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The Minster-in-Thanet foundation story

  • Stephanie Hollis (a1)


The story of how Domne Eafe acquired the land for her monastery at Thanet when her brothers were murdered by a councillor of her cousin, Ecgberht of Kent (664–73), is variously related in a number of Latin and Old English works. The full version (involving Domne Eafe's tame hind and the death of the councillor) is found in three Latin Lives. These are: a passio of the murdered princes attributed to Byrhtferth, which is the earliest recorded account of the foundation of Thanet, dated c. 1000, and written for the monks at Ramsey, who believed the relics translated to their monastery in 978 × 992 to be those of Domne Eafe's brothers; Goscelin's Vita S. Mildrethae, dated 1089 × 1099, and written for the monks at St Augustine's, Canterbury, who acquired the relics of Mildrith from Thanet in 1030; a passio of the murdered princes found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 285, also from Ramsey, which was composed sometime between the mid-eleventh century and the early thirteenth.



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1 ‘Eormenburh, and oðre naman Domne Eafe’ (Caligula). Contemporary charters have ‘Æbba’. In references to Anglo-Saxon charters, S = Sawyer, P. H., Anglo-Saxon Charters: an Annotated List and Bibliography (London, 1968), followed by the number of the document; BCS = Birch, W. de G., Cartularium Saxonicum, 3 vols. (London, 18851893). In references to vitae and passiones, BHL = Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Antiquae et Mediae Aetatis, ed. Bollandiani, Socii, 2 vols. (Brussels, 18981901).

2 Byrhtferth's Passio SS Ethelberti atque Ethelredi regiae stirpis puerorum (BHL 2643), in Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, ed. Arnold, T., 2 vols., RS (London, 18821885) II, 313 (hereafter referred to as ‘Arnold’). For attribution and dating, see Lapidge, M., ‘Byrhtferth of Ramsey and the Early Sections of the Historia Regum attributed to Symeon of Durham’, ASE 10 (1982), 97122, at 98 and 119–20, repr. in his Anglo-Latin Literature, 900–1066 (London, 1993), pp. 317–42.

3 Bodley 285 (Passio et translatio beatorum martyrum Ethelredi atque Ethelbricti (BHL 2641–2)) and Goscelin's Vita Deo dilectae virginis Mildrethae (BHL 5960), ed. Rollason, D. W., The Mildrith Legend; a Study in Early Medieval Hagiography in England (Leicester, 1982), pp. 90104 and 108–43. (‘Rollason’, followed by page number, refers hereafter to the editions of Bodley and Vita S. Mildrethae included in this study.) For dating and provenance, see Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 1821; for modifications, see Sharpe, R., ‘Goscelin's St. Augustine and St. Mildreth: Hagiography and Liturgy in Context’, JTS ns 41 (1990), 502–16; The Date of S. Mildreth's Translation from Minster-in-Thanet to Canterbury’, MS 53 (1991), 349–54.

4 Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England, ed. Cockayne, O., 3 vols., RS (London, 18641866) III, 422–8 (hereafter referred to as ‘Cockayne’); also ed. Swanton, M. J., ‘A Fragmentary Life of St. Mildred and Other Kentish Royal Saints’, AC 91 (1975), 1527, at 24–6. On provenance, see below, p. 45, n. 13. The rubric in Caligula A. xiv reads ‘III. Id. Iulii. Natale Sanctae mildryðe uirginis.’

5 Of the remaining versions discussed by Rollason (see Mildrith Legend, pp. 2131), þa halgan omits the episode involving the tame hind and the death of Thunor, as do the Gotha version and Goscelin's Vita S. Mildburgae; Hugh Candidus mentions the death of Thunor, but omits the hind. Goscelin's Vita S. Werburgae and the Genealogia regum Cantuariorum - which are even more distantly related to the original - merely mention the murder of the princes in their genealogies of the Kentish royal house. It is possible that þa halgan (cited below, p. 42, n. 7) and Gotha, from St Gregory's Priory, Canterbury (cited below, p. 54, n. 43), represent independent traditions rather than later abbreviations (cf. Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 23–5 and 28).

