The Cult of St Edmund of Bury
3. The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England
4. The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester
5. Little St William of Norwich
6. The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford
7. The Hand of St James at Reading
8. Conclusion
Recommend Papers

Saints and Their Communities: Miracle Stories in Twelfth-Century England (Oxford Historical Monographs)
 019928363X, 9780199283637

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

OXFORD HISTORICAL MONOGRAPHS Editors j. maddicott r. j. w. evans j. harris b. ward-perkins j. robertson r. service p. a. slack

This page intentionally left blank

Saints and their Communities Miracle Stories in Twelfth Century England SIMON YARROW




Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York # Simon Yarrow 2006 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published 2006 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose the same condition on any acquirer British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available Typeset by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India Printed in Great Britain on acid-free paper by Biddles Ltd., King’s Lynn, Norfolk ISBN 0–19–928363–X


1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

For My Family: Molly, Stuart, Ruth and Jonathan and in memory of R. R. Davies (1938–2005)

Preface This book first took the form of a thesis presented at Oxford University in 1999 and is the result of research undertaken there in the second half of the 1990s. It grew out of my concern to understand the miraculous in medieval society, and with a particular interest in its social and political construction through the interaction in ritual and story-telling of religious institutions and lay communities. It was inspired by the work of Peter Brown on the cult of the saints in late antiquity. I offer it now as a contribution to the growing literature that has taken its stimulus from his exciting and powerful insights. It comes not as a comprehensive treatment of the sources for twelfth-century England but as a selection of case studies, allowing a close reading of the texts and a reconstruction of the historical and institutional circumstances in which they were produced. I took encouragement from the contextualized studies made by Raymond Van Dam of the cults of St Martin of Tours and St Julian of Brioude in an earlier elaboration of Peter Brown’s approach. My own reading of miracle narratives has taught me of the need for caution and sensitivity in interpreting them simply as evidence for such subjects as ‘popular religion’ or ‘medieval mentality’. Rather it has strengthened my impression of saints’ cults as remarkably flexible and local manifestations of medieval religious practice, and as the result of cultural processes and negotiations crucially linked to the practical and mundane aspects of daily life. I am convinced that collections of miracle stories, whilst concealing powerful appeals to elite perceptions of social cohesion and spiritual harmony in the particular and mundane reportage of social detail, nevertheless leave traces of the practical difficulties, tensions, and fragilities of miracle making. My largest efforts have been in striking as faithful a balance as possible between the privileged perceptions of written narrative and more open readings of the diverse functions and conflicts that the negotiation of Christian community through cult involved. I have many people and institutions to thank for the publication of this book. I am hugely grateful to the British Academy and the Arts and



Humanities Research Board, who made it possible for me to spend three years researching at Oxford. I was very fortunate to spend my time there as a member of St Cross College. At its dinner tables I could have the good fortune on any given day of sitting beside a postgraduate from the other side of the world or one of its founding fellows (something not many students of other colleges can boast). I wish to thank in particular Richard Repp, Nicholas Mayhew, Peter Thompson, Peter Groves and Diarmaid MacCulloch for their advice and encouragement during my time there. The breadth of coverage and brilliance of Oxford’s community of medievalists provided a rich, if frequently daunting, model of scholarship. I fear I can only hope one day successfully to emulate it. Supportive and inspirational figures who shared with me their personal insights, wisdom and expertise were Richard Sharpe, Miri Rubin, Ros Faith, Henrietta Leyser, John Nightingale, Brian Ward-Perkins and the late Patrick Wormald. I am particularly grateful to Rees Davies, for the friendship and understanding he showed me at difficult moments in my progress. I feel profoundly privileged to number among those whose lives were enriched by his humour, his intellect and his humanity. Through my teaching experiences at St Mary’s, Strawberry Hill, and at Birkbeck I was lucky to learn much from conversations with Christopher Durston, Sue Doran, Jonathan Wolfson, Guy Halsall, and Matthew Innes. Latterly at Liverpool University I have benefited from the advice of Pauline Stafford, Marios Costambeys, Martin Heale and Dmitri Van Den Bersselaar. For their help with the maps I would like to thank Steven Bassett and Duncan Probert. Bob Moore and Benjamin Thompson also saved me from errors and made many valuable comments on my work, for which I offer many thanks. Many thanks too to Anne Gelling, Kay Rogers, Anna Capel-Davies, and Louisa Lapworth at Oxford University Press, and Jane Robson who have been tremendously patient with my delays in getting work to them, and saved me from countless erros. Those that remain are of course entirely my own. It was a particular thrill and a great support in 2000 to be appointed Past and Present Research Fellow, which made it possible for me to continue my historical research and prepare sections of this book. I thank the staff of the Bodleian Library for their advice and expert service and Mr Lowinger Maddison at Gloucester Cathedral Library for his hospitality.



For reading a version of this book and for consoling me in times of despair I wish to thank Anne Worrall. Among the many friends whose help and support I would like fondly to remember here are Theresa Salter, Alan Brown, Jessica Sack, Hugh Doherty, Michelle Lucey-Roper, Nick White, Mark Achurch, and Anna Wells. I have reserved a final tribute for Henry Mayr-Harting, who kindly and patiently acted as my doctoral supervisor and advisory editor. Put simply, without his guidance over the years neither the thesis or the book would have been completed. It was an immense privilege and a repeatedly daunting prospect to have to keep presenting my efforts to Henry for scrutiny. My distress at not being able to please him would frequently get the better of me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Henry for constantly challenging me to pursue clarity, rigour and accuracy of thought and expression. I know my appreciation and fondness for him as a historian and a person will only grow in the future as I attempt to repay that debt. Department of Medieval History, University of Birmingham June 2005

Contents List of Maps Abbreviations

x xi

1. Introduction


2. The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


3. The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


4. The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


5. Little St William of Norwich


6. The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


7. The Hand of St James at Reading


8. Conclusion


Bibliography Index

223 239

List of Maps 1. 2. 3. 4.

Shrines Featuring as Case Studies in this Book Norwich Cathedral Estates and Pilgrim Origins The Origins of St Frideswide’s Pilgrims The Estates of Reading Abbey Under Richard I

25 168 189 213

Abbreviations AASS


Acta Sanctorum, ed. J. Bollandus, et al. (Antwerp and Brussels, 1643– ). Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies, also known as Anglo-Norman Studies, ed. R. Allen Brown et al. (Woodbridge, 1978). Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (denoting manuscript version). Anglo-Saxon England.


Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research.


Corpus Christianorum Series Latina.


Domesday Book.


Economic History Review. English Episcopal Acta. English Historical Documents. English Historical Review. Early Medieval Europe.


Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. R. A. B. Mynors and R. M. Thomson (Oxford, 1998).


Histoire internationale de la lite´rature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des Origines a` 1550, 4 vols., ed. G. Philippart (Turnhout, 1994– ).


Journal of Ecclesiastical History.


Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores. Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, 7 vols., ed. R. C. Robertson and C. R. Sheppard, RS, 67 (London, 1875–85).





Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone (Oxford, 1997).


Patrologia Latina. Past and Present. Pipe Roll. Pipe Roll Society. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology.


Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1154. Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1087, ed. D. Bates (Oxford, 1998). Rolls Series.


Studies in Church History.


Victoria County History.

1 Introduction Miracles were a ubiquitous feature of medieval Christian culture. We might even say, following a strict Augustinian line, that there could be no Christian society without the miraculous. God’s creation of the world and Christ’s resurrection were the supreme miracles that provided the occasion for man’s existence and his hope for salvation after he ceased to exist.1 In addition to those miracles of the scriptures which ‘testify to that one supreme miracle of salvation’, St Augustine took pains to emphasize that ‘even now miracles are being performed either by his sacrament or by the prayers or the memorials of his saints’.2 Augustine saw the saints as enjoying a particular role in boosting the Christian faithful with a reminder of God’s power, manifest in the form of miracles. To illustrate this point, he included in his City of God a collection of miracles he had had related to him or that he himself had witnessed, associated with the recently discovered relics of St Stephen the protomartyr.3 The subsequent discussion and recording of miracles in a variety of narrative sources throughout the medieval period testifies to their universal acceptance as a fundamental aspect of religious belief and practice. Through miracles the personal and communal aspects of Christian identity merged. In the medieval Christian experience of everyday life a miracle was always potentially a place of resort. An aspect of the twelfthcentury growth in learning was the colonization of the miraculous by what we would recognize as more rational procedures of inquiry into knowledge. In other words, the natural gained ground on the

1 B. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record and Event, 1000–1215 (Aldershot, 1982, 1987), 3. 2 St Augustine, The City of God, tr. H. Bettenson (London, 1972), 21.8, 1034. 3 Ibid. 1035–47; and for the discovery of St Stephen’s relics by a priest called Lucian in 415, see ODCC, 1540.



supernatural as a mode of explanation.4 Despite this development, and the alternative explanations it offered for experiences hitherto categorized as miraculous, medieval scholars and the societies they represented in writing never accepted the redundancy of the miraculous as a mental category as did later European intellectual communities. Twelfth-century England was no exception to this observation. My introduction aims to delimit the field of my inquiry into the miraculous and to describe a number of important themes that inform my interpretation of the material. I will deal in turn with a number of issues related to the sources, historiography, theory, and methodology associated with the subject of the miraculous in twelfth-century England. The aims are threefold: to locate my study in relation to other works on the material relevant to my chosen period; to situate my own findings within their proper historical and functional contexts; and to explore the opportunities for writing a social history of the miraculous using the insights of other academic disciplines, namely anthropology and social theory. Miracles were primarily shared experiences. The historian’s fate is to encounter them in writing. This simple insight informs my study. Its implications will be discussed below. The miraculous appears in all kinds of written material of the period. Chronicles, annals, theological treatises,5 and anthologies of exempla produced for preaching purposes6 all to a greater or a lesser extent dealt in the currency of the miraculous, despite falling outside the sub-genres of hagiography with which it is primarily associated. The sources chosen for this study are collections of miracle narratives associated with the relics of saints enshrined at the heart of monastic communities. To make the material more manageable, and to allow space for more detailed discussion, I have chosen six cults and the twelfth-century miracle collections they produced. These are, chronologically, the cult of St Edmund at Bury, the relic tour of the canons of St Mary of Laon, the cults of St Ithamar of Rochester, St William of Norwich, St Frideswide, and the cult of the hand of St James at Reading. Each is treated as a case study taking up one chapter. B. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind, 4–9. See Guibert de Nogent, De Pignoribus Sanctorum, ed. J.-P. Migne, PL 156 (Paris, 1853), cols. 607–80. 6 Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum, ed. J. Strange, 2 vols. (Cologne, 1851). 4 5



These collections predominantly document miracles that took place after the death of the saint with whom they are associated. Such posthumous miracles, like those recorded as occurring during the life of the saint, were witness to the sanctity of the saintly subject. Posthumous miracles do not appear exclusively in miracle collections; they occur also in monastic chronicles and are appended to accounts of saints’ lives. They were included in accounts of a saint’s translations as authoritative signs of the sanctity of the newly enshrined saint. They did so by equipping the saint with the miraculous qualifications of sanctity as conventionally defined in hagiographical literature.7 They also affirmed the saint’s contentment with his (or her) new surroundings and custodians. Posthumous miracles were also intended to draw attention to saints and the terms by which their heavenly patronage might be sought. In this task, hagiographers enjoyed scope to observe and document ritual engagements and to hear oral accounts of the laity’s engagements with an enshrined saint. It is this attention to these local circumstances that makes posthumous miracles a potentially rewarding subject for the study of religious communities and practices. This book has two basic aims. First, it explores how these narratives served the spiritual and material needs of their authors. Secondly, it aims to explore to what extent they reveal forms of creative engagement with relics extending beyond the institutional and intellectual loyalties of their authors. Before attempting to address questions of context and function specifically related to my chosen case studies, some general discussion of the history of saints’ shrines in the century or so after the Norman Conquest of England is needed. The relative paucity of miracle collections for the late Anglo-Saxon period makes it difficult to present a detailed survey of the cult of saints’ relics prior to the conquest. The hagiography of the period tended to be literary and limited geographically to the more important monastic institutions.8 In this scholars have found contrasts with the Celtic churches of Wales, Ireland and Brittany. John Blair has 7 See P. Morison, ‘The Miraculous and French Society, 950–1100’ (Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1983), 18, for the view that miracles in vita served the rhetorical needs of a ‘notoriously stereotyped genre’. See also R. Bartlett, ‘Rewriting Saints’ Lives: The Case of Gerald of Wales’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 598, for the more optimistic opinion that ‘Saints’ Lives were both part of a genre of immense longevity and the products of individual circumstances and environments’. 8 Hagiographies, 4 vols., ed. G. Philippart (Turnhout, 1994– ), 216–17.



recently questioned this convenient categorization that may have more to do with outdated notions of early medieval Celtic and Anglo-Saxon churches than with what a closer reading of the evidence might suggest. Blair has made a good case, so far as the evidence will permit, for the dynamic and diffuse nature of Anglo-Saxon saints’ cults. He emphasizes the similarities between them and their western counterparts in terms of their folkloric content, and associations not simply with centrally administered shrines but with features on the landscape and with popular oral traditions.9 Hagiography in the decades after the Norman Conquest accounted for a great deal more parchment than in the late Anglo-Saxon period. Saints’ vitae, liturgical material, and accounts of translations as well as collections of miracle narratives all expanded and diversified the existing corpus of English hagiography. Those most responsible for this new body of writing were the Benedictine monasteries. The tenth-century Benedictine reform movement had already made use of saints’ cults to secure their symbolic capital and attract material patronage.10 Benedictine monasticism remained at the forefront of cult promotion for the century and a half after the Conquest. The increase in hagiographical production has been traditionally attributed to Norman scepticism towards the Anglo-Saxon saints. Successive generations of English religious communities, it was thought, were happy to accept and commemorate the sanctity of the bones of dubious provenance that surrounded them. In contrast, the newly installed Norman abbots and bishops, as part of a wider programme of reform and spring cleaning of the Anglo-Saxon church, questioned this English credulity and sought firmer grounds for the retention of certain relics. Inquiries into the lives of the saints or even the ritual consignment of saints’ relics to the ordeal of fire were methods used for this purpose.11 9 John Blair, ‘A Saint for Every Minster?’, in A. Thacker and R. Sharpe (eds.), Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West (Oxford, 2002), 455–94. 10 See A. Thacker, ‘Saint-Making and Relic Collecting by Oswald and his Communities’, in N. Brooks and C. Cubitt (eds.), St Oswald of Worcester: Life and Influence (London, 1996), 244–68, idem, ‘Aethelwold and Abingdon’, in B. Yorke (ed.), Bishop Aethelwold: His Career and Influence (Woodbridge, 1988), 59–63, and Wulfstan of Winchester, Vita S. Aethelwoldi, ed. M. Lapidge and M. Winterbottom, in Wulfstan of Winchester: The Life of St Aethelwoldi (Oxford, 1991). 11 Acta Proborum Virorum, ed. W. D. Macray, Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham ad Annum 1418, RS 29 (London, 1863), 323–4. And see D. J. A. Matthew, The Norman Conquest (London, 1966), 202–5 for Walter of Caen at Evesham.



Those relics whose authenticity were tested and found wanting were discarded or relegated to inaccessible positions in the new AngloNorman church buildings, and dropped from liturgical calendars.12 The hero or villain of the piece, depending on whether the episode is seen as necessary reform or regrettable suppression, was Archbishop Lanfranc, whose doubt over the sanctity of St Elphege is most vividly portrayed by Eadmer in his Vita S Anselmi.13 More recent reviews of the evidence have qualified this view of Norman scepticism. The prodigious output of hagiography in the late eleventh century by specialist journeymen of the genre, such as Goscelin of St Bertin14 or by house historians like Eadmer and Osbern of Canterbury,15 led Susan Ridyard to suggest that too negative an interpretation of the historical circumstances has prevailed. Ridyard noted that ‘in terms of both publicity and veneration, the Norman Conquest was perhaps one of the better things ever to happen to the saints of the Anglo-Saxons’.16 If they were nostalgic for the Anglo-Saxon past, English monastic communities must have been painfully aware that their saints had failed to see off the Norman invaders and their novel customs. At the same time, the Norman ecclesiastics did not disdain the relics of the Anglo-Saxons for long before realizing the opportunity they presented ‘in the definition both of [their religious communities’] internal relations and of their relations with external secular and ecclesiastical powers’.17 Since Ridyard’s article it has been suggested that Archbishop Lanfranc was reluctant to cultivate St Dunstan’s and St Elphege’s patronage for reasons other than scepticism. Rather he sought to shift attention from the tombs of Anglo-Saxon saints to the central symbols of the Christian Church, Christ and the Eucharist.18 In fact, in his Vita S Dunstani, 12

R. W. Southern, St Anselm and his Biographer (Cambridge, 1963), 263–7. Eadmer of Canterbury, Vita S. Anselmi, ed. R. W. Southern, The Life of St Anselm by Eadmer, 2nd edn. (London, 1972), 50–54. 14 For Goscelin’s œuvre see Hagiographies, iii. 225–33, and for an important review of the contexts informing the conventions his work adopted see P. A. Hayward, ‘Translation Narratives in Post-Conquest Hagiography and English Resistance to the Norman 15 Hagiographies, iii. 237–42. Conquest’, A-NS 21 (1999), 73–85. 16 S. J. Ridyard, ‘Condigna Veneratio: Post-Conquest Attitudes to the Saints of the 17 Ibid. 205. Anglo-Saxons’, A-NS 9 (1987), 206. 18 J. C. Rubenstein, ‘The Post-Conquest Hagiography of Christ Church, Canterbury’ (Oxford M.Phil. thesis, 1991), 131–6; and see idem, ‘Liturgy Against History: The Competing Visions of Lanfranc and Eadmer of Canterbury’, Speculum, 74 (1999), 279–309. 13



Osbern took especial care to portray his subject as an important spiritual support to Lanfranc in his tasks of reforming the monks and recovering monastic land from Odo of Bayeux.19 A recent detailed review of the liturgical evidence has also failed to deliver any substantial proof of a deliberate and systematic Lanfrancian purge of the Anglo-Saxon Calendar,20 as has been traditionally claimed. Whilst some relics undoubtedly fell by the wayside, others had their status within monastic communities revived and bolstered by new literary commissions. Norman abbots and bishops at reformed houses like Ely, Bury St Edmunds, St Albans, and Abingdon adopted the AngloSaxon saints with a ‘businesslike readiness to make the heroes of the past serve the politics of the present’.21 New texts commemorating old saints became an important part of the Norman reorganization of the English church. The large hagiographical output for the post-Conquest period was thus part of a process of cultural and political assimilation between English monastic communities and those Norman ecclesiastics installed to positions of authority over them. The spiritual patronage offered by Anglo-Saxon saints provided, in the words of a historian of early medieval France, ‘a justification for authority, a rationale for power, and an issue around which social support could be mobilized’.22 It was an enterprise that lent continuity and stability to a phase of history accelerated by the events of 1066.23 It was an important, if sometimes torrid, exercise in cooperation and conciliation that allowed the English to invent and celebrate a past that featured their spiritual heroes intervening powerfully in society and provided the Normans with the opportunity to consolidate their positions within their new institutions and within wider society.24 This rediscovery of the past, as such processes invariably 19 N. Ramsey and M. Sparks, ‘The Cult of St Dunstan at Christ Church, Canterbury’, in N. Ramsey, M. Sparks, and T. Tatton-Brown (eds.), St Dunstan: His Life, Times and Cult (Woodbridge, 1992), 311–23. 20 R. W. Pfaff, Liturgical Calendars, Saints, and Services in Medieval England (Aldershot, 1998), 108. 21 Ridyard, ‘Condigna Veneratio’, 205. Ridyard also studied Malmesbury, Durham, Evesham, and Canterbury. 22 P. Fouracre, ‘The Origins of the Carolingian Attempt to Regulate the Cult of Saints’, in J. Howard-Johnston and P. A. Hayward (eds.), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown (Oxford, 1999), 165. 23 Chapter 2, on the cult of St Edmund at Bury, illustrates these themes in more detail. 24 Hayward, ‘Translation Narratives’, 89–93.



did, allowed a degree of invention that obscures our view of the late Anglo-Saxon cult of saints.25 As discussed above, John Blair has recently given us an interesting and unexpected glimpse of the circumstances that prevailed prior to the Conquest. Over the next century the cult of saints came more under the central organization of high-status Benedictine religious institutions.

THE SOCIAL DIMENSION One of the most vivid features of the post-Conquest cult of saints’ relics was that its popular dimensions attracted the attention of hagiographers more than ever before. Along with the liturgical commemoration of saints and the inquiries commissioned into their lives, the ritual translation of saints to accessible spaces within the great new cathedrals and monastic churches was clearly intended to publicize the presence of saints to wider audiences than those of the monasteries and cathedral priories. Two landmarks provide our most significant views of the historical landscape of twelfth-century, shrine-based miracle-working in England. Neither of them fully accounts for the phenomenon of posthumous miracle-working, the characteristics of which will be discussed below. Both in different ways, however, set trends in the management and promotion of saints’ shrines for others to follow. The first of these events occurred in the week of the 8–13 September 1091. The venue was St Augustine’s, Canterbury; the occasion the translation of the first six abbots of the monastery to custom-built shrines at the east end of the new abbey.26 The scale of the ceremony and the crowds of lay people involved in it distinguished the event from any translation preceding it for some time in England.27 It marked a trend in translations at monasteries and cathedral priories that endured for at least two decades and

25 Compare with P. Geary’s study of documentary sources and archival practice at this time, which emphasizes the selective nature of textually as much as orally generated memories. Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium (Princeton, 1994). 26 See Goscelin of Canterbury, Translatio S. Augustini, ed. D. Papebroch (1688), in AASS, 6 May, 411–43. 27 The previous celebrated one being that of St Swithun in 973.



laid the beginnings of an infrastructure supporting pilgrimage and posthumous miracle-working in the long term.28 The second important landmark in the history of twelfth-century posthumous miracle-working was the martyrdom and canonization of St Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury. The cult of St Thomas is by far the most documented of the English cults of this period, easily able to support an historical study on its own.29 Two monks of Christ Church collected hundreds of posthumous miracles at Canterbury.30 These collections stimulated a revival of interest in posthumous miracles, whose influence can be gauged from the contents of miracle collections newly commissioned in their wake.31 Their influence on the promoters of the cults of St William of Norwich and St Frideswide of Oxford will be discussed below. These two events each gave a new impetus to the cult of saints in twelfth-century England. They encouraged an increased willingness among ecclesiastical institutions to engage with the laity through a highly flexible sacred economy in which, in exchange for access to a saintly patron and the provision of a sacred space for physical, social, and spiritual rehabilitation, monastic communities flexed their social muscles across a secular landscape among groups that otherwise might have felt remote from them or of ambivalent status with regard to them. Such a development served a variety of practical and pastoral ends for religious communities seeking both to secure their material and ideological interests in the world while trying to sustain a fundamental and distinctive kind of detachment from it. As well as protecting the interests of their custodian communities, the relics of enshrined saints became the object of voluntary associations forged autonomously by the laity across urban and rural space and through diverse social groups. A detailed investigation into this aspect of religious culture forms a major part of my inquiry in this book. It proceeds first, however, from a discussion of the existing works on the subject and the proposal of further approaches informed by these and other works. 28 R. Sharpe, ‘The Setting of St Augustine’s Translation, 1091’, in R. Eales and R. Sharpe (eds.), Canterbury and the Norman Conquest (London, 1995), 1–14. 29 For this reason it falls outside the parameters of this one. 30 See Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, 7 vols., ed. J. C. Robertson, RS 67 (London, 1875–85). 31 For a useful discussion of this see D. Webb, Pilgrimage in Medieval England (London, 2000), 50–61.



The posthumous miracles of saints recorded at shrines across Latin Christendom have received much scholarly attention in recent decades.32 In the case of twelfth-century England, two pioneering studies deserve particular attention: Benedicta Ward’s Miracles and the Medieval Mind, and Ronald Finucane’s Miracles and Pilgrims.33 The subtitles of both these books give a useful insight into the preliminary interests of their authors, Ward’s addressing questions of theory, record and event, and Finucane’s promising a survey of popular beliefs. The concerns of both these studies have done much to provoke my own inquiries into the subject and provide much of the groundwork upon which this book attempts to build. A common criticism that might be levelled at both these works, and one that this book seeks to address, is the reductionist interpretations to which these authors subject their sources. Ward’s book is impressive for the author’s mastery of a vast and varied collection of sources related to the miraculous. Its great strength is its acute understanding of the theological and intellectual aspects of the miraculous. It might be suggested, however, that the ‘medieval mind’ Ward alludes to in her title is perhaps too intellectual to be representative of the popular dimensions of belief about shrine-based, miracleworking.34 Ward’s discussion of posthumous miracles is contained in the central chapters of her book. Her introduction to the material on posthumous miracles falls within the chapter entitled ‘Practical Contexts of Miracles’. Their functions she observes as being those laid down by Augustine: to convert unbelievers and to strengthen the faith of believers. These are the reasons reproduced at the beginning of miracle collections by, among other authors, Philip, prior of St Frideswide’s, Oxford. Working within such parameters, the perceptions of the thousands of lay pilgrims mentioned in the collections tend to get taken for granted. They are classed as ‘simple and unlearned’, and have ‘popular expectations of the miraculous’ requiring little explanation. Without any sensitivity to the social as well as the intellectual setting 32 Any doubts on this matter should be dispelled by a perusual of the bibliography in S. Wilson (ed.), Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore, and History (Cambridge, 1983), 309–417. For evidence of the continuance of this historiographical trend, and for a survey of its main features, see P. J. Geary, Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (New York, 1994), 9–27. 33 R. C. Finucane, Miracles and Pilgrims: Popular Beliefs in Medieval England (London, 1977; repr. with new introduction, 1995). For Ward, see n. 1 above. 34 P. Morison, EHR, 100 (1985), 656–97.



of the miraculous, the level of historical insight in the book is compromised. Ward sees the twelfth century, with regard to posthumous miracles, as a watershed between two different types of shrine, which for convenience she labels ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’.35 At the former, miracles tended to protect the monastic home of the relic and to punish those who threatened it. Examples of these cults, which are discussed in detail, are those of St Faith, St Benedict, and St Cuthbert. In contrast, pilgrims typically came to modern shrines in faithful anticipation of a cure. This departure from the traditional is identified in the cults of St William, St Godric, and St Frideswide. In the cult of St Thomas of Canterbury are identified elements of both traditional and modern.36 In fact, aspects of traditional and modern often appear in the same sources. It isn’t clear therefore that these terms are useful in explaining shifts in the use of saints’ relics by religious communities. It is an aim of this book to show that these chronological categories lack conviction because their criteria are not sufficiently related to their appropriate social and economic contexts. The case studies offered in this book attempt to explore further this aspect of Ward’s findings. Finucane’s main achievement is a statistically generated social survey of what Ward would call the modern shrines, those at which the resident saint’s primary role was to heal pilgrims. The work has rightly been admired as one of the first to treat miracle collections to statistical analysis with a view to writing the history of popular belief.37 Its method and the assumptions behind its formulation, however, arguably limit the extent of historical value that can be derived from the sources. If the work is to be applauded for its innovatory and serious treatment of the sources, it also raises questions about strategies for the historical representation of popular belief and about the extent to which a sense of ‘popular belief’ can be captured in data abstracted from highly normative sources. It has been suggested of his work that Finucane’s account conveys a sense of ‘timelessness, [a] lack of any sense of chronology or development’.38 The impression is reinforced by the occasional use he 35

36 Ibid. 89, 109. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind, 36, 67. See R. Bartlett for the view that ‘the results of such analyses are the most clearly original of the scholarly achievements of the last twenty years’, in ‘The Hagiography of Angevin England’, in P. R. Coss and S. D. Lloyd (eds.), Thirteenth Century England, v (Woodbridge, 1995), 45. 38 See C. N. L. Brooke’s review in History, 63 (1978), 442. 37



makes of information taken from sources remote from each other in time and genre. Thus in a discussion of doctors’ fees and miracle stories, he is happy to combine material from the miracles of Thomas Becket with the observations of Chaucer, Langland, and Froissart.39 The risk of such an approach is the reification of ‘medieval popular belief’ as belonging to a paradigm of ‘traditional’ society constructed in the light of modern scientific epistemology. The book presents an allegory of pastoral life in which miracles are a consolation for the material and medical deficiencies of a not-so-merry England.40 It does so by couching popular perceptions of the miracle cure (by far the most attentiongrabbing type of miracle from a statistical perspective) in terms of medieval ignorance of modern categories of medical knowledge. From the social details in the miracle stories Finucane produces a taxonomy of miracles based on bio-medical categories of illness the alleviation of which he explains in terms of chronic and remissive patterns of illness, psychogenic ailments and self-limiting diseases often linked to the changing availability of nutritional resources. The explanation makes the medieval miracle more readily understandable to the modern mind. It fails however to convey the full cultural value of the miraculous as experienced by its participants, whose beliefs are reduced to a series of misunderstandings about illness. Between the publications of these two books, Peter Brown published his seminal work on the cult of saints.41 Alongside his earlier essays, the book opened up new possibilities for the interpretation of the posthumous miracle. Brown examined the Enlightenment critique of ‘popular religion’ as expounded by Hume and traced its descent among the ‘mental furniture’ of subsequent writers. He found that the phrase ‘popular religion’ was habitually associated with those who failed to follow literate, monotheistic, and by implication, true Christian values.


R. C. Finucane, Miracles and Pilgrims, 64–5. See J. Clifford, ‘On Ethnographic Allegory’, in J. Clifford and G. E. Marcus (eds.), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (London, 1986), 98–121, for a discussion of the prevailing models by which western observers of other cultures organize their data; and M. Gilsenan, ‘Very like a Camel: The Appearance of an Anthropologist’s Middle East’, in R. Fardon (ed.), Localizing Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing (Edinburgh, 1990), 222–39, for a personal perspective and commentary on the implications of these insights. 41 P. Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago, 1981), 13–15. 40



‘Popular religion’ belonged to the vulgar, polytheistic primitives who periodically, in the history of the Church, swamped the guardians of Christian monotheism with age-old superstitious practices. Vestiges of Roman paganism and barbarian superstition were by turns used to explain the rise of the cult of the saints in late antiquity. Brown replaced Hume’s model with one that recognized elite complicity in ‘superstitious’ practice and allowed for a more dynamic and de-stigmatized version of popular religion. In the late antique period, Brown’s elites were the bishops. Through their management and promotion of saints’ shrines they penetrated the countryside around episcopal centres with a metaphorical grid of Christian values, articulating ‘new forms of the exercise of power, new bonds of human dependence, new intimate hopes for protection and justice in a changing world’.42 Brown’s work has attracted the admiration of a generation of scholars dealing with these kinds of sources. His insights have become a new orthodoxy that in turn has attracted criticism.43 Despite Brown’s stated aim to bring the history of popular beliefs into line with general historiography emphasizing change rather than continuity in late antique society, and despite his explanation for the rise of the cult of the saints as well as its function, some critics have tended to see him as a champion of essentially anti-historical methods derived from anthropology. These intellectual reservations quite understandably proceed from the historian’s interest in the particular, in charting change over time and in allowing individuals the free will to act decisively upon their worlds. The suspicion is that functionalist explanations preclude the possibility of these fundamental elements that constitute history. Accompanying these criticisms can sometimes be hostility towards what is perceived as the secularist dimension of Brown’s thesis, his readiness to acknowledge sanctity as a form of social power.44 Such critics would like to see sanctity

42 P. Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago, 1981), 22. 43 Testimony to the admiration and critical scrutiny to which Peter Brown’s work has been subjected can be found in J. Howard-Johnston and P. A. Hayward (eds.), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1999), and S. Elms, ‘Introduction’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 6 (1998), 343–51. 44 For H. Chadwick’s reference to ‘trendy non-religious explanations’ see R. Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993), 7; and for Thomas Head’s comments on French discomfort at Brown’s secularism see JEH 48 (1997), 142. The irony of this criticism is apparent in the way that Brown’s thesis actually



as something less malleable and at the very worst, a form of social power that only yields up its rewards to those who deserve its support. Despite these reservations, Brown’s insights have remained tremendously influential to subsequent historical research on the holy and Christian society, the present book being no exception. In the remainder of this introduction I intend to set up a flexible theoretical framework informed by Brown’s insights and those insights of other disciplines, within which interactions between monasteries and the laity can be seen to have been mediated through the miraculous.

THEORY AND METHOD: C ONTEXTUALIZING MIRACLE NARRATIVES The title of the book is designed to hint at the diverse and provisional notions of association operating through the cults of saints. Cults are ‘negotiating communities’, their particular characters constructed through processes of story-telling and ritual. I will argue that miracles are the result of normative processes of negotiation and that medieval communities shared a sense of their Christian identity through their communal negotiation of the miraculous. This insight has been most successfully encapsulated in the words of Michael Gilsenan, an anthropologist working on the Muslim religious beliefs and practices: One of the key signs of grace and authority, the most concentrated and dramatic for the believer, is those acts of wonder and power that we call miracles . . . Now every time the anthropologist sits down in a cafe´ and hears these narratives in the company of others who are far more than merely an audience but are really, participants, he, too, is an active participant. He, too is an actor in the drama, because the miracle is performed each time it is retold . . . It does not therefore matter, whether or not such and such happened or what the original miracle was, and if he goes looking for it, he will be chasing himself up a blind alley. There are endless versions of ‘the same’ miracle. Miracles are made every day in cafe´s and conversations, and it is there that they are created, reproduced and transformed.45 turns the ‘two-tier model’ on its head rather than dismantling it, and in doing so preserves the religious core of the cultural phenomenon. 45 M. Gilsenan, Recognizing Islam: Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East (London, 1982; repr. 2000), 75.



I do not propose therefore to define the miracle too nicely at the outset. This task is best left to the theologians. Rather I hope to demonstrate the historical value to be gained from examining it as the product of communal participation in a process. Perhaps the most general outline of a definition can be permitted in the observation that the miracle is a cultural phenomenon that existed in medieval society as a possibility for social practice. Three important areas of inquiry proceed from this working definition. The first concerns an assessment of the circumstances in which miracles were experienced. In other words, what kinds of events were chosen from the seemingly limitless range of possibilities available in everyday life, and who did the choosing? Close to this question lies a second field of inquiry concerning negotiation. How were miracles authorized? In what sense can we identify the owners of or participants in a miracle experience? The third and final series of questions prompted by this working definition concerns function. What was the range of sociological functions served by twelfth-century posthumous miracles? The first limitation a historian must acknowledge in any inquiry into the process by which miracles are chosen is that set by the registrar of the miracles. Our only point of entry into the posthumous miracles of twelfth-century England is through the narratives preserved in writing by monastic authors. Such an observation is worth making if only to remind us of the viewpoint these narratives offer us as post factum written accounts. In answering the question ‘to whom do such narratives belong?’ we might describe them in the narrowest sense as products of particular authors. Collections of miracles were occasional pieces. They had their commissioners as well as their authors, both acting in response to some perceived need and sharing some collaborative responsibility for the shape of the final work. Written narratives were representations of the miraculous that owed their existence to the privileged. Their authors were privileged because they possessed access to the technology of writing as a means of fixing meaning and because they invariably claimed an exclusive relationship to the saint, whose physical residence at the heart of their community made them interested informants on the earthly interventions that God permitted their saints to make. As one historian has observed, ‘religious communities bred men who looked on the preservation of their rights and interests as a primary duty, more important than truth in the last resort, and relics and wonders,



substantiated by the flimsiest of evidence, or no evidence at all, were accorded an importance in religious life’.46 The comment raises questions about the notions of truth and evidence.47 It also implies that the historian’s first job in dealing with the events described in any collection of miracle narratives is to locate the source in its proper historical context by being sensitive to the material and ideological interests of its author and how these affected his selection, interpretation, and deployment of the material. In the context of hagiographical studies this has usefully been termed by one historian as the ‘provincial viewpoint’.48 It might also be called the ‘relic’s-eye view’ of society.49 After investigating the historical circumstances surrounding the production of a relic’s-eye viewpoint in a miracle collection, we might then ask to whom else did these narratives belong? What other more diffuse viewpoints can be identified? In what form can a sense of wider authorization be discovered in the sources? As we have seen above, the problems associated with these questions have traditionally been resolved within the paradigm of ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ culture. The insights of literary historians have taught us that ‘popular culture’ is a meaningless historical term unless understood in the context of its construction by historical agents, usually an elite.50 The example of Bernard of Angers, a French hagiographer of the eleventh century, provides an illustration of such a construction. Bernard of Angers, in his collection of the miracles of St Faith, registered his bewilderment and disapproval in an extended commentary on the ancient practice of the people of Auvergne, Rouergue and the Toulousain who knelt before the statue of St Faith. In an attempt at mitigation for his own failure to intervene he recalls the horrible fate that befell a cleric, Odalric, who 46

Southern, St Anselm, 276. Its implications have increasingly led historians to seek historically contextualized relative or provisional truths in the historical evidence rather than attempting to organize them according to some hierarchy of reliability in relation to some supposed objective definition of historical truth. A pioneer in this approach is W. Goffart, The Narrators of Barbarian History (AD 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours Bede and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988). 48 D. W. Rollason, ‘The Miracles of St Benedict: A Window on Early Medieval France’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985), 77. 49 Morison, ‘Miraculous and French Society’, 87–8. 50 Brown, Cult of the Saints, 16–22. 47



previously attempted to stop the practice.51 The episode provides us with an image of authentic ‘popular culture’. Its appearance in the collection, however, is as part of a representation of the ‘Other’, by which its author sought more clearly to define his own position among an elite of literate arbiters of the orthodox. Bernard’s point was that if he committed the sin of retreating from righteous confrontation, then at least he wasn’t idolatrous like those engaged in the popular ritual. The point of this example is that, if distinctions between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ occur in the sources, they do so as rhetorical strategies. These of course have importance historically, belonging as they do to other dualist conceptions of the social world developed at this time.52 Their effect is to simplify and schematize a range of more complex historical entanglements between members of more widely variegated social groupings. The rhetorical scheme served by many miracle narratives was one of dysfunction and redemption (or damnation). The punishments and healings rehearsed in the miracle narratives helped foster a cosmological thought world of judgement and redemption among their audiences. When miracle registrars told pilgrims miracle stories they were educating them in forms of Christian practice that encouraged discipline, nurtured hope, and taught acceptance and recognition. Simply to reproduce these stories is to echo the agenda of those elites, however well meaning we might imagine them to be. Common sense tells us that our hagiographers required the authentic, raw material of human experience if they aspired to achieve social purchase with their narratives. They could not afford to work purely from Bede or some other canonical text to find the fitting example. Bernard of Angers may have been observing a reality in terms of and according to the conceptual resources and literary conventions that made sense to him. But he was nevertheless observing something external and independent of those conventions. Likewise, hagiographers’ representations of the historical reality, however schematized and topoi-ridden they might be, could not afford to play fast and loose with the expectations of those from 51 Bernard of Angers, Liber Miraculorum Sancte Fidis, in The Book of Sainte Foy, tr. P. Sheingorn (Philadelphia, 1995), 77–9. 52 M. Rubin, ‘Religion and Culture in Town and Country: Reflections on a Great Divide’, in D. Abulafia, et al. (eds.), Church and City, 1000–1500: Essays in Honour of Christopher Brooke (Cambridge, 1992), esp. pp. 17–22.



whose social practices they garnered their material. Such practices proceeded from the initiative of a wider body of the faithful than those literate elites who observed a monastic rule. The lay faithful were not simply passive, credulous, and occasionally misguided. They were in fact too large and too diverse in composition to be contained convincingly within any ‘popular’ paradigm. They were also imaginative and communally empowered by their licence collectively to negotiate the miraculous.53 We must not, in summary, allow our suspicions of authorial intent to reject the possibility of any ‘authentic’ historical value in the sources. Rather, in the case of miracles and those who experienced them, we should formulate historical explanations in terms of functional meanings and the media through which these meanings were created and shared as provisional truths.54 In doing so, we might occasionally be permitted a glimpse of the inconsistencies and tensions that must have lain behind many of these stories. As noted above, our only surviving medium for comprehending the miraculous is those stories selected and presented to us by miracle registrars. But within the written narrative, for the very reason of the hagiographer’s obligation to record the authentic, we might detect other narratives, narratives more fluid, more ‘up for grabs’ by the very nature of the means by which their content was constructed. Such narratives, to borrow a term from Clifford Geertz, might be called ‘local knowledge’.55 In every successful relic’s-eye view of the world existed a healthy amount of local knowledge. Though preserved for us in written form, the media through which local knowledge was negotiated were visual, performative, and aural and as such they were strategies of communication notionally available to all and occurring independently of the written word. 53 See R. I. Moore, ‘Between Sanctity and Superstition: Saints and their Miracles in the Age of Revolution’, in M. Rubin (ed.), The Work of Jacques Le Goff and the Challenges of Medieval History (Woodbridge, 1997), 58, for the notion of ancient communal power articulated through miracles. 54 For the defence of history as ‘something we all do, all the time, provisionally’, see C. Wickham, ‘Gossip and Resistance Among the Medieval Peasantry’, PP 160 (1998), 24. And P. Rousseau ‘Ascetics as Mediators and as Teachers’, in J. Howard-Johnston and P. A. Hayward (eds.), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1999), 46–59, for the function of the genre rather than the function of the holy man. 55 See C. Geertz, Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (New York, 1983).



In practice oral and ritual forms of autonomous narrative56 coalesced, but here they will be discussed separately. The first kind of autonomous narrative I wish to describe is that of ritual. The most common form of ritual was that of the miracle cure. As I mentioned above, I will make no attempt in this book to classify and diagnose the kinds of symptoms described in the accounts of miracle cures. This is not to deny the reality of suffering and pain ascribed to the afflicted, nor to reject such factors as self-limiting diseases, changed nutritional circumstances, the attention of a doctor in a monastic infirmary, or simply a change of scenery as credible explanations for a cure. The problem with such reasoning is that it, ‘only confuses the understanding of a many-sided phenomenon by imposing a bogus scientism on it. The point is not whether the miracle ‘‘took place’’ but that people whose social affiliations can be the object of empirical study have explained an aspect of their behaviour in terms of it.’57 The miraculous cures of pilgrims at saints’ shrines conform in the written account to a pattern of behaviour that can be recognized as illness charged with ritual significance. Groups of pilgrims performed a sequence of symbolic actions and gestures that linked their everyday life with the divine as represented by the presence of a saint’s relics. Through such symbolic communication was negotiated the social reality of a cure. The general form that ritual healings took can be outlined as follows: 1. A community registers a problem—An individual suffers with a continuing illness or disability, known to her family or neighbours and often compromising her productive status within it. Recourse to a doctor having failed, the matter gets taken up by the community. 2. Adoption of a ritual strategy—A saint’s shrine is identified as a possible place of recourse for the individual, either by family or neighbours or through the personal recommendation of the saint in a vision. 56 For use of the term ‘autonomous narrative’ in this context see S. Boesch Gajano, ‘The Use and Abuse of Miracles in Early Medieval Culture’, in L. K. Little and B. H. Rosenwein (eds.), Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (Oxford, 1998), 336. 57 B. Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Philadelphia, 1990), 85; and see H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth-Century Shrine: The Miracles of St Frideswide’, in Mayr-Harting and Moore (eds.), Studies Presented to R. H. C. Davis, 196–7, for a more nuanced view of medical care and ‘supernatural’ assistance.



3. The saint is solicited—Oaths are made, gifts promised, and the individual is conveyed to the shrine, usually accompanied by a relative or neighbours or both. 4. Ritual engagement—At the shrine the individual is isolated from the group and interacts with the saint alone, often by offering a gift, sleeping or praying by the shrine, or touching the afflicted body part with the relic or some holy object or liquid associated with the saint. 5. A healing is witnessed—The blind see, the lame walk, the dumb speak. A miracle is seen to be done. The cure is often the culmination of some symbolic enactment of illness involving exaggerated bodily gestures. 6. Record is made—Witnesses confirm the result to a miracle registrar and, if happy with the testimony, the latter selects from it those elements that reproduce an attested route into the event, and places upon it a moral gloss.58 7. Recitation—The event is recounted before a wider audience, either by the person cured or in the retelling of the story by monks to subsequent audiences. At almost all its stages this pattern of engagement with a shrine was a communal event. The conventions underlying the ritual and authentically reproduced in the written account required the location of an individual in a social context.59 The ill person had a history of illness or dysfunction known to her family, neighbours, or village. The pilgrimage was rarely a solitary undertaking. People from the village or the family, perhaps even the local priest, often accompanied the person. The timing of the pilgrimage and subsequent cure were important. Miracle registrars liked to advertise the particularly sympathetic hearing a saint might give on his feast day. This provided for maximum exposure of the sufferer to conditions of ritual arousal before an interested audience. Other noted occasions for miracles were before important visitors or during the

58 I am grateful to Richard Sharpe for suggesting this phrase to me, which emphasizes the formal aspect of the ritual and its analogies in the witnessing of documents issued by monastic beneficiaries and royal chanceries. 59 See H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth-Century Shrine’, 204–6 for the importance of the crowd and its change in attitude towards the sufferer effected by ritual.



monks’ performance of divine office. All these details confirm the importance of interested audiences to the success of the cure. The ritual cure was in fact a means by which the social anxieties and tensions that lay behind the seeking of a miracle were dramatized and hopefully resolved. The sick, ritualized body provided the site for the playing out of these tensions.60 Before the cure could occur the body was first collapsed into symbolic, fragmented, unstable elements. Deformities and dysfunctions were exaggerated: bones cracked, the mad writhed more violently than ever. Afflicted body parts were reproduced in wax and offered at the shrine. Relics and liquids contaminated with the holiness of the saint caused the ritualized body to emit powerfully symbolic material of its own. Blood, tears, sweat, mucus, vomit, pus, spittle, all polluted the ritual space and undermined symbolically the boundaries by which groups of onlookers located themselves socially.61 The healing proceeded from the communal experience of these symbols which were often portrayed in terms of oppositions made between darkness and light, fragmentation and wholeness, interior and exterior, sin and redemption, violence and placidity, morbidity and vitality, and ultimately, disorder and order. Linked to the performance of ritual in the negotiation of the miraculous was the recitation of the miraculous. At most of the stages described above participants in the miraculous could engage in conversation. Miracle collections are packed with people in conversation: people sharing stories about their circumstances; people expressing doubt at what they have just seen; people talking to saints they meet in visions; people offering testimony to the truth of the miracle events they have witnessed. We need not accept as historically truthful the exact words sometimes reported by miracle registrars between, for example, the laity and the saints they encountered in visions. Their words were no doubt attributable to those who shared in the relic’s-eye view. But we should see such reported dialogues as credible rehearsals of the 60 See S. Kay and M. Rubin, Framing Medieval Bodies (Manchester, 1996), 1–8, for the symbolic importance of the body in medieval society. 61 For the definition and importance of bodily matter as pollutants offending and challenging notions of social order, see M. Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966), 115–29; and for the discussion of bodily emissions in a contemporary medieval context, see C. Leyser, ‘Masculinity in Flux: Nocturnal Emission and the Limits of Celibacy in the Early Middle Ages’, in D. M. Hadley (ed.), Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London, 1999), 103–20.



possibilities for such conversations. As such they were intended to implicate an audience in the process of constructing reality through narrative. Like the strategy of ritual, narratives, whether written or oral in source, constructed meanings in their recitation that retained and propagated a value of practical truth to those who shared them. In the words again of the anthropologist Michael Gilsenan: ‘Varying from a single phrase evoking a known series of events to an elaborated rehearsal of a story of life and history in front of a participatory audience, narratives constitute everyday life.’62 Between the custodian community and the laity, important vessels of local knowledge concerning the miraculous were those who were known to live respectable and pious lives. From a relic’s-eye view, those with moral standing in the local community were useful carriers of local opinion. The registering of testimony from such people was an important condition of the miraculous without which our miracle registrars expressed a reluctance to announce its occurrence in their written narratives. In the miracle collections we are repeatedly reminded that some oral accounts of miracles to arrive at a shrine were not included because they didn’t stand up to scrutiny, or because their witnesses were not of satisfactory character. This sifting of evidences and registering of testimony followed a long established rhetoric of dysfunction and redemption ultimately inspired by the miracle stories of the gospels. It strengthened the claims to powerful influence in society that custodian communities could make for their saint, because it gave the impression of a discriminating and pre-existing community of believers. Miracle stories recollected to politically important individuals such as royalty, aristocrats, or important churchmen proved the power and status that such an authority was willing to countenance and concede to a saint in his realm or jurisdiction.63 Conversely, it was important that those who might attempt to undermine this consensus with rumours or unhelpful narratives should 62 M. Gilsenan, ‘Nightmares on the Brain of the Living: Narratives of Imagined Pasts and Presences in an Anthropology of North Lebanon’ (unpublished article deposited in the Tylor Library, Oxford, 1994), 3. 63 See Symeon of Durham, Capitula de miraculis et translationibus, in Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, RS 74, 2 vols., ed. T. Arnold (London, 1879–85), ii. 343, for the record of a miracle retold at court.



be seen to be punished for their crimes. Traces of dissenting voices dealt with in this way can be heard in the miracle collections, reminding us that as likely a ‘popular’ medieval response to cult in any given social setting might be the active rejection of the miraculous as much as its acceptance. A common dissenting voice was that of the agent of a local lord or the king, whose task of representing his lord’s interests could often see him confronting the power of a neighbouring saint.64 A good twelfth-century example of one such agent more than willing to advance the authority of his lord at the expense, in this case, of the hermit Wulfric of Haselbury Plucknett, was Drogo de Munci. Drogo was struck ill soon after proposing to Henry I that, ‘the king would do well to send to the cell of this trickster and impound his money, for it was impossible that one to whom so many came should not have accumulated quite a treasure for himself’.65 Another example of an unhelpful narrative (discussed in Chapter 2) cultivated by members of the royal household is that concerning the incorruption of St Edmund’s body at Bury abbey. The chapter on St William of Norwich provides an interesting and not unrelated example of a still-born narrative of the Jewish ritual execution of a Christian that required considerable working up before it became an accepted feature of local knowledge and, regrettably, a topos subsequently appropriated by the universal church. The aim of this book is to explore the functions of the miracle narratives in the twelfth century, as recorded at the shrines of saints across southern England. In this endeavour the current chapter has used the insights of social, anthropological, and ritual theory to set up a framework of interpretation within which, it is hoped, the full cultural significance of the sources can be recovered. I have argued that these sources are the product of a privileged section of the society and that as such they are selective and manipulative of the raw material that they record. In a similar vein Raymond Van Dam has written of Bishop Gregory of Tours, in his role of cult impresario, as ‘manipulating and evaluating 64 Examples exist in late Anglo-Saxon lawsuits, see P. Wormald, ‘A Handlist of AngloSaxon Lawsuits’, A-SE 17 (1988), nos. 154–6, 167, 171. 65 John of Ford, Vita Wulfrici, in Wulfric of Hazelbury by John of Ford, ed. M. Bell, Somerset Record Society, 47 (1932), 64; and cited from H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth-Century Recluse’, History, 60 (1975), 342, whose translation it is.



holiness in order to affect the distribution of prestige and authority in his community’.66 Nevertheless I hope to demonstrate that something of the diverse meanings of the miraculous associated with posthumous miracles can occasionally be discerned and located among wider social groups than simply those who enjoyed direct access to the written evidence. Hagiographers compiled collections of miracles to fabricate and publicize the kinds of interventions saints were willing to make in society. Through the representation of local knowledge in the form of rituals and narratives they recreated plausible experiences of the miraculous in writing that could contain, resolve, and order the social tensions and personal anxieties that were characteristic of socio-economic change in twelfth-century England, within a framework of Christian values. In other words, the work of miracle collectors provides evidence on the provision of ritual and narrative spaces by monasteries within which individuals could negotiate their own experiences of a Christian redemptive hegemony. 66


R. Van Dam, Leadership and Community in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1988),

2 The Cult of St Edmund of Bury Two decisive developments in the history of the East Anglian church took place in 1095. On Sunday 29 April, after Bishop Walkelin of Winchester sprinkled the decorated altar with water he had blessed, the relics of St Edmund together with those of two seventh-century East Anglian saints, Jurmin and Botulph, were carried by the monks of the community to the newly built abbey church of Bury. The great church was so brimming with people on that day that a visiting knight of Northampton had his arm crushed in the crowd. The accident could not, however, tarnish the day for Baldwin, abbot of Bury. At both a personal and a communal level, St Edmund lent the weight of his approval to the occasion. The Northamptonshire knight’s limb miraculously recovered and, after a procession of the relics, rain ended a drought and marked the beginning of a spell of weather that was to deliver a good harvest later in the year. Finally, the presiding bishop, Walkelin of Winchester, announced an indulgence to those who visited the shrine of the saint. Many people, from diverse regions of England, took advantage of the offer.1 Abbot Baldwin’s success signalled a setback for successive bishops of East Anglia, Herfast and Herbert de Losinga. Both had fought for some time to exercise authority over the abbey, perhaps even to appropriate it as the centre of an episcopal seat in Suffolk. Their exact claims to authority over the abbey church are obscure and tenuous. What little that can be gathered from the sources bears the signs of fabrication. 1 Hermann, Liber De Miraculis Sancti Edmundi, in T. Arnold (ed.), Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, RS, 96, 3 vols. (London, 1890–6), i. 84–91 Henceforth, this miracle collection will be cited as Hermann, De Miraculis. For convenience, the collection produced in the late 12th cent that is edited in the same volume by Arnold and attributed to Abbot Samson will be cited as Samson, De Miraculis, despite more recent modifications made to Arnold’s direct attribution.


Bury St Edmunds

Oxford Reading Bristol Bath


Canterbury Dover

Wilton Salisbury


Winchester Christchurch Exeter



Key Route of the Laon canons in 1112

Map 1. Shrines features as case studies in this book (including the relic tour of the Laon canons).


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

A charter of 1101 and a brief narratio probably produced between 1103 and 1119 provide as much information as we can know of the episcopal perspective on the issues involved. The charter locates the first resting place of St Edmund’s body at Hoxne, an episcopal centre of the tenth century. Whilst such a possibility is conceivable, a more convincing site for the martyrdom has been proposed in Bradfield St Clare, nearer to Bury.2 The narratio, a history of the early diocese, survives in a thirteenth-century manuscript and is accompanied by the commentary of a Bury monk. It argues for Bury as the Suffolk seat of the bishopric from ancient times, and Herfast as rightful heir to the see. Bury’s status as an abbey under Baldwin was stressed as an irregular novelty, the consequence of monastic reform and confusion about episcopal succession from the reigns of Cnut to William I. The Bury commentator cites Bede in dismissal of the narratio, and goes on to note Herfast’s failure to make good his claims on two grounds, ‘not only through judgment but through the evidence of miracles we know to have happened’.3 He then proceeds to tell the story of a blindness that overcame Herfast at the height of his campaign against the abbey. Thanks to the prayers of St Edmund, and after dropping his lawsuit, Herfast’s sight returned. The Bury monk’s source for this story was the De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi, a collection of miracles written by Hermann, a monk of Bury, in the years immediately following the death of Abbot Baldwin. In addition to a description of the events that occurred on the day of St Edmund’s translation, the De Miraculis preserves a version of the legal disputes between Abbot Baldwin and Bishop Herfast, from the early 1070s to 1081.4 The account serves three purposes. First, it is an exposition of how Herfast brought illness and alienation upon himself as a consequence of stubbornly pursuing his legal claims against the abbey. For attempting to bribe the king he was punished by St Edmund, who blinded him in a riding accident. On Hermann’s advice, Herfast sought the help of the medically trained Abbot Baldwin, whose treatment was made conditional on the bishop announcing his abandonment of the case publicly to a gathering of the foremost of the king’s men. Herfast later went back on his word and took the matter to the royal court, where S. E. West, ‘A New Site for the Martyrdom of St Edmund’, PSIA (1984–5), 223–4. V. H. Galbraith, ‘The East Anglian See and the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 40 (1925), 228, ‘non tam per iudicium quam per evidens miraculum novimus 4 Hermann, De Miraculis, 60–7. contigisse’. 2 3

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


he produced a crozier that he claimed had belonged to his predecessors at Bury, and witnesses in support of his case. The crozier, Hermann suggests, had been acquired by underhand means from Bury and the oral testimony was that of worthless and unlaw-worthy characters (vilium testimoniis personarum, non etiam legalium).5 A final humiliation for Herfast was the security (vadium) he was made to pay by King William. As well as establishing a narrative that framed in a moral context the failure of Herfast to win his objectives, a second aim of Hermann was to preserve a record of the abbey’s privileges successfully upheld in legal contexts. The abbey had already secured an episcopal exemption for itself from Alexander II in 1072.6 At the risk of tedium to those listening to his account (quamvis auditoribus taedio), Hermann was careful to include the names of those primores who had acted ‘in witness of the true record’ (sunt verae rationis testimonio).7 They included Hugh de Montfort, Roger Bigod, and Richard, son of Earl Gilbert, all three of whom, from the evidence of writs, were active on behalf of the king in the county. Finally, the account gave Hermann the opportunity to eulogize Abbot Baldwin as a skilful orator and lawyer, using documents and argument in William I’s court to secure royal charters documenting the abbey’s rights against bishops. Studies of the royal documents used by Baldwin suggest that the abbey may not have been as prepared to defend itself in law against the bishop as Hermann would have us believe in the De Miraculis. Whilst generally satisfied with the authenticity of Bury’s writs, Florence Harmer expressed lingering doubts about the final sentence of an Anglo-Saxon writ of King Edward addressed to one of Baldwin’s predecessors, Abbot Ufi, which reads, ‘And I forbid that any bishop whatsoever appropriate to himself anything therein’.8 Two royal documents of 1081, a diploma and a writ, issued to the abbey, summarize the proceedings also described by Hermann, and announce officially the decision reached by the king in the matter. Scholarly opinion on the authenticity of the diploma has been mixed. Harmer suggests that its English section, at Ibid. 60. Hermann recorded a number of miracles performed by the secondary relics of St Edmund in the diocese of Lucca, on Baldwin’s journey to Rome. These were particularly valuable in smoothing the way for a papal confirmation since Alexander II had 7 Ibid. 64. previously been bishop of the diocese. Ibid. 67–9. 8 F. Harmer, Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester, 1952), 154. 5 6


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

least, was written by its beneficiaries and takes an aggressive line on the issue of episcopal exemption. She also reflects on its utility to the abbey in corroborating a series of purportedly earlier charters documenting the abbey’s exemption from episcopal authority, ‘not one [of which] is above suspicion’.9 Such a reading of the evidence would attach special importance to Hermann’s writing up of the story in a parallel, hagiographical version, reinforcing and concealing to its audience the effects of pious fraud committed in the interests of clothing a newly established legal exemption in an antique mantle. That these different types of written material shared a common purpose is implied in their placement along with an eleventh-century Gospel and a copy of Abbo of Fleury’s Passio Sancti Eadmundi by the shrine of the saint.10 The translation of St Edmund’s body marked the end of realistic episcopal ambitions to absorb the abbey’s lands and liberties into the bishop’s possession. Though Bishop Herbert later and in vain sought papal validation of his rights,11 across the fens and claylands, the second important ecclesiastical event of 1095 was Herbert’s decision to commence the building of a new cathedral church at Norwich.12 Record of the abbey’s vindication in disputes with bishops formed but one episode in Hermann’s De Miraculis, a work that charted the history of the monastery and the cult of the saint back to Edmund’s martyrdom in 870. The subject of St Edmund’s spiritual patronage of the abbey and sections of East Anglian lay society, as represented in the De Miraculis, occupies the remainder of the chapter. Before discussing its contents, some treatment of its manuscript tradition is necessary. In contrast to most of the collections studied in this book, which have only survived in a single manuscript, collections of the miracles of St Edmund have survived in composite versions built upon the work of Hermann.13 Problems of their dating, attribution, and separation into F. Harmer, Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester, 1952), 144. R. M . Thomson, ‘Early Romanesque Book Illustration in England: The Dates of the Pierpoint Morgan ‘‘Vitae Sancti Eadmundi’’ and the Bury Bible’, Viator, 2 (1971), 215. 11 Eadmer of Canterbury, Historia Novorum in Anglia, tr. G. Bosanquet, Eadmer’s History of Recent Events in England (London, 1964), 139–40. 12 For the likely date that Herbert began building, see B. Dodwell, ‘The Foundation of Norwich Cathedral’, TRHS, 5th ser. 7 (1957), 6. 13 In this respect the sources most closely resemble, albeit on a smaller scale, those for the miracles of Benedict of Fleury, for which see D. W. Rollason, ‘The Miracles of St Benedict: A Window on Early Medieval France’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985), 73–90. 9


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


constituent elements have long taxed the minds of modern editors and historians.14 In questions of attribution, additions, and dating, Rodney Thomson’s recent analysis of these and other pertinent manuscripts have formed the basis for subsequent historical works on the subject. Without slavishly repeating all the clues and interpretations leading Thomson to his conclusions, some summary of them is required in order to establish the broad historical contexts from which a proper study of the narratives can proceed. The earliest survival of Hermann’s miracle collection is in B.M. Cotton Tiberius Bii, the narratives in it written c.1100. The collection consists of a prologue and fifty chapters covering the period from Edmund’s martyrdom to the translation of his relics in 1095. A further three narratives, one of them incomplete, are additions to the collection as it was intended in its original form.15 All the narratives are contained in one book. B.M. Cotton Titus Aviii, by contrast, is a composite collection divided into two books, each preceded by a prologue, the first book containing sixteen narratives, the second a letter and twenty-one narratives. It belongs to the early thirteenth century, probably between the death of Abbot Samson and the publication of Jocelin of Brakelond’s Chronicle in 1204.16 From the evidence found in two other manuscripts, Rodney Thomson produced the most convincing schedule of production for the elements comprising Cotton Titus Aviii. Pierpont Morgan 736 contains miracles collected in two books of unequal length, whose anonymous author reproduced Hermann’s material in a more efficient style and supplemented it with a handful of other narratives. The date for the recording of these miracles is c.1124/5.17 The final manuscript left to be consulted is Bodleian 240, a large, late fourteenth-century compilation of saints’ lives and miracles. Annotations in this manuscript provide invaluable clues to the sequence of compilation of the narratives found in manuscripts preceding it. From them Thomson drew the following 14 See Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, ed. T. Arnold, 3 vols. (London, 1890–6), i, pp. xxxix, liii–lvi; and The Letters of Osbert of Clare, Prior of Westminster, ed. E. W. Williamson (Oxford, 1929), 26–32. 15 The following sentence completes the translation narrative and clearly marks the end of the original version: ‘ . . . per martyrem sanctum laus Dei procedit in augmentum, cujus tropheum manet in aevum, in saecula saeculorum. Amen’. It is likely that Hermann added more than three other narratives to subsequent recensions of his work. 16 Jocelin’s chronicle contains miracles that would arguably have been recorded in 17 Thomson, ‘Early Romanesque Book Illustration’, 211–25. Cotton Titus Aviii.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

conclusions. First, the Morgan manuscript of c.1124 drew on the miracles found in an early version of the Hermann text and recorded a number of fresh miracles occurring in the interim. Secondly, Osbert de Clare, exiled prior of Westminster abbey, recorded a group of thirteen miracles shortly after his return from a trip to Rome in 1139. Thirdly, the early thirteenth-century manuscript, Cotton Titus Aviii, was the compilation by an anonymous author of the following elements: a reworking of the Morgan collection by Abbot Samson, to which the latter appended a narrative that forms the sequel to an original Hermann miracle; and the collection of Osbert de Clare together with the prologue to book two and a letter following it, both also attributable to Osbert. Two other brief narratives and a proem inserted into book one before the eighth narrative are attributed to the compiler of Cotton Titus Aviii himself. Bodleian 240 contains a few narratives ascribed to Hermann but not appearing in Tiberius Bii or any of the subsequent compilations. Thomson attributes these to a later redaction of Hermann from which the fourteenth-century author was working. A number of other narratives falling outside the period of this study also appear in Bodleian 240.18 From this schedule it can be inferred that the cult of St Edmund remained the subject of monastic hagiographic attention at Bury throughout the twelfth century, five phases of hagiographical production discernible: the foundations laid in stages by Hermann c.1100; the refining of Hermann’s material by the author of the Morgan manuscript c.1124; the collection of miracles, a letter and prologue written by Osbert de Clare in 1139; the reworking of Morgan by Abbot Samson probably some time in the 1190s; and finally the conflation of Samson and Osbert made by the author of Cotton Titus Aviii. For the purposes of this chapter, Thomson’s schedule provides the historical contexts within which the two fundamental representations of the cult of St Edmund, those of Hermann and Osbert de Clare, will be examined. Hermann’s De miraculis is the earliest work of hagiography to concentrate specifically on the posthumous miracles of St Edmund.19 18 See Nova Legenda Anglie, ed. C. Horstmann, 2 vols. (London, 1901), 636–7, 647–50, 653–63, 665–88. 19 As distinct from the earliest hagiographical work dealing with his life, including miracles performed in vita, the Passio Sancti Eadmundi written by Abbo of Fleury in 985–7. The Passio survives in a late 11th-cent recension, an early English version testifying to certain revisions made to it.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


