The Life and After-Life of St John of Beverley: The Evolution of the Cult of an Anglo-Saxon Saint

1st Edition

Susan E. Wilson

Published December 28, 2005
Reference - 260 Pages
ISBN 9780754653264 - CAT# Y234497
Series: Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West


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This represents the first study devoted to the life and after-life of St John of Beverley. John was bishop of Hexham and then York, after which he retired to his own monastery in Beverley and was buried there in 721. His cult was quickly established and spread to attract pilgrims from all over the British Isles, and even Europe. It was also established in Brittany by the tenth century, especially in the town of Saint-Jean-Brévelay, which is named after him. The great economic wealth of Beverley in the Middle Ages was largely due to it being a major ecclesiastical centre focused around John's relics. His reputation as a powerful saint was harnessed not only to protect Beverley and the surrounding areas and to give succour to pilgrims to his shrine, but also to further the ambitions of successive kings of England to the extent that Henry V raised him to the status of a patron saint of England following the battle of Agincourt, which was fought on the feast day of St John's translation. The hagiographic works on John extend over nearly six hundred years from that written by Bede c. 731, the Vita Sancti Johannis composed by a monk called Folcard c. 1066, then four separate collections of post-mortem miracle stories of the eleventh-thirteenth centuries, and a number of miracles recorded in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This span is greater even than the hagiography relating to St Benedict, which had been believed to cover more years than any other collection in Europe. Dr Wilson uses these sources as a unique opportunity to examine the ways in which an Anglo-Saxon saint was promoted over a long period of time by different hagiographers, and how the saint was continually re-created in the image which the hagiographers or his community required, depending on their current needs and perceptions. The volume also includes the first English translations of the Life and the miracle stories.

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