Book Series Medieval Church Studies, vol. 48

Late Medieval Devotion to Saints from the North of England

New Directions

Christiania Whitehead, Hazel Blair, Denis Renevey (eds)

  • Pages: 456 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:15 b/w, 12 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2022

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58851-3
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58852-0
  • E-book
  • Available

Examines the later development of pre-conquest northern saints’ cults, and the establishment and evolution of many more between 1150-1500, paying particular attention to cultures of episcopal and eremitic devotion and hagiographic production in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham, and Lincolnshire.


Christiania Whitehead is Professor of Middle English Literature; she co-edited Saints of North-East England, 600-1500 (Brepols, 2017) and has a monograph on the textual afterlife of St Cuthbert forthcoming.

Hazel J. Hunter Blair is completing a doctorate at the University of Lausanne on Robert of Knaresborough and the English Trinitarians.

Denis Renevey is Professor of Middle English Literature at the University of Lausanne. He co-edited Revisiting the Medieval North of England (Univ. Wales Press, 2019) and has published widely on medieval religious culture, in particular, Yorkshire eremiticism.


This volume fills an important gap in the study of medieval English sanctity. Focused on the period 1150–1550, it examines later manifestations of pre-conquest northern English cults (John of Beverley, Oswald, Hilda, Ætheldreda etc.), and the establishment and development of many more during the twelfth to fifteenth centuries (Godric of Finchale, Robert of Knaresborough, Oswine of Tynemouth, Æbbe of Coldingham, Bega of Copeland, William of York, etc.). It showcases the diversity of new northern cults that emerged after 1150, and pays particular attention to cultures of episcopal and eremitic devotion and hagiographic production in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lincolnshire.

Divided into five subsections, the volume opens by exploring the relation of sanctity to constructions of northern identity through targeted examinations of northern textual and material cultures. It then turns to a series of case studies of northern saints’ cults, grouped with reference to the eremitic life, female networks and locations, and the contextualisation of northern sanctity within national, transnational and post-medieval currents of veneration. Underlying all these essays is a concern with the conflicted idea of ‘northernness’. This collection argues for a northern sanctity that is imagined in varying ways by different communities (monastic, diocesan, national etc.), allied to a series of conceptual ‘norths’ that differ significantly in accordance with the bodies of evidence under survey.


List of Illustrations, List of Abbreviations, Acknowledgements


PART I: Northern Sanctity and Northern Identity

I.1 Textual Culture: Hagiography, Legendary, Suffrage

Aelred of Rievaulx and the Saints of Durham, Galloway and Hexham — DENIS RENEVEY

The Production of Northern Saints’ Lives at Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumbria — CHRISTIANIA WHITEHEAD

Flower of York: Region, Nation and St Robert of Knaresborough in Late Medieval England — HAZEL J. HUNTER BLAIR

Praying to Northern Saints in English Books of Hours — CYNTHIA TURNER CAMP

I.2 Material Culture: Space, Oil, Image

Space, It’s About Time Too: Architecture and Identity in Medieval Durham — EUAN MCCARTNEY ROBSON

Holy Geysers? Oily Saints and Ecclesiastical Politics in Late Medieval Yorkshire and Lincolnshire — JOHN JENKINS

Art and Northern Sanctity in Late Medieval England — JULIAN LUXFORD

PART II: New Case Studies of Northern Saints and Their Cults

II.1 The Eremitic Life

The Context for and Later Reception of Reginald of Durham’s Vita S Godrici — MARGARET COOMBE

Robert of Knaresborough, Religious Novelty, and the Twelfth-Century Poverty Movement — JOSHUA EASTERLING

Hermit Saints and Human Temporalities — CATHERINE SANOK

II.2 Female Networks and Locations: Coldingham, Ely, Whitby

Beyond the Miracula: Practices and Experiences of Lay Devotion at the Cult of St Æbbe, Coldingham — RUTH J. SALTER

Ætheldreda in the North: Tracing Northern Networks in the Liber Eliensis and the Vie de seinte Audree — JANE SINNETT-SMITH

Conflicting Memories, Confused Identities, and Constructed Pasts: St Hilda and the Refoundation of Whitby Abbey — DANIEL TALBOT

Remembering St Hilda in the Later Middle Ages — CHRISTIANE KROEBEL

II.3 Beyond the North: Southern, European and Post-Medieval Perspectives

The French Life of St Godric of Finchale, or Adventures for Thirteenth-Century Nuns — ANNE MOURON

The Reception of St Oswine in Later Medieval England — JAMES G. CLARK

Northern Saints’ Names as Monastic Bynames in Late Medieval and Early Tudor England — DAVID E. THORNTON

Northern Lights on Southern Shores: Rewriting St Oswald’s Life in Eighteenth-Century Friuli — CLAUDIA DI SCIACCA