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

8 - St Edmund Between Liturgy and Hagiography

  • 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 131-159


The medieval persona of St Edmund, as far as it can be recovered, is generally recognised to have resided in Abbo of Fleury's Passio sancti Eadmundi. Written at the request of the monks of Ramsey at the end of the tenth century, this text was swiftly adopted by the Benedictine community at Bury, where it appears to have been recorded in a booklist from the 1040s, and from whose scribes three eleventh-century copies survive. The Passio was undoubtedly a creative stimulus for the local community, for it gave rise both to the famous cycle of illuminations in the twelfth-century illustrated libellus, now New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M. 736, and to an important collection of eleventh-century chants for St Edmund's feast, which forms the basis of this chapter. Even Bury's late eleventh-century hagiographer Herman owed a debt to Abbo: in alluding to the story of the Passio, commenting on the general shortage of other available accounts, and apparently fashioning his own Miracula as a continuation of that narrative. One might be forgiven for assuming, therefore, that the St Edmund portrayed by Abbo's Passio – the humble, peace-loving figure characterised by Antonia Gransden as a model of Christian kingship – was the very same St Edmund known to the monks of Bury.