Hermann was commissioned by Abbot Baldwin to write the work and it was produced within a few years of the latter’s death in 1097. Hermann admits some familiarity with the household of Herfast, bishop of Thetford, and may have been an archdeacon of the diocese.20 A monk called Hermann appears in a letter of Lanfranc to Herfast.21 Its purpose was to upbraid Herfast for his gaming and to recommend his study of the canon law, with particular diligence to be paid to those elements emphasizing the authority of the metropolitan.22 A second concern for Lanfranc in the letter was the bad conduct of Hermann the monk, the correction of which Lanfranc offers in either his banishment by Herfast from the country or his removal to a monastery. The modern editors of these letters suggest that Hermann was a wayward continental monk seeking ecclesiastical preferment.23 It would be testimony to the gravity that Lanfranc’s bishops attached to his metropolitan authority if the monk Hermann were to be identified with Archdeacon Hermann, the author of our miracle collection. That Hermann enjoyed an insider’s knowledge of Herfast’s episcopal household might also furnish an explanation for Baldwin’s choice of him as author. The De Miraculis is more than a simple register of the posthumous miracles performed at the shrine of St Edmund at Bury. It is a highly tendentious historical account of the abbey and the cult. As such it is of limited value as a guide to the actual past of the abbey, though admirable attempts have been made to separate fact from fiction and legend from actual event. Antonia Gransden’s construction of a history that fits the facts so far as they can be distilled from a range of documentary and narrative sources is perhaps the most comprehensive.24 Hermann’s priorities, of course, were not those of the modern historian: he created 20 A. Gransden, ‘The Legends and Traditions Concerning the Origins of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 100 (1985), 9. See S. J. Ridyard, The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England: A Study of West Saxon and East Anglian Cults (Cambridge, 1988), 70 n. 252, for the alternative view that Hermann was a monastic rather than a diocesan archdeacon. 21 Letters of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, ed. and tr. H. Clover and M. Gibson (Oxford, 1979), 150–3. 22 Z. N. Brooke, The English Church and the Papacy: From the Conquest to the Reign of King John (Cambridge, 1952), 58–9. 23 Letters of Lanfranc, 152; and see Rule of Saint Benedict, ed. and tr. J. McCann (London, 1952), for the censure of monks who wander, ‘given up to their own wills and the allurements of gluttony’, pp. 15–17. 24 A. Gransden, ‘Legends and Traditions’, 1–24. Also, see D. Whitelock, ‘Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund’, PSIA 31 (1970), 217–33.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

in his history a past to serve the needs of his present.25 The account is a blend of public events taken from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, informed by excerpts from scripture and themes outlined in Abbo’s Passio and other hagiographical sources, together with local traditions enduring in the social memory of the region and the abbey. From this material, Hermann selected his details for the purpose of fixing and disseminating a set of perceptions of the saint that were designed with the contemporary needs of the abbey in mind. Before examining what these needs were, it will first be beneficial to build up the picture of the past that Hermann intended his patron saint and abbey to inherit. A second task is to identify and define wherever possible the kinds of audiences among which Hermann intended these perceptions to be cultivated. Susan Ridyard has produced an invaluable interpretation of the cult’s early history based largely on the Passio of Abbo of Fleury and the De Miraculis. In her analysis of the De Miraculis Ridyard identified two important personae in Hermann’s representation of St Edmund: Edmund as royal patron and Edmund as monastic patron. Both these elements of St Edmund’s character are derived from the Passio of Abbo, though Hermann adapted them to serve as propaganda for the needs of the late eleventh-century abbey. The way the two roles coalesce in the narratives and the contemporary purposes they served in doing so require some attention. Through a clever merging of these two identities Hermann deliberately composed his narratives for the ears of certain distinct audiences. Each can be defined in terms of their social or political status in relation to the abbey. The royal persona is the logical extension into Edmund’s posthumous saintly career of his earthly role as king of the East Angles. It is a theme derived from Abbo of Fleury’s Passio, in which he describes the removal of Edmund’s body to Beodericsworth ‘by many of the province not only the commoners but the nobles as well’.26 Beodericsworth (later Bury)27 25 For a discussion of this topic, see M. Innes, ‘Introduction: Using the Past, Interpreting the Present, Influencing the Future’, in Y. Hen and M. Innes(eds.), The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2000), 1–8. 26 Abbo of Fleury, Life of St Edmund, ed. M. Winterbottom, Three Lives of English Saints (Toronto, 1972), 82, ‘provinciae multitudo, non solum vulgi sed etiam nobelium’. Abbo fails to provide a date for the translation, though Hermann suggests its occurrence before the reign of Aethelstan, c.924–39, De Miraculis, 29–30. Also, Ridyard, Royal Saints, 214. 27 The town’s name switched from Beodericsworth to Bury at the beginning of the 11th cent. See M. Lobel, The Borough of Bury St Edmunds (Oxford, 1935), 4–5.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


was a royal vill. The translation of Edmund there Ridyard interprets as an act of political resistance to Danish rule by the surviving elites of the region, Abbo’s nobiles. No dates are given in any of the sources for this early translation but Ridyard argues for the removal of his body there within fifteen years, before the minting of the St Edmund memorial coinage began around 895. We can in any case locate St Edmund’s body at Beodericsworth by the years 926–51, the time of Bishop Theodred’s possession of the sees at Hoxne and London. Theodred is mentioned in Abbo’s Passio, passing judgement on eight thieves who attempted to plunder the shrine but were miraculously caught in the act.28 In the story, Theodred has them all hanged but later repents of his decision. His will provides independent evidence of the bishop’s personal devotion to the shrine of St Edmund. In it he leaves the manors of Nowton, Horningsheath, Ickworth, and Whepstead, all in the hundred of Thingoe, to the church of St Edmund, ‘for bishop Theodred’s soul’.29 Independent of written sources the St Edmund memorial coinage, a collection of nearly two thousand coins inscribed on their obverse with the words, ‘Sc Eadmund Rex’ provide ‘numismatic evidence pointing to the king having been recognised a saint little more than twenty years after his death’.30 From their scattered deposits, including some locations in Ireland and on the continent, Blunt has concluded that the coinage was used extensively, particularly across the regions of the Danelaw and was probably minted in its greatest amounts in East Anglia. Names of the moneyers themselves appear on a number of the coins, revealing the presence, for the first time, of Carolingian moneyers working in England. Their presence has been explained in terms of the Danish recruitment of moneyers from among Frankish captives who were known to have accompanied the Great Army at this time.31 The cult of St Edmund appears to have emerged from the immediate political circumstances in the wake of King Edmund’s death. The exact circumstances of Edmund’s death are obscure but the evidence suggests that the notion of his martyrdom followed close on its heels.32 Within two decades, Edmund’s death had become a symbol of Christianity’s triumph over the pagans 28

Abbo of Fleury, Life of St Edmund, 83–4. D. Whitelock, Anglo-Saxon Wills (Cambridge, 1930), 5. 30 C. E. Blunt, ‘The Saint Edmund Memorial Coinage’, PSIA (1967–9), 240, 253. 31 V. Smart, ‘The Moneyers of St Edmund’, Hikuin, 11 (1985), 83–9. 32 Whilst D. Whitelock, ‘Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund’, PSIA (1968–70), 219, believes that he was probably tortured after defeat in battle, Ridyard 29


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

and the focus for a region’s political identity that would endure.33 The apparent Danish sponsorship of the memorial coinage suggests an effort on their part to placate this East Anglian community.34 Veneration of the saint, then, served as a vehicle for the realization of successive dynastic ambitions in East Anglia. Abbo’s Passio was based on the eye-witness account by Archbishop Dunstan—at the time of writing, in his mature and final years (moribus et aetate maturo)—of a story related by St Edmund’s armour-bearer at the court of King Aethelstan.35 Aethelstan’s interest in the story of St Edmund’s martyrdom was no doubt derived in part from his own experiences as head of the West Saxon dynasty, itself having struggled to survive Danish attacks. The cult, Ridyard notes, was also a means by which the West Saxons could extend their rule over East Anglia while ingratiating themselves with its elites who would ultimately lose out in such political circumstances.36 When taken up by Hermann in the De miraculis, the subsequent history of the saint’s cult sustains the idea of St Edmund as inhabiting a pivotal position between East Anglia as a discrete political entity and those outsiders seeking to consolidate their authority over it. In the case of the winners, Hermann emphasized the currency of Edmund’s royal status by identifying him at the head of a line of successive kings of England, disregarding each one’s dynastic affiliations. Upon reaching the year of William’s victory at Hastings, he made a pause in the narrative to emphasize this theme of continuity in the rule of kings proceeding from that of King Edmund: We briefly summarize by recording the reigns of as many kings as followed after the martyrdom of the precious martyr Edmund, namely fifteen that are witnessed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, up to the time of William I, under whom French custom pervaded England and English affairs began to change in various ways.37

In their dealings with St Edmund, however, as well as winners there were losers. When looking to the history of the cult at Bury Hermann could thinks that he may have been killed without battle as a result of refusing to become a puppet ruler under the Danes, Ridyard, Royal Saints, 215. 33 Ibid. 226. 34 Ibid. 223. 35 Abbo of Fleury, Life of St Edmund, 67. 36 Ridyard, Royal Saints, 226. 37 Hermann, De Miraculis: ‘breviter epylogizando tot regimina regum quot superius exaravimus post pretiosi martyris Eadmundi martyrium; videlicet xv ut chronica testatur Anglorum, usque ad tempus Willelmi prioris, sub quo Francorum mos per Angliam inolevit, res etiam Anglorum variabiliter alterari coepit’ (p. 58). This does not appear in Samson’s reworking of Hermann.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


draw upon themes of disruption and threat overcome as well as harmony and continuity assured. The second wave of Viking raids in the early eleventh century furnishes two examples of such disruptions.38 With the story of Thurkill’s invasion in 1010, Hermann’s theme of St Edmund as protector of the East Anglian people was compromised. Faced with Thurkill’s naval landing at Ipswich, a monk called Egelwin took up the relics of St Edmund and journeyed through Essex, encountering an inhospitable priest who is punished for not recognizing the importance of his guest. Eventually the relics arrived in London, where the body was placed for three years in the church of St Gregory near the Eastgate.39 During this period Edmund performed eighteen miracle healings for the citizens of London. Only one of these is described, the story of a presumptuous Dane, filled with fierce intent (torva plenus intentione), who was punished with blinding for removing the pallium that covered the saint’s body. Later, after displaying a contrite heart, he had his sight restored.40 Edmund’s miracles inspired Aelfhun, bishop of London, to attempt a translation of the body from St Gregory’s to the episcopal see of St Paul’s. The story has topoi common to the genre of the translationes dealing with the furta sacra, or relic thefts. Their function was to explain the acquisition of relics by monastic communities through a story of righteous theft, in which the saint assents to his ritual kidnapping and reception into a new community. Each stage in the narrative corresponds to a ritual phase explaining the saint’s rite of passage.41 The wandering around Essex, the encounter with the inhospitable priest and the difficulties met by Egelwin in trying to cross a narrow bridge, mark a phase of separation of the relics from their customary status. Next, St Edmund’s deposition at St Gregory’s, a small church (ecclesiola) just within the Eastgate, provides a liminal space within which the devotion shown Edmund could sometimes be awkward and ambiguous, as the story of the presumptuous Dane illustrates. The final stage of the story was usually one of aggregation, in which the relics were received into a new community and given a permanent status within that community. At this point Hermann subverts the genre by 38 Antonia Gransden’s reconstruction of the abbey’s history sees these invasions as decisive in erasing the abbey’s ‘corporate memory’ and breaking its late 10th-cent links with its founding community, Ramsey abbey. See ‘Legends and Traditions’, 20–1. 39 Hermann, De Miraculis, 40–3. 40 Ibid. 44. 41 See P. J. Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton, 1978; rev. edn. 1990), 125–8, for a summary of this genre and the purposes it serves.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

having the saint resist attempts at ritual kidnapping. The bishop could not move the bier because, ‘although his devotion was good, such an intention was at odds with the will of the saint.’42 Instead the saint desired his return to East Anglia and allowed himself to be carried by Egelwin back home to Bury.43 The outcome of the narrative, rather than drawing attention to the abandonment of East Anglia by St Edmund in a period of political disruption, testifies to the continuing miraculous power of the saint, with the qualification that Edmund was a homesick saint, whose loyalties ultimately remained with the people of his East Anglian kingdom. To this skilful hagiographical treatment of a potentially embarrassing historical episode Hermann added the narrative of another disruption, St Edmund on this occasion taking a more aggressive role as protector of his people against outsiders. A most conspicuous loser in his dealings with St Edmund was King Sweyn of Denmark. Sweyn invaded England on two occasions in the late tenth century, before securing the kingship of the Danelaw in 1013. He died a year later. Hermann’s narrative of Sweyn precedes the Thurkill story, preserving something of the correct historical sequence of Danish incursions on English soil. The events detailed in the narrative, if they took place, must have done so after Edmund’s putative stay in London.44 Sweyn invaded England for a third time in 1013, landing at Gainsborough. King Ethelred, ‘abandoning the regions of England and fleeing to Normandy with his wife’, left the wealth of the region for Sweyn to tax.45 The focus for resistance to the tax became centred on the monastery at Bury, the peasants of Bury (cultores Beodericenses) gathering around the shrine and exhorting St Edmund to direct Sweyn to remove the tax. St Edmund visited Sweyn in his sleep and warned him, ‘Cease, cease to exact tribute which they have never under any king given. It was not taken or paid in the time of any of them after me, and if you do not remove this oppression from them, you shall soon know that you displease God and me on behalf of the people.’46 42 Hermann, De Miraculis, 45: Bona quidem devotio, sed a voluntate sancti dis43 Ibid. 44–6. crepabat talis intentio. 44 For the opinion that Edmund’s stay in London was fictional see Gransden, ‘Legends and Traditions’, 12. 45 Hermann, De Miraculis, 33: ‘linquens regiones Angliae Normanniam petit cum uxore’. 46 Ibid. 35: ‘Cessa, cessa, tributum exigere, quod nullo dederunt sub rege, nec requisitum vel persolutum fuit post me eorum aliquorum tempore, quia si te ab hac infestatione non removes, prope cognosces quod Deo michique pro populo displices’.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


Despite the warning and a visit paid by Egelwin,47 a Bury monk of particular devotion to Edmund,48 Sweyn insisted on the tax and, for his obstinacy, met a sudden death. The narrative preserves and cultivates the notion of St Edmund existing into the tenth and eleventh century at the heart of a distinct, imagined community dating back to the ninth century and centred on Bury. Among the ears of those that Hermann intended this message to reach, a number may reasonably be identified in the following paragraph in which he sums up Edmund’s defeat of Sweyn: ‘And so the saint was held in more renown for so unexpected an event. It was felt that by his removal not only were the poor of his town free but throughout the whole of England the greedy invasion had ceased to rage, to the relief of the poor whom God had not forgotten.’49 At the other end of the moral scale upon which his narratives are based, Hermann mentions Cnut and Edward the Confessor as two eleventh-century kings who deserved particular praise for the devotion they showed St Edmund. To them Hermann attributed responsibility for two important developments in the history of the abbey at Bury: Cnut’s replacement of clerks by monks as custodians of the shrine and Edward’s grant of liberty over the eight and a half hundreds of West Suffolk.50

47 The story illustrates the benefits of membership of a monastic community when confronted with unjust rule. The moral that it pays to seek mediation through recourse to the spiritual patronage of a monastery was unfortunately not heeded by the group of peasants in Normandy who in 996 rose against Duke Richard II and were severely punished for doing so. For this incident see Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumie`ges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, ii, ed. and tr. E. M. C. van Houts (Oxford, 1995), 8–9. 48 Egelwin is described here as monachus despite Hermann’s later note that monks were not introduced to Bury until the reign of Cnut, c. 1020. See Gransden, ‘Legends and Traditions’, 20, for the possibility of a reformed religious community at Bury as early as the late 10th cent. Whether deliberate or otherwise, the anachronistic title and its holder, whose career bridged the gap of Cnut’s alleged reform, are probably a device used by Hermann to emphasize the continuous occupation of the Bury monastery by Edmund. See the identification of Edmund’s body by Egelwin, De Miraculis, 52. 49 Hermann, De Miraculis, 37: ‘Celebrior ergo pro tam insperato facto habitus est sanctus ab ipso, cujus ereptione sensit liberos non solum suae pauperes villae, sed etiam per Angliam totam deferbuisse invasionem gulosam, ad revelationem pauperum, quorum non obliviscitur Deus eorum’. 50 Ibid. 46–7, 48. The franchise appears to have been administered as part of the estates of Edward’s mother, Queen Emma. For evidence of this see Harmer, Anglo-Saxon


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

Cnut’s role in refounding the monastery at Bury as a Benedictine abbey has been put in doubt by Antonia Gransden.51 A charter attesting to Cnut’s foundation survives, though Harmer groups it among those royal charters upon which she casts doubt. Cnut’s devotion to St Edmund is evidenced in his benefactions to the abbey and his bestowal of the relics of Jurmin and Botulf on the abbey.52 Such generosity has been placed into its own political context by David Rollason, who has noted the importance to Cnut of manipulating relic-cults as a means of bolstering his own royal power.53 Though the point does not concern Hermann, Cnut’s policy toward the abbey was undoubtedly a response to his father’s woeful mishandling of East Anglian politics a few years earlier. Hermann’s interest in emphasizing the memory of Cnut as founder may have been intended to corroborate recently made forgeries laying down the rights of the abbey in a proper late eleventh-century context of legal and written practice.54 In addition to this, it reflects his desire to emphasize St Edmund’s power as a political broker in East Anglia. Hermann records that King Edward granted to the abbey an important manor at Mildenhall and the Liberty over the eight and a half hundreds of West Suffolk. This reference to a grant is corroborated in a genuine writ of c. 1043/4.55 The writ entitled the abbey to exercise regalian rights within: Thredwestry, Babergh (two hundreds), Cosford (half-hundred), Blackbourne (two hundreds), Risbridge, Lackford, and Thingoe, in which was situated the town and its banleuca.56 The appropriate manner in which kings were to approach the saint was with humility and care, Edward’s illustrating this in his practice, with

Writs, 155, no. 9. The area itself suggests an ancient cohesion, probably as an independent shire of its own. See P. Warner, The Origins of Suffolk (Manchester, 1996), 147. 51 Gransden, ‘Legends and Traditions’, 19–22, for a meticulous scrutiny of the sources in arriving at the conclusion that Ramsey abbey was the more likely founder of the Benedictine abbey in the late 10th cent. See D. Knowles and K. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales (London, 1953), 61, for the Cnut 52 Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, ed. T. Arnold, i. 351–2. attribution. 53 See Rollason, Saints and Relics, 157–8, for Cnut’s wider strategy of devotion and exploitation of local cults as a way of unifying the political identity of England. 54 See M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record, England 1066–1307 (2nd edn. Oxford, 1993), 148, for the similar corroboration of forgeries made by Eadmer on behalf 55 Harmer, Anglo-Saxon Writs, 155, no. 9. of the monks of Canterbury. 56 H. W. C. Davis, ‘The Liberties of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 25 (1909), 417–20, for Edward’s grants.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


his magnates (cum optimatibus suis), of descending from his horse and making the last mile to the holy martyr on foot.57 Such niceties, it was to be hoped, would be observed by the new Norman kings. Together with its estates the Liberty of St Edmund provides the key to our understanding of Hermann’s priorities in representing the cult of St Edmund at the end of the eleventh century. For an element in Hermann’s depiction of St Edmund as royal patron, was the implicit idea that the prerogatives of kingship had always resided at Bury through the presence of his body there. As well as providing a ‘way in’ for those attempting to exercise rule over the community that derived its identity from its devotion to him, St Edmund functioned as a punisher of those usurpers of royal authority in the region. Two more of Hermann’s narratives serve to illustrate the folly of such men whose administrative positions made them feel they could treat the abbey without respect for its prerogatives as custodian of St Edmund’s remains. During the tenth century Leofstan, an evil sheriff in ‘the diocese in which our saint is venerated’ (in diocesi qua noster veneratur sanctus), visited the hundred of Thingoe to dispense judgement. He was accounted a savage man with too keen a regard for the business of visiting full punishment on the convicted. One of those accused, a woman, fled to the abbey to find sanctuary at St Edmund’s shrine. Leofstan sent servants to the abbey to lead the plaintiff from the church and, Hermann comments, to establish ‘which was the more powerful, either the martyr in setting her free or the judge in condemning’ (vel martyr in liberatione, aut judex in damnatione). The question of course did not go unanswered. Whilst the servants dragged the woman from the church, the clerics on their side were on their knees praying for vengeance with the seven penitential psalms and litanies.58 The plaintiff was eventually freed and Leofstan was possessed by a demon for the rest of his life.


Hermann, De Miraculis, 48. Ibid.: ‘clericis hac illacque genuflexis vindictam imprecantibus septem psalmis et letaniis’. Compare with Samson’s rendering of the same episode: ‘Videntes autem clerici absque impunitate praevalere satellitum audaciam, nimio percussi dolore circa sancti sepulturam prosternuntur, cum psalmis et letaniis lacrimosis singultibus plenis divinae ultionis indicia imprecantes’ (Seeing the evil accomplice prevail without punishment, the clerics were struck with anguish and prostrated themselves before the tomb of the saint and, full of sobbing called with psalms and litanies for the signs of divine judgement), 112–4. For examples of this form of ritual humiliation at the monasteries 58


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

The second example comes from the reign of Edward the Confessor. One summer Sunday Edward brought his court unexpectedly to Bury where it pleased the king that both English and Danes among his household should drink together. From among the Danish contingent, Osgod Clapa staggered into the church of St Edmund the morning after the party, swinging a battle-axe around his shoulders and both his arms adorned with bracelets. Edward arrived at the chapter of the monks for the purpose of seeking and strengthening his confraternity (pro assequenda et confirmanda societate) with them and in time to witness his steward losing his mind. Once again it was the intervention of the monks on Osgod’s behalf that saw him return to his senses: ‘the brothers gathering around on bended knee and interceded for him by singing the seven psalms and litanies’.59 Osgod Clapa was major domus of Edward’s household. He is known to have witnessed a number of the king’s charters from 1042, the year before Bury received its Liberty, up until 1046 when he was outlawed.60 In 1049 he organized a fleet of ships that failed to defeat Edward in an attack from the Channel, and in 1055 he died suddenly in bed. The context for Osgod’s dealings with the abbey at Bury is obscure. All that can be said with confidence is that he held land in East Anglia which was later granted by the king to Bury, presumably in the wake of his fall from royal grace in 1046.61 The pre-Conquest subject matter of the De Miraculis is the relationship between St Edmund, his custodian community and the ruling classes of late Anglo-Saxon society. It is a series of narratives filled with kings, would-be kings, sheriffs, and other administrative hard-hitters. The illustration of these elite encounters with St Edmund together with their polarized outcomes, allowed Hermann the opportunity to flesh out a commentary on Bury’s relations with post-Conquest society that, for all its novelty, carried the credentials of authentic tradition. Before of Farfa and Tours see, P. J. Geary, Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (New York, 1994), 97–9. 59 Hermann, De Miraculis, 55: ‘fratres circumcirca genuflectendo, septem psalmorum cantu letanieque progressu intercedunt pro eo’. For a description of the various uses of litanies in the liturgy of the Anglo-Saxon church, see Anglo-Saxon Litanies of the Saints, ed. M. Lapidge, Henry Bradshaw Society (London, 1991), introduction. For a decorated Gallican Psalter containing a litany used at Bury in the second half of the 11th cent, ibid. 60 F. Barlow, Edward the Confessor (2nd edn. London, 1997), 75. 84–5, 296–9. 61 Harmer, Anglo-Saxon Writs, 569, records land at Packenham granted to Bury ‘as full and completely as Osgod possessed it’, Harmer dating the writ to 1044–7.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


examining the substance of the themes Hermann crafted for postConquest consumption it is important to survey the immediate historical circumstances in which their design gave them a contemporary relevance. The post-Conquest period for the abbey of Bury St Edmunds might be described as one of progress and prosperity in the face of disruptions and serious challenges from a number of sources. The progress experienced by the abbey is largely attributable to the achievements of Abbot Baldwin.62 Originally a monk of St Denis in Paris, Baldwin was rewarded with the abbacy of Bury in 1065, probably for his skills as physician to Edward the Confessor. In England, Baldwin continued to win royal favour for his abbey as physician to William I and then William Rufus. Charters from within the first five years of the Conqueror’s reign confirm the abbey’s liberty over the eight and a half hundreds, grant Baldwin the lands of those of the abbey’s tenants slain fighting against the king, and confirm the right to a moneyer that Edward had previously granted the abbey.63 Prior to the Domesday survey, the abbey was second only to Gloucester abbey in the number of benefactions it received, a fact that may reflect the early favour William I and Queen Matilda showed Bury and perhaps also the wider use by Baldwin of his medical skills among an elite clientele.64 Under Baldwin the abbey was rebuilt on a grand scale.65 The town itself, at the heart of the abbey’s franchise, was also developed by Baldwin, its growth recorded in the Domesday Book. Over the first twenty years of Baldwin’s abbacy the central settlement was extended into a previously arable area, arranged in a distinct grid containing a market and 342 new houses.66 Its value by 1086 had doubled to £20. The town had experienced some growth as a fortified borough and administrative centre during the reigns of Cnut and Edward.67 Baldwin’s encouragement of merchants,68 and his securing of a mint and

62 See A. Gransden, ‘Baldwin, Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, 1065–97’, A-NS 4 (1981), 63 RRA-N WI, pp. 195, 197–8, nos. 34, 36–7. 65–76. 64 E. Cownie, Religious Patronage in Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1135 (Woodbridge, 1998), 70–1. For evidence of a wider clientele based on recommendation, see Letters of Lanfranc, nos. 41 and 44. 65 See Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. C. Douglas (London, 1932), no. 11, p. 57 for the abbey’s rights to quarry and cart stone in its lands abutting Peterborough. 66 H. C. Darby, Domesday Geography of Eastern England (Cambridge, 1957), 197–9. 67 M. Lobel, Borough of Bury St Edmunds, 4–9. 68 Ibid. 14–15.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

moneyer, stole a march on many of the other urban centres of East Anglia69 in the post-Conquest period and laid the foundations for further gains in the reigns of Henry I and Stephen.70 Both Baldwin’s successes and his methods in achieving them can be appreciated from the written records that he commissioned. As was the case with many of the ecclesiastical institutions of Anglo-Saxon England, Bury did not enjoy untrammelled possession of its estates into the reigns of William I and William Rufus. As we have seen in the early writs he secured from the Conqueror, Baldwin understood the importance of gaining royal support against those who would encroach on the abbey’s lands and challenge its regalian rights. At his request, William II issued a series of charters soon after his accession that confirmed the rights of jurisdiction Baldwin had won from his father. Baldwin and the abbey were to hold all their lands and men as they had held them on the day that William I lived and died. The abbey was to enjoy its royal rights to the six forfeitures in the eight and a half hundreds and no man was to meddle in the lands of St Edmund.71 Further writs were won that clarified matters of procedure in disputes in ways that favoured the abbot. If any man had claim against the abbey right was to be done only after the abbot was put back in possession of the land. Men of the saint were not to be constrained to attend the shire or hundred courts unless they were shire or hundred worthy in the time of King Edward. St Edmund and his men were not to be impleaded for anything of which the saint was seised on the day when William I died.72 These writs hint at the incidence of certain kinds of jurisdictional and tenurial entanglements between the abbey and certain sections of the East Anglian laity even in the wake of the Domesday inquest. The case of Onehouse in Suffolk, recorded in the Domesday Book, illustrates one such aspect of the abbey’s predicament. The abbey had received the sac and soc of half a carucate of land from King Edward in Onehouse and Baldwin presented a writ at the inquest to prove it. Though William I had confirmed it, one of the king’s reeves continued to take 4s. from one 69 Darby, Domesday Geography, 116–18, 136–7, and 192, for the relatively unfortunate experiences of Ipswich, Thetford, and Norwich in the early years of William I’s reign. 70 For Henry’s grant of a fair and Stephen’s grant of two more moneyers, Feudal Documents, no. 29, p. 66; no. 42, p. 73; and nos. 72–3, pp. 88–9. 71 RRA-N, i. 76–7, nos. 291–4, all issued in 1087. For the six forfeitures, see Feudal 72 Ibid. 99–100, nos. 392–5, issued in the 1090s. Documents, ed. Douglas, p. clvi.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


of the men for soke. The question of the reeve’s legal probity in doing so remained open, though the hundred went on record to emphasize that no disseisin of the abbey’s soke had occurred after King Edward’s grant.73 The Domesday Book was an unprecedented undertaking, part of whose aim, it has been argued, was the comprehensive registering of legal entitlements to land whose accumulation and transmission had previously been contested, the subject of confusion or controversy, or up to 1086, having been enjoyed merely on a de facto basis.74 Baldwin’s production of a writ for the land at Onehouse still did not, however, appear to guarantee him the rights to which Bury abbey claimed entitlement.75 Baldwin commissioned his own survey of the abbey’s lands sometime after 1087. The Feudal Book was a more detailed version of the Domesday Book, with a list added to it containing the names of the enfeoffed men of St Edmund and Abbot Baldwin (feudati homines sancti Edmundi et Baldwini abbatis).76 These were important tenants of the abbey, often knights of a high status, holding land as tenants-in-chief and responsible for supplying the abbey with its military obligation of forty knights to the king.77 Some of them were also, like the king’s reeve at Onehouse, royal administrators managing estates escheated to the Crown or collecting the profits from the shire and hundred courts on the king’s behalf. It is among this group that the abbey appears to have experienced its greatest problems in protecting its lands and franchisal rights. The De Miraculis provides a number of narratives for the postConquest period of invasiones on the lands and rights of the abbey. A Norman courtier of William I’s household attempted to annex a Bury manor adjacent to his own lands and received for this encroachment problems with his sight that were only partially remedied when he brought the offering of a large candle before the shrine.78 The 73 R. Fleming, Domesday Book and the Law: Society and Legal Custom in Early Medieval England (Cambridge, 1998), 402, no. 2934. 74 For the thesis that the Domesday Book was primarily a massive carta guaranteeing title to land, see J. C. Holt, ‘1086’, in J. C. Holt (ed.), Domesday Studie, Papers read at the Novocentenary Conference of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of British Geographers Winchester, 1986 (Woodbridge, 1987), 41–64. For a reading of the Domesday Book as a legal text, see Fleming, Domesday Book, 11–85. 75 Ibid. 61, for the heavier reliance of the abbot on oral testimony in the absence of 76 Feudal Documents, ed. Douglas, 23–4. royal writs. 77 S. Harvey, ‘The Knight and the Knight’s Fee in England’, PP 49 (1970), 12–13. For the strategic reasons behind the abbey’s relatively high servitium debitum, see Cownie, 78 Hermann, De Miraculis, 58–9. Religious Patronage, 70.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

identity of the courtier is not disclosed in the narrative, perhaps because his continued proximity at the time of writing made it a matter of delicacy. Peter de Valognes held land as a tenant-in-chief in six shires, and was for a time sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire.79 His landed interests in Suffolk proceeded from a number of different connections. In Domesday Book he appears as a royal agent farming the terra regis in Samford hundred and a half.80 He also held lands as tenant-in-chief in Great Fakenham, Ixworth Thorpe, Sapiston, Barningham, Wyken, and Westhorpe. In three of these vills, Great Fakenham, Ixworth Thorpe, and Sapiston, he claimed possession by personal gift of the king (in the case of Ixworth Thorpe, through the king from Queen Edith).81 Peter’s closeness to the king is revealed in his foundation of Binham as a Benedictine cell of St Albans abbey. The lands at Binham had also been a gift of the king, the foundation made ‘pro anima domini mei Willelmi regis’.82 Overlapping these holdings, Peter de Valognes held land as a tenant of Bury St Edmunds at Barningham and Sapiston. At Ixworth he was owed half the services of a man, the other half held by the abbey. In addition, Peter was one of the thirty-seven names appearing in Baldwin’s feudal book and holding lands as one of the feudati homines, owing knight’s service to the abbey.83 From the calendar of royal writs belonging to the Conqueror’s reign, two concern themselves with hostilities shown towards the abbey and its men by Peter de Valognes. Dated to the period 1066–87 they instruct, first, Richard fitz Count and R[oger Bigod], sheriff, to ‘do the abbot justice against Peter de Valognes, and those men who have done him wrong’, and, secondly, Robert, Count of Eu, Hugh de Montfort, and Richard, son of Count Gilbert, ‘to release those men of St Edmund held

79 In J. Green’s table of sheriffs’ landed income in the reign of William I, Peter de Valogne belongs to group D, receiving between £100 and £200 a year for his lands. See ‘The Sheriffs of William the Conqueror’, A-NS 5 (1982), 140. For Peter de Valogne’s encroachment on the Chingford estates of St Pauls in London, see DB, fo. 12b, Essex; and J. H. Round, Domesday Studies (, 1888), pp. 539–41, 550. 80 DB, fo. 286b, Suffolk, vol. ii. 81 Ibid. ii, fos. 365b, 420b–421b. 82 A. Binns, Dedications of Monastic Houses in England and Wales, 1066–1216 (Woodbridge, 1989), 63. 83 As a tenant of Bury, the entirety of his lands were Honington, Fackenham, Little Fackenham, Berningham, Sapiston, Bardwell, and Hepworth. See Feudal Documents, ed. Douglas, 23–4.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


in captivity by Peter de Valognes, the abbot to have justice on him and all those others who have done him wrong’.84 Another of Hermann’s narratives provides us with the name of a second encroacher on the abbey’s estates, Robert de Curzon. The Curzons held lands in the hundred of Blything, in the north-east corner of Suffolk. Their locations were within ten miles of Southwold, a village situated just north of the river Blyth on the Suffolk coast. The Domesday Book has Southwold in the possession of Bury St Edmunds. It consisted of a coastal strip, nine furlongs in length and five furlongs in width, a carucate of land and four acres of meadow—25,000 of the herrings landed at Southwold were meant to end up on the monks’ table over the course of a year.85 Robert de Curzon’s attempt to take the manor of Southwold, according to Hermann, was frustrated by St Edmund, who raised a storm on the coast which scattered Robert’s retinue and, along with Robert himself, drove his steward, Turolfus, and one of his knights, Gyreneu de Mouneyn, to madness. Robert had no direct connection with the abbey, although indirectly, through his lord, Roger Bigod, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and one of Bury’s enfeoffed men,86 he may have contributed to some form of military obligation. Hermann describes Robert as a ‘very rash and greedy man’.87 He also reveals that Robert sought the permission of his lord, Roger Bigod, before undertaking the journey. Robert’s decision to consult with Roger would tend to cast doubt over the extent of his rashness. It implies that he sought and acquired approval for his actions. That Roger Bigod considered Robert’s proposal reasonable, and that it may even indeed have been his own, might be inferred from the strategic role that Bigod played in Norfolk and Suffolk. Roger Bigod had custody of royal estates near the coast and many of his own estates were situated nearby. This has led Judith Green to consider him among a group of men whom the Conqueror entrusted with maintaining coastal defences and internal security.88 Roger and Robert may already have seen action together when in 1075 Ralph de Gael, Roger of Breteuil and Earl Waltheof plotted against the king at Norwich, summoning in the 84 85 87 88

The Acta of William I (1066–87), ed. D. Bates (Oxford, 1998), nos. 42, 43. 86 Feudal Documents, ed. Douglas, 23–4. DB, Suffolk, ii, fo. 371v, p. 1248. Hermann, De Miraculis, 79. J. Green, Aristocracy in Anglo-Norman Britain (Cambridge, 1997), 85–6.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

process 200 Danish ships to East Anglia.89 Robert de Curzon was certainly rewarded for his part in the episode, acquiring land previously in the hands of Ralph de Gael at Wisset, which he added to estates in his possession at Bridge, Brampton, and Uggeshall. Southwold was the nearest major coastal settlement to these lands and provided economic as well as strategic opportunities for the Curzons. If Roger was obliged to provide the abbey with a military retinue, then the pastures at Southwold might also be put to use in preparing horses fit for carrying a feudal host. Whatever the precise details of the Curzon’s case, our monastic author obscures them with his conventionalized account of divine intervention on behalf of the abbey. The Curzon family continued to inconvenience the monks of Bury St Edmunds by asserting legal claims to the land at Southwold on at least two occasions over the next century. We know this from the later version of the De Miraculis, attributed to Abbot Samson in the late twelfth century. The first of these two sequels occurred some time before 1168. According to Samson, the Curzons won royal letters (litteras regias) supporting their claim against the abbey. Their recourse to royal justice was frustrated, however, by the intervention of thieves, who, with the permission of St Edmund (nec ut creditur sine martyris justa sanctione), stole the documents on the night before the family was to present them to the abbey. During the third and final documented encounter between the two parties, Samson informs us that William Curzon, ‘a descendant of the above-mentioned Robert’, won royal writs entitling him to the manor of Southwold. On this occasion, thieves could not be relied upon to make off with the offending documents. St Edmund’s intervention, as it happened, was more direct and decisive. The abbot sent his prior to London where, in front of no less than Richard of Ilchester, the ‘truth of the matter’ was explained and a written narrative of the first episode in this family saga presented to him. A delay in the proceedings was secured by these means, during which time William de Curzon fell gravely ill and dropped his claim to Southwold. The tactics used by the abbey to arrest the momentum of the lawsuit relied upon the psychological pressure that St Edmund could bring to bear on the plaintiff, and more importantly, on the social group to which 89

ASC, DE, 1075, EHD, p. 157.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


he belonged. This consisted of his family and household and Richard of Ilchester, ‘a man who had the king’s ear’.90 Abbot Samson’s account reveals that William had married Richard of Ilchester’s niece as a means of ‘obtaining his assistance more certainly and firmly’.91 The retelling, before this audience, of the story of Robert de Curzon’s failure to snatch the land in 1088, publicly raised the stakes of the dispute to a level that William could not match. The return journey from London through Essex and Suffolk saw William’s descent into madness and his abandonment by his servants and, crucially, his wife, Richard of Ilchester’s niece. The prior eventually intervened by offering William the chance to remember his offence against St Edmund and to show remorse for it by calling off his lawsuit. He left William to stew on the offer overnight and in the morning he returned to find a man at peace with himself, anxious to drop his case and show devotion to the saint.92 The Curzons appear not to have subsequently contested Bury’s right to the land. In 1206 the men of Southwold arranged provision of a chaplain to serve the church of St Edmund there in exchange for payment of 3 marks a year.93 It is apparent why Samson felt it appropriate to include this update of the story written earlier by Hermann. It reflects the powerful social influence the abbey could bring to bear, through the use of miracle narratives, in the moulding of social memory at a public level. Its message reprises an important theme employed by Hermann in his De Miraculis of a hundred years before. In St Edmund, the Bury monks had a powerful supernatural patron protecting their interests from those who would use royal bureaucracy to promote their own interests at the expense of the abbey’s. By weighing together the impressions given by royal documents and the Bury miracle narratives, it is possible to arrive at a profile of the social group whose common interests had a tendency to be at odds with those of the abbey. First, these men were landholders in Suffolk. Parts of their lands were situated in the eight and a half hundreds and therefore 90 For his extraordinary career as a royal official see J. Hudson, The Formation of the English Common Law: Law and Society in England from the Norman Conquest to Magna Carta (London, 1996), 146–9. 91 Samson, De Miraculis, 149, ‘spe certioris firmiorisque ductus praesidii’. 92 Samson, De Miraculis, 148–51; see English Lawsuits from William I to Richard I, ed. R. C. Van Caenegem, Seldon Society, 2 vols. (London, 1991), no. 446, pp. 479–81, 93 Feudal Documents, ed. Douglas, n. 131. for translations used in this paragraph.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

recorded in the Domesday Book as in the jurisdiction of St Edmund (habet sanctus sac et soc) and subject to the six forfeitures comprising the franchisal rights of the abbey. A proportion of men inhabiting their manors were likewise described as men of St Edmund. Through their status as feudati homines some of them were in a special sense themselves men of St Edmund. But they were also in many cases the king’s men, serving as sheriffs or farmers of lands escheated to the Crown. As royal ministers they gained opportunities for profit and status in excess of that which they enjoyed as local lords. The abbey’s franchise, whose practical implications were rigorously defended by Baldwin, gave them little room in which to promote these interests. It is within this context of tension between the abbey and a distinct class of men in East Anglian society that the writing of the De Miraculis and the event in which its narrative culminates, the translation of St Edmund’s relics to the new church in 1095, must be understood. During the preparations for the translation, the rumour was circulated around the court of William Rufus that St Edmund’s body did not lie incorrupt at Bury and that consequently the precious metal fittings to his shrine should be stripped in order to meet a military aid.94 The Rockingham council of February 1095 provides the likely date for this recommendation and for the decision of William Rufus to allow the translation but rescind his earlier consent to the dedication of the church.95 The presence of Edmund’s body at Bury was the fundamental guarantee of the abbey’s franchisal status. If serious doubt could be cast on this claim then the abbey’s privileges could be undermined. A number of Domesday tenants-in-chief, holding in Suffolk, occupied important positions in the household of William Rufus. Godric, dapifer, was sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1087 and appears in witness lists of many royal charters datable to the 1090s.96 Ralph Baynard, chaplain to the king, held lands in Suffolk inhabited by men in the soc of St Edmund.97 Others, including Eudo the Steward and Humphrey the Chamberlain, were men at court with lands in Suffolk. A final name that links this potential audience of evil and envious gossip (malus et invidiosus murmur) with its possible author is Peter de Valognes. Peter 94 Hermann, De Miraculis, 86: ‘opusque fabrile suo scrinio consertum consiliatus est 95 F. Barlow, William Rufus (London, 1983), 207. ad militare rapi stipendium’. 96 See RRA-N, i, nos. 392–3, 398, 410, 413, 423, 431, 452, 459, 561, 462, 471, 97 DB, Suffolk, ii, fos. 413v–415v, pp. 1277–9. 478, 482.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


witnessed a writ of William Rufus that can be dated to 1095, and appears in another two of c.1087–97.98 Few of these men were great benefactors of Bury, a number of them founding their own monasteries providing their families with independent sources of spiritual patronage and social support. Peter de Valognes founded Binham c.1087–93. Roger Bigod founded a Cluniac monastery at Thetford in 1103–4 and a Benedictine priory dependent on Rochester at Felixstowe during the reign of William Rufus. Eudo the steward founded Colchester for Benedictine monks in 1097.99 Few among the first rank of the East Anglian aristocracy put Bury St Edmunds amongst their priorities as benefactors.100 Soon after he completed it, Hermann found cause to add a number of extra stories to his miracle collection. These survive among the later collection attributed to Abbot Samson. They deal with apparent doubts among other sections of society about the incorruption of St Edmund’s remains, and with problems faced by the monks in managing appropriate forms of access to the secondary relics of the saint. Two important characters whose lives feature in these stories are Tolinus, the sacrist, and Seietha, the daughter of a noble English family. In reward for her devotion to St Edmund, Seietha had been healed of a bad scarring she had suffered to one of her hands. After refusing to marry a wealthy and powerful man according to her parent’s wishes, when her hopes of entering a nunnery were disappointed, she turned to the abbey for spiritual support. Of particular help had been Tolinus the sacrist, a venerable man whose life, nevertheless, was cut short by the punishment of St Edmund. The author of the story gives Seietha’s account of the incident, taking pains to note that others, still alive at the time of writing, testified to its truth.101 Seietha had been troubled by the doubts a number of people had expressed about the incorruption of St Edmund’s body. On the first feast of St Peter and St Paul (29 June) after the translation, she confided in Tolinus her frustrations at not being able to answer their doubts: ‘I have RRA-N, i. 90, 95, 101; nos. 346, 368, 398. Binns, Dedications of Monastic Houses, 68, 72, 117. 100 For the abbey’s primary post-Conquest benefactors see Cownie, Religious Patronage, 71–9. 101 Samson, De Miraculis, 168; and see E. Van Houts, Memory and Gender in Medieval Europe, 900–1200 (London, 1999), 52–3, for the apologetic stance of Hermann towards the use of female testimony. 98 99


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

rather spoken the truth according to vulgar opinion and common belief, and I am not yet fully informed by what more certain proofs I might oppose the deceit of the incredulous.’102 In response, Tolinus assured her that he had seen the incorrupt body and had witnesses to this in William the prior, Sparhavoc his servant, and the goldsmith Hereward. Soon after, he fell and died of his injuries. His colleagues also died within the year. In a vision Tolinus appeared to a monk and told him of the time he spent in purgatory for his irreverent treatment of the body. After six months, the prayers of Seietha and his fellow monks won him a place in heaven. The story contains several interesting details, not least of which is a reference to the workings of purgatory, a likely addition by Samson to the original narrative.103 The account also hints at the privileged role that goldsmiths played in the assistance of monastic cult promotion.104 Seietha’s relationship with the sacrist of Bury suggests that part of the abbey’s links with the laity involved the support of high-status AngloSaxon women in their spiritual vocations, a function that has clear parallels in the patronage given to recluses by other abbeys at this time, the most famous example being St Alban’s support of Christina of Markyate.105 That there were those who doubted the incorruption of the body, following the translation itself, casts an interesting sidelight on the

102 Samson, De Miraculis, 169, ‘Verum hoc magis juxta vulgatam opinionem et communem fidem dixerim, necdum plenius edocta quo certiori argumento calumniis incredulorum possim refragari’. 103 Samson, De Miraculis, 168–9. And see J. Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago, 1984), for an account of the growing importance of purgatory in the imagination of the 12th-cent Church. 104 For the case of a greedy goldsmith called Godmor, in the service of Burton abbey during the mid-11th cent, who kept for himself some of the fittings to the shrine of St Modwenna used to purchase grain during a famine for the people of the neighbourhood, see Geoffrey of Burton, The Life and Miracles of St Modwenna of Burton, ed. and tr. R. Bartlett (Oxford, 2002), 183. 105 The evidence for Bury abbey’s support of female religious is obscure, a Domesday Book entry referring to ‘28 nuns and poor people who daily pray for the king and all Christian people’ among the town’s citizens, DB, Suffolk, ii, fo. 372, p. 1248; also, see S. Thompson, Women Religious: The Founding of English Nunneries after the Norman Conquest (Oxford, 1991), 47; and see The Life of Christina of Markyate, ed. C. H. Talbot (Oxford, 1959), 51, 63, for a more famous English religious woman’s rejection of a suitor on the grounds that she was a bride of Christ. Finally, see H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth Century Shrine: The Miracles of St Frideswide’, in Mayr-Harting and Moore (eds.), Studies Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985), 199–201, for an explanation of this trend in the second half of the 12th cent.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


ceremony as described earlier in the collection. Though participation in the ceremony was widespread, it appears that there were those who hadn’t fully accepted its implications. That their doubts may have proceeded from a sense of exclusion from events is apparent in a second miracle narrative that indicates some of the problems attendant on the task of managing popular engagement with the saint’s relics. A monk called Herman allowed an English nobleman (quidam primoribus) access to secondary relics of the saint kept in the crypt, so that he might show his devotion to St Edmund. When knowledge of this got out, a mixed crowd of more lowly people gathered, demanding to see the relics. Herman, who was a popular preacher, took the undershirt (camisia) of the saint to them and, in doing so, contributed to an undignified spectacle in which the relics of the saint were irreverently handled and damaged. A fellow monk called Edwin was visited by Tolinus in a vision and chastized for the incident. Herman died soon after. Both stories emphasized the dangers that could accompany more popular forms of ritual engagement with the relics of St Edmund that the translation had inaugurated. There were appropriate ways of channelling popular reverence for St Edmund and it was the responsibility of the monks to maintain discipline in their observance.106 Already by the time of Baldwin’s death, the abbey kept a display board in the church with which it could more conveniently educate the people of the town about the life of their saint.107 Abbot Baldwin’s production of counterfeit writs and charters, his survey of the estates of the abbey and, ultimately, the De miraculis provided the abbey with a concerted means of underpinning, rehearsing, and in some cases augmenting its franchisal and feudal rights against external threats.108 The abbey history Hermann offers is one that reflects the values and concerns of a late eleventh-century provincial viewpoint centred on Bury abbey.109 The narratives played out and resolved in the abbey’s favour many of the tensions belonging to post-Conquest East 106

Ibid. 173–5. Hermann, De Miraculis, 84. 108 See H. Cam, ‘The Evolution of the Medieval English Franchise’, Speculum, 32 (1957), 428–42, for the invention and inflation of franchisal rights in parallel with evolving state functions. 109 See D. W. Rollason, ‘The Miracles of St Benedict: A Window on Early Medieval France’, in Mayr-Harting and Moore (eds.), Studies Presented to R. H. C. Davis, 77, for the ‘provincial viewpoints’ of successive hagiographers at Fleury abbey. 107


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

Anglian society. St Edmund was depicted as a royal patron, a politicized saint representing a people and protecting their interests against those who would usurp royal prerogatives in the region. The authority of the kingly saint by merit of his residence in Bury was inextricably linked with that of the abbey in the region and beyond it. Hermann produced a model of East Anglian society designed to encourage its people to look to Bury abbey for its authority. The imagined community of the ninth and tenth centuries was the logical precursor of the abbey’s post-Conquest community, a community whose status became more clearly definable in legal terms by King Edward’s grant of the Liberty, and which surfaces before the historian’s gaze for the first time in the Feudal Book of Abbot Baldwin. The community saved from the rapaciousness of King Sweyn, Hermann implies, was the same one saved from drought by St Edmund on the day of his translation, his body carried to a high place among the people (in plebis medio in eminentiori loco)110 and prayers made for the advent of rain.111 As well as extending the pedigree of the abbey’s franchisal rights back in time through its inheritance of St Edmund’s royal title, Hermann used his narratives to identify outsiders and to rehearse the punishments they might receive should they violate the abbey’s material interests or trespass on its jurisdiction. Alternatively, he recorded the identity of those dynasties that succeeded in cementing their rule in the region and he linked them in direct succession to Edmund, king and martyr. The messages Hermann sought to convey were clear: for those living in East Anglia, St Edmund was their kingly lord,112 exactor of dues and protector; for those who might attempt to contest this, and along with the bishops of East Anglia, we have identified a number among the aristocracy of Suffolk who had good reason to do so, the punishment of St Edmund was to be feared; and to new kings who might visit the region the message was: can you afford to cancel the subscription your predecessors made to the cult of St Edmund? Hermann’s miracle collection was the keystone in Abbot Baldwin’s campaign to enhance, consolidate, and protect the power and prestige of his abbey at Bury, particularly within East Anglian aristocratic society. See Ch. 7 for thaumaturgical use of a relic at the top of a hill. Hermann, De Miraculis, 90. 112 For the notion of the dominus rex, a juxtaposition of secular lordship and divinely sanctioned authority, emerging in Gregorian clerical thought see Jan van Engen, ‘Sacred Sanctions for Lordship’, in T. Bisson (ed.), Cultures of Power: Lordship, Status and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe (Philadelphia, 1995), 5, 203–30. 110 111

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


Hermann’s miracle collection endured at Bury as a text that explained the origins of its authority over a distinctly defined community, and which recorded the resilience of that authority in the face of rival ones. Much of its content and the themes they illustrate remained intact and fundamentally significant to successive generations of Bury monks.113 But although it was placed by the shrine of the saint, the collection was not itself a monolith to be left untouched by subsequent generations of monks. Through the subsequent modifications and additions to the text, we can observe changes in its uses, both practical and aesthetic. The collection’s continued practical relevance to the Bury monks in the reign of Henry II is splendidly illustrated in Abbot Samson’s story of William de Curzon, in which the prior representing the abbey at the court presided over by Richard of Ilchester read aloud from a copy of the story of Robert de Curzon’s punishment by St Edmund for the same offence as that perpetrated by William. Another miracle pressed into use in a legal context in this way was the story of Herfast’s eye injury, cited by the Bury commentator as evidence of the poverty of the bishop’s case in the copy of the Norwich narratio mentioned above. A version of the miracles was also kept in the pulpit of the refectory for liturgical use.114 Samson’s stylistic changes to the De miraculis reflect shifts in the usages of the text. His refinements pared down the text, replacing its earlier moral and rhetorical digressions with simpler, more direct renderings of the stories. The result was a version that sharpened the focus of its monastic audience on the social significance of the miracles rather than their historical correctness or on their spiritual function of edification in the meditative tradition of the lectio divina.115 Additions to the original body of the work were begun by Hermann himself. In these and other later additions to the De Miraculis,116 narratives that were superfluous to the dominant themes of its original conception can be observed, producing in outline the character of a different St Edmund. 113 An exception exists in Abbot Samson’s omission of the dispute between Bury and successive bishops of East Anglia, particularly well documented by Hermann. See Hermann, De Miraculis, 60–7 for the amount of material omitted. 114 See R. M. Thomson, ‘Two Versions of a Saint’s Life from St Edmund’s Abbey’, 115 Ibid. 399. Revue Benedictine, 84 (1974), 385–6. 116 Four miracles appearing in Cotton Titus Aviii are attributed to Hermann in Bod. 240, but do not appear in the Hermann collection, Tiberius Bii. Thomson explains this in terms of a later redaction of Hermann not surviving.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

Not all those of the knightly classes who had dealings with St Edmund were the subjects of his punishment. The more positive experiences of others helped to advertise the different kinds of support that St Edmund could offer to this section of society. Three of Hermann’s narratives concern members of the knightly classes who were healed by St Edmund. Ranulf, a Norman knight who came over with William I as part of his household, was cured by St Edmund of a madness that overcame him. Later he became a monk at Bury.117 Edmund, the son of Ivo, a knight of Binham in Norfolk, was cured of an illness of the eyes when he was taken, against the will of his tutor, a monk called Hermann, to the shrine of his namesake.118 Finally, William fitz Asketill, a knight from Herefordshire was cured of a fever after making an offering at the tomb of St Edmund and spending some time in the abbey’s infirmary.119 These miracles helped to publicize the wider appeal of the cult of St Edmund to potential benefactors of the community. Another growing role that St Edmund played in the lives of the laity was in protecting them from the dangers of long-distance travel. St Edmund was a supporter of pilgrimage abroad, particularly to Rome and Jerusalem. A Bury man called Wulmar looked for help to St Edmund, his patron saint (patrocinator), when he fell into a trance after a pilgrimage to Rome. While in his trance the vision of a man appeared to him at first in the form of a dove, and told him to make an offering at the shrine for his recovery. Wulmar offered some marble and a crystal that he had brought back with him from Rome and related the story of his trip to Tolinus, the sacrist of the abbey. Baldwin had the tale made known more widely among the laity, presumably to encourage them to bring back similar souvenirs from their trips abroad.120 A group of pilgrims returning from Rome were placed in danger when their boat sprung a leak and began to sink. Two men of St Edmund’s jurisdiction (ambo de ditione patris Edmundi), Wulfward, a priest, and Robert, convinced the others to place their trust in St Edmund and make a pledge of money for their safe deliverance. This was duly done and the 118 Ibid. 77–8. Hermann, De Miraculis, 75–6. Ibid. 74–5. An ‘Ansketil’ appears holding 40 acres in Marden of the king in DB, Herefordshire, i, fo. 179v, p. 495. 120 For the return of a Yorkshire knight from pilgrimage to Rome with a block of marble that was given to the monks of Durham, see Reginald of Durham, Libellus de Admirandis Beati Cuthberti Virtutibus, ed. J. Raine, Surtees Society, 1 (London, 1835), 154–7. 117 119

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


boat made it to port. A collection taken earlier on board was carried to Bury where it was offered to the saint.121 Two other stories were related to the monks at Bury on the same day involving St Edmund’s saving of people at sea. The first involved Bury itself as the destination for the pilgrimage of an important French ecclesiastic, Abbot Lambert of Angers. Lambert told the monks that he had once prayed to Edmund for assistance when his boat had been stuck in port at Barfleur, on its way to England. An old monk of the abbey of St Nicholas, who had lived in the monastery for fifty years, had advised him to pray to Edmund in order that, ‘the power of his moral excellence which brightly lights up England might be transferred through us to other parts of the world, and thus he may receive a worthy increase on account of his merits’.122 Lambert’s successful crossing and its commemoration in the collection served to enhance the prestige of St Edmund in England by placing him in the company of saints whose power was known across Europe. The second tale was told to the monks by three London sailors, two of whose names were Yvo and Hervey. On a pilgrimage going by sea along the west coast of France as part of the route to Saint Gilles, they asked Edmund for assistance when their boat was caught in unfavourable winds. A fair wind soon prevailed and upon their return the men visited Bury, asking that their story might be put on record.123 Before Abbot Samson turned his attentions to Hermann’s text in the 1190s, Osbert de Clare had added his own series of narratives, providing us with a guide to perceptions of St Edmund’s patronage in AngloNorman society. The details of Osbert de Clare’s career are obscure. At the time of Abbot Herbert’s election in 1121, Osbert was prior of Westminster. The episode seems to have been a troubled one, with Osbert at the heart of the controversy, probably over the issue of free election. As a result he spent much of his subsequent life in exile from Westminster. Osbert is most famous for his support of the cult of St Edward. His Vita Sancti Edwardi, together with his letters to various ecclesiastics and secular potentates, are the best known of his works. He also wrote a series of thirteen miracles of St Edmund that were later included in Cotton Titus Aviii. 121

Samson, De Miraculis, 162–4. Ibid. 177: ‘ut virtutis eius potentia, quae regionem Anglicam clarius illustrat, in alias etiam mundi partes per nos transfundatur, et dignum pro meritis suscipiat incre123 Ibid. 178. mentum’. 122


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

In these miracle narratives, Osbert’s St Edmund lost many of his sterner characteristics and heralded a more pastoral approach taken on by those who mediated between him and his lay clients. In his letter to the monks of St Edmund, placed at the beginning of the second book of miracles in Cotton Titus Aviii, Osbert addressed to his audience a commentary on Exodus 28: 17, in which the virtues of St Edmund are likened to those symbolized in the gems found on the breastplate of Aaron. The making of Aaron’s breastplate is part of the longer story in Exodus of the Jews’ building of a tabernacle to the Lord.124 The breastplate was to be worn by Aaron the head priest and his sons, each of the precious stones arranged in four rows of three on its front, inscribed with the names of the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Osbert’s commentary draws its inspiration from Bede’s De Tabernaculo in which the gems represent the four virtues, their arrangement in rows of three signifying their sanctification by faith in the Holy Trinity.125 The breastplate was thus an outward reflection of the inner qualities required of those invested with sacred authority. Osbert’s exposition of Edmund’s fulfilment of this role draws upon early medieval conceptions of moral authority so fruitfully explored by Gregory the Great in his De Regula Pastoralis, and taken up subsequently by Bede and other commentators on the ministerial aspects of secular rule.126 His application of Bede’s insights take their cue almost directly from one particular comment of Bede, that each of the stones is inscribed with the name of one of the fathers when the ruler searches out the life of the saints by careful investigation, considering how they are adorned with many works of virtues, and when he is eager to gather them all together in the hidden recesses of his breast by meditating upon them, and to bring them forth by putting them into action.127

Exodus 28: 15–21; and 39: 8–14. Bede, De Tabernaculo, ed. D. Hurst and J. E. Hudson, CCSL 119A (Turnholt, 1969), 104–5; translation taken from Bede: On the Tabernacle, tr. A. G. Holder (Liverpool, 1994), 120. 126 See R. A. Markus, Gregory the Great and his World (Cambridge, 1997), 27–8, for Gregory’s discussions of the rector, and Matthew Kempshall, ‘No Bishop, No King: The Ministerial Ideology of Kingship and Asser’s Res Gestae Aelfredi’, in Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting (Oxford, 2001), 106–27, for later uses to which these ideas were put. 127 Bede, De Tabernaculo, ed. Hurst and Hudson, 103; Bede: On the Tabernacle, tr. Holder, 119. 124 125

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


In his incorrupt remains, Edmund demonstrated that he had followed just such advice in life. The stones in turn represented: his martyrdom, his excellent virtue, the eternal vitality of his reward in heaven, his serene response to worldly illusions, his example as a light in an age of darkness, his suffering and resurrection whole in body, and firm in his renown as one of the elect.128 Taking this cue from Bede, Osbert intended his monks literally to take these virtues to heart, citing 1 Peter 2: 9 in addressing them as ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood’, and ending his commentary with the following passage: ‘These precious stones signify the diverse virtues in which, as we believe, the virgin king and martyr was resplendent in body, and he left himself as one to imitate in the glory of his holy works.’129 The place of Osbert’s letter in the De Miraculis attributed to Samson, as prologue to the second book and before the account of Abbot Baldwin’s completion of the church and translation of the body, is part of a subtle rearrangement of Hermann’s collection, in which the lengthy account of the episcopal dispute is removed and the translation seen as the beginning of a more positive phase of cult activity rather than a response to the difficult circumstances of post-Conquest tenurial upheaval. Instead of his depiction as the head of a community deriving its status from his militancy, St Edmund in the hands of Osbert takes a keener interest in the everyday moral conduct of his clientele and becomes the focus of a different, enlarged sense of community founded on priestly example and instruction rather than censure of the knightly and wealthy sections of society. Their places of origin included nearby villages and towns like Dunwich, Lindsey, Clare, Spalding, Copeland, the county of Rutland, and places further afield like Shrewsbury, Lichfield, Winchester, Southwark, and London. Most of the miracles were cures, though St Edmund protected the wider psychological and practical interests of his clients. Two of his narratives continued Hermann’s theme of St Edmund as protector of pilgrims and sailors. The Bury monk Radulph encountered three sailors at the shrine of St Edmund Samson, De Miraculis, 154–5. Ibid. 154: ‘Hi pretiosi lapides diversae significantur esse virtutes, quibus, ut credimus, virgo rex et martyr in corpore splenduit, seque nobis imitabilem in sanctorum operum fulgoribus dereliquit.’ 128 129


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

who related to him their story of deliverance from a storm at sea.130 A clerk of Lichfield told the story in the monks’ chapterhouse of his escape from drowning in a shipwreck that occurred as he returned with others from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Just as St Nicholas was famous for helping sailors, he told them, so was St Edmund the patron of those shipwrecked at sea.131 This explicit comparison between St Edmund and St Nicholas recalls the implicit link made by Hermann, who puts the advice given to Abbot Lambert of Angers on travelling at sea into the mouth of a monk of St Nicholas, Barfleur. In other miracles Edmund helped return lost or stolen money to its rightful owner. A knight of Copeland beyond York sent his servant to collect the dues owed to him from a diverse number of estates he held in East Anglia. The servant lost the money but regained it after praying to St Edmund.132 Another story involves the famous London merchant, Deorman, who had his purse stolen while visiting the shrine of St Edmund. After prayers to the saint, the purse was restored to its owner, the thief apprehended and forgiven by Deorman. Deorman was a powerful citizen and moneyer of London during the reign of the Conqueror.133 He held land in London, Colchester, Hertfordshire, and Kent134 and came to be the head of an important English family that moved in distinguished company during the twelfth century. Deorman’s great-grandson, Theoderic, married a relation of the earl of Pembroke and was justiciar of London between 1148 and 1152.135 Deorman was an important entrepreneur and financial adviser to William I. His striking appearance in the market at Bury is described by Osbert: ‘A certain wealthy man from London, Deorman was present, who stood out among other businessmen, for the costly silk and splendid robes he wore.’136

131 Ibid. 196. 132 Ibid. 186. Samson, De Miraculis, 193–5. P. Nightingale, ‘Some London Moneyers and Reflections on the Organisation of English Mints in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Numismatic Chronicle, 142 (1982), 36. 134 E. Miller and J. H. Hatcher, Medieval England, Towns. Commerce and Crafts, 1086–1348 (London, 1995), 34. 135 S. Reynolds, ‘The Rulers of London in the Twelfth Century’, History, 57 (1972), 354. 136 Samson, De Miraculis, 183: ‘Quidam praedives urbis Londonie, Deormannus affuit, qui prae ceteris negotiatoribus in caris speciebus et sericis et cycladibus splendidus et egregius mercator effulsit.’ 130 133

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


Deorman died some time between 1093 and 1097.137 Osbert notes that he cast his wealth aside to become a monk of Bury, a factor that helps explain the particular interest paid to him in the narrative.138 He was a high-status convert to the monastery. Hermann did not include this story in his collection, though it is difficult to imagine him not being aware of it. That it may have seemed more important to Osbert may lie in his acquaintance with London sources for the story. Deorman’s three daughters granted land to the abbey of Westminster between 1107 and 1115 for their souls and for confraternity with the abbey.139 Osbert, who was prior of Westminster at the time, probably learnt of the incident through them. For Samson, the story commemorated more favourable relations between the abbey and London merchants than existed in his own day. In his chronicle of the abbey, Jocelin de Brakelond describes a dispute between Abbot Samson and the London merchants over the latter’s refusal to pay tolls at the market of Bury St Edmunds.140 After a two-year trade embargo, Samson was forced to concede to the merchants’ demands. The recollection of Deorman’s submission to the authority of one of his predecessors must have given Samson some consolation in the matter and also protected the dignity of his saintly patron. From its earliest days, the prosperity of the market was intimately linked to that of the cult, a circumstance that is made clear in a story attributed to Hermann in Bodleian 240, in which a man and wife visited Bury for the purpose of praying to St Edmund. That their trip also involved a walk around the market-place in Bury is revealed when the husband attempted to make an offering to the saint but found his purse empty. Retracing his steps through the market he found his lost coin shining out from a spot where it had been trodden down by the crowds. The story illustrates the profit to be gained from the formal links monks made between markets and the simultaneous celebration of the feast days of saints enshrined in their churches.141 In this case the story emphasized See RRA-N i, no. 399, p. 101. A ‘Deorun’ appears among a number of monks in a witness list to a charter issued at Bury some time in the period 1066–87. Feudal Documents, ed. Douglas, no. 268, 139 RRA-N ii, no. 1123, p. 131. p. 151. 140 Jocelin de Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. Greenway and J. Sayers (Oxford, 1989), 67–70. 141 See Ch. 6 for the story of the businessman punished for not showing his devotion at the shrine of St Frideswide in Oxford. 137 138


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

St Edmund’s jurisdiction over the market and encouraged those with dealings there to pay a visit to the abbey.142 The benefaction of Deorman that we might expect upon his entrance to the abbey is not recorded. The gifts of others in gratitude for miraculous cures experienced at the shrine are recorded in other narratives and in monastic and royal documents. Monastic benefactions could be in movables as well as land or rights in land. Osbert records the case of a Rutland farmer and a knight of Lindsey who chose to mark their encounters with the saint by offering livestock to the service of the monastery. The farmer of Rutland, whom Osbert notes had a habit of visiting the shrine of St Edmund, was taken to Bury by his wife and friends after suffering an attack of paralysis while in the field. After praying at the shrine he was cured and gave the animal on whose back he had been carried to Bury to the monks there. The benefits of religious devotion to St Edmund extended to individuals in their place of work, provided their families shared in that recognition of the saint’s healing power. The knight of Lindsey, an honest and admirable man, devoted to the service of Edmund, was also struck down with paralysis. Edmund appeared to him in a vision and told him to make an offering at his place of rest. The knight’s wife had him carried on a bier to Bury and on the way, at Hoyland, he was cured. The price of one of the horses that had pulled the bier was subsequently given as an offering to St Edmund.143 To these stories of the pilgrimages, devotions, and benefactions of the knightly and prosperous merchant classes, Osbert adds two stories touching upon the conditions of their souls. The companion of a rich woman cured at the shrine was a married knight with a fiery libido who had taken many concubines with whom he had carried out repeatedly shameful acts. He became ill and was horrified by the prospect of his impure body’s decay. His fellow knight rebuked him for repeatedly violating the sacrament of marriage, and for offending his admirable wife and counselled him to repent. The wealthy woman also advised him to go and make confession in the church and the lustful knight did so, recovering health to his body and soul as a result. 142 The narrative is absent from Cotton Tiberius Bii, but is attributed to Hermann in Bodleian 240 among a handful of others whose details strongly suggest their contemporaneity with Hermann’s work. See Nova Legenda Anglie, 633–4. 143 Samson, De Miraculis, 197–9.

The Cult of St Edmund of Bury


Another narrative recounts the saint’s direction of a knight away from the wicked desires of the flesh to spiritual sweetness. A man of the knightly order and holder of many estates in and beyond East Anglia was held in the grip of an ugly vice that reflected so badly on the health of his soul he felt himself another Lazarus. Hastening to the church with an uneasy conscience he prayed to St Edmund and prostrated himself before the shrine, groaning and confessing his sins. Osbert noted that the knight was henceforth freed from his temptation and added his own opinion that ‘I think that the blessed martyr Edmund has rather resuscitated the soul from mortal sins than revived the body from mortal illness.’144 This kind of miracle, in which St Edmund functioned as confessor to those afflicted with remorse for their personal sins, is a novel contribution to the miracle narratives associated with the saint. Together with his other narratives, they open up a perspective on contemporary society that shows a growing interest on the part of the abbey in the pastoral needs of those visiting the shrine. The cult of St Edmund at Bury was the subject of hagiographical interest that endured throughout the period in which this study falls. A number of surviving collections of the miracles of St Edmund testify to their use by the monks of Bury in a variety of ways. Their contents provide highly revealing monastic-centred perspectives of lay society at different stages in the abbey’s history. These perspectives had a propaganda function in identifying and defining imagined communities sharing priorities that were designed to make an impression on particular audiences. Hermann’s collection of miracles propagated a number of perceptions of St Edmund that formed a blueprint underpinning the status of the abbey community at a time when it was being challenged by political, social, and ecclesiastical developments. These perceptions of Edmund, the ruler of a distinct people and jealous protector of royal rights located at the abbey, continued to be relevant to the monastic community, subject to stylistic changes and additions, for over a hundred years after their first circulation. Osbert de Clare’s representation of Edmund extended his role as the head of a community, making him a forgiving saint, a priestly saint concerned about the moral 144 Ibid. 205–7: ‘ego majus existimo quod animam resuscitaverit beatus martyr Edmundus ab operibus mortuis, quam si corpus resurgere faceret a dolore mortis’.


