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'The Cult of St Alban, Anglorum protomartyr, in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England'

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter

Published

Publication date2005
Host publicationMore than a Memory: The Discourse of Martyrdom and the Construction of Christian Identity in the History of Christianity
EditorsJohan Leemans
Place of publicationLouvain
PublisherPeeters
Pages169-199
Number of pages31
Edition51
ISBN (Print)90–429–1688–5
Original languageEnglish

Publication series

NameAnnua Nuntia Lovaniensia
PublisherPeeters

Abstract

This article examines a saint’s cult whose history between c.975 and 1175 comprises an important example of how the ways in which claims to power and status were articulated in the English Church were transformed by the Norman Conquest of England. The Abbey of St Alban, England’s protomartyr, was perhaps the greatest beneficiary of these changes, raising itself from a middling position to become the premier monastery in the English Church by the 1160s. Its history is, however, extremely obscure during the critical century after 1066 when all of this took place. The present article offers a new reconstruction of the stages in this process. It shows that it was in the late Anglo-Saxon period that the saint was first defined as England’s ‘protomartyr’, and it exposes hitherto unnoticed continuities in the attempts of successive regimes – Anglo-Saxon and Norman – to cast this manifestly ‘Romano-British’ martyr as an ‘English’ saint, but it also suggests that Archbishop Lanfranc’s initiatives were much influenced by a Norman model – that set by the monastery of the protomartyr St Stephen in Caen. What we see is a melding of English traditions and Continental practice that had unusually powerful results.