Michael Goodich

title.none: Head, ed., Medieval Hagiography (Michael Goodich)

identifier.other: baj9928.0110.006 01.10.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Michael Goodich, Haifa University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Head, Thomas, ed. Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. v, 834. ISBN: 0-815-32123-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.10.06

Head, Thomas, ed. Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. v, 834. ISBN: 0-815-32123-6.

Reviewed by:

Michael Goodich
Haifa University

Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in medieval hagiography as a rich source of raw material concerning social, gender and literary history, among other themes. A sharp rise in scholarly publications along with new and flourishing organizations, study programs, web sites and discussion groups, are testimony to the central role that hagiography now occupies in medieval studies. This collection of Western hagiographical texts edited by Thomas Head, and including the work of thirty-two collaborators (along with the original translators of some of the texts), represents perhaps the most comprehensive collection of translations thus far undertaken into English (or perhaps any other language). While teachers of medieval and ecclesiastical history will find this material useful for didactic purposes, scholars will also be introduced to a variety of primary sources that illustrate the wide range of literary genres that may be subsumed under the label of hagiography. The Book of Ely, for example, is a history of the bishopric, written by several authors and compilers, whose audience was probably very limited. The thirteenth century liturgical offices dedicated to Thomas Becket, in which the major elements of his life and ministry are stressed, reached a wide circle of believers; while Gautier of Coincy's miracles of the Virgin was probably directed at an aristocratic audience. The testimony at the canonization trial of Vincent Ferrer was intended for the ecclesiastical bureaucracy, although it could serve as the raw material for future biographies. This reviewer cannot do justice to the many textual and historical issues raised by each of the translations. Most are new translations, from Latin, Hebrew, Old Irish, Czech, French, Welsh and Middle English. Some are among the earliest extant literature in the vernacular languages, like the Old French life of St. Alexis. Many are translated for the first time from manuscripts, thus representing an important introduction to otherwise inaccessible sources. Others replace antiquated, florid editions, which are sometimes barely understandable to scholars, not to speak of undergraduates.

Guibert of Nogent's circuitous prose, for example, is finally given a readable translation by Thomas Head; while Athanasius' life of St. Antony, although often translated in the past, is here given a fresh look by David Brakke. Some of the translators, like Claudia Rapp, in her life of St. Porphyry of Gaza, have had to deal with awkward texts, filled with tense changes and technical administrative terms. Each text is supplemented by a brief introduction concerning the text's provenance, selected issues worthy of special emphasis, a bibliographical guide, and explanatory notes. Susan Einbinder's excellent introduction and notes, for example, dealing with several short texts related to the martyrdom of Jews at Blois in 1171 can only hint at the large body of untapped liturgical verse. Some of the introductions provide insights into the manuscript history of the text and discussions of the lacunae, problems of provenance and other issues that help to place the text in perspective. For example, Felice Lifshitz, in her introduction to Bede's Martyrology, pointing out the importance of this first historical martyrology and noting the absence of substantial research on the text, has undertaken a comparative study of the various extant manuscripts.

The collection goes beyond the usual purely biographical sources, and includes several sources concerned with relics, pilgrimage, miracles, liturgical offices, and canonization trials. Some may be termed historical romances, such as the lives of the comrades-in-arms Amicus and Amilius, whose historicity lacks confirmation. Others represent the only source which deals with a historical figure, like the life of Porphyry of Gaza by Mark the Deacon. Others are later versions of earlier biographies, like the lives of Alexis, Margaret of Antioch and Catherine of Alexandria; while the life of Mary of Oignies is a Middle English version (surviving in only one manuscript) of Jacques de Vitry's earlier biography. The so-called Autobiography of Pope Celestine V, although close to its subject, remains of uncertain authorship.

Many of the contributions are preceded by introductions that point to original and provocative research about the texts undertaken by its translator. Dorothy Africa's translation of the life of Samthann includes a useful introduction to Irish sainthood. Her introduction to the Old Irish Tale of Doomsday (perhaps dating from the early twelfth century) notes that in this work the conflict between St. Patrick and God bears some resemblance to the features of contract disputes in Celtic law. The text's anonymous author makes use of figures drawn from early Irish history in order to raise issues related to the more contemporary ecclesiastical reform movement. The influence of Irish monasticism is also evident in Ian Wood's translation of sections Jonas of Bobbio's Life of St. Columbanus. E. Gordon Whatley provides us with a dossier on the relics of the holy cross drawn from several sources, which allows the reader to compare various versions of a legend, which was so important in medieval 'mythology'. A similar dossier concerning Mary Magdelene provides graphic illustrations of how shrines such as Saint-Maximin in Provence attempted to authenticate its relic claims against a rival such as Vezelay. The description of the circuit of Ursmer's relics through Flanders in the eleventh century highlights the role of the saint's relics in the pacification of the region, the raising of funds and the legitimization of institutions.

