Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


We have departed a little from the path


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


The tenth century Benedictine Reform of Anglo-Saxon England was led by a powerful trio of bishops who all became elevated to sanctity as a direct result of their reformist work. Of these three reformers, namely St. Dunstan of Glastonbury (later Archbishop of Canterbury), St. Æthelwold of Abingdon and St. Oswald of Ramsey (later Archbishop of York), the political and economic context of Bishop Oswalds efforts have been largely overlooked by scholars. This paper will examine the textual hagiographic genesis of Oswalds sanctity, namely the Vita Oswaldi by the Ramsey monk Byrhtferth, as a way of contextualizing Oswalds reputation as a reforming bishop. Of particular interest is neither Oswalds virtues nor the miracles confirming his sanctity. Rather, Byrhtferth is not simply writing about Oswald. In elaborate narrative digressions he promotes the sanctity of other contemporary figures, such as Oswalds predecessor as Archbishop of York, his uncle Oda, and the young King Edward, martyred in 978, as well as provides frequent descriptions of royal pomp and ceremony at King Edgars court. This paper, which builds off my previous work showing Byrhtferths use of the St. Kenelm of Winchcombe legend to fashion St. Edwards narrative of sanctity, will continue this examination by looking at the Vita Oswaldi as a whole. I will show how his elaborate narrative digressions disclose an ambitious scheme to establish an ideology of sanctity that connects the tenets of the Benedictine reform to the economic interests of both his East Anglian benefactors and the royal court. This complex reading of Byrhtferths hagiographic project thus further explores the religious, political and economic dimensions of his rhetorical framework.

Conference Name

5TH HAGIOTHECA CONFERENCE Church Reforms and the Cult of Saints

Conference Location

Zadar, Croatia

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