6 See Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 1521 and 60–1; Hayward, P. A., ‘The Idea of Innocent Martyrdom in Earlier Medieval England, ca. 700 to 1150’ (unpubl. PhD dissertation, Cambridge Univ., 1994), pp. 101–20.Hayward, (pp. 110–16) shows that there is no reason to believe that Byrhtferth's immediate source originated at Wakering, or that it differed from the source which lies behind Caligula and Bodley (cf. Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 1518). Rollason (who offers no stemma) states that the version represented by Caligula ‘may have been known in Canterbury, since [Caligula] is very similar, given the difference in their language, to the Bodley 285 Text, which embodies a version written at St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, after Mildrith's translation’ (p. 31). He suggests that Caligula, and the St Augustine's recension underlying Bodley (as well as Goscelin's vita), may have descended from a Thanet version which accompanied Mildrith's relics to St Augustine's (see also Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 58–9). Bodley bears a closer resemblance to Caligula than do Goscelin's vita and Byrhtferth's passio, because it contains less interpolated material, but I argue below that there are significant differences which relate it more closely to the Latin versions. The existence of a lost St Augustine's recension is deduced by Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 19, from Bodley's statement that Mildrith's body rests before the high altar at St Augustine's, a state of affairs obtaining only in the period 1030 to c. 1059.

7 Die Heiligen Englands, ed. Liebermann, F. (Hanover, 1889), pp. 110, at 15.þa halgan is preserved in the Liber vitae of New Minster, Winchester (1031) and is dated to 725×974 by Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 28; see also above, p. 42, n. 5. I am indebted to Professor Lapidge for drawing my attention to S. Keynes's new dating of the Liber vitae, The Liber vitae of the New Minster and Hyde Abbey, Winchester: British Library Stowe 944, ed. Keynes, S., EEMF 26 (Copenhagen, 1996), 37–9.

8 Ed. Cockayne, III, 430–2; also ed. Förster, M., ‘Die altenglischen Beigaben des Lambeth-Psalters’, ASNSL 132 (1914), 328–35, at 332–3; Swanton, , ‘Fragmentary Life’, p. 27. On dating, see below, p. 61, n. 76; on provenance, see below, p. 45, n. 13. Lambeth 427, fol. 211, is parallel to þa halgan, ed. Liebermann, , Heiligen, pp. 57. (Hollis, S., ‘The Old English “Ritual of Mildrith” (London, Lambeth Palace 427, fol. 210)’, JEGP 97 (1998), 311–21, disagrees with Swanton, , ‘Fragmentary Life’, p. 15, who suggests that Caligula and Lambeth 427, fols. 210–11, are the fragmentary remains of an amplified version of þa halgan.)

9 See Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 3340.

10 Ibid. pp. 69, 49 and 68.

11 See Rollason, D. W., ‘Goscelin of Canterbury's Account of the Translation and Miracles of St. Mildrith (BHL 5961/4): an Edition with Notes’, MS 48 (1986), 139210, at 170–5.

12 Cf. Swanton, , ‘Fragmentary Life’, p. 15, who describes Caligula as representing ‘the genuine Canterbury tradition in a relatively pristine state’. For St Augustine's versions of the legend, see Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 1921; for the St Gregory's Priory texts, see pp. 21–5. In particular, St Augustine's may have been responsible for the transmission of the legend to the west, which is marked by the appearance of feasts of Mildrith and other Mildrith legend saints in kalendars from that area; note, however, that at least one of these pre-dates Byrhtferth's passio (Salisbury, Cathedral Library, 150, 3r–8v, in English Kalendars before A.D. 1100, ed. Wormald, F., HBS 72 (London, 1934), no. 2; Ker, N. R., Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), no. 379, dates it 969×978). Some aspects of the earlier dissemination of the legend from Thanet which Rollason attributes to the political influence of Kent (Mildrith Legend, p. 49) are doubtful; its appearance in Vita S. Mildburgae and Vita S. Werburgae, for instance, may bear out the attribution of these Lives to Goscelin, and the existence of a Wakering version which he postulates as Byrhtferth's immediate source can no longer be accepted (see above, p. 42, n. 6). The legend may have been transmitted from Thanet to St Augustine's with Mildrith's relics, as Rollason suggests (Mildrith Legend, pp. 31 and 58–9); it is also possible that it was among the Thanet documents transferred to St Augustine's in the late eighth or early ninth century as a consequence of Viking raids, and/or of Archbishop Wulfred's assumption of the lordship of Thanet (see below, pp. 62–3, nn. 80–1). Possibly, in view of the legend's connection with Seaxburg (see below, p. 58, n. 64), Byrhtferth's source also came from Thanet, via Ely.