The Cult of St Edmund of Bury

well-being of his people, and a saint who inspired devotion not from fear but through his ability to protect the interests of his people in their everyday lives. These new developments reflect an increase in perceptions among the monks of Bury of the extent to which the monastic community might be defined more widely in terms of its associations with the knightly and merchant classes that visited the town, its market, and church.

3 The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England In 1112 a party of canons and laymen set out from Laon cathedral carrying relics of the Blessed Virgin Mary on a tour of central France. The following year they crossed the Channel and conducted a second tour around the south of England. The aim of both tours was to raise funds for the restoration of the cathedral priory. Its buildings had been damaged by the events of April 1112, when the citizens of Laon rose up against Bishop Gaudry in an attempt to assert communal rights that would reflect and protect their increasingly powerful economic interests. The practice of touring with the relics of their saintly patrons was a new trend among religious communities of northern France in the late eleventh century. A particular kind of hagiographical travelogue accompanied the phenomenon, examples of which endure sporadically up to the sixteenth century.1 Two accounts of the tours conducted by the canons of Laon were written, by Guibert, abbot of Nogent, soon after the uprising, and by Hermann, sometime abbot of Tournai, writing in the 1140s. It is likely that both works drew upon a common stock of living memory within the cathedral priory and among Laon’s townsfolk.2 Nevertheless, the preconceptions and priorities each author brought to his work make them different accounts. How the authors chose to preserve these memories in writing reveal contrasting perspectives on the phenomenon of touring with relics and consequently on

1 For a bibliography see P. He ´liot and M.-L. Chastang, ‘Queˆtes et voyages de reliques au profit des e´glises franc¸aises du moyen aˆge’, Revue d’Historie E´cclesiastique, 59 (1964), 792–9. 2 It is surely significant that the relic tours were the first cooperative enterprise between the town and the cathedral priory after the debacle of April 1112.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

the relationship between religious communities and the laity. Guibert’s account is relatively brief and inattentive to detail. It features as an excursus from a wider historical commentary on political events in the diocese of Laon. Hermann’s account is fuller in incidental detail and in the number of miracles it records. Like Guibert’s, it forms part of a wider literary undertaking, though it is hagiographical rather than historical in genre. This chapter will examine how our authors chose to deal with their common material in writing, and what this reveals about the social and religious functions of Marian devotion in an increasingly complex and commercially sophisticated medieval world.

W R I T I N G A BO UT R E L I C T O UR S The geographical circulation of saints’ relics prior to the mid-eleventh century is chiefly known to historians through accounts of translations: commemorations by religious communities of the circumstances by which they came to acquire the relics of their saintly patrons.3 Having once reached their destinations, the stability of saints at the heart of their new communities became the most important theme in subsequent written accounts of their activities. The migration of monastic communities and their relics in the face of Viking attacks, as evidenced in accounts of the ninth and tenth centuries, witnesses to the historically (if not geographically) fundamental importance of saintly stability in the eyes of their custodians.4 The purpose of such accounts was often to preserve a record of the material possessions of the saint and their community. A new direction was pioneered at the end of the tenth century in southern France with the advent of the peace movement. The peace movement generated accounts depicting the movement of saints’ relics in a new direction, not in flight away from places of political disruption, but to the centre of political hotspots, where they functioned 3 See P. J. Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton, 1978; repr. 1990) and H. Fors,‘Listes de translations et inventions de l’e´poque Carolingienne’, Analecta Bollandiana, 104 (1986), 427–9. 4 Two famous examples are the prolonged itinerancy of the Cuthbert and his community, and the monks of Noirmoutiers with their relics of St Philibert. See Historia De Sancto Cuthberto, ed. T. Johnson South, Anglo-Saxon Texts, 3 (Woodbridge, 2002) and M. Bloch, Feudal Society, 2 vols., tr. L. A. Manyon (London, 1962), i. 20–1.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


in the resolution of disputes and the promotion of political stability.5 This change of direction reflects the respect of Christian communities, relative to that of the pagans, for the virtus of the saints. From out of this practice, in the late eleventh century, the new form of hagiographical travelogue emerged. The queˆte itine´rant or ‘collection tour’ is the subject of two important articles written by Pierre Sigal and Reinhold Kaiser.6 Kaiser traces the emergence of this new genre, that dealt more openly with relic tours as fund-raising exercises, to the 1060s, with St Amand’s journey with his monks around southern Picardy in 1066.7 The trip was intended to raise funds to restore the conventual buildings destroyed in a fire of that year. Prior to that, in 1060, the monks of St Ursmer of Lobbes had toured Flanders with their relics. Among their aims was to raise money to rebuild their church. Kaiser notes, however, that the account of their trip dwelt upon traditional themes of protecting property and promoting peaceful relations between local potentes.8 By the time Guibert of Nogent was writing his account in 1115 of the tour conducted by the canons of Laon, much to his distaste, it had become a custom: ‘Meanwhile, in keeping with the customary way, such as it is, of raising money, the monks began carrying around the relics of the saints as well as their reliquaries.’9 Pierre Sigal’s article is an invaluable survey, as far as the evidence permits, of the motives, organization, and reception of religious relic 5 For a recent collection of essays on the subject see T. Head and R. Landes (eds.),The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000 (London, 1992), and the review of it by J. Nelson, Speculum, 61 (1994),163–9. 6 P.-A. Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques aux onzie `me et douzie`me sie`cles’, in M. A.Cuer (ed.),Voyage, queˆtes, pe´lerinage dans la Litte´rature et la civilisation medie`vales (Aix-en-Provence, 1976); R. Kaiser,‘Queˆtes itine´rantes avec des reliques pour financer la construction des e´glises (XIe–XIIe sie`cles)’, Le moyen aˆge, 101 (1995), 205–25. 7 For the record of the tour, which stopped at Laon, see Historia Miraculorum Sancti Amandi Corpore Per Franciam Deportato, AASS,1 Feb., pp. 895–900; and Sigal,‘Les Voyages de reliques’ for a map of their itinerary and that in 1107. 8 Kaiser, ‘Que ˆtes itine´rantes’, 211. And see G. Koziol, ‘Monks, Feuds and the Making of Peace in Eleventh Century Flanders’, in Head and Landes Peace of God, 239–58. 9 A Monk’s Confession: The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent, tr. P. J. Archambault (Philadelphia, 1996), bk. iii, c. 12, p. 174 (hereafter, Monodiae). Though Monodiae is the less well-known title of the work, I have adopted it: first, because it was the title used by its author, see J. F. Benton, Self and Society in Medieval France (Toronto, 1970), 11 n. 16, and T. Head, Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology (London, 2001), 415; and secondly, for the reasons elaborated by R. I. Moore in, ‘Guibert of Nogent and his World’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985), 107–17.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

tours. It looks at the kinds of circumstances that led to their organization and makes comparisons of distances, times, modes and speeds of travel, as well as the kinds of receptions experienced at different types of stopping off point. Collection tours were conducted during the late spring and summer months of the year, usually to regions within an area between the Loire and the Scheldt.10 Religious communities usually limited their itineraries to areas within their own diocese or within range of their estates. These general characteristics of touring were no doubt designed to take advantage of the more clement weather conditions, to cut expenses down to a minimum wherever possible, and to secure maximum exposure to the movements of people during these months. Sigal identifies the main kinds of locations at which the religious sojourned as: cathedral churches where they were often given grand receptions; parish churches arrived at by chance; and religious houses that either belonged to or that shared their motherhouse with the itinerant community.11 The relic tours conducted by the Laon canons conform in a number of respects to the common pattern of such undertakings sketched above. Both tours, however, stand out in three regards. First, in the distances covered and the scale of the trips organized, the canons departed from a tendency to concentrate on one region close to home. Sigal estimated the distances as about 1000 km for the French tour and double that for the English tour. These distances are over three times greater than the average journey undertaken by his other examples.12 Secondly, more so than in other examples of the genre, Hermann of Tournai emphasizes the money-making aspect of the tour by recording details of gifts of objects and money made to the canons on their travels. His decision to make such entries, in the form of separate sums and final totals, is exclusive to the genre.13 Whilst it gives us an opportunity to study the business side of such trips, Hermann’s financial disclosures must also be regarded as an integral part of his miracle narratives and the social vignettes they sketch out. Thirdly, whilst other communities toured with the relics of their local patron saint, the canons of Laon enjoyed the saintly patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By the late eleventh 10 Walter of Caen exported the practice to England. See Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham ad annum 1418, ed. W. D. Macray, RS 29 (London, 1863), 55–67. 11 Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques’, 86. 12 Ibid. 82. 13 See R. Kaiser, ‘Que ˆtes itine´rantes’, 21.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


century in Western Europe, the Virgin was achieving ever-greater prominence among the heavenly community of the saints. An emphasis on her virginity and her unique relationship to God opened up channels for religious devotion that were universal in their appeal and optimistic in their message. In their conception, then, the tours were ambitious and, to a degree that we can to some extent measure, financially successful. The terms by which the Laon canons appealed to their benefactors and the way in which they chose to commemorate their experiences might usefully be understood as preserving a picture of Marian devotion as well as international and urban commercial activities. Before exploring these themes further, our attention must turn to the political events of 1112 that made the tours necessary.

L A T E E L EVENT H -C ENT URY P IC AR D Y The communal uprising of 1112 forced the canons of Laon to tour with the Virgin’s relics.14 It is traditionally discussed by historians among other examples illustrating a nascent force in northern French and Flemish society, the agents and beneficiaries of economic growth.15 Violent rebellion was not an inevitable ingredient of twelfth-century urbanization.16 A number of factors, nevertheless, made Laon particularly vulnerable to trouble. Its commanding location on a mountain plateau had made Laon an important centre of royal power during the Carolingian period.17 As the high tide of Carolingian power receded, successive bishops of Laon found themselves brokering new networks of public authority centred on the Capetian dynasty.18 Their reward through the eleventh century was to remain an enclave of royal power, while exercising a degree of political autonomy from the French kings. 14 According to Guibert of Nogent, the canons claimed possession of the threads of the Virgin’s robe and strands of her hair. See n. 59 below. 15 S. Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900–1300 (Oxford, 16 Ibid. 177. 1984; 2nd edn. 1997), 168–83. 17 For the early political relationship between the Laon bishops and Carolingian kings, and for the monastery of Notre-Dame-la-Profonde (later Saint-Jean) as a finishing school and retirement home for female members of the Carolingian dynasty, see J. Contreni, The Cathedral School of Laon from 850–930: Its Manuscripts and Masters (Munich, 1978), 18 E. M. Hallam, Capetian France 987–1328 (London, 1980), 67–9. 16, 18–27.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

The Capetians retained royal property, legal rights, and patronage over the city, including the appointment of the bishop, the vidame, and the provost.19 But their everyday control of the city and its resources waned. The freer hand enjoyed by Laon bishops in seigneurial and judicial matters came at a cost. Just as Laon’s position became geographically and politically marginal to the royal demesne, the diffusion of seigneurial power among local baronial families made the region a more complex one in which to govern.20 In its favour, the city belonged to an economically diverse and productive region in the late eleventh century. Picardy’s relatively high rates of cereal cultivation supported urban growth. Its sheep farming, supplemented by the English wool trade, fed a cottage and urban weaving industry second only to that of Flanders. The region even harvested and exported woad for the dyeing industries in Flanders and England. Goods, money, and merchants from England, the Rhineland, Paris, and Flanders circulated through its towns.21 Laon itself was particularly well situated to take advantage of the economic and commercial growth associated with these activities. It stood on the major routes between Flanders and the Isle de France, and linked the newly developing coastal towns of Montreuil and Abbeville with Lotharingia.22 Though more remote from the Capetian heartland, it remained a place on the royal itinerary, even when, according to Guibert, kings were occasionally made to feel less welcome than in the past.23 Through its possession of the relics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, it attracted pilgrims en route to Rome. But Laon’s own chief contributions to the region’s economy lay in its role as an exporter of two other commodities frequently coinciding in history, wine and intellectual talent. Along the terraces of the mountain and to the south of the city, the Aisne, Ardon, and Aillette valleys were

19 A. Saint-Denis, ‘Pouvoir et liberte ´s a` Laon dans les premie`res anne´es du XIIe sie`cle’, in E. Magnou-Nortier (ed.), Pouvoir et liberte´s au temps des premiers Cape´tians (He´rault, 1992), 273–4. 20 For the particularly fragmented nature of seigneurial power and absence of any strong comital unit of authority see J.-P. Poly and E. Bournazel, The Feudal Transformation, 900–1200, tr. C. Higgitt (London, 1991), 13; and R. Fossier, ‘La Socie´te´ picarde au moyen aˆge’, in E. Privat (ed.), Histoire de la Picardy, (Toulouse, 1974), 138–45. 21 R. Fossier, ‘Premie `re Exploitation des resources picardes’ in Privat, Histoire 22 Ibid. 132. 127–32. 23 Monodiae, iii. 7, p. 145.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


covered with vineyards and orchards.24 The city gained a reputation during this period for supplying Paris and areas north of the Seine with its wine.25 Indeed, the vintners of Laon were among the front rank of those pushing for recognition of their liberties in 1112.26 As the wine of Laon’s foothills increasingly flowed on the tables of the French aristocracy, from the 1070s, the sons of the same aristocracy pressed on up the hill to study theology under Master Anselm at the cathedral school. In an appreciation of his talent, Southern remarked of Anselm that ‘he went doggedly on over a period of fifty years without ever saying anything that led to a charge of heresy’.27 Anselm offered his pupils a thorough and solid, if non-controversial, theological education based on the exposition and discussion of biblical passages and doctrine. It was precisely these qualities of longevity, modernity, and orthodoxy that made him attractive to those families across Western Europe hoping to secure their positions by entering the administrative elite of future generations.28 By the beginning of the twelfth century, as a result of these developments, Laon had become a more complex and vibrant city than it had been under later Carolingian control. New commercial interests and emerging solidarities cut across existing forms of seigneurial authority.29 The most powerful of the city’s resident lords, Bishop Gaudry, provoked a clash between these groups, first, by selling his support to those seeking liberties from customary tolls and rents and, secondly, by turning on these groups and denying the liberties that had been granted to them. Things came to a head in April 1112 when the townsfolk rose and murdered the bishop and several of the town’s seigneurial lords.

Saint-Denis, ‘Pouvoir et liberte´s’, 268–9. Fossier, ‘Premie`re Exploitation’, 127. 26 Dunbabin, France in the Making, 843–1180 (Oxford, 1985, 2nd edn. 2000), 268–77. 27 R. W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1995–2001), ii. 27. 28 For a strong emphasis on Anselm’s position at the junction between traditional and modern schools of medieval theology, see C. Stephen Jaeger, The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideas in Medieval Europe, 950–1200 (Philadelphia, 2000), 236, and for discussion of Peter Abelard’s estimation of him, see M. T. Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (Oxford, 1997), 72–4. 29 For an analysis of similar patterns of solidarity in neighbouring Flanders see J. Dhondt, ‘Medieval ‘‘Solidarities’’: Flemish Society in Transition’, in F. Cheyette (ed.), Lordship and Community (London, 1968), 268–90. 24 25


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

Buildings were damaged by fire and looting,30 and in the weeks that followed, the townsfolk deserted the city for the protection of a local lord, Thomas de Marle, against royal reprisals. Thomas de Marle himself sacked the city before the king intervened to restore order.31 GUIBERT OF NOGENT Guibert of Nogent’s account of these events and the subsequent relic tours appears in his work, the Monodiae.32 Guibert wrote the Monodiae in 1115 as the political consequences of these events were still being worked out. He had access to the oral testimony of participants in the uprising and the tours that followed and was an eye-witness to some of the things he describes.33 However, historians have adopted caution in attempting to reconstruct events of the period solely from his work. For whilst his Monodiae offers much vivid and useful historical detail, his analysis of cause and consequence primarily served his predisposition as a moral and social commentator.34 Guibert has attracted generations of historians keen to interpret the workings of a single medieval mind.35 Though well known to historians he appears to have been little known by his contemporaries.36 R. I. Moore perceptively describes him as an ‘involuntary outsider’, a reform misfit and curious inversion of the ascetic of the vita apostolica.37 30 Guibert lists the following buildings as ravaged by fire: the episcopal palace, the treasurer’s house, the cathedral, the nunnery of Saint-Jean and the church of St Peter, Monodiae, iii. 8, pp. 154, 158–9. 31 Vie de Louis VI le Gros, ed. H. Waquet (Paris, 1929), 173–9 and Suger, abbot of Saint-Denis, The Deeds of Louis the Fat, ed. R. Cusimano and J. Moorhead (Washington, 32 Monodiae, iii. 12–13, pp. 173–81. DC, 1992), 106–9. 33 He was present in the city and spoke with Bishop Gaudry the day before he died, and he relates the story of a female cousin who escaped the riots, but whose husband Rainier was killed. Ibid. iii. 7, 9, pp. 153, 160. 34 For examples of Guibert’s historical inaccuracies see Benton, Self and Society, 31–3; and for Guibert’s role as a moral commentator, see J. Chaurands, ‘La Conception de l’histoire de Guibert de Nogent’, Cahiers de Civilisation Me´die´vale, 8 (1965), 381–95. 35 J. F. Benton provides the most accessible English discussion of the historiography, and offers a lightly rendered psychoanalytical interpretation of the work in Self and Society, introduction. For another summary of the historiography, largely following that of J. F. Benton, though usefully updating and supplementing it with a personal interpretation inspired by Georges Duby and an analysis of Guibert’s language, see Monodiae, 36 Benton, Self and Society, 7. ed. Archambault, pp. 19–36. 37 Moore, ‘Guibert of Nogent and his World’, 107–18.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


His distress at the social isolation he felt from people and particularly his monastic community at Nogent left its traces in his autobiography. The values that informed his outlook on the world were those of eleventh-century ecclesiastical reform. He prided himself on having gained his abbatial status through merit rather than simony or nepotism.38 He was particularly impressed by the Carthusians, the most austere order among the new apostolic movements. These values helped determine his written treatment of historical events. Guibert had a strong opinion about the chief causes of the Laon uprising. At the beginning of book three he states: ‘I should begin by saying that all the misfortunes, in my opinion, were due to the perversity of their bishops, which goes back a long time.’39 The misdemeanours of several generations of Laon bishops had finally incurred God’s punishment. It began with Bishop Adalbero (977–1030), who had turned the French crown over to the Capetians.40 His successors, through their simony, careerism, pluralism, collusion in adultery and tyranny had consistently mired themselves in the foulest violations of the reform church’s values.41 Bishop Gaudry was responsible for the city’s final fall from grace. His own murder in Laon cathedral was a fitting delivery of judgement on him by God. Gaudry had been chancellor of England under Henry I, and had used his English wealth to buy off the papal curia and acquire the Laon see.42 Guibert’s own role in Gaudry’s election had been less than glorious. He presented himself as rather apologetically disclosing to Pope Paschal Gaudry’s flimsiest of acquaintances with ecclesiastical service as a recently ordained subdeacon of Rouen cathedral. ‘Up to this time’, Guibert admits to his readers, ‘he had been nothing more than a soldier’.43 As bishop, Gaudry proved his critics’ worst fears true. His continued interest in knightly pursuits undermined the dignity of his position. He was witnessed in a mitre 38 J. F. Benton implies rather that Guibert’s family probably lacked the money and social influence to secure him abbatial office by traditional (i.e. simoniacal) means. 39 Monodiae, iii. 1, p. 121. Self and Society, 19. 40 Ibid. iii. 1, p. 122, for Adalbero as Judas. For a modern analysis of this historical episode see E. M. Hallam, Capetian France, 987–1328 (London, 1980), 67–9 and 41 Moore, ‘Guibert of Nogent and his Dunbabin, France in the Making, 190–1. World’, 111. 42 Judith A. Green, The Government of England under Henry I (Cambridge, 1986), 28, 171, for his English background. 43 Monodiae, iii. 4, p. 130. In the same passage, Guibert explains his acquiescence in this fudge in terms of the obedience he felt obliged to give to his superiors in the affair.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

charging on horseback with a lance snatched from a peasant. He ‘loved talking about military matters, dogs, and hawks, as he had learned to do while in England’.44 He exploited episcopal justice by using his courts for extortion. He debased the coinage so that the town and region starved at his expense. His worst crime, however, was to follow his predecessor in conspiring with Enguerrand de Coucy and his lover, Sibyl de Porcien, the most notorious of their crimes involving the murder of Gerard de Quierzy, a local baron and secular advocate (avoue´ ) of the nuns of Saint-Jean de Laon. Gerard was slain while at prayer in the cathedral by Rorigon, Gaudry’s brother.45 In Guibert’s final analysis, it was not Gaudry alone who brought God’s judgement to bear upon the city but his predecessors and ‘a whole population that contributed to the accumulations of these crimes, which were greater in Laon than anywhere in all of France’.46 The sentiment is echoed in his personal interpretation of an omen involving the fall of an ornamental eagle from the gildings over the chest containing the cathedral relics. The cleric who told him the story claimed that it symbolized Gaudry’s imminent death but Guibert extended its meaning: ‘I think that it symbolized the ruin of a city which had been the most royal of all the cities of France, and which was to fall into even greater ruin.’47 In this way Guibert was addressing the failures of Christian society tout court in his work. A sense of late antique regret for the decay of public authority, probably derived from Augustine’s City of God, also colours it. Unlike Augustine, however, Guibert fails to deliver much of a positive vision of the wider Christian Church, even when his subject matter is the cult of the Virgin Mary as universal intercessor. Before discussing his portrayal of the relic tours and the role of the Virgin in them, Guibert’s general attitude to the cult of saints can first be considered through a brief discussion of another of his works, De Pignoribus Sanctorum. Written in 1125, the De Pignoribus Sanctorum is a complex and not altogether coherent discussion of what Guibert regarded as the abuses of relics in his age.48 45 Ibid. iii. 5, p. 138. 46 Ibid. iii. 11, p. 171. Monodiae, iii. 4, p. 135. Ibid. iii. 13, pp. 179–81. It is tempting to suggest that Guibert’s work was informed in this regard by the central allegory of Augustine’s City of God. 48 Guibert of Nogent, De Pignoribus Sanctorum, ed. R. B. C. Huygens, CCSL 127 (Turnholt, 1993), 79–175 (translation here taken from Head, Medieval Hagiography, 399–427; C. Morris, ‘A Critique of Popular Religion: Guibert of Nogent on The Relics of the Saints’, SCH (1972), 55–6; and for its inconsistencies, p. 58 n. 2. 44 47

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


He sees relic cults as among those customary practices of the Church not fundamentally required by orthodox belief. Guibert was troubled by the more absurd incidences of cult activity endorsed by the religious institutions of his day. He regarded the claim of monks of St Medard to possess a tooth of Christ as a gratuitous offence to the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection.49 The dubious provenance and constant circulation of body parts purported to be holy relics also disturbed him.50 Yet Guibert did not dismiss the efficacy of saints’ relics outright. He sought rather to reappraise their function as symbols for contemplation and interpretation and to anchor them securely to texts correctly authenticating them according to contemporary theological standards. The logic of Guibert’s argument was that popular access to relics should be controlled and mediated by the proper authorities. Proper contemplation of relics involved their use as aids to interior penance.51 Such meditation on the physical remains of a saint, provided the individual was sincere in their heart, would prove effective, even if the relic was misidentified or spurious, for ‘The lord judges intentions rather than words . . . he is not over attentive to grammar. No voice comes to him that his heart does not embrace.’52 This intellectual approach to relics, whilst admitting them a symbolic function, renders that physical quality of them traditionally referred to as praesentia almost redundant. Guibert’s personal devotion to the Virgin is evident in the Monodiae. He records that he was dedicated by his family to the Virgin as a thankoffering for her protection of mother and child during a difficult birth.53 He took great comfort from the Virgin and frequently returned to the theme of her constancy in providing him spiritual support through moments when despair of his sinful behaviour overwhelmed him.54 He Head, Medieval Hagiography, 400–1. For Guibert’s horror at the practice of dividing the bodies of saints see C. Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York, 1992), 11–12. 51 B. Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton, 1983), 244–52. 52 Head, Medieval Hagiography, 109: ‘sed auris divina intentiones potius quam verba metitur . . . non est deus grammaticae curiosus, vox eum nulla penetrat, pectus intendit’. De Pignoribus Sanctorum, ed. Huygens, 109. Guibert’s interest in ‘intention’ in faith immediately brings to mind the work of Peter Abelard; see M. T. Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (Oxford, 1997), 278–81. 53 Monodiae, 3, pp. 10–13, where he confesses that ‘sharing the condition of servant 54 Ibid. i.16, pp. 56–8. with you I can cry out—I am thine’. 49 50


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

wrote a tract praising her virtues.55 It is characteristic of Guibert that the new devotion towards the Virgin as universal redeemer only seems to have applied to him in his writing. His jealously protected intimacy with the Virgin prevented him from appreciating the conciliatory and healing dimensions to her cult that are the central theme of Hermann’s account of the relic tours. Guibert’s account of the relic tours is confused, truncated, and ambivalent. He is unclear about the number of the journeys undertaken. He talks of three trips around France but mentions no details about the first. The second trip corresponds to that described by Hermann as taken around Touraine and Anjou.56 The third trip, to Nesle and the monastery of Lihons, corresponds to that leg of the English tour taken across France prior to the canons’ arrival at Wissant, their embarkation point for England. Curiously, Guibert describes the canons as crossing the Mediterranean Sea when they are assailed by pirates, an incident that takes place more logically, according to Hermann’s account, in the English Channel. Details of place and personal names appearing in Hermann’s account are omitted from Guibert’s account of the English tour. He recorded five miracles for the French and three for the English leg of the tours, far fewer than the number preserved by Hermann. It is tempting to account for these shortcomings in terms of Guibert’s limited access to the detailed testimony of the canons. But Guibert made regular visits to Laon where his monastery possessed storehouses and he cites two oral sources for specific events.57 Instead, it appears that Guibert was not interested in the tours themselves. He abhorred the practice of moving and presenting relics to lay audiences in highly ornate caskets and feretories.58 Whilst he could accept that the canons owned threads of the Virgin’s robe and a sponge that had touched the lips of Christ, he would not acknowledge their possession of the Virgin’s hair.59 The idea appalled him for reasons analogous to those by which he rejected the existence of Christ’s tooth at St Medard of Soissons. Guibert’s commitment to the physical resurrection of the Virgin—a Benton, Self and Society, 19. Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques’, 101, for Hermann’s itinerary. 57 A deaf and mute boy from Buzanc ¸ais, cured by the Virgin’s relics, visited Guibert at Nogent and retold the story of his cure and one of the canons provided him with two miracle stories, see Monodiae, iii. 13, pp. 179–81. 58 Head, Medieval Hagiography, 419. 59 Monodiae, iii. 12, p. 174. 55 56

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


doctrine not officially recognized by the Church at that time—he explained as the natural consequence of her unique role as the theotokos, or bearer of God. With such knowledge, admissible through reasoning rather than material proof, how could one embrace the notion of the Virgin’s remains as subject to earthly corruption ‘without [the implication of ] injury to Christ’s flesh’.60 Rather he was interested in them for the material they could provide him for the purposes of sermonizing. In keeping with his reappraisal of relics as symbols for the contemplation of inner penance, Guibert passed over ‘the ordinary healings of the sick . . . For’, he states, ‘we are not recording their itinerary—they can write that themselves—nor considering each individual fact, but are picking out examples useful for sermons’.61 A young boy, blocking the progress of the relics in Angers with a cart and horse, was struck motionless by the Virgin until the canons could safely pass by. Guibert completes the story with the comment, ‘See what Mary can do and the kind of respect she commands.’62 The only miracles he recorded for the English tour were the punishments of the inhabitants of one town and of a thief of another town who stole money from the offerings made to the Virgin. Elsewhere in the Monodiae, the vindictive rather than the merciful Virgin predominates. The Virgin punished two knights, the first having stolen oxen from monastic property, the second annexing a section of the river Ailette where the monks were accustomed to fish. Another miracle saw the humiliation of a royal provost at Compie`gne for harassing the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary there.63 This image of the Virgin is in remarkable contrast to that presented by Hermann of Tournai in his official account of the relic tours.

HERMANN OF TOURNAI AND THE RELIC TOURS In the De Miraculis Beatae Mariae Laudunensis, the second of our relic tour accounts, we have a fuller record of the journeys. The account was 60 62

61 Monodiae, iii. 13, pp. 177–8. Head, Medieval Hagiography, 416. 63 Ibid. iii. 18, pp. 200–1. Ibid. iii. 13, pp. 176.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

written by Hermann of Tournai during the mid-1140s.64 Hermann was a monk and ex-abbot of Tournai. He was forced out of office in 1136 by a contingent within the monastery who accused him of laxity in his enforcement of the Rule.65 He spent time in Laon and came into contact with Bishop Bartholomew, patron of the work. In his dedicatory letter Hermann disclosed that Bartholomew had sent him to Spain on an errand to recover the body of St Vincent of Zaragossa, promised on a previous occasion to Bartholomew by King Alfonse, his maternal cousin. The recovery of Vincent’s body proved unsuccessful but while he was in Spain, and with Bartholomew providing the parchment, Hermann copied manuscripts containing a Life and three works on the Blessed Mother of God by Hildefonsus of Toledo. To these he added the De Miraculis Beatae Mariae Laudunensis and an account of the building programme undertaken by Bishop Bartholomew in the diocese.66 This composite work was intended as the commemoration of a period of revival in the religious life of the diocese, presided over by Bartholomew. To the traditional Marian hagiography he added a new official record of her particular interventions on behalf of the cathedral canons. Hermann emphasized the particular importance of the collection to the religious community by writing as if he were a canon of the cathedral.67 In his letter to Bartholomew, he writes, ‘I was reluctant to put my small name beneath them, and so I have washed these miracles by a pretext under the name of the canons of the church.’68 The work furnished the canons with an institutional identity personally linking them with the Virgin and a location in a broader spiritual tradition of Marian devotion. The authors of this spiritual and institutional revival were Bishop Bartholomew and the Virgin Mary. Hermann described the church of Laon as a flourishing and lofty place, laid low temporarily by Gaudry’s sins. He evoked as a parallel the 64 Hermann, monk of Tournai, De Miraculis S Mariae Laudunensis, ed. J.-P. Migne (Paris, 1853), PL 156, cols. 961–1018 (henceforth, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis). For a detailed discussion of the author’s identity, the text and its date of production, see G. Niemeyer, ‘Die Miracula S. Mariae Laudunensis des Abtes Hermann von Tournai’, 65 Ibid. 142. Deutsches Archiv fu¨r Geschichte, 27 (1971), 135–74. 66 B. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Aldershot, 1982), 141–2. 67 He writes in the first person plural for the account of the English tour. 68 ‘parvitatis meae nomen illis praetermittere nolui sed sub nomine canonicorum eius ecclesiae ea praetitu lavi’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 962B.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem: For just as the Almighty God excellently glorified the city of Jerusalem through David and his son, Solomon, but afterwards, on account of the sins of its inhabitants, he allowed it to be destroyed through Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; so our church, which, as was said before, God for long had raised on high with glory and distinction, in our days indeed was not completely destroyed, but He allowed it to be vexed with great tribulation.69

Gaudry stood in for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The fire in the city had a purgative function. The sin was the spilling of Gerard’s blood in the cathedral. The occasion of Gaudry’s death, crudely slain in a storehouse under the cathedral by his knights, and the fire that ensued, were a result of the bishop’s provocation of the townsfolk. Hermann’s description of Bartholomew emphasized his suitability as architect of the Church’s recovery. Bartholomew was of ‘noble breed and good morals’,70 both essential qualities, but—something Guibert might have acknowledged at a more generous moment—rarely found together in a still unreformed Church.71 His noble breeding is described at length: he was famous not only in France but in Spain, Burgundy, and Lotharingia, through his family ties with numerous counts and the Aragonese and French royal dynasties; he was taught letters by his greatuncle, Manasses II, archbishop of Rheims, a member of Gregory VII’s friendship network,72 and he was canon and treasurer of the church of the Blessed Mary of Rheims. Bartholomew is portrayed as unequivocally the best man for the task that lay ahead of rebuilding not just the main church but twelve others, together with buildings of the canons and the bishop, all destroyed in the fire. His credentials meant that the canons were able to enlist the aid of another, heavenly ally in the work to follow. 69 ‘Sicut enim quondam per David regem filiumque eius Salomonem omnipotens deus urbem Hierusalem excellenter glorificavit sed postmodum propter peccata inhabitantium, per Nabuchodonosor regem Babylonis funditus destrui permisit, sic etiam Ecclesiam nostram, quam ut praedictum est, per multa tempora insigni gloria sublimaverat, in diebus nostris non quidem ex toto destrui, sed nimia passus est tribulatione vexari’, ibid. col. 964B. For the biblical analogy see Isaiah 40: 2. 70 ‘tam generis notabile quam et morum probitate’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 965C. 71 Bartholomew receives brief and ambivalent treatment in the Monodiae, perhaps, as suggested by R. I. Moore, because Guibert still harboured resentment at being passed over for the position himself. See Monodiae, iii. 14, pp. 181–2. 72 I. S. Robinson, ‘The Friendship Network of Gregory VII’, History, 63 (1978), 18–19.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

If God had punished the Church, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, was to reconcile it through her prayer, ‘The Lord who had allowed our church to be harshly scourged, placated by the prayers of his most pious mother, did not delay in his mercy, to restore it.’73 The miracles of the Virgin, as well as helping to raise the necessary funds for the job, were an important piece of episcopal propaganda, emphasizing the state of grace to which Laon had been returned under Bishop Bartholomew. Hermann’s account of the relic tours, like that of Guibert, served thus as an official account of events. Its purpose was to preserve a memory of recent events that reflected well on the cathedral community. It has been noted that the tours displayed three obvious characteristics that distinguished them from those undertaken by other religious communities of the age. First, the canons travelled more ambitious distances than their contemporaries. Secondly, they appear to have kept some note of the amounts of money and material gifts received from those they encountered on the trips. Finally, they carried with them on tour the relics of a universal saint, the Virgin Mary, not those of a local patron saint. An explanation of the first of these features lies in the circumstances in which the relic tours were organized. The first tour took place remarkably close on the heels of events in the city. From Guibert we learn that Bishop Gaudry was murdered on Thursday, 25 April, 1112.74 The following day, as many of its citizens fled the city or sought refuge in its monasteries, Thomas de Marle, together with crowds of peasants from Coucy, entered and sacked Laon. The cathedral remained without a bishop until the 4 August 1112,75 when Hugh, dean of Orle´ans, was imposed upon the see by the French king. Hugh died within seven months of taking office and was replaced by Bartholomew de Jur, archdeacon and treasurer at the cathedral of Rheims. The first of the tours took place during the vacancy between Gaudry and Hugh. The canons set out a little over a month after the uprising, in June, and returned in September.76 Guibert makes no connection between Bishop Bartholomew and either of the relic tours. Bartholomew was not installed as bishop until 73 ‘Ecclesiam nostram, quam dure flagellari permiserat, precibus suae piissimae Matris placatus, non distulit misericorditer refovere’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 68B. 74 Monodiae, iii. 8, p. 153. 75 Ibid. iii. 4, p. 181 n. 128. 76 Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind, 135.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


nearly a year after the first tour. He was probably present for no more than two months before the canons set out on their second voyage to England. It would seem reasonable to infer that his part in organizing these events was therefore a marginal one. However, Hermann’s account inverts and simplifies this chronology. He makes no mention of Bishop Hugh. Instead, he deals at length with Bartholomew’s fitness for the role of bishop, before introducing the subject of the relic tours. After underlining the heavy responsibility that fell on the shoulders of the new bishop, Hermann introduced the plan, decided upon by wise men of good testimony among the clerics, to undertake a tour around France. The implication was that the initiative for both tours fell within Bartholomew’s plans to revive the fortunes of the cathedral. The likeliest candidate as organizer of the tours was in fact Anselm, master of the cathedral school, canon, and dean. Anselm features throughout Guibert’s autobiography as one of the few sources of moral authority and leadership in the diocese. Prior to the uprising he had warned Gaudry of the bad feeling that was mounting against him. During its worst moments, Anselm is portrayed as exposing himself to danger in defence of the dignity of episcopal office. On the morning after Gaudry’s murder, he negotiated the safe retrieval and dignified disposal of the bishop’s body, which had been lying in the street ‘like a dead dog’ and ‘pelted with curses’ for almost twenty-four hours.77 The decision to traverse France and to tour around the Loire region was taken at least partly in diplomatic avoidance of areas nearer to home. The relations between the cathedral community and the region around Laon had been severely strained by Bishop Gaudry. His debasement of the currency, use of judicial power as an opportunity to extort money, and fiscal and political exploitation of the peasantry on episcopal estates, left little hope that local communities would be receptive to such a fundraising tour, even had they the surplus funds to give as offerings. Although Bartholomew was installed in advance of the second tour, its destination and itinerary was clearly planned with reference to Anselm’s address book.78 In the dioceses of Tours, Angers, and Chartres, the canons might anticipate a reasonable reception, particularly at Chartres itself, where Bishop Ivo, the famous canon lawyer resided. Ivo was from 77

Monodiae, iii. 10, p. 163. Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques’, 80, and F. Barlow, The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042–1216 (London, 1961; 3rd edn. 1972), 263–4. 78


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

a Beauvais family and had spent some time at Laon during the 1070s. His contribution to the discussion of biblical glosses, which were collected and compiled in the twelfth-century Sentientiae, was substantial.79 Sure enough, as the canons arrived at the outskirts of Chartres, before Vespers on the vigil of the Nativity of the Virgin (8 September): ‘They were most honourably received by Bishop Ivo of Chartres, all of the canons hastening in procession towards them to the vineyards outside the town, and the feretory was placed in the great church above the altar of the Holy Mary.’80 During Henry I’s reign the cathedral school at Laon became an academy of the clerical expertise required of English administrative kingship. Guibert mentions that Gaudry had included Anselm among a party that had visited England early in his episcopate. According to Anselm, who told Guibert, the trip was not a success for Gaudry. The bishop was repeatedly confronted by Englishmen who complained that he had robbed them of their money.81 Despite these ignominious circumstances, the trip probably reacquainted Anselm with some of his ex-pupils and gave him the opportunity to assess their potential as donors. Hermann mentions a number of individuals encountered by the Laon canons who had studied under Anselm. One of them, William of Corbeil, archbishop of Canterbury, is an interpolation, since he did not enter his see until 1123.82 The sons of Ranulf, chancellor of England, who had replaced Gaudry in this position after he became bishop of Laon, Archdeacon Robert of Exeter, the two nephews—Alexander and Nigel—of Roger, bishop of Salisbury and justiciar of England, and Agardus, a clerk of Devon, had all spent some time studying in Laon. Among these men, Robert became bishop of Exeter in 1138, Alexander and Nigel became bishops of Lincoln and Ely respectively, the latter also Henry II’s treasurer, and Agardus became bishop of Coutances in 1132.83 Where these men held office, in Salisbury, Devon, and Exeter, the canons received the same warm reception as they had at Chartres. In See Southern, Scholastic Humanism, i. 252–5, and particularly n. 14. ‘honorificentissime suscepti sunt a domno Ivone Carnotensi episcopo, totaque canonicorum processione extra urbem usque ad vineas eis occurrente, feretrumque positum est in majori ecclesia super altare sanctae Mariae’, Hermann of Tournai, De 81 Monodiae, iii. 4, p. 135. Miraculis, cols. 971D–972A. 82 Hermann identifies St Augustine’s as the monastery that took the canons in, a detail that immediately raises suspicion at his claim of Archbishop William of Corbeil as 83 Green, Government of England, 160. the host. 79 80

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


France they were also received cum magna reverentia in Cormery by the archbishop of Tours and cum honore maximo by the canons of St Martin, in Tours itself. It would seem then that the decision to tour regions remote to the diocese of Laon reflected both opportunity and necessity. To concentrate on areas too close to home was politically untenable (perhaps even dangerous to the canons) in the months following the uprising of Laon. Neither the goodwill nor the financial wherewithal existed to make a positive reception to the canons’ appeals likely. More positively, through Master Anselm’s contacts the community possessed a widely dispersed network of men in powerful ecclesiastical positions, particularly in England. The added attraction of England lay in the affluence of its southern urban communities. A third attraction of England to the canons may have been the English church, one of the most precocious in Europe in terms of its devotion to the Virgin Mary.

THE WEALTH OF SOUTHERN ENGLAND The decision to travel beyond the vicinity of Laon made good financial as well as political sense. Guibert de Nogent paints a miserable picture of the quality of currency in the diocese at this time. Bishop Gaudry had acquiesced with his moneyers in the severe debasement of the Laon coinage so that coins were made of the cheapest bronze and thus, ‘in all directions the ruin of many was hastened’. Thierry, a monk of Tournai, got in on the profiteering by importing large amounts of silver to inflate the supply of debased coinage. With such a worthless coinage, it was not long before Gaudry introduced the Amiens halfpence to the region. This in turn fell out of circulation due to its own debased quality. Finally, Gaudry issued a new coin type stamped with the novel design of a pastoral staff. This was met with ‘secret laughter and scorn’. Guibert claimed that the Laon coinage had once been recognized within the walls of Rome itself. Now it had become the ‘the most debased dross’.84 No numismatic evidence for Gaudry’s seigneurial coinage survives,85 its Monodiae, iii. 7, p. 148. T. N. Bisson, Conservation of the Coinage: Monetary Exploitation and its Restraint in France, Catalonia, and Aragon, c.1000–1255 AD (Oxford, 1979), 9–10. 84 85


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

absence from hoard inventories perhaps silently testifying to the accuracy of Guibert’s comments. In such desperate circumstances the canons were forced to look beyond their own back garden for money and labour to fund their building programme. Unique to the genre, Hermann included records of the monies raised in both central France and England. They are not a comprehensive list of donors’ names and amounts given. Nevertheless they give a good impression of how the canons were able to complete their rebuilding programme so soon after the conflagration of 1112. In comparing the levels of finance raised by the canons on their tours it is necessary to take into account the relative quality of the various coinages involved. The lack of documentary and numismatic evidence makes reliable rates of exchange difficult to establish in this period. As a rule of thumb though, coins issued in France were always prone to debasement by seigneurial mints until the beginnings of monetary reform by Philip Augustus in the late twelfth century, while the quality of sterling in England, as a function of strong royal control, was remarkably stable and consistent from the tenth century onwards.86 As mentioned above, no evidence for the type and fineness of Laon coins for the beginning of the twelfth century presently exists. Laon coins survive for the period of Bishop Adalberon, from 977 to 1031, when types were being issued jointly bearing his and the king’s names.87 A number of these ‘semiepiscopal’ coins appear in a hoard of Amiens, buried some time between 1100 and 1110.88 Other Laon types survive from the second half of the twelfth century, bearing the names Gautier I and Gautier II for the period 1151–74, and Roger de Rosoi up to 1201, along with Kings Louis VII and Philip Augustus.89 These coins were a weak currency of approximately 24 per cent fineness.90 Even taking into account a gradual deterioration in the fineness of seigneurial coinage over the century, as

86 I. Stewart, ‘The English and Norman Mints, c.600–1158’, in C. E. Challis (ed.), A New History of The Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992), 57, 65; and P. Nightingale, ‘The Evolution of Weight Standards and the Creation of New Monetary Links in Northern Europe from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century’, EconHR 100 (1985), 201. 87 J. Lafaurie, Les Monnaies des rois de France, Hugues Capet a ` Louis XII, i (Paris, 1951), 4 n. 17. 88 J. Duplessey, Les Tre ´sors mone´taires me´die´vaux et modernes de´couverts en France, 89 Lafaurie, Les Monnaies des rois, 18 nn. 160–1. i 751–1223 (Paris, 1985), 25 n 8. 90 F. Dumas and J.-N. Barrandon, Le Titre et le poids de fin des monnaies sous le re `gne de Philippe Auguste (1180–1223) (Paris, 1982), 57.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


can be supposed for French coinage in general, it is unlikely that Gaudry’s coins approached anything like 24 per cent fineness. Despite slippages in the reign of Henry I, probably a result of the scarcity of bullion in the country,91 English sterling was still consistently fine relative to continental experience, and it is reasonable to suggest a multiplier of about 3 or 4 when making conversions of English sterling into Laon money. The offerings made by the end of the English trip amounted to 120 marks, about £80 (excluding gifts of decorative textiles and church ornaments).92 This is an impressive sum of money. It translates into something between 243 and 324 pounds in Laon currency. In addition, the canons received three gold rings, four silver goblets, a cup and other unspecified ornaments.93 In all, if we conservatively estimate the value of these items as half as much again, we can perhaps suggest a sum of between 360 and 500 Laon pounds as a rough estimate of the value of English benefactions. By comparison, the gifts recorded for the French tour were fewer and probably less valuable to the canons. The types of coin offered are not specified, but for the region of the Loire we may suggest that it was a similarly debased form of seigneurial coinage to that of Laon. By the end of the century, the main coin of the region, the deniers tournois, was being exchanged for sterling at a rate of 80s to the pound.94 Applied to the figures, this amounts to a meagre £4 worth of Laon money amassed, and a silver spoon. Guibert mentions a story omitted by Hermann that might serve to boost this figure. A young woman whose wedding ring miraculously broke when she came into contact with the reliquary, was thus relieved of the pain her swollen finger had caused around it. Several other women brought their own rings and necklaces as offerings to the Virgin after her.95 A relative scarcity of coin offerings in central France may to some extent have been mitigated by the surplus of labour it seems the region was able to export. A deaf-mute of Buzanc¸ais, known personally to Guibert, gave himself in service to the Virgin. The canons were also 91 M. Blackburn, ‘Coinage and Currency under Henry I: A Review’, A-NS 13 (1991), 92 Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, cols. 987A–988A. 73–4. 93 Whilst it is unlikely that these objects would have been melted down to mint money they represented assets that may have been useful in securing loans from creditors. 94 P. Spufford, Handbook of Medieval Exchange (London, 1986), 206–9. 95 Monodiae, iii. 12, pp. 175–6.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

accompanied on their return to northern France by two cripples who had been cured at the castle of Issoudun. They committed themselves to the work of rebuilding the cathedral church and ‘encouraged the people daily, by carrying stones and water, and preparing cement’.96 When the building was done, one of them returned home to Issoudun. The other remained in Laon serving in the hospital for twelve years. Guibert preserves a story that hints at the canons’ difficulties in securing power to keep the building on schedule. A canon deputed to the task of organizing the supply of materials told him of an oxen that appeared out of thin air one day to assist in the moving of timber up the mountain.97 In summary, Hermann’s accounts of offerings made to the canons are incomplete but still hint at the economic prosperity of southern English towns. Even under the fiscal pressures of Henry I’s reign, that were to be most acutely felt by his moneyers, the trip to England secured extraordinary revenue from what was a stable and widely circulating currency of greater value than the Laon coin. England truly represented ‘the El Dorado of relic tour destinations’.98 English spending power saw the building project through to completion within two years and without the need for a third tour. On 5 September, three days before the nativity of the Virgin, the new church of Laon was consecrated by the archbishop of Rheims. But why did the English respond more generously to the canons than their French contemporaries? To pose such a question is to inquire into the social and religious dimensions of gift-giving and the relationships forged between the canons, the laity, and Our Lady of Laon.

MARIAN DEVOTION IN ENGLAND Relic tours conducted through England were not a guaranteed success. The monks of Marciennes visited England at this time with the relics of St Eusebius. They were met with indifference, were forced to sell their equipment in order to continue their voyage, and returned to France in 96 ‘et ad ecclesiae opus ad lapides portandos, ad aquam deferendam, ad caementum praeparandum quotidie exhortabantur populum’. Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, 97 Monodiae, iii. 12, p. 179. col. 968D. 98 Kaiser, ‘Que ˆtes itine´rantes’, 217.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


poverty.99 Anselm’s English connections helped the Laon canons to avoid this fate. The Virgin’s appeal over that of a local saint may also help to explain their success. The late Anglo-Saxon period saw some of the most advanced forms of Marian devotion in Western Europe, particularly in the southern towns frequented by the canons. These circumstances must have favoured the canons among those ecclesiastics who received them and among townsfolk already acquainted with the intercessory powers of the Virgin. The roots of this Marian devotion lay in the tenth-century monastic reform movement. It was liturgically advanced and derived from a range of literary sources, both apocryphal and orthodox. The liturgical observance of the Virgin’s Immaculate Conception and of the Presentation was performed at Winchester, Worcester, Canterbury, and Exeter, and nowhere else in Western Europe. The primary centre of Marian devotion was Winchester, where the new feast of the Conception was introduced around 1030. After the Conquest, Archbishop Lanfranc, suppressed the two feasts, neither of them appearing in his Monastic Constitutions.100 The cult of the Virgin was not, however, so easily done down. A resurgence of liturgical devotion occurred in the early decades of the twelfth century. Southern describes it as the ‘expression of a new piety and a new imagination’.101 Its pioneers were men of high ecclesiastical status. Foremost among them were Anselm, abbot of Bury St Edmunds (and namesake and nephew of Lanfranc’s successor), who wrote a collection of the miracles of the Virgin; Dominic of Evesham, who compiled the ‘Elements Series’ of miracles c.1120–5;102 and William of Malmesbury who finished his collection of the miracles of the Virgin by 1141.103 The new devotion emphasized the universal presence of the Virgin as an intercessor. Writing in about 1120, Abbot Anselm preserves the story of

99 Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques’, 89; Kaiser, ‘Que ˆtes itine´rantes’, 218; Miracula Sanctae Rictrudis, ed. A. Poncelet et al., Analecta Bollandiana, 20 (1901), 448–460, at p. 456. 100 The Monastic Constitutions of Lanfranc, ed. D. Knowles (Oxford, 1951), 55–64. 101 R. W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (London, 1967), 236. 102 Referred to as the ‘Elements Series’ because its miracles were arranged according to the theme of the elements. 103 R. W. Southern, ‘The Origins of the Cult of the Virgin in Medieval England’, in R. Hunt (ed.), Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies (London, 1958), 183; ‘William of Malmesbury, Miracles of the Virgin Mary’, ed. and tr. P. N. Carter (Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1959), 52.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

a monk of Winchester, Elsinus, who, on returning from a mission to Denmark in King William’s service, had a vision of the Virgin who told him to institute the feast of her Conception and gave him details of the exact form of the liturgy to be observed. The feast was eventually observed at Ramsey abbey, where Elsinus became abbot, until his death in 1088. Anselm recorded the story as propaganda for the reinstatement of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.104 He introduced the feast to the monks of Bury St Edmunds.105 The centres of Marian devotion at which these men held office often possessed relics of the Virgin. Winchester possessed part of her tunic and sepulchre, Bath part of her sepulchre, a lock of her hair, her milk, and clothes, and Exeter a garment, part of her headdress, and a lock of her hair.106 All three places were visited by the canons of Laon in 1113. However, there is little evidence for local cults centred on these relics.107 Through their literary efforts the Virgin’s heavenly support was to be untied from local institutional affiliations and made available to all who sought it, even the most unlikely of possible recipients, among them thieves, provided they displayed a sincerely repentant and devout heart. The collections of miracles compiled by Anselm of Bury and Dominic of Evesham were collections of stories abstracted from diverse historical and geographical contexts. Guibert of Nogent used similar methods in his own selection of Marian miracles. A Marian cult did exist at St Mary’s, Nunnaminster, in Winchester. The nuns of St Mary’s regarded the Virgin as their personal protector. When one of their manors, Itchen Abbas near Winchester, was taken by the Norman lord, Hugh fitz Baldric, they prayed to her that she might avenge the loss of property at the hands of the enemy and ‘repay him according to the works of his malice’.108 An office of Mary survives for this period containing a prefatory prayer that identifies the manuscript as

104 See also R. W. Southern, St Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape (Cambridge, 1990), 432–6 for Archbishop Anselm’s opinions on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. 105 The Feudal Documents for the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. C. Douglas, (London, 1932), n. 112. 106 M. Clayton, The Cult of the Virgin in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, 1990), 138–9. 107 There are no surviving miracle collections to provide testimony of their experiences. 108 M. Clayton, The Cult of the Virgin in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, 1990), 74–5.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


a product of Nunnaminster.109 The prayer was probably read out at each liturgical hour while the manor was in alien hands. The Domesday Book records that both the hundred and the shire had ruled in favour of the abbess in her claim to the land and a note in the margin records its restoration to them by William.110 The story illustrates the Virgin in a traditional role of local saintly patron protecting the property of her custodian community. For the townsfolk of places like Bury, Canterbury, Winchester, and Exeter, the witnessing of liturgical ceremonies for the Virgin, the increasing number of Marian dedications at parish churches, and her powerful protective presence at Nunnaminster must have raised their awareness of the Virgin as an object for their devotions. The success of the Laon canons and the miracles performed by Our Lady of Laon give us an impression of the form that that more socially diffuse devotion to the Virgin might have taken.

T HE S O C I AL MEA NING O F GIFT -GIVIN G TO THE VIRGIN Hermann’s inclusion of financial records in the travelogue draw attention not simply to the business dimension of touring, but to the social contexts in which gifts to the Virgin were made. Guibert of Nogent had misgivings about relic tours because of their commercial raison d’eˆtre. Hermann himself was not unaware of the potentially corrupting association of relics with fund-raising. He notes that the canons were invited back to Exeter on their travels but decided to skirt around the town, ‘lest we might seem cheap, because we had already spent ten days there’.111 But his records of financial and material gifts made at the Virgin’s feretory were not an incongruent accounting exercise. They were integral to the miracle narratives. Unlike Guibert, Hermann was sensitive to these gifts as symbolic of the social relationships forged between the cathedral community at Laon and the Virgin’s lay clientele. By including

109 E. S. Dewick, Facsimiles of the Horae Beata Maria Virgine from English Manuscripts of the Eleventh Century, Henry Bradshaw Society, 56 (London, 1902). The MS is BL 110 DB, Hampshire, i, fo. 48, p. 116. Royal.2.B.V. 111 ‘ne viliores essemus, quoniam iam decem diebus in ea manseramus’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 983B.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

them he was committing to written record memories of the relic tours already stored in these objects.112 For example, a Canterbury woman helped through a difficult birth gave the canons ‘many gifts and ornaments’. Later on, Hermann tells us, she had ‘expensive priestly robes’ sent across the channel for the cathedral canons. Walter Chibus, a Winchester man, gave the canons three silver goblets, some money, and ornaments. Likewise, Joel, lord of Totnes, donated a silver goblet, an expensive cup, curtains, and other ornaments, ‘which even now are kept in the church’ (quae adhuc in Laudunensis servantur ecclesia).113 He also gave them a horse and money to the value of 15 livres of Laon currency. The brother of the praepositus of Totnes, cured of a long illness, gave them ‘forty shillings of English money’.114 Under the cultural terms of such exchanges money lost its practical, economic function and became a symbolic expression of largesse, hospitality, and charity.115 Back in France, it was converted into buildings. The new cathedral at Laon thus became a memorial to contacts the itinerant canons cultivated in England. Hermann records the speech they made upon their return from England on 6 September, 1113: We bore many hardships on our journey, so that you might commend to God and his holy Mother the souls of those who sent alms to you through us, and so that you might grant them to be participants in all the good things there are or henceforth will be in the church of Laon.116

Material gifts were one aspect of a broader series of social exchanges comprising a ‘total social movement’. The objects exchanged, the agents in these exchanges, and the directions in which these gifts flowed constitute an overall web of social transactions.

112 E. Van Houts, Memory and Gender in Medieval Europe, 900–1200 (London, 1999), 93–120. 113 Many such objects were lost in the fire of 1112, Monodiae, iii. 9, pp. 158–9. 114 Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 984A. 115 The locus classicus for the discussion of gift-giving as a ‘total social phenomenon’, see M. Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, tr. W. D. Halls (London, 1990), 3. 116 ‘plurimos in itinere labores pertulimus, ut eorum animas, qui vobis per nos suas transmiserunt eleemosynas Domino piaeque Genetrici eius commendetis, et omnium bonorum quae in ecclesia Laudunensi fiunt, vel deinceps fieri contigerit, eos participes esse concedatis’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 987A.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


In Hermann’s work we are presented with a partial representation of these exchanges. For example, the Virgin performed fifty-four miracles on her tours. Hermann describes only twenty-five of them in any detail. A significant proportion of those cured in encounters with the Virgin— spared us on account of the tedium, says Hermann—are thus omitted from the record. For England, the sum of offerings for which Hermann identified a donor amounts to 10 per cent of the 120 marks received in total. The remaining 90 per cent personally unaccounted for presumably provides us with a rough measure of the Virgin’s diffuse appeal. In the relative emphases Hermann placed on different aspects of these exchanges exist traces of the social meaning of Marian miracles to the canons and their lay associates. Crucial to the performance of miracles were the canons’ efforts in bringing together the Virgin and the local communities they visited. Whilst the narratives concentrate on the drama of the miracles, the canons put in much practical work behind the scenes to initiate and encourage exchanges that might involve the Virgin. The elements of this ‘softening up process’ can be pieced together from the account’s incidental details. Having secured lodgings and a sacred space of sufficient dignity to house their relics, the canons made themselves available for the spiritual support of their host communities. In order of frequency, the canons stayed in towns, monasteries, and honorial centres. On their journey around the Loire, they stayed in two monasteries and two cathedrals. In Cormery they were received by the church of St Maurice. In southern England, the canons were welcomed at five cathedrals and at four monasteries, St Augustine’s, Canterbury, Wilton, Bristol, and Totnes Priory. Such centres provided the most convenient base for preaching and devotion. After ecclesiastical institutions, the most common forms of hospitality were given at seigneurial centres. The relics were received on the high altars at the castle chapels of Buzanc¸ais, Issoudun, and Nesle. Once installed, the canons sought permission to preach, received visitors to the feretory and undertook pastoral missions within the host’s household or among his neighbours. We hear little in these narratives about the content of the canons’ preaching but we may presume that in them they explained their circumstances and appealed for help whether financially or in other material ways. Guibert mentions the hostile crowds they confronted at Buzanc¸ais and their call for volunteers to


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

approach the relics and be cured. He portrayed this as a reckless gamble made in a tight corner but the practice was probably part of the routine involved in cultivating interest and securing offerings. To prevent anyone ‘gatecrashing’ these rounds of gift exchange the canons made it clear that ‘none outside his own diocese is able to be healed’. The story of a disabled man illustrates this respect for episcopal jurisdictions. After spending ten days with the canons in Exeter, finally he admitted he had travelled from Salisbury to seek his cure. During his time with them he confessed his sins and washed in the water in which the Virgin’s relics had been soaked, but to no avail. When he returned with them to Salisbury he was cured as he crossed the border of the diocese.117 To those who sought cures at the Virgin’s feretory, the canons provided practical and pastoral care in the form of confession and ritual cleansing in water in which the relics had been washed. During their stay at a small house in Christchurch they even sang a mass at a portable altar (altare portabile) that they had brought with them on the journey.118 Confession was the condition of a successful cure. Hermann notes that no man was cured unless first he had confessed his sins to a priest if yet they were of suitable age. If he was an infant, the parents were admonished to make confession instead of their children.119 The canons’ practical support stretched to the use of first aid skills. An anxious couple brought their girl to the canons from the Bath springs where it was feared that she had drowned. They suspended her (presumably briefly) over a fire and kept her air passages open with a wooden wedge. Soon, she vomited water and came to her senses. A trip to the feretory where she drank some of the relic water completed the crude but effective treatment.120 A feature of Hermann’s narratives is the attention the canons particularly showed to the more wealthy members of the communities they visited. Three groups earmarked for special attention were the 117 ‘plurimos in itinere labores pertulimus, ut eorum animas, qui vobis per nos suas transmiserunt eleemosynas Domino piaeque Genetrici eius commendetis, et omnium bonorum quae in ecclesia Laudunensi fiunt, vel deinceps fieri contigerit, eos participes esse 118 Ibid., col. 980D. concedatis’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 982D. 119 ‘nemo curabatur, nisi prius peccata sua presbytero suo confiteretur, si tamen aetatis esset idoneae. Quod si infantulus erat, admonebantur parentes vice puerorum facere confessionem.’ Ibid., col. 978B. 120 Ibid., col. 986C–D. For examples of similar methods of dealing with children feared drowned see MTB i, 2. 40, 200–2; i, 2, 46, 207.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


seigneurial and ecclesiastical lords who provided hospitality, the merchants encountered by the canons on their travels, and the urban wealthy, identified vaguely in terms such as vir ditissimus . . . uxor ditissimi viri . . . quidam ditissimus Gaulterus nomine. The itinerant canons are frequently portrayed as the companions and associates of businessmen. They crossed the Channel with a group of Flemish wool merchants. These were carrying 300 marks of silver to England where they planned to travel around the wool markets buying up supplies. When they came under threat from a pirate ship the merchants made offerings to the Virgin in exchange for her protection. Once on dry land and saved from piracy, they reneged on their promise of money and subsequently suffered disaster when their newly bought English fleeces were burn in a warehouse fire in Dover. The story serves as a cautionary tale for those merchants foolish enough not to take Marian devotion sufficiently seriously for their businesses. A more successful partnership was struck up between the canons and a group of merchants on their way to the annual fair at Christchurch (Hants.). It is likely that knowledge of the fair and its potential rewards diverted them from Salisbury, a more obvious destination after leaving Winchester than was Christchurch. They were not welcomed upon their arrival. When asked if they might be received, the dean of the priory church ‘responded that the church was not yet fully constructed, and so they could not receive us, lest they lose the accustomed oblations of the merchants’.121 At the time of the Domesday, Christchurch priory had numbered twenty-four secular canons. During the reign of William Rufus it was placed under the protection of Ralph Flambard, bishop of Durham and early Anglo-Norman bureaucrat.122 Flambard was very pleased with his acquisition ‘because God worked many miracles there and granted many riches and precious relics of the saints’.123 The existence of relics at Christchurch is known to us from the record of their translation in 1195 to various altars in the church. Among them were fragments of the manger of Christ, items from locations in the Holy Land, and the bones 121 ‘ideoque nos non recipiendos, ne solitam amitteret negotiatorum oblationem’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 980D. 122 R. W. Southern, Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (Oxford, 1970), 183–205. 123 ‘quoniam ibidem Deus in multis multa operebatur miracula, gazas multimodas et sanctorum reliquias contulit praetiosas’, W. Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, 303.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

of several saints including Stephen, Lawrence, Victor, Blasius, and Hypolytus. Some of these were probably brought back in the wake of the Third Crusade, but others may have been in residence at the beginning of the century. In 1214, fragments of the Virgin’s vestments were translated to a new altar dedicated to St John the Baptist.124 Ralph Flambard diverted the revenue from the canons’ prebends to his own coffers on the false promise that he was to rebuild the community’s church on a grand scale. As the canons died the prebends were left vacant so that, by the accession of Henry I and the fall from grace of Flambard,125 the canons had dwindled to five. When the canons of Laon arrived, it appears that the local secular canons were on a slow course of recovery. Baldwin de Redvers had received the church from Henry I and appointed Peter de Oglander as dean. He also granted the church land in the Isle of Wight and the manor of Absam in Hampshire before his death in 1107.126 New building was in progress and there were twelve secular canons.127 When it became clear that offerings were being diverted from the main altar to that provided for the relics of the Virgin, Peter de Oglander ejected the canons from his church during the middle of a deluge. Concerned with their plight, a local woman offered the canons lodging in two new houses, ‘which her husband had made and hired out for two marks to three merchants’.128 One of the merchants who was carrying three bells with him to sell at the fair, set them up in the house and sounded them to attract the attention of his fellow businessmen. It was collectively decided that a boycott of the collegiate church would be enforced with the imposition of a 5 shilling fine on those among them who broke it. The episode illustrates relations between the local community and merchants from outside the region. The woman’s decision to help the


VCH, Devon, 2 vols., ed. W. Page (London, 1906–8), ii. 153. For the circumstances of Flambard’s fall, see Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. and tr. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1969–80), v. 10, x. pp. 310–14. 126 Mon. Angl., vi. 303–6. Richard de Redvers was a regular attestor to the writs of Henry I. He died in 1107. See Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, iv. 8, p. 220 n. 4, and vi. 11, pp. 145–7. 127 For the style and dating of the building, see E. Fernie, The Architecture of AngloNorman England (Oxford, 2000), 181. 128 ‘ut domum novam aedificaverat, namque negotiatoribus pro duobus marcis locaverat’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 980B. 125

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


canons proved both a shrewd and a charitable gesture. She lost her paying guests’ custom but attracted the wider attention of potential future customers. Her status as a universal saint made the Virgin a convenient and familiar companion for the merchants on their journeys through diverse regions, each region with its own affiliations to a local saint. Devotion to the Virgin was a cultural currency in which they could all invest. It secured ‘brand recognition’ for them wherever they went. For snubbing the Virgin the dean of the collegiate church was frozen out of these exchanges and paid a heavy price in the shape of a lightning bolt that devastated the town and church property, but left the merchants’ possessions intact.129 While in Bristol, in keeping with their curiosity about the world of commerce, the canons rather unadvisedly boarded a number of ships docked in the harbour in order to inspect their cargoes. The port was an entrepoˆt for goods, linking southern England and the West Midlands with Scandinavian trade routes and continental Atlantic ports.130 The Gesta Stephani mentions Ireland and Gascony as stops on this international trading network, and William of Malmesbury mentions ships arriving in Bristol from Norway and Ireland.131 Lobel dates the development of routes between Bristol and the Iberian coast to the thirteenth century, but already in Hermann’s account, when explaining that the canons were received reluctantly by clerics, he says that they were received ‘to that most strong castle . . . surrounded with great water, through which sea going ships loaded with various goods from the Iberian coast arrive with merchants’.132 Its slave trade was the most notorious source of wealth for the city. Despite Bishop Wulfstan’s attempts to eradicate it in recent decades,133 Irish slave traders still abducted ‘incautious men entering their ships, suddenly and quickly, 129

Monodiae, iii. 13, p. 178. The author of the Gesta Stephani describes it as ‘almost the richest city of all in the country’, ed. K. Potter with introduction by R. H. C. Davis (Oxford, 1976), 57. 131 William of Malmesbury, The Deeds of the Bishops of England (De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum), tr. D. Preest (Woodbridge, 2002), 197. 132 ‘ad fortissimum illud castrum, quod vocatur Bristolth, quod magno flumine circumdatur, per quod maritimas naves de Ibernia insula variis mercibus onustas, tunc quam plurimi negotiatores illuc adduxerunt’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, cols. 985D–986A. 133 Vita Wulfstani, ed. R. R. Darlington, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 40 (1928), 42–4; and D. Pelteret, ‘Slave Raiding and Slave Trading in Early England’, A-SE 9 (1981), 99–114. 130


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

setting sail from the coast, crossing to foreign nations and selling them to barbarians’.134 Such victims usually ended up working on the great estates of the Iberian peninsula.135 The canons regarded themselves as only avoiding such a fate because of the Virgin’s protection. The Virgin distributed her miraculous favours across a broad social spectrum, in keeping with her appeal as a universal intercessor. The noble and knightly classes and their families are represented in France by the deaf and mute son of the lord of Buzanc¸ais and the son of the vidame of Chartres. In England, Ralph Buarius, otherwise known as Ralph Mortimer,136 Henry I’s butler, and the brother of the praepositus of Totnes castle were both cured. The interests of urban wealth were represented in the cures of the wife of a carpenter of Cormery, the son of a fuller of Tours, and in the respective wives of Fulbert Pellicei, a rich man of Angers, the wife of a wealthy Canterbury man, and an unnamed, wealthy, urban property holder of Le Mans. On the journey to England, the Virgin also restored sight to a goldsmith of Arras, who remembered constructing in his youth the feretory containing her relics. A few from among the relatively well-off ranks of the peasantry had successful encounters with the Virgin. Three young English girls were given reason to remember the year of the canons’ tour. The first, a blind girl from Bodmin called Kennehal, had her eyes washed in the Virgin’s relic water. The second, a lame girl from Barnstaple gave thanks before the feretory after being publicly healed of her condition. Finally, the girl feared drowned in the springs at Bath owed her introduction to the canons to her parents. For those among the poor without independent means of support, access to the canons frequently depended on their status relative to the canons’ wealthy hosts. Indeed, several of those cured by the Virgin were already the recipients of her hosts’ charitable assistance. The Virgin healed two cripples supported by the charity of Geoffrey of Issoudun and two cripples known to the bishop of Chartres, one serving him as a cook. John, a deaf and mute boy who served Ralph, castellan of Nesle, as a clairvoyant, was cured. At Exeter a crippled man daily carried to the 134 ‘homines incaute naves suas introgressos, subito et improvise, navibus a littore propulsis, ad exteras nationes transvehebant, et barbaris vendebant’, Hermann of Tournai, De 135 E. Mason, St Wulfstan of Worcester (Oxford, 1990), 184–6. Miraculis, col. 986A. 136 J. S. P. Tatlock, ‘The English Journey of the Laon Canons’, Speculum, 8 (1933), 463–4.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


door of the cathedral walked to the feretory and gave thanks to the Virgin for his cure. A man with fever in the care of the Wilton nuns was cured and a monk solitary supported by Joel of Totnes was relieved of his mental distress. At Christchurch, the daughter of a cowherd employed by the canons’ hosts was healed of deformed feet. The Virgin was particularly gracious then in rewarding hospitality and charity. None of those who provided the canons with lodgings was denied a miracle whether for one of their family or those recipients of charity at the social margins of their households. When the canons were received by Joel of Totnes at Barnstaple castle, ‘Our Lady, as if wishing to repay quickly this devotion, plainly showed there a miracle’.137 Again, when the canons were taken in, under difficult circumstances, by a kindly proprietor at Christchurch, ‘Our Lady showed herself to have gratefully received the benevolence of our host soon after’.138 The success of the relic tours depended on the recognition and reward of such values. Conversely, the canons’ arrivals provided local potentates with an opportunity to demonstrate their largesse and good lordship. This was particularly useful in the urban centres of England where the status of wealthy townsfolk was vaguely defined and where disparities between poverty and wealth created social tensions. An incident that occurred in Totnes sheds light on the resentment with which some elements of the local community regarded the canons at work. Three youths, seeing the money that was being placed before the feretory, began to heckle the canons, accusing them of faking miracles with the use of magic tricks (magicis artibus). One of them stole coins from the feretory by bending in prayer and sucking coins into his mouth. They went on a drinking binge with the proceeds. The following morning, the thief ’s friends found his body hanged in the woods, the left-over money still covered in his saliva.139 Certain named individuals in Hermann’s accounts can be found in contemporary sources, giving us an opportunity to assess their circumstances in greater detail. In Winchester, Survey One of the Winton Domesday, written c.1110, informs us that a Walter Chibus held four

137 ‘Cuius devotionis quasi cita remuneratrix volens esse Domina nostra, evidens ibi miraculum ostendit’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 984A. 138 ‘Tantum itaque hospitis nostri benevolentiam protinus ostendit Domina nostra se 139 Ibid. 9col. 85C–D. gratanter recepisse’, ibid., col. 980C.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


forges of the son of Boselin, yielding 12s. a year.140 The forges were part of a cluster of eighteen established at the head of Market Street just outside the Royal Palace. Martin Biddle considers these to have been in all likelihood workshops for moneyers, because of their situation and since a known moneyer, Robert, son of Wimund, held seven of them.141 In the accounts of Hermann, Walter Kiburs is described as a usurer, his personal wealth rumoured to have been a phenomenal £3,000.142 If reports of his wealth were not exaggerated, then the scale of Walter’s dealings as a financier would be enough to compare quite favourably with the later and notorious Christian usurer, William Cade, who was based in Kent but also held a house in Winchester. If he was a moneyer of Winchester, and not simply leasing his forges out to others doing the minting, he would have numbered among the first rank of Winchester townsfolk. The combination of minting and money lending might lead us to expect some trace of Walter as a dealer in the land market, since many of the loans advanced by such men were no doubt made against pledges of land. Unfortunately, this aspect of his possible commercial activity does not show up in either of the Winton Domesday surveys. This needn’t deter us, however, from accepting Hermann’s report of his wealth. The first survey of 1110 only dealt with the royal demesne, covering 300 properties in the town. The second one of 1148 covered some 1,100 properties.143 If he was bedridden for six years before the canons arrived, it is a strong possibility that by 1148 he was dead. While they were in Winchester, Walter invited one of the canons called Boso to his bedside and made confession to him. He promised never again to charge interest on his debts and requested that the canons bring the feretory to his home. Having washed in water poured over the relics, Walter leapt from his bed and gave thanks. When his gifts to the canons were made known publicly, the townsfolk were dismayed by the small amounts he had given. To assuage them, Walter went around town promising them the return of their interest charged on their loans. The story illustrates the social pressure the canons could bring to bear upon businessmen to meet ethical standards in dealings with their neighbours. The canons regarded it as a double healing, saying that he ‘represented another Zacchaeus of Winchester, and praising God 140 141 143

M. Biddle (ed.),Winchester in the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1976), 44. 142 Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 979B. Ibid. 396. Biddle, Winchester, 11.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


more with the salvation of his soul from the payments of usury, than from the cure of the body’.144 Joel of Totnes, one of the few secular English hosts of the Virgin, appears in Domesday Book as lord of the honour of Totnes. He was the foremost lord in the region, holding over 100 manors in Devon and Cornwall. How he came to acquire the honour, and about his continental origins, little is known. John Bryan Williams has reconstructed Joel’s biographical details so far as they can be established from the surviving evidence. They yield some peculiar circumstances.145 The manorial details for Joel’s honour in the Domesday Book fit the profile observed in other cases of a well-established tenancy. Bryan William reasonably infers from this that Joel was probably put in possession of Totnes during William I’s suppression of the rebellion at Exeter in 1068. The position of the castle of Totnes, the caput of Joel’s honour, in relation to the town, corresponds to that of other early constructions in the region, notably at Barnstaple. Joel also founded a priory of Totnes c.1083–6, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. By 1091 William II had stripped Joel of his honour and given it to Roger de Nonant. After a hiatus of sixteen years, Joel re-emerges in the records, in 1107, as lord of the honour of Barnstaple. His activities in the interim and the exact date of his acquisition of the Barnstaple honour are unknown.146 At Barnstaple he founded a Cluniac priory dedicated to St Mary Magdalene some time after 1107, the year that William Warelwast, who appears as bishop of Exeter in the foundation charter, was installed. Despite losing the honour of Totnes, Joel appears to have retained some connection with the castle there. The canons first met Joel at the castle of Barnstaple, and they expressly attribute his generous hospitality to his wife’s connection with their province. Joel’s wife was sister of the vidame of Picquigny, Guermundus, and was from the diocese of Amiens.147 If Joel no longer possessed the honour of Totnes then from 144 ‘alterum Wintoniae repraesentatum esse Zacheum, et plus de usurarum redditione animaeque eius salvatione quam de corporali curatione Deum laudantibus’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 979B–C. 145 For John Bryan William’s thorough treatment of the evidence see ‘Judhael of Totnes: The Life and Times of a Post-Conquest Baron’, A-NS 16 (1993), 271–89. 146 I. J. Sanders, English Medieval Baronies: A Study of their Origins and Descent, 1086–1327 (Oxford, 1960), 89, 89 n.5, 104. 147 Sigal, ‘Les Voyages de reliques’, p. 85; Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 984A.


