Seminar VII: Hagiography
Hagiography, the historical genre which is the subject of this week’s
seminar, comprises narratives concerned with the saints and their achievements,
especially the miracles which God has performed through them and on their behalf.
Six basic types of hagiographical ‘story’
or ‘scenario’ may be distinguished: first, the vita, the
story of the achievements that a saint performed in his or her lifetime;
second, the passio,
similar to the former, but about a martyr who has died a violent death for
the faith or for some other God-arranged reason; third, the inventio or revelatio,
the story of how a new saint or more often a saint’s bodily remains was
discovered; fourth, the translatio, the story of how a saint’s
relics were brought to a church or moved to a new shrine; fifth, the visio,
the story of how a saint appeared to someone in a vision; and sixth, the miraculum,
the story of how a miracle was performed on the saint’s behalf by God. Miracula are
typically concerned with the wonders that were performed after the saint
has died and become a resident of the heavenly kingdom. A hagiographical
text might well combine many of these stories or ‘scenarios’. Many vitae continue
on, for example, well-beyond the scene of the saint’s death to describe
how his or her corpse was lost, re-discovered and then brought and enshrined
in the church where it now rests. In these texts the true climax comprises
the saint’s translatio and
enshrinement. Miracula, furthermore, were often combined to form libri
miraculorum, ‘books of miracles’, which sometimes (but not
usually) extended beyond the usual few dozen items to encompass hundreds
its various manifestations hagiography was the mode of historical discourse
most frequently deployed in the Middle Ages, generating many thousands
of vitae and miracula and contributing substantial passages
to many chronicles and rhetorical histories. The similarities (and sometimes,
the lengthy verbal affinities) between these narratives naturally lead
to the suspicion that most, if not all, instances contain much that has been
borrowed from earlier examples or which has been re-fashioned so as to resemble
the scenes found in key archetypes—such
as the late fourth-century Life of St Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus—which
exerted great influence over the development of the genre. This conclusion
seems inescapable; but the process might sometimes involve an oral
phase, prior to the writing up of the legend, in which the hero’s story assimilated
many standard elements or was gradually re-fashioned with each act of re-telling, bringing it
ever closer to the recognised archetypes. The few texts which admit importing episodes
from the lives of other saints invariably claim that the story was true of
some saint, or that there is so little doubt about the subject’s
sanctity that the mis-attribution of a few stories will scarcely make
any difference to his cult. As such admissions show, hagiography’s
claim to authority rested, as in the case
of ecclesiastical history, on its claim to record actual events—actual
moments of divine intervention in the world.
Topics for Discussion
- The purposes and typical content of hagiographical texts.
- Hagiographical discourse and historical reality.
- The various types of hagiographical manuscript.
- Hagiographical manuscripts as evidence for reception and the uses of hagiography.
- The ways in which historians might exploit hagiographical texts to the greatest
Text and Manuscripts for Discusssion
This seminar will focus on a single manuscript, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 161, and its copy of the Vita S. Erkenwaldi Lundonie episcopi (BHL 2600), ed. E.
G. Whatley, The Saint of London: The Life and Miracles of St Erkenwald,
Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 58 (Binghamton, 1989), pp. 87–96.
For the purposes of the present seminar the Vita Erkenwaldi, a relatively
brief example of the genre, may serve as an illustration of how a saint’s life might
be composed in the absence of much reliable information and of
the way in which the compilers of legendaries edited their contents. St Erkenwald
had lived in the second half of the seventh century, becoming bishop of London
in about 675 and dying in 693, but the present text was composed some four
centuries later, the end of the eleventh or beginning of the twelfth century.
only source of any reliability was the brief account of Erkenwald that Bede
had provided in his Historia Ecclesiastica (iv.6). Having downloaded the text from the Moodle website, consider carefully the various conventions and commonplaces with which the text is fleshed out. How many can you identify?
Other examples of hagiographical
manuscript listed for consideration include:
- Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliothek, GKS
- St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang.
- Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS
- Cambridge, University Library, MS.
Hagiography and the Cult of Saints
- Abou-El-Haj, B., The Medieval Cult of Saints: Formations
and Transformations (Cambridge, 1994). MBLE.K.
