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Chapter 2 - Travels with My Coffin: The Dislocation and Defence of the Community of St Cuthbert in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto, 793–1050

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2020

Christiania Whitehead
Affiliation:
Universities of Warwick and Lausanne
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Summary

This chapter examines the most apparently troubled episode in the history of Cuthbert’s community – its intermittent perambulations around northern England in the ninth and tenth centuries – through the lenses of its earliest historical record, the anonymous Historia de Sancto Cuthberto. Noting the irrelevance of Cuthbert’s asceticism to this narrative, it argues that his life and posthumous miracles are used as vehicles to authorize the land claims of the Lindisfarne/Chester-le-Street community during this period of prolonged insecurity. In the course of consolidating and adding to these landholdings, Cuthbert demonstrates a readiness to work flexibly with the Danish elite where necessary – respect for land trumps ethnic difference. Where crossed, however, he is mercilessly retributive, a far cry from Bede’s pastoral and ecological saint. In addition to these local negotiations, the chapter explores how the Historia ambitiously sets Cuthbert to work as a kingmaker on a national level, insinuating him into the West Saxon narrative of hereditary English monarchy, while the West Saxons manifest a devotional interest towards him in turn to help strengthen their foothold in the north.

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Chapter
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The Afterlife of St Cuthbert
Place, Texts and Ascetic Tradition, 690–1500
, pp. 34 - 47
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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