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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

6 - New Light on the Life and Work of Herman the Archdeacon

  • Edited by Tom Licence, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 94-103


In 2009, in the English Historical Review, I published a study of the historian and hagiographer Herman the Archdeacon (d. c. 1098), a senior monk of Bury St Edmunds, active during the last third of the eleventh century. In the discussion, I noted that we could trace his activity in England back to the early 1070s, when he was drafting letters for Herfast, bishop in East Anglia (1070–84/5), and I also presented evidence suggesting that he might have been a recent immigrant, as implied in a letter to Herfast from Archbishop Lanfranc, insisting that the monk Herman must either settle in a monastery or leave the realm. After that article new findings came to light, which I published in the introduction to my edition and translation of Herman's Miracles of St Edmund for Oxford Medieval Texts, in 2014. A minor observation was that his spelling of the place-name Alsace as Elysacia (rather than Alysacia) suggested a Germanic dialect. The important discovery was that his prologue was substantially – and the remainder of his text intermittently – indebted to the Vita Deoderici, a Life of Theoderic I, bishop of Metz (965–84), written by the historian/hagiographer Sigebert of Gembloux when the latter was master of the school at St Vincent's abbey, Metz, in the period c. 1050–c. 1070. In Herman's Miracles, echoes of Alpert of Metz, an early eleventh-century historian also closely associated with St Vincent's, added to the case for associating Herman with that monastery and its school of historical research in the years prior to his arrival in England.