- Aigrain, R., L’hagiographie. Ses sources, ses méthodes,
son histoire, Subsidia Hagiographica 80 (Paris, 1953; 2nd edn, with a supplement
by R. Godding, Brussels, 2000). One of the best short introductions.
- Angenendt, A., Heilige und Reliquien: Die Geschichte ihres Kultes vom
Christentum bis zur Gegenwart (Munich, 1994).
- Christensen, K., ‘Walter Daniel’s Life of Aelred of Rievaulx: The Heroism of Intelligence and the Miracle of Love’, in J. Glenn (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 217–29. MB.
- Cooper, K., The Virgin and the Bride: Idealized Womanhood
in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA, 1996). LIC.
- de Gaiffier, B., ‘L’hagiographie
dans le marquisat de Flandre et le duché de Basse-Lotharingie au XIe siècle’,
in idem, Etudes critiques d’hagiographie et d’iconologie,
Subsidia Hagiographica 43 (Brussels, 1967), pp. 415–507.
- Delehaye, H., The Legends of the Saints, trs. D.
Attwater with a memoir of the author by P. Peeters (London, 1962). PRC. A
classic which sets out the approach of the early 20th-century ‘Bollandists’,
a group of Jesuit scholars based in Brussels.
- Dinzelbacher, P., Revelationes, Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge
occidental 57 (Turnhout, 1991).
- Dinzelbacher, P., Vision und Visionsliteratur im Mittelalter, Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 23 (Stuttgart, 1981).
J. W., ‘Typology and Iconographic Style in Early
Medieval Hagiography’, Studies in the Literary Imagination, 8
(1975), 15–46. Available online through Academic Search Premier.
- Elliott, A. G., Roads to Paradise: Reading the Lives
of the Early Saints (Hanover, NH, and London, 1988). Not held and unfinished,
but full of useful insights.
- Farmer, S., Communities of Saint Martin: Legend and
Ritual in Medieval Tours (Ithaca, NY, 1991). MTV.K.
- Fontaine, J., ‘King Sisebut’s Vita Desiderii and
the Political Function of Visigothic Hagiography’, in E. James (ed.), Visigothic
Spain: New Approaches (Oxford, 1980), pp. 93–129. MQBA7.
- Fung, K. S., ‘Divine Lessons in an Imperfect World: Bernard of Angers and The Book of Sainte Foy’s Miracles’, in J. Glenn (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 119–28. MB.
- Glenn, J., ‘Two Lives of Saint Radegund’, in idem (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 57–69. MB.
- Goodich, M. E., ‘Biography, 1000–1350’, in D. M. Deliyannis
(ed.), Historiography in the Middle Ages (Leiden, 2002), pp. 353–85.
- Goodich, M. E., Vita Perfecta: The Ideal of Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century, Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 25 (Stuttgart, 1982).
- Grégoire, R., Manuale di Agiologia: Introduzione alla letteratura agiografica, Bibliotheca Montisfani 12 (Fabriano, 1987).
- Heffernan, T. J., ‘The Liturgy and the Literature of Saints’ Lives’,
in T. J. Heffernan and E. Ann Matter (eds), The Liturgy of the Medieval
Church (Kalamazoo, MI, 2001), pp. 73–105. PO.B.
- Heffernan, T. J., Sacred Biography: Saints and their
Biographers in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1988). PN.C.
- Heinzelmann, M., Translationsberichte und andere Quellen des Reliquienkultes,
Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge occidental 33 (Turnhout, 1979).
- Howard-Johnston, J., and P. A. Hayward (eds), The Cult
of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution
of Peter Brown (Oxford, 2000). PN.C7.
- Kitchen, J., Saints’ Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender:
Male and Female in Merovingian Hagiography (Oxford, 1998). MSC.K.
- Lapidge, M., and R. Love, ‘The Latin Hagiography of England
and Wales’, in G. Philippart (ed.), Hagiographies: Histoire internationale
de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines
à 1550, vol. 3 (Turnhout, 2001), pp. 203–325. PN.C.
- Lappin, A., The Medieval Cult of Saint Dominic of Silos,
MHRA Texts and Dissertations 56 (Leeds, 2002). PN.DO.D7.
