The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

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Relics, Authority and Domestic Space

Miracle Stories

Recapitation in Irish Hagiography

Boniface's Booklife

Cult of St. Guthlac

P-Celtic Place-Names

Roman Imports

Revelatio Ecclesiae

Forum—Historicity and Historiography of Arthur

Electronic Medievalia

Continental Business

History by Biography—St. Æthelthreda

History by Biography—St. Elisabeth


Saints and Sanctity

Issue 10 (May 2007)   |   Issue Editors: Celia Chazelle & Deanna Forsman

Letter from the Editor


Relics, Religious Authority, and the Sanctification of Domestic Space in the Home Gregory of Tours: An Analysis of the Glory of the Confessors 20

Dennis Quinn, Cal Poly Pomona

Abstract:  This article examines Gregory of Tours' Glory of the Confessors 20 in order to describe how the establishment of an oratory in the bishop's own house served both to provide the bishop with a locus for domestic religiosity and to solidify his position as the rightful bishop of Tours. It also suggests an historical relationship between domestic relic cult in Merovingian Gaul and pre-Christian Roman domestic cult.

Miracle Stories and the Primary Purpose of Adomnán's Vita Columbae

Sara E. Ellis Nilsson, Gothenburg University

Abstract:  Scholars argue about the purpose of Adomnán's Vita Columbae, viewing it as either political, didactic or an endorsement of Iona scholarship. Although the vita is based on hagiographical models, it is not merely a re-production. In addition to the evidence presented by the analysis of the miracle stories, it is maintained that Adomnán wrote his work for the monks on Iona; therefore, the argument for a didactic purpose is the strongest.

Preserving the Body Christian: The Motif of "Recapitation" in Ireland's Medieval Hagiography

Máire Johnson, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Abstract:  This paper argues that Ireland's medieval hagiographers adapted and transcended the saga motif of beheading with that of 'recapitation.' Firmly rooted in the power of confession and penance, the motif depicts the Church preserving itself intact, particularly from brigandage.

Boniface's Booklife: How the Ragyndrudis Codex Came to be a Vita Bonifatii

Michel Aaij, Auburn University Montgomery

Abstract:  For over a millennium, Bonifacian iconography has been dominated by the image of a sword piercing a book. Originating in the eighth-century Utrecht vita, the standard account of Boniface trying to ward off the Frisian sword with a book was consolidated in the eleventh century by Otloh of St. Emmeram, who connected the Utrecht narrative to the Ragyndrudis Codex, a valuable codex now in Fulda, close to the saint's cult center. The codex's outside, though, does not correspond with standard hagiography; neither do its (mainly anti-Arian) contents correspond with Boniface's dual goal of conversion and church reform. Nonetheless, the tortured book is a fitting image of a man devoted to his mission; the questionable identification is appropriate since so many questions remain on Boniface's life and death—whether he lived the life of an effective missionary who indeed was the Apostle of the Germans, whose many letters allow us to glimpse the interior life of a radically different man, whether he died as the result of a heathen robbery, Frisian guerilla, or even Frankish conspiracy. The Ragyndrudis Codex has become a Bonifacian vita, and if this metonymy is a clever ploy by an eleventh-century monk to strengthen Fulda's legal and financial status, it has proven no less effective to the believer.

Tradition and Transformation in the Cult of St. Guthlac in Early Medieval England

John R. Black, Moravian College

Abstract:  Analysis of the variations introduced into the hagiographic corpus, both textual and iconographic, for a saint's cult over the course of the medieval era demonstrates the vitality of that corpus, reveals the cultural significance of the variations introduced, and offers insights into (re)conceptualizations of sainthood. Such analysis elucidates, for example, the 'evolution' of St. Guthlac from ascetic solitary to promoter and defender of a wealthy religious establishment.


The P-Celtic Place-Names of North-East England and South-East Scotland

Bethany Fox, University of Helsinki

Abstract:  This article focuses on the region between the Firth of Forth to the north and the River Tees to the south, to gather together those names identified by past scholars as possibly p-Celtic, providing a new assessment as to whether each contains p-Celtic elements. With the identification of eighty-four names probably containing p-Celtic elements, and forty-five further possible examples, it emerges that p-Celtic toponyms in the region are more numerous than has usually been assumed. Moreover, there is reason to think that the distribution of p-Celtic names is historically significant: generally speaking, the distribution of the earliest identifiable Old English place-names (those ending in -hām and -ingahām) is mutually exclusive of p-Celtic names. The most obvious interpretation of the evidence in this study is a synthesis of mass-migration and elite-takeover models. Large-scale Anglian cultural influence, and therefore implicitly settlement, seems likely along the major river valleys south of the Lammermuir and Moorfoot hills (following the Tyne, Tees, Alne and Tweed), with slower diffusion of influence elsewhere. It seems likely that p-Celtic speech survived longest in the area between the Lammermuir and Moorfoot hills, a supposition supported by archaeological evidence. The study takes the opportunity of online publication to develop new strategies for presenting place-name evidence, including a full appendix of data hyperlinked to the main text, and an interactive distribution map (implemented by Alaric Hall).

Trade, Gift-giving and Romanitas: A Comparison of the Use of Roman Imports in Western Britain and Southern Scandinavia

Thomas Green, Exeter College

Abstract:  Superficial comparison of Roman artifacts found in Southern Scandinavia with those of Britain demonstrates that different items were valued in the two areas. However, the Roman artifacts in both areas can be viewed as high-status luxury items. The essay argues that a comparison of the distribution of Roman artifacts in Britain and Scandinavia sheds light on their use and value within the respective importing societies. High-status Roman goods were used by local elite in both Britain and Scandinavia to help bolster their claims to authority and power.

Translated Texts

The Revelatio Ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis and the Mediterranean Origins of Mont St.-Michel

John Charles Arnold, State University of New York-Fredonia

Abstract:  This translation of the ninth-century Revelatio ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis makes available in English the unique account of the origins of the great Norman attraction of Mont St.-Michel. Believed founded by Autpertus bishop of Avranches in 708, the emergence of the pilgrim shrine owed to connections with the Mediterranean world rather than Celtic or insular influences.


The Forum

The Historicity and Historiography of Arthur: A critical review of King Arthur: Myth-Making and History by N. Higham, and The Reign of Arthur: From History to Legend by C. Gidlow

Howard M. Wiseman, School of Science, Griffith University, Australia

Electronic Medievalia

If I were "You": How Academics Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love "the Encyclopedia that Anyone Can Edit"

Daniel Paul O'Donnell, University of Lethbridge

Continental Business

Michel Aaij, Auburn University Montgmory

History by Biography

The Changing Hagiography of St. Æthelthryth

Stacie Turner

Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia, 1207-2007

Michel Aaij, Auburn University Montgomery


Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of King Arthur. Reviewed by Linda Malcor.

Thomas A. Bredehoft, Early English Metre. Reviewed by Daniel O'Donnell.

Magnús Fjalldal, Anglo-Saxon England in Icelandic Medieval Texts. Reviewed by Craig R. Davis.

Carolyne Larrington, Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook. Reviewed by Mary P. Richards.

Francis Pryor, Britain AD: A Quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons. Reviewed by Howard M. Wiseman.

In Memoriam

William L. Petersen [At the Society of Biblical Literature]

Magnus Magnusson [At the BBC]

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