13 Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 31. Like the Lambeth fragments (cited above, p. 43, n. 8), Caligula is preserved in an ‘Exeter-type’ script; linguistically, the Lambeth fragments have the regular forms of literary late WS, whereas some forms in Caligula suggest a Kentish provenance (Swanton, , ‘Fragmentary Life’, p. 17). Ker, , Catalogue, pp. 172–3 and 343, did not attempt to assign these fragments, and in view of the tendency of attributions to gravitate to the men's houses on which we are best informed, it should not be too readily assumed that Caligula and the Lambeth fragments were copied either at Exeter or at Canterbury (cf. Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 30).

14 Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 111–12, objects that Rollason's dating (Mildrith Legend, pp. 1517) accepts at face value Byrhtferth's statement concerning the location of Mildrith's relics which may have arisen from careless abbreviation of his source. Kelly, S. E., ‘The Pre-Conquest History and Archive of St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury’ (unpubl. PhD dissertation, Cambridge Univ., 1986), pp. 300–1, n. 16, casts doubt on Rollason's use of the form Easterige (Mildrith Legend, p. 16) as evidence of an early dating.

15 See Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 3340, esp. 33–6.

16 S 91 (BCS 177); Charters of St Augustine's Abbey Canterbury and Minster-in-Thanet, ed. Kelly, S. E., AS Charters 4 (London, 1995), no. 51. See also Seaxburg's translation of her sister Æthelthryth, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Colgrave, B. and Mynors, R. A. B. (Oxford, 1969), IV.19, pp. 292–4 (hereafter HE); and Pega's translation of her brother, Felix's Life of Guthlac, ed. Colgrave, B. (Cambridge, 1956), pp. 160–2.Kemp, E. W., Canonization and Authority in the Western Church (London, 1948), pp. 3655, traces the intervention of higher ecclesiastical authorities in the translation of relics in the centuries following the Council of Mainz in 813. See also below, p. 57, n. 56.

17 Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, p. 106, observes: ‘Like most OE homilies [Caligula] shows signs of being an abbreviated translation and is probably, therefore, derived from a now lost Latin life’; it appears to me, however, that Goscelin's vita, Byrhtferth's passio and, to a lesser extent, Bodley, represent rhetorical inflation. We can only presume, in the absence of conclusive evidence to the contrary, that the vernacular would not have been used for independent composition prior to Alfred's educational reform. Stylistically, there are no strong indications that Caligula is a direct translation from Latin; doubtless it is at some remove from the original (see below, p. 48, n. 24).

18 Ed. Cockayne, III, 422–4. Similarly, the genealogy in Lambeth traces the kinship between Seaxburg (mother of Ecgberht of Kent) and the sainted women of the East Anglian royal house with whom she is buried at Ely, i.e. her sisters Wihtburh and Æthelthryth, and her daughter Eormenhild (whose own daughter, Werburh, rests at Hanbury), with whom Seaxburg took the veil at Milton.

19 Bodley, ed. Rollason, , pp.91–3; Vita S. Mildrethae, pp. 112–15. Cf. Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 35. Gotha contains no genealogy, but the female bias is also reflected to varying degrees in all other versions of the legend examined by Rollason, , Mildrith Legend.

20 HE II.20 (ed. Colgrave, and Mynors, , p. 204).

21 Bodley, ed. Rollason, , p. 92; cf. Caligula, ed. Cockayne, III, 422. See Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 116–17 and 107 (below, p. 48, n. 25). Other versions merely mention the return of Æthelburg and Paulinus and present her (apocryphally?) as the founder of Lyminge.

22 See Hollis, S., Anglo-Saxon Women and the Church: Sharing a Common Fate (Woodbridge, 1992), pp. 111.n. 176 and 260.

23 ‘And heo ða æt him gebohte his dæl ðæs eardes to freodome in to ðam mynstre ða hwile ðe cristendom wære on engla lande gehealden’, ed. Cockayne, III, 432. See further below, p. 61, n. 76.

24 Ed. Cockayne, III, 424–8. Caligula does describe the murdered princes as ‘halgan æþelingas’, and says that Thunor ‘gemartirode’ them. It also says that they were ‘swyðe gesceadwise and rihtwise, swa hit Godes willa wæs’, and claims that this provoked Thunor; but another motive is provided by Thunor's fear that they would become dearer to the king than himself (ed. Cockayne, III, 424). This, purely secular, motive, and the king's subsequent demand that Thunor tell him what he has done with the princes ‘be his freondscipe’ are found only in Caligula (ed. Cockayne, III, 426); the hagiographic description of the princes may therefore represent additions to the original influenced by familiarity with the Ramsey cult. Caligula also relates that the king became fearful at the divine miracle which revealed the princes' bodies, and that he realized that he had angered God; but, in contrast to other versions, Caligula does not develop this in the council scene. Apart from the report that Domne Eafe and her husband separated by mutual consent and gave their children and worldly possessions to God (ed. Cockayne, III, 422–4), and the statement that Domne Eafe ‘þæt wergild geceas þurh Godes fultum’ (ed. Cockayne, III, 426), there is no attempt to portray Domne Eafe in pious terms.