- Lifshitz, F., ‘Beyond Positivism and Genre: “Hagiographical”
Texts as Historical Narrative’, Viator, 25 (1994), 95–113.
- McCready, W. D., Signs of Sanctity: Miracles in the
Thought of Gregory the Great, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies,
Studies and Texts 91 (Toronto, 1989). MVC.
- McCulloh, J. M., ‘Confessor Saints and the Origins of Monasticism: The Lives of Saint Antony and Martin’, in J. Glenn (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 21–32. MB.
- Mulder-Bakker, Anneke B. (ed.), The Invention of Saintliness,
Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture (London, 2002).
- Petersen, J. M., The Dialogues
of Gregory the Great and their Late Antique Cultural Background, Pontifical
Institute of Medieval Studies, Studies and Texts 69 (Toronto, 1984).
- Rennard, É., M. Trigalet,
X. Hermand, and P. Bertrand (eds), Scribere sanctorum gesta: Recueil d’études
d’hagiographie médiévale offert à Guy Philippart, Hagiologia: Études
sur la Sainteté en Occident—Studies on Western Sainthood 3 (Turnhout, 2005).
- Smith, J. M.
H., ‘The Problem
of Female Sanctity in Carolingian Europe, c.780–920’, Past
146 (1995), 3–37. Journals L6. Also available online at JSTOR.
- Stancliffe, C., St Martin and his Hagiographer: History
and Miracle in Sulpicius Severus (Oxford, 1983). An important study of
an influential hagiographer. PN.DK.M3.
- Straw, C., ‘The Avenging Abbot: Gregory the Great and his Life of Saint Benedict’, in J. Glenn (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011), pp. 71–83. MB.
- Van Egmond, W. S., ‘The Audience of Early Medieval Hagiographical
Texts: Some Questions Revisited’, in M. Mostert (ed.), New Approaches
to Medieval Communication, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy (Turnhout,
1999), pp. 41–67. LEA.
- Van ‘T Spijker, I., Fictions
of the Inner Life: Religious Literature and the Formation of the Self in
the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, Disputatio 4 (Turnhout, 2004).
- Von der Nahmer, D., Die lateinische Heiligenvita: Eine Einführung die
lateinische Hagiographie (Darmstadt, 1994).
- Ward, B., Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record
and Event, 1000–1215 (1st edn, Philadelphia, PA, 1982; 2nd edn, Aldershot,
1987). MBO – 2 copies of the first edition. Useful for general context.
- Wilson, S. E., The Life and After-Life of St John of
Beverley: The Evolution of the Cult of an Anglo-Saxon Saint, Church, Faith
and Culture in the Medieval West (Aldershot, 2006). PN.DL.J7.
Hagiographical Manuscripts—A Few Examples
- Brown, M. P., ‘Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat. 10861
and the Scriptorium of Christ Church, Canterbury’, Anglo-Saxon England,
15 (1986), 119–37. MVC. The earliest example of a legendary produced in England.
- Jackson, P., and M. Lapidge, ‘The Contents of the Cotton-Corpus
Legendary’, in P. E. Szarmach (ed.), Holy Men and Holy Women: Old
English Prose Saints’ Lives and Their Contexts (Albany, 1996), pp.
115–46. YBLH. A manuscript produced at Worcester, early in the pontificate
of Wulfstan II (1062–95), which is the earliest witness to the dissemination
of a major northern Frankish collection of saints’ in England. Further
copies from survive from Salisbury and Hereford. One half of this
Corpus Christi College, MS 9—can now be examined online at Parker
Library on the Web.
- Lapidge, M. (ed.), The Cult of St Swithun, Winchester
Studies 4.ii (Oxford, 2003). Oversize MWKM.K. Interspersed in the introduction
to this edition of the collected hagiography of St Swithun are many useful
and up to date comments on the uses of various types of hagiographical manuscripts.
- Love, R, C. (ed.), Three Eleventh-Century Anglo-Latin
Saints’ Lives, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford, 1996). Has much on
the history of hagiographical manuscripts in England.
- Philippart, G., Les Légendiers latins et autres manuscrits hagiographiques,
Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge occidental 24–25
- Sharpe, R., Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives: An Introduction to Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford, 1991).