The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England

the canons’ experience of his hospitality it seems evident that Joel still saw Totnes castle as one of his important residences. After their stay at Barnstaple, the canons were led by Joel’s men to Totnes and there received by his monks. It is there that the Virgin cured an old, lame man, who was brother of the provost (praepositus) of the same castle. The identity of the provost is not made explicit by the canons. Joel’s son, Alfred, can be linked to the castle of Totnes by his appearance in a charter of Henry I as Alvredus de Totnes and by the discovery of a twelfthcentury seal in recent excavations of the castle, bearing the words, sigillum Alfredi.148 It would seem that the Nonant family allowed the previous holders of the honour of Totnes in some way to continue in residence at the caput of their honour. The provost of Totnes, if not Joel himself or a member of his family, must have been a man loyal to the family but presumably worthy of the trust of the Nonant family.

CONCLUSION The two written accounts of the relic tours undertaken by the canons of Laon in 1112 and 1113 provide interestingly contrasting perspectives on these events. Guibert of Nogent used the stories he collected from the oral testimony of the canons and the folk of Laon as an intermezzo to his bleak account of current affairs in the diocese of Laon. He was not concerned with presenting a comprehensive account of events but chose rather to abstract particular stories from those available. He did this to furnish his sermons with material. Guibert was a keen collector of miracles for such purposes. He cherished a personal affinity with the Virgin that drew inspiration from her increasingly popular role as universal intercessor. He grew up in the understanding that he owed his survival in childbirth to the Blessed Virgin and throughout his life the Virgin occupied a fundamental place in his spiritual imagination. But the messages he sought to convey through his narratives of the Virgin’s miracles are curiously at odds with that image. They focus on the Virgin’s vindictive and judicial rather than her merciful and intercessory roles. They also present the laity, and particularly the English laity, as insensitive and ignorant of her power. His decision to place the emphasis 148

Williams, ‘Judhael of Totnes’, 289.

The Canons of Laon and their Tour of England


on these aspects of Marian spirituality is perhaps another instance of Guibert’s sense of that social and moral isolation articulated by Moore. By way of contrast, Hermann’s account of the tours generally conveys an optimistic message about the nature of Marian devotion. It stresses the positive role that the Virgin played in protecting and healing a diverse social range of the laity. It particularly dwells upon the fruitful relationships cultivated between the canons, merchants, and the urban wealthy. In emphasizing such relationships, Hermann was being faithful to the strategies the canons employed in securing support and hospitality on their travels. These were men to whom the Virgin could most profitably appeal. They had great wealth, local influence, and aspirations exceeding their status. They belonged to the same social milieu as those at the forefront of the Laon commune.149 To play host to the Virgin or to make a conspicuous and generous donation at the Virgin’s feretory was an opportunity to show largesse and charity before wider social audiences. In this way, Hermann’s narratives read like a series of tableaux vivants illustrating the harmonious social relations negotiated by the Virgin between the super-rich and the worthy urban poor. The narratives retain some traces of the real social tensions that might lie behind these rosy images and that indeed made them necessary. But in England, contrary to Guibert’s prejudiced opinions, the cult of the Virgin Mary was particularly popular. Here, where one rich man ostentatiously made an offering, ‘more people added much after him’.150 Herman’s record of English donations to the canons is rare evidence of the extraordinary revenue that relic tours could raise for the work of major rebuilding projects. Yet more interestingly, his impulse to commemorate the manner in which these gifts were made, and to include these narratives among works illustrating the wider context of Marian spirituality, testifies to the Laon canons’ need for a narrative of their own redemption earned through a faith in the Virgin’s forgiveness.

149 R. Fossier rightly emphasizes the bourgeois character of these early 12th cent. ‘urban revolutions’. See R. Fossier, ‘La Socie´te´ picarde’, 150. 150 ‘infinitusque populus post eum multa addiderit’, Hermann of Tournai, De Miraculis, col. 985A.

4 The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester The cult of St Ithamar of Rochester, like that of St William of Norwich discussed in Chapter 5, bears traces of controversy in the circumstances surrounding its propagation by hagiography. Historians have harboured reservations about the purported origin and development of the cult. In his recent survey of the history of Rochester, Colin Flight observed that ‘the cult appears to have been a fraud, presumably aimed at increasing the church’s income’.1 In a similar vein, Mary Richards’s study of the textual traditions at Rochester tends to discount the importance of the cult of St Ithamar with her comment that ‘nor did it [the cathedral priory] have a celebrated saint other than Paulinus, whose major commemorations were in any case in the south of England, with the exception of York’.2 The significance of the cult of St Ithamar in the history of the cathedral priory of Rochester is the subject of this chapter. Through an investigation of the hagiography’s place in the broader schedule of textual production at the Rochester scriptorium, and through a detailed study of its content, the chapter offers a more positive interpretation of the cult’s significance than those presented above. The Miracula Sancti Ithamari Episcopi3 is a collection of nineteen miracles written by an anonymous monk of Rochester cathedral priory

C. Flight, The Bishops and Monks of Rochester, 1076–1214 (Maidstone, 1997), 44. M. P. Richards, Texts and their Traditions in the Medieval Library of Rochester Cathedral Priory, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, 1988), 123. 3 Most recent edn., ‘The Miracles of St Ithamar’, ed. D. Bethell, Analecta Bollandiana, 89 (1971), 421–37 (henceforth, Miracula S. Ithamari). Corpus Christi College Cambridge, 161 (BHL, 4501). 1 2

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


sometime towards the middle of the twelfth century.4 Woven into the fabric of these narratives are details of the stages by which St Ithamar emerged in the Anglo-Norman period from virtual historical anonymity to become a subject worthy of devotion and a companion in sanctity to Rochester’s two chief heavenly patrons, St Paulinus and St Andrew the apostle. In his portrait of the saint, little written evidence was available to the author of the Miracula S. Ithamari. In fact, he admits with a disarming candour from the outset that ‘nothing was handed down to us from his lifetime’.5 The brief biographical detail available to him was culled from Bede, who—of his appointment to the bishopric of Rochester—describes St Ithamar as ‘a man of Kent, but as worthy and learned as his predecessors’.6 It appears from this that St Ithamar was a local boy made good: the first recorded native to be entrusted with a position of ecclesiastical authority in the early English church. In the light of this achievement, his apparent fall from the corporate memory of his religious community is remarkable. There survived no legend from which a Vita might be constructed and there was no mention of St Ithamar in the Secgan, the mid-eleventhcentury list of saints’ resting places.7 When Gundulf arrived at Rochester in 1077 the name of St Ithamar appears to have been little known.8 Moreover, there is little evidence independent of the Miracula S. Ithamari to show that this circumstance changed much in the interim. Neither the Vita Gundulfi or the Textus Roffensis, the two most important products of the early cathedral priory, contains any mention of St Ithamar.9 The relationship between these three texts will thus require some attention. 4 We know of his status from the reference to two of those miraculously cured, who are, ‘Quidam e fratribus nostris’, and ‘Alius item e fratribus’. Miracula S. Ithamari, 432. 5 ‘de temporalis vite eius serie nichil nobis veterum diligentia tradidit’, ibid. 428–9. 6 Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, iii. 14, ed. B. Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford, 1969), 254–7. 7 D. W. Rollason, ‘Lists of Saints’ Resting-Places in Anglo-Saxon England’, A-SE 7 (1978), 91. A life of the saint, apparently unavailable to the author of Miracula and subsequently lost, appears in a Rochester library catalogue of 1202, for which see Richards, Texts and Traditions, 17. 8 Perhaps the only hint we have of popular devotion antedating official devotion to St Ithamar is the story of a blind man who first gave a monk of Rochester the idea to approach his tomb. See Miracula S. Ithamari, 430. 9 Vita Gundulfi, ed. R. Thomson, The Life of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester (Toronto, 1977); Textus Roffensis, Rochester Cathedral Library MS A.3.5, ed. P. H. Sawyer (Copenhagen, 1962).


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

The specific historical context for the collection’s commission will be addressed later in the chapter. Before addressing the other textual output of the priory with this question, the way in which the author set about his work of hagiography will be considered. Faced with a lack of written evidence, the author of the Miracula S. Ithamari had the unenviable task of laying the first credible grounds for St Ithamar’s sanctity and documenting the development of his cult. In making a case for St Ithamar’s sanctity, the author took his cue from the words of Bede. As a successor of Justus and Paulinus, both ‘distinguished teachers of the faith’, St Ithamar was to be considered a partner in their merits and success. Fortified with this assurance, the author sketched an outline of two distinct phases in the development of St Ithamar’s posthumous cult. The author attributed the initial treatment of St Ithamar’s relics to Gundulf, bishop of Rochester from 1077 to 1108. During Gundulf’s episcopacy, states the Miracula S. Ithamari, the relics of St Ithamar were transferred on two occasions to new locations in the church of St Andrew. No exact dates for these events are given, though the likely circumstances of their occurrence might be inferred from other information. The collection tells us that the first translation of St Ithamar’s relics took place, ‘with the church of Rochester renewed and the buildings constructed more nobly’.10 This dates it to the mid1080s.11 There is no description of a formal translation ceremony such as took place at St Augustine’s, Canterbury, in 1091.12 The relics were instead removed ‘from the place where he had previously been buried to an elevated place in the northern vaulting’.13 When one of his monks received a cure for blindness after visiting the saint, Gundulf was moved to translate the relics for a second time, to ‘a more appropriate place for such inestimable treasure and where he might be more easily accessible to all’, in the sanctuary.14 Three miracles followed, each of

10 ‘innovata Rofensi ecclesia et augustioribus edificiis extructa’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 429–30. 11 Colin Flight dates the first two phases of Norman cathedral-building at Rochester to 1078–83 and 1085. See Flight, Bishops and Monks, 182. 12 R. Sharpe, ‘The Setting of St Augustine’s Translation, 1091’, in R. Eales and R. Sharpe (eds.), Canterbury and the Norman Conquest (London, 1995), 10. 13 ‘de loco prius sepultus fuerat in excelsam quandam testudinem ad aquilonem transpositus, est’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 430. 14 ‘in loco decentiori tecam inestimabilis thesauri ubi cunctis esset accessibilis locari precepit’, ibid. 430.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


their recipients stirred by visions of the saint to recall their healings at the cathedral. This early phase, perhaps of the mid-1080s, was characterized by the initiative St Ithamar himself took in publicizing his services among a clientele beyond that of the custodian community. The first miracle, of an old, venerable, and blind monk, we are told, was in imitation of a blind man the monk himself had remembered, who had visited the church upon the instruction of the saint and received his sight at the feretory. Further house calls paid by St Ithamar on the sick encouraged them to report their cures at his feretory in the cathedral at Rochester. Thus an old priest with ailing sight told the monks of a visit from St Ithamar, who cured him saying ‘tell this vision to no one, until you come to the place of my memory’.15 From this time until that of a certain Bishop John no miracles were reported worthy of record. The presence of two successive Bishop Johns of Rochester provides problems for the dating of the second phase of cult promotion. Without presenting my arguments for doing so here, I will take the second flowering of the cult to have been under the supervision of the first of those Johns, whose episcopate dates from 1125–1137. After himself being cured of an acute eye infection, John had the relics of St Ithamar translated to a more attractive reliquary. The translation involved a ceremonial procession of the monks and crowds of laity, ‘watching and weeping for joy’.16 This time the cult was further promoted with the bishop’s announcement of a feast day on 10 June, to be celebrated with special hymns and songs commissioned for the occasion. The year of the event is not mentioned,17 and the record of miracles performed on later feast days of the saint attests to a delay in the production of the miracle collection.18 With the exception of Gundulf’s early attention, which appears to have lent little impetus to the cult, St Ithamar received little in the way of official promotion until over sixty years after the Conquest. Such 15 ‘Vide. Hanc nemini visionem dixeris, donec ad locum memorie mee pervenias’, 16 ‘spectante et pre gaudio lacrimante’, ibid. 432. ibid. 431. 17 Bethell suggests 1130 and the consecration of the cathedral as providing an appropriate occasion for the translation. Ibid. 425. 18 A calendar of the Augustinian abbey of Lesnes, dating to the first two decades of the 13 cent, provides the earliest confirmation of this feast day. M. P. Richards, ‘Some Fifteenth Century Calendars for the Rochester Diocese’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 111 (1996), 75.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

circumstances contrast with those for the cult of St Paulinus at the same cathedral and have thus attracted the attention of Colin Flight in recent years. Bishop Gundulf’s translation of St Paulinus is described in the Vita Gundulfi, a text written after 1114 in Rochester, and perhaps before 1124.19 The Vita states that: with monks, clerics and a multitude of the people gathered, Gundulf approached the tomb of the holy confessor Paulinus, who had been buried in the old church and, with great solemnity, transferred the treasure of his holy relics into the new church, placing them in a better location he had prepared for this purpose.20

The date for this occasion is not given but is probably between 1085, the date of the building’s completion under Gundulf, and c.1100–6, during which years Henry I granted Rochester cathedral a two-day fair for the feast of St Paulinus.21 The saint performed two miracles, though more may have existed in a collection now surviving only in abbreviated form in Tynemouth’s Sanctilogium.22 It may be that Gundulf translated the remains of St Ithamar during the same ceremony, and it is to this incident that the Miracula S. Ithamari refers. This is not, however, mentioned in the Vita Gundulfi. The evidence for a late eleventh-century cult of St Paulinus at Rochester is thus more convincing than that for a cult of St Ithamar. Flight has inferred from this that the cult was a fraud, concocted in the 1130s as a fund-raising exercise for the community.23 If the promotion of St Ithamar’s cult genuinely numbered among Gundulf’s concerns, and it is conceivable that Gundulf translated St Ithamar’s remains along with those of St Paulinus,24 nevertheless, it must be conceded that St Ithamar’s absence from the Vita Gundulfi appears to require explanation. To support his interpretation, Flight has noted that certain retrospective elements of the collection are derivative, taking as their models


Life of Gundulf, 3–4. ‘idem venerabilis pater, collecto monachorum et clericorum conventu necnon et copiosa multitudine plebis, cum magna sollenitate accessit ad sepulchrum sanctissimi confessoris Paulini, qui in veteri aecclesia reconditus fuerat, et thesaurum sanctarum reliquiarum eius in novam aecclesiam transferri et in loco decenter ad hoc praeparato reponi fecit’, ibid. 41–2. 21 RRA-N, ed. C. Johnson and H. A. Cronne (Oxford, 1956), ii. 77, no. 868. 22 Flight, Bishops and Monks, 67–9. 23 Ibid. 44. 24 Miracula S. Ithamari, 425. 20

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


that corpus of hagiography written in the first generation after the Conquest by writers such as Osbern and Eadmer of Canterbury and Goscelin of St Bertin, who in turn derived their literary models from Bede. An example that may have come directly from Bede, the detail of St Ithamar’s burial ‘in the sacristy of the blessed apostle Andrew appropriately beside the blessed Paulinus’, echoes that used by Bede to describe the original burial of St Paulinus.25 This may represent the clothing of a white lie in the mantle of a more ancient and respected author’s testimony. Flight also noted in his study of the architecture of Rochester cathedral that the mention of St Ithamar’s relics as being moved to a lofty place in the northern vault could well be a topos borrowed from Eadmer’s Vita S. Wilfridi.26 He interprets the ‘lofty place’ as an inaccessible gallery in the north transept and the story accordingly as an apology for the cult’s early obscurity.27 If they are to be believed, St Ithamar’s movements were similar in circumstance to those described for St Dunstan and St Elphege, whose relics were apparently consigned in 1077 to elevated positions in the north transept of Lanfranc’s new church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity.28 From the library catalogue of Rochester contained in the Textus Roffensis we can surmise that, among other hagiographical works, the author of the Miracula S. Ithamari probably had copies of the Vita S. Dunstani and the Passio S. Elphegae available to him as he worked.29 Behind the author’s description of the two translations lies the implication that Gundulf at first adopted a cautious approach to the question of St Ithamar’s sanctity and later became convinced that it was sufficient for the fostering of a cult centred on the cathedral church. If such was Gundulf’s attitude to the sanctity of St Ithamar, it does not 25 ‘in secretario sancti Andreae apostoli pari iuxta beatum Paulinum’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 429; Cf. Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, iii. 14, ed. Colgrave and Mynors, pp. 254–7. 26 J. Raine (ed.), Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops, RS 71 (London, 1879), 226. ‘Verum cum post aliquot annos fratrum voluntas in eo consentiret, ut magis fixo loco clauderentur, sepulchrum eis in aquiloni parte altaris factum est, et in eo sunt quarto idus Octobris reverenter inclusae (Indeed, after some years, when the will of the brothers was agreed that they should be closed in a more fixed location, a tomb in the north part of the altar was made and they were enclosed reverently there on 12 October). 27 Flight, Bishops and Monks, 65; Miracula S. Ithamari, 430. 28 Sharpe, ‘Setting of St Augustine’s Translation’, 9. 29 Textus Roffensis, fo. 222v.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

represent his general attitude to the cult of Anglo-Saxon saints. Gundulf’s practical skills as a designer and supervisor of great ecclesiastical building projects involved him in repeated encounters with the remains of Anglo-Saxon saints resting in them. The Vita Gundulfi notes that, ‘At this time in England it was as if the custom was that when important dedications or translations of saints’ relics were due to be carried out anywhere, Gundulf was quickly called so that the distinction of such events might be carried out through the purity of his hands.’30 We know from other sources that Gundulf witnessed the translation of Dunstan as a monk of Canterbury31 and attended the translation of St Etheldreda and her sisters in 1106 at Ely.32 At the opening of Edward the Confessor’s tomb at Westminster, Gundulf leaned over the tomb and attempted to pluck a whisker from his chin.33 He was also an important participant in Abbot Wido’s momentous mass translation of relics that took place at St Augustine’s Canterbury in September, 1091.34 As a man to negotiate the dangerous business of dealing with relics, Gundulf had acquired a reputation as a safe pair of hands. Such diverse evidence of Gundulf’s involvement in cult promotion makes the omission of St Ithamar’s name in the Vita Gundulfi even more curious. A note of caution attributed to Gundulf in the Miracula S. Ithamari corresponds to that rehearsed in much of the early postConquest material on Anglo-Saxon saints, the celebrated discussion of the sanctity of Elphege between Lanfranc and Anselm providing the most relevant parallel.35 The eventual occasion for Gundulf’s ‘conversion’ to the cult of St Ithamar, as described in the collection, was a miracle. ‘An old and most holy’ monk of the priory ‘remembered the blessed St Ithamar’ and was cured of his blindness after praying at the saint’s tomb.36 The coincidence in theme between these two accounts 30 ‘Hoc tunc temporis in Anglia quasi consuetudinarium est, ut cum aliquae praecipuae dedicationes aut sanctarum mutationes reliquiarum alicubi fieri deberent, velociter Gundulfus vocabatur, ut per mundiciam manuum ipsius tantarum rerum celsitudo tractaretur’, Life of Gundulf, 53. 31 Memorials of St Dunstan, ed. W. Stubbs, RS 68 (London, 1857), 413. 32 Liber Eliensis, ed. E. O. Blake, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 92 (London, 1962), 229. 33 R. A. L. Smith, ‘The Place of Gundulf in the Anglo-Norman Church’, EHR 58 (1943), 269. 34 M. Brett, ‘Gundulf and the Cathedral Communities of Canterbury and Rochester’, in Eales and Sharpe, Canterbury, 15. 35 Eadmer, Vita Anselmi, ed. and tr. R. W. Southern (Oxford, 1962), 50–4. 36 Miracula S. Ithamari, 430.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


may not be cause for suspicion if we accept that, in the case of St Ithamar, Gundulf was of the same mind as Lanfranc and may have consciously imitated his approach to the relics of St Dunstan and St Elphege. On the other hand, the lateness of the Miracula S. Ithamari tends rather to suggest clever literary archaizing on the part of the author. As a candidate for the role of St Ithamar’s cult impresario, Gundulf was highly credible. Through Gundulf’s hands the author may have intended some of the virtus of other relics to rub off on those of St Ithamar. The exercise was not considered fraudulent but righted St Ithamar’s undeserved obscurity. It is possible that the eleventh-century origins and development claimed for the cult of St Ithamar in the Miracula S. Ithamari is therefore spurious. If Gundulf did not promote the cult then our next task is to explore the circumstances in which such an omission may have taken on the appearance at Rochester of an oversight requiring correction. The exact dating of the collection is problematic, hanging on two of its historical details. Denis Bethell, the most recent editor of the collection, dates its compilation to some time between 1130 and the 1150s.37 The mention of Bishop John in one of the narratives and of Queen Matilda in another provide the only historically identifiable characters upon which to establish a terminus post quem for its production. For the identity of Matilda the realistic possibilities are the wife of Henry I or the wife of Stephen. Matilda, wife of Henry I, died in 1118, leaving a gap of seven years before the earliest possible date for an account of Bishop John’s promotion of the cult. The remoteness of Henry’s Matilda from the date of this account and the inclusion of her story after that of Bishop John in the collection makes her a less likely claimant for the narrative than Stephen’s Matilda, for whom both Bethell and Flight argue as the queen in question. Bethell cautiously proposes any time up to the 1150s as providing the date for the composition of the narratives.38 The details in the story, however, may just offer grounds for a bolder estimate. The story is concerned with the release of a local knight from chains fastened to him in punishment for his lord’s rebellion against the queen. Flight dates the incident to after 1141 on the grounds that 37

Ibid. 425.




The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

Matilda was working under her own steam while Stephen was incarcerated by the Empress Matilda.39 Such an assumption is unnecessary if we entertain the possibility of Stephen as busy campaigning elsewhere. The details of the story, that the queen placed a man and his neighbours, the inhabitants of an outlying village of Rochester, in chains because their lord was arming against the king, might find their parallel in an account of a Kentish rebellion, given by Orderic Vitalis in his Ecclesiastical History. In it he writes, ‘The Queen besieged Dover with a strong force on the landside and sent word to her friends, kinsmen and dependents in Boulogne to blockade the foe by sea.’40 In a preceding paragraph Orderic notes that, while this was happening, Stephen was laying siege to the castle of Hereford. The rebel holding Dover castle was Walkelin Maminot who belonged to one of Kent’s foremost families.41 A Gilbert Maminot is recorded in the Domesday Book holding Cudham and Keston from the bishop of Canterbury. The rebellion took place in the summer of 1138, providing a possible terminus post quem for the collection. Saltman’s discovery of two bishops at Rochester, occupying the see consecutively, supplies us with the years 1125–42 for the incidence of the other of our miracles.42 Though it cannot be proved, it is likely that it was the first of them whose eyesight was healed by the saint. If the above inference about Matilda can be trusted, then the author of the collection was writing after the death of Bishop John in June 1137. Grounds for the renewed interest in St Ithamar’s cult might logically be found in the unhappy relationship that existed between the second John and the cathedral priory. It is generally thought that the second John was in fact the bishop of Se´ez, appointed by Stephen some time between the death of his

Flight, Bishops and Monks, 62–3, Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. M. Chibnall, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis (Oxford, 1978), vi. 13, p. 521. 41 R. Eales, ‘Local Loyalties in Norman England: Kent in Stephen’s Reign’, A-NS 9 (1985), 97 and n. 40. And see D. Crouch, The Reign of King Stephen, 1135–1154 (Harlow, 2000), 78–9, for the wider political context. 42 A. Saltman, ‘John II, Bishop of Rochester’ EHR 66 (1951), 71–5. For the range of theories concerning the identity and status of Saltman’s ‘John II’ see Life of Gundulf of Rochester, 8; and E. Crosby, Bishop and Chapter in Twelfth Century England: A Study of the ‘Mensa Episcopalis’ (Cambridge, 1994), 204; C. Flight, ‘John II, Bishop of Rochester, did Not Exist’, EHR 106 (1991), 919–30. 39 40

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


predecessor and the appointment of Ascelin in 1142.43 His exact status at Rochester and the length of his practical influence in its affairs are uncertain. One of his acts while there, however, had consequences that the monks of Rochester felt for some time after his departure: he alienated possessions of the monastic priory to his newly appointed archdeacon, Robert Pullen.44 By 1142, Pullen’s movements among the scholastic circles of Paris left him with little time to fulfil his pastoral obligations to the diocese of Rochester. A letter of St Bernard written in 1142 to Bishop Ascelin, requesting that Pullen be allowed to remain lecturing in Paris, illustrates the influence in high places Pullen was able to mobilize in his favour.45 Such influence was compounded in 1144 when Pullen was summoned to Rome as papal chancellor to Lucius II. Despite Ascelin’s attempts to hold him to account, Pullen enjoyed these possessions for life and disposed of them to a nephew, Parisius, who held them for some time afterwards. In such circumstances, the author’s failure to distinguish between the two Johns may have resulted not from the possibility that he was writing before the second was appointed, but out of a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the latter’s status as bishop.46 In summary, the two ambiguously identified characters that provide a clue to the date when the miracle collection was written would appear to be Queen Matilda, wife of Stephen, 1135–52, and John, bishop of Rochester from 1125 to 1137. The collection was probably written some years after 1138, the year of the siege at Dover, as is implied in the opening phrase of the queen’s miracle story, ‘before these years’.47 Though it is impossible to be certain in the matter, the 1140s, perhaps with John of Se´ez still the irregular incumbent, is perhaps the most likely period for the writing of the Miracula S. Ithamari. A study of the wider

43 M. Brett, Faith and Fabric: The Church at Rochester, 604–1994 (Woodbridge, 1996), 24, for the problematic status of John of Se´ez. 44 The property lost to the monks included the churches of Boxley, St Margaret’s, Aylesford, and Southfleet, and the parochial altar of St Nicholas in the cathedral church itself. See F. Courtney, ‘Cardinal Robert Pullen: An English Theologion of the Twelfth Century’, Analecta Gregoriana, 64 (1954), 12. 45 Bernard of Clairvaux, S. Bernardi Opera, ed. J. Leclercq and H. Rochais, 8 vols: (Rome, 1957–77); vii, Epistolae, n. 205, p. 64. 46 See M. Brett, ‘Forgery at Rochester’, p. 410, n. 47, which notes a later tradition at Rochester that John II acted ‘non tam custos quam predo’. 47 ‘Ante hos annos’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 435.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

context of textual production at Rochester, and a look at the themes with which it deals, may help to support this hypothesis. Even if an afterthought on the part of the Rochester monks, the Miracula S. Ithamari nevertheless shared elements of continuity in its conception and aims with those of a wider programme of textual production at Rochester. The Textus Roffensis was a work of fundamental importance to the cathedral priory and as such was kept in the cathedral, separate from the main library of the priory in the cloister. Completed by 1124 under the supervision of Bishop Arnulf,48 and supplemented thereafter, the textus combined a number of functions of political, material, and liturgical significance to the monastic community. It was an edition of Anglo-Saxon law-codes, a cartulary containing charters belonging to before and after the Conquest, and a catalogue of the library. It probably also functioned as a Liber Vitae, recording the names of important benefactors, bishops, and kings. Above all, it reflects the desire of the priory to appropriate the AngloSaxon past as a means of serving its immediate needs, a function that we have seen fulfilled in other monasteries at this time by the adoption of hagiography as historical discourse.49 These needs were apparently conceived in reaction to the peculiar form of subordination Rochester endured with relation to the metropolitan.50 Archbishop Lanfranc’s role in the foundation and endowment of the cathedral priory secured for it a future of stability that had not always been certain. The right successive Anglo-Norman archbishops claimed in the appointment of Rochester bishops, however, left the cathedral priory vulnerable to the future intrusions of unwanted bishops from clerical and secular rather than monastic backgrounds.51 The Vita Gundulfi, originally written between 48 For the significance of Arnulf as a theologian and expert in secular jurisprudence, see P. Cramer, ‘Ernulf of Rochester’, JEH 40 (1989), 483–510. 49 As a legal manuscript, Patrick Wormald describes it as ‘both memorial to the past and instrument of its adaptation in a new world’. See The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century (Oxford, 1999), i. Legislation and its Limits, 253. For the relevance of the term ‘historiographical discourse’ to certain forms of hagiography see F. Lifschitz, The Norman Conquest of Pious Neustria: Historiographic Discourse and Saintly Relics 684–1090 (Toronto, 1995), 2–17. 50 For a very useful discussion of the ambitions of Archbishop Lanfranc with regard to Rochester, see M. Brett, ‘Gundulf and the Cathedral Communities of Canterbury and Rochester’, in Eales and Sharpe Canterbury, 15–25. 51 See D. Bethell, ‘English Black Monks and Episcopal Elections in the 1120s’, EHR 84 (1969), 673–98.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


1114 and 1124, should be understood in this light as the model by which the Rochester monks could attempt to hold subsequent bishops to account. Along with the Textus Roffensis, the Vita asserted the autonomous values of the Rochester monks as a community attempting to take control of its own future. Understood as a continuation of this tradition, the Miracula S. Ithamari provided extra assurance of the spiritual patronage the priory enjoyed from a model bishop of Rochester’s distant past. Though Gundulf inspired no cult, the Vita kept his memory fresh in the minds of the community and the laity of his diocese. In St Ithamar, the monks found a companion to Gundulf who could compliment his fond memory with miracles. The irregular appointment of John, bishop of Se´ez, created the grounds for such an ‘anti-bishop’ and the recently revived memory of Bishop Gundulf a guide to the pastoral support he might provide. It is likely that interest in the pious manipulation of Gundulf’s memory revived during the years 1137–42. The surviving copy of the Vita Gundulfi dates from this period. A forged charter documenting Gundulf’s separation of the lands to be held by the monks from those of the episcopal mensa, and curiously omitted from the Textus Roffensis, also probably dates to these years.52 Whilst the Vita Gundulfi made no mention of St Ithamar, the Miracula S. Ithamari projected the cult’s origins back to the rule of Gundulf and emphasized the virtues they shared, depicting St Ithamar as a saint who posthumously visited the homes of those in need of his pastoral care, just as the living Gundulf did in his Vita.53 In all likelihood St Ithamar’s memory was beginning to develop at Rochester under the first Bishop John. Before his death, the ecclesiastical buildings at Rochester were damaged by fire in 1130 and again in June 1137. The intrusion of John, bishop of Se´ez, therefore already came at a time of anxiety for the priory. To the priory’s need for funds, identified by Colin Flight, was added the more threatening prospect of alienation of property in their customary possession. The spiritual patronage offered by St Ithamar reflected that anxiety. The author’s stated reasons for writing the Miracula S. Ithamari were conventional enough: ‘so that it might help in the salvation of souls’, and ‘so that with exterior signs might be declared the supernatural piety of 52

Brett, ‘Forgery at Rochester’, 410.


Vita Gundulfi, 32.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

the blessed man’.54 The latter aim appears of particular importance to the author of the work since the bulk of testimony to St Ithamar’s sanctity, in the absence of a Vita, depended upon his ability to work miracles posthumously. It is to the miracle stories that we must now turn. Claims made about the cult’s immediate history may be doubtful, yet we have no reason to doubt the essential authenticity of those miracle narratives reported at the shrine. In the past these narratives have been neglected, either for their commonplace aspect and therefore lack of importance55 or because they afford only a narrow view ‘of the common people and their beliefs and superstitions’.56 Despite their small number the narratives do provide some illumination of the cathedral priory’s points of contact with the secular world. The geographical dispersal of the cult was limited to the city of Rochester and its neighbouring villages within the diocese. Among those miracle narratives that include a location, the majority specify Rochester as the place of origin for a pilgrim to the shrine of St Ithamar. More than three-quarters of those featured in the collection came, if not from Rochester, then from its surrounding areas within West Kent, de proximo vico, in suburbio, or in vicinio. The story of the knight taken in chains by Queen Matilda describes his place of origin as in suburbio Rofensi. If we are to take Walkelin Maminot as the knight’s lord, as argued above, then Cudham or Keston can be identified as a village of pilgrimage origin. Although strictly speaking these cannot be described as villages on the outskirts of Rochester, they are situated to the west of the diocese.57 Of the six Rochester references three of them are monks of the cathedral priory and one is the bishop of the diocese. These details conform in the main to the observations made by the author himself, although the paucity of evidence for the cult’s dispersal wider than the diocese would tend to qualify his statement that ‘[many] from all over the town, from neighbouring places and several from distant places . . . through faith and devotion succeeded in obtaining a cure’.58 54 ‘ut in noticiam veniens per devotionem animarum saluti proficiat quod exterioribus signis de beati viri meritis pietas superna declarat’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 428. 55 Flight, Bishops and Monks, 66. 56 Miracula S. Ithamari, 426. 57 Cudham was the more valuable, made up of four sulungs, a church, two mills and fifteen villagers, ten ploughlands with six ploughs, woodland and forty pigs. Keston consisted of four villagers, half a sulung, one plough and five pigs. DB, Kent, i. 16–17. 58 ‘ut de tota fere civitate, de locis finitimis ac nonnullis etiam longe positis . . . pro fide ac devotione singulorum sanitatis remedio proveniret’, Miracula S. Ithamari, 432.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


Rochester and its outlying villages were among the most densely populated areas of settlement in the county, according to Domesday records. This represents a change in circumstances from the middle and early Anglo-Saxon periods, when the region of West Kent between the Weald and Rochester appears to have been of subordinate political status and inferior economic significance compared to East Kent.59 Villages along the valleys of the Darent and the Medway supported population densities of 10–15 people per square mile, above the average of 6–10 for the county and rivalling that of the traditionally more prosperous areas of East Anglia.60 It appears to be to this area of burgeoning human resources that the cult made its greatest appeal. The particular social composition of this group of pilgrims to the shrine of St Ithamar is difficult to ascertain from the narratives. The townsfolk of Rochester probably account for a large proportion of the crowds who attended the feast of the saint and perhaps also for many of those miracles deliberately omitted from the collection. The Domesday records for Rochester are very unsatisfactory, as they are in general for urban Kent. Only those urban dwellings attached to rural manors held by tenants of the bishop appear in the record, from which a population of about 500 people can be estimated. This is probably far below the actual figure for late eleventh-century Rochester and certainly for the population of the 1140s.61 Under the category of townsfolk occur a variety of possible social groupings, from the very poor to members of the cathedral community itself by way of the town’s fishing and salt industries and those servicing the community.62 Numerous references are made to incompetent doctors in the narratives, providing evidence of the relative wealth that some sections of society enjoyed and conveying the familiar monastic response of regret at their disposal of it in this manner.63 Apart from the three monks within the cathedral community to be cured by the saint, the collection records on two different occasions the visits of a cleric, one ‘by the name of Hamo’, the second a senior 59

M. Brett, ‘The Church at Rochester, 604–1185’, in Faith and Fabric, 2–3. H. C. Darby and E. M. J. Campbell (eds.), The Domesday Geography of South-East 61 Ibid. 550–2. England (Cambridge, 1962), 514. 62 Flight, Bishops and Monks, app. C, nos. 514 and 517, hinting at the competition in the fishing trade between the monks and people of Rochester. For salt-pans situated in the Medway estuary, see Darby and Campbell, Domesday Geography, 536. 63 For the mention of doctors see Miracula S. Ithamari, 429–32. For description of St Ithamar ‘as if employing the methods of a doctor/quasi medici functus officio’, ibid. 431. 60


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

priest from the diocese. These are the only definite occupations recorded in the collection. An anecdotal clue to the sociological profile of the cult appears in an observation by the author that, through certain of the miracles he performed, St Ithamar displayed particular concern for the economically vulnerable peasantry.64 One narrative concerns a keeper of livestock in the neighbourhood of Rochester who lost all but two of his cattle to pestilence. Reduced to two cows, the man took his grievance to the blessed patron St Ithamar and later returned home to discover ‘the cows grazing safely which a little time before he had left for dead’.65 The author uses the story as the starting point for a brief homily defending the power of simple faith in the face of ridicule proceeding from arrogance. Although God descended from heaven for the salvation of humans, states the narrative: ‘yet God enlarged his mercy for the salvation of men and their beasts of burden, and also in those things that concern the body rather than the soul’.66 Through such dispensation ‘sheep, beasts of burden and other animals of diverse types adapted to fit the uses of man’ were freed from pestilence ‘on account of the faith of the simple’.67 The narrative juxtaposes poverty (albeit one set at a seemingly generous level) with simplicity of faith and identifies a range of divine support dispensed by St Ithamar on behalf of those working in the West Kentish rural economy. The audience for the homily were presumably those among the Rochester monks who considered their faith too sophisticated to countenance certain ‘economic’ miracles. For them the lesson was one of humility before those people for whom seemingly ‘lowly matters’ (rebus vilibus) were of basic importance to their livelihoods. The monks themselves shared with them obvious reasons to take these worldly miracle stories seriously and of course to encourage their dissemination, since most of the estates of St Andrew’s were situated in the immediate vicinity of Rochester. 64

For the mention of doctors see Miracula S. Ithamari, 435. ‘Nam domum reversus, boves incolumes repperit, quos paulo ante moribundos dimisit’, ibid. 434. 66 ‘Et tamen homines et iumenta salvando, quemadmodum, multiplicavit misericordiam suam Deus, in his etiam que ad corporalem magis quam ad animarum spectant.’, ibid. 434–5. 67 ‘dum aliorum oves, aliorum iumenta, quorundam vero et sues vel cetera diversi generis animantia usibus humanis accommoda . . . pro fide simplicium’, ibid. 435. 65

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


Traces of further scepticism about certain miracles among some of the monks are found in the author’s eye-witness account of the cure of a young woman, born deaf and dumb. The miracle happened on the saint’s feast day during the liturgical observances, the people congregated in the nave. As the choir sang the Lord’s Prayer: ‘we began to hear from the choir a murmur and a clatter among the people gathered there who rushed in masses as if to some spectacle . . . Suddenly her ears were opened and the chain of her tongue was loosened and she spoke, praising God.’68 The author was among the choir while this happened and observed that ‘certain not yet believing, some from among us, went and discovered the woman giving thanks’. Appealing to scripture, the author goes on to assure potential doubters that: ‘If it might seem dubious or incredible to anyone that so suddenly without teaching or practice she received the faculty of speech, let them consider who formed the human words of the dumb ass and let them know that nothing is difficult to God, nothing against nature is impossible to its author.’69 The two themes of simplicity of faith and poverty recur throughout the collection, often in conjunction with a third quality displayed by the protagonists, moral righteousness. In the absence of any written evidence of Ithamar’s sanctity, the moral condition of the author’s interlocutors was an important aspect of his narratives.70 Among those miracles the author claims to pass over in silence are those subject to uncertainty or in which ‘the danger of falsity is discerned’.71 Conversely, among those whose testimony is used are, ‘an old and holy monk’, ‘an old and simple monk’, ‘a certain young woman, poor of things but rich of faith’, and

68 ‘Cumque ex more dominica decantaretur oratio, cepimus de choro murmur exaudire et strepitum populi concurrentis, et quasi ad spectaculum aliquod catervatim ruentis . . . Nam subito aperte sunt aures eius et solutum est vinculum lingue illius, et loquebatur, benedicens Dominum’, ibid. 437. 69 ‘Si cui sane dubium vel incredibile videtur, ut tam subito sine doctrina vel usus experientia loquendi facultatem acceperit, attendat quis asine arioli illius verba humana formaverit, et sciet quia Deo nichil est difficile, nichil contra naturam auctori factu impossibile’, ibid. 437, and Numbers 22: 21–41. 70 That good moral testimony was fundamental in the validation of miracle narratives is an enduring hagiographical convention derived from Gregory the Great’s Dialogues, a copy of which (‘perhaps now BL Royal 5 E. II (s. xiiin)’) existed in the library of Rochester cathedral priory at this time. See English Benedictine Libraries: The Shorter Catalogues, ed. R. Sharpe, J. P. Carley, et al. (London, 1996), 482, no 46. 71 Miracula S. Ithamari, 429.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

‘a certain one of our brothers, religious and God-fearing’.72 The implication is that the miracles occurred only on behalf of those who were good Christians, those who expressed devotion in an appropriate manner, and those whose oral testimony could thus be trusted. To this end, by using the narratives as signa, as tacit endorsements of normative forms of devotion, the author set about representing the miracles as ‘aids to the salvation of souls’. This guiding principle informed the writers of all the miracle collections of the period and was of course derived primarily from the thought of St Augustine, expressed most fully in his De Civitate Dei.73 The collection thus appears to have been written with two audiences in mind. One audience, the learned and notionally sceptical among the monks, is reminded of the forms of divine assistance those of a simple faith are capable of meriting. The other audience, the illiterate peasantry of Rochester and West Kent, were shown that their divine protection lay at the heart of the diocese in an encounter with St Ithamar at his shrine. Despite its small scale compared with other miracle collections of this study the Miracula S. Ithamari records a range of ways in which St Ithamar intervened in the lives of those who belonged to his cult. Reflecting a general trend in miracle-working in twelfth-century England, healing and mediation was the chief subject of its narratives. St Ithamar was instrumental in protecting the lands of the monastic priory, through his pastoral role, not through a vindictive role. St Ithamar’s speciality appears to have been cures for blindness. It was the visit of a blind man that encouraged a monk of the priory to seek the healing that spurred Gundulf into a translation of the saint’s relics. Similarly the cure of Bishop John’s eye-pain won the saint his own feast and liturgy. In both cases, the sufferer initially consulted a doctor for a cure. An elderly priest received his sight when touched by St Ithamar in a vision and told to see. St Ithamar also cured fevers, an insomniac, the deaf and dumb, pains in the head, and ‘many women endangered by labour pains’.74 At a different level, we might think of the value that these healings imparted not simply as cures, but in relieving the Miracula S. Ithamari, 430, 432, 436. ‘In fact, many miracles have occurred, as we cannot deny, to testify to that one supreme miracle of salvation, the miracle of Christ’s ascension into heaven in the flesh in which he rose from the dead’, Augustine of Hippo, City of God, tr. H. Bettenson 74 Miracula S. Ithamari, 432. (London, 1984), 1034. 72 73

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


social tensions caused by family and friends having to care for the chronic sick.75 One of the narratives splendidly illustrates the way in which a miracle of healing could galvanize a household or small social group into action, providing a resort for the powerless who had not only their illnesses to overcome but also the doubts of close relatives. A sick woman of Rochester received a vision of St Ithamar who commanded her three times to take a candle to the shrine and there receive health. Clearly the persuasive power of a woman conjointly with that of a saint was a potent combination where just the former alone would not suffice! The vision gave her the conviction to convince her husband that her death was not imminent and her illness not terminal. The next miracle story describes the husband’s own delivery from illness after a similar encounter with St Ithamar in a vision. In this way, faith in St Ithamar’s miraculous power was made familial as well as personal.76 We have already noted how the people of the town and its environs were encouraged to look to St Ithamar for protection against the daily vicissitudes of peasant life. As well as pestilence, St Ithamar protected his devotees from the effects of factors as diverse as political misfortune or extreme weather conditions. The man caught up in his lord’s political struggle against King Stephen was released ‘without loss of limb or money’ by Queen Matilda soon after he vowed to make an offering at the shrine. His possession of land in West Kent might have helped in securing Ithamar’s mediation. The saint protected the same man when he returned from a business trip to the north of the Thames. The strength of the river’s current prevented an easy crossing but ‘night drew in, a guesthouse far away’, and the man set out across the river. The story again illustrates the protection St Ithamar might extend to those industrious risk-takers who showed due devotion to him.77 The Miracula S. Ithamari is interesting not only for its ‘colourful’ content, a claim that could be made about miracle collections in general, but for the distinctive style in which it is written. Very few details are given of the names, occupations, and origins of those pilgrims visiting the shrine, unlike many other collections for this period. This may have 75 H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth-Century Recluse: The Miracles of St Frideswide’, in Mayr-Harting and Moore, Studies in Medieval History Presented to 76 Miracula S. Ithamari, 430. R. H. C. Davics (London, 1985), 203–4. 77 ‘Imminebat nox, hospicium procul aberat’, ibid. 435.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


been due to the audience being a relatively small and intimate one. In a small diocese such as Rochester, such details may have been superfluous. Two features, however, are striking: the author’s use of directly reported speech and the importance of the vision in the protagonists’ experience of the miraculous. An examination of these narrative strategies casts another light on the historically specific purpose of the text. Throughout his written representation of St Ithamar’s miracles the author includes numerous dialogues, in some of which he may have directly participated, others he can only have received second hand. For example, a certain cleric by the name of Hamo sought out the prior and in the company of the author, we are informed, related his news of a miracle healing. In other stories individuals declared their cures to crowds gathered in the church while others related conversations they had had with St Ithamar in visions. The author clearly aimed to convey a sense of transparency in his narratives. Thus ‘a certain senior priest came retelling a story’, ‘a man narrated to us’, and ‘a monk decided to make known to me’.78 The effect is to impart a sense of the intimacy between the author and those featured in the stories, one in which those hearing or reading the text might thus feel they could share. In the change from oral to written media, the author enjoyed a licence to amend and interpret the material he received. The message that most of the author’s characters desired to convey in their reported speeches does tend to be broadly the same, and probably reflects the priorities of an author with a particular audience in mind. The audience was the people of West Kent. The message, put simply, was ‘visit the cathedral church of St Andrew at Rochester’. The second strategy of the author was to represent St Ithamar effectively as a second bishop of the diocese, visiting the people of the diocese in visions and reassuring them of his protection. St Ithamar frequently visited the laity in their sleep and invariably advised them to visit his resting place. A woman is told, ‘Hasten to the place where I rest. There receive health.’79 Later her husband, in a state of trance, finds himself at the doors of ‘a most splendid dwelling place (splendidissimi habitaculi)’ where from out of a congregation of priests emerges a distinguished man who touches his chest with a staff and says, ‘Why is it that you are dull and depressed? Go now, and for the rest, be healed.’80 We have already 78 79 80

‘Imminebat nox, hospicium procul aberat’, 431, 432. ‘Vade ad locum ubi requiesco. Ibi salutem recipies’, ibid. 430. ‘Quid est quod languore deprimeris? Vade, de cetero sanus esto’, ibid. 431.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


noted the priest who arrived at the church recalling his cure of blindness at the hands of St Ithamar who ‘like a doctor touched my eyes and said, ‘‘See’’ ’.81 To one man, advised in his sleep to visit the cathedral, St Ithamar appeared before the altar, wearing the garments of a bishop and accompanied by Saints Peter, Andrew, and Paul, to whom he ‘supplicated with bended knee as if for my health’s sake’.82 One of the most touching of stories involving the visionary intercession of St Ithamar concerns a monk, ‘a very old man of simple nature’, terrorized in his sleep by phantoms. The story has been identified by Denis Bethell as borrowed from two other contemporary accounts of individuals terrorized at the point of near-death by crowds of demons.83 The two other stories illustrated the benefits to be gained from personal devotion in prayer to the saints. Along with the St Ithamar miracle they also hint at the psychological strains that could particularly trouble monks, the milites Christi, pitched in battle with the devil.84 The first involves the young monk of Evesham called Egelric, known for his devotion to St Andrew, who grew ill to the point of death and, instead of receiving the brethren by his bedside, was joined by a band of demons who crowded the room to its fullest extent and waited in greedy anticipation of his death. St Andrew enters and dispels the demons in time for Egelric to make confession and receive communion before ‘leaving this world within three days for eternal life’.85 The second, related story concerns the near-death experience of a young William of Corbeil, future archbishop of Canterbury, who, while a priest and servants set to watch over him slept, was terrified by a multitude of ugly demons armed with pitchforks and spears. By devoting time in prayer to the Virgin Mary, a custom he kept daily after studying his letters, ‘a pursuit I considered less important’, he won her protection against this multitude that had come to abduct him.86 This theme of the devilish torments assailing those following the religious 81 ‘manuque protensa quasi medici functus officio, oculo mihi tetigit, et ait: ‘‘Vide’’ ’, ibid. 432. 82 ‘quasi pro mee salutis impetratione flexis genibus supplicavit’, ibid. 436. 83 Ibid. 426–7. 84 B. Rosenwein and L. K. Little, ‘Social Meaning in the Monastic and Mendicant Spiritualities’, PP 63 (1974), 4–32. 85 Chronicon abbatiae de Evesham, ed. W. D. Macray, RS 29 (London, 1863), 324. 86 Memorials of St Anselm, ed. R. W. Southern and F. S. Schmitt, in Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi, 1 (London, 1969), 266–8.


The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester

discipline stems ultimately from the stories described in the Life of St Anthony and was intended to reassure monks that, provided they persevered in their religious observances, they need not despair of their salvation.87 In the case of William of Corbeil, the topos takes on a contemporary resonance, devotion to the cult of the Virgin presented as ultimately more valuable to the monk (even if he might aspire to ecclesiastical preferment) than an interest in new forms of learning. Although the details differ, the story of our old monk takes on the basic form of the others.88 He was afflicted with insomnia and when he tried to sleep he was surrounded in his room by a disorderly multitude. These were not demons but menacing apparitions of humans, ‘some were monks, others clerics who were clothed as laity, several were little women of diverse shapes and with different clothes’.89 The monk called out to the Virgin in prayer asking her to direct St Ithamar to his room. St Ithamar then made two appearances and soothed the monk’s persisting fear. On the second occasion he appeared carrying his staff and ‘got up in pontifical vestments, clothed with white, and wearing above that a green pallium’.90 A third visit was made by a man carrying a victorious cross on a banner who finally put the phantoms to flight. The author identifies the figures for us as St Ithamar ‘who ought to appear manifest with the clothing of a pontiff ’91 and the blessed apostle St Andrew, to whom the cathedral church of Rochester was dedicated. In conclusion, the Miracula Sancti Ithamari is an interesting addition to the corpus of miracle collections for this period of the late eleventh

87 It is worth citing the following at length to illustrate the literary sources from which such fantasies were no doubt fed: ‘They [Demons] awaken to prayer those who are asleep, so as to deprive them of sleep for the whole night. They disguise themselves as genuine monks and put pressure on many of the monks, accusing them of their former sins in which the demons themselves were their accomplices . . . Finally they claim that the monk’s task is impossibly hard, hoping that the monks might come to regard what they have undertaken as too onerous and that despair might then lead them to loss of enthusiasm and loss of enthusiasm to failure of effort’, in Athanasius, Vita Anthonii, ed. and tr. C. White, Early Christian Lives (London, 1998), 25. 88 Miracula S. Ithamari, 432–4, 89 ‘alios monachos, alios clericos, quosdam in laico habitu, nonullas quoque mulierculas, diversis figuris et habitu intermixtas’, ibid. 432. It is interesting to note that clerics in lay garb appear in the group, the apparel presumably proclaiming their deficiencies as priests. 90 ‘Pontificalem habitu personam pretendens, albis indutus, et virenti desuper pallio adopertus’, ibid. 433. 91 ‘pontificali habitu apparere debuit manifestus’, ibid. 434.

The Miracles of St Ithamar of Rochester


and twelfth centuries. The collection was probably written in the early 1140s. In the light of St Ithamar’s absence from Rochester’s written records up to this time, it is perhaps reasonable to reserve final judgement on the claims made by the text for the earlier phases of the cult’s history associated with Bishop Gundulf. These are far from sensational; in fact, the opposite. The author is disarmingly honest about the lack of material to go on, but proceeds to present a highly plausible account of the rehabilitation of St Ithamar’s cult. The idea that Bishop Gundulf was the original cult impresario at Rochester may have suited the needs of the monks themselves who were looking for a model bishop to hold up for comparison with successors. It also fitted the expectations of wider audiences who associated Gundulf with the shrines and relics of saints. Writing in the 1140s, the author commemorated a version of these early events that may have more to do with his intimacy with certain earlier examples of the genre than with any real, historical occurrences. Proofs of St Ithamar’s sanctity are offered in the miracles alone and the author expends much effort in endorsing a belief in these miracles on the basis of the oral testimony of those with a simple faith. His return to such themes throughout the collection hint at the presence of learned sceptics within the cathedral community to whom on one occasion he even refers. The key purpose of the Miracula Sancti Ithamari was to open up and extend networks of patronage between the cathedral community and heaven, primarily with the aim of focussing the attention of the people of West Kent on the centre of their diocese. At the time, the diocese needed all the pastoral assistance it could receive in the absence of a full-time bishop, and with an absentee archdeacon who possessed estates the cathedral priory considered its own.92 In such circumstances, the services of an ‘anti-bishop,’ in the visionary form of St Ithamar wearing pontifical robes, was a comfort and support to the monks, and a valuable contact between them and the people of the town and diocese.

92 Brett, Faith and Fabric, 25. And see Courtney, ‘Cardinal Robert Pullen’, 11–15, for Bishop Ascelin of Rochester’s unhappiness at Robert Pullen’s continued non-residence after 1142 and for a Rochester perspective on Pullen’s usurpation of the profits of archidiaconal office.

5 Little St William of Norwich Among historians, the cult of St William of Norwich attained particular scholarly attention in the second half of the twentieth century for its foundation on the accusation of ritual crucifixion perpetrated by the Jews of Norwich on a young boy.1 In outline, the details of the story are clear enough. During the Easter week of 1144, an apprentice tanner William was abducted by someone pretending to be a servant in the archdeacon’s household, and handed over to the Jews of Norwich, who ritually tortured and crucified him before dumping his body in Thorpe wood, on the outskirts of the town. The victim’s family accused the Jews of murder but the Jews managed to evade judgement at an episcopal synod by securing the protection of John de Chesney, sheriff of Norfolk. Despite the early incidence of a handful of miracles in 1144, a six-year lull in cult activity occurred. The boy’s remains were translated into the chapterhouse of the cathedral at Easter 1150. Frequent pilgrimage followed in its wake. Our only extended record of the cult, The Life and Passion of St William, the Martyr of Norwich, was written by a monk of Norwich cathedral priory, Thomas of Monmouth, mostly during the 1150s.2 Recent work on the Life and Passion has tended to focus on the origins and invention of the ritual accusation. This concern is obviously linked 1 The episode has attracted the attention of many recent historians, including M. D. Anderson, A Saint at Stake: The Strange Death of William of Norwich (London, 1964); R. C. Finucane, Miracles and Pilgrims: Popular Beliefs in Medieval England (London, 1977, 1995), 118–21; B. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Aldershot, 1982, 1987), 67–76; R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxord, 1987), 36, 127; R. Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075–1225 (Oxford, 2000),356–7. 2 CUL, Add. 3037, modern edn., The Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich by Thomas of Monmouth, ed. A. Jessopp and M. R. James (Cambridge, 1896): henceforth, Life and Passion, upon which translations in this chapter will be based.

Little St William of Norwich


to broader historical anxieties about its subsequent use against Jews by Christian writers.3 Writing in 1984, Gavin Langmuir first strongly argued the case for Thomas of Monmouth as inventor of the ritual crucifixion accusation. More recently, John McCulloh has argued that the Life and Passion is a late source for William’s cult and one that was marginal to its subsequent transmission in other written sources.4 In the present chapter the issue of invention of the blood libel will be put to one side and place given instead to broader issues of audience and authorial intent. Some consideration must be given to the different schedules of production of the Life and Passion presented by Langmuir and McCulloh. It appears, however, that on one important issue they both agree, namely, that the cult was not spontaneous but delayed in its inception. It is my intention to inquire into that delay and its implications for the early character and function of the cult.

T HE LI FE AN D PA S SI O N Langmuir’s work on the cult of St William led him to the conclusion that ‘the fantasy that Jews ritually murdered Christians by crucifixion was created and contributed to western culture by Thomas of Monmouth about 1150’.5 From his examination of its details, Langmuir concluded that the Life and Passion was written in three instalments: in 1150, 1154–5, and 1173. He describes the first book of the Life and Passion as a self-contained saint’s life, intended to convey providential evidence for William’s sanctity in his early childhood. Its tone, narrative structure and incidental detail convinced Langmuir that it was written independently of the subsequent five books. For instance, the narrative 3 By the beginning of the 13th cent. there were already at least five cults of Christian boys martyred by Jews in England, including that of Robert at the monastery of Bury St Edmunds. See P. Hyams, ‘The Jewish Minority in Medieval England 1066–1290’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 25 (1974), 282, and for a lost life of Robert, see Jocelin de Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. Greenway and J. Sayers (Oxford, 1989), 15. 4 J. McCulloh, ‘Jewish Ritual Murder: William of Norwich, Thomas of Monmouth and the Early Dissemination of the Myth’, Speculum, 72 (1997), 698–740, and nn. 1, 3, and 5 for recent historiography of blood-libel and anti-Semitism (henceforth, ‘Jewish Ritual Murder’). 5 G. Langmuir, ‘Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder’, 842 (henceforth, ‘Detector of Ritual Murder’).


Little St William of Norwich

culminates in William’s joyous translation ‘cum maximo cleri plebisque tripudio’ to the monks’ cemetery on 24 April 1144.6 In establishing the date of its production, Langmuir argued that only the mention of a deathbed confession, made in 1149 by Aelward Ded, prevents us from the otherwise reasonable assumption that the book followed shortly on the heels of this first translation. The omission of the second translation to the chapterhouse that took place on Palm Sunday 1150 satisfied him that the book was written c.1149–50, sometime between the two events. Thomas became a devotee of William and took on the task of writing his Vita soon after his arrival in Norwich in the late 1140s. Langmuir further notes that the tone of book 1 is inconsistent with its hagiographical purpose. It makes little mention of doubt concerning William’s sanctity and no attempt is made to defend its claims in the face of external criticism, a central feature of subsequent books. Finally, Langmuir noticed a number of incidental details, the most compelling being the reference of book 2 to ‘King Stephen’, in contrast to book 1’s consistent reference to ‘the king’. Such an alteration implied that book 1 was written during Stephen’s reign, the subsequent books after Stephen’s death in 1154. In his interpretation of the text and other sources, John McCulloh takes issue with Langmuir on two fronts. First, he discusses examples of ‘chronological incongruities’ that, by merit of their location, either in books 1 or 2, imply that both were jointly conceived. For example, book 2 refers to those whose doubts persisted after either seeing, hearing about, or reading the details of William’s life ‘as they are read in these present writings’ (in presentibus scriptis legunt).7 Langmuir used this phrase to argue that book 1 had already secured an audience (albeit a sceptical one) prior to the publication of book 2.8 McCulloh argues that the phrase’s appearance in the present tense indicates that its author saw books 1 and 2 as integral parts of the same written work.9 References in book 2 to named informants whose unattributed testimony features in book 1 indicated to McCulloh that the two books were linked because they used common oral sources. Moreover, the place in the wood where William’s body was dumped is mentioned in book 1 as a site where healings took place. From this, McCulloh goes on to argue that, since 6 7 9

‘with great delight by the monks and the people’, Life and Passion, 1. 18, p. 50. 8 Langmuir, ‘Detector of Ritual Murder’, 839. Life and Passion, 2. 8, p. 85. McCulloh, ‘Jewish Ritual Murder’, 707.

