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The cult of St Æthelwold and its context, c. 984-c. 1400

Citation: Browett, Rebecca (2016) The cult of St Æthelwold and its context, c. 984-c. 1400. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

Browett, R - IHR - 2017.pdf

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This thesis documents the cult of St Æthelwold, a tenth-century bishop of Winchester, from its inception (c. 984) until the late Middle Ages. During his life, Æthelwold was an authoritative figure who reformed monasteries in southern England. Those communities subsequently venerated him as a saint and this thesis examines his cult at those centres. In particular, it studies how his cult enabled monasteries to forge their identities and to protect their rights from avaricious bishops. It analyses the changing levels of veneration accorded to Æthelwold over a five hundred year period and compares this with other well-known saints’ cults. It uses diverse evidence from hagiographies, chronicles, chartularies, poems, church dedications, wall paintings, and architecture. Very few studies have attempted to chart the development of an early English saint's cult over such a long time period, and my multidisciplinary approach, using history, art, and literary studies, offers insight into the changing role of native saints in the English church and society over the course of the Middle Ages. The thesis has five chapters, excluding the introduction and conclusion. Chapter 1 compares Æthelwold's early cult and the concepts of sanctity displayed in his hagiography with contemporary English and continental cults and their written saints' lives. Chapter 2 analyses the cult in the turbulent post-Conquest period. Chapter 3 demonstrates that c.1111 there was a hitherto unstudied revival of the cult, which spread Æthelwold's relics across southern England. Chapter 4 analyses Æthelwold in twelfth-century monastic literature, examining the different depictions of Æthelwold, and how and why Æthelwold was employed by monastic communities to protect their rights and lands. Chapter 5 examines the cult in the later Middle Ages, analysing the continued liturgical veneration of Æthelwold at monastic houses throughout England, and how the community of Winchester used his cult to foster their internal monastic identity. The thesis places Æthelwold's cult in context and broadly examines how saints' cults, as a cultural phenomenon, developed and functioned in medieval society.

Creators: Browett, Rebecca and
Subjects: History
Keywords: St Æthelwold, saints, hagiography, Anglo-Saxon saints
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • September 2016 (completed)


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