25 Byrhtferth (ed. Arnold, II, 9 and 12) and Caligula (ed. Cockayne, III, 426) name Deusdedit. Later substitution of Theodore reflects Bodley's ‘correction’ of the legend against HE IV.1 (ed. Colgrave, and Mynors, , p. 328); see Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 116–17. Whether or not Bede is unfailingly accurate, it appears that the originators of the legend believed that the Thanet foundation dated to the time of Deusdedit.

26 ‘And hio ða hind swa dyde þæt hio him beforan hleapende wæs’ (ed. Cockayne, III, 426). Swanton, , ‘Fragmentary Life’, p. 20, translates: ‘And then the hind so acted that it leaped in front of them.’ But Cockayne's translation - ‘She then so managed that the hind kept running before them’ - is supported by an earlier sentence, ‘And hio ða swa dyde þæt hio wergeld geceas …’ (ed. Cockayne, III, 426), which Swanton translates: ‘And she so arranged it that she chose that compensation…’.

27 See Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 1112, Bodley, ed. Rollason, , p. 97; Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , p. 118.

28 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II. Cf. Bodley, ed. Rollason, , pp. 96–7; Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , pp. 117–18.

29 Ed. Cockayne, III, 426. See also above, p. 49, n. 26. There is no parallel statement in Vita S. Mildrethae and Byrhtferth's passio. Bodley (ed. Rollason, , p. 96) has: ‘Elegit itaque (secundum Domini disposicionem) pro eorum precio terram quadraginta aratrorum, in loco qui appellatur Tenet.’

30 Snorri Sturluson: Edda, Prologue and Gylfaginning, ed. Faulkes, A. (Oxford, 1982), p. 7; see also Ynglinga Saga, in Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla ed. Aðalbjarnarson, B., Íslenzk Fornrit 26, 2 vols. (Reykjavik, 1979) I, 1415.

31 To regard this claim as ‘historically plausible’ does not necessarily entail acceptance of its accuracy. Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 39, notes that there is no corroboration for the killing of Domne Eafe's brothers but suggests that the raid of 676 on Kent by Domne Eafe's brother-in-law, Æthelred of Mercia, was an act of retaliation. One possible sign of conflict between Ecgberht of Kent and Domne Eafe's family is S14 (BCS 40), dated c. 690, a grant from Oswine of Kent to Abbess Æbba of land at Sturry, which is described as land once possessed by Eormenred (her father) and formerly the property of Theodore (cf. S 13 (BCS 35)); Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , nos. 42–3. See also below, p. 59, n. 68.

32 The Germania of Tacitus, ed. Robinson, R. P. (Middletown, CT, 1935), pp. 285–6. Cf. the report that Ramsey was founded where a bull chanced to scrape with its foot: Chronicon Abbatiae Rameseiensis, ed. Macray, W. D., RS (London, 1886), p. 9. For the stag as guide in Germanic and Frankish legends, see Helm, K., Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, 2 vols. (Heidelberg, 1913) II, 82.

33 Relevant charters are listed by Bonney, D., ‘Early Boundaries and Estates in Southern England’, Medieval Settlement: Continuity and Change, ed. Sawyer, P. H. (London, 1976), pp. 7282, who argues that the holdings of early ecclesiastical parishes and churches were based on secular estates, and that the areas of land thus defined had been valid entities for at least a thousand years. See also Hooke, D., ‘Burial Features in West Midlands Charters’, JEPNS 13 (19801981), 140: ‘Location of the hlœw features on or near to boundaries of parishes takes on a new significance in the light of the known tendency for Anglo-Saxon burials to occupy boundary sites and may be presented as evidence for a connection between the two’ (p. 24). Hooke considers that hlœw refers to Anglo-Saxon (as opposed to prehistoric) barrows; for the shift from isolated barrows to the barrow cemeteries more characteristic of Kent, see Shephard, J. F., ‘The Social Identity of the Individual in Isolated Barrows and Barrow Cemeteries in Anglo-Saxon England’, Space, Hierarchy and Society, ed. Burnham, B. C. and Kingsbury, J., BAR Int. Ser. 59 (London, 1979), 4779, esp. 48, 50 and 70–7. Neither the mound nor the name Thunoreshlœw have survived (see Hull, F., ‘The Isle of Thanet, Kent, Late Fourteenth Century×1414’, Local Maps and Plans from Medieval England, ed. Skelton, R. A. and Harvey, P. D. A. (Oxford, 1986), pp. 125–6); but note the grant by Eadmund (943) of land to miclangrafe on tenet (S 512(BCS 780)).

34 See esp. the pagan priest who stands on a high mound to prevent missionaries from landing, in The Life of Bishop Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus, ed. Colgrave, B. (Cambridge, 1927), p. 28.Wilson, D., Anglo-Saxon Paganism (London, 1992), in a brief survey of burial mounds as cult centres, observes: ‘Thunreslau [Essex] and Wodneslawe [Bedfordshire] are particularly interesting, in that each was the name of a later Saxon administration unit, a half-hundred … It is possible that here we have two examples of pagan cult sites continuing as meeting places in the Christian period’ (p. 14). Simpson, J., ‘The King's Whetstone’, Antiquity 53 (1979), 96101, at 99, considers relevant Scandinavian sources which associate the king sitting on a burial mound with contact with dead ancestors, claims to succession and law-giving.

35 See esp. Gelling, M., ‘Further Thoughts on Pagan Place-Names’, Otium et Negotium: Studies in Onomatology and Library Science presented to Olof von Feilitzen, ed. Sandgren, F. (Stockholm, 1973), pp. 109–28, at 122.Fell, C. E., ‘Edward King and Martyr and the Anglo-Saxon Hagiographic Tradition’, Ethelred the Unready, ed. Hill, D., BAR Brit. Ser. 59 (Oxford, 1978), 113, at 10, plausibly suggests that Thunoreshlœw was a centre of the god's cult and the legend derived the councillor's name from the place-name. Byrhtferth (ed. Arnold, II, 6), explains that as Thunor means ‘thunder’, he was rightly named, for he was unceasingly tormented by the deadly furies of wicked spirits whose hideous tumults ultimately sank him into the pit of hell.

36 Reproduced by Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 10. On the complexities of Thanet's tenurial history and the fictive nature of the legend of the hind's course, see Kelly, , ‘St Augustine's Abbey’, pp. 146 and 171–7.

37 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 910. Whereas Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, pp. 1518, assumed that Byrhtferth merely improved the style of his source (see above, p. 42, n. 6) and left its content unchanged, Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 101–20, shows that Byrhtferth and the Ramsey monks, erroneously believing the relics translated to their monastery to be those of Domne Eafe's brothers, appropriated the legend, re-defining the murdered princes as infant innocents. As Hayward points out, there are a number of passages found only in Byrhtferth's passio which emphasize the nature of the princes' sanctity, and the eulogy of the brothers' virtues (ed. Arnold, II, 45) reflects one of Byrhtferth's favourite themes, the mystic significance of numbers. Bodley's placing of the translation and miracles of the princes after its (truncated) account of Mildrith confirms the view that Byrhtferth interpolated these from another source (Goscelin's vita has no parallel account). Other features peculiar to Byrhtferth's passio which appear to represent his additions are the demonic characterization of Thunor (ed. Arnold, II, 56) and the use of direct speech in Thunor's approach to the king and in the council scene (ed. Arnold, II, 68).

38 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 12; see also Bodley (ed. Rollason, , pp. 97 and 102). Caligula contains no suggestion that Domne Eafe's monastery was founded in memory of her brothers (see above, p. 48, h. 24). In view of Ramsey's promotion of the cult of the princes (see above, p. 52, n. 37), the claim that Thanet was founded to commemorate them is suspect. It is also undermined by Byrhtferth's report that the princes were translated to Wakering (although Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 113–14, considers that it is the latter claim which is spurious). Goscelin's vita states only that Domne Eafe's minster was dedicated to Mary (ed. Rollason, , p. 119). But in his narration of the foundation story, he relates that Domne Eafe wanted to build a monastery ‘pro sancta germanorum memoria et regis indulgentia’ (ed. Rollason, , p. 118). As related by Caligula, the foundation story implies that the establishment of the monastery mitigated the king's guilt, and Bodley's statement that Ecgberht helped Domne Eafe to build it (ed. Rollason, , p. 98) is in line with this.

