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Monasticism in Anglo-Saxon England: An Analysis of Selected Hagiography from Northumbria Written in the Years after the Council of Whitby

Monasticism in Anglo-Saxon England: An Analysis of Selected Hagiography from Northumbria Written in the Years after the Council of Whitby

By Carrie Couvillon

Master’s Thesis, Louisiana State University, 2005

Abstract: Hagiography, writings about saints, was generally a means of venerating a saint’s life. An author of hagiography wrote to advance his own salvation as well as to educate his audience on the proper practice of Christianity. Anglo-Saxon hagiography written in the years after the Council of Whitby in 664, however, also showed more support for the Roman tradition as opposed to Celtic Christianity. In an era when Christians in England were divided both culturally and religiously, unification under a single tradition as the one true representative of the faith was essential. This paper is an analysis of four important hagiographical works from the late-seventh and early-eighth centuries; the Lives of Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow by Bede, the Anonymous Life of Ceolfrith, the Life of Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus, and the Life of Cuthbert by Bede. The hagiography covers this transitional period in Anglo-Saxon England when most of the Celtic monks in and around the kingdom of Northumbria resisted the switch to Roman monasticism. The Lives written about Benedict Biscop, Ceolfrith, Wilfrid and Cuthbert reveal how the transition began and progressed in the years after the synod.

Click here to read this thesis from Louisiana State University

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