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Making Miracles in Central Medieval England



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Lynch, Thomas Christopher 


This thesis is concerned with the production of miracles in the cult of the saints, examining miracle narratives from English cults produced between 970 and 1170. In particular, I focus on the actions taken by people which resulted in intercession from the saints. Behind these actions was a basic structure, a person with knowledge of a saint experienced a problem and asked a saint for help. Those who engaged a saint properly could expect aid and those who behaved inappropriately could expect punishment. Even miracles of vengeance correspond to the same structure. Those who committed offences against the saints were agents of their own demise, it was their actions which spurred the saints to react. When these perpetrators survived they too could engage in a petition to the saint in order to be forgiven and helped. Each miracle was the result of the actions of a group of people, including the saints, their religious custodians and supplicants. Our record of these events comes from the work of hagiographers, who were not impartial witnesses but embedded participants in the cult. Whilst the hagiography privileges an ideal version of the cult of the saints, there were tensions between and within communities. There were also those who acted against or ignored the saints. Despite this saints remained popular and, no matter where you were or what had happened, you could ask a saint for help. I begin with an introduction defining miracles, examining the cult of the saints and detailing the scope of the thesis. The first chapter addresses the source material and its authors. The second chapter is concerned with the development of saints’ shrines. The third chapter is dedicated to petitions and the beneficent miracles which resulted. The fourth chapter analyses the punitive miracles and how they fit into the structure of the cult of the saints. The fifth chapter focuses on thanksgiving and the relationships between saints, custodians and supplicants. Finally I conclude that the actions of these people were at the heart of the cult of the saints in central medieval England.





Love, Rosalind


Saints, Miracles, Ritual, Agency, England, Medieval, Hagiography, Liturgy


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge