Constructions of sanctity and the Anglo-Saxon missions to the Continent (690-900)
This thesis explores the literary strategies used by hagiographers in the eighth and ninth centuries to establish as saintly the careers of those involved in the so-called 'Anglo-Saxon missions to the continent' (c. 690 - c. 789). It offers a fundamental reassessment of the relationship between the 'missions' and the Carolingian vitae that commemorated them, one that is based upon new studies of the ways in which the texts were shaped by their political and cultural contexts, and consequently by the authors' intentions. The thesis is structured thematically around hagiographical representations - often fictitious - of the bonds between saints and particular places. In the first chapter I examine the ways in which saints' Lives reinterpreted why missionaries left Britain, in order to make the saints appeal to Irish- or Benedictineinfluenced audiences. The next two chapters consider how monastic centres (for example Monte Cassino in Italy) and the papacy in Rome contributed to the image of the saint as a person spiritual and earthly authority~ in particular, the relation ofthe vitae to eighth and ninth century ecclesiastical and Benedictine reforms is considered. Chapter four studies in detail Hygeburg's Vita Willibaldi et Wynnebaldi, and argues that her account of Willi bald's pilgrimage to the Holy Land should be seen within the exegetical and liturgical contexts ofEichsUitt in Bavaria, where it was written down. In the final two chapters I examine the ways hagiographers portrayed the transformation of the German and Frisian physical and cultural landscapes through the missionary work and church building of saints like Boniface~ it is argued that, since most of the evidence for these activities is either spurious or contradictory, the reputation of the Anglo-Saxon missions as establishing the 'foundations of Christian Europe' is largely a product of literary responses to a range of problems faced by communities east of the Rhine between 754 and 888. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the factors that shaped Carolingian accounts of the missions, and outlines potential aspects of Carolingian hagiography and the missions that are in need of further study or re-evaluation.