Little St William of Norwich


miracles in the wood are only introduced in book 4 of the Life and Passion, then book 1 would appear to enjoy prior knowledge of events that happened well after 1150. Though they can be interpreted in that way, none of the above arguments is sufficient to prove that books 1 and 2 were written together. It might be argued that Thomas used common sources for both books, but that does not demonstrate that they were written at the same time. Similarly, undocumented healings in the wood but nevertheless known to Thomas may have begun any time after 1144. McCulloh’s final objection to Langmuir’s argument is even more problematic. Thomas mentions in book 1, and refers to it again in book 2, that he had inspected the traces of a wooden structure made of three uprights and a cross-beam upon which William had been crucified. He also testifies to having later seen the wounds on William’s body and to having satisfied himself that they matched those that the structure would have inflicted on him. McCulloh reads this as evidence that Thomas was writing book 1 after the translation of William to the chapterhouse in Easter 1150, the only occasion upon which he could have inspected the relics. But Thomas’s claims to authority as an eye-witness are cast in doubt by a careful reading of the same passages. Thomas does not disclose when he inspected William’s body. Nor does he appear to have seen the torture device himself but merely had interpreted for him by a Christian maid-servant employed in the Jew’s house the remains of marks that were found on one of its walls. In book 1 his evidence for the arrangement of the crucifix relied upon ‘what is passed down as known’ (ut fama traditur).10 In book 2 he mentions that the maid-servant ‘showed me the posts in the aforesaid house, that indicated martyrdom’.11 The purpose of the passage appears to have been to present its audience with an attested and credible narrative context for understanding William’s death in terms of martyrdom. It does so through the appropriation by the author of female eye-witness testimony.12

Life and Passion, 1. 5, p. 21. ‘nobis . . . in domus prefate postibus matiri signa demonstravit’, Life and Passion, 2. 9, p. 91. 12 For the monastic handling of such testimony in hagiographies, see E. M. C. Van Houts, ‘Orality in Norman Hagiography of the 11th and 12th Centuries: The Value of Female Testimonies’, in History and Family in England and the Continent, 1000–1200 (Aldershot, 1999),ch. 15, 1–13. 10 11


Little St William of Norwich

The failure of the device to resemble a cross, he seems to interpret as evidence that the Jews consciously attempted to conceal their crime and throw suspicion away from themselves. The logic here seems to be that common knowledge of a ‘typical’ Jewish method of ritual crucifixion existed prior to the episode. This comment is difficult to understand unless Thomas is making a veiled comparison between the circumstances of Christ’s crucifixion and those of William’s. But why does Thomas not make the reference explicit? Another curious but perhaps less important aspect to this passage is the necessary assumption required of the reader that the body remained sufficiently intact for six years, despite spending a month in a shallow grave in the woods, for Thomas to make credible observations about the cause of death.13 McCulloh may be right in giving Thomas the benefit of the doubt, but the suspicion lingers that he found the passage difficult to write, either because he was being economical with the truth or because he was writing in circumstances that demanded a suggestive rather than an explicit approach. I intend to offer suggestions below as to why such an approach might have been necessary. The second front upon which McCulloh takes issue with Langmuir concerns other historical sources for William the martyr in England and on the continent. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and late twelfth- and thirteenthcentury English chronicles that mention William’s martyrdom contain details in common that conflict with or are absent from the Life and Passion. A second group of sources, a chronicle and a martyrology compiled in Bavaria by the late 1140s, contain references to William as a martyr in advance of 1154.14 McCulloh suggests that news of William’s martyrdom may have reached Germany with the crusade preaching tour of Rudolph the Cistercian monk, in 1146, around Cologne, Mainz, and Speyer in the Middle Rhine. Rudolph incited acts of violence against Jews and may have made William’s story an immediate cause ce´le`bre on the continent. From these findings McCulloh concluded that the Life and Passion was not the first or the 13 Thomas notes that the body was considered incorrupt by those monks who tended to it during its translation to the monks’ cemetery in 1144. Life and Passion, 1. 18, p. 52. 14 McCulloh favours the late 1140s as the most likely time at which the martyrology’s compilers, Paul of Bernried and his assistant Gebhard, updated the text. McCulloh, ‘Jewish Ritual Murder’, 725.

Little St William of Norwich


most significant documentary source upon which subsequent written references to William as martyr were based.15 The ingenuity with which both historians subject the Life and Passion and related sources to intricate processes of deduction is truly Holmesian in inspiration.16 But whether the text is wholly susceptible to such forensic methods remains moot. Both sets of arguments offered by Langmuir and McCulloh have their strengths and weaknesses. Each relies on a degree of speculation to which their authors readily admit. It is likely that Langmuir and McCulloh’s explanations are both correct in certain of their aspects. There remain, however, too few independent sources with which to prove their claims beyond doubt. Placing the issue of originality to one side, the fact remains that it took at least six years for William to attract the attention of a hagiographer in his own neighbourhood of Norwich. Thomas of Monmouth’s work may not have been the first to record William’s status as a martyr. Nor does it appear to have been much consulted by subsequent chroniclers. But the Life and Passion remains the fullest and historically closest account of the events in mid-twelfth century East Anglia that led to the emergence of William’s cult. It is obviously not a transparent account of real events. Rather, its value lies in its discursive qualities, as a product of Norwich cathedral priory and a representation of relationships between the priory and the laity of Norfolk.

INTERPRETING THE L I F E A N D P A SS I O N In making the case for William’s sanctity Thomas employed a variety of strategies of advocacy whose presence in the text retains impressions of controversies and conflicts that would otherwise have been lost to the historian because they existed only in oral form. He presents 15 For the possible oral sources for the German attribution of sanctity to William, and for the context within which his martyrdom may have been particularly appealing see McCulloh, ‘Jewish Ritual Murder’, 728–32. 16 Langmuir himself uses the genre of the detective narrative as a foil for the exposition of his own detective work. For an understanding of the kind of method I have in mind, albeit in a completely different context, see C. Wickham, ‘Marx, Sherlock Holmes, and Late Roman Commerce’, JRS 78 (1988), 183–93, who refers to ‘the use of superficially unrelated clues to construct the solution (diagnosis) of a problem’, at p. 186.


Little St William of Norwich

information in the form of eye-witness accounts; oral testimonies presented as verbatim statements; he admits to fabricating a transcript of Bishop William Turbe’s legal defence coram rege of a vassal of the cathedral, Simon de Noyers; and he uses topoi and plays with the conventions of the hagiographical genre to serve the needs of his subject. The text of book 2 is designed to show how its author himself discovered the truth of the matter through investigation. But an emphasis on Thomas representing himself as the detective can lure us into too narrow an appreciation of just what requires detection. Thomas’s rhetorical construction of the detective interestingly echoes the procedures that coroners were to use in later decades. But he also employs the more conventional hagiographical appeal to the ‘devotional’ truth of events in arguing his case for William’s sanctity. Thomas relied upon the emotional and devotional, as well as the empirical, appeal of the ‘truth’ he wished to convey. In this light, the issue of originality becomes less important than the questions of audience and context. My own interpretation of the evidence focuses on the constraints within which Thomas seems to have written book 1, the ways in which he betrays evidence of diverse and fragmented understandings of the cult and how he dealt with them. The search for the roots of anti-Semitism in the writings of medieval authors reflects, according to David Nirenberg, a twentieth-century ‘teleological tendency whose extreme form is a phylogenetic fantasy in which Jewish history becomes a search for the roots of Auschwitz’.17 In his own work on violence and community in late medieval Spain, the antidote Nirenberg proposes to such a tendency is to locate episodes of medieval violence within specific historical contexts in which violence and the rhetoric of violence functioned to stabilize and regulate relations between groups anxious to emphasize distinctions in their identities. Such an approach emphasizes local contingencies, multiple agencies, and the representation of violence as a way of defining identity, a term that admits the possibility of more mutability than those of structure or mentality. My aim is to borrow these insights and apply them to the evidence for the cult of St William in mid-twelfth-century East Anglia. Whilst 17 D. Nirenberg, ‘The Rhineland Massacres of Jews in the First Crusade: Memories Medieval and Modern’, in, G. Althoff, J. Fried, and P. J. Geary (eds.), Medieval Concepts of the Past (Cambridge, 2002), 307.

Little St William of Norwich


acknowledging the negative influence of Thomas of Monmouth’s work on subsequent relations between Christians and Jews in England, I intend to demonstrate that tolerance and cooperation existed alongside violence in those relations. To do so is not to let persecutors off the hook, but to observe that ‘when medieval people made statements about religious difference, they were making claims, not expressing accomplished reality, and these claims were subject to barter and negotiation, before they could achieve real force in any given situation’.18 I will argue that the promotion by Norwich cathedral priory of William’s sanctity, in the wake of the discovery of his body, was delayed and controversial, and depended for its generation on sustained machinations between William’s relatives and an influential group of churchmen within the cathedral. With episcopal support, the priory regarded the accusation of Jewish ritual crucifixion as a means of exploiting social tensions and articulating a new sense of Christian identity that emphasized and extended the legacy of Bishop Herbert in terms of the cathedral priory’s social influence across the Norfolk landscape. Thomas’s unconvincing version of William’s life may reflect doubt concerning his sanctity at the highest levels within the cathedral priory. Unfortunately, outside the text there survives no evidence of dissenting voices on the matter of William’s sanctity. The Life and Passion reveals an obvious candidate for such a voice in Prior Elias. In books 3 and 4 of the Life and Passion Elias is portrayed as hostile to the promotion of a cult associated with William’s relics. Here we need the evidence of books 2 to 6 of the Life and Passion. Books 2 to 6 are an account of the cult’s progress from its origins in 1144 to 5 April 1154, the day on which William’s body was translated for the fourth and final time, from south of the high altar to the chapel of the holy martyrs in the north transept of the cathedral. Their chronological span is uneven. Book 2 shoulders the main burden in terms of the sequence of historical events it covers and chronologically overlaps some of the narrative of book 1. This might be expected if book 2 was the result of a delayed effort to improve upon book 1. A further indication that book 1 stands alone as an unofficial work, is that book 2 is the first to record an official commission given by the bishop and the priory. 18 Idem, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, 1996),6.


Little St William of Norwich

Thomas writes: Those miracles which we have either seen or we have known about by hearing of them, by the command of the bishop and at the request of the convent of Norwich, I, Thomas of Monmouth, by divine permission of God, have committed to writing, and lest oblivion destroys them, I have been careful to preserve them for the future.19

Book 2 can be divided into five sections. The first section includes five narratives documenting the first miracles in 1144. These include two visions of William sitting at the feet of the Lord in heaven, the protection of a pregnant woman in labour, the support of a Norfolk virgin against a demonic suitor, and the blossoming of a red rose in winter, ‘estimated to have so blossomed by divine will as testimony to his martyrdom’.20 Each of these miracles subtly emphasizes the chief aspects of William’s sanctity: his innocence signalled by a new birth, his martyrdom through his association in visions with Jesus and the symbolism of the red rose, and his chastity, implied in the testimony given by two Norfolk virgins. The second section of the book identifies a group of detractors and describes their criticisms of the cult. The third answers these criticisms by presenting (almost in the manner of an Agatha Christie novel) the positive testimony summarized in the previous book. The fourth section documents an incident in 1146 when a Norfolk knight, Simon de Noyers, was brought before the royal court for murdering a wealthy Norwich Jew called Eleazer, in whose house the ritual torture was alleged to have occurred; and the final section records two events that were important to the future of the cult, the election by the priory in 1146 of William Turbe as bishop of Norwich and the sudden death on his return from the ceremonial installation of Turbe as bishop of Sheriff John de Chesney, protector of the Jews during the hostilities of 1144 and 1146. Books 3 and 4 pick up the narrative four years later when, in 1150, William’s remains were translated to the chapterhouse, miracles became more numerous, and Prior Elias died. Book 5 records the third

19 ‘Que scilicet miracula prout vidimus sive auditu cognovimus, ex pontificali precepto et conventus norwicensis rogatu, ego Thomas Monemutensis deo annuente scripto commendanda suscepi, et ne ipsa delere possit oblivio posteris studui reservare temporibus’, Life and Passion,2 p.2, 65. 20 ‘in testimonium martiri eius rosam voluntate divina sic effloruisse existimat’, ibid. 2. 3, p.67.

Little St William of Norwich


translation of William’s relics to a space south of the high altar in the cathedral on 3 July 1151 and book 6 completes the record of William’s translations in April 1154. Between these chronological landmarks that give a sense of historical continuity are accounts of miracles. Whilst, in the miracles they record, these books maintain something of the edifying and celebratory tone of their precursor, books 2 to 4 betray a polemical and at times irascible mood in their author. Their aim was to give a full account of William’s claim to sanctity, a task that seems to have involved the rebuttal of criticism, including from members of the cathedral community itself. Thomas’s critics are largely unnamed in the Life and Passion, though the character of their arguments is treated at length and provides clues to their social and intellectual composition. There was the laity who had either known him or heard of him as ‘a poor and neglected little fellow’.21 The popular association of sanctity with high social status is an interesting aspect of the inertia Thomas had to overcome in promoting the cult. To do so, he pointed out that Christ himself had come from among the poor and that there existed precedents for child martyrdom in St Pancratius, St Pantaleon, St Celsus, and the Holy Innocents.22 To another group that doubted the truth of the miracles attributed to William, Thomas offered his interpretation of the five detailed miracle narratives whose meaning testified emphatically to the threefold sanctity of William as holy innocent, virgin, and martyr. In response to a third group who could not be convinced that it was the Jews who had murdered William, Thomas revealed more fully the results of his own inquiries into their guilt. A fourth objection that ecclesiastical procedure had not confirmed the child’s sanctity raised accusations of rashness (temeritas) and effrontery (audatia) against the promoters of the cult. Thomas answered these critics by noting that the Church tolerated numerous local saints whose fame was not universally acknowledged. In turn, he also answered their charge of presumption by describing such doubters as guilty of malice (malicia) and envy (invidia). Though Thomas provides no indication, the nature of these indictments suggest that these critics were Thomas’s monastic peers. His claim that they lacked simplicity (simplicitas), a word often associated in miracle narratives with the laity but which 21

‘in vita pauperculum atque neglectum’, ibid. 2. 8, p. 85.


ibid. 2. 8, p. 87.


Little St William of Norwich

is also associated with the Cistercians,23 would support this view. Clearly, William’s unconventional credentials as a saint required an imaginative leap for a number of Thomas’s audience, not least the Norwich monks. By encouraging a response that involved simplicitas rather than invidia, Thomas invited his fellow monks to demonstrate a quality that it was difficult but desirable for monks to possess. He was inviting them to embrace and share a wider sense of the holy in their midst (and one that may have offended their religious sensibilities and self-perceptions). The chief named recipient of Thomas’s ire was Prior Elias. Although we have little way of ascertaining his specific objections to William’s nascent cult, Thomas describes Elias as repeatedly displaying hardness of heart on the matter. Book 3 covers the events leading up to William’s translation to the chapterhouse, the translation itself and the attempts of Thomas to institute a number of observances reflecting the veneration he felt due William. In these episodes Thomas hardly resists the temptation to dramatize events in terms of a struggle between him and Elias’s obstructions.24 The most important weapon in Thomas’s attempts to secure William’s translation to the chapterhouse was a series of visions he had of a person likely to soften up Prior Elias and other foot-draggers: Herbert de Losinga, founding bishop of the cathedral priory. In visions Herbert de Losinga ‘instructed’ Thomas on three occasions in the spring of 1150 to translate William’s remains to the chapterhouse.25 Bishop Herbert specifically required Thomas to demand this of the bishop and prior. Thomas resisted Herbert’s requests until the Sunday before Holy week 1150, when Herbert, exasperated by his doubting, accused Thomas of behaving like his biblical namesake and pinched him in the side, leaving a mark. At last, presumably with his new injury available for inspection, Thomas told Prior Elias and the bishop; and a translation was planned 23

See G. R. Evans, Bernard of Clairvaux (Oxford, 2000), p. 172. For summary of this conflict, see Life and Passion, for examples of Elias resisting plans to allow the elevation of William’s sarcophagus, 3. 1, pp. 124–5; ill-disposed (mali animi) towards the placement of a carpet and candle at the tomb, 3. 3, p. 128; insult to William at removing the carpet and candle, 3. 12, p. 139; pretending to be glad but persisting in original hardness ( pristinam duriciem), 3. 12, p. 141; so hardened (adeo induratam) that he persisted in forbidding the restoration of the carpet, 4. 1, p. 165; death as punishment for being hardened against William (indurati prioris), 4. 1, p. 166). 25 Ibid. 3. 1, pp. 116–22. 24

Little St William of Norwich


for the Wednesday of Holy Week, exactly six years after William’s abduction and murder. The visions had obvious propaganda value in helping to articulate a consensus among those in the community who wished to stir a more reticent group into recognizing William’s sanctity.26 William Turbe, Elias, and no doubt several senior members of the cathedral priory had been monks during the episcopate of Herbert, and for some his memory appears to have been an obstacle to promotion of the cult.27 Herbert reports to Thomas that, during his episcopate, the monks frequently asked him to seek relics for the church, but he had refused, promising only to seek lands and rents for them: ‘that I should take effort to acquire from the king some venerable relics of the saints as ornaments for the church. But I said to them that I would not seek anything of that sort then, but lands and rents.’28 This detail reveals how one aspect of Bishop Herbert’s memory was being kept in the community. Norwich cathedral priory had no tradition of cult promotion, in contrast to the experiences of neighbouring monastic communities of comparable rank. From its foundation in the mid-1090s to the suspected martyrdom of William, the cathedral priory had possessed the relics of no patron saint. The church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity and no obvious saintly patron could be associated directly with the see. But such shortcomings had not prevented a spirit of invention among other communities in this period and a glance at the evidence for Herbert’s attitude to relics might corroborate the Norwich community’s memory of their founder as uninterested in the cult of saints’ relics. Herbert’s surviving letters and sermons, together with his appearance in hagiographical sources, give an indication of his spiritual values and attitude to the cult of saints’ relics. The hagiographical evidence reveals him as a willing participant in translations, interestingly as a skilful

26 James Campbell calls them ‘decent doubters’. See ‘Some Twelfth-Century Views of the Anglo-Saxon Past’, in Essays in Anglo-Saxon History (London, 1986),226. 27 See English Episcopal Acta: Norwich, 1070–1214, ed. C. Harper-Bill (London, 1990), no. 49, p. 45, for Helias cellerarius Norwici as witness to a charter of 1121–35. And Harper-Bill, ‘Bishop William Turbe and the Diocese of Norwich, 1146–1174’, A-NS 7 (1985), 142, for the personal relationship between William Turbe and the founding bishop. 28 ‘ut ad ecclesie sue decus aliquas a rege venerabiles sanctorum perquirere studerem reliquias. Quibus ego non me rem eiusmodi tunc, sed terras et redditus quesiturum aiebam . . . ’, Life and Passion, 3. 1, p. 117.


Little St William of Norwich

preacher. At the translation of St Etheldreda of Ely in 1106, Herbert, vir eloquentissimus, preached a sermon based on the life of the holy abbess (which unfortunately was not recorded).29 On the same occasion, he inspected the remains of St Withburga. Herbert wrote a sermon for Ascension Day that reveals his thoughts on the subject of miracles. In the style of a young Augustine30 he notes that biblical miracles belonged to a time ‘when the world needed to be illuminated by doctrines and miracles, but with all the regions of the world converted to the faith they are not necessary now’. He goes on to say: And lest your weakness [of faith] should cause doubt in the authority of those set over you, you should understand miracles to be worked in the holy church today in a spiritual manner, more excellently than the ancient kind, as the spirit stands more gloriously before the body. Our exorcists drive demons away from the possessed, our doctors preach the truth in diverse languages, and our confessors pluck out the fiery darts of devilish suggestions.31

The sermon is a meditation on the contemporary value of pastoral care relative to saints’ cults. The emphasis was placed on the quality of internal reflection on sin, and upon the benefits of preaching in the instruction and edification of the lay flock. The bulk of his letters reveal unequivocal evidence of his commitment to his pastoral duties within the diocese and the monastery. They show him preaching to the laity, guiding and teaching the priory’s novices, and directly supervising monastic discipline.32 They say nothing directly about Herbert’s

Liber Eliensis, ed. E. O. Blake, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 92 (London, 1962), 229. See W. D. McReady, Signs of Sanctity: Miracles in the Thought of Gregory the Great (Toronto, 1989),8–9, and for the useful creative ambiguity retained in the notion of physical miracles as surpassed in ‘modern’ times by spiritual miracles, see Gregory the Great, Dialogues, 1. 12, ed. and tr. O. J. Zimmerman (Washington, DC, 1959), 147–8; PL 77, ed. J. Migne (Paris, 1849), col. 212 B–D, and idem. Homilies for Epiphany, PL 76, col. 1110C. I owe this reference to Prof. H. Mayr-Harting. 31 ‘quando doctrinis et miraculis illuminandus fuerat mundus, sed conversis totius mundi regionibus ad fidem, modo necessaria non sunt . . . Et ne de vestrorum praelatorum auctoritate vestra hesitet pusillanimitas, consimilia hodie spiritualiter, in sancta ecclesia congnoscite fieri miracula, eo excellentiora antiquis, quanto spiritus corporibus gloriosius praestat. Hodie nostri exorciste ab inerguminis effugant demones, linguarum omnium diversitate veritatem nostri praedicant doctores, et serpentinarum suggestionum ignita iacula?’ Life, Letters and Sermons of Bishop Herbert de Losinga, 2 vols. ed. E. M. Goulburn and H. Symonds (Oxford, 1878), ii. 212, 220–4 (henceforth Herbert de Losinga). 32 This in turn could be interpreted as an effort on the part of Norwich archivists to record and commemorate Herbert as a pastoral bishop. See R. W. Southern for the 29 30

Little St William of Norwich


attitude to relics but two letters suggest that he was not one to rely on miracles on occasions when others might do so as an almost routine resort.33 In a letter addressed to Thetford Priory about the theft of a deer on his estate in Homersfield, Herbert expressed his concern for the spiritual condition of the thieves and their collaborators after sending on them the curse of excommunication.34 The second letter shows Herbert protecting by means of force his rights over his magnificent church of St Nicholas in Yarmouth. The men of the Cinq Ports ejected the chaplain placed there by Bishop Herbert and took over the church. Herbert responded by winning royal permission and the help of a posse led by Roger Bigod to regain possession of the church.35 At other monasteries the outcome of these kinds of episode were often commemorated in miracle collections, miscreants preserved in the narrative as falling foul of the miraculous protective power of the resident saint. Herbert’s robust and practical interpretation of episcopal authority drew upon a profound appreciation of the spiritual world, as his letter to Wido the anchorite reveals. The letter is a paean of praise for eremeticism in which the anchorite shares the company of prophets and angels, converses with heaven, and for whom ‘prayer is the one law, and the one flower of skilful and growing eloquence’. The letter exhorts Wido to continue his life of purity and commends him on his ‘ardour for study and diligence in reading’, particularly the ‘modern authors’. With this life he contrasts his own lusts, and entanglements in the ‘workshop of carnal affairs’, casts himself in the biblical role of Mara,36 and asks Wido to ‘lend me, a sinner, the hand of your prayers to lift me up’.37 These details convey the impression of a prelate who preferred to promote the spiritual well-being of his monks and the laity through preaching, teaching, and the provision of sacraments rather than through the provision of shrines. In this he shared the values of his compilation of letter collections in the 12th cent., in Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (Oxford, 1970), 87. Herbert de Losinga, 135–40, 200–2, 288–96. 33 I am thinking here of the use of humiliation rituals as a way of ‘forcing the issue’ with adversaries of the monastery. See P. Geary, ‘L’Humiliation des saints’, Annales: ESC 34 Herbert de Losinga, 170–3. 34 (1979), 27–42. 35 First Register of the Norwich Cathedral Priory, ed. H. W. Saunders, Norfolk Record 36 Ruth 1. 20. Society, 11 (1939), 32–3. 37 Herbert de Losinga, pp. 279–80. Robert of Beaton is also described in his Vita as taking great comfort from contemplation of the eremitical life. See B. J. Parkinson, ‘Life of Robert de Bethune, Bishop of Hereford’ (Oxford B.Litt thesis, 1951), 48.


Little St William of Norwich

metropolitan, Archbishop Lanfranc, in retaining the dedication to the Holy Trinity. The reticence of those who were wary of what to do with William’s remains may thus reflect the values with which their founder had imbued them. Thomas’s tacit acknowledgement of this in the words he attributed to Herbert above, only served to add more urgency to the message the founding bishop brought to him. If Herbert saw William’s sanctity as sufficient for the approval of a cult, then the cathedral monks might be encouraged to soften their hearts towards the boy martyr. Indeed, Herbert’s visitations came, in Thomas’s words, not only with episcopal blessings, but with nothing less than a heavenly dispensation for William’s canonization: Furthermore, I wish that the attentive reader would be advised that he consider, according to what is written, what great influence bishop Herbert of pious memory has before God, who deserved to be made the secret messenger of a divine dispensation, and how diligent a patron he is of the Church of Norwich which he himself founded.38

Clearly, whether the due process of seeking papal canonization had been followed or not, the treatment of William’s relics as holy was not to be obstructed. Thomas’s accounts of his visions of Herbert were directed to securing consensus within the community. They served both to dispel Herbert’s reticence and ingeniously to link his memory to the furtherance of William’s cult. They also linked him personally to the urgent task of setting things on an official footing. Thomas confessed that the visions reminded him of those visited by Gamaliel upon Lucian in 415, in which was revealed to the latter the location of the relics of St Stephen the protomartyr.39 38 ‘Porro diligentem ammonitum volo lectorem ut scilicet ex pretaxatis perpendat quante virtutis merito pie memorie Herbertus episcopus coram deo polleat, qui et divine dispensationis tam secretus fieri mereatur nuntius, et sancte Norwicensis ecclesie quam ipse fundavit tam diligens sit patronis’. Life and Passion, 2. 7, pp. 84–5. 39 The story belongs to the ‘Revelation of St Stephen’, an apocryphal work of the New Testament, probably most accessible to Thomas through the work of Augustine. See The Apocryphal New Testament being the Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Apocalypses with Other Narratives and Fragments, ed. M. R. James (Oxford, 1924), 564–8. St Stephen’s martyrdom at the command of the Sanhedrin was a poignant echo of recent events in Norwich to Thomas’s sensitive ears. The apocryphal story dwells on the role of Stephen as witness to the Christian truth before an audience of Jews, a circumstance that was intended to have a clear and contemporary meaning to his fellow monks. Those who doubted William’s Christ-like martyrdom were being cast in the role of doubting Jews. The story includes the following passage: ‘Then they lay hands on him [Stephen], saying,

Little St William of Norwich


If Thomas’s visions provided the impetus for the second translation to the chapterhouse, the ceremony itself, as he describes it, had sufficient peculiarities to arouse our suspicion of the message—as a ritual—that it was meant to convey. On the Wednesday after Palm Sunday in 1150, William’s remains were translated to the chapterhouse, six monks (including Thomas) singing the seven penitential psalms and litany as they processed. Prior Elias supervised the placement of the sarcophagus by stonecutters and plasterers flush with the floor of the chapterhouse. The timing of the event after Lauds when most of the community were elsewhere the curious location of the tomb within the chapterhouse, and its intended position level with the floor, together with Thomas’s depiction of the prior’s response to the miracle accompanying this translation, casts doubt upon the degree to which the promotion of reverential cult activity was intended by its organizer, Prior Elias. The chapterhouse was not the most likely of places in which to bury a saint intended for public veneration.40 Furthermore, Elias was angry when the men failed to sink the sarcophagus to the pavement level. A topos of late Anglo-Saxon hagiography, the sarcophagus’ repeated elevation at each attempt to sink it level with the floor,41 signified for Thomas divine witness to the sanctity of its contents and forced the angry prior to make a concession: ‘At this, the amazed prior allowed it to be as it was, because he did not think it safe anymore to resist the divine will’.42 A second incident took place four days later on Easter Sunday when Thomas, without permission from the prior, placed a carpet and a candle upon William’s tomb. Elias ordered that the light and the carpet be removed from the sarcophagus. Despite this, numerous miracles ‘‘He blasphemeth!’’ Gamaliel said, ‘‘Wherein? This righteous man hath seen the son saying to the father: ‘‘Lo, the Jews rage against me and cease not to ill-treat them that confess my name’’. And the Father said, ‘‘Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool’’ ’. It may be no coincidence that in their visions of William in heaven, two of his early devotees, Lewin of Wells and a virgin of Mulbarton, describe him as sitting at the right hand of Christ, next to the Virgin Mary, on a golden footstool. See Life and Passion, 2. 4, 2. 5, pp. 69, 76. 40 An analogy, albeit in different circumstances for the restriction placed on a relic cult exists in the monks of Evesham and their private devotion to the arm of St Oswald. See D. Cox, ‘St Oswald of Worcester at Evesham Abbey: Cult and Concealment’, JEH 53 (2002), 269–85. 41 D. Rollason, Saints and Relics in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 1989), 36. 42 ‘Stupefactus ad hec prior ita esse permisit quoniam divine ulterius resistere voluntati securum non credidit’, Life and Passion, 3. 1, p. 125.


Little St William of Norwich

occurred in the weeks and months that followed Easter, including one in which William appeared in a vision to the sub-prior, Richard of Lynn, and warned Elias through him to restore the ornaments in atonement for the insult done to him. The remainder of book 3 details miracles in which pilgrims received healings at the tomb in exchange for the candles and wax tapers they left as symbols of devotion to William. The practice became an enduring aspect of popular devotion to him. In short, Thomas’s narrative handling of the translation leaves a suspicion that its purpose was not to initiate a new cult but was rather to gain a concession on the part of Elias to a group within the convent who favoured his cult. At the beginning of book 4 Thomas performed a remarkable feat of literary contortion in his description of Elias’s death in October 1150. Despite receiving a number of admonitory visitations from William, Elias remained hard of heart and ‘So it is said by many, that the martyr had threatened him and that his death followed close on.’43 Immediately after this reporting of divine vengeance, Thomas includes a tribute to the dead prior, ‘who was skilled in both divine and liberal knowledge and illuminated the church of Norwich with his wisdom and providential prudence’.44 It may betray a certain irony in Thomas for Elias’s contribution to the cathedral priory to be described thus. The implication is that, just as the light of Elias was extinguished, a new light was made to illuminate the church, in the form of candles offered to St William. That William was a lover of candles carried some personal poignancy as well as economic convenience for Thomas, the self-styled sacristan of the saint.45 In summary, Thomas of Monmouth wrote the Life and Passion to smooth over a bumpy period in the history of the monastic community at Norwich. The delay in recognizing William’s sanctity and the troubles in persuading Prior Elias to organize his translation suggest that there was significant doubt among a part of the community over the probity of Thomas of Monmouth’s claims for William. When the translation finally took place, his body was taken to a place in the chapterhouse of 43 ‘Sic enim a multis traditur, et martirem super hoc illi fuisse comminatum, atque illius illico consecutum interitum’, ibid. 4. 1, p. 166. 44 ‘qui tam divina quam liberali pollens scientia sapientissima prudentie sue providentia Norwicensem illustrabat ecclesiam’, ibid. 4. 1, p. 166. 45 ‘I Thomas, who was then sacristan of the blessed martyr (ego, Thomas, qui beati martiris tunc secretarius eram)’, ibid. 3. 12, p. 142.

Little St William of Norwich


limited access to potential pilgrims. It was supervised reluctantly by Prior Elias, who was angry when workmen failed to sink the sarcophagus level with the pavement of the chapterhouse. Behind the story of the elevated tomb appears to have existed a real tension among the parties involved. Writing book 2 in 1154, Thomas seems to have harboured resentment for his struggle to promote William’s sanctity to his fellow monks. Prior Elias had proved the most obstinate critic of the cult. The fact that Thomas felt it necessary to eulogize him in death, while implying that he was a victim of divine punishment, testifies both to the deep personal ambivalence Thomas himself felt towards the prior and to an audience within the priory who cherished his memory. The incidents of these years as described by Thomas, though calculated to convey a sense of their smooth and providential flow, leave between the lines an impression of quite the opposite set of circumstances. A final example of the effort involved in presenting a sense of continuity and consensus may be found in the means Thomas adopted to conceal another peculiar aspect of the second translation. Thomas quotes Herbert in one of his visions as saying that William’s relics should rest a little while among the boys’ seats in the chapterhouse before being removed to the church.46 The comment sounds suspiciously like a post facto rationalization and implies that the first translation, whilst perhaps regarded by Elias as a final concession designed to end the matter, was to Thomas a trial run in anticipation of something more ambitious. It seems reasonable to infer that a significant element within the monastic community as late as spring 1150 was hesitant about the promotion of a cult of St William. Nevertheless, the cult won through thanks to the efforts of Thomas of Monmouth. That the second translation to the chapterhouse took place was due to Thomas’s persistence in investigating the events of 1144, in his gathering and presenting of evidence in support of a case for martyrdom, in his role as interlocutor between Bishop Herbert and the living, and in his selfstyled office of sacristan to William. But it may be surmised that Thomas did not achieve his ends as a loner and eccentric. Rather, as an outsider and recent addition to the community, he proved a useful figure for Bishop William Turbe, a devotee of young William, quietly to support. 46

Life and Passion, 3. 1, p. 121.


Little St William of Norwich

The testimony of Wicheman, the bishop’s deputy for hearing confession, and the bishop’s collaboration with Thomas over the transcript for the trial of Simon de Noyers, suggest that Thomas had friends in high places. The miracles that took place in the wake of the 1150 translation represented the fruits of the efforts of all three and provided what was needed gradually to undermine Elias’s position. Three possible factors may account for the reticence among some of the cathedral priory. First, the community shared a memory of Herbert de Losinga as reluctant to encourage cult promotion at Norwich. Secondly, the cult was a controversial prospect without canonical dispensation. Thirdly, there could have been a fear that involvement in such a cult might compromise the priory’s relations with the Crown, which regarded the Jewish community as its own valuable property and had already shown reluctance to hear legal cases involving accusations that might incite violence against them. In the event, Elias’s untimely death in October 1150 cleared the way for the more public third translation of 1151. It is notable that both of the subsequent translations of 1151 and 1154 (unlike that of 1150) are described as being officially sanctioned by the chapter. The first of these translations, from the chapterhouse to a space south of the high altar in the church, reflected the realignment of the chapter behind the cult, and represented a positive symbol of that support to the laity. It remains for us to examine the wider social, economic, and political contexts within which opinion was moulded in favour of William’s martyrdom at the hands of the Jews. So far we have concentrated on the drama within the cathedral community. A shift of focus to the character of the Jewish presence in East Anglia is now necessary.

THE JEWS IN NORFOLK Jews settled in London in the wake of the Conquest. As private financiers of Duke William they followed him from Rouen to London and during the 1130s began to settle in the region. Their presence was relatively new to the people of urban East Anglia at the time of the alleged ritual murder. When the first Jews arrived, East Anglia was by no means economically backward. The region was one of the most densely populated in England, areas situated directly around Norwich

Little St William of Norwich


supporting as many as twenty people per square mile.47 The general pattern of landholding was diffuse and fragmented. Few landholders were able to press uncontested claims to compact estates or whole demesne manors and the process of manorialization was retarded.48 Though many peasants had become tied to the land by 1086, two distinct groups with few obligations attached to lordships were dispersed across the countryside, the sokemen and the liberi homines. The latter group were concentrated across the southern and eastern parts of Norfolk in the immediate surroundings of Norwich.49 Evidence from extensive urban archaeological surveys and in the Domesday Book has been marshalled to recreate late Anglo-Saxon Norwich in the image of a remarkably vibrant ‘centre providing markets, goods and services for an important hinterland’.50 The immediate impact of the Conquest on this prosperity was harsh. By 1086, ‘the town had fallen on evil days’,51 the number of burgesses falling from 1,320 to 665, and 480 bordars unable to pay their customary dues.52 The greatest cause of these straitened conditions was the intrusion of a royal castle and Norman community on a site previously occupied by ninety-eight houses. The dispersal of the Anglo-Danish occupants from these dwellings and the use of Norwich as a centre for political rebellion in 1075 set Anglo-Norman relations off to an inauspicious start in the town.53 Circumstances were not improved during the late 1080s and 1090s when Bishop Herbert began to carve out of the town a precinct by H. C. Darby, The Domesday Geography of Eastern England (Cambridge, 1957), 117. See E. Miller and J. Hatcher, Medieval England: Rural Society and Economic Change, 1086–1348 (London, 1978), 21–2; and W. Hudson, ‘Traces of Primitive Agricultural Organisation as Suggested by a Survey of the Manor of Martham’, TRHS, 4th ser. 1 (1918), 28–58, for an example of early manorialization by the bishop. 49 T. Williamson, The Origins of Norfolk (London, 1993), 116–25, and fig. 5. 4. 50 J. Campbell, ‘Norwich’ fascicule in Atlas of Historic Towns, 2 vols., ed. M. Lobel (London, 1975), i. 6. For discussions of the archaeological evidence for 10th and 11thcent. Norwich, see A. Carter, ‘The Anglo-Saxon Origins of Norwich: The Problems and Approaches’, A-SE, 7 (1978), 175–204; M. Atkin, ‘The Norwich Survey 1971–85: A Retrospective View’; and B. S. Ayers, ‘The Urbanization of East Anglia: The Norwich Perspective’, both in J. E. Gardiner (ed.), Flatlands and Wetlands: Current Themes in East 51 Darby, Domesday Geography, 140. Anglian Archaeology, (Norwich, 1993). 52 DB, Norfolk, ii, fos. 116r–v, pp. 1057–8. 53 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, tr. and ed. M. Swanton (London, 2000), E, 1075, pp. 210–11, and M. Chibnall, Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1166 (Oxford, 1986), 36. For an impression of initial lack of enthusiasm among the citizens for the building of the cathedral see N. Tanner, ‘The Cathedral and the City’, in Ian Atherton et al. (eds.), Norwich Cathedral, Church, City and Diocese (London, 1996), 258. 47 48


Little St William of Norwich

the river, incorporating the intramural area known as Tombland, in order to accommodate a cathedral and an episcopal palace.54 But too much should not be made of the ‘negative’ relations between town and cathedral priory. Though the charter evidence reveals little early urban support for the priory, the townsfolk could not afford to remain aloof from their new neighbours for too long. By the mid-twelfth century, Norwich had come to occupy a unique position as the centre of royal and episcopal administration in East Anglia. In the long term both castle and cathedral, by far the most disruptive programmes of urban development undertaken in the town, only succeeded in boosting the town’s commercial, trading, and service sectors and secured its status as the regional capital for centuries to come. Developments on the cathedral site included a wharf adjacent to the priory precinct, which consolidated Norwich’s trading links with the continent.55 It is likely that William’s cult was partly intended to forge new and more positive links between priory and people, thus addressing any feeling of resentment that may have still lingered. The prosperous economic conditions at that time were probably a particular attraction to the Jews. By the 1140s there was a community of about 200 living in Norwich.56 Their activities were varied though predominantly commercial, as shown in two important articles by Robert C. Stacey on the political, economic, and religious implications of Jewish settlement in England. Stacey infers from their settlement in centres close to fairs and near mints that the Jews were probably not simply moneylenders, but also moneychangers for foreign merchants, bullion dealers, and goldsmiths.57 In these and other roles they competed and dealt with Christian clients, funding entrepreneurial activities and stimulating trade and commerce through their swift redistribution of a relatively limited supply of currency. When foreign merchants came

54 See Brian S. Ayres, ‘The Cathedral Site Before 1096’, ibid. 72, for the likelihood of relatively dense settlement under the site of the ecclesiastical precinct. 55 For the observation that ‘the international trading role of Norwich was an essentially Norman phenomenon’, see Atkin, ‘Norwich Survey’, 133. But cf. Carter, ‘AngloSaxon Origins’, 202–3, for a late 10th-century settlement shift to the waterfront and the presence of 11-cent. Pingsdorf and Ardennes-type wares on numerous sites. 56 Campbell, ‘Norwich’, ii. 10. 57 R. C. Stacey, ‘Jewish Lending and the Medieval English Economy’, in R. H. Britnell and B. M. S. Campbell (eds.), A Commercialising Economy: England 1086–1300 (Manchester, 1995), 86.

Little St William of Norwich


to trade at Thetford, Norwich, Yarmouth, or Lynn (and indeed anywhere else in the kingdom) they were forbidden to use foreign currency. By offering good rates of exchange the Jews were useful in encouraging consumption at the markets, and in the process they acquired silver bullion that could be traded in at the mints. The social and political implications of these economic activities are clear. The settlement of Jewish communities near royal castles draws attention to the relationship that existed between them and royal government. Technically Jews and their assets were the property of the king, available for him to draw upon when needed. As creditors of local communities and effective tax collectors for the king, the Jews were caught in a pincer movement. While trying to make a living for themselves they had to balance the needs of their creditors with royal fiscal demands. Through advances of small-scale loans to members of the peasantry, the Jews provided financial support to increasing numbers of people. As agents of the Crown they were periodically forced to close this credit market and call in debt. Stacey describes how the Angevin administration increasingly intervened in the management of the Jewish credit market while doing little to protect the Jews from the resentment this might cause.58 To the commercial establishment of East Anglia, the Jewish community thus represented both a threat and an opportunity. They extended opportunities for personal advancement and made possible new levels of risk taking that brought prosperity. But their contribution to regional economic development also brought the prospect of financial ruin, unwelcome competition that made them the objects of envy, and other attendant social anxieties to local Christian communities. During the 1130s and 1140s they also brought new competition to urban centres like Norwich, where English families were only just attempting to revive their fortunes in the wake of the Norman appropriation of their landed wealth. The Life and Passion, by dwelling on the bereavement suffered by one particular English family, drew upon and focused these anxieties. Among recent historians, R. I. Moore has done a good deal to elucidate this ambiguous nature of the Jewish presence within Christian 58 R. C. Stacey, ‘Anti-Semitism and the English Medieval State’, in J. R. Maddicott and D. M. Palliser (eds.), The Medieval State. Essays Presented to James Campbell (London, 2000), 172.


Little St William of Norwich

communities and the terms in which clerical elites chose to publicize that ambiguity. The practice of their faith made Jews stand out among their Christian neighbours, particularly at important times in the Christian calendar. In addition, their literacy and numeracy undermined the very grounds upon which the Christian clerical elites were building their own claims to an exclusive status within Christian society. Such circumstances made the Jews targets for the rhetoric of pollution.59 Among the earliest elaborations of such rhetoric was Thomas’s accusation of Jewish ritual murder. The proof of William’s sanctity formally required a commitment to the idea of his martyrdom. In pursuing this proof, Thomas invited his audiences to adopt a polarized view of their relations with Jews. The accusation of ritual murder emphasized and exploited lay social anxieties about Jews, offering them an opportunity to express it with reference to their identity as Christians. That the laity should have reason to fear and hate Jews became part of the commitment to William’s sanctity. Whilst such rhetoric did not explicitly advocate violence against Jews it offered a rationale for violence in terms of being Christian. One of the first uses of this rhetoric to frustrate judicial process was in the case of the murder of a Norwich Jew by Simon de Noyers in 1146. The incident illustrates the conflict between the royal castle and cathedral in Norwich over the issue of cult promotion. Simon de Noyers was a tenant of the cathedral priory accused by the Jews of organizing the murder of Eleazer, one of the leading Norwich Jews of the time.60 Simon owed Eleazer money and appears to have seen the murder as a convenient way of clearing his debt. The Jews brought the accusation before the royal court and King Stephen himself sat in judgement on the case. Bishop William Turbe performed a masterly feat of oratory at the court hearing in defence of his vassal, according to Thomas, who includes a lengthy transcript of it.61 The bishop cited the unresolved case of William’s murder as a means of diverting attention away from the defendant and turning the accusation back upon the Jews. Stephen responded (Thomas alleges under the influence of bribes) by adjourning the Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society, 100–1. Simon de Noyers was a regular witness to the acta of Bishop Everard, but not of Bishop William Turbe, suggesting a new distance effected between him and the episcopal household. See English Episcopal Acta: Norwich 1070–1214, ed. C. Harper-Bill (London, 61 Life and Passion, 2. 14, pp. 99–110. 1990), nos. 35–7, 39–40, 49–50. 59 60

Little St William of Norwich


proceedings indefinitely. Bishop William’s speech saved one of his vassals from conviction for murder. Stephen’s failure on behalf of the Jews to answer the accusation made by Bishop William may have helped to advance the case of those in favour of William’s cult. A more determined effort to prevent William’s death from snowballing into a cult was sustained by John de Chesney, sheriff of East Anglia. As the royal representative in the region, John was obliged to protect the Jewish community and to mediate between it and the Christian populace. It is likely that he had other reasons, which will be discussed below, for obstructing the cathedral’s efforts at cult promotion. The Life and Passion subjects John to particularly bitter criticism, accusing him of colluding in the Jewish conspiracy. Thomas levelled two indictments against him. First, he accused him of accepting bribes from the Jews to prevent their crime from being brought to justice.62 Secondly, he accused the sheriff of attempting to intervene against the canonical election of Bishop William Turbe, an obvious supporter of the cult. For these crimes John suffered for two years from haemorrhage that finally took his life soon after the ceremonial installation of Bishop William.63 Although on a lesser scale, we might count John de Chesney alongside Eleazer as another victim of pollution rhetoric. We might even choose to admire his fortitude, unlike Stephen, in providing the Jewish community with security in difficult times. An interesting personal dimension to the story, however, helps to shed further light on his diligence. John de Chesney belonged to a family of important East Anglian landholders, holding both directly from the king and as under-tenants.64 His father Robert fitz Walter appears in the surviving pipe roll of Henry I, accounting for the royal farms of both counties.65 John, together with his brother William who succeeded him as sheriff of Norwich, took the name of their mother, Sybil de Chesney, a decision that probably reflected their pride in what was a powerful family name.66 As well as belonging to two Ibid. 1. 8, p. 9. Thomas speaks of John without using his matronym and expresses the wish that he died ‘truly penitent, let us hope, even at that late hour (utinam vel tunc vere penitens diem clausit extremum)’, perhaps to avoid antagonism towards John’s brother and successor, William de Chesney. Ibid. 2. 15, p. 112. 64 J. H. Round, ‘The Origin of the Stewarts and their Chesney Connection’, The 65 PR3HII, p. 90. Genealogist, 18 (1901), 4. 66 See J. A. Green, The Aristocracy of Norman England (Cambridge, 1997), 346–7, for the practice of adopting the mother’s name. 62 63


Little St William of Norwich

important families, Robert fitz Walter and Sybil de Chesney, inspired by a trip to the church of St Faith, Conques, became joint founders of a Benedictine monastery at Horsham St Faith near Norwich. The cult of a new child saint at the cathedral cannot have been an attractive prospect for the family whose monastery had its own cult to protect. Indeed the Life and Passion provides examples of William’s successful poaching of potential clients of St Faith at Horsham. A man of Blythburgh, where land had been given to John de Chesney by King Stephen, c.1135–47,67 was attacked by a viper that poisoned him when he was out in the fields supervising the harvest. The story was related to Thomas by two priests, Geoffrey of St Christopher’s church in Norwich and Ralph son of Hervey the baker.68 He was cured after committing himself to the protection of William and taking a candle made to his length to the cathedral. An employee of the Chesney family, Geoffrey, clerk of Sheriff William de Chesney, was cured of severe toothache when he applied dust from the shrine of William to his teeth. More blatantly, when a woman of Belaugh fashioned three wax candles and offered them up in turn to the Holy Trinity, St William, and St Faith, the candle vowed to William bled as a token of his healing power. At its height, St William’s cult attracted people who might previously have imagined that their interests were looked after by the patron saint of their lord’s family. On another occasion the priory intervened in the private affairs of the Chesney family. For reasons unrecorded in the narrative, a knight of William de Chesney called Robert found himself the victim of his lord’s great fury. Fearing his life, Robert took sanctuary in the church of St Andrew at Bedingham. In retaliation, William de Chesney destroyed the crops on Robert’s land. But St William took pity on Robert and advised him in a vision to ‘beg the monks of Norwich to intercede for you’.69

67 Blythburgh Priory Cartulary, ed. C. Harper-Bill, 2 vols. (Woodbridge, 1980–1), i, no. 60, pp. 54–5. Blythburgh appears in Domesday Book as a royal manor. DB, Suffolk, ii, fol. 282, pp. 1186–7. 68 Life and Miracles, 6. 15, pp. 251–3. The second of these priests may be related to the Norwich man, Robert, son of Hervey, ‘once a baker’, who was cured of an illness at the shrine. It may even be possible that they are the same person, and that Thomas accidentally recorded the wrong name in one of the narratives. If the Norwich man were the priest mentioned in the story of the Blythburgh man, it would help to explain the fact that upon recovering health he ‘took his Psalter, began the Psalms and rejoiced that he could 69 Ibid. 4. 8, pp. 172–4. run through the whole Psalter’, ibid. 194.

Little St William of Norwich


T HE RO LE OF WI LLI A M’ S FA M IL Y I N T HE P ROM OTIO N OF H IS CULT In conjunction with that party among the priory of whom Thomas became the official spokesman, William’s family played a critical role in the formation of the cult. William belonged to an Anglo-Saxon family seemingly of some local standing. His maternal grandfather, Wulward, is described as ‘famous in his time . . . having great experience at explaining visions’.70 Wulward’s daughters acquired a reputation for having them. William’s mother, Elviva had a vision of a fish with twelve red fins that was taken up to heaven. From it her father correctly predicted William’s birth and the fame marked out for him at the age of 12, ‘by the Holy Spirit’s favour’.71 Along with his brother Robert and his cousin Alexander, William belonged to the first generation of his family to be baptized with Norman names.72 Like that of Godric of Finchale, William’s sanctity reflects something of the economic climate of the day. He was put to work at the age of 8 as an apprentice tanner in the village of Haveringland and soon moved to Norwich to continue his apprenticeship with a master skinner. William was a member of the commercial community in Norwich that benefited from the business that Jews sent their way. Thomas notes that William was chided by his uncle Godwin for taking on Jewish trade in the shape of pawned clothes and leather goods that they sent him for repair.73 The fateful offer of work as an assistant in the archdeacon of Norwich’s kitchens would have rewarded his efforts with a stable and promising career path. William’s premature death foreclosed his chances of making the fortune that his famous contemporary Godric made. His route to sanctity, however, provides a variation on the same theme of social mobility. Along with Godwin Sturt, husband of William’s aunt, who first brought the accusation of murder to the cathedral’s official attention at the synod of 1144, William’s close female relatives played an important part in preserving a memory of his death that involved Jewish foul play. 70 ‘presbitero famoso illius temporis . . . Pater itaque plurimam exponendarum 71 Ibid. 1. 1, pp. 10–11. visionum peritiam habens’, ibid. 1. 1, p. 11. 72 For the wider significance of this 12th-cent. change in naming practices, see R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950–1350 73 Life and Passion, 1. 3, pp. 14–16. (London, 1993), 271.

Little St William of Norwich


His mother Elviva made public lament of her loss in the streets of Norwich and claimed the Jews as the culprits only days after the body was found. William’s maternal aunt, Leviva, related to Thomas a dream she had had on the eve of Palm Sunday in which the Jews had attacked her and severed one of her legs.74 Leviva’s daughter, in book 2 of the Life and Passion, after being told by her mother to follow her cousin, claims to have seen William taken by his traditor to a Jewish house. It is interesting that Thomas should draw attention to these womens’ stories in his work because it suggests that their testimony, as members of a religious family known for their supernatural gifts, carried some weight among people. Thomas’s willingness to accept their testimony and convictions allows to surface something of the important role played by women in local communities as shapers of religious identity, particularly in the context of the family and childcare. Both maternal distress at bereavement and supernaturally inspired female intuition were clearly a useful means by which churchmen could negotiate with local communities. The theme of childcare and the cult is echoed in the experience of one of the priory’s benefactors, Mabel le Bec, who received a splinter of marble from William’s tomb for the protection of her children from illness.75 Members of the cathedral priory eager to promote William’s cult owed much to his female relatives as experts in shaping religious identity among the lay community. Their reward is recorded in the Life and Passion. Elviva’s other son, Robert, was made a monk of the priory and upon her death, her son’s fame privileged her enough to be buried within the monk’s cemetery. William’s death clearly improved the fortunes of his family by winning them the material support of the cathedral. But Thomas records one member of William’s family who was less willing to cooperate with the priory in the cult promotion. Godwin Sturt used a contact relic of William’s to effect healings around the town for profit. After demanding a hen from a poor woman he had cured, Godwin’s private enterprise was punished when the saint killed all his chickens.76 Clearly, his status as a priest and his membership of the saint’s family combined two forms of social influence that, unlike that of the women, were intolerable to the cathedral priory. 74 76

Life and Passion, 1. 14, pp. 40–1. Life and Passion, 5. 5, pp. 192–3.


See below, p. 44 n. 121.

Little St William of Norwich


RHETORIC AND REALITY It would appear that the commercial sections of East Anglian society were susceptible to Thomas’s use of pollution rhetoric against the Jews. Among William’s family and their close friends the temptation to embrace such rhetoric may understandably have been very strong. But we must not be too quick to assume that it won over every soul among its Christian audience, nor that its popular acceptance was generally understood as an invitation to commit violence against Jews. Thomas observes that, by 1150, the memory of St William had waned ‘and in the hearts of all it had nearly died out’.77 Interestingly, William Turbe’s defence of Simon de Noyers before King Stephen emphasized the good relations that Jews and Christians shared as evidence for the total absence of a motive for the murder of Eleazer. However disingenuous the claim, its employment suggests that it may have had some resemblance to actual circumstances. Indeed, evidence exists for the continuation of everyday working relations between the Jews and Christians of Norwich even during the height of cult activity. Despite the events of 1144 and 1146, when the Jews were forced to seek protection in the royal castle, the Pipe Roll for 1159 records the Jews of Norwich as paying 7212 marks towards the king’s Toulouse campaign. This was the largest sum paid outside London, giving an impressive indication of the level of commerce that continued to exist between Jews and Christians at this time.78 In fact, the cathedral priory itself contributed to this trade by exploiting opportunities offered by the Jews as agents of land. Some time between 1150 and 1154, Prior Richard bought out the debt of 20 marks owed by Ralph, son of Ribald, to the Jews, acquiring for the priory in the process land in Dilham and Panxworth.79 There is little evidence in the miracle narratives that William’s cult was used by the laity as an opportunity actively to persecute the Jews in Ibid. 2. 7, p. 84. H. G. Richardson, The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (London, 1960), 9. 79 E. Stone, ‘The Estates of Norwich Cathedral Priory’, (D. Phil. Oxford, 1956), 92. This may be the tip of an iceberg, if we bear in mind arrangements being made at this time between obedientiaries of Bury St Edmunds abbey and the Jews as described by Jocelin de Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmund, ed. D. Greenway and J. Sayers (Oxford, 1989), 1–7. 77 78


Little St William of Norwich

their midst. Relations between Jews and Christians were more sophisticated than the lurid terms in which Thomas depicts them. The Jews were in fact an indispensable presence in East Anglian society, whose role was not easily reducible to a stereotype. Indeed, one final scrap of evidence in the Life and Passion may reveal something of the subtle and congenial relations between the Jews and Christians of Norwich. Thomas notes with horror that the Jews took pride in their reputation as murderers of William and joked to Christians that they had done them a favour in presenting them with a saint. Rather than accepting this in the spirit intended by Thomas, that is, as an inflammatory remark and an admission of guilt, we might see it as evidence of a more earthy understanding between Jews and Christians in which both parties could appreciate the absurdity and mordant irony of the whole episode.80

THE GEOGRAPHICAL EXTENT OF THE CULT In its description of a region teeming with economic activity Thomas of Monmouth’s miracle collection testifies to the coherence and productivity of the Norfolk landscape. Such characteristics owed much to Herbert’s actions as a founding bishop in the continental mould, and in this way, the Life and Passion bears the imprint of Herbert’s remarkable legacy.81 The geographical character of the cult can be established by mapping the place names mentioned by Thomas. In over 90 per cent of the miracle narratives, a place of origin is recorded for the main protagonists. Only one pilgrim visited Norwich from abroad. Philip de Bella Arbore, a nobleman of Lorraine travelled around England and Ireland in irons as a penance for killing his brother. At Norwich his fetters broke and William, who was known for this kind of miracle,82 was credited with having released him from his sin. A Cologne wine merchant visiting 80

Life and Passion, 2. 11, p. 95. The monastery followed the liturgical customs of Fe´camp and shared its involvement in the fishing industry (see n. 139 below). Herbert’s style of episcopal rule shares characteristics with that of Burchard of Worms in his vigorous development of an episcopal empire and in his appreciation of eremitical spirituality. See the Life of Burchard of Worms, ed. G. Waitz, MGH SS 4 (Hanover, 1841), cc. 6, 10–11, pp. 830–46. 82 Thomas includes a story of William as a baby at his baptismal party, handling the fetters of a penitent beggar, which dropped off, releasing the man from sin. Life and Passion, 1. 2, p. 13. 81

Little St William of Norwich


Norwich on that occasion provided Thomas with independent testimony to Philip’s identity.83 William performed miracles for ten people visiting from six locations beyond the bounds of the diocese: Canterbury, York, Lincoln, Worcester, Cambridge, and Battle abbey. In the case of Battle abbey, we can suggest a context for the connection between the pilgrim and the shrine. Reimbert, seneschal of the abbot of Battle, after losing speech and hearing, recalled to memory ‘the most blessed martyr William, whose tomb he had once seen at Norwich’.84 The Chronicle of Battle Abbey records at length the protracted dealings that Walter, abbot of Battle, had with the bishop of Norwich in the struggle to defend the abbey’s rights to advowsons over nine churches in the region.85 Archbishop Theobald sent a mandate to William Turbe instructing him to see that the abbot of Battle received satisfaction on this matter and to do justice to those obstructing this outcome in his diocese.86 The majority of pilgrims, however, had Anglo-Danish names and came from within the diocese. Their distribution across it is heavily weighted in favour of Norfolk. Although William’s relics resided at the episcopal see covering the whole of East Anglia, his power to perform miracles for the people of Suffolk was patchy to say the least. The shape of the cult did not coincide with the boundaries of the diocese. Only seven Suffolk pilgrims reported miracles to Thomas.87 Over ten times that number came from locations in Norfolk. A few estates in Suffolk belonging to the cathedral—Gapton, Homersfield, Hoxne, and Yaxley—were situated near to the border of Norfolk and linked to Yarmouth by the river Waveney. Lindsey, the only remote Suffolk estate of the cathedral at this time provides interesting evidence for the importance of temporal connections with the shrine. A deformed woman from Lindsey travelled to Norwich where she was cured at William’s shrine.88 The absence of extensive priory estates in Suffolk, and the presence of St Edmund at Bury are the likely explanations for relative 83

84 Ibid. 7. 1, pp. 263–4. Ibid. 6. 9, pp. 231–6. The Chronicle of attle Abbey, ed. E. Searle (Oxford, 1980), 225–53. And see C. Harper-Bill, ‘The Struggle for Benefices in Twelfth-Century East Anglia’, A-NS 11 (1988), 113–32. 86 A. Saltman, Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1956), n. 12, p. 244. 87 Pilgrims with Suffolk origins made the journey to Norwich from Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds, Haughley, Lindsey, Hasketon, Dunwich, and Blythburgh. 88 Life and Passion, 7. 12, p. 271. 85


Little St William of Norwich

lack of interest in St William beyond the Little Ouse and the Waveney. The estates of the cathedral priory and the bishop of Norwich89 were relatively compact and restricted to the coastal plains and river valleys of Norfolk, stretching in the form of a crescent from Lynn in the east to Yarmouth and Aldeby at the far western extent of Norfolk. Pilgrims typically came to the shrine of St William from the rural locations and the urban centres of Norfolk within this crescent. It was, then, a combination of both the temporal and spiritual concerns of the bishop and cathedral priory that helped define cult participation (see map). The densest part of the crescent was the cluster of villages to the southwest of Norwich, situated on the tributaries of the Yare, which converge on it just south of Norwich at Trowse. Such villages were no doubt important suppliers of food and goods for the Norwich markets. Pilgrims also came from Langham, Beckam, Thornage, and Ormesby, places where the cathedral held churches and land. The priory held a manor at Taverham and tithes and a meadow at Postwick, whence the daughter of a smith came to the shrine to be cured of a severe illness.90 A little further to the south-west of Norwich and in a region to the southwest of the central watershed and east of the Fenland, the Breckland stands out among the landscapes of Norfolk for its relative absence of devotion to the cult of St William. One exception that perhaps serves to illustrate the rule is the case of a girl called Hugelina who was carried by her father from Rockland to Norwich in the hope of receiving a cure for her deformed feet. Whilst the village lies on the eastern limits of the Breckland, its proximity to Wymondham, Hudeston, and Tivetshall more logically qualify it for mention among the central cluster of pilgrim villages to the south-west of Norwich. The evidence of the miracle collection in this matter would tend to corroborate recent assessments of the Breckland region as an integral part of the Suffolk Breckland, geared to serving the markets of Cambridge, Bury, Thetford, and Lynn in conjunction with the manufacturing regions of Suffolk and Essex and the Fenland economy.91 Despite the possession of land and a church at 89 I have chosen not to make a distinction between the bishop’s lands and those of the cathedral chapter, since the relationship between the bishop and chapter during this period is thought to have been a remarkably close and cooperative one; see C. HarperBill, ‘The Medieval Church and the Wider World’, in Atherton et al., Norwich Cathedral, 90 Life and Passion, 4. 6, pp 170–1. 281–7. 91 M. Bailey, A Marginal Economy? East Anglian Breckland in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989), 143–58.

Little St William of Norwich


Cressingham, and of a church at Threxton, this network of material and spiritual concerns appears to have been peripheral to the economic region for which Holy Trinity, Norwich, provided the centre. The resources of these estates were probably taken by boat up the river Wissey to Hilgay in the Fenland, where the cathedral possessed a mansio, saltpans and an eel marsh, and thence to Lynn.92

WILLIAM’S C ULT AND PASTORAL CARE From its outset the cult of William was the concern not just of the cathedral priory but of the bishop. This was inevitable while the bishop continued notionally to be abbot of the cathedral community.93 Whilst Everard, bishop of Norwich at the time of William’s death and its aftermath, was among the reticent, the evidence suggests that most of the early encouragement for the cause of William’s cult can be linked to William Turbe upon his succession to the bishopric. Though things apparently died down after the synod of 1144, William Turbe’s willingness publicly to return to the issue in the royal court in 1146, his appointment of Wicheman, ‘the bishop’s deputy for hearing confessions’94 in the cathedral, together with the appropriation of Bishop Herbert’s memory by Thomas, give reason to suspect that, in William, the cultic and the pastoral dimensions of his office were central to his future plans for the cathedral and its public profile. In Wicheman, who was able to offer testimony concerning Aelward Ded’s encounter with the Jews possessing the body, and in Thomas of Monmouth, a newcomer to the cathedral priory with a bloodhound’s nose for evidence of William’s sanctity, Bishop William Turbe found the talent he required to promote the profile of the cathedral. Before it became a cult centre, the cathedral was already becoming an important destination for the laity of the diocese. Its importance E. Stone, ‘Estates’, 27. B. Dodwell, ‘The Monastic Community’, in Atherton, et al. Norwich Cathedral, Diocese, 1096–1996 239. That monks played an important early role in episcopal administration is evident in the frequency of monks’ names (including that of William Turbe) in the witness lists of Bishop Herbert, and also in the likelihood that early episcopal business was probably transacted in the chapterhouse, see C. Harper-Bill, EEA, pp. xliii–xliv and B. Dodwell, Norwich Cathedral Charters, Pipe Rolls Society, 40, 46 94 Life and Passion, p. 84. (1974–85), p. xiii. 92 93


Little St William of Norwich

as a centre of worship for the diocese is indicated by the direct connection Bishop Herbert had established between the priory and the people through a customary payment called caritas given by priests at twice-yearly synods for the construction of the cathedral. By Herbert’s death in 1119, the cathedral was built as far as the east end of the altar of the Holy Cross, a little into the nave.95 During Everard’s episcopacy the payment of caritas was confirmed; and the completion of the nave opened up a huge space that was to become an important focus for diocesan ceremony. At its completion, in terms of size, the nave of Norwich cathedral numbered among the first rank of cathedrals north of the Alps.96 Thomas notes that William’s body was dumped in the woods on Absolution Day: ‘That day was Absolution Day, when the penitents of the whole diocese were accustomed to assemble in crowds in the mother church at Norwich.’97 The miracle of a girl witnessed, we are told, by Godiva, wife of Sibald,98 took place on Absolution Day when Bishop William Turbe was preaching in the cathedral. With this in mind, it is worth examining the possibility that the cult was in part intended to function as an extension and elaboration of the bishop of Norwich’s pastoral mission. The Domesday Book gives us the indication of a Norfolk landscape with a dense and precocious distribution of local parish churches.99 Arrangements for the provision of pastoral care, however, did not live up to standards of the reform church if credence is to be placed in Herbert de Losinga’s comment after the council of Westminster in 1102 that a purge of married priests would effectively close down the church in his diocese.100 Forty years later, things were little changed. The image Harper-Bill presents of William Turbe, from his acta, is of ‘a conservative monastic bishop, eager to improve the pastoral ministry within his diocese . . . but having no


E. Fernie, The Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral (Oxford, 1993), 16–17. Only Winchester and Bury St Edmunds had longer naves; ibid. 138, table 1. 97 ‘Dies ille dies absolutionis erat, quo totius episcopii catervatim pententiales ad matrem ecclesiam Norwicensem convenire consueverant’, Life and Passion, 1. 6, p. 26. 98 Sibald, son of Brunstan, gave land in Conesford, within Norwich, to the abbey of St Benet-Holme when his nephew Gregory was made a monk there, ‘ad ignem infirmorum monachorum’, (for heating the monks’ infirmary), The Register of the Abbey of St Benet of Holme, ed. J. R. West, Norfolk Record Society, 2–3 (1932), 2, no. 177, p. 99. 99 Williamson, Origins of Norfolk, 2, 157–8. 100 Harper-Bill, ‘Struggle for Benefices’, 126. 96

Little St William of Norwich


overriding conviction that a celibate clergy or the ending of hereditary benefices were the essential means towards that goal’.101 Instead of campaigning against the married clergy in his diocese, William Turbe’s tool for extending episcopal control over the diocese was the official letter of institution, a relatively new instrument of English episcopal administration.102 Such documents were increasingly acquired by monasteries from bishops in the later twelfth century as confirmation of the ecclesiastical benefices that came into their possession from lay benefactors. As such they gave bishops a valuable purchase on the relationship between corporate rectors and local priests that in principle strengthened the attachment of parish priests to the episcopal centres of administration.103 The moral rationalizations of this new episcopal right are expressed in the arenga of William’s charter to the cell of Norwich monks based at Lynn, as follows: ‘We are moved by our official authority to take vigilant care over the churches placed under our control, and to provide for those churches destitute of their rectors such pastors as are able to win souls and show pious solicitude.’104 The cult of St William added to the resources of the monks at Lynn, who were made responsible in their foundation charter for priestly functions in the new maritime parish.105 Lynn was an important place of origin for the sick who visited William’s shrine, as we shall see below. Eric Stone has argued in his study of the estates of Norwich cathedral priory that the cathedral monks exploited the parish churches in their possession with moderation. As corporate rectors they imposed only reasonable pensions on local priests and were moderate in their claims to tithe. Such findings contrast with the generally ‘blatantly fiscal’ exploitation of

101 C. Harper-Bill, ‘Bishop William Turbe and the Diocese of Norwich, 1146–1174’, A-NS 7 (1985), 158–9. Note that with this evaluation Harper-Bill sets the bishop firmly alongside his predecessor, Bishop Herbert. 102 Ibid. 158. See M. Brett, The English Church under Henry I (Oxford, 1975), 140–6; and H. Mayr-Harting, The Acta of the Bishops of Chichester 1075–1207 (Torquay, 1964), 18, 33–4, for discussion and examples of letters of institution during the episcopate of Bishop Seffrid II of Chichester, 1180–1204. 103 B. R. Kemp, ‘Monastic Possession of Parish Churches in England in the Twelfth Century’, JEH 31 (1980), 133–60. 104 ‘Officii nostri auctoritate movemur ecclesiis nostro regimini commissis vigilantem impendere curam, et hiis que suis rectoribus destitute sunt tales providere pastores qui apti sunt ad lucrandas animas et piam exibeant sollicitudinem’, Norwich Cathedral Charters, i, no. 132. 105 English Episcopal Acta: Norwich, ed. Harper-Bill, no. 15, p. 14.