39 Textual markers of Byrhtferth's handling of his source are: ‘Igitur quoniam passiones sanctorum martyrum prout potuimus strictim praelibavimus, restat [ut] quomodo divina ultio super iniquissimum judicem, piissimae necis eorum auctorem, pervenerit, breviter tangamus’ (ed. Arnold, II, 11). ‘Sane in monasterii regimine succedit… Mildrytha praedicta, sanctissima virgo, multa fulgens miraculorum gratia. Unde unum narramus miraculum …’ (ed. Arnold, II, 13). ‘Praeterea dum spurcissimi persecutoris piorum marytrum subitum mortis interitum statuimus describere, postmodum infleximus oculos ad veneranda sororis neptisque eorum gesta … cujus gratia ad alia narranda eo succurrente est properandum’ (ed. Arnold, II, 13). See also Hayward, , ‘Innocent Martyrdom’, pp. 111–12.

40 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 11.

41 HE IV.21 and III.24 (ed. Colgrave, and Mynors, , pp. 400 and 292).

42 VIII Æthelred 25 prohibits monastics from requiring or accepting wergild on the grounds that members of religious orders have forsaken their kin.

43 Vita sanctarum Aethelredi et Aethelberti martirum et sanctorum virginum Miltrudis et Edburgis (BHL 2644ab + 2384a + 5964b), Gotha, Landesbibliothek, I. 81, 185v–188v, ed. Colker, M. L., ‘A Hagiographic Polemic’, MS 39 (1977), 97108, at 99.

44 Precium, in Bodley, ed. Rollason, , p. 96, lines 29, 34 and 38, parallels the appearance of wergild in Caligula (ed. Cockayne, III, 426, lines 16, 18 and 24). Cf. Vita S. Mildrethae, ‘crudele esse iudicans ut quasi fraternum sanguinem alieno precio uenditaret’ (ed. Rollason, , p. 117); Gotha, ‘fratrum scilicet suorum quasi sanguinis precio’ (ed. Colker, , ‘Hagiographic Polemic’, p. 99).

45 Goscelin also uses this ‘vocational test’ motif in Vita S. Edith, ed. Wilmart, A., ‘La Légende de Ste Édith en prose et vers par le moine Goscelin’, AB 56 (1938), 5101 and 265307, at 43–7.

46 Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , pp. 117–18.

47 Bodley, ed. Rollason, , pp. 96–7. Bodley, however, resembles Caligula in presenting the council as a body which advises the king to negotiate with Domne Eafe a precium acceptable to her.

48 Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , p. 116.

49 Ibid. pp. 119–34.

50 Bodley, ed. Rollason, , pp. 98102.

51 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 1213.

52 Note that Goscelin used a similar motif in his Vita S. Wulfildae, where he relates the assistance given by Wenflæd Abbess of Wherwell in King Edgar's pursuit of her niece Wulfhild (ed. Esposito, M., ‘La vie de Sainte Vulhilde par Goscelin de Cantorbéry’, AB 32 (1913), 1026, at 1416). The account of Mildrith also employs the hagiographic topos ‘relic-theft-by-night-with-pursuit’; see Geary, P. J., Furta Sacra, Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, rev. ed. (Princeton, 1990), pp. 118–24.

53 HE V.3 (ed. Colgrave, and Mynors, , p. 460).

54 Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , pp. 135–6. Domne Eafe's appointment of Mildrith as her successor is implicit in Byrhtferth's passio (ed. Arnold, II, 1213) and explicit in þa halgan (ed. Liebermann, , Heiligen, p. 5). It appears from S 17 (BCS 88), taken in conjunction with S 18 (BCS 96) and S 20 (BCS 99), that Mildrith's abbacy overlapped with her mother's lifetime for the period 696–9; see Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , nos. 45–6 and 10. But Kelly (pp. 158–9) regards this as a reason for concluding that S 17 is a fabrication.

55 Byrhtferth's passio, ed. Arnold, II, 12; Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , pp. 118–19. Gotha also says Domne Eafe dedicated the minster (ed. Colker, , ‘Hagiographic Polemic’, p. 99).

56 Bodley, ed. Rollason, , p. 98. Goscelin also relates that Archbishop Cuthbert dedicated Eadburg's new church, thereby suggesting that he presided over the translation of Mildrith (Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , pp. 142–3); no bishop is mentioned by Gotha, the only other Latin version which describes this translation (ed. Colker, , ‘Hagiographic Polemic’, pp. 104–6). Æthelbald's charter ascribes the translation to Eadburg (S 91 (BCS 177)), and there is no presiding bishop at the translations carried out by Seaxburg and Pega (see above, p. 45, n. 16).

