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An Absent Father: Eadmer, Goscelin and the Cult of St Peter, the First Abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Medieval History
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)201-218
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines a late and enigmatic work by the Eadmer, his Life of Peter, the first abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. This work is usually read as yet another of Eadmer’s attempts to rescue Anglo-Saxon culture from the disdain of the Norman colonial élite. The present article argues that it is best understood as a significant departure from Eadmer’s usual approach. A subtle assault on St Augustine’s Abbey and its pretensions to an elevated position in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the work represents a response on the archbishopric’s part to the monumental cycle of saints’ lives that St Augustine’s commissioned from the professional hagiographer Goscelin of St Bertin. What makes this text especially significant are the methods used by Eadmer: he responds to Goscelin’s legerdemain with sarcasm and humour, shedding new light on the origins of the turn towards satire which is a marked feature of twelfth-century English historiography – a turn which would produce the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Walter Map. Secondary themes of the article comprise the functions of the cult of saints, and the intersections between local conflicts over ecclesiastical status and the larger conflicts over Church-State relations in the Middle Ages.