Little St William of Norwich


ecclesiastical benefices by monasteries found by Harper-Bill in twelfthcentury East Anglia.106 It may be that the relative moderation of the cathedral monks in these matters reflects and gives substance to Bishop William’s pious words. Turning to the evidence of the Life and Passion it might be useful to bear in mind the bishop’s words when thinking about how priests frequently figure in its miracle narratives. In the Life and Passion, William repeatedly lends dignity and authority to ministries of local priests. The priest of Wells who visited the Norwich synod of 1144 returned to his village with the story of William’s martyrdom that he related to a sick man called Lewin and his friends, who ‘were despairing of his recovery’. Lewin had had visions of heaven and hell in which he saw folk whom he recognized as his neighbours. They asked him to pass on to their living relatives the warning of repentance for the sins they had committed. In heaven Lewin had already seen little St William seated on a footstool by the feet of the Lord. Lewin’s father, we are told, had visited Norwich twice to investigate his son’s claims about the child saint, but it was only after the priest attended the synod that the link was made and the cure successfully sought and obtained. This narrative appears at the beginning of the collection and was partly intended by Thomas to provide more independent evidence of his case against the Jews. In another sense, it recorded the poignant message intended for the community at Wells that, in the interests of themselves and the salvation of their dead kin, they should seek forgiveness for their sins. The role of priests as agents of the sacraments was one of the means by which the laity was to seek relief from the pains of this world and salvation in the next. Ida, the wife of a Norwich moneyer called Eustace, was cured of gout in her knees and shoulder in front of the shrine after making confession to a priest and taking communion. A tanner of Norwich called Gurwan, whose five children had all died young was visited by a woman of London who advised him that his wife’s sixth child would survive a sickness that threatened his life. The condition was that he must take a candle to the shrine of William and offer a yearly tribute there. A blind man whom Gurwan supported with alms was also cured when a priest was paid 3d. to say three masses in honour of the Holy Trinity on his behalf. The linking of these two miracles in the 106

Harper-Bill, ‘Struggle for Benefices’, 132.

Little St William of Norwich


narrative juxtaposes the theme of St William’s miraculous power with the pastoral support offered by the cathedral church of the Holy Trinity. This idea is emphasized in a dramatic episode in the history of the cult involving a virgin of Dunwich. Despite employing the full barrage of masses, prayers, alms, holy water, and crosses, local priests failed to protect the young woman who was assailed by an incubus in the form of a dashing young knight. Success was only achieved when the girl, advised in a vision by Herbert de Losinga, visited the cathedral and made confession to Wicheman. Two more miracles wrought by William underline this theme of the redemptive power of priestly sacraments. Interestingly, they number among three narratives providing the climax to the collection of miracles that form book 7 of the Life and Passion, compiled by Thomas soon after the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. In the first, a woman visiting the church built on the site of William’s burial in the woods of Thorpe was barred from access to the altar by the saint until she confessed her sins to an old priest there. Thomas describes her as a ‘witch with polluted step’, and she is made to cry out to her party of Cambridge pilgrims ‘I am a sinner loaded with guilt’. Thomas’s account of the woman’s experience echoes the story of St Mary of Egypt, the fifth-century penitent prostitute barred entrance to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.107 The second miracle is described by Thomas as the ‘miracle of miracles’ and came to his attention through a letter written by Christian, a monk of Pershore.108 In it, Agnes, the daughter of Adam of Croome, had a vision of William at the church in Thorpe wood. He was vested in priest’s robes and about to celebrate mass, but since she was female, there was no one to act as server. A boy called Robert appeared in the role, enabling the completion of the mass. The girl played her part by mumbling in English the responses to the sacramental prayers offered. Robert then gave her a gold coin to offer William, who then instructed her to wash the feet of a crucifix in the name of the Holy Trinity. Having done so she ate breadcrumbs soaked in the water. The story was later confirmed to Thomas by the girl, her father Adam, a chaplain, and other trustworthy persons.109 107 Aelfric’s Lives of the Saints, 3 vols, ed. W. W. Skeat, Early English Text Society, 76, 82, 94 (1881–1900), ii. 3–54. 108 ‘pre miraculis ut ita dicam miraculum’, Life and Passion, 7. 18, p. 283. 109 Ibid. 7. 18, p. 289.


Little St William of Norwich

William’s power to intervene in the relationships of East Anglian priests and the laity were not restricted to the sacramental. William’s coordination of practical and material support for and through local priests is a recurring theme of the miracle collection and suggestive of their increasing importance as mediators between local communities and structures of episcopal authority. Peter, a priest of Langham, charitably supported an old, bent woman, who had been known to visit the shrines of several saints on horseback with little success. Finally, after hobbling ‘slower than any tortoise’ all the way to Norwich, a journey of twenty miles that took her the best part of seventy days, she was cured in the cathedral. Sceptical onlookers found it difficult to recognize the miracle until Peter arrived to provide testimony to the truth of her assertions.110 As mentioned above, the testimony of two more priests, Geoffrey of St Christopher’s in Norwich and Ralph, son of Hervey the baker, corroborated the story involving the reeve of John de Chesney who was attacked by a snake.111 Finally, a man suffering from epilepsy was accompanied by a priest of Lothingland to the shrine where, after offering a candle and prayer, he was cured.112 From the evidence of the Life and Passion it would appear that Bishop William’s official efforts to promote and support the parish priesthood were complemented by St William’s support for priests and their families. He cured Walter, a priest of Tivetshall, and his family and healed the daughter of Edwin, a priest of Taverham, whose grandmother was the sister of St William’s own grandmother. We have already seen the punishment of Godwin Sturt who attempted to go freelance with a relic of William he possessed. Another miracle in which St William tested the conscience of a priest was one whose successful effect was close to Thomas’s heart, involving as it did the loss of a Psalter that he had written. Ralph, a priest of St Michael’s, Norwich, returned the Psalter to the priory after buying it for 3d. in the Norwich market-place. Ralph’s apparent reluctance to do the honest thing allowed him to go at least one night with the book still in his possession. The reappearance of the lost Psalter on the market, in such a well-monetized environment as Norwich, was hardly the material for a miracle narrative. Indeed, for Thomas the recovery of the book appears to have depended on his rather 110 111

‘pre miraculis ut ita dicam miraculum’, Life and Passion, 6. 11, pp. 242–4. 112 Life and Passion, 6. 7, p. 228. See n. 68.

Little St William of Norwich


uncharitable assumption that the miracle lay in the pressure St William brought to bear upon Ralph in his dreams. Two narratives describe the leading role played by priests in moments of adversity at sea. ‘Certain of the county of Norfolk together with a priest of Aylsham named Ralph’ were caught in a storm while returning from business conducted in the ‘further parts of England’. Prayers and the offer of yearly tribute were sent up to William when nothing more could be done by the sailors to retrieve the apparently fatal situation. Following their successful return to land, they hastened to Norwich to make good their vows. Faced with similar conditions the captain of a merchant ship received ‘the advice of his comrades and especially that of a priest of Thetford who had come with him from Norway’ to offer a tithe of the cargo’s value for the safe delivery of the ship.113 All of the above narratives draw attention to the special status of priests within their communities and among the social groups with whom they dealt, whether in directing various forms of communal expressions of devotion to William or in providing sacramental support of the laity in preparation for a successful encounter with the saint. In this way the cult of William functioned in part as an extension of the efforts being made by Bishop William Turbe to extend his control over pastoral provision and the standards of his clergy within his diocese.

T H E CU L T ’ S CL I E N T EL E The cult of St William clearly offered a broader range of associations with which the priory could cultivate relationships with the laity. But among which groups in particular was William’s cult popular? Prior to the advent of the cult, most of the priory’s benefactions were received from successive kings and bishops. As a focus for their piety and strategies of gift-giving, the cathedral seems to have figured only marginally in the minds of the Norfolk aristocracy. Particularly remarkable is the failure of the founding bishop’s major tenants to follow their lord in endowing the priory with land. Subsequent grants were typically ‘few in number and small in content’.114 Ibid. 6. 17, 7. 17, pp. 254–6, 276. Early lay benefactors include Alan fitz Flahald (Eaton), and Godric dapifer (Newton) and Hubert de Ria, who for his grant of a number of tithes was given the 113 114


Little St William of Norwich

The energies invested by Robert fitz Walter and his wife Sybil de Chesney in founding their own monastic community at Horsham have already been mentioned. Their activities belonged to a wider trend of aristocratic foundations made over the next seventy years that by 1150 had seen a shift from a limited monastic presence on the Norfolk landscape to one that was diverse and numerous.115 Within this wider context of monastic patronage the cathedral priory had to compete for attention. The cult of St William must have had a role for the cathedral in its attempts to reach out to the Norfolk knightly and aristocratic families. Indeed, the saint healed several people from these classes. A daughter of Reginald de Warenne, whose family had founded the Cluniac houses at Castle Acre and Lewes, was cured at the shrine of a weakness that had brought her close to death.116 Claricia of Markshall, went on a pilgrimage to William’s shrine where she was cured of acute pains in her kidneys and knees that had prevented her from walking.117 Her uncles, Thomas informs his readers, were Henry and Warin fitz Gerold, both having served at Duke Henry’s court during the reign of Stephen, the latter serving Henry’s chamberlain until his death in 1158.118 The fitz Gerolds probably knew Adam, clerk of Yarmouth. He worked as a royal official in Norfolk and Suffolk in the 1170s.119 Adam also appears in charters of St Benet Holme, described as a ‘clerk of the king’.120 Thomas’s miracle collection records his visit to the shrine ‘in great weakness of body’.121 After offering a candle measured to his height

privilege of laying the second foundation stone of the cathedral. See B. Dodwell, ‘The Foundation of Norwich Cathedral’, TRHS, 5th ser. 7 (1957), 9, 14, and eadem, Norwich Cathedral Charters, Pipe Roll Society, 40, 46 (1974–85), 40, pp. xii–xiii. 115 For a convenient table illustrating this trend and listing the names of those families involved in it, see B. Thompson, ‘Monasteries and their Patrons at Foundation and Dissolution’, TRHS, 6th ser. 4 (1994), 124–5. 116 Life and Passion, 6. 2, pp. 222–3. One of Reginald de Warenne’s daughters, Isabella, was married to King Stephen’s younger son William, as part of the arrangements made between the king and Duke Henry in December 1153 at Westminster. Another daughter Gundrada, named after a grandmother who died in childbirth, was the product of his second marriage to Alice, heiress to the honor of Wormegay, to which he succeeded in 1166. See I. J. Sanders, English Baronies: A Study of their Origins and Descent, 1086– 117 Life and Passion, 3. 7, p. 132. 1327 (Oxford, 1960), 101, 143. 118 For his deathbed letter to Henry II, see J. C. Holt, ‘Feudal Society and the Family in Early Medieval England: III. Patronage and Politics’, TRHS, 6th ser. 34 (1984), 24–5. 119 PR 22HII, p. 62, for Adam clericus. 120 The Register of the Abbey of St Benet-Holme, ed. J. R. West, 120–2. 121 ‘in maximam decidit corporis valitudinem’, Life and Passion, 5. 19, p. 210.

Little St William of Norwich


and breadth, he was cured. St William was even attentive to the emotional sensitivities of young knights like Albert, son of Robert Gresley, baron of Manchester and landholder in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk. While hunting on his Norfolk estates, Albert was particularly upset when one of his falcons became gravely ill. The bird’s recovery, thanks to William’s intervention, probably relieved his sense of humiliation at being mocked for crying in front of his father’s knights.122 The most fruitful relationship between the cathedral priory and a member of the Norfolk aristocracy was that forged with Mabel Le Bec. Mabel proved to be the most generous lay benefactor of the priory, endowing it with the manor of Harpley, thirty miles north-west of Norwich. She also showed particular devotion to the cult of William, commissioning a reliquary in which the monks were to place a slipper belonging to the boy. In return for her generosity, she was given a fragment of stone from the shrine itself, which she took home and kept by the bedside of her children to protect them from illness.123 If the cult served as a support for the status and personnel of the Norfolk priesthood and attracted the interests of the Norfolk gentry, by far its biggest appeal was to Norfolk’s urban and commercial establishment and their families, and particularly to those of Norwich. The most frequent place of origin for William’s clients was Norwich, which accounts for just over half the total for Norfolk. Thomas makes this association explicit in his account of Ida, the daughter of a Norwich citizen, Stannard Wrancberd, who had a vision of St Catherine, another child martyr to whom was dedicated a chapel in Thorpe wood.124 St Catherine told Ida that ‘William has been granted to the men of Norwich by Our Lord to be their sole and special patron’.125 The vision was a clear endorsement by Thomas of the cathedral priory and the shrine as a place of spiritual and physical resort for the Norwich townsfolk. Traders, craftsmen, and commercial agents appear throughout the collection, bearing witness to the developed and cohesive nature of the region economically and to the anxieties, dislocations, and hazards that could accompany such development. A mint had existed in Norwich since the tenth century, making the town an important centre for royal control of the coinage in East 122 124

Ibid. 6. 19, pp. 258–9. E. Stone, ‘Estates’, 60.

123 125

Ibid. 3. 11, pp. 135–6. Life and Passion, 3. 23, pp. 155–6.


Little St William of Norwich

Anglia.126 The region’s mints continued under royal control during the reign of Stephen, though in Norwich not without some small evidence of the instability that affected large regions of the South-West, the West, and the Midlands.127 The daughter of Eustace the moneyer, whose wife had also previously been cured by William, was led to the shrine in a fit of madness, whence within the hour she returned home sane.128 Another moneyer, Ralph, was cured of a severe disease when he fulfilled a vow to deliver an offering to the saint. The same narrative contains a remarkable description of the interior of a moneyer’s workshop in the town. While working one of them was seized by the devil.129 The cathedral and castle were a great demand on the service industries of Norwich. The provision of service to these institutions may have been of particular value to the Norwich townsfolk because it offered the prospect of secure terms of employment and perhaps even enhanced social status.130 We have already noted that the job of cook to the archdeacon of Norwich was considered a valuable career prospect to William’s family. The same can be said of two other clients of St William belonging to families that served the monks’ material needs. The son of Aluric, tailor to the monks, was led to the shrine by his mother with a swollen throat and jaw that ‘presented a shocking appearance to all beholders’. He was cured by drinking a glass of water mixed with dust from the tomb.131 Botilda, the wife of Gerard, the monks’ cook, was also relieved of the extreme pain she suffered for fifteen days in childbirth, by the application of a frond of fern found on St William’s body. A second time she was saved by St William from a storm at sea after returning with a group of pilgrims from the shrine of St James of Compostela.132 St William appears in the narratives as a great protector of maritime interests. There are many references to merchants and fishermen, and in one case to Norfolk passengers on a ship returning from foreign pilgrimage.133 In addition to the ships mentioned above, whose cargoes and passengers were saved by the prayer of priests on board, a group of


Campbell, ‘Norwich’, 4. M. Blackburn, ‘Coinage and Currency’, in E. King (ed.), in The Anarchy of King 128 Life and Passion, 4. 13, pp. 182–3. Stephen’s Reign (London, 1994), 149. 129 Ibid. 4. 3, pp. 168–9. 130 See P. Crone, Pre-Industrial Societies (Oxford, 1989), 20, for the implications of 131 Life and Passion, 3. 21, pp. 161–2. serving the elite. 132 Ibid. 2. 6, 4. 10, pp. 78–79, 178–81. 133 Ibid. 4. 10, 178–81. 127

Little St William of Norwich


Yarmouth sailors prayed to William in similar circumstances and were saved. Yarmouth was an important fishing port at this time. Its appearance in the Domesday Book gives us little indication of its true size and importance.134 Its population fluctuated according to the seasonal nature of the herring industry.135 During the autumn the town swelled as peasants from the surrounding villages fished in its coastal waters, landing huge quantities of herring that served as rents136 and supplemented agrarian surpluses on the market.137 Eilmer, a fisherman of Haddiscoe, who worked out of Yarmouth, took his son to William’s shrine where he was cured of palsy.138 The importance of the community and its industry was not lost on Bishop Herbert de Losinga, previously prior of the abbey of Fe´camp, known for its involvement in the Norman herring and salt industries.139 Herbert built a magnificent parish church on the Yarmouth sands, dedicated to St Nicholas. Monks were instated there sometime between 1104 and 1107, no doubt to consolidate its possession after an attempt made by men of the Cinque Ports to take control there.140 Another maritime hazard that merchants faced was the threat of piracy. Thomas records the story of a Lincolnshire merchant captured by pirates in the ‘evil days’ of Stephen’s reign, whose wife, Wimarc, was given alongside four others as hostages for his release. Kept in horrible conditions, the captives tried to poison their jailer with the venom of one of the toads littering their cell. Unfortunately, the jailer was wise to their

134 The unreliability of Domesday Book in recording urban populations and the reasons for it are discussed by S. Reynolds, in ‘Towns in Domesday Book’, in J. C. Holt (ed.), Domesday Studies (Woodbridge, 1987), 300–1. 135 ‘the potatoes of the medieval period’, J. Campbell, ‘Was it Infancy in England? Some Questions of Comparison’, in M. Jones and M. Vale (eds.), in England and her Neighbours: Essays in Honour of Pierre Chaplais (London, 1989), 10. 136 For the use of herring as a currency for the payment of rents see J. Campbell, ‘Domesday Herrings’, in C. Harper-Bill, Carol Rawcliffe, and Richard G. Wilson (eds.), East Anglia’s History: Studies in Honour of Norman Scarfe (Woodbridge, 2002), 6. 137 In the 13th cent., the king exacted a large toll in the form of herrings at the Norwich market; see Campbell, ‘Norwich’, 6. 138 Life and Passion, 7. 2, pp. 264–5. 139 Campbell, ‘Domesday Herrings’, 6 n. 13; and L. Keen, ‘Coastal Salt Production in Norman England’, A-NS 11 (1989), 148, for the 100 salt-works held by Fe´camp Abbey in Sussex. 140 ‘The First Register of Norwich Cathedral Priory’, ed. H. W. Saundars, Norfolk Record Society (1939). f.3d33.


Little St William of Norwich

plan and forced them to take the poison, which killed Wimarc’s fellow hostages and left her painfully swollen for seven years after her release. Recourse to doctors came to no avail, and she gained no relief from the many shrines she visited until she arrived at the shrine of St William. There, on a feast-day trip to the saint, and before a crowd of onlookers, she kissed the stone, offered a candle, and said prayers before vomiting all the poison up and returning to full health again. She took her remarkable story to Rome with the intention of relating it to the Pope.141 Many professions in Norwich reflected an important connection between the town and the sea. The city was a navigable river port at this time and the cathedral had its own wharf where stone from Caen and wood from the adjacent manor of Thorpe had been brought to meet the building requirements of successive bishops. Goods from the near estates of Lakenham, Newton, and Catton, and from the more remote but equally important manors of Hemsby and Martham were no doubt brought to provision the monastic community and supply the city market. Pilgrims are known to have entered the town by this river route. The wife of Walter Flotberd was taken by boat along the Yare from her home in Ormesby and carried by her servants to the shrine where, after sleeping before William and offering him a candle the length of his sepulchre, she was healed of crippling pains in her heart and limbs.142 Two men whose surnames indicate their profession, Martin ‘the Fisher’ and Ebrard Fisher, resided in Norwich.143 A merchant of Norwich called Humphrey was rescued from danger in the harbour at Scarborough when he called on William for help.144 The role of chandlers, not simply in providing candles for pilgrims to William’s shrine and the priory, but also in the business of maintaining ships, may have been important to the town. Among a group of benefactors to the priory, the conditions of whose gifts involved the reception of a relative into the monastic community, is Geoffrey, son of Godfrey the chandler (cerarius).145 Though the evidence for gifts made in exchange for oblations largely involves those of the knightly classes, as the son of a tradesman Geoffrey was probably not alone among the sixty-strong community of monks at Norwich.146 The presence of an in-house chandler would have been very 142 Ibid. 3. 18, p. 151. Life and Passion, 6. 13, pp. 246–50. Ibid. 5. 21, 6. 4, pp. 213–16, 223–4. Martin’s daughter was privileged by a vision of William in which the saint told her to remain a virgin and predicted his mother’s death. 144 Ibid. 7. 17, p. 276. 145 Stone, ‘Estates’, 96. 146 Ibid. 97. 141 143

Little St William of Norwich


useful in supervising the supply of wax offerings made at the shrine. A Norwich chandler called Toke appears in the collection, his wife visiting the shrine twice, first with pains in her limbs and then, after her husband’s death, seeking a cure for her deafness. On both occasions she offered a candle and her prayers.147 If Norwich was the heart of Herbert de Losinga’s episcopal empire then its lungs were Yarmouth and Lynn. Just as the foundation of dependent cells there provided for their spiritual well-being, the cult of St William extended the range of support the church could offer in the economic activities of its parishioners. As well as developing the town and its salt industry, Herbert established a dependent cell in Lynn at the request of its people in c.1101. The priory church of St Margaret was royally endowed with rights in the Saturday market and an annual three-day fair.148 By the mid-twelfth century there are signs that the town’s flourishing economy was causing tensions between its citizens and the priory.149 In the same charter to which he attached the pious arenga discussed above, Bishop William prohibited clerks from receiving the offerings of sailors and others who entered the town to the detriment of the monks at St Margaret’s.150 The cult may also have played a part in protecting these interests. Pilgrims from Lynn to the shrine were Gilliva, the daughter of a carpenter called Burcard, Alan de Setchy, uncle of prior Richard of Norwich, and Roger de Scales, whose name appears on a list of ‘seniors of the town’,151 and who witnessed a benefaction made to the monks of St Margaret’s.152 In shifting the cause of social anxiety onto the Jewish community, the cult also undoubtedly stored up trouble for the future. Along with York, Lynn was troubled by violence against Jews in the wake of Richard I’s coronation in 1189.153 147

Life and Passion, 3. 14, p. 147. Henry I granted ‘unam feriam apud Linnam in festivitate sancta Margarete per tres dies cum saca et soca et aliis consuetudinibus omnibus que pertinent ad jus ferie’, Norwich Cathedral Charters, ed. B. Dodwell, Pipe Roll Society, 40, 46 (1965–85), no. 17, p. 11. 149 D. M. Owen, ‘Bishop’s Lynn: The First Century of a New Town?’, A-NS 2 150 B. Dodwell, Norwich Cathedral Charters, 40, p. 74. (1979), 148. 151 Owen, ‘Bishop’s Lynn’, 152. 152 English Episcopal Acta: Norwich, ed. Harper-Bill, pp. 99–100 n. 121; pp. 135–6 n. 171. 153 P. Hyams, ‘The Jewish Minority in Medieval England 1066–1290’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 25 (1974), 276; and J. Gillingham, Richard I (New Haven, 1999), 107–8. 148


Little St William of Norwich CONCLUSION

The evidence for the cult of William of Norwich makes a reconstruction of the circumstances of his death and the exact nature of early interest in his sanctity an uncomfortable task of speculation for the historian. My own working hypothesis has been that William’s sanctity remained a controversial issue up to the death of Elias in October 1150, by which time Thomas of Monmouth had written book 1 of his Life and Passion. I have proposed the hypothesis that the absence from Book 1 of William’s second translation to the monks’ chapterhouse and its omission of posthumous miracle narratives are surprising enough departures from hagiographical convention to invite the suspicion that the author’s hands were tied by Elias in his early attempts to endorse William’s sanctity. The remaining books identify John de Chesney, alongside Elias, as a second hindrance to early cult promotion. Prior Elias was a reluctant supervisor of William’s translation to the chapterhouse and was angry when the sarcophagus miraculously elevated itself, contrary to his wishes (though according to hagiographical convention). Right up to his death Elias continued to obstruct Thomas’s attempts to have a light and a carpet placed by the tomb. The second obstacle to the promotion of William’s sanctity came from the sheriff of Norwich, John de Chesney, a man who protected the Jews on two occasions from a mob of the faithful, and who repeatedly frustrated the attempts of Norwich bishops to subject the Jews to legal process in the ecclesiastical and royal courts. To Elias the cult, implicitly critical as it was of royal policy concerning the Jews, may have represented a danger to the cathedral’s relations with the Crown, a traditionally important source of patronage and support for the priory. The convent’s communal memory of Bishop Herbert’s attitude to the cult of saints’ relics may also have influenced his attitude towards William. Along with his position as sheriff, John de Chesney’s personal attachment to the family cult of St Faith of Conques was no doubt a factor in his resistance to a cult of St William. Whilst Thomas of Monmouth has in the past been subjected to particular attention as inventor of the blood libel, my contention has been that, along with Wicheman the cathedral’s resident confessor, Thomas figured in the broader plans of Bishop William Turbe, the real

Little St William of Norwich


force behind the cult of the child-martyr. Through the novel means of William’s cult, Bishop William took the opportunity to build upon the legacy of his mentor in early life, Herbert de Losinga. He did so by introducing a new cultic dimension to relations between the priory and the laity. Bishop Herbert had achieved a great deal in carving out of the Norfolk landscape an episcopal empire that looked outwards to the sea and the continent for its wealth and spiritual example. The priory followed the liturgical customs of Fe´camp abbey and, like that abbey, tapped into the salt and herring industries for much of its resources. At the expense of Anglo-Jewish relations, the new cult provided a way of preserving and extending the pastoral values inherited by Bishop William from the founding bishop. With the initial collaboration of William’s family (who would take on the role of a modern-day focus group), the cult articulated and exploited the social anxieties of Norfolk’s commercial establishment, by encouraging them to negotiate a sense of their religious identity and derive practical support from the diocesan centre. Regrettably, the elaboration of a new kind of pollution rhetoric was a price Bishop William was willing to pay in his plans for extending pastoral care to the faithful. Perhaps we might take consolation in the fact that, in their everyday relations with the Jewish community, resort to such a discourse, which exposed Jews both to the threat and the reality of violence, was only one among a number of more positive forms of exchange available to the Christian people of Norfolk.

Little St William of Norwich




Marston Langham

Gnatingdon Sedgeford


Fring Helhoughton Grimston





Crackford Dilham Blickling Aylsham


Belaugh(2) Martham Horeston Weston Taverham Catton Thorpe Tudenham Longville Hemsby + Repps Sprowston Plumstead Ormesby Newton + Norwich Postwick Blofield Yarmouth Flockthorpe Great Markshall Gapton Milton Mulbarton Norton Flordon

Lynn West Winch

Cressington Threxton Wells


Hyndolveston Guist Heydon Elmham Reepham

Harpley Gaywood

Repps Becham




Wymondham Bedingham


Haddiscoe + Aldeby

Tivetshall Needham






Bury St Edmunds


Cambridge Hasleton

Lindsey Scantoniam Key Manors Pilgrim Origin Churches

Map 2. Norwich Cathedral Estates and Pilgrim Origins

6 The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford St Frideswide is among a number of saints who exercised the imaginations of their custodian communities in the two decades on either side of the year 1200. The hagiography of this period reflects an interest in contemporary holy men and Anglo-Saxon saints.1 The renewed interest in hagiography was largely a response to the celebrity enjoyed by Thomas Becket at Canterbury in the wake of his martyrdom and canonization.2 Some monasteries revisited their existing hagiographical records with a view to updating them for possible future canonization procedures. Others began for the first time to examine the careers of their holy predecessors and record their posthumous miracles.3 The cult of St Frideswide is among the first of these categories. When Prior Philip of St Frideswide’s, Oxford, put together his collection of miracles performed soon after the saint’s translation in 1180, he was adding to an already existing body of literature on the life of the saint. In addition to this legacy, strong evidence from different sources suggests that Philip and the canons at Oxford drew inspiration for their own cult promotion from the spectacular success of the cult of Thomas Becket. The social and institutional circumstances behind the canons’ own production of hagiography, and how it fitted into the revival of cult promotion stimulated by events at Canterbury, are the subject of this chapter. A first point to emphasize is how much the twelfth-century hagiographical appreciation of St Frideswide represents her rescue from 1 For a discussion of this literature, written in both Latin and French, see R. Bartlett, ‘The Hagiography of Angevin England’, in P. R. Coss and S. D. Lloyd (eds.), Thirteenth Century England, v (Woodbridge, 1995), 37–52. 2 Becket was murdered on 29 December 1170 and canonized in March 1173. See F. Barlow, Thomas Becket (London, 1986), 1–2. 3 See Ch. 7 for the cult of the hand of St James.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

virtual anonymity in the community of Anglo-Saxon saints. How the memory of St Frideswide’s life was preserved prior to the twelfth century, or indeed, to what extent that memory retained traces of historical veracity, is difficult to say. Her failure to attract Bede’s attention despite her putative death in 727, four years before his completion of the Historia Ecclesiastica, has contributed to a degree of doubt about her actual existence.4 We have to wait almost three centuries before being informed that her body rested in Oxford and she was considered a saint. A charter of Etheldred mentions the minster of Oxford as the place ‘where the body of St Frideswide lies’.5 The Secgan, an early eleventhcentury list of saints’ resting places, locates her in the same church.6 If these are sufficient evidences of her cult status by at least the end of the tenth century,7 we have to wait for over a century for any further attention paid to her life and cult in writing. The early history of the cult thus lies beyond full historical explanation. Her historical neglect by religious communities at Oxford may owe something to the disruptions the institution experienced in its long history. The church St Frideswide is regarded as founding suffered a number of changes to its inmates over the centuries. Prior to its refoundation as an Augustinian priory in 1122,8 it had originally been a double monastery served by nuns and clerks. When the nuns ceased to occupy the church is not known, as is how it came to be a minster and part of a complex of three churches arranged along the south wall of the town.9 The chief church was dedicated to St Mary, and not to the saint reported in the early eleventh century as resting there. The minster probably shared a part of its eighth-century history with that of Eynsham minster, both of them holding neighbouring estates in different locations that appear to have been carved out of the larger estates, presumably of a 4 B. Ward, ‘St Frideswide of Oxford’, in H. Wansbrough and Anthony MarettCrosby (eds.), Benedictines in Oxford (London, 1997), 3. 5 P. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List of Anglo-Saxon Charters (London, 1968), no. 909, p. 277, dated to 1004. 6 D. W. Rollason, ‘Lists of Saints’ Resting Places in Anglo-Saxon England’, A-SE 7 (1979), 93. 7 H. Cam, ‘The Hundred Outside the North Gate’, Oxoniensia, 1–2 (1936–7), 106. 8 J. C. Dickinson, The Origins of the Austin Canons and their Introduction into England (Oxford, 1950), 113–15. 9 J. Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire (Oxford, 1994), 62–3, and fig. 88, p. 147. The church’s 12th-cent. possession of many of the town’s churches probably reflects this earlier institutional history.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


royal founder.10 The monks of Abingdon were associated with the church in the early eleventh century, though no mention is made in their chronicle of what if anything they did with the relics.11 In 1086, the church was recorded as housing a community of secular canons.12 From the eighth to the twelfth century then, the church went through a number of stages of transformation: from a double monastery into a complex of three minsters served by secular canons, it became for an undetermined period in the mid-eleventh century an annex of the Benedictine monastery of Abingdon, before returning to the hands of secular clergy by 1086. Three of these changes in management occurred in quick succession during an eighty-year period after c.1050. Institutional consistency finally returned to Oxford with the colonization of the church by canons from St Aldgates London in 1122.13 Such an uneven and largely undocumented history may account for the almost wholly unremarked presence of St Frideswide’s body in the church of St Mary until possibly the eve of the twelfth century.

THE T WELFTH-CENTURY LIVES It is difficult to trace the points at which a store of local knowledge coalesced with invention in the twelfth-century hagiography of St Frideswide. But in their task of reclaiming a history for the church, the canons do appear to have drawn upon existing local traditions associated with the cult of St Frideswide. Our earliest surviving historical record for the church of St Frideswide is that of William of Malmesbury in his Gesta Pontificum. William of Malmesbury describes the original church as a nunnery. He notes St Frideswide’s burial there and provides an account of her life. It relates the story of a virgin princess who miraculously escaped the clutches of an aggressive royal suitor, whom she released from a divinely imposed blinding on condition that he stopped pursuing her. Thus St Frideswide Ibid. 54, and idem, ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, Oxoniensia, 51–2 (1987), 90–1. Idem, ‘St Frideswide’s Monastery: Problems and Possibilities’, Oxoniensia, 52 (1988), 226–8. 12 DB, Oxfordshire, i, mentions the secular canons’ possession of 15 dwellings in Oxford, 8 of which were derelict, and amongst other lands, property held of the king in Kirtlington and Cadwell by two priests, Osmund and Brun, fos. 154 and 157, pp. 422, 13 Dickinson, Austin Canons, 113. 430–1. 10



The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

was able to preserve her virginity and establish a monastery in the town of Oxford. The nature of the king’s punishment, adds William, deterred subsequent English kings from entering the town, though he notes that in King Ethelred’s reign the church was burnt down by ‘insatiable Englishmen’ pursuing fugitive Danes who had sought sanctuary in the church. Ethelred’s subsequent rebuilding and endowment of the church with new lands, also noted by William, is evidenced in the charter discussed above. William wrote his account between 1122 and 1125,14 perhaps after visiting the church at Oxford. The first surviving life produced at Oxford contains details sufficiently similar to those of William’s summary to suggest that they shared a common source. It has been suggested therefore that a late eleventh-century life of St Frideswide may have existed.15 Our first extant source, Life A (as it is designated by its modern editor John Blair), was written between 1100 and 1130. Its muddling of details of local topography suggest that its author may have been one of the canons who came to Oxford fresh from St Aldgates in 1122. These muddles also are the best evidence of the religious institution’s need to recover its history from a substantial tradition of local cult activity rather than invent it from scratch.16 Apart from the Secgan, the first sign of local traditions linked to the cult of St Frideswide appear in Life A. The author of Life A was unfamiliar with Oxford’s surrounding landscape. In his description of St Frideswide’s flight from King Algar, her rapacious suitor, he has St Frideswide take a boat trip to Bampton where, the author tells us, she spent sometime in a forest called Binsey.17 While dwelling there with her female companions, a girl from Bampton and a youth from Seacourt visited her, both seeking cures. This muddling of locations by the author suggests that he was ineptly drawing upon local traditions linking Frideswide to Bampton and Binsey. A second vita (Life B) puts these details right in an additional chapter that sends the virgin on a second journey by boat from Bampton to 14 The dates are based upon William’s reference to the foundation of an Augustinian priory at Oxford by Roger, bishop of Salisbury, and his publication of the Gesta Pontificum in 1125. R. M. Thomson, William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, 1987), 73–4. 15 See Blair, ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, 82, and 71–93 for a summary of the MS tradition that follows, and an exposition of the priory’s difficult early history. 16 Ibid. 71. 17 This cannot be true since Bampton lies 10 miles west of Oxford further up the Thames, while Binsey lies about 2 miles north of Oxford’s north gate. Seacourt was adjacent to Binsey.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


Binsey, where she performs the miracle for the Seacourt boy. It was almost certainly written by Robert of Cricklade, during his priorate of St Frideswide’s between 1141 and 1174. When Robert of Cricklade arrived in Oxford in 1141 to become prior of St Frideswide’s, the church was recovering from a period of exploitation suffered at the hands of its founder, Bishop Roger of Salisbury. Up to his death in 1139, Roger had held some of the church’s assets for himself, limiting its opportunities to control its future.18 With that impediment removed and in the face of competition from neighbouring churches being refounded as priories by Norman lords,19 the canons of St Mary’s, Oxford, began to pay a revived and more serious attention to their saintly patron. Robert of Cricklade was a canon of Cirencester and a magister who had studied in Paris.20 He knew and admired the work of William of Malmesbury and was himself praised by Gerald of Wales.21 Among his learned works were biblical commentaries and treatises, the Defloratio Historiae Plini dedicated to Henry II, and a Speculum Fidei written for Robert, earl of Leicester.22 When he wrote Life B is uncertain. It is tempting however to place it toward the end of his priorate, primarily for its remarkable unity of conception with the miracle collection of his immediate successor, Philip, and because of Robert’s other foray into hagiographical writing, inspired by the cult of Thomas Becket. Events at Canterbury in the early 1170s impressed Robert. Among the miracles of Becket recorded by Benedict, registrar at the shrine, is a letter from Robert describing his pilgrimage to Canterbury and cure from an intestinal illness brought on by a trip to the papal curia of Adrian IV in defence of the priory’s interests.23 Robert was moved to write a life of St Thomas, now lost but partially reconstructed through details recovered from the Icelandic versions of Thomas’s life for which his vita was the chief

18 E. J. Kealey, Roger of Salisbury, Viceroy of England (London, 1972), 265–9, charter nos. 29, 30, and 31. 19 See e.g. D. Postles, ‘ ‘‘Patronus et Advocatus Noster’’: Oseney Abbey and the Oilly Family’, BIHR 60 (1987), 100–2 and for Bicester and Dorchester, Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire, 181. 20 R. W. Hunt, ‘Notes on English Learning in the Late Twelfth Century’, TRHS, 4th ser. 19 (1936), 32. 21 A. B. Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, to A.D. 1500, 3 vols. 22 Hunt, ‘Notes on English Learning’, 32. (Oxford, 1957), 513–14. 23 Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, 7 vols., ed. J. C. Robertson and J. C. Sheppard, RS 67 (1875–85), ii. 96–101.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

source.24 As a regular canon, Robert is the only one to note among the lives of St Thomas the archbishop’s profession as a regular canon at Merton priory. In addition to the corrections he made to the older vita, Robert adds a colour and detail to the life that reveals elements of the canons’ sense of identity and interests in relation to the world around them. It made good sense to clarify the place of Binsey in the legend of her life, since it was an estate that belonged to the priory.25 Robert further emphasized the site as a pilgrimage destination in mentioning a holy well linked to an oratory built at Thornbiri in Binsey by the saint. Through her prayers the well acquired healing properties for ‘many who drank from it’.26 In the miracle collection Prior Philip mentions the well and a custom of pilgrimage to it still kept by the folk of Oxford. At the church in Oxford, a group of people advised a woman called Brichtiva from Northampton to visit the well at Binsey, ‘which through her prayers, the blessed Virgin had obtained from God during her life’.27 Thus the canons assimilated local tradition into the cult they sought to make their own. With each new work of hagiography, the canons sharpened their focus on their saint, creating her in an image of sanctity that suited their material and spiritual needs. Before turning to look in detail at the miracle collection of Prior Philip, it might be useful to trace the return of St Frideswide into focus through the two surviving Lives of the canons. Writing her life presented problems for twelfth-century hagiographers seeking to build up the convincing portrait of such a historically remote female saint from the scraps of local tradition available to them. Hardly any political context is offered, save the names of the two kings and the implication that St Frideswide was heiress to a kingdom. Once her father Didan and Algar the unwanted suitor depart from the story, St Frideswide becomes remarkably free of the practicalities of having to rule a kingdom. Instead the canons concentrate on the ascetical 24 M. Orme, ‘A Reconstruction of Robert of Cricklade’s Vita et Miracula S Thomae’, Annalecta Bollandiana, 84 (1966), 382–4. 25 See H. Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Twelfth Century Shrine: The Miracles of St Frideswide’, in Mayr-Harting and Moore, Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davies (London, 1985), 194, for the author of Life A’s albeit blundering attempt to highlight the Binsey tradition, and Blair, ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, 85, for its more 26 MF 110. convincing assimilation of Binsey to the priory’s institutional history. 27 ‘in vita sua precibus a Domino beata virgo impetraverat’, MF 48. Philip is following the author of Life B in this.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


disciplines she imposed upon herself. After her escape from King Algar in Oxford, St Frideswide spent a three-year eremetical retreat from Oxford in the oratory she built at Thornbury, along with two female companions. There she reluctantly performed miracles for those who visited her. Eventually, Life A informs us (rather lamely) that ‘One day, she said to her companions, ‘‘Let us return to our monastery’’. So they went by boat to Oxford where they were honourably received by the citizens and the clergy.’28 Interestingly, her saintly life is presented in terms of the functions of her female roles relative to absent men. As a virgin and nun, St Frideswide was a bride of Christ. In her fasting and prayer, and as the abbess of her father’s nunnery in Oxford, she served her father’s memory as a dutiful daughter should. Robert of Cricklade was anxious in his Life to show that St Frideswide, despite being ruler of Oxford, yet ‘shunned the company of men’. Indeed, in the story of her kissing a leper on the lips who by these means had sought a cure from her, he comments: Your request would certainly be thought inspired by depraved insanity, unless it was prompted by great faith. What? Men, so it is said, dread to gaze upon you, to touch you on account of your bleeding, or to be near to you because of your intolerable stink, and you seek a kiss from the royal virgin? How, unless you were a leper and not simply male, could you be met with a kiss from her, who from an early age had not touched a man?29

When commenting on her asceticism, presumably for the benefit of the canons in his charge, Robert notes ‘Oh, unhappy men of today whose God is their belly, who glory in shame, whose minds are set on earthly things, who pretend to religion in their dress but contradict it in their way of life . . . England was astonished: all marvelled to see the frail sex at so young an age surpassing masculine strength’.30 Depicting her in this

28 ‘Quadam igitur die dixit consodalibus suis, ‘‘Revertamur ad cenobium nostrum’’. Preparata igitur navicula beate virgine intraverunt in eam, venientesque ad civitatem Oxinefordiam, honorifice a civibus et ab omni clero suscepte sunt’, Blair, ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, 100. 29 ‘Plane postulatio tua, ni fides eam magnifica proferri compulisset, forte putaretur insanientium improbitate prolata. Quidni? Homines, ut dixi, te intueri pre horrore nequeunt, pro sanie profluente tangere, pro fetore intolerabili tibi appropinquare, et osculum petis a regia virgine? Esto. Nisi leprosus fueris, attamen masculus, num tibi porrigere poterit osculum, que virilem ab inuente etate non novit attactum?’ Ibid. 113. 30 ‘O infelices huius temporis homines, ‘‘quorum deus venter est, et gloria in confusione illorum, qui terrena sapiunt’’, qui religionem habitu pretendunt, moribus et vita


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

way, Robert encourages the brethren to think of St Frideswide almost as one of them who, despite her sex, displayed remarkable characteristics of male fortitude. Sister to her nun companions, daughter to a king, bride of Christ, brother to the regular canons: a final role Robert uses to frame her in a social world familiar to himself and his audience was as mother of a people. The town of Oxford and the Thames as an artery nourishing the surrounding region play important supporting roles in the definition of those who were encouraged to relate to her as children. Already the author of Life A sought to emphasize the town of Oxford as the centre of the cult. He concludes that ‘she was buried in the church of St Mary, in the south part, and where many miracles were worked through her merits by Lord Jesus Christ’.31 The Thames provided the scene for a number of episodes in her life. Its physical importance to the canons and the cult clientele reflects a vivid and literal continuity between the historical saint and her twelfth-century cult. Having been an important frontier town in its Anglo-Saxon past, twelfth-century Oxford owed much of its identity and economic vitality to the Thames rather than to its locality at the centre of a discrete or anciently defined region. It was appropriate therefore to emphasize St Frideswide’s links with the river. The culmination of that relationship lay in her return to Oxford and eventual burial there, ‘in the basilica of the spotless Virgin Mary, on the south side, near the bank of the River Thames’.32 The cultic (if not biological) ancestors of those about and to whom Robert addressed his Vita were ‘the crowd of people and clergy’ who repeatedly appeared to witness her miracles. Even during her last fever, ‘The citizens came to her as to a nurse and mother, and even during her illness she edified them with good advice.’33 The kinds of advice and help St Frideswide posthumously gave to Oxford’s citizens in the twelfth century forms a natural subject with which Prior Philip could continue the priory’s promotion of her cult. contradicunt . . . Stupet Anglia, mirantur universi, infirmum cernentes sexum in etate tenera robur excessisse virile’, ibid. 104. For the biblical source of this passage see Philippians 3: 19. 31 ‘Sepultaque est in ecclesia sancte Marie in australi parte, fiunt multa miracula propter merita eius a Domino nostro Iesu’, Blair, ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, 101. 32 ‘Sepulta est beata virgo in basilica intemerate semper virginis Dei genetricis Marie in parte australi prope ripam fluminis Thamesis’, ibid. 116. 33 ‘Quod cum civibus innotuisset, quasi ad nutricem et matrem conveniunt ad illam, monita salutis cum gemebunda exigentes devotione’, ibid. 114.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


THE MIRACLE COLLECTION AND THE CULT Philip’s succession to the priorate in 1179 saw an acceleration of cult promotion at Oxford. Within a year he organized her translation to a new feretory. He wrote a collection of miracles soon after that and began renovations to the architecture of the church that were an ambitious statement of intent for the cult. In all these areas, Philip took up and developed further the interest shown by his predecessor in the cult of St Frideswide. Like Robert, he also looked to the cult of St Thomas Becket for a model of cult promotion. Such is the continuity across the two priorates in these matters that it might be reasonable to imagine that Philip was a companion of Robert on his pilgrimage to the Canterbury shrine.34 It was only during the later decades of the twelfth century that the canons were able to raise funds sufficient to carry out building work on their church. By the time of the translation a new chancel had been built and work was beginning on the transepts and nave. The transepts were given double aisles in imitation of the spaces found in earlier foundations housing Anglo-Saxon shrines. The capitals in the crossing were decorated with a fleshy leaved acanthus design taken straight from those found at Canterbury. These were unknown to Oxfordshire hitherto and shared with Canterbury a common stylistic source found in the Ile de France. Philip clearly had ambitious plans for the church, incorporating the saint’s feretory into a space imitative of the arrangements at more venerable institutions, and copying, albeit on a smaller scale, the decorative stone sculpture found at Canterbury cathedral.35 Philip’s imitation of the cult setting at Canterbury was sufficient flattery to secure official endorsement of the cult of St Frideswide. Archbishop Richard of Canterbury himself translated her remains in February 1180, the new prior exploiting the opportunity made available by a royal council held at Woodstock to assemble an impressive group of 34 MTB ii. 97; Collectiania, II, ed. M. Burrows, Oxford Historical Society, 16 (Oxford, 1890), 160–5. 35 R. Halsey, ‘The 12th Century Church of St Frideswide’s Priory’, Oxoniensia, 53 (Oxford, 1988), 132, and note that E. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford, 2000), 189, suggests that Reading abbey’s elaborate capitals may also have provided a model for imitation in work done at Oxford.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

clerics, magnates, and ecclesiastical figures in the church of St Mary. In his company were the bishops of Winchester, Ely, and Norwich, and the papal legate of Ireland. Philip recorded the continued association of Archbishop Richard with the cult in his miracle collection. The spread of her fame, Philip tells us, reached Canterbury and reminded Richard of his involvement in her translation. He returned to Oxford and, ‘got up in episcopal vestments’, celebrated mass before a large congregation in the church. Two miracles took place on the same day, one during the mass itself. A dumb woman from Abingdon called Wlirva and a blind woman from London were both cured. Philip noted that ‘the venerable father had shown the same agreeable compliance to her [St Frideswide] as he had at her translation’.36 No less than St Thomas himself shared Richard’s support for the cult of St Frideswide, according to Philip. Among those whom St Thomas referred to the Oxford shrine in visions were: Hugh de Plugenay, a Breton knight who, after a trip to Canterbury, recovered his sight, his hearing, and the use of an arm in Oxford; Isabella, woman of Beachampton, cured of a fever and crippled limbs; Margaret of Collingbourne, who received a vision of St Frideswide while praying to Thomas; Adelicia of Tackley, whose deafness was partially relieved at Canterbury and then completely so at Oxford; and William from Shrivenham, cured of an illness called sincopi by doctors, when he came to Oxford with his mother.37 Philip’s miracle collection is a valuable guide to the new relationships forged between the laity of Oxford, its surrounding area, and St Frideswide’s canons in the twelfth century. The collection contains 110 miracle narratives. As might be expected, it resembles in form and scale the kind of records being kept at Canterbury by the miracle registrars of St Thomas. In the recurring categories of social detail in each narrative it is possible to see the pattern that Philip’s inquiries into the miraculous took. In almost all the miracles, Philip found out from pilgrims their names and place of origin. This allows us to trace a pattern of participation in the cult (see map). Most of the saint’s clients came from the town itself or from a region within a forty-mile radius of the shrine. The importance of local waterways and well-maintained roads for the communication of these stories probably helps to account for this 36 ‘quod in translatione virginis suae gratum sibi idem venerabilis pater exhibuerat 37 MF 98. obsequium’, MF 43–4.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


pattern. Robert d’Oilly, an important local lord and castellan of Oxford, had built a bridged causeway across the flood meadows south of the town, improving trade and communications with the south of England right up to the door of the church. Three businessmen in the collection represent the many who used this road on their way through the town. Their story points an unambiguous lesson. As they entered the town and passed the church doors, two of the men wished to spend a little time paying due devotion at the shrine of the saint. The third man lived to regret overruling them in the matter, although not before he had fallen ill a mile out of the town. He was cured only after returning to the church to make an offering.38 The townsfolk of Oxford and their trading connections feature strongly among the miracles Philip chose to record. Prior to the translation it was an Oxford merchant called Martin returning from a business trip to London who saw from a distance the town under a heavenly glow as if on fire. Subsequent visions of light reaching from the church to the heavens proved an important factor behind the decisions to carry out the translation.39 Philip also noted how long the symptoms of pilgrims had been troubling them. He took down in detail the character and combination of symptoms suffered and he inquired into their previous attempts to find relief from their illnesses. Perhaps with half a mind to the increasing demand for personal testimony to the miraculous in the formal process of canonization,40 he also included witnesses in his narratives. Phrases such as ‘he told us later . . . as he related to us . . . she explained before what is written above . . . from her report and that of her neighbours . . . he related moreover’41 point to a store of oral knowledge that contributed to the understanding of miraculous experiences. Some individuals subsequently returned to the church after a cure or were known to the canons because Philip reports that ‘We saw him afterwards free of trouble . . . he tells us and we have seen . . . I witnessed’.42 Sometimes the

38 See MTB 303–4, for the cautionary story of Ralph Niger who owned a quarter share in a ship and prevented his partners from visiting the shrine of Thomas on putting into port at Dover. 39 MF 5, 6, 7, and see Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. B. Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford, 1969), 241, for the topos. 40 See The Book of St Gilbert, p. lxiii, for the view that, by the end of the 12th cent., ‘a simple translation by the bishop was no longer regarded as satisfactory in England’. 41 MF 11, 12, 31, 19, 100. 42 MF 25, 57, 80.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

canons tested the claims of those who felt themselves cured at the shrine and Philip records these, again to lend weight to the miracle story when it came to be recited in the future. For example, a couple from Wycombe brought their 2-year-old son, blind from birth, to the shrine where, ‘unable to speak for himself’, the boy revealed his cure when a canon threw an egg across his field of vision and his eyes followed its flight.43 On other occasions pilgrims made the sign of the cross with their hands or lifted heavy objects, acts that previously, owing to their disabilities, they had not been able to do.44 The need to be witnessed and publicly to demonstrate or perform one’s healing before an audience was clearly part of a process of verifying the incidence of a miracle. Without such public knowledge, a miracle cure lacked credibility. Philip was sensitive to this consensual element of play between ‘the saint, the sufferer and the crowd’45 in his narratives. Thus, Beatrice of Ellingdon who had suffered from a headache and pains in the body persisted in prayer at the shrine overnight and in the morning showed herself cured to all who were present. Peter from Marlborough suffered with sciatica and became crippled with sores and callouses. He threw down his staff and ran about, filling the church with his shouting and showing to all the effects of his cure. Many miracles were experiences shared by the sufferer, his or her family, or/and a priest. Cecily, a woman of mature years, ‘believed to have passed the years of childbearing’, could not manage alone to convince her family and friends that she was pregnant.46 In a vision she gained the sympathy of a powerful ally in St Frideswide who confirmed her pregnancy and prophesied the hour of her giving birth. After the birth and purification, she visited the shrine with her husband and friends where she announced before all the goodness of the lord who ‘brought her from the darkness into his light’.47 A good proportion of those healed at the shrine had previously visited doctors. Philip’s reason for recording these consultations was to 43 MF 73. This little test also appears in the miracle collection associated with the shrine of St Milburga at Much Wenlock. See A. J. M. Edwards, ‘An Early TwelfthCentury Account of St Milburga of Much Wenlock’, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 57 (1961–4), 149, and P. A. Hayward, ‘The Miracula Inventionis Beate Mylburge Virginis attributed to ‘‘the Lord Ato, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia’’ ’, EHR 44 MF 73, 77, 81. 114 (1999), 543–73. 45 Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Saint’s Shrine’ 194. 46 MF 41, ‘pariendi tempus praeterisse credebatur’. 47 Ibid., ‘que de tenebris infideles vocat, in admirabile lumen suum’.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


emphasize the expensive and often ineffectual service offered by doctors relative to the healing powers of St Frideswide. For example, Childiva of Ewneston ‘was not cured with the use of medicine, but freely attained health through the merits of the blessed Virgin’.48 Philip’s narratives occasionally provide insight into the methods such men used. Bloodletting and frequent purges were conventional treatments.49 Three doctors working in Oxford can be identified from contemporary sources: magister Richard appears as a witness in the cartulary of the hospital of St John; Amfridus acquired land in the town in 1190; and Edmund, also a property owner in Oxford, appears to have practised medicine at the abbey of Oseney.50 The mention of doctors indicates a degree of social affluence and resort to the profession in the region. The cult of St Frideswide probably functioned as an inexpensive alternative to such figures. It also shifted the context of a healing from a commercial transaction accessible only to the wealthy to a public, universally accessible one, guided by the rhythms of the liturgy and the church calendar. One of Philip’s most important narratives involves a surgeon (chirurgicus) and the child of an important Oxford citizen, among whose relatives was a canon of the church. Philip’s story tells of an evil man who, seeing the wealth of his client, inflated his fee and insisted on the money in advance. The scene vividly describes the surgeon’s rough treatment of the boy: he ‘struck him miserably in order that he might comply with his wont’, and tied him up before cutting him open to extract a stone. In the event it seems the surgeon lost his nerve when his patient appeared to be bleeding to death. But his intervention, as Philip admits, ‘cutting skilfully in order to extract the stone’, probably saved the boy’s life. The boy’s revival at the shrine of the saint, however, was credited to St Frideswide. Still more rewarding for the canons was the fact that the boy was Lawrence Kepherim, who later became the first mayor of Oxford. For this reason, and because the miracle almost 48 MF 28, ‘nec ullo medicine curari potest, per gloriose virginis merita gratiam sanitatis adepta est’. For other references to doctors see MF 9, 13, 30, 40, 51, 63, 70, 75, 49 See n. 42. 77, 92, 94, 98, 100, 103, 108, 109, 110. 50 C. H. Talbot and E. A. Hammond (eds.), The Medical Practitioners in Medieval England (London, 1965), 15, 37, 173, 179, 273, 318, 362. Four more can be identified for the first half of the 13th cent., one of whom held a quarter of a knight’s fee in the hundred of Chadlington, the origin of one of Frideswide’s pilgrims who employed doctors before visiting the shrine.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

counted as a much coveted tale of recovery from death, Philip made this the climax to his collection.51 The economic vitality of Oxford at this time helps to illuminate our understanding of the evolving relationship between church and town prior to the arrival of the university.52 Philip’s last appearance in the cartulary of the priory is in a charter of 1191, a final concord made between the prior and burgesses of Oxford over the issue of rights in the meadow of Medley, situated to the south of Portmeadow.53 The deed is an acceptance of the priory’s rights in the meadow and is an undertaking for the aldermen of the burgesses to pay 8s. annually to the priory in recognition of this right. The dispute with the town over land in Portmeadow had existed for some time prior to this negotiated settlement. The burgesses of Oxford had claimed possession to land at Binsey at the time when the possessions of the canons were put in confusion by the interventions of their founder, Bishop Roger of Salisbury. In 1139, Roger relinquished to the canons a hide and some rents at Walton, court dues and profits from inside and outside the town’s walls, and a fair held in Oxford and its suburbs. That Binsey featured in Robert of Cricklade’s vita helped to buttress the priory’s claim to its estates.54 The settlement of 1191 represented for the burgesses a concession made in the interests of securing recognition as an independent municipal body. In accepting the charter, Philip chose to recognize the corporate organization of the townsfolk of Oxford, symbolized in ‘the earliest known municipal seal in Britain’, appended to the charter.55 These practical dealings with the Oxford townsfolk provide a useful context in which to place the cultic activity evidenced in Philip’s miracle narratives. During the eleventh century Oxford was ‘gripped by the tentacles of rural landlord dominance’.56 Domesday Book records a few English landlords as having survived the Conquest. But their numbers are


MF 110. R. H. C. Davis, ‘The Ford, the River and the City’, Oxoniensia, 38 (1973), 265–7. 53 Cartulary of the Monastery of St Frideswide, Oxford, ed. S. R. Wigram (Oxford, 1895–6), i, no. 35. 54 Confirmation of the same estates appear in a royal notification made before the burgesses and canons of the church of St Frideswide, c.1139–40, see RRA-N, ed. H. A. Cronne and H. W. C. Davis et al. (London, 1913–69), iii, no. 640. 55 R. H. C. Davis, ‘An Oxford Charter of 1191 and the Beginnings of Municipal Freedom’, Oxoniensia, 32–3 (1967–8), 55, 61–5. 56 Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire, 159. 52

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


swamped by those of Norman landholders.57 A hundred years later, circumstances had changed. A portmanmoot was being held in St Martin’s churchyard. One historian has noted that ‘Oxford was controlled by comparatively few families, bound together by kinship, marriage, apprenticeship and business interests’.58 The witness list for the charter of 1191 is a roll call for this urban oligarchy. It includes wine merchants, goldsmiths, a merchant, and a cordwainer. Official positions include two reeves, two aldermen, a clerk of the reeves, and a clerk. These families and their businesses were the neighbours of St Frideswide’s canons. They feature in Philip’s narratives. We have met one of them already. Lawrence Kepherim appears in the charter as reeve of the borough, his father John as an alderman. A Ralph and Benedict Kepherim appear further down the list. Ten years earlier Lawrence was the boy of 14 brought to the shrine feared dead as the result of brutal surgery. By 1200 he was an alderman of the town and in 1205–9 he became the first mayor of Oxford.59 Lawrence was married to Christina Padi, and both of them appear in a charter granting property in the parish of St Frideswide to the priory.60 Christina was the daughter of Ralph Padi who appears tenth on the witness list. The family name also appears in the miracle collection. Ralph Padi was a relative of Geoffrey Padi, whose daughter was cured at the shrine of a badly swollen neck. A relative of the family, possibly Christina’s brother, was John Padi, who appears in a charter of the 1190s. John was mayor of Oxford from 1227 to 1231.61 After Lawrence died, Christina married Jordan Rufus, a relative of Adam Rufus, the nineteenth name to appear on the witness list. Christina outlived both her husbands and some time after 1241 confirmed to the priory the bequests they had made in their wills. In exchange she received the corrody of a house, 6 marks a year and the lighting of a candle for her every day.62 The cult thus helped to foster good relations between the religious and secular elites of the town, St Frideswide and her canons taking care of their spiritual and physical 57

For evidence of continuity in English occupation at the tenant level, ibid. 177. VCH Oxford, ed. C. R. Elrington (London, 1979), iv. 66. 59 The Cartulary of Eynsham, 2 vols. ed. H. E. Salter, Oxford Historical Society, 49, 51 (Oxford, 1906–7), 228; and VCH Oxford iv. 63–4. 60 Cartulary of St Frideswide, i, nos. 103, 376. 61 For the charter see Cartulary of St Frideswide, ii, no. 549; and for his office holding see G. Pollard, ‘The Medieval Town Clerks of Oxford’, Oxoniensia, 31 (1968), 54. 62 Cartulary of St Frideswide, i, nos. 103, 376. 58


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

well-being, and these families contributing to a common fund of goodwill in their benefactions, whose currency spread beyond the walls of the town into the surrounding villages. A particular group to whom St Frideswide’s patronage extended, and one which appears to have interested Prior Philip, was women. Philip’s narratives involving women illustrate a number of contemporary predicaments facing them and their relationship to the family. The cult was second only to that of Godric of Finchale in its appeal to the devotions of women of all ages.63 We have already heard from Cecily and Beatrice, older women who found reassurance in the saint when their families appear to have lost interest in their emotional and physical health. Young women were also frequently the recipients of St Frideswide’s support. Henry Mayr-Harting has drawn attention to the rehabilitation of ‘female social misfits’ at the shrine.64 Among them was Emelina, from the village of Eddington, whose church belonged to the canons of St Frideswide. Emelina was a troubled young woman who attempted to commit suicide in the river Kennet. Alfred the local miller rescued her after receiving warning of her danger in a dream. Emelina recovered from the suicide bid, but lost her speech. It was only returned to her after she visited the church of St Frideswide with her mother and brother. The girl remained at the church in the service of the canons. Philip makes it clear that she was only saved because she had recited a Hail Mary prior to throwing herself into the millstream. The miracle was thus credited both to Frideswide and her co-dedicatee, St Mary. We have few clues to what lay behind Emelina’s anxieties, but we might speculate that they were linked to her changing status and role within the family as she reached marriageable age.65 The pressures brought to bear upon women at this time in their lives are echoed in a number of other narratives. If marriage was to be a sacrament, as the Church was increasingly keen to assert, then it must involve the free will of both parties, a right not customarily enjoyed by young women who often ended up the pawns of family strategy. Margaret, the daughter of a cleric called Geoffrey of Collingbourne, sustained chronic pains to her spleen after being bequeathed to William,

63 The distribution of miracles among the sexes (when they are mentioned) are as follows: mulier 37, uxor 4, puella 20, virgo 6, iuvenis 9, vir 9, puer 6. 64 Mayr-Harting, ‘Functions of a Shrine’, 197–204. 65 MF 31.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


a man of Burford by her father. Philip implies a causal link between the two circumstances by including what would otherwise be a superfluous detail, and by grouping them together at the beginning of the narrative. A number of years later, after a series of visions of a most serene and beautiful lady, Margaret got the idea of visiting Oxford and the shrine of St Frideswide. Her cure proceeded, but no mention is made of her proposed marriage to the Burford man. It is attractive to imagine that the regular canons’ interest in St Frideswide’s life and posthumous miracles was put to pastoral use in articulating concerns about young women. The shrine gave them support against and as an alternative model to, the roles imposed upon them by their families. St Frideswide opened opportunities for women to lead more fulfilled emotional lives as nuns or within marriage. That this was not about female sexual liberation is made clear in a few narratives that deal with the rehabilitation of ‘fallen’ women. In a climate of ecclesiastical reform the wives of priests suffered an increasingly insecure and stigmatized status in English society at the village level. One such woman, rejected by a priest, was Helen of Ludgershall. Philip informs us that Helen was the concubine of a priest, and when cast out by him after three months, she suffered stabbing pains in her vitals. Coming to the shrine of St Frideswide with a contrite heart, she was cured after drinking some holy water.66 A certain woman, ‘fired by the heat of her youthful age’, had lustful thoughts about a member of a group of pilgrims with whom she visited the shrine at Oxford. Only after confessing her sinful excesses to a priest was she able to overcome her fear and shame, and gain entrance to the church, where she left an offering at the shrine of the Virgin. Philip used the story to draw the moral that only truly contrite hearts proved such by confession received divine forgiveness. Without contrition, even the most generous offering by the impious would be futile.67 In addition to wealthy families of the town and surrounding countryside the canons had other neighbours whose presence indicates the increased commercialization of Oxford’s urban environment. The Jews settled in Oxford on St Aldate’s street, in an area adjacent to the precinct of the priory. The promotion of the cult, as cults did elsewhere, made relations between Christians and Jews sensitive. One particular episode in the life of these relations is preserved in the miracle collection. As 66

MF 97.


MF 46.


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

elsewhere it illustrates the cooperation as well as the hostilities that existed between the two communities.68 Moses of Wallingford, ‘of the Jews, a man less detested than the others’, lost his son in tragic and demeaning circumstances. The son mocked the saint during a procession of the canons and the townsfolk by mimicking a miraculous recovery from a fictitious injury. His ill-advised behaviour dishonoured his father and after a blazing row between them, the son committed suicide. On its way to be buried in the Jewish cemetery in London, the young man’s body was knocked out of its coffin and the dogs of the town came and mauled it.69 Part of their occupations involved the Jews in moneylending.70 Their involvement in land transactions occasionally surfaces in the records of St Frideswide’s priory. For example, William de Sueting borrowed money from Moses, son of Isaac of Bristol in 1182.71 His widow was still attempting to repay the debt in 1192. In an Oseney charter Leviva sold land to John Kepherim for £100 ‘which money he and I, despite our faith, owe the Jews’.72 Between 1205 and 1210 Peter son of John the Provost sold land to Oseney, ‘in my great necessity . . . on account of the debts of Jews’.73 A witness to this transaction was Lawrence Kepherim. Although no reason is given, it is possible that Thomas Blancpein sold his land in c.1200 ‘on account of my great and urgent necessity’ to Lawrence Kepherim for just under £9 and new clothes for himself and his family, for similar reasons.74 Witnesses on this occasion were Ralph Padi and Henry fitz Simon, the latter appearing tenth on the witness list of 1191 and soon to marry Lawrence’s widowed mother in 1204. It seems that the Jews of Oxford were a particular stimulus to the land market in the town, the more successful men of the borough able to capitalize on the resulting insecurities to which others were vulnerable. 68 For the tensions that this might cause see C. Roth, ‘The Jews of Medieval Oxford’, Oxford Historical Society, 9 (1953), 85. 69 MF 39, ‘hominis minus quidem judeis ceteris detestandi’. 70 For evidence of their moneylending, see R. B. Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of 1190 (York, 1974), 13, and H. G. Richardson, The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (London, 1960), 74–82, for their dealing in bonds and land. 71 C. Roth, ‘Jews of Medieval Oxford’, 7–9. 72 ‘Quam pecuniam ille et ego super fidem nostram debuimus Judeis’. The Cartulary of Oseney, 3 vols., ed. H. E. Salter, Oxford Historical Society, 89 (1929), i, no. 386. 73 ‘in maxima necessitate mea . . . de debitis Judeorum’, ibid. i, no. 175. 74 ‘Propter meam magnam et urgentem necessitatem’, ibid. i, nos. 58, 59.