57 Cf. þa halgan (above, p. 42, n. 5), which records the founding of the Kentish monasteries; its account of Mildrith is solely concerned with her role as abbess of Thanet (ed. Liebermann, , Heiligen, p.5).

58 See Hollis, , Anglo-Saxon Women, pp. 7582.

59 Jones, C. W., Saints' Lives and Chronicles in Early England (Ithaca, NY, 1947), pp. 2730 and 4350.

60 Ed. Rollason, , ‘Translation and Miracles’, p. 159.

61 With Dumville, D. N., ‘Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists’, Early Medieval Kingship, ed. Sawyer, P. H. and Wood, I. N. (Leeds, 1977), pp. 72104, esp. 96104, cf. Moisl, H., ‘Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies and Germanic Oral Tradition’, JMH 7 (1981), 215–48: ‘Although the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies are in their extant form products of ecclesiastical scholarship, the keeping of royal genealogies in early England … was a native, originally pre-Christian institution which the Church adopted’ (p. 215).

62 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle MS A, ed. Bately, J. M., The AS Chronicle: a Collaborative Edition, ed. Dumville, D. and Keynes, S. 3 (Cambridge, 1986), 12. ‘The relationship between dynastic founder and war god to which [genealogies] point is, of course, appropriate [in that] it was by war that a dux could establish a kingdom and a royal line’ (Moisl, , ‘Anglo-Saxon Royal Genealogies’, p. 222).

63 Ælfwynn was prevented from succeeding her mother as ruler of Mercia by her uncle, Edward of Wessex, who took her back to Wessex in captivity (Mercian Register, s.a. 919).

64 Lambeth says that Seaxburg and her daughter Eormenhild both took the veil at Milton, of which Sheppey was a dependency. The report that Eormenhild succeeded her mother as abbess of Sheppey is found in a twelfth-century Ely life of Seaxburg (London, British Library, Caligula A. viii, fols. 111–12). The Ely life of Seaxburg is thought to have drawn either on Lambeth or on its archetype; see Ridyard, S. J., The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England: a Study of West Saxon and East Anglian Cults, Cambridge Stud. in Med. Life and Thought 4th ser. 9 (Cambridge, 1988), 56–8 and 181, n. 26.

65 In Vita S. Mildrethae, ed. Rollason, , p. 118, Thunor's speech suggests that the relation of Domne Eafe and the hind resembles that of witch and familiar (‘cantatricis femine et effrenate fere’).

66 However, nothing in the life of Mildrith suggests that she was the centre of a popular cult prior to her translation.

67 Die Briefe des heiligen Bonifatius und Lullus, ed. Tangl, M., 2nd ed., MGH, ES 1 (Berlin, 1955), no. 14.

68 See Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , nos. 40–4 and 46–8. Land-charters in favour of Æbba (Eafe) are S 10 (BCS 42), S 11 (BCS 41), S 13 (BCS 35), S 14 (BCS 40), S 15 (BCS 86) and S 18 (BCS 96); land-charters in favour of Mildrith are S 26 (BCS 846) and S 1180 (BCS 141). These charters post-date the reign of Ecgberht and, as they may be confirmations of early grants, they do not disprove the claim that the monastery was founded with wergild land.

69 S 20 (BCS 99); Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , no. 10.

70 See S 91 (BCS 177); cf. S 86 (BCS 149) and S 87 (BCS 150); Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , nos. 49–51. Discussed by Kelly, S. E., ‘Trading Privileges from Eighth-Century England’, EME 1 (1992), 328, esp. 5 and 7. Nothing is known of Eadburg's immediate successor Sigeburg, who was granted a remission of tolls by Offa of Mercia (S 143 (BCS 188)) and by Eadberht II, king of Kent (S 29 (BCS 189)); Charters of St Augustine's, ed. Kelly, , nos. 52–3. She was presumably connected to the Kentish royal family.

71 S 92 (BCS 178).

72 Brife, ed. Tangl, , no. 105.

73 Ibid. no. 73; the vision of a Much Wenlock monk which includes Ceolred's damnation (Briefe, ed. Tangl, , no. 10) was obtained by Boniface for a monastic woman called Eadburg from Mildrith's sister, Mildburg of Much Wenlock, via Hildelith of Barking (Tangl dates it 716).

