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St Guthlac of Crowland’s twelfth-century Translatio cum Miraculis

December 5 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Cynthia Hahn argues in The Reliquary Effect that reliquaries ‘make the relic’ by labeling, ornamenting and framing their holy contents for pilgrim audiences. This paper takes this insight of Hahn’s and apply it to another medium: to written, pictorial or oral texts employed around the shrine of a saint.

In this talk, Emma Nuding argues that such ‘tomb texts’, in this specific reception context of the saint’s shrine, act as ‘textual reliquaries’, frames which enrich and elaborate on the saint’s remains through descriptive and narrative ornamentation. One such text is St Guthlac of Crowland’s twelfth-century Translatio Cum Miraculis, written to commemorate the saint’s 1136 translation in the Lincolnshire fens. Versions of this Latin text might have been displayed on wooden tabulae around Guthlac’s tomb; regardless, its content likely informed the shrine-side interpretation offered by custodians to visiting pilgrims. Details from the translatio would offer its audiences a partial origin story of the saintly corpus in front of them; details from the miracula would give digressions on which to meditate.

Three aspects of the Translatio Cum Miraculis in particular seem to ‘make’ Guthlac’s relic by speaking to the ‘horizon of expectations’ of twelfth-century pilgrim audiences at Crowland. Firstly in its depiction of a women religious, Gunnhilda, the text seems to speak to mixed-gender audiences who valued women’s leadership roles in saint cults; secondly, in the inclusion of two miracula set in the Humberside area, the text seems to speak to pilgrims from the whole of the Diocese of Lincolnshire, as well as merchants who traveled through the fens en route to the Wash; finally, in a miraculum concerning a manic knight, Rainald, we see that the text is crafted to speak to lay audiences immersed in Romance narratives. In speaking the language of Guthlac’s twelfth-century pilgrims, the Translatio cum Miraculis was well-placed to inform shrineside discourses at Crowland: to not only ‘make’ the relic, but also ‘make’ the pilgrimage.

 

This seminar will last approximately 60 minutes including a Q&A, and will begin at 6pm GMT on Monday 5 December 2022. The Zoom link for this session will be emailed to you as part of your confirmation of registration (please check your spam/junk folder for this email if you cannot find it). This seminar is part of the Ideology, Society, and Medieval Religion: Impositions and Negotiations series – for more info, see here or email Tim Wingard (tim.wingard@york.ac.uk) or Emmie Rose Price-Goodfellow (erpg500@york.ac.uk).

 

Header image: Guthlac builds a chapel. Guthlac Roll (last quarter of the 12th century or 1st quarter of the 13th century ), British Library, Harley MS Y 6, roundel 5.