Such a multi-authored volume will inevitably have its flaws. Several of the texts could use some further editing, due to typos and other technical errors. While some of the authors have rendered the translations into a more colloquial and readable style, others, trying to adhere as close as possible to the original, retain some of the stiffness that often mars translations. The introductions are of varying lengths. Some constitute small scholarly articles, which is necessary due to the absence of secondary material. Others are more perfunctory. Nevertheless, Thomas Head and his collaborators are worthy of kudos for undertaking this important project, which is a tribute to the veritable revolution in hagiographical studies over the past twenty years.

The following sources are included in this volume, some in abbreviated form:

1. Athanasius of Alexandria, Life of St. Anthony of Egypt (tr.David Brakke)

2. Victrinus of Rouen, In Praise of the Saints (tr. Philippe Buc)

3. Mark the Deacon, Life of St. Porphyry of Gaza (tr. Claudia Rapp)

4. Selections on the true cross: Rufinus of Aquileia, Church History, Inventio Sanctae Crucis (ed. and tr. E. Gordon Whatley)

5. Life of the Holy Virgin Samthann (tr. Dorothy Africa)

6. Jonas of Bobbio, Life of St. Columbanus (tr. Ian Wood)

7. Dado of Rouen, Life of St. Eligius of Noyon (tr. Jo Ann McNamara)

8. Bede, Martyrology (tr. Felice Lifshitz)

9. Einhard, Translation of the Relics of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter (tr. Barrett Wendell and ed. David Appleby)

10. Raguel. Life of St. Pelagius (tr. Jeffrey A. Bowman)

11. Hrosvit of Gandersheim, The Establishment of the Monastery of Gandersheim (tr. Mary Bernadine Bregman and ed. Thomas Head)

12. Odilo of Cluny, Epitaph of the August Lady, Adelheid (tr. David A. Warner)

13. Selections on the cult of relics in the eleventh century: Theodoric of St. Eucharius, The Discovery of the Relics of St. Celsus; Letaldus of Micy, The Journey of the Body of St. Junianus to the Council of Charroux; Ralph Glaber, The Five Books of Histories; The Miracle of St. Maximus (tr. Thomas Head)

14. Peter Damian, Life of St. Romuald of Ravenna (tr. Henrietta Leyser)

15. Life of St. Alexis (tr. Nancy Vine Durling)

16. The Miracles of St. Ursmer on His Journey through Flanders (tr. Geoffrey Koziol)

17. Drogo of Sint-Winoksbergen, Life of St. Godelieve (tr. Bruce L. Venarde)

18. Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary (tr. Nora Berend)

19. Guibert of Nogent, On Saints and Their Relics (tr. Thomas Head)

20. A Tale of Doomsday Colum Cille Should Have Left Untold (tr. Paul Grosjean and ed. Dorothy Africa)

21. Life of the Dear Friends Amicus and Amelius (tr. Matthew Kuefler)

22. The Book of Ely (tr. Jennifer Paxton)

23. The Tract of the Conversion of Pons of Leras and the True Account of the Beginning of the Monastery of Silvanes (tr. Beverly Mayne Kienzle)

24. Thomas of Monmouth, Life and Passion of William of Norwich (tr. Augustus Jessopp and Montague Rhodes- James and ed. John M. McCulloh)

25. Selections on the Jewish martyrs of Blois: Ephraim of Bonn, Sefer Zekhira; Hillel of Bonn/Blois, Emunei-Shelumei Ysrael; Ephraim of Bonn, Le Mi Oy Le-Mi Avoy; Yom Tov Joigny, Yah Tishpokh (tr. Susan Einbinder)

26. The Liturgical Offices for the Cult of St. Thomas Becket from the Sarum breviary (ed. and tr. Sherry Reames)

27. Saga of Bishop Jon of Holar (tr. Margaret Cormack)

28. Gautier of Coincy, Miracles of the Virgin Mary (tr. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski)

29. Selections on the cult of Mary Magdalene in late medieval France: the Vezelay Miracles; Sermo de sancta Maria Magdalenae; the Saint-Maximin invention and translation account; Bernard Gui, Flores chronicorum; Book of Miracles of Blessed Mary Magdalen; Legend of St. Mary Magdalen (tr. Raymond Clemens)

30. Several thirteenth century lives of Margaret of Antioch from late medieval England (ed. and tr. Wendy Larson)

31. Jacques de Vitry, Life of St. Mary of Oignies (tr. Sarah McNamer)

32. Pope Celestine V, Autobiography (tr. George Ferzoco)

33. Anchorite of Llanddewibrefi, Life of St. David (tr. Elissa R. Henken)

34. Life of St. Catherine of Alexandria (tr. Alfred Thomas)

35. Selections from the canonization process for St. Vincent Ferrer (tr. Laura A. Smoller)

36. Selected documents concerning Joan of Arc (tr. Nadia Margolis)