The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford


Prior Philip experienced and added to his records of others’ cures a cure of his own that he regarded as a miracle. His account of it is a rare first-person reflection on miracles and how they worked, and is worth quoting at length: I began to recall to mind the miracles that I had witnessed and I wept for the light of faith extinguished in me that I felt shined in others. I remembered the rich and poor, the lesser and the great, who had evaded the yoke of illness by the intervention of the blessed Virgin, and I bewailed the heavens denied to me that I noticed were conferred from on high on both small and poor of both sexes. Therefore desire of salvation and dread of the torment which I had had before aroused my devotion to implore the help of the one who restores all with one word. Assailed by the approach of the fourth attack of torment, its hour close at hand, I prostrated myself before the feretory of the blessed Virgin committing myself to her protection which I did not doubt had intervened on behalf of others. Hope struggling with fear kept sleep far away, and I spent the whole night awake among doubts and fluctuations of the spirit. But when the time of the attack had passed and I had spent a whole night without any disturbance, faith conquered despair and certainty born of the attainment of healing dissolved doubt, so that I really experienced in myself the strength of God. At the beginning of the night in which I dreaded a fifth attack of pain, I threw myself before the feretory so that my healing might be confirmed by repeated vigils. And in truth I learned by experience what previously I had only heard; that healing which is given by the command of God returns totally at once. Therefore my faith was strengthened by the gift of God, so that I could more easily believe in the grace of God in others, which I had experienced in myself.75

75 ‘Miracula que videram ad mentem revocare cepi, et in me fidei lumen extinctum deflebam; quod in aliis lucere considerabam. Reducebam ad memoriam divites et pauperes, pusillos cum maioribus interventu beate virginis iugum egritudinis evasisse, mihique denegatum celitus dolebam, quod et parvulis et pauperibus utriusque sexus collatum esse desuper attendebam. Igitur et salutis desiderium et praehabite vexationis horror devotionem excitarunt ut eius subsidium implorarem, qui solo sermone restaurat universa. Ingruente igitur accessionis quarte vexatione, hora vexationis instante coram beate virginis feretro me prostravi eius tuicioni me committens, quam pro aliis intevenire non dubitabam. Spes cum timore dimicans, sompnolentiam procul arcebat, et inter dubias animi fluctuationes totam noctem feci insompnem. Sed cum infestationis tempora praeterissent totamque noctem sine aliqua inquietudine percurrissem, diffidentiam fides vicit, et dubitationem absoluit ex adeptione sanitatis nata certitudo, et ut in me dei munus certius experirer instante nocte qua quinte vexationis molestiam formidabam, ante feretrum me proieci, ut iteratis vigiliis sanitas collata firmaretur. Et revera experientia didici quod prius audieram quoniam sanitas que dei datur imperio tota simul


The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

Doctors having failed him, Philip sought to understand his illness through spiritual experience. He rationalized the experience as one of spiritual refreshment and renewal. In these vigils, that he had witnessed the poor of both sexes perform before with success, this intellectual man enjoyed a sense of social and spiritual belonging to a Christian community that comforted him in a time of pain. Twelfth-century hagiographical interest in the cult of St Frideswide reflects the increasingly important role of the saint as a patron of the region and mediator in the negotiation of relationships between the regular canons of her church and the citizens of Oxford. The regular canons of the church dedicated originally to the Virgin Mary were relative newcomers to the town. The demise of their founder and patron Roger of Salisbury gave them an opportunity to explore and articulate more fully the early history of their church. In the cult of St Thomas at Canterbury, the canons found a useful model to imitate in promoting their new cult. The commemoration of St Frideswide’s miracles preserved valuable evidence of her status as civic and institutional patron. In these two roles the saint underpinned a common fund of goodwill and cooperation between the town and the church.76 Of particular interest to these people was the story of the female saint herself that provided opportunities for local young women to exchange a life often harshly constrained by obligations to family marriage strategies for one of female piety.

redit. . . . Roborata est igitur hoc dei beneficio fides mea, ut in aliis dei gratiam quam in me fueram expertus facilius crederem.’ MF 106. 76 See Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire, 182–3, for Robert of Cricklade’s life as a ‘civic salvation myth’.

Chester Shrewsbury





The Miracles of St Frideswide of Oxford

Sibford Wroxton


Bury St Edmunds Duns Tew Ardley Enstone Tackley Northleach


Wendover Holywell Wheatley Burford St Albans Faringdon OXFORD Abingdon Eastrop Coleshill Dorchester Wycombe Watchfield Wallingford Cricklade Denchworth Inglesham ShrivenhamLockinge Gatehampton Ashbury Stratton Beckhampton Marlborough Newbury Eddington Alton Collingbourne Ludgershall Andover Ampney

Hereford Gloucester



Stoches Winchester



Map 3. The Origins of St Frideswide’s Pilgrims


St Frideswide’s Priory Place of origin

7 The Hand of St James at Reading The conditions under which the cult of the hand of St James of Reading flourished were different from those of other case studies involving Benedictine institutions. The hand of St James belonged to a universal saint with no historical connection to Reading abbey. The absence of a formal record of its translation leaves us uncertain of exactly when it arrived there. We do know, however, that the relic came into the Reading monks’ possession through a royal gift and that the abbey itself was an important royal foundation. The relic of St James’s hand thus brought new and invaluable associations with it to Reading, associations with an internationally renowned saint’s cult, and associations that cemented existing ties with the Anglo-Norman dynasty. In its early decades the abbey amassed an impressive collection of relics from diverse sources.1 None of them succeeded in dislodging the hand from its chief position, symbolizing as it did for the Reading monks the fundamental ties that existed between themselves and successive English rulers. That it was the aim of a miracle collection, compiled in the 1190s, to emphasize these connections, particularly those with royalty, on behalf of the Reading monks, is the central theme of the chapter.

F O U N D A T IO N A N D A R R I V A L The hand’s arrival at Reading was fortuitous. It came to England with the baggage of the king’s daughter, the Empress Matilda, upon the death

1 D. Bethell, ‘The Making of a Twelfth-Century Relic Collection’, SCH 8 (1971), 61–71, at 64.

The Hand of St James at Reading


of her husband, Emperor Henry V.2 Thence it came to Reading as the gift of Henry I. The gift is recorded in a charter dated to 1126, but its faulty witness list leaves the matter in doubt.3 A cautious judgement would locate the relic at Reading from at least 1133.4 If the relic’s journey to England was fortuitous, once it came into Henry I’s hands, its eventual destination was perhaps predictable. Reading Abbey was Henry I’s special royal foundation. He founded it in 1121 in the wake of two important events that radically changed the circumstances of his reign: the death of his son, William, in the White Ship disaster and his marriage to Adeliza of Louvain.5 Pauline Stafford’s meticulous examination of the foundation has recently emphasized the connection between the three events. Henry’s marriage to Adeliza and foundation of Reading abbey was a particularly practical and symbolic way of investing in the future of his dynasty. It was an extravagant act of penance for the perceived sins that had brought about his misfortunes. The foundation of a semi-Cluniac monastery was a particularly appropriate gesture in these circumstances.6 The new abbey was to be a royal foundation on the same scale as Edward the Confessor’s Westminster or the Conqueror’s Battle abbey. Its endowment united lands at Cholsey, Leominster, and Reading. These were lands previously associated with both monastic communities and English queens. The nunneries at Leominster and Reading and the monastery at Cholsey had failed to shrug off their ties with tenth- and eleventh-century queens and become houses with

2 Matilda was crowned queen of the Germans at Mainz cathedral on 25 July 1110, St James’s day. She returned to England after the emperor’s death in 1125, where she took the title of empress in royal charters. The saintly patron and his material remains clearly had a personal value to Matilda, linked as it was to the event of her coronation. See M. Chibnall, Empress Matilda Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English (Oxford, 1991), 24–5. 3 Brian Kemp considers the charter to be a retrospective commemoration of a real event hitherto unattested in writing. Karl Leyser, in his ‘Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II and the Hand of St James’ EHR 90 (1975), 481–506, follows Matthew Paris in dating the gift to 1133. 4 For a fuller discussion of the evidence, explaining why no definitive conclusion can be reached, but dispensing with the theory of Hans Mayer that it was first introduced to Reading in 1156, see B. Kemp, ‘The Miracles of the Hand of St James’, Berkshire Archaeological Journal, 65 (1970), 2–3. 5 The White Ship disaster occurred in December 1120, Henry I’s marriage to Adeliza in January 1121. 6 D. Knowles describes it as a semi-Cluniac foundation, The Monastic Order in England (Cambridge, 1940), 174, 281–2.


The Hand of St James at Reading

independent histories. By 1086, if not already destroyed by the Danes or reduced to remnants by the frequent redeployment of dower lands by royal families, their lands had been largely absorbed into the royal demesne. In returning these estates to the Church, Henry was applying reforming principles to create a ‘penitential dowry’, celebrating English queenship, and inducting his new wife into its majesty.7 Henry I’s foundation charter details the status and role intended for the abbey and subsequent royal confirmations consistently reaffirm these details.8 The abbots of Reading were to hold the impressive resources of the abbey in common with the monks on the understanding that, during abbatial vacancies, all income should be passed to the chapter and prior. Abbots were to be elected canonically and child oblates were forbidden. The abbey was free from other feudal obligations and also from a host of tolls, charges, and taxes imposed on goods and passage, and jurisdiction was granted to it over the hundreds of Reading and Leominster. Reading was granted an impressive catalogue of immunities and exemptions in excess of those enjoyed by other Benedictine monasteries. Throughout the twelfth century it remained a peculiar haven of reform monasticism not intended for adoption generally. In return for its wealthy endowment, the king required the abbey to observe certain conditions and obligations. These limited its opportunities to develop an autonomous corporate identity such as we might find at Bury St Edmunds.9 The abbot and monks were to look beyond their relatives to fill their administrative posts and incumbents and could not expect to enjoy hereditary right to their offices. Instead the abbey was to extend its charity to the poor and to pilgrims who visited the town. To help in these ends, the monks founded two hospitals in Reading: the leper house of St Mary Magdalene, founded in 1130–5, situated inside the abbey precinct; and the hospital outside the abbey walls, founded in the early 1190s and dedicated to St John the Baptist.10 7 The paragraph is heavily dependent on the excellent article by P. Stafford, ‘Cherchez la Femme: Queens, Queens’ Lands and Nunneries. Missing Links in the Foundation of Reading Abbey’, History, 85 (2000), 4–27. 8 Reading Abbey Cartularies, 2 vols., ed. B. Kemp, Camden Society, 4th ser. 31, 33 (1986–7), i, no 1 for Henry’s charter and nos. 140, 18, 34, and 48, for those of Pope Honorius II, Henry II, Richard I, and John. 9 Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. and tr. D. Greenway and J. Sayers (Oxford 1989), 86–7, 106–8, for the confidence with which the abbot resisted the king’s wishes in a matter of wardship and for the list of knights fees 10 Reading Abbey Cartularies, i, nos. 221 and 224. belonging to the abbey.

The Hand of St James at Reading


The abbey contributed greatly to the town’s prosperity, but it was the original situation of the town that secured its foundation there. Though in 1086 it was smaller than other Berkshire towns such as Wallingford and Windsor,11 traffic passing through Reading was greater than elsewhere. It was situated at the junction of trade routes from southern ports through Wallingford, Oxford, and Banbury to the north, and on the route from Bristol and Bath to London. It was also at the confluence of the Thames and Kennet, a river that linked the produce of the Wiltshire downs, chief among them wool, with regional and national markets.12 Henry I’s choice of Reading thus fitted in well with his intentions for the foundation. The abbey was open to ‘an incessant stream of visitors’13 from all corners of the kingdom. Its recruitment of monks from social backgrounds and age groups more diverse than custom preferred was another way in which royal reform values were built into the institution’s broader public profile. These aspects of the abbey’s public character are illustrated in the miracle collection. Whilst the cult had a clear appeal to the people of Reading and its surrounding area, it also enjoyed a profile that reached beyond to other parts of the country, whence individuals came to Reading and found employment. On their visits, merchants, nobles, and important ecclesiastics could anticipate lavish Cluniac hospitality and witness charity dispensed to the poor, the sick, and to lepers. To this spectacle of charity the presence of the hand of St James at Reading added an increasing flow of pilgrims. Alongside the constitutional arrangements laid down by Henry I, the circumstances in which Reading abbey enjoyed possession of its chief relic, the hand of St James, were of profound significance to the subsequent functioning of the cult. Through its presence at Reading, the hand of St James linked intimately the personal and political fortunes of Henry I and his Angevin successors with those of the people over whom they ruled. So much has already been established by Karl Leyser in the typically imaginative connection he made between Anglo-German VCH, Berkshire, ed. W. Page (London, 1906; repr. 1972), i. 310–13. ‘Hoc ille coenobium inter duo flumina Kenetam et Tamensem constituit, loco ubi pene omnium itinerantium ad populosiores urbes Angliae posset esse diversorium . . . ’ (The abbey was built between two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames, in a place through which almost all travellers might go to the more populous towns of England), William of Malmesbury, GR, 2 vols., ed. R. A. B. Mynors et al. (Oxford Medieval Texts, 1998), i. 746; C. F. Slade, ‘Reading’, fascicule of Historic Towns, ed. M. D. Lobel (London, 13 Knowles, Monastic Order, 480. 1975), i. 1. 11 12


The Hand of St James at Reading

diplomatic relations in the early years of Henry II’s reign and popular religious devotion in twelfth- century medieval society. Leyser’s insights were that the hand of St James ‘had a part to play in strengthening the Angevin regime’s roots in England’,14 by emphasizing the dynastic continuity between Henry II’s reign and that of his grandfather. The actions of Empress Matilda and Bishop Henry of Blois testify to the importance the abbey and the relic took on during Stephen’s reign as symbols of dynastic legitimacy and continuity. The hand was absent from Reading for a period of nineteen years from 1136. In that year— and it has been suggested perhaps even at the funeral of Henry I on 4 January15—the hand was taken by Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester. Henry’s motives for stealing the relic go unrecorded. But they are not difficult to surmise. No evidence survives for his use of it in Winchester, suggesting that his denial of access to it by the Empress Matilda at Reading may have provided sufficient political motive in itself for the theft. As Stephen’s brother, Henry probably saw in the relic a potentially important tool in the brokering of future political relations between factions in the civil war.16 While it was in his possession the empress lost the opportunity to enlist the apostle’s aid in her succession bid. As the leading Cluniac monk in the kingdom, Henry’s safekeeping of such a politically significant relic could perhaps secure an amount of acceptance. On her part the Empress Matilda was in no doubt about the importance of Reading abbey, and by implication the hand of St James, in support of her dynastic claim to rule. She made two grants to Reading abbey that emphasize the link between the royal abbey and the fortunes of the kingdom. Between 1139 and 1141 she granted the church of Thatcham to the monks for the souls of herself and her father and ‘for the safety of the kingdom of England’. Later, between 1144 and 1147, she granted the minster-church of Berkeley with all its appurtenances to the abbey, for the souls of her mother and father, for her husband 14

Leyser, ‘Frederick Barbarossa’, 499. Ibid. 494. Henry died on 1 Dec. in Normandy and was taken to Reading in fulfilment of his wishes to be buried there. For an account of the funeral and the role of the newly crowned Stephen, ‘for love of his uncle’, in carrying Henry’s coffin, see The Chronicle of John of Worcester, iii, ed. P. McGurk (Oxford, 1998), 214–17. 16 A recent account of the reign notes in a different context that ‘keeping open avenues of communication was always the trademark of his [Henry of Blois’s] politics’. D. Crouch, The Reign of King Stephen, 1135–1154 (London, 2000), 169. 15

The Hand of St James at Reading


Geoffrey, duke of Normandy, and ‘for the stability and peace of the kingdom of England’.17 According to Matthew Paris, the hand was restored to Reading in 1155,18 where it remained in the custody of ‘a royal monastery that wanted to be’.19 It was coveted by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and, after a round of diplomatic exchanges, withheld from him by Henry II in 1157. This sequence of episodes in the relic’s life—its initial deposition by Henry I at the church he intended as his mausoleum; its pious theft by Henry, bishop of Winchester, as an insurance policy against future difficulties; the Empress Matilda’s use of Reading abbey as a focus for her expression of concern for the kingdom; and her son’s refusal to give it back to the German emperor—testify to the relic’s importance in the strategical thinking of powerful ruling dynasties. For the Angevins, the relic’s optimum setting politically was in pride of place at Reading abbey, as we have seen, a royal mausoleum that gave Henry II’s regime invaluable continuity and legitimacy in its early years.20 Competition at the highest political level over possession of the relic reveals the importance of St James’s cult in the twelfth century. The shrine of St James at Compostela was one of the foremost pilgrimage destinations in the Christian West. A ‘full analysis of the importance of the stories’21 linked to the cult of St James at Reading will help us more fully to understand how the monks of Reading envisaged the place of this in relation to this universal cult and the English Crown.

THE MIRACLE NARRATIVES The surviving manuscript containing miracles associated with the hand of St James was written at the beginning of the thirteenth century,

Reading Abbey Cartularies i. 267, 1108. ‘Sancti Jacobi restituta est Radingo’, Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, 7 vols., ed. H. R. Luard, RS 57 (London, 1872–83), ii. 210. 19 Leyser, ‘Frederick Barbarossa’, 495. 20 Henry II had his son William buried at Reading, where Henry I and his own son William rested. 21 The undertaking is more than alleviated by the groundwork laid down by Kemp in his edn. of the miracles, and from whom the citation and encouragement is taken. See ‘Miracles of St James’, 4. 17 18


The Hand of St James at Reading

though the original is thought to be of the 1190s.22 It contains twentyeight miracle narratives, the preponderance of them cures. Many of these have been dated by the use of internal evidence and belong to the reign of Henry II. Only one narrative contains a date for the miracle it records, not long after the feast of the apostle, (25 July) 1127. For this reason and since it appears at the very end of the collection, almost as an afterthought, it has been treated with suspicion as evidence for the presence of the relic at Reading at such an early date. The content of the narrative tends to confirm the suspicion that convenience rather than accuracy was the chief motive for inclusion of the date. It concerns Richard de Leurs, a knight of Wavercurt near Banbury and a seasoned devotee of St James, who travelled on two occasions to Compostela.23 Richard’s son Peter, having accompanied his father on one of these pilgrimages fell gravely ill, but was saved at Reading, ‘where the apostle’s relics were kept’.24 The inclusion of this narrative in the collection appears to have served two purposes: to record for posterity the presence of the relic at Reading as early as 1127; and to advertise to those prosperous ranks of the laity who might otherwise journey to Compostela that the power of St James at Reading was equal if not superior to that which he displayed in Spain. The miracle collection was first compiled at the same time as work began on the first Reading abbey cartulary. There was surely a certain unity of purpose behind their commission and compilation. In following a common impulse to find, organize, and if necessary fabricate their entitlements to land and rights in it, some monasteries commissioned hagiographical writings to tinge their muniments with sanctity.25 In Reading abbey’s case, the absence of King Richard may have encouraged the monks to review and consolidate the records they kept of 22 B. Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 1. The sole surviving MS containing the collection is a collection of saints’ lives, now Gloucester MS1, at fols. 171v–175v. 23 D. W. Lomax, ‘The First English Pilgrims to Compostela’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis, (London, 24 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 1. 1985), 171. 25 We have already encountered the Vita Gundulfi, which was commissioned in part to help authenticate a number of forged charters at Rochester (see Life of Gundulf, ed. R. M. Thomson, (Toronto, 1977) p.9–10). See also M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (Oxford; 2nd edn. 1993), 101–2. A long-established tradition of using hagiography as a means of recording proprietorial links between the cathedral priory and the landscape existed at Durham, for which see the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto, ed. T. Johnson-South (Cambridge, 2002).

The Hand of St James at Reading


their resources. On 12 September 1189, three months before Richard left on crusade, the monks secured from him four charters designed to protect their interests in his absence. One is a general confirmation of all the lands, liberties, and constitutions found in Henry I’s foundation charter. Another gives notification of the royal protection extended over the rights and liberties of the abbey and adds further confirmation of these liberties. A third is a general precept securing freedom from tolls and charges on the carriage of goods throughout the kingdom for the men of Reading abbey, while a fourth is addressed to the abbot and monks, ordering them to take their lands into demesne, and to recall into demesne any lands given out in fee.26 Upon his return to England five years later, Richard almost immediately issued another charter confirming the details of his previous ones. This was copied into the newly compiled cartulary in a space left after the others.27 In issuing the documents, Richard affirmed his commitment to the abbey as a peculiarly royal foundation. But one of Richard’s actions on the eve of crusade may have caused the monks some anxiety over their relationship with the king. As count of Mortain, in his brother’s absence, John made out in gift to the monks one mark of gold per annum, ‘in consideration of the hand of St James’ and in order to furnish the monks with a cover for the relic.28 In one of the series of charters in which the payment is set up, a further reason is given for the gift. It is recorded as being given because ‘King Richard our brother plundered it [the reliquary] for his crusade’29. This is thought to have taken place on 30 September 1189.30 The incident is not recorded in the abbey’s Annales Posteriores of the fourteenth century, but it is interesting to note the paucity of references to Richard I in the otherwise royalist annals.31 In these delicate circumstances it may have seemed prudent to the Reading monks to complement its muniment collection with a gathering of miracle narratives designed gently to remind their royal patrons 26 See Reading Abbey Cartularies, i. nos. 34–7. The latter charter shows a lapse from the exemption laid down in their foundation charter. 27 Ibid. i, no. 38 (and see note). 28 ‘intuitu manus beati Iacobi apostoli’, ibid. i, nos. 42 and 43. 29 ‘Ricardus rex frater noster in itinere peregrinationis sue denudavit’, ibid. i, no. 46. 30 Itinerary of Richard I, ed. L. Landon, PRS,ns 13 (London, 1935), 10. 31 Only three entries exist for Richard I, dealing briefly with his succession to the throne, departure for Jerusalem, and death. See Annales Radingenses Posteriores, 1135–1264,ed. C. W. Previte-Orton, EHR 37 (1922), 400–01.


The Hand of St James at Reading

and protectors of the invaluable service rendered by the monastery to the Crown over the years. The content of the miracle collection has already been noted by two historians for its commemorative sampling of incidents representing ‘all ranks and orders of Anglo-Norman society from the king downwards’32 and showing that ‘the power of the relic had been used by each class of society in turn’.33 Perhaps with the exception of the baronial ranks of society, the miracles of St James at Reading involved a broad section of society, beginning with the king and working outwards to the country folk of Berkshire and their livestock. Visitors from all over the country appear in the miracle narratives, though there is a core catchment area for the cult, centred on Berkshire and Oxfordshire, (see Map 4) and coinciding broadly with the abbey’s estates. Reading abbey attracted strong support from the English episcopacy, who in the period between the relic’s reinstatement at Reading in 1155 and the consecration of the church by Thomas Becket in 1164, issued indulgences to those pilgrims who visited the abbey.34 Again, such evidence testifies to the shrine’s political significance in fostering associations between the church and the king. But if the hand of St James was intended as a royally approved pilgrimage centre, direct physical access to the hand appears to have been limited. The hand of St James was not as immediately accessible to pilgrims as the enshrined bodies of saints were at other monasteries. As bishop of London (1163–87), Gilbert Foliot translated the hand to a newly crafted reliquary. On St James’s day Gilbert ‘went up on to the screen and transferred the hand from the old reliquary to a new one’.35 From this it would appear that the new reliquary was mounted on the screen that presumably divided the nave from the choir. An alternative focus for popular devotion in the Reading church was ‘the altar which the people had been accustomed to call the altar of St James’ and where one native of Reading was cured, ‘in front of a picture of St James painted there’.36 The hand of St James was occasionally removed from the screen so that personal devotion might be paid to it and healings effected. But such 32

Leyser, ‘Frederick Barbarossa’, 498–9. B. Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Aldershot, 1982) 116. 34 Reading Abbey Cartularies, i, nos. 184–200, and The Acta of the Bishops of Chichester, 35 Ibid. 14. 1075–1207, ed. H. Mayr-Harting (Torquay, 1964), 108–9. 36 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 11 33

The Hand of St James at Reading


occasions apparently required abbatial permission. On a visit to Reading the earl of Gloucester had to ‘obtain permission from the abbot’37 in order to see and adore the hand. A degree of exclusivity of physical access to the relic is further implied by the exceptional opportunity the earl’s visit afforded a woman of Collingbourne with a diseased stomach. St James himself told her in a vision to attend the abbey on that particular day. On only two other recorded occasions were the sick granted personal access to the relic. The withered arm of Alice, daughter of a clerk from Essex, was cured when William the sub-prior, ‘brought the reliquary in which the hand of St James was kept’, placed it over her arm, and had water poured over both.38 The second recipient of a cure effected by the ‘personal touch’ of St James was Thomas, a monk of Reading whose tumorous head was ‘signed with the apostle’s hand’.39 Again, William the sub-prior granted this special privilege. Normally, the monks used water in which the hand had been placed, as the chief medium for bestowing the saint’s favours on pilgrims. In numerous other narratives, as in the case of Roger Hosatus, canon of Merton priory, it was the ‘health-giving water of St James’ that was ‘sought and obtained’.40 On other occasions the hand performed miracles in wider public settings. Gilbert, a keeper of hunting dogs who was struck blind for training them on St James’s day, had his sight restored when Bishop Gilbert, on the day of the translation, lifted up the relic and gave a blessing to the congregation. The daughter of a woman from Suffolk, arriving at Reading at Whitsun, ‘saw in procession the reliquary in which the hand of the blessed James was kept’,41 and was promptly cured of a bone defect in her legs. The very portability of the hand made it useful in the organization of processions and public events but it also made it vulnerable to theft. The monks’ care in controlling access to the hand probably resulted from their once already having lost the relic to the bishop of Winchester. But if no one else could take for granted an intimate encounter with the hand of St James, Henry II appears to have exercised residual rights of possession over it. In their forged charter of his gift of the hand to them, the monks recorded Henry I’s intentions for the custodianship of the relic as follows: ‘I give the glorious hand of St James in perpetuity to the church 37 41

Ibid. 10. Ibid. 11.


Ibid. 9.


Ibid. 10.


Ibid. 17.


The Hand of St James at Reading

of Reading . . . I command that you receive it with all veneration, and both you and your successors treat it with the reverence and honour worthy of such a relic of the apostle and take pains to display it in the church of Reading.’42 The terms under which Henry II restored the relic to the monks in 1155 are unknown. A number of details in the miracle narratives suggest he reserved the right to use it at his own convenience. For example, Abbot Roger was returning from a journey to the king with the relic when he stopped at the plague-ridden abbey estate at Bucklebury. On another occasion, the monks took the relic to the king ‘as he was about to cross the channel, that he might worship it in votive devotion and be fortified with the protection and blessing of the apostle’s hand before he went upon the sea’.43 In summary, the relic was kept at a distance from pilgrims and alternative objects were offered as foci for devotion, including a picture of St James over the high altar and his blessed water. The very portability of the relic probably made it too vulnerable to be kept on open access to the public. Most people experienced the healing influence of St James through contact with the secondary relic of water in which the monks immersed the hand,44 some experienced cures through ritualized encounters with the relic from a distance and at public events. Only a few individuals were honoured with the personal touch of the hand. These gradations of access to the relic testify not to the diminished cultic experience of certain groups attending at the abbey, but to the relic’s appeal and the monks’ versatility in managing the cult on behalf of the king. A central theme of the miracle collection is the role of St James in endorsing benign relations between the king and his subjects. The king’s concern for his subjects’ welfare and St James’s role in supporting these

42 ‘gloriosam manum sancti Iacobi apostoli in perpetuum ecclesie de Radingia dono . . . Mando quod eam cum omni veneratione suscipiatis, et tam vos quam posteri vestri quantum honoris et reverentie potestis sicut dignum est tantis tanti apostoli reliquiis iugiter in ecclesia de Radingia exhibere curetis’, Reading Abbey Cartularies, i, no. 5. 43 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 18. A fitting use of the relic for the monks to remind their audience of, considering Reading’s direct historical link with the White Ship disaster. See C. Warren Hollister, Henry I (London, 2001), 282. 44 For examples of the healing properties of water in which relics have been dipped see Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, iii, 13, iv 3, ed. B. Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1969), 255, 347.

The Hand of St James at Reading


concerns are recurrent motifs. A narrative describing an episode from the great rebellion of 1173–4 illustrates St James’s support for the Angevin dynasty. Matthew, count of Boulogne, led an attack on the castle of Driencourt on St James’s day. For this rash and audacious act, he was struck by a barbed arrow which lodged in his knee, wounding him mortally. Ralph of Diss preserves a version of the story that, unlike that of the Reading account, makes a direct connection between Matthew’s punishment and the hand of St James. The disparity between the two accounts and the surprising omission from the Reading version are perhaps to be explained in terms of the different messages they were concerned to convey. Ralph points out that Matthew had previously sworn an oath of loyalty to the king, ‘touching the hand of St James placed before him’45 (another example of the relic’s utility to the king), in order to emphasize the divine judgement awaiting those who break their oaths. The Reading version is more restrained, more concerned with showing the fate of those who break observance of the holy day of St James than with emphasizing the more secular concern with oaths of loyalty. Its commemoration in this manner might reflect a desire on the monks’ part to avoid too explicit a link between St James, the abbey, and Henry II’s humiliation of Richard and John in 1174. After the king, the noble and knightly orders, their families, and retinues are the focus of much of St James’s attention. As noted above, the earl of Gloucester visited Reading abbey with his wife and ‘several great and powerful lords’, for the special purpose of venerating the hand of St James. Unfortunately, since the narrative concerns itself primarily with the cure of a woman from Collingbourne, the identity of the earl is inconclusive. Robert, illegitimate son of Henry I and married to Mabel fitz Hamon, heiress of the honour, was created earl in 1122.46 His son William succeeded in 1147 and held the title until his death in 1183. Both men can be associated with the Angevin cause, Robert holding Bristol castle in chief during Stephen’s reign, William fighting with the royalist army at Fornham where Earl Robert of Leicester was defeated in the great rebellion of 1173.47 William also stood surety for Archbishop 45 Ralph of Diss, Ymagines Historiarum, ed. W. Stubbs, in The Historical Works of Ralph of Diss, RS, 68, 2 vols. (London, 1876), i .373. 46 I. J. Sanders, Medieval English Baronies (Oxford, 1960), 6 47 Earldom of Gloucester Charters: The Charters and Scribes of the Earls and Countesses of Gloucester to AD 1217, ed. R. B. Patterson (Oxford,1973), 3–9.


The Hand of St James at Reading

Thomas Becket in his early disputes with the king.48 Without a date for the visit, however, it is impossible to establish the precise identity of the earl or the circumstances for his visit.49 The depiction of Henry II as concerned for the health of his subjects is carefully tucked into the narrative about Roger Hosatus, whose cure, through the sending of the relic, ‘came to him from the king’s throne’.50 Another is recorded in the story of Aquilina, whose desperate plight in childbirth came to the attention of the king, ‘at that time staying in those parts’. When the king heard of Aquilina’s protracted labour, he sent to her ‘as many jewels and precious stones as he had, that were believed to help those in labour’.51 The water of St James provided the remedy where the jewels failed, and although it is uncertain who it was that suggested St James’s intervention, it was considered felicitous to record the king’s effort, in conjunction with that of the saint, to promote the woman’s recovery. Aquilina was the daughter of Reginald de Courtney and the wife of Gilbert Basset, two knights in the king’s favour who performed administrative roles for him in the region. It may even have been from one of them that Henry II got news of Aquilina’s ordeal. Reginald de Courtney appears repeatedly in the Pipe Rolls, accounting directly to the Crown for Sutton Courtenay. By 1168 he was responsible to the king for the knights of Walter de Bolbec, and the following year he accounted for twenty of the Giffard fees belonging to the same heir.52 In 1185 he was in custody of the lands of Walter de Bolbec’s daughter.53 Gilbert Basset belonged to a family with a tradition of royal administrative service. He took over the honour of Wallingford from his father when it was under the administration of the Crown during the years 1180 to 1188.54 He also appears in the Rotuli de Dominabus as uncle and F. Barlow, Thomas Becket (London, 1986), 111. William’s successor was of course, John, count of Mortain and it may be that the monks sought tacitly to include record of his proven devotion to St James for the instruction of King Richard. See Earldom of Gloucester Charters: The Charters and Scribes of the Earls and Countesses of Gloucester to AD 1217, ed. R. B. Patterson (Oxford, 1973), 5, for the circumstances of John’s inheritance of the earldom. 50 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 18. 51 Ibid. 16. For the kinds of jewels that were considered to help women in pregnancy and with the birth of children see Marbod of Rennes, Liber Lapidum in PL, cols. 1742B52 PR14HII, p.11; PR15HII, p.149. 1743A, and col. 1751A. 53 Rotuli de Dominabus, ed. J. H. Round, PRS 35 (London, 1913), pp xxxix, 34. 54 PR26HII, p. 47, to PR34HII, p. 12, under ‘Wallingford’. 48 49

The Hand of St James at Reading


guardian of Albert Gresley during his minority, and ward of his lands at Sixhills and Swineshead in Lincolnshire, and Taverham in Norfolk.55 In administering these lands, Gilbert enlisted the help of another local knight, Ralph Gibuin, of whom little else is known except that he was cured of a very severe fever at Reading abbey with the blessed water of St James.56 Gilbert also founded the Augustinian priory of Bicester, to which Aquilina granted land in her ancestral home of Sutton as a widow in 1205–6.57 The miracle narrative records that Aquilina gave 4d. annually from her chief manor to the Reading monks for her cure.58 St James performed another miraculous cure for one of the king’s administrators. The first narrative in the collection concerns the visit of Mauger Malcuvenant, sheriff of Surrey (recte Sussex),59 to Reading abbey. Mauger feared his imminent death and hoped to take on the habit of a monk before he died. The monks were at first highly reluctant to accept him, ostensibly, the narrative mentions, because their abbot was absent, but in truth, because they feared liability for any ‘claims in respect of his shrievalty’ that royal officials might impute to the abbey as a result. Eventually they thawed a little and offered him the habit for his succour, and in the night they were called upon to provide such a service. ‘By divine will’ it happened that they were carrying some of the water in which the hand of St James had been washed and, ‘although uncertain about the efficacy of the apostle’s power when the danger of death was imminent’, they poured three drops of it into his mouth.60 With the other monks gathered around him ‘to see his end’,61 he awoke ‘after one or two hours’ and ‘sprang from his bed’. After mass the following morning he requested and received confraternity of the house, and in turn he promised 20s. a year ‘for the love and honour of the blessed apostle’.62 55 Rotuli de Dominabus, 4, 8, 37, 48. See Ch. 6 above for the cure of Albert de 56 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 17. Gresley’s falcon by St William of Norwich. 57 Basset Charters, ed. W. T. Reedy, PRS, ns 50 (London, 1989–91), no. 192. 58 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 16. 59 PR2HII, p.60. 60 This detail, what might be called the ‘disclaimer and blessing’, together with other elements of the narrative, it is interesting to note, conform to the ritual pattern R. I. Moore has identified in miraculous cures in vita. See R. I. Moore, ‘Between Sanctity and Superstition: Saints and their Miracles in the Age of Revolution’, in M. Rubin (ed.), The Work of Jacques Le Goff and the Challenges of Medieval History (Woodbridge, 1997), 58. 61 On the duties of Cluniac monks in the ritual preparation of a monastic community for death among one of its number see F. S. Paxton, ‘Signa Mortifera: Death and Prognostication in Early Medieval Monastic Medicine’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 67 62 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 7. (1993), 631–2.


The Hand of St James at Reading

Though no record of the gift remains in the cartularies, the story is worth recounting in full because attestation can be found for the existence and personal circumstances of Sheriff Mauger. The Pipe Roll for the second year of Henry II’s reign sheds a remarkable light on the context of Mauger’s visit to the abbey. It records Mauger as sheriff of Sussex and one of twenty-one new postings made by Henry to the shrievalties in 1155. He was thus one of a new assemblage of sheriffs operating in the wake of the restoration of the exchequer by Nigel, bishop of Ely. While eleven of them lasted only two years, Mauger was replaced after one.63 The Pipe Roll records Mauger as in arrears with his payment for the farm of Sussex. The farm was valued at £39. 6s. 8d. By Michaelmas 1156 he had rendered only £26. 13s. 4d. to the treasury, the balance of £12. 13s. 4d. being accounted for in the following year’s roll by the new sheriff, Richard of Humez.64 Whether this indebtedness to the Crown was cause or consequence of his illness is unclear. What is clear is that Mauger threw himself on the mercy of a royalist abbey in an attempt to alleviate the effects of his illness. The mention of reservations on the abbey’s part about receiving Mauger as a monk strongly implies that they had foreknowledge of his financial circumstances. While they quite clearly were not prepared to give him the money he owed the king, they nevertheless were willing to let St James decide his fate and also the policy they should take towards him. The cure gave the monks time to settle the conditions under which they were prepared to help Mauger, the latter leaving the abbey with membership of their confraternity, in effect a recommendation by the abbey that might mitigate his situation in relation to the king. It is interesting to note that the shortfall recorded in the rolls was not charged to Mauger but to his successor. That Mauger was ill is not to be doubted. His selection of Reading abbey as a place of resort in the light of his personal circumstances is telling and reveals St James’s function as a mediator between the king and his royal administrators. In addition to the royal focus that many of the miracles take, the hand of St James at Reading also performed miracles protecting the economic interests of the abbey. On two occasions the monks made use of their relic in communal rituals that were aimed at protecting communities 63 E. Amt, The Accession of Henry II in England, Royal Authority Restored 1149–59 64 PR3HII, p. 79. (Woodbridge, 1993), 119–21.

The Hand of St James at Reading


and resources belonging to the abbey. The town of Reading was hit by a particularly virulent plague that lasted a year, killed the young as well as the old, and took away the lives of thirteen of the monks. The abbey’s response was to lead the town in a liturgical and processional ritual. Under conditions of fast the people of Reading gathered in the abbey to hear special litanies sung. They then followed in a ‘well-ordered’ perambulation of the town, the reliquary of St James held aloft so that the sick might look upon it and be ‘delivered from their infirmities’. When these communal rituals had been completed, the narrative informs us that, ‘on the same day and at the same hour, the affliction ceased’.65 Another narrative in which the hand of St James protected the abbey’s wealth concerns the miraculous relief of the village of Bucklebury and its surroundings from a great plague that killed ‘men and beasts, sheep and oxen, and even the flocks in the field’. The church of Bucklebury was acquired in 1151–4.66 It appears as part of the estates of the abbey in the early thirteenth century.67 The narrative records the presence of a monastic dean at Bucklebury, suggesting that the estates of the manor were quite substantial.68 It was at Peter the dean’s request that Abbot Roger, returning with the hand from the king’s household, celebrated a mass in honour of St James and took the reliquary to the highest spot around, blessing the area with it. The blessed water of St James was also taken around villagers’ homes and sprinkled over them. Again, ‘on the same day and at the very same hour, the plague ceased’.69 This miraculous episode in Bucklebury’s history has an interesting sequel attached to it. The story is of a local knight, ‘a neighbour and friend of the dean’, whose woods contained a quantity of felled timber so heavy that ‘no skill or effort’ could be employed to shift it, and it had lain in the wood for two years. At the dean’s request, the knight donated the wood towards the project of 65 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 8. And see M. Rubin, ‘Religious Culture in Town and Country’, in, D. Abulafia et al. (eds.), Church and City, 1000–1500, (Cambridge, 1994), 12, for insight into the probable social meaning of ‘well ordered’ in the context of 66 Reading Abbey Cartularies, ii, no. 688. Corpus Christi town processions. 67 Liber Feodorum, ed. H. C. Maxwell Lyte, The Book of Fees Commonly Called Testa de Nevill, 3 vols. (London, 1920–31), 108. 68 See B. Kemp, ‘The Monastic Dean of Leominster’, EHR 83 (1968), 505–15, for the administrative significance of the Cluniac term ‘dean’, employed at this time by the 69 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 12. monks at Reading.


The Hand of St James at Reading

erecting a cross on the hill in commemoration of the miracle performed there. Two charters of Jocelin de Bohun, bishop of Salisbury, issuing an indulgence to those visiting the church of St Mary Magdalene in Bucklebury, ‘by the cross in honour of St James the apostle’,70 provide independent evidence of its existence. The presence of the new church there and the indulgence reveal the efforts of ecclesiastics to draw popular devotions at the location of the cross into episcopal control. The narrative teaches the importance of charity and demonstrates the rewards to the knightly classes of monastic benefaction. When given to the abbey, the timber could only be moved to the top of the hill by a team of oxen whose harnesses and hides were sprinkled with the blessed water of St James. The knight’s timber had remained worthless in his possession for two years. It only gained value and literally became a moveable of worth to him when he gave it to the abbey. A number of the miracle narratives contain enough detail to reveal an element of social as well as physical rehabilitation in the miraculous healings of St James. One of the most remarkable is that of Ysembela, daughter of a fisherman from Seaford in Kent. After sleeping out in the open one summer day, Ysembela became paralysed and deformed in her limbs and ‘made useless to herself and pitiable to others’.71 Her unsympathetic stepmother sent her away on a tour of the saints’ shrines, but she returned to no avail. Relations between the girl and her stepmother remained poor, the latter, a woman ‘filled with spiteful hate and indignation’, casting Ysembela out of the household. The story is a marvellous propaganda coup for Reading abbey and for its Angevin patron. Included in Ysembela’s tour of the shrines was Canterbury and the shrine of Thomas Becket. Whilst at Canterbury she was visited in a dream by St James. He assured her that she would not receive a cure from St Thomas, but only at his monastery in Reading. The girl’s aunt, to whom she flew, ‘full of shame’ from her stepmother’s home, immediately sent her to Reading with a coin in order to offer a candle to the saint. She was cured at the abbey after investing her aunt’s money in a candle and lighting it in the church. The account clearly records Ysembela’s sense of profound shame at being rejected by her stepmother. A condition of her cure was the coin and encouragement given her by her 70 ‘iuxta crucem sancti Iacobi apostoli in honore’, Reading Abbey Cartularies, ii. 71 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 15. 692–3.

The Hand of St James at Reading


aunt, symbolizing a vote of confidence in her as a relation worthy of support. She returned from Reading with an even more powerful vote of confidence, a cure administered by St James. The hand of St James also assisted in the rehabilitation of William, a native of Reading whose shrunken legs, ‘no thicker than a human thumb’, caused him to be ‘regarded as a spastic’. William was cured when he was placed before the altar of St James, in front of a crowd of people assembled in the church one Christmas Eve. The description of William’s efforts to rise and carry himself by his own steam give the impression of a child determined to prove himself worthy of respect rather than of morbid fascination by the narrator. He drew the strength to perform such an important public gesture from the image of St James at the altar, and the author notes that ‘throughout that night and Christmas Day he could not and would not be drawn away by any assault of the cold or any pang of hunger or thirst’. St James thus provided the marginalized and the victims of misfortune and psychological disorders not merely with cures, but with a means of gaining social acceptance within their communities. The author finally observes of the local boy that ‘there remain no longer any signs of his lameness’.72 As mentioned above, Reading abbey fulfilled a special function of hospitality laid down in its foundation charter, hosting pilgrims and the poor, and administering hospitals for the sick and for lepers. These duties were supplemented by the operation of the cult, and also supported through the recruitment of those cured by the hand of St James and willing to offer their own services to the abbey and the saint. In this sense St James offered individuals opportunities to be rehabilitated and find a new role for themselves when opportunities in their original communities were severely compromised. A good example of such an individual is Gilbert, the keeper of a certain rich man’s hounds, who came to Reading from the north of England, to make his peace with the saint after being struck blind for hunting on St James’s day. After sight was returned to him, he ‘served many years in the guesthouse at Reading’. His rehabilitation was thus made possible in a new life as servant to the saint he had dishonoured. The author of the miracles described Gilbert’s ostracization from the company he considered his friends and 72

Ibid. 11.

The Hand of St James at Reading


platitudinously notes, ‘When you are successful, you will number many friends; in bad times you will be alone’.73 Another example is that of Alice, daughter of a clerk of Essex, whose arm was paralysed and stuck fast to her side. At the abbey she gave a candle at the altar, heard mass and began the slow process of recovery when her arm was ripped from her side. The narrative is candid in noting that ‘after some considerable time, she completely recovered to perfect health’, stayed at the abbey, ‘receiving only the necessaries for her body’, and ‘washed the towels and other linen dressings of the church’. In this way the miracles of St James provided individuals with a halfway house and an opportunity to improve themselves and to gain greater fulfilment from their lives. Gilbert, ‘inspired inwardly by a stricter vow’, left the abbey on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Alice’s time spent in the abbey’s service ended quite profitably for her in a favourable marriage, less so from the monks’ perspective: ‘she was seduced and abducted by a certain smith and became his wife’.74 How the author crafted his narratives reveals his fascination for other kinds of social boundaries and conditions of marginality articulated in the miracle collection. Among his favourite literary subjects were those concerned with the dead and those either approaching death or in its midst. It was apparently a special attribute of St James that he could bring people back from the brink of death. The author’s advertisement of such a skill may have been intended to place him on a level above that of the rival English saints of the period, St Cuthbert, St Thomas, and St Edmund. His favourite metaphor for describing sick pilgrims is one that evokes the notion of boundaries and thresholds. When Mauger entered the abbey seeking the habit he was ‘drawing ever nearer to the gates of death’.75 Similarly when Edward Haver, a Reading man, who came to the abbey with a swollen throat and fever, he did so as one who ‘drew nearer to the gates of death’.76 Many of those cured by the hand of St James were experiencing the extremes of their illnesses when they arrived at the abbey. Their encounters with St James were rituals that marked the turning point in their illnesses. Often the results of contact with the water of St James produced material proof of the process of recovery. Ingestion of the blessed water 73 76

Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 13. Ibid. 8.


Ibid. 10.


Ibid. 6.

The Hand of St James at Reading


drove out the harmful and poisonous fluids that caused individuals to suffer. Vomiting or the expulsion of other bodily fluids took on a symbolic and thus a social significance, not simply as a biological function but as the restoration of personal moral well-being. A woman from the village of Earley, swollen with dropsy, entered the abbey on the eve of St James’s nativity and, when later the monks began Matins, was thrown to the ground in agony with a stirring in her bowels. After some time writhing on the pavement, she eventually opened her bowels and ‘evacuated the poison which she had built up over a long period and cleared out all the filth of harmful fluid’. The form that Ysembela’s cure took is almost exactly like that of the woman of Earley. She threw herself to the pavement and screamed, banged and dashed her body about the floor. Finally, she ‘vomited up a great deal of blood . . . until the fluid which had harmed her . . . seemed to be thoroughly cleared out’.77 When Robert of Stanford, a knight with severe fever, came to Reading, a drink of the saint’s water made him ‘vomit again and again until the harmful fluid was brought up’.78 The ‘anticipatory’ nature of these rituals of healing is most clearly illustrated in the case of the plague at Reading. The town (and the abbey itself, which made no small contribution to the mortality figures)79 had suffered under the plague for a year when the monks decided to take ritual action. By this time the plague had probably already passed its most virulent stage and accounted for the vast majority of young and old who would have been susceptible to it. The effect of the procession about town was to mark the beginning of the recovery to health of the urban community.80 Another important function of this ritual deployment of the hand of St James was that it reaffirmed the social boundaries between the living and the dead at a time when they were unclear. When the relic was processed around the town, the author notes ‘the sick were laid out


78 Ibid. 17. Ibid. 15. Thirteen monks died over the year and several of the monastery’s servants became ill. See J. Maddicott, ‘Plague in Seventh-Century England’, PP 156 (1997), 35, for monasteries as ‘reservoirs of infection’. 80 The ritual brings to mind an anecdote recalled by the anthropologist Stanley Tambiah in which his colleague offered a rain-maker money to perform his ceremony, and received the reply, ‘Don’t be a fool; whoever makes a rain-making ceremony in the dry season?’ See S. J. Tambiah, Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality (Cambridge, 1990), 54. And for similar story see M. Douglas, Purity and Danger: Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966), 67. 79


The Hand of St James at Reading

in the streets (the dead being kept indoors)’.81 The separation of the two was a poignant symbol that marked the dead out as a distinct ‘age class’ despite their unwelcome occupation of peoples’ living spaces.82 A far more intimate conjunction of life and death was experienced by Aquilina, whose plight in childbirth confirms the author’s fascination for the dead, the living, and the boundaries between them. Aquilina suffered for days in labour with a baby brought to full term that had died in the womb. The author explains that no doctor could help her, that the gems sent by the king had given her no assistance, and that she did not trust midwives. In the end, she was left in exhausting pain, an arm of the baby hanging down, ‘a dead body buried in a dying body, a corpse within a corpse, a child within its mother’.83 This explicit and gruesome dwelling on the detail serves to heighten the dramatic effect of the water of St James, which eventually saved the mother’s life. One final narrative provides a remarkable glimpse of a case in which the boundaries between the living and the dead were crossed. Alice, the Essex girl mentioned above with the paralysed arm attached to her abdomen, contracted her illness after an encounter with the living dead. Out milking sheep just as day was breaking one Good Friday, she met ‘a ghastly figure with a face like a man’s and the appearance and form as though of a dead man prepared for his funeral and burial’.84 Though it left her very quickly, Alice’s encounter with the phantom struck her with madness and deformity. The fleeting appearance of the dead man in the author’s narrative is difficult to explain other than to observe its probable fascination to him. Stories about the living dead appear in chronicles at this time, and perhaps reveal a certain wave of learned interest in popular ‘ritual technologies’85 for dealing with the dead. William of Newburgh describes a number of incidents involving such figures. One of them recounts the story of a corpse wandering around Buckingham in 1196. The dead man terrorized his family until, at the advice of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, they placed a letter of absolution in his tomb.86 Other Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James,’ 8. See P. J. Geary, Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (New York, 1994), 36, for 83 Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 16. his use of the term ‘age class’. 84 Ibid. 9. 85 N. Caciola, ‘Wraiths, Revenants and Ritual in Medieval Culture’, PP 152 (1996), 45. 86 William of Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum, ed. R. Howlett, in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, 2 vols., RS, 82 (London, 1884–5), ii. 474–5. 81 82

The Hand of St James at Reading


reanimated corpses had to be dismembered or cremated before they could be stopped from revisiting the living. The task was clearly one performed within communities that were troubled by the circumstances behind the death of one of their members. The author of the miracles of St James mentions the ‘phantom’ only in passing. Its appearance at dawn and the illness contracted merely by encountering it conform to the conventions of other narratives involving the living dead.87 Unfortunately we are left to muse on the significance of its appearance to Alice and the community that she left to serve in the church at Reading. In conclusion, possession of the hand of St James was, from the time of its arrival in England, charged with political significance. Its placement by Henry I at Reading abbey fitted in consummately with his plans for that foundation as a model of royal monastic reform.88 From its original conception, the abbey was intended to open its doors to all levels of English society in order to advertise Henry I’s divinely approved kingship.89 Its exemption from feudal obligations to the king singled it out in this role. For Henry II the hand of St James took on a greater urgency as a symbol of his legitimate kingship, providing the tangible link between his reign and that of his grandfather. Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, recognized this political significance in his removal of it from Reading, and Henry II’s devotion to it as a powerful heavenly bulwark of the Angevin regime is evident in his refusal to return it to the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1157. The miracle collection also contains evidence of his personal use of it to ensure safe crossing on the sea. At war, independent evidence in the chronicle of Ralph of Diss testifies to St James’s punishment of the king’s political enemies for their breaking of oaths made before the hand. While the king enjoyed use of the relic when it suited him, its custody at Reading made it available for wider groups in Angevin society to share

87 For more references to such tales of animated cadavers and for comment on the phenomenon as a general trend in the late 12th cent. see J-C. Schmitt, Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society (Chicago, 1998), 136–9. 88 See D. Bethell, ‘English Black Monks and Episcopal Elections in the 1120s’, EHR 84 (1969), 688–90, for the distinction between Reading abbey and the more traditional ‘English abbeys’. 89 Cf. the role of St James with the enduring one performed by St Denis on behalf of successive Frankish dynasties, see, A. Thacker, ‘Peculiaris Patronus Noster: The Saint as Patron of the State in the Early Middle Ages’, in J. R. Maddicott and D. M. Palliser (eds.), The Medieval State: Essays Presented to James Campbell (London, 2000), 4–8.


The Hand of St James at Reading

the protection of their ruler’s heavenly patron. An important group among them were those responsible for administering the king’s finances and providing him with military support. The hand of St James also served an important social function as a focus for marking the boundaries between the sick and the dead, and rehabilitating many who had either lost status within their home communities or who were rejected and marginalized because of their disabilities and perceived redundancy. For a number of these individuals, a cure might be followed by recruitment to a position in the service of the monks as the latter fulfilled their other role providing hospitality to both wealthy and poor. The fact that the king appears to have enjoyed residual rights of possession over the hand of St James meant that the abbey was restricted in its independence in respect of its relic. The relic was a guarantee to Henry II that his foundation would remain loyal and perform its important public relations duties on his behalf. The versatility and creativity with which the monks managed the cult on the king’s behalf are illustrated in the miracle collection. It is likely that it was meant for this purpose. The collection, and the insights we owe to it, ironically, proceeded from a moment of strain in the relations between king and abbey, in the aftermath of Richard I’s stripping of the reliquary for his crusade finances. As well as being the king’s relic to give the monks it might be his to remove in the future. With these circumstances fresh in the author’s mind, and in ours now, the opening paragraph to the collection takes on a particular resonance when applied to the monks of Reading themselves: From the lord’s teaching we learn how the servant who preferred to wrap up his master’s money in a cloth and bury it, rather than invest it for profit, not only lost the talent which he had, but also incurred a sentence of condemnation. Desiring therefore to avoid the danger of so frightful a sentence, we have thought fit to hand on to posterity, in what ways we can, the talent of divine bounty received by the merits of the blessed James.90 90

Kemp, ‘Miracles of St James’, 6.

The Hand of St James at Reading


Wigstan Parva Warwick

+ Rowington


+ Banbury


Houghton Conquest

+ Aston Hanborough





Stanton Harcourt

+ Berkeley

Stanford in the Vale Blewbury

+ Cholsey

Lashbrook Bradfield Curridge + Englefield + + Wargrave + Bucklebury Reading Earley Marlborough Thatcham Windsor Whitley Ufton Burghfield Stratton



Barking London Merton Priory


+ Whitsbury Southampton

Key Manors Pilgrim Origin Church

Map 4. The Estates Of Reading Abbey Under Richard I

8 Conclusion More than any other type of contemporary source, collections of miracle narratives present remarkably rich portrayals of English society in the twelfth century. They examine, rehearse, and interpret the lives of people who might not otherwise enter the historical field of vision. This explains their attraction to modern historians. However, we must be careful not to be seduced by their content. One basic premise of this book is that miracle narratives are not transparent. They are discursive. Without acknowledging and confronting the problems that accompany this fact it is difficult to arrive at a full and sensitive account of how cults worked.1 Miracle collections represent a kind of reality in the way they present cults to us. In pursuing this reality, authors inevitably produced stories that marginalized and obscured some historical truths in the act of privileging and revealing others. A second important premise of this book is that the power of these narratives to convey meaning depended upon their retention of some authentic historical detail. In the act of recording it, such detail was abstracted from its original social context and embedded in narrative. The relationships between the kind of reality presented in these narratives and the elements of experience they obscured reflect the difference between historical contexts of cult commemoration in writing, and wider social appropriations of saints’ cults. Despite their colourful content, like other forms of narrative, miracle collections were subject to two conditions: first, the conventions and ideological aims imposed by the genre and, secondly, the historical and institutional contexts in which they were produced. Together these conditions shaped the kind of reality in which authors dealt. Exerting a force in one direction, the ideological aim of the genre was to record 1 For a stimulating discussion of the same issues see M. Bull, The Miracles of Our Lady of Rocamadour (Boydell, 1999), 32–8.



miraculous proofs of heavenly patronage in order to inspire and encourage the faithful. This didactic imperative determined what historians now get to see of cult practices in the narratives, in terms of their extent, purpose, and qualities. The moral economy of the genre was the redemption and damnation of real people through their participation in imagined communities.2 In this literature we are presented with a world of dramatic, polarized outcomes for individuals: good Christians have their devotion rewarded; bad ones are punished. In pointing their moral lessons, authors were led by convention and topoi away from simple reportage towards abstraction. They tidied up reality, marshalled, edited, and articulated it according to the lessons they sought to illustrate. There is a pleasing symmetry in the way that miracle stories unfold and are resolved. The ultimate themes they addressed were intellectual and moral: they resolved issues of power, status, and identity in Christian societies. If the didactic imperative of the genre exerted its force towards abstraction, however, an opposing force operated through it. The probative and advocatory functions of the genre demanded of the author that he retain a degree of proximity to historical verisimilitude in the detail he included in his narratives. Too much abstraction compromised the power and appeal of the narrative to its target audiences. The author’s concern to tap into particular social issues and themes provides a clue to understanding the historical contexts in which these texts were produced. The kinds of social detail and issues addressed in these narratives, the kinds of jeopardy in which particular protagonists were placed, reflect the range of social concerns and interests with which religious communities sought to help and guide the laity. They are an attempt to hail external communities into the narrative.3 The central concern of each of my case-study chapters has been to examine how cults were imagined and invented in religious communities, to investigate how religious communities hoped to foster notions of social cohesion and stability in lay communities. Behind the religious cliche´s and topoi of the genre, which aimed to sensitize people to certain social issues 2 To use the phrase coined by Benedict Anderson to describe dispersed communities whose members create (rather than fabricate or falsify) their identity through common reference to stories preserved in texts. See Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (rev. edn. London, 1991), 6. 3 See J. Arnold, Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (Philadelphia, 2001), 1–15, for the use and origins of this term.



and offer remedies, existed a complex of interactions and negotiations carried out through story-telling and ritual. With the help of documentary and other narrative sources, wherever possible, evidence dealing with these institutions and people has been adduced to sharpen our sociological focus on these negotiating communities. The broad historical contexts of the collections that were discussed in this book are monastic (chiefly Benedictine) and urban. The authors of hagiography concerned with the life and miracles of St Frideswide in particular appear to have been combining more widely dispersed cultic traditions into a story that fixed its audiences’ attention on the house of regular canons. Through their miracle collection the canons were keen to communicate the message that St Frideswide was the patron saint of the town and its emerging elites. The evidence of thirteenth-century benefactions to the monastery suggests that St Frideswide’s cult succeeded in attracting the attention and acknowledgement of descendants of the foremost families of the town. Such townsfolk were inventing a corporate identity for themselves during the twelfth century. The saint’s attraction extended upwards of forty miles beyond the town’s walls to villages whose economic and political life increasingly centred on Oxford. In this way, through the symbolic capital shared in the cult of St Frideswide, is traced in outline the symbiotic economic relationship between a medieval town and its region.4 A similar relationship was represented in East Anglia through the cult of St William of Norwich. The cult was a logical development of the legacy of Norwich’s founding bishop, Herbert de Losinga. Herbert had built his cathedral at the hub of an economic network that faced out to the North Sea and the continent beyond.5 In addition to its estates that were compactly distributed across Norfolk, north and east of the East Anglian watershed, the bishop was responsible for the development of the salt industry and the town of Lynn and built the impressive church of St Nicholas at Yarmouth, defending it against encroachments from all comers. The unclear circumstances of William’s death provided an irresistible opportunity for Herbert’s successor, Bishop William Turbe, to position (to use modern marketing terminology) the cathedral at the heart of an economy of support and redemption for the economic 4 R. H. Britnell and B. M. S. Campbell, A Commercializing Economy: England 1086 to c.1300 (Manchester, 1995), 9–12. 5 It is significant that William’s sanctity was first documented in a German martyrology. See Ch. 5 n. 14 above.



establishment of Norfolk. The victims of this new alignment were the Jews, whose commercial services had contributed to the economic ebullience of the region, but who indirectly brought its commercial wealth within reach of royal taxation and whose religion made them vulnerable to the rhetoric of pollution. The time it took to establish the cult, and the conflicts that it involved within as well as beyond the monastic community at Norwich, testify to an initial degree of doubt and distaste shared by a significant section of Norfolk society towards the fantasy of blood-libel invented in the story of St William. William’s willingness as a young entrepreneur to deal with the Jewish community in Norwich may ironically make him a more fitting representative of the Christian economic community of Norfolk than the martyred status invented for him by the monks of Norwich. The theme of urbanization and commerce is explored again most explicitly in the miracles of St Mary of Laon, the account of a fundraising tour conducted by French canons through the cities of southern England. Itinerant merchant communities were conspicuous clientele of the Virgin. Newly arising disparities of wealth in the towns also drew the interest of the canons and their saintly patron. William Chibus had grown rich from usury. The advent of her relics to Winchester provided him the opportunity to seek social rehabilitation for his apparently aggressive business methods. The narrative provides incomplete accounts of the money offered at the feretory of St Mary, but pays particular attention to the distribution of wealth made by the rich on behalf of their poor dependants. The imagined urban communities of southern England according to the narratives are harmonious examples of Christian charity mediated by the heavenly patronage of the Virgin Mary. The story of the secular canons who were punished for disrupting this economy of charity further illustrates the shift in cultic focus from the local minster to the larger reformed and urban religious community represented by the regular canons of Laon. The above examples of saints’ cults illustrate the engagement of religious communities with the newly wealthy of England’s southern towns. The remaining three case studies are of religious communities responding through cult promotion to historical circumstances threatening their institutional security. Before the Norman Conquest of England, the monks of Bury St Edmunds had acquired valuable franchises through successive royal grants and confirmations. For the first



generation of secular Norman lords, trying to consolidate their power in the region, whether through the acquisition of land or through holding royal office, the monastery frustrated their ambitions. The earliest hagiographical account of the cult by Hermann reads like a dossier of historical evidence brought to bear against a powerful section of the court of William Rufus that sought to undermine the abbey’s special status. Later reworkings of the cult reflect a softening of relations between the abbey and its neighbouring families of knightly and aristocratic status. The cult of St Ithamar, rescued from almost total obscurity by the monks of Rochester, represents their efforts to maintain morale and status during an uncertain period of their history under an irregularly imposed and absentee bishop and archdeacon. The cult activity associated with the hand of St James at Reading and recorded by the monks in the early years of the 1190s served as a particularly poignant reminder to the Plantagenet dynasty of its special links with the royal monastery at Reading. It publicized the particular relationship the abbey enjoyed with John at a time when his brother, King Richard, was absent on crusade and apparently ambivalent towards the monastery and its status. The mutually dependent relationship between town and country remains an important if muted theme of these miracle collections. In fact, the most important issues to emerge from these contexts are linked to the social and political pressures associated with a society increasingly experiencing the effects of urbanization. Chief among these issues was the need to acknowledge the burgeoning power and influence of an increasingly self-conscious urban elite by rewarding its devotion to a saint with support and approval of its social status. Saintly patronage legitimized urban wealth and power in the attention it gave to the urban poor through its provision of charity and encouragement of wealth redistribution. In short, saints’ cults functioned through webs of gift exchange and the provision of ritual space, as forces for the promotion of social cohesion during periods of historical change among local communities. They serve to remind us of the invaluable pastoral and social functions performed by Benedictine monasteries before the mendicant and preaching orders existed. We cannot assume, however, that the images of cult outlined above always reached their target or controlled the reception and response of people to cult practice. The themes favoured by hagiographers did not inform, contain, or resolve all the social understandings and motivations



bringing pilgrims to the shrines of saints in the hope of a miracle. Wider forms of negotiation and authorization of the miraculous existed on the fringes of these imagined communities. As we have seen, some audiences were more likely than others to be receptive to how these issues were formulated and resolved in narrative. But unlike the sacraments, which were closely supervised and controlled by church authorities, miracles were opportunities for religious practice that was voluntary and ad hoc. The ritual associated with miracles was less routinized and looser than that of baptism, confession, or the eucharist. Upon the mystery and malleability of saints’ cults depended their wider social success. The power of relics lay in their multivalent quality. Each time pilgrims came to encounter them relics were loaded up with a new emotional freight. Most pilgrims arrived at the shrines in states of extreme emotional and physical distress. Their religious belief in the saint was pragmatic, intense, and no less meaningful for its ephemeral nature. Just as there were no atheists in the trenches, there was none, it would seem, who dared take to sea in twelfth-century boats. More than in any other recurring narrative in these collections, the burgeoning social power of the clergy is illustrated in stories of ships saved from storms by priests leading their crewmates in prayer to a saintly intercessor. Behind the familiar ritual scenes of sick pilgrims stretched out before the tomb of the saint, then, we might imagine a degree of groundwork being laid by the family, neighbours, the local priest, friends, and monks in the form of diagnostic consultation, medical attention, and material support, counselling, advice, and instruction in preparation for the ritual encounter with a saint. To include such details in the narrative would rather undermine the dramatic and spontaneous phenomenon of the miraculous. Sufficient fragments of such details of domestic and micropolitical importance do exist however, for us hazily to discern their outline. For example: the young girl whose aunt sent her with a penny to the shrine of St James after her stepmother effectively banished her from the house for shame of her disability, provides tantalizing clues to the domestic circumstances behind the girl’s personal quest for a miracle. Similar tensions within families and local communities associated with roles unfulfilled or unacknowledged, or ignored because of individual disability or obstinacy, are likely to lie behind many of these stories. Such stages of negotiation are often missing from the record or were marginal to the concerns of the authors of these narratives. The will-



ingness of groups in this way to engage ritually and orally with saints’ relics reflects a powerful degree of local freedom and creativity in the ascription of particular meanings to cults with which monastic communities probably had only a secondary interest. Moreover, plenty of evidence exists for the omission of miracle stories on the grounds that they lacked reliable witnesses, or if it was suspected that the saint was being abused, exploited, trivialized, or treated in bad faith. The literature was meant to edify, not to dwell for too long on the sensual, trivial, or worldly dimensions of popular cult practices. Such pleasures in response to the cult of saints, in all their rude and vital diversity, are the hidden backdrop against which we can better understand our sources. We might imagine a secular approach to the cult of saints that was pragmatic, mundane, parochial, and accompanied by intense but ephemerally felt emotions. Finally, not everyone in society chose to engage with saints’ cults, a fact that should remind us of the dangers of talking too loosely about ‘popular religion’ and a ‘medieval mentality’. Among those crowds of sceptics and impious Christians who failed sufficiently to reverence a saint, there were significant numbers of individuals and communities for whom the saints’ cults were a matter for indifference, perhaps even a cultural phenomenon deserving of scorn and derision. Perhaps the most evocative image of such an attitude is that of the Oxford Jew who (not without fatal consequences) entertained crowds to his own ritual performance of being cured on the feast day of St Frideswide.6 To another such apparently cynical individual, this time a Christian, the victim of a punishment killing by St Erkenwald, I will give the last word: You clerics have so much time on your hands that you neglect your own business and meddle with what doesn’t concern you. You people, honestly, you are free to keep every day as a holiday, and you get to grow soft with idleness and to eat other peoples’ food. You can sing without care both day and night, for no necessity compels you to work. Your life should be thought of as more a game or a stage play than a real occupation. If someone would feed me every day for free, and clothe me, damn me if I wouldn’t strain myself for him, no matter if he wanted me to sing high or low. Whenever we manage to make enough money from our work for food and a bit more to drink, then we spend our feast day having a good time dancing and shouting. If you were to take an interest in our type of enjoyment you would come to think very poorly of your own solemnities and clamourings. For one 6

See Ch. 7 n. 71 above.



thing, the jobs we work at are useful, and for another, we do them with cheerful voices, and for the sake of happiness. But you clerics with your everlasting useless dirges, you despise the life we lead, and because our type of work is not like yours, you proudly condemn it. And then you bring in some Erkenwald or other to defend our idleness, and by this authority you try to deprive me of what sustains my life. Will Erkenwald feed me if I lose my income on his account? I would be a laughing stock if I gave up my job and expected to be fed by your patron. So go on then, and keep your festivals and your old songs and your Erkenwald to yourselves, and leave off envying us, drones that you are, and let us get on with the work that strong men have to do. Whoever could persuade me to busy myself with your religion and to neglect my work, could also persuade me that I can live without eating.7

This early blow struck for the ‘blue collar worker’ is located in an unspecified remote past and the diatribe uttered by an anonymous London citizen who, while going about his business on the saint’s holy day, was confronted by a canon of the cathedral. His fate for speaking his mind in so expansive and critical a manner seems quite bathetic: he ‘tripped over a half-buried skull and struck his head on the floor with such force that he died’. The story and the extended speech is a remarkable concession by its author, Arcoid, a canon of St Paul’s, London, presumably to a contemporary lay audience hostile towards the religious community. It is interesting for its secular endorsement of what a feast day was for,8 and for the apparent obscurity, to at least some London folk, of Erkenwald’s name. The author’s reference to particular people in two other narratives points towards a similar background of social tensions between the canons and their urban neighbours at the time of writing in the 1140s. Vitalis, ‘a craftsman who was in the business of cleaning the hides from which fox skin coats were made’, pierced one of his eyes with a sharp implement while at work on the holy day of Erkenwald.9 Meanwhile a painter called Theodwin, who, on the saint’s holy day, set about his work painting the vaulting around the crypt-tomb of Erkenwald, was overtaken by a sleep in which the saint set about him with a pastoral staff as punishment for his impiety. The narrative goes on to acknowledge those of the laity whose inclination was to sympathize with the man for the harshness of his death. Others, who 7 Arcoid of London, Miracula Sancti Erkenwaldi, tr. E. G. Whatley, The Saint of London: The Life and Miracles of St Erkenwald (Binghampton, NY, 1989), 113. 8 See P. Brown, ‘Enjoying the Saints in Late Antiquity’, EME 9/1 (2000), 5 and 23–4, for the ‘other forms of appropriation of their [the saints’] power’, by the laity. 9 Arcoid, Miracula, 149.



regarded the punishment as wholly fitting for his impiety and arrogance, provided the moral with which the author could rescue the narrative for hagiographical consumption. As Arcoid put it, ‘Erkenwald revived the age of the early church before the eyes of all men, and indeed, by the profusion of wonders he performed, he passed judgement on us as unbelievers’.10 This of course returns us to Augustine’s evocation of miracles as intended for ‘slow learners’, with which I began this book. An alternative possibility is that some people weren’t slow learners but believed rather in choosing their teachers with more care. 10

Arcoid, Miracula, 135.

