Saint by Association: Samson, Thomas Becket, and Simon de Montfort
Tamkang Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol.12 (2002)
The seemingly unusual companionship of Samson (of Samson and Delilah fame), Thomas Becket, the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, and Simon de Montfort, the leader of the Barons War, has come about, for this paper, because of their mutual presence in the British Library’s Harley Manuscript 978. Their relationship and, subsequently, the significance of their combined presence in the manuscript shall be the object of this paper. Samson will be seen to be linked to Becket physically by the structure of the manuscript itself, sharing in the same bifolium of the first gathering. Becket and de Montfort are also joined by the manuscript, in their sharing of folio 114. The presence and linkage of Samson, Becket, and Simon de Montfort in this manuscript are not accidental. Rather, the three are inextricably part of the function and theme of Harley Manuscript 978. To establish this, I shall begin with an examination of the contents of the first and second gatherings of the manuscript. Once the relationship between the calendar of the second gathering and the antiphons of the first has been elucidated, then the season and feast days associated with the calendar will make the significance of the joint presence of Samson, Becket, and Montfort in the manuscript more readily understandable.