Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 December 2020
This chapter presents a survey of both Latin and Old English visions of heaven and hell in Anglo-Saxon England from Boniface to Aelfric. The Anglo-Saxons were not content with reading about visions of foreigners, such as the Vita Fursei, the Visio Pauli, or pope Gregory’s Dialogi, but were eager to find native Anglo-Saxons who experienced visions themselves. With the account of the monk of Wenlock, Boniface presents the first native Anglo-Saxon’s vision, but the desire to Anglicise visions becomes most apparent in Bede who first – and incorrectly – transposes the vision of the Irishman Fursey to England, and then narrates the vision of the native Anglo-Saxon Dryhthelm. Aelfric silently corrects this ‘pious fraud’, but by his time Anglo-Saxons such as the monk of Wenlock, Dryhthelm, Guthlac, and Merchdeof had already experienced visions, and England had therefore joined the other nations in meriting this special grace.
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