Select Bibliography MANUSCRIPTS AND THESES Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Digby 177. Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS 240. British Library, MS Royal 2 B V. Gloucester Cathedral Library, MS 1. Carter P. N., ed. and tr. ‘Miracles of The Virgin Mary, by William of Malmesbury’ (D.Phil Oxford, 1959). Morison, P. R., ‘The Miraculous and French Society, 950–1100’ (D.Phil. Oxford, 1983). Parkinson, B. J., ‘The Life of Robert de Bethune, Bishop of Hereford’ (B.Litt. Oxford, 1951). Rubinstein, J., ‘The Post-Conquest Hagiography of Christ Church Canterbury’ (M.Phil. Oxford, 1991). Stone, E., ‘The Estates of Norwich Cathedral Priory’ (D.Phil. Oxford, 1956). PRINTED SOURCES

Primary Sources Abbo of Fleury, Life of St Edmund, ed. M. Winterbottom, in Three Lives of English Saints (Toronto, 1972), 65–87. Acta of the Bishops of Chichester, 1075–1207, ed. M. Mayr-Harting, Canterbury and York Society, 130 (Torquay, 1964). Acta Proborum Virorum, ed. W. D. Macray, Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham ad Annum 1418, RS 29 (London, 1863), 323–4. Aelfric’s Lives of the Saints, 3 vols., ed. W. W. Skeat, Early English Text Society, 76, 82, 94 (1881–1900). Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography, ed. P. H. Sawyer, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 8 (London, 1971). Anglo-Saxon Litanies of the Saints, ed. M. Lapidge, Henry Bradshaw Society (London, 1991). Anglo-Saxon Wills, ed. and tr. D. Whitelock (Cambridge, 1930). Anglo-Saxon Writs, ed. F. E. Harmer (Manchester, 1952). Arcoid of London, Miracula Sancti Erkenwaldi, tr. E. G. Whatley, The Saint of London: The Life and Miracles of St Erkenwald (Binghampton, 1989).


Select Bibliography

Augustine of Hippo, City of God, tr. H. Bettenson (London, 1984). Basset Charters, ed. W. T. Reedy, PRS ns 50 (London, 1989–91). Bede, De Tabernaculo, ed. D. Hurst, CCSL 119A (Turnholt, 1969), 11–12. —— Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. B. Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1969). Bernard of Angers, Liber Miraculorum Sancte Fidis, ed. and tr. P. Sheingorn, The Book of Sainte Foy (Philadelphia, 1995). Book of St Gilbert, ed. R. Foreville and G. Keir (Oxford, 1987). British Borough Charters, 1042–1216, ed. A. Ballard (Oxford, 1913). Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus Miraculorum, 2 vols., ed. J. Strange (Cologne, 1851). Cartulary of the Monastery of St Frideswide’s, Oxford, ed. S. R. Wigram, Oxford Historical Society, 28, 31 (Oxford, 1895–6). Charters of Norwich Cathedral Priory, 2 vols. ed. B. Dodwell, PRS 40, 46 (London, 1974–85). Chronicle of Battle Abbey, ed. E. Searle (Oxford, 1980). Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, ed. W. D. Macray, RS 29 (London, 1863). Collectiania II, ed. M. Burrows, Oxford Historical Society, 16 (Oxford, 1890). Custumary of the Benedictine Abbey of Bury St Edmund in Suffolk, ed. A. Gransden, Henry Bradshaw Society, 99 (London, 1966). Eadmer of Canterbury, Vita Anselmi, ed. R. W. Southern (Oxford, 1962). Earldom of Gloucester Charters: The Charters and Scribes of the Earls and Countesses of Gloucester to ad 1217, ed. R. B. Patterson (Oxford, 1973). Early Christian Lives, ed. and tr. C. White (London, 1998). Early Yorkshire Charters, viii. The Honour of Warenne, ed. C. T. Clay (Wakefield, 1949). Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, 6 vols., ed. M. Chibnall (Oxford, 1968–80). English Benedictine Kalendars after A.D. 1100, ed. F. Wormald, Henry Bradshaw Society, 77, 81 (London, 1939–46). English Episcopal Acta, vi. Norwich, 1070–1214, ed. C. Harper-Bill, British Academy (London, 1990). English Historical Documents, 1042–1189, ii. ed. D. C. Douglas and G. W. Greenaway (London, 1953), 107–203. English Lawsuits from William I to Richard I, 2 vols., ed. R. C. Van Caenegem, Selden Society, 106–7 (London, 1990–1). Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, ed. D. C. Douglas (London, 1932). First Register of Norwich Cathedral Priory, ed. and tr. H. W. Saunders, Norfolk Record Society, 11 (1939). Geoffrey of Burton, The Life and Miracles of St Modwenna of Burton, ed. and tr. R. Bartlett (Oxford, 2002).

Select Bibliography


Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumie`ges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, ed. and tr. Elizabeth M. C. Houts (Oxford, 1995). Gesta Stephani, ed. K. R. Potter, intro. R. H. C. Davis (Oxford, 1976). Guibert de Nogent, Monodiae, tr. P. J. Archambault, A Monk’s Confession: The Memoirs of Guibert de Nogent (Philadelphia, 1996). Guibert of Nogut, De Pignoribus Sanctorum, ed. J.-P. Migne, PL 156 (Paris, 1853), cols. 607–80. Hermann, canon of Laon, De Miraculis S. Mariae Laudunensis, ed. J.-P. Migne, PL 156 (Paris, 1853), cols. 961–1018. —— Liber De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi, in Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, 3 vols., ed. T. Arnold, RS 96 (London, 1890–6), i. Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops, ed. J. Raine, RS 71 (London, 1879). Itinerary of Richard I, ed. L. Landon, PRS ns 13 (London, 1935). Jocelin de Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of St Edmunds, tr. D. Greenway and J. Sayers (Oxford, 1989). John of Ford, Vita Wulfrici, in Wulfric of Hazelbury by John of Ford, ed. M. Bell, Somerset Record Society, 47 (1932). John of Worcester, Chronicon ex Chronicis, in The Chronicle of John of Worcester, 3 vols., ed. and tr. R. R. Darlington, P. McGurk, and J. Bray (Oxford, 1995– ). Kalendar of Abbot Samson of Bury St Edmunds and Related Documents, ed. R. H. C. Davis, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 84 (London, 1954). Letters of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, ed. and tr. H. Clover and M. Gibson (Oxford, 1979). Libellus de Vita et Miracula S Godrici, Heremitae, de Finchale, ed. J. Stevenson, Surtees Society, 20 (London, 1847). Liber Eliensis, ed. E. O. Blake, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 91 (London, 1962). Liber Feodorum, ed. H. C. Maxwell Lyte, The Book of Fees Commonly Called Testa De Nevill, 3 vols. (London, 1920–31). Life, Letters and Sermons of Bishop Herbert de Losinga, ed. E. M. Goulburn and H. Symonds (London, 1878). Life of Burchard of Worms, ed. G. Waitz, MGH SS 4 (Hanover, 1841), pp. 830–46. Life of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, ed. R. Thomson (Toronto, 1977). Life of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury by Eadmer, ed. R. W. Southern (Oxford, 1972). Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, 7 vols., ed. R. C. Robertson and C. R. Sheppard, RS 67 (London, 1875–85). Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, 7 vols., ed. H. R. Luard, RS 57 (London, 1874).


Select Bibliography

Memorials of St Anselm, ed. R. W. Southern and F. S. Schmitt, Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi, 1 (London, 1969). Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, 3 vols., ed. T. Arnold, RS 96 (London, 1890–6). Miracles of St Frideswide, ed. Josepho van Hacke et al. (Brussels, 1853), AASS, 8 October, 568–89. ‘Miracles of Saint Ithamar’, ed. D. Bethell, Analecta Bollandiana, 89 (1971), 421–37. ‘Miracles of the Hand of St James’, ed. and tr. B. R. Kemp, Berkshire Archaeological Journal, 65 (1970), 1–19. Miracula Sancti Ursmari in itinere per Flandriam, ed. G. Henschen and D. Papebroch (1675), AASS, 2 April, 570–5. Monastic Constitutions of Lanfranc, ed. D. Knowles (London, 1951). Monasticon Anglicanum, ed. W. Dugdale, and A. Dodsworth (London, 1655–73). Nova Legenda Anglie, ed. C. Horstmann, 2 vols. (London, 1901). Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. M. Chibnall, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1968–80). Osbert de Clare, The Letters of Osbert de Clare, Prior of Westminster, ed. E. W. Williamson (Oxford, 1929). Ralph of Diss, Opera Historica, 2 vols., ed. W. Stubbs, RS 68 (London, 1876). Reading Abbey Cartularies, 2 vols., ed. B. R. Kemp, Camden Society, 4th ser. 31, 33 (London, 1986–7). Records of the City of Norwich, 2 vols., ed. W. Hudson and J. C. Tingey (Norwich 1906–10). Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1154, 3 vols., ed. H. W. C. Davis, C. Johnson, et al. (Oxford, 1913–68). Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, The Acta of William I (1066–87), ed. D. Bates (Oxford, 1998). Register of Thetford Priory, ed. D. Dymond, Norfolk Record Society, 59–60 (Oxford, 1995). Registrum Roffense, ed. J. Thorpe (London, 1769). Regularis Concordia: The Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation, ed. T. Symons (London, 1953). Rotuli de Dominabus, ed. J. H. Round, PRS 35 (London, 1913). Rule of St Benedict, ed. J. McCann (London, 1952). Samson, abbot of Bury St Edmunds, Samsonis Abbatis Opus De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi, in Memorials of St Edmund’s Abbey, 3 vols., ed. T. Arnold, RS 96 (London, 1890–6). St Benet of Holme, Cartulary of, 2 vols., ed. J. R. West, Norfolk Record Society, 2–3 (Oxford, 1932). Symeon of Durham, Capitula de miraculis et translationibus, in Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, 2 vols., ed. T. Arnold, RS 74 (London, 1879–85).

Select Bibliography


Textus Roffensis, Rochester Cathedral Library MS A.3.5, ed. P. H. Sawyer (Copenhagen, 1962). Thomas of Monmouth, Liber et Passio Sancti Willelmi, in A. Jessop and M. R. James (eds.), Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich (Cambridge, 1896). Three Lives of English Saints, ed. M. Winterbottom (Toronto, 1972). Vita Wulfstani, ed. R. R. Darlington, Camden Society, 3rd ser. 40 (London, 1928). William of Jumie`ges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigny, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, ed. and tr. M. C. Van Houts (Oxford, 1995). William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum, ed. N. E. S. A. Hamilton, RS 52 (London, 1870). —— Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. R. A. B. Mynors et al. (Oxford, 1998–9), 2 vols. William of Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum, 2 vols., ed. R. Howlett, Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, RS 82 (London, 1885).

Secondary Sources Abulafia, D., M. Franklin, and M. Rubin (eds.), Church and City 1000–1500: Essays in Honour of Christopher Brooke (Cambridge, 1992). ‘Almost the Richest City’: Bristol in the Middle Ages, ed. L. Keen (Leeds, 1997). Amt, E., The Accession of Henry II in England, Royal Authority Restored, 1149– 59 (Bury St Edmunds, 1993). Amundsen, D. W., Medecine, Society and Faith in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (London, 1996). Anderson, B., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn. (London, 1991). Anderson, M. D., A Saint at Stake: The Strange Death of William of Norwich, 1144 (London, 1964). Ayres, B., ‘The Urbanisation of East Anglia: The Norwich Perspective’, in J. Gardiner (ed.), Flatlands and Wetlands, East Anglian Archaeology (Norwich, 1993). Bailey, M., A Marginal Economy? East Anglian Breckland in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989). Ballard, A., The Domesday Boroughs (Oxford, 1904). Barlow, F., Edward the Confessor, new edn. (London, 1997). —— The English Church, 1066–1154 (London, 1979). —— William Rufus (London, 1983). Barringer, J. C., Faden’s Map of Norfolk (Guist Bottom, 1989). Bartlett, R., ‘Rewriting Saints’ Lives: The Case of Gerald of Wales’, Speculum, 58 (1983), 589–601.


Select Bibliography

Bartlett, R., ‘The Hagiography of Angevin England’, in Thirteenth Century England, v. ed. P. R. Coss and S. D. Lloyd (Woodbridge, 1995). Bell, C., Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (Oxford, 1992). Benton, J. F., Self and Society in Medieval France: The Memoirs of Abbot Guibert de Nogent (Toronto, 1970; repr. 1984). Beresford, M. W., New Towns of the Middle Ages (London, 1957). Beger, J., Pig Earth (London, 1979). Bethell, D., ‘English Black Monks and Episcopal Elections in the 1120s’, EHR 84 (1969), 673–98. —— ‘The Making of a Twelfth-Century Relic Collection’, SCH 8 (1971), 61–72. Biddle, M., ‘The Deserted Medieval Village of Seacourt, Berkshire’, Oxoniensia, 26–8 (1961–3), 70–201. —— (ed.), Winchester in the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1978). Bisson, T. N., Conservation of the Coinage: Monetary Exploitation and its Restraint in France, Catalonia and Aragon, c.1000–1255 ad (Oxford, 1979). Blackburn, M., ‘Coinage and Currency under Henry I: A Review’, A-NS 13 (1991), 49–82. Blair, J., ‘A Saint for Every Minster?’, in A. Thacker and R. Sharpe (eds.), Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West (Oxford, 2002), 455–94. —— (ed.), Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition, 950– 1200 (Oxford, 1988). —— St Frideswide, Patron of Oxford (Oxford, 1988). —— ‘St Frideswide Reconsidered’, Oxoniensia, 52 (1987), 71–128. —— (ed.), St Frideswide’s Monastery at Oxford,: Archaeological and Architectural Studies (Oxford, 1990). —— ‘St Frideswide’s Monastery: Problems and Possibilities’, Oxoniensia, 53 (1988), 221–58. —— St Frideswide’s Monastery: Problems and Possibilities (Oxford, 1992). —— ‘Thornbury, Binsey: A Probable Defensive Enclosure Associated with St Frideswide’, Oxoniensia, 53 (1988), 3–20. Blunt, C. E., ‘The St Edmund Memorial Coinage’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, 31 (1967–9), 234–55. Boesch Gajano, S., ‘The Use and Abuse of Miracles in Early Medieval Culture’, in L. K. Little and B. H. Rosenwein (eds.), Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (Oxford, 1998). Bourgin, G., Guibert De Nogent: Histoire de sa Vie (1053–1124) (Paris, 1907). Brett, M., Faith and Fabric: The Church at Rochester, 604–1994 (Woodbridge, 1996). —— ‘Forgery at Rochester’, Fa¨lschungen im Mittelalter, Monumenta Germanica Historia Schriften, 33, 4 (Hanover, 1988).

Select Bibliography


—— ‘Gundulf and the Cathedral Communities of Canterbury and Rochester’, in R. Eales and R. Sharpe (eds.), Canterbury and the Norman Conquest (London, 1995). —— The English Church under Henry I (London, 1975). Brooke, C. N. L., ‘Approaches to Medieval Forgery’, in Medieval Church and Society: Collected Essays (London, 1971). Brooke, Z. N., The English Church and the Papacy from the Conquest to the Reign of King John (Cambridge, 1952). Brown, P., The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christendom (Chicago, 1981). Burke, P., History and Social Theory (Oxford, 1992). Bynum, C. W., ‘The Spirituality of the Regular Canons in the Twelfth Century’, in Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (London, 1982). Caciola, N., ‘Wraiths, Revenants and Ritual in Medieval Culture’, PP 152 (1996), 3–45. Cam, H. M., ‘The Evolution of the Medieval English Franchise’, Speculum, 32 (1957), 427–42. —— ‘The Hundred Outside the North Gate’, Oxoniensia, 1–2 (Oxford, 1936–7), 103–28. —— ‘The King’s Governments as Administered by the Greater Abbots of East Anglia’, in Liberties and Communities in Medieval England (London, 1963). Campbell, B., ‘The Complexity of Manorial Structure in Medieval Norfolk: A Case Study’, Norfolk Archaeology, 39 (1986), 215–61. Campbell, J., ‘Norwich’, fascicule in Atlas of Historic Towns, ed. M. Lobel (London, 1975). Carey-Evans, M., ‘The Contribution of Hoxne to the Cult of St Edmund’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, 36 (1987), 182–95. Carlin, M., ‘Medieval English Hospitals’, in L. Granshaw and R. Porter (eds.), The Hospital in History (London, 1989). Chaurands, J., ‘La Conception de l’histoire de Guibert de Nogent’, Cahiers de Civilisation Me´die´vale, 8 (1965), 381–95. Chazan, R., Medieval Jewry in Northern France (London, 1973). Chibnall, M., ‘Monks and Pastoral Work: A Problem in Anglo-Norman History’, JEH 18 (1967), 165–72. Clanchy, M. T., From Memory to Written Record (Oxford, 1979; 2nd edn. 1993). Clay, R. M., The Medieval Hospitals of England (London, 1909). Clifford, J., ‘On Ethnographic Allegory’, in J. Clifford and G. E. Marcus (eds.), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (London, 1986).


Select Bibliography

Contreni, J., The Cathedral School of Laon from 850–930: Its Manuscripts and Masters (Munich, 1978). Coss, P., ‘The Formation of the English Gentry’, PP 147 (1995), 38–64. Courtney, F., ‘Cardinal Robert Pullen: An English Theologian of the Twelfth Century’, Analecta Gregoriana, 64 (1954), 2–18. Cownie, E., Religious Patronage in Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1135 (Woodbridge, 1998). Cox, D., ‘St Oswald of Worcester at Evesham Abbey: Cult and Concealment’, JEH 53 (2002), 269–85. Crosby, E., Bishop and Chapter in Twelfth Century England: A Study of the ‘Mensa Episcopalis’ (Cambridge, 1994). Crouch, D., The Reign of King Stephen, 1135–1154 (Harlow, 2000). Darby, H. C., The Domesday Geography of Eastern England (Cambridge, 1952). —— and E. M. J. Campbell, Domesday Geography of South-East England (Cambridge, 1962). Davis, H. W. C. ‘The Liberties of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 25 (1909), 417–31. Davis, R. H. C., ‘An Oxford Charter of 1191 and the Beginnings of Municipal Freedom’, Oxoniensia, 33 (1968), 53–65. —— ‘East Anglia and the Danelaw’, TRHS, 5th ser. 5 (1955), 23–40. —— ‘The Ford, the River and the City’, Oxoniensia, 38 (1973), 258–67. —— ‘The Monks of St Edmund, 1021–1148’, History, 40 (1955), 227–39. Dhondt, J., ‘Medieval ‘‘Solidarities’’: Flemish Society in Transition’, in F. Cheyette (ed.), Lordship and Community (London, 1968), 268–90. Dickinson, J. C., The Origins of the Austin Canons and their Introduction into England (Oxford, 1950). Dobson, R. B., The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of 1190 (York, 1974). Dodwell, B., ‘The Foundation of Norwich Cathedral’, TRHS, 5th ser. 7 (1957), 1–18. —— ‘The Free Peasantry of East Anglia in Domesday’, Norfolk Archaeology, 27 (1939), 145–57. Douglas, M., Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966). Dumas, F., and J.-N. Barrandon, Le Titre et le poids de fin des monnaies sous le re`gne de Philippe Auguste, (1180–1223) (Paris, 1982). Duplessey, J., Les Tre´sors mone´taires me´die´vaux et modernes de´couverts en France, 751–1223 (Paris, 1985). Durham, B. et al. ‘The Thames Crossing at Oxford: Archaeological Studies, 1978–82’, Oxoniensia, 49 (1984), 57–100. Eales, R., ‘Local Loyalties in Norman England: Kent in Stephen’s Reign’, A-NS 8 (1986), 88–108.

Select Bibliography


Edwards, A. J. M., ‘An Early Twelfth-Century Account of the Translation of St Milburga of Much Wenlock’, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 57 (1961–4), 142–51. Everitt, A., ‘Country, County and Town: Patterns of Regional Evolution in England’, TRHS, 5th ser. 29 (1979), 79–108. Farmer, D., ‘Some Saints of East Anglia’, in M. Barber (ed.), East Anglian and Other Studies Presented to Barbara Dodwell (Reading, 1984). Fernie, E., The Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral (Oxford, 1993). Finucane, R. C., Miracles and Pilgrims: Popular Beliefs in Medieval England (London, 1977; repr. 1995). Fleming, R., Domesday Book and the Law: Society and the Legal Custom in Early Medieval England (Cambridge, 1998). Flight, C., ‘John II, Bishop of Rochester, did Not Exist’, EHR 106 (1991), 912–31. —— The Bishops and Monks of Rochester, 1076–1214 (Maidstone, 1997). Fors, H., ‘Listes de translations et inventions de l’e´poque Carolingienne’, Analecta Bollandiana, 104 (1986), 427–29. Galbraith, V. H., ‘The East Anglian See and Abbey of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 40 (1925), 222–8. Geary, P. J., Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, rev. edn. (Princeton, 1990). —— Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (New York, 1994). Geertz, C., Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (New York, 1983). Geoffrey of Wells, De Infantia Sancti Edmundi, ed. R. M. Thomson, Analecta Bollandiana, 95 (1977), 25–42. Gilsenan, M., ‘Nightmares on the Brain of the Living: Narratives of Imagined Pasts and Presences in an Anthropology of North Lebanon’ (unpublished article deposited in the Tylor Library, Banbury Rd, Oxford, 1994). —— ‘Very like a Whale: The Appearance of an Anthropologist’s Middle East’, in R. Fardon (ed.), Localizing Strategies: Regional Traditions of Ethnographic Writing (Edinburgh, 1990). Gransden, A., ‘Baldwin, Abbot of Bury St Edmunds, 1065–97’, A-NS 4 (1981), 65–76. —— ‘The Legends and Traditions Concerning the Origins of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds’, EHR 100 (1985), 1–24. Green, B., and R. M. R. Young, Norwich: The Growth of a City (London, 1968; repr. 1981). Green J., The Aristocracy of Anglo-Norman England (Cambridge, 1997). —— The Government of England under Henry I (Cambridge, 1986). —— ‘The Sheriffs of William the Conqueror’, A-NS 5 (1982), 129–48.


Select Bibliography

Gross, C., The Guild Merchant (Oxford, 1964). Halsey, R., ‘The Twelfth-Century Church of St Frideswide’, Oxoniensia, 53 (1988), 115–68. Harmer, F. E., Anglo-Saxon Writs (Manchester, 1952). Harper-Bill, C., ‘Bishop William Turbe and the Diocese of Norwich, 1146–1174’, A-NS 7 (1985), 145–61. —— ‘The Struggle for Benefices in Twelfth-Century East-Anglia’, A-NS 11 (1988), 113–32. Harvey, S., ‘The Knight and the Knight’s Fee in England’, PP 49 (1970), 3–43. Hayward, P.A., ‘The Miracula Inventionis Beate Mylburge Virginis attributed to ‘‘the Lord Ato, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia’’ ’, EHR 114 (1999), 543–73. —— ‘Translation Narratives in Post-Conquest Hagiography and English Resistance to the Norman Conquest’, A-NS 21 (1999), 73–85. He´liot, P., and M.-L. Chastang, ‘Queˆtes et voyages de reliques au profit des e´glises franc¸aises de moyen aˆge’, Revue d’Histoire E´ccle´siastique, 59 (1964), 789–822; 60 (1965), 5–32. Holt, J. C., ‘Feudal Society and the Family in Early Medieval England: III. Patronage and Politics’, TRHS, 5th ser. 34 (1984), 1–25. Howard-Johnston, J., and P. A. Hayward (eds.), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1999). Hudson, J., The Formation of the Common Law (London, 1996). Hudson, W., ‘Traces of Primitive Agricultural Organisation as Suggested by a Survey of the Manor of Martham’, TRHS, 4th ser. 1 (1918), 28–58. Hunt, T., Anglo-Norman Medicine (Cambridge, 1994). Hyams, P., ‘The Jewish Minority in Medieval England, 1066–1290’, Journal of Jewish Studies, 25 (1974), 270–93. Jacob, E. F., Saint Frideswide: The Patron Saint of Oxford (Oxford, 1957). Kay, S., and M. Rubin, Framing Medieval Bodies (Manchester, 1996). Kealey, E., Medieval Medicus: A Social History of Anglo-Norman Medicine (London, 1981). Kemp, B. R., ‘The Miracles of the Hand of St James’, Berkshire Archaeological Journal, 65 (1970), 1–19. —— ‘The Monastic Dean of Leominster’, EHR 83 (1968), 505–515. Kemp, E. W., Canonization and Authority in the Western Church (Oxford, 1948). Knowles, D., The Monastic Order in England (Cambridge, 1940). —— and K. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales (London, 1953). Koziol, G., ‘Monks, Feuds and the Making of Peace in Eleventh-Century Flanders’, in T. Head and R. Landes (eds.), The Peace of God and Social Revolution: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000 (New York, 1992).

Select Bibliography


Lafaurie, J., Les Monnaies des rois de France, Hugues Capet a` Louis XII (Paris, 1951). Langmuir, G., ‘Thomas of Monmouth: Detector of Ritual Murder’, Speculum, 39 (1984), 820–46. Lawless, G. (ed.), Augustine of Hippo and his Monastic Rule (Oxford, 1987). Le Goff, J., The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago, 1984). Leyser, C., ‘Masculinity in Flux: Nocturnal Emission and the Limits of Celibacy in the Early Middle Ages’, in D. M. Hadley (ed.), Masculinity `ın Medieval Europe (London, 1999). Leyser, K., ‘Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II and the Hand of St James’, EHR 90 (1975), 481–506. Lipman, V. D., The Jews of Medieval Norwich (London, 1967). Lobel, M. D., ‘Notes on the History of Medieval Oxford’, Oxoniensia, 3 (1938), 83–102. —— The Borough of Bury St Edmunds: A Study in the Government and Development of a Monastic Town (Oxford, 1935). Lobel, M., and E. M. Carus-Wilson, ‘Bristol’, fascicule of Atlas of Historic Towns, ed. M. Lobel and W. H. Johns (London, 1975). Lomax, D. W., ‘The First English Pilgrims to Compostela’, in H. MayrHarting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985). McReady, W. D., Signs of Sanctity: Miracles in the Thought of Gregory the Great (Toronto, 1989). Madicott, J., ‘Plague in Seventh-Century England’, PP 156 (1997), 7–54. Mason, E., St Wulfstan of Worcester (Oxford, 1990). Matthew, D. J. A., The Norman Conquest (London, 1966). Mayr-Harting, H., ‘Functions of a Twelfth-Century Recluse’, History, 60 (1975), 323–46. —— ‘Functions of a Twelfth Century Shrine: The Miracles of St Frideswide’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985). Miller, E., ‘England in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries: An Economic Change?’, EconHR 24 (1971), 1–14. —— and J. H. Hatcher, Medieval England: Towns, Commerce and Craft, 1086– 1348 (London, 1995). Moore, R. I., ‘Between Sanctity and Superstition: Saints and their Miracles in the Age of Revolution’, in M. Rubin (ed.), The Work of Jacques Le Goff and the Challenges of Medieval History (Woodbridge, 1997). —— The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxford, 1987). Morris, C., ‘A Critique of Popular Religion: Guibert of Nogent on The Relics of the Saints’, SCH 8 (1972), 95–111.


Select Bibliography

Niemeyer, G., ‘Die Miracula S. Mariae Laudunensis des Abtes Hermann von Tournai’, Deutsches Archiv fu¨r Geschichte, 27 (1971), 135–74. Nightingale, P., ‘Some London Moneyers and Reflections on the Organisation of English Mints in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Numismatic Chronicle, 142 (1982), 34–50. Orme, M., ‘A Reconstruction of Robert of Cricklade’s Vita et Miracula S Thomae’, Analecta Bollandiana, 84 (1966), 379–98. Owen, D. M., ‘Bishops Lynn: The First Century of a New Town?’, A-NS 2 (1979), 141–53. Parker, E. C., and C. T. Little, The Cloisters Cross: Its Art and Meaning (London, 1994). Parker, J., The Early History of Oxford, 727–1100, 3 vols., Oxford Historical Society, 3 (1885). Parker, V., The Making of Kings Lynn (London, 1971). Parker McLachlan, E., ‘The Scriptorium of Bury St Edmunds in the Third and Fourth Decades of the Twelfth Century: Books in Three Related Hands and their Decoration’, Medieval Studies, 40 (1978), 328–48. Paxton, F. S., ‘Signa Mortifera: Death and Prognostication in Early Medieval Monastic Medicine’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 67 (1993), 631–50. Pelteret, D., ‘Slave Raiding and Slave Trading in Early England’, A-SE 9 (1981), 99–114. Pfaff, R. W., Liturgical Calendars, Saints, and Services in Medieval England (Aldershot, 1998). Platt, C. (with photographs by Anthony Kersting), The Architecture of Medieval Britain (London, 1990). Pollard, G., ‘The Medieval Town Clerks of Oxford’, Oxoniensia, 31 (1966), 43–76. Postles, D., ‘ ‘‘Patronatus et Advocatus Noster’’: Oseney Abbey and the Oilly Family’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 60 (1987), 100–2. —— ‘The Acquisition and Administration of Spiritualities by the Oseney Abbey’, Oxoniensia, 51 (1986), 69–78. —— ‘The Foundation of Oseney Abbey’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 53 (1980), 242–4. Previte-Orton, C. W., ‘Annales Radingenses Posteriores, 1135–1264’, EHR 37 (1922), 400–1. Ramsey, N., and M. Sparks, ‘The Cult of St Dunstan at Christ Church, Canterbury’, in N. Ramsey, M. Sparks, and T. Tatton-Brown (eds.), St Dunstan: His Life Times, and Cult (Woodbridge, 1992), 311–23. Rawcliffe, C., The Hospitals of Medieval Norwich (Norwich, 1995). Redfield, R., The Little Community: Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole (Chicago, 1955).

Select Bibliography


Reynolds, S., An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns (Oxford, 1977). —— ‘The Rulers of London in the Twelfth Century’, History, 57 (1972), 337–57. Richardson, H.-G., The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (London, 1960). Richards, M. P., ‘Some Fifteenth Century Calendars for the Rochester Diocese’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 102 (1985), 71–86. —— Texts and their Traditions in the Medieval Library of Rochester Cathedral Priory, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, 1988). Ridyard, S. J., ‘Condigna Veneratio: Post-Conquest Attitudes to the Saints of the Anglo-Saxons’, A-NS 9 (1986), 179–208. —— The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England: A Study of West Saxon and East Anglian Cults (Cambridge, 1988). Robinson, I. S., ‘The Friendship Network of Gregory VII’, History, 63 (1978), 1–22. Robinson, M., The Geography of Augustinian Settlement in Medieval England and Wales, British Archaeological Reports, 80 (Oxford,1980). Rollason, D. W., ‘Lists of Saints’ Resting Places in Anglo-Saxon England’, A-SE 7 (1979), 61–94. —— Saints and Relics in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 1989). —— ‘The Miracles of St Benedict: A Window on Early Medieval France’, in H. Mayr-Harting and R. I. Moore (eds.), Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. H. C. Davis (London, 1985). Rosenwein, B. H., To be a Neighbour of St Peter: The Social Meaning of the Property of Cluny, 909–1049 (Ithaca, NY, 1989). —— and L. K. Little, ‘Social Meaning in the Monastic and Mendicant Spiritualities’, PP 63 (1974), 4–32. Roth, C., History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 1964). —— The Intellectual Activity of Medieval English Jewry (London, 1949). —— The Jews of Medieval Oxford, Oxford Historical Society, 9 (Oxford, 1951). Round, J. H., ‘The Origins of the Stewarts and their Chesney Connection’, The Geneologist, 18 (1901), 1–7. Rousseau, P., ‘Ascetics as Mediators and as Teachers’, in J. Howard-Johnston and P. A. Hayward (eds.), The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1999), 46–59. Rubin, M., Charity and Community in Medieval Cambridge (Cambridge, 1987). —— ‘Development and Change in English Hospitals, 1100–1500’, in L. Granshaw, and R. Porter (eds.), The Hospital in History (London, 1989). —— ‘Religious Culture in Town and Country: Reflections on a Great Divide’, in D. Abulafia, M. Franklin, and M. Rubin (eds.), Church and City, 1000– 1500 (Cambridge, 1994).


Select Bibliography

Rubinstein, J. C., ‘Liturgy Against History: The Competing Visions of Lanfranc and Eadmer of Canterbury’, Speculum, 74 (1999), 279–309. Russell, J. C., British Medieval Population (Albuquerque, NM, 1948). Saint-Denis, A., ‘Pouvoir et liberte´s a` Laon dans les premie`res anne´es du XIIe sie`cle’, in E. Magnou-Nortier (eds.), Pouvoir et liberte´s au temps des premiers Cape´tians (He´rault,1992), 268–9. Saltman, A., ‘John II, Bishop of Rochester’, EHR 66 (1951), 71–4. —— Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1956). Sanders, I. J., Medieval English Baronies: A Study of their Origins and Descent, 1086–1327 (Oxford, 1960). Sawyer, P. H., Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 8 (London, 1971). —— ‘The Wealth of England in the Eleventh Century’, TRHS, 5th ser. 15 (1965), 145–64. Scarfe, N., Suffolk in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge, 1986). Schmitt, J.-C., Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society (Chicago, 1998). Scull, C., ‘Excavations in the Cloister of St Frideswide’s Priory, 1985’, Oxoniensia, 53 (1988), 21–73. Sharpe, R., ‘The Setting of St Augustine’s Translation, 1091’, in R. Eales and R. Sharpe (eds.), Canterbury and the Norman Conquest: Churches, Saints and Scholars, 1066–1109 (London, 1995). Shatzmiller, J., Jews, Medecine and Medieval Society (Berkeley, Calif., 1994). Sigal, P.-A., ‘Les Voyages de reliques aux onzie`me et douzie`me sie`cles’, in M. A. Cuer (ed.), Voyage, queˆte, pe´lerinage dans la litte´rature et la civilisation me´die´vales (Aix-en-Provence, 1976). Siriasi, N., Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (Chicago, 1990). Slade, C. F., ‘Reading’, fascicule of Atlas of Historic Towns, ed. M. D. Lobel and W. H. Johns (London, 1975). Smart, V., ‘The Moneyers of St Edmund’, Hikuin, 11 (1985), 83–90. Smith, J. M. H., ‘Oral and Written: Saints, Miracles and Relics in Brittany, c. 850–1250’, Speculum, 65 (1990), 302–43. Smith, R. A. L., ‘The Place of Gundulf in the Anglo-Norman Church’, EHR 58 (1943), 257–72. Southern, R. W., The Making of the Middle Ages (London, 1967). —— ‘The Origins of the Cult of the Virgin in Medieval England’, in R. Hunt (ed.), Medieval and Renaissance Studies (London, 1958). —— Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe (Oxford, 1995). —— St Anselm and his Biographer (Cambridge, 1963).

Select Bibliography


Spiegel, G. M., ‘History, Historicism and the Social Logic of the Text in the Middle Ages’, Speculum, 65 (1990), 77–86. Spufford, P., Handbook of Medieval Exchange (London, 1986). Stafford, P., ‘Cherchez la Femme: Queens, Queens’ Lands and Nunneries. Missing Links in the Foundation of Reading Abbey’, History, 85 (2000), 4–27. Stell, P. M., Medical Practice in Medieval York (York, 1996). Stenton, F. M., ‘St Frideswide and her Times’, Oxoniensia, 1 (1936), 103–12. Stewart, I., ‘The English and Norman Mints, c. 600–1158’, in C. E. Challis (ed.), A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992). Stock, B., Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Philadelphia, 1990). —— The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton, 1983). Tait, J., The Medieval English Borough (Manchester, 1936). Talbot, C. H., and E. A. Hammond, Medical Practitioners in Medieval England: A Biographical Register (London, 1965). Tambiah, S. J., Magic, Science, Religion and the Scope of Rationality (Cambridge, 1990). Tatlock, J. S. P., ‘The English Journey of the Canons of Laon’, Speculum, 8 (1933), 454–65. Thacker, A., ‘Aethelwold and Abingdon’, in B. Yorke (ed.), Bishop Aethelwold: His Career and Influence (Woodbridge, 1988), 59–63. —— ‘Saint-Making and Relic-Collecting by Oswald and his Communities’, in N. Brooks and C. Cubitt (eds.), St Oswald of Worcester: Life and Influence (London, 1996), 244–68. Thomson, R. M., ‘Early Romanesque Book Illustration in England: The Dates of the Pierpont Morgan ‘‘Vitae Sancti Edmundi’’ and the Bury Bible’, Viator, 2 (1971), 212–25. —— ‘Obedienteries of St Edmund’s Abbey’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, 35 (1981), 91–104. —— ‘The Library of Bury St Edmund in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Speculum, 47 (1972), 617–45. —— ‘Two Versions of a Saint’s Life from St Edmund’s Abbey Changing Currents in Twelfth-Century Monastic Style’, Revue Benedictine, 84 (1974), 383–408. Van Dam, R., Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul (Princeton, 1993). Van Engen, J., ‘Sacred Sanctions for Lordship’, in T. Bisson (ed.), Cultures of Power: Lordship, Status and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe (Philadelphia, 1995). Van Houts, E., Memory and Gender in Medieval Europe, 900–1200 (London, 1999). Victoria Histories of the Counties of England.


Select Bibliography

Walker-Bynum, C., Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York, 1992). Ward, B., Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record and Event, 1000– 1250 (Aldershot, 1982). —— ‘St Frideswide of Oxford’, in H. Wansborough and A. Marett-Crosby (eds.), Benedictines in Oxford (London, 1997). Warner, M., Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (London, 1985). Warner, P., The Origins of Suffolk (Manchester, 1996). Warren, W. L., Henry II (London, 1973; new edn. 1991). Watkins, H. R., The History of Totnes, 2 vols. (Torquay, 1914–17). West, S. E., ‘A New Site for the Martyrdom of St Edmund?’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 35 (1984–5), 223–5. Whatley, E. G., The Saint of London: The Life and Miracles of St Erkenwald (Binghampton, 1989). White, S. D., Custom, Kinship and Gifts to Saints: The Laudatio Parentum in West France (Chapel Hill, 1991). Whitelock, D. Anglo-Saxon Wills (Cambridge, 1930). —— ‘Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, 31 (1970), 217–33. Whittingham, A. B., ‘Bury St Edmund Abbey: The Plan Designs and Development of the Church and Monastic Buildings’, Archaeological Journal, 108 (1951), 168–87. Wickham, C., ‘Gossip and Resistance Among the Medieval Peasantry’, PP 160 (1998), 3–24. Williams, J. B., ‘Judhael of Totnes: The Life and Times of a Post-Conquest Baron’, A-NS 16 (1993), 271–89. Williamson, T., The Origins of Norfolk (London, 1993). Wilson, S. (ed), Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore and History (Cambridge, 1983).

Index A Aaron’s breastplate 56 Abbeville 68 Abbo of Fleury 28, 32–3, 34; author of Passio Sancti Eadmundi 28, 32, 34 Abingdon 6; monastery of 171 Absam 92 Adalbero, bishop of Laon 71, 82 Adam, clerk of Yarmouth 160 Adam Rufus 183 Adelicia of Tackley 178 Adeliza of Louvain 191 Adrian IV, pope 173 Aelfhun, bishop of London 35 Aelward Ded 124, 153 Aethelstan, king of the English 34 Agardus, clerk of Devon 80 Agnes, daughter of Adam of Croome, chaplain 157 Aillette, river valley of 68, 74 Aisne, valley of 68 Alan de Setchy uncle of Prior Richard of Norwich 165 Albert, son of Robert de Gresley 161, 203 Aldeby 152 Alexander, brother of St William 147 Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, nephew of Roger, bishop of Salisbury 80 Alexander II, Pope 27 Alfonse, king of Aragonese 76 Alfred, miller of Eddington 184 Alfred, son of Joel of Totnes 98 Algar, king 172, 174 Alice, daughter of Essex clerk 199, 207, 210–11 Aluric, tailor, son of 162 Amfridus 181 Amiens 81–2, 97 St Andrew 101, 105, 118–19 Angers 75, 79, 94 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 32, 126, Anjou 74

Anselm, abbot of Bury St Edmunds 85–6, 106 Anselm, master of Laon cathedral school, canon and dean of the cathedral church 69, 79–80, 81, 85 St Anthony 120 Aquilina, daughter of Reginald de Courtney 202–3, 210 Arcoid, canon of St Paul’s, London 221–2 Ardon, valley of 68 Arnulf, bishop of Rochester 110 Arras, goldsmith of 94 Ascelin, bishop of Rochester 109 St Augustine 1, 222; his City of God 72, 116 Auvergne 15 B Babergh double-hundred 38 Baldwin, abbot of Bury 24, 26, 31, 41–2, 51–2, 57 Baldwin de Redvers 92 Bampton 172 Banbury 193 Barfleur 55 Barningham 44 Barnstaple 98; lame girl of 94; castle at 95, 97; Cluniac priory of 97 Bartholomew de Jur, bishop of Laon 76–9 Bath 86, 90, 94, 193 Battle Abbey 151, 191 Bavaria 126 Beatrice of Ellingdon 180, 184 Beckam 152 Bede 16, 26, 56–7, 101–2, 105, 170; De Tabernaculo 56; Historia Ecclesiastica 170 Bedingham, church of St Andrew at 146 Belaugh, woman of 146 St Benedict 10 Benedict Kepherim 183 Benedict of Canterbury 173



Beodericsworth 32–3 Berkeley 194 St Bernard 109 Bernard of Angers 15–16 Bicester Priory 203 Binham Priory 44, 49 Binsey 172–4 Blackbourne double-hundred 38 St Blasius 92 Blessed Virgin Mary, see St Mary Blythburgh 146 Blything hundred 45 Boselin, son of 96 Boso, canon of Laon 96 Botilda, wife of Gerard, cook 162 St Botulph 24, 38 Boulogne 108 Bradfield St Clare 26 Brampton 46 Breckland 152 Brichtiva of Northampton 174 Bridge 46 Bristol 89, 93, 193, 201 Brittany 3 Buckingham 210 Bucklebury 200, 205–6 Buzanc¸ais 89, 94; deaf-mute boy of 83 Burgundy 77 Bury St Edmunds 6, 34, 36–41, 43–6, 54–5, 59, 86–7, 152; market of 59 C Caen 164 Cambridge 151–2 Canterbury 85, 87, 151, 169, 173, 177–8, 206; a woman of 88, 94; St Augustine’s 89 Carthusians 71 Castle Acre, Cluniac priory of 160 St Catherine 161 St Celsus 131 Catton 164 Cecily 180, 184 Chartres 79–80; bishop of 94 Chaucer 11 Childiva of Ewneston 181 Cholsey 191 Christian, monk of Pershore 157 Christchurch 90–1

Christina of Markyate 50 Christina Padi 183 chronicles 3 Cirencester 173 Cistercians 132 Clare 57 Claricia of Markshall 160 Cnut 26, 37–8, 41 Colchester, Benedictine monastery 49, 58 Collingbourne, diseased woman of 199, 201 Cologne 126, wine merchant of 150 Compiegne 75 Conques, church of St Faith at 146 Copeland 57; knight of 58 Cormery 81; carpenter of 94; church of St Maurice at 89 Cornwall 97 Cosford half-hundred 38 Cressingham 153 Cudham 108, 112 St Cuthbert 10, 208 D Danelaw 33 Darent, valley of 113 David 77 Denmark 86 Deorman, merchant and moneyer of London and monk of Bury 58–60 Devon 80, 97 Didan, king of Oxford 174 Dilham 149 Domesday Book 41–5, 48, 87, 97, 108, 113, 141, 154, 163, 182 Dominic of Evesham 85–6 Dover 108 Driencourt 201 Drogo de Munci, royal clerk 22 St Dunstan 5, 10–16 Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury 34 Dunwich 57; virgin of 157 E Eadmer of Canterbury 5, 105 Earley, woman of 209 Ebrard Fisher 164 Edith, queen of the English 44 Edmund, doctor 181

Index St Edmund of Bury 2, 22, 24–62, 151, 208, 217 Edmund, son of Ivo, a knight of Binham 54 Edward Haver 208 St Edward the Confessor king of the English 27, 37, 40–2, 52, 55, 106, 191 Edwin, monk 51 Edwin priest of Taverham, daughter of 158 Egelric, monk of Evesham 119 Egelwin, monk 35, 37 Eilmer, fisherman of Haddiscoe 163 Eleazer, murdered Norwich Jew 130, 144 Elias, prior of Norwich cathedral priory 129, 130, 132–3, 137–9, 166 St Elphege 5, 105 Elsinus, monk of Winchester, later, abbot of Ramsey 86 Elviva, mother of St William 147–8 Ely 6, 178 Emelina of Eddington 184 England, wool trade of 68 Enguerrand de Coucy 72 St Erkenwald 220–2 Ethelred, king of the English 36, 170, 172 St Etheldreda 106, 134 Eudo the Steward 48–9 Eustace the moneyer, daughter of 162; wife of: see Ida Everard, bishop of Norwich 153 Exeter 80, 85–7, 90, 94, 97 Eynsham, minster of 170 F St Faith 10, 15, 146, 166 Fe´camp Abbey 167 Felixstowe Priory 49 Feudal Book, of Abbot Baldwin 43–4, 52 Flanders 65, 68; wool merchants of 91 Fornham 201 France 77 Frederick Barbarossa, emperor of Germany 195, 211 St Frideswide of Oxford 2, 8, 169–88, 216, 220 Froissart 11 Fulbert Pellicei, wealthy man of Angers 94


G Gainsborough 36 Gamaliel 136 Gapton 151 Gascony 93 Gaudry, bishop of Laon 63, 69, 71–2, 76–81, 83; and chancellor of England 71 Gautier I 82 Gautier II 82 Geoffrey, clerk of Sheriff William de Chesney 146 Geoffrey, duke of Normandy 195 Geoffrey of Collingbourne 184 Geoffrey of Issoudun 94 Geoffrey Padi 183 Geoffrey, priest of St Christopher’s church, Norwich 146, 158 Geoffrey, son of Godfrey the Chandler 164 Gerald of Wales 173 Gerard de Quierzy 72 Gilbert Basset 202–3 Gilbert, Earl 27 Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London 198–9 Gilbert, keeper of hunting dogs 199, 207 Gilbert Maminot 108 Gilliva, daughter of Burcard the carpenter 165 Gloucester Abbey 41 Gloucester, earl of 199, 201 Godiva, wife of Sibald 154 Godric, dapifer 48 St Godric of Finchale 10, 147, 184 Godwin Sturt, priest and uncle of St William 147–8, 158 Great Fakenham 44 Gregory VII, Pope 77 Gregory, bishop of Tours 22 Gregory the Great 56; his De Regula Pastoralis 56 Goscelin of St Bertin 5, 105 Guermundus, vidame of Picquigny 97 Guibert, abbot of Nogent 63–5, 68, 70–82, 86–7, 98; author of Monodiae 70, 73, 75; and De Pignoribus Sanctorum 72 Gundulf, bishop of Rochester 102, 104–7, 111–21 Gurwan, a tanner of Norwich 156



Gyreneu de Mouneyn, knight of Robert de Curzon 45 H Hamo, cleric 113, 118 Harpley 161, 168 Haveringland 147 Helen of Ludgershall 185 Hemsby 164 Henry I, king of the English 42, 71, 80, 83, 84, 92, 94, 104, 106, 145, 191–4, 197, 199, 211 Henry II, duke of Normandy, king of the English 53, 160, 194–6, 199, 201–2, 204, 210–12 Henry V, emperor of Germany 191 Henry, bishop of Winchester 194–5, 211 Henry fitz Gerold 160 Henry fitz Simon 186 Herbert, abbot of Westminster 55 Herbert de Losinga, bishop of Norwich 24, 28, 34, 129, 132–5, 139–40, 150, 154, 157, 163, 165, 167, 216 Hereford 108 Herfast, bishop of Thetford 24, 26, 31 Herman, monk 51 Hermann, abbot of Tournai 63, 66, 74–6, 79–80, 87–9, 99; author of De Miraculis Beatae Mariae Laudunensis 75, 78 Hermann, monk 54 Hermann, monk of Bury 26, 28–31, 35, 37–9, 45, 47, 49, 51–3, 55, 57, 99, 218; author of De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi 26, 28, 31–2, 40, 43, 46–7, 48, 53, 57 Hertfordshire 58 Hervery, a London sailor 55 Hildefonsus of Toledo 76 Hilgay 153 Holy Innocents, the 131 Holy Trinity 146; cathedral church of at Norwich 153–4, 157, 160–1, 167 Homersfield 135, 151 Horningsheath 33 Horsham, church of St Faith at 146, 160 Hoxne 26, 151 Hoyland 60 Hudeston 152

Hugelina of Rockland 152 Hugh, bishop of Lincoln 210 Hugh, dean of Orle´ans 78–9 Hugh de Montfort 27, 44 Hugh de Plugenay 178 Hugh fitz Baldric 86 Humphrey the chamberlain 48 Humphrey, merchant of Norwich 164 Hume, David 11–12 St Hypolitus 92 I Iberia 93–4 Iceland 173 Ickworth 33 Ida, daughter of Stannard Wrancberd 161 Ida, wife of Eustace, Norwich moneyer 156 Ipswich 35 Ireland 3, 33, 93; papal legate of 178 Isabella of Beachampton 178 Isle de France 68, 177 Isle of Wight 92 Issoudun 89; two cripples of 84 St Ithamar of Rochester 2, 100–8, 111–21, 218 Itchen Abbas, near Winchester 86 Ivo, bishop of Chartres and canon lawyer 79–80; author of Sententiae 80 Ixworth Thorpe 44 J St James of Compostela 162, 195 Jerusalem 54, 58, 77, 157, 208 Jesus Christ 75, 130, 176; relics of 68, 91 Jewish ritual execution of Christians 22 Jews 122–3, 126, 129, 131, 140, 142–4, 145, 147–50, 153, 166, 185–6, 217, 220; building the tabernacle 56; subject to accusation of blood-libel/ ritual crucifixion by 122–3, 129, 144, 166, 217 Jocelin de Bohun, bishop of Salisbury 206 Jocelin de Brakelond 29, 59 Joel, lord of Totnes 88, 97; monk supported by 95

Index St John the Baptist 92; hospital dedicated to at Reading 192 John, count of Mortain, king of England 197, 201, 218 John I, bishop of Rochester 103, 108, 111, 116 John II, bishop of Se´ez 103, 108, 109, 111 John de Chesney, sheriff of Norfolk 122, 130, 145–6, 166; reeve of 158 John Kepherim 183, 186 John Padi 183 John, servant of Ralph, castellan of Nesle 94 Jordan Rufus 183 St Jurmin 24, 38 Justus, bishop of Rochester 102 K Kent 58, 96 Kennehal, blind girl of Bodmin 94 Kennet, River 184, 193 Keston 108, 112 L Lackford hundred 38 laity, the: 8, 13, 17, 20; as a stereotype 9 Lakenham 164 Lambert, abbot of Angers 55, 58 Lancashire 161 Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury 5, 31, 85, 106, 110, 136; Monastic Constitutions 85 Langham 152 Langland 11 Laon 67–9, 74, 76, 80, 84; canons of 63, 65–6, 84, 86–7, 92, 95, 98; coinage of 81–3; communal uprising of 1112 67, 71, 77–9, 81; intellectual centre 68; nuns of Saint-Jean de 72; wine exporters of 68–69 St Lawrence 92 Lawrence Kepherim, mayor of Oxford 181, 183, 186 Lazarus, knight imagining himself another 61 Le Mans, wealthy man of 94 Leofstan, sheriff 39 Leominster 191–2


Leviva 148 Leviva de Sueting 186 Lewes, Cluniac priory of 160 Lewin of Wells 156 Liberty, the, of Bury St Edmund’s 38, 40, 52 Lichfield 57; clerk of 58 Life and Passion of St William, martyr of Norwich 122, 123, 125–7, 129, 131, 138, 143, 145–6, 148, 150, 156–8, 166 Lihons, monastery of 74 Lincoln 151 Lincolnshire 161; merchant of 163 Lindsey 57; knight of 60 Little Ouse, River 152 Loire 66 London 35–36, 55, 57, 58–9, 140, 156, 193, 221; merchants of 59; St Aldgates 171 Lotharingia 68, 77 Lothingland, priest of 158 Louis VII 82 Lucian 136 Lucius II, pope 109 Lynn 143, 152–3, 155, 165; church of St Margaret at 155, 165 M Mabel fitz Hamon 201 Mabel le Bec 148, 161 Mainz 126 Manasses II, archbishop of Rheims 77 Manchester 161 Mara 135 Margaret of Collingbourne 178, 184 Martham 164 Martin, Oxford merchant 179 Martin the fisher 164 St Mary 67, 72, 73–8, 81, 83, 97–8, 119, 170, 188, 217; devotion to in England 84–7, 93, 99; feasts of: the Conception 85–6; the Nativity 80, 84; the Presentation 85; relics of at Laon 63, 66, 68; theotokos 75 St Mary of Egypt 157 Matthew, count of Boulogne 201 Matthew Paris 195 Matilda, empress of Germany 108, 190, 194–5



Matilda, wife of Henry I, queen of the English 107 Matilda, wife of Stephen, queen of the English 107, 109, 112, 117 Mauger Malcuvenant, sheriff of Sussex 203–4, 208 Mediterranean sea 74 Medley 182 Medway, valley of 113 Merton Priory 174 Mildenhall 38 Miracles: as aids to faith 1, 9; posthumous 3, 7, 9, 14, 23; collections 3, 9, 14, 21, 22; biomedical explanations for 11; as narrative 13–14, 16, 17, 20–1; as communal ritual practice 17–20; in the gospels 21 Miracula Sancti Ithamari Episcopi 100–2, 104–7, 109–11, 116–17, 120–1 monastic reform, Benedictine 4 Montreuil 68 Moses of Wallingford 186 Moses, son of Isaac of Bristol 186 N Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon 77 Nesle 74, 89 Newton 164 St Nicholas 58; monk from the abbey of 55, 58 Nigel, bishop of Ely, nephew of Roger, bishop of Salisbury 80, 204 Norman Conquest 3 Norman scepticism towards Anglo-Saxon saints 4 Nowton 33 Norway 93, 159 Norwich 45, 53, 124, 127, 140–3, 148, 150–2, 158, 164, 178, 217; mint at 161–2, synod of 1144 156, 161 Nunnaminster, Winchester, church of St Mary’s at 86–7 O Odo of Bayeux 6 Odalric, cleric 15 Onehouse 42–3 Orderic Vitalis, his Ecclesiastical History 108

Ormesby 152, 164 Osbern of Canterbury 5–6, 105 Osbert de Clare, prior of Westminster abbey 30, 55–61 Osgod Clapa 40 Oxford 17, 177–9, 182–3, 185, 193, 216, 220; St Mary’s 170, 173, 176; St Martin’s 183 P St Pancratius 131 St Pantaleon 131 Panxworth 149 Paris 68–9, 109, 173 Parisius, nephew of Robert Pullen 109 Paschal, Pope 71 Passio S Elphegae 105 St Paulinus 100–2, 104–5 Pembroke, earl of 58 St Peter and St Paul 119; feast of 49 Peter de Oglander 92 Peter de Valognes, sheriff of Essex and Herefordshire 44–5, 48–9 Peter of Marlborough 180 Peter, priest of Langham 158 Peter, son of John the provost 186 Peter, son of Richard de Leurs 196 Peter the dean 205 Philip Augustus, king of France 82 Philip de Bella Arbore, of Lorraine 150–1 Philip, prior of St Frideswide’s, Oxford 169, 173, 174, 176–7, 178–85, 187–9 Picardy 67–8; southern 65 pirates 74, 91 Portmeadow 182 Postwick 152 R Radulph, monk of Bury 57 Ralph Baynard, royal chaplain 48 Ralph Buarius, aka Mortimer 94 Ralph, castellan of Nesle 94 Ralph de Gael 45–6 Ralph Flambard, bishop of Durham 91–2 Ralph Gibuin 203 Ralph Kepherim 183 Ralph, moneyer of Norwich 162 Ralph of Diss 201, 211 Ralph Padi 183, 186

Index Ralph, priest of Aylsham 159 Ralph, priest of St Michael’s Norwich 158–9 Ralph, son of Hervey the baker 146, 158 Ralph son of Ribald 149 Ramsey Abbey 86 Ranulf, chancellor of England 80 Ranulf, knight 54 Reading 191–3, 195–6, 205 Reading Abbey 189–91, 193–7, 199, 201, 203–4, 206, 208, 218 Reginald de Courtney 202 Reginald de Warenne, daughter of 160 Reimbert, the seneschal 151 Rheims, cathedral church of the blessed Mary of 77, 78 Rhineland 68 Richard I, king of England 165, 196–7, 201, 211, 218 Richard, archbishop of Canterbury 177–8 Richard de Leurs, knight of Wavercurt 196 Richard fitz Count 44 Richard, magister 181 Richard of Humez 204 Richard of Ilchester 46–7, 53 Richard of Lynn 138, Richard, prior of Norwich cathedral priory 149 Risbridge hundred 38 Robert, a man of St Edmund 54 Robert, archdeacon of Exeter 80 Robert, brother of St William 147–8 Robert, count of Eu 44 Robert de Curzon 45–7, 53 Robert d’Oilly 179 Robert, earl of Leicester 173, 201 Robert fitz Walter 145–6, 160 Robert, knight of William de Chesney 146 Robert of Cricklade 173, 175–6, 182 Robert of Stanford 209 Robert Pullen 109 Robert, son of Henry I 201 Robert, son of Wimund 96 Rochester 100, 102, 104, 106, 110, 112–14, 117–18, 218; St Andrew’s church at 114, 118 Rockingham council 48 Roger, abbot of Reading 200, 205


Roger Bigod, sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk 27, 44–5, 49, 135 Roger, bishop of Salisbury 80, 173, 182 Roger de Nonant 97–8 Roger de Rosoi 82 Roger de Scales 165 Roger Hosatus, canon of Merton Priory 199, 202 Roger of Breteuil 45 Rome 54, 68, 81, 164 Rorigon, brother of Gaudry, bishop of Laon 72 Rotuli de Dominabus 202 Rouergue 15 Rouen 140 Royal court 26–7 Rudolph, Cistercian monk 126 Rutland, the county of 57; farmer of 60 S Saint-Gilles 55 Salisbury 80, 90 Samford hundred and a half 44 Samson, abbot of Bury St Edmund’s 29–30, 46, 49–50, 53, 55, 57, 59 Sanctilogium 104 Sapiston 44 Scarborough 164 Scheldt 66 Seacourt 172–3 Secgan 101, 170, 172 Seietha, noblewoman 49–50 Shrewsbury 57 Sibyl de Chesney 145–6, 160 Sibyl de Porcien 72 Simon de Noyers 128, 130, 140, 144, 149 Sixhills 203 Solomon 77 Southwark 57 Spain 76–7, 128, 196 Spalding 57 Sparhavoc 50 Speyer 126 St Alban’s 6, 44, 50 St Amand, relics of 65 St Augustine’s, Canterbury 7, 9, 102 St Benet-Holme, monastery of 160 St Denis, Paris, monastery of 41



St Edmund’s church, Southwold 47 St Gregory’s church, Eastgate 35 St James, hand of at Reading 2, 190–212, 218–19 St Mary Magdalene, leper hospital of at Reading 192 St Medard of Soissons, monks of 73, 74 St Paul’s cathedral, London 35 Southwold 45–6 St Stephen 1, 92, 136 Stephen, king of the English 42, 107–8, 117, 124, 144, 146, 149, 160, 162–3, 194 Sutton Courtney 202 Sweyn, king of Denmark 36–7, 52 Swineshead 203

Tombland 142 Totnes 95; priory of 89, 97; castle of 94, 98 Toulousain 15 Toulouse 149 Touraine 74 Tours 79; archbishop of 81; canons of St Martin’s 81; fuller of 94 Trowse 152 Turolfus, steward of Robert de Curzon 45

T Taverham 152, 203 Textus Roffensis 101, 105, 110–11 Thames, River 176, 193 Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury 151 Theoderic, great-grandson of Deorman, and justiciar of London 58 Theodred, bishop of Hoxne and London 33 Theodwin 221 Thetford 143, 152; Cluniac priory at 49, 135; priest of 159 Thierry, monk of Tournai 81 Thingoe hundred 33, 38–9 St Thomas Becket 8, 10, 11, 157, 169, 173–4, 177–8, 201–2, 206, 208 Thomas Blancpein 186 Thomas de Marle 70, 78 Thomas, monk of Reading 199 Thomas of Monmouth 122–40, 144–5, 148–51, 153–8, 160–1, 163, 166 Thornage 152 Thornbiri, see Thornbury Thornbury 174–5 Thorpe wood, near Norwich 122, 164; chapel in 156–7, 161 Thredwestry hundred 38 Threxton 153 Thurkill 35–6 Tivetshall 152 Toke, Norwich chandler, wife of 165 Tolinus, the sacrist 49–51, 54

V St Victor 92 Vikings 64 St Vincent of Zaragossa 76 Vita Gundulfi 104, 106, 110–11 Vitalis 221 Vita Sancti Dunstani 5, 105 Vita Sancti Edwardi, 55 Vita Sancti Wilfridi 105 Virgin Mary, see St Mary

U Ufi, abbot of Bury St Edmunds 27 Uggeshall 46 St Ursmar of Lobbes 65

W Wales 3 Walkelin, bishop of Winchester 25 Walkelin Maminot 108, 112 Wallingford 193, 202 Waltheof, earl of Northumbria 45 Walter, abbot of Battle 151 Walter Chibus (Kiburs) 88, 95–6, 217 Walter de Bolbec 202 Walter Flotberd, wife of 164 Walter, priest of Tivetshall 158 Walton 182 Warin fitz Gerold 160 Waveney, River 151–2 Westhorpe 44 Westminster, abbey 55, 59, 191; council of 1102 154 Whepstead 33 Wicheman 140, 153, 157, 166 Wido, abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury 106 Wido, anchorite 135

Index St William of Norwich 2, 8, 22, 100, 122–67, 216 William I, duke of Normandy, king of the English 26, 34, 41–3, 45, 54, 58, 86, 97, 140, 191 William Cade 96 William Curzon 46, 53 William de Chesney, sheriff of Norwich 145, 146 William de Sueting 186 William fitz Asketill, Herefordshire knight 54 William of Burford 184–5 William of Corbeil, archbishop of Canterbury 80, 119–20 William of Malmesbury 85, 93, 173; Gesta Pontificum 171 William of Newburgh 210 William of Reading 207 William of Shrivenham 178, William Rufus, king of the English 41–2, 48–9, 97, 218 William, son of Robert, earl of Gloucester 201 William the prior 50 William the sub-prior of Reading Abbey 199 William Turbe, bishop of Norwich 128, 130, 132, 139, 144–5, 149, 151, 153–6, 158–9, 166, 216


William Warelwast, bishop of Exeter 97 Wilton 89; nuns of 95 Wimarc, merchant’s wife 163–4 Winchester 57, 85–7, 95, 178 Windsor 193 Wissant 74 Wisset 46 Wissey 153 St Withburga 134 Wlirva of Abingdon 178 Woodstock 177 Worcester 85, 151 Wulfric of Haselbury 22 St Wulstan, bishop of Worcester 93 Wulfward, a priest 54 Wulmar, man of Bury 54 Wulward, grandfather of St William 147 Wycombe 180 Wyken 44 Wymondham 152 Y Yare, River 152, 164 Yarmouth 143, 152, 163, 165; church of St Nicholas at 135, 163 Yaxley 151 York 58, 100, 151, 165 Ysembela, of Seaford 206, 209 Yvo, a London sailor 55