SESSION VI: The Cistercians of Furness and Cross-Border Contacts
Hagiography at the Frontiers: Jocelin of Furness and his Near Contemporaries
Clare Downham (University of Liverpool)
This paper is in conjunction with a project that is currently running at the University of Liverpool: www.liv.ac.uk/irish
Abbey of Furness in located in Southern Cumbria. In 1122 – it was located near Preston and in 1127 it was relocated to Furness. By the Dissolution of the monasteries, it was one of the richest abbeys in England and held 50,000 acres of land. Looked west across the Irish sea, it was located at a “border zone” to the North. Jocelin’s wrote the Lives of St, Patrick c. 1185, Life of St, Kentigern c.1190, Life of St. Waltheof c.1207 – 1214, Life of St. Helena c. 1207.Jocelin was a prolific hagiographer and author. His work reflects cross border interests – Kentigern is the patron saint of Scotland and Patrick was an irish saint. His world view looked out from Furness. Much like another Cistercian, Ailred of Riveaux, and the writer, Gerald of Wales, he wasn’t just writing about English saints. Jocelin’s work gives us an interesting glimpse into his times. The works he wrote were compilations and copies of older texts but he didn’t mindlessly copy them – he peppered the texts with his opinions. He identifies himself as a Cistercian and praises the line of Scottish kings who patronised the Cistercian Order.
Jocelin comments on the Cistercian lifestyle and its austerity. In the life of St. Waltheof, he mentions the temptation of the saint wanting to leave because of the difficulty of the Cistercian lifestyle. Jocelin rails against aristocratic clerics who boast about their ancestry and those who strive to get high positions. He’s very Cistercian in his outlook due to these beliefs. He’s an interesting source to explore concerning attitudes towards ethnicity with groups such as, Jews, Gaels, Britons, Normans and the English. He criticises the language of the Scots and Irish who wrote saint’s lives previous to his writing – he is not criticising the Irish and Scottish languages (Gaelic) but their use of Latin. Jocelin’s Latin was very flowery and difficult to read. He knew Gaelic and was able to translate some in his writing. He doesn’t venture any opinion on Bretonic languages due to his lack of knowlegde in this area. He praises French but has an anti-Norman attitude. He is pro-Scottish as he was much nearer to the centres of Scottish power versus English power. Jocelin’s writing provides the reader with insight on orthodoxy, reform, and local pride.