74 Briefe, ed. Tangl, , no. 78.

75 Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Britain and Ireland, ed. Haddan, A. W. and Stubbs, W., 3 vols. (Oxford, 18691871) III, 364.

76 Lambeth, which relates the foundation of Sheppey by Seaxburg, an East Anglian widow of a Kentish king, similarly asserts a Mercian connection through the marriage of Eormenhild (Seaxburg's daughter and successor) to Wulfhere of Mercia. Lambeth appears of a later date than Caligula, perhaps c. 800. Rollason, , Mildrith Legend, p. 31, deduces that Lambeth ‘must be later than the Viking invasions of the ninth century’. This overlooks earlier Viking raids in Kent (see, e.g., S 160 (BCS 317)), and the possibility that other pagan invasions of Kent are referred to, e.g., that of the unconverted Cædwalla of Wessex in 686–7; but the formula ‘as long as Christianity shall last’ (see above, p. 47, n. 23) is not recorded in charters before the late eighth century.

77 Both Bodley (ed. Rollason, , p. 97) and Vita S. Mildrethae (ed. Rollason, , p. 118) remark upon the memorial function of Thunoreshlæw.

78 See the Old English ‘Account of Edgar's Foundation of the Monasteries’ (Councils & Synods with Other Documents relating to the English Church: 1871–1066, ed. Whitelock, D., Brett, M. and Brooke, C. N. L., 2 vols. (Oxford, 1981) I, 142–53, at 152–3). The exhortations concerning monastic lands are specifically directed to abbesses.

79 See Regularis Concardia, ed. Symons, T. (London, 1953), p. 7; see also above, n. 78.

80 The question of Thanet's survival beyond Cwenthryth (last recorded 826) is complicated by the presence of a church in Canterbury dedicated to Mildrith (presumed to owe its existence to the refuge acquired within the city walls in 804) (S 160 (BCS 317)), as well as by a contemporary report that, in 1013, the abbess of Thanet was captured in Canterbury by Brooks, Danes. N., The Early History of the Church of Canterbury: Christ Church from 597 to 1066 (Leicester, 1984), p. 204, concludes that, notwithstanding possible indications of a short-lived restoration of the conventual life at Thanet in the early eleventh century, there is ‘no certain evidence’ that any of the Kentish double monasteries survived the Viking raids in the mid-ninth century. Fleming, R., ‘Monastic Lands and England's Defence in the Viking Age’, EHR 195 (1985), 247–65, shows that Kentish monastery lands were appropriated by Wessex kings in the mid- to late ninth century, but there are signs in the charters that, by the late tenth century, some of the land was returning to monastic possession. Goscelin's translatio (ed. Rollason, , ‘Translation and Miracles’, pp. 159–62), and Gotha (ed. Colker, , ‘Hagiographie Polemic’, p. 107), report the destruction of the monastery, but in neither account is it clear whether this took place shortly after the time of Cwenthryth or in the raids that began in the late tenth century. Goscelin says the monastery was rebuilt as a parish church housing two or three parish priests; but St Augustine's had no incentive to recognize the existence of any refoundation at Thanet. (Cf. the testimony of a woman belonging to the Thanet community in Goscelin's translatio, ed. Rollason, , ‘Translation and Miracles’, pp. 207–10; relative chronology is again elusive.)

81 See Crick, J., ‘Church, Land and Local Nobility in Early Ninth-Century Kent: the Case of Ealdorman Oswulf’, Hist. Research 61 (1988), 251–69. Cf. Brooks, , Early History, pp. 180203.

82 See above, p. 57, n. 60; for the transmission of Thanet documents to St Augustine's, see above, p. 44, n. 12.

83 See Sims-Williams, P., ‘An Unpublished Seventh- or Eighth-Century Anglo-Latin Letter in Boulogne-sur-Mer MS 74 (82)’, 48 (1979), 122, at 22, n. 119.

84 HE III.6 (ed. Colgrave, and Mynors, , pp. 236–8); Byrhtferth says that Mildrith was ‘ecclesiasticis in transmarinis partibus disciplinis eruditam’ (ed. Arnold, II, 12), but cf. Bodley (‘ad imbuendam litteratorie studiis discipline’), ed. Rollason, , p. 98. See also above, p. 46, n. 17.

85 See Hollis, , Anglo-Saxon Women, esp. pp. 243–70.

The Minster-in-Thanet foundation story

  • Stephanie Hollis (a1)


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