The Medieval Review 10.03.14

Toy, John. English Saints in the Medieval Liturgies of Scandinavian Churches . Henry Bradshaw Society Subsidia. London: Henry Bradshaw Society / Boydell Press, 2009. Pp. 250. $95 9781870252461. .

Reviewed by:

Sherry L. Reames
University of Wisconsin-Madison

A remarkable number of fragmentary liturgical manuscripts survive from medieval Scandinavia, along with a handful of complete liturgical books. In a long and painstaking process that began as part of the research for his Ph.D. thesis (Leeds, 1982), John Toy has attempted to find and transcribe all the references to English saints that occur in these Scandinavian sources--references that range from the mere presence of the saint's name in a litany to full sets of prayers, sung texts, and lessons for the services held on the saint's feast-day. The result is an unusual and surprisingly valuable addition to the publications of the Henry Bradshaw Society, which normally focus on liturgical sources from England itself. Some of the texts that Toy has recovered are rarely if ever found in extant English sources, and even the more common ones are potentially significant for research on such matters as the spread of a given saint's cult, the legacy of Anglo-Saxon missionaries in Scandinavia, and the patterns of contact and influence between particular English churches and particular Scandinavian ones.

As Toy explains in the opening pages, his project was shaped from the start by some important editorial decisions. He chose to define "Scandinavia" as including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, but not Iceland. More crucially, he decided to focus only on English saints and to define that category as comprised of saints whose cults were centered in England, rather than saints who were English by birth or training. Thus he includes some missionaries from abroad like Augustine of Canterbury and Paulinus of York, and excludes the many saints of English origin who built their main legacies elsewhere--for example, Boniface, Willibald, and Willibrord. He also omits Thomas of Canterbury (Becket), whose cult became so international that its presence in Scandinavian sources proves nothing about English influence. Toy nearly always omits the saints of Ireland as well, noting that many of their names appear in Scandinavian liturgical sources and suggesting that they deserve separate study. There is more uncertainty in his handling of Insular saints whose cults were centered in other parts of the British Isles. He records the Scandinavian references to four Welsh and Scottish saints (David of Wales, Gildas, Margaret of Scotland, and Ninian), but relegates them to an Appendix, along with an occurrence of St. Patrick on August 24, a date associated particularly with Glastonbury. On the other hand, he simply treats the Welsh saint Winifred and the Cornish saints Nectan and Petroc as if they were English.

The book is clearly organized and laid out. Toy's informative and efficient explanation of his editorial procedures (pp. xi-xiii) is followed by a list of the abbreviations he uses apart from the sigla for his Scandinavian manuscript sources (pp. xiv-xviii) and then the "Register of Manuscripts" (3-25), which identifies every Scandinavian liturgical manuscript, manuscript fragment, and printed edition in which he has found one or more references to English saints. Besides indicating the siglum for each source, this register also briefly suggests its date and (if known) provenance and identifies the English saints it includes. The main section of the book (27-191), called "The Saints in the Liturgies," presents the results of Toy's research in the form of an alphabetical inventory, beginning with "Ælfgifu (Elgiva), Queen, 18 May," who has just one reference in a 13th-century martyrology, and ending with "Wulfstan, Bishop, 19 January," for whom Toy gives transcriptions of a kalendar entry and a prayer or collect for Mass, both from 12th-century sources. The final pages of the book provide a good deal of additional apparatus: not only Toy's bibliography of secondary sources (195-204) and an index of proper names (229-32), but also an extensive "Index of Liturgical Forms" (207-28), which lists the incipits of all the sung texts, prayers, and lessons Toy recorded, indicates the saint(s) to which each pertains, and gives the abbreviations used for the forms that appear in his tables. In addition, there is a "List of Insular Saints in the Medieval Liturgical Manuscripts of Scandinavia" (205-6), which provides a convenient overview of the saints for whom there are entries in either Toy's main inventory or the appendix of "Non-English Insular Saints" (except Gildas, who for some reason is omitted).

Users of this book will need to spend some time familiarizing themselves with its complex system of abbreviations and tables, but the extra effort is well worth making. Toy has gathered and condensed such a wealth of information that this small book presents virtually all the recoverable evidence for Scandinavian liturgical commemoration of no fewer than 75 English or Insular saints. Among them are some obscure figures whose cults are rarely attested elsewhere--for example, Augulus, bishop (February 7), Cyneburga and Cyneswitha, virgins (translated March 6), Liephard, bishop and martyr (February 4), and Pandonia, virgin (August 26). Toy's Scandinavian sources supply what may be the only surviving liturgical texts for some little-known saints--for example, remnants of a mass and office for St. Rumwold (November 3), a saint remembered in England only from place names and a preposterous early legend about a royal infant who miraculously confessed his faith and preached a sermon during the three-day interval between his birth and his death. Toy even succeeds in shedding a good deal of new light on the medieval cults and liturgies of some relatively familiar English saints. For example, the cult of Botwulf or Botolph (June 17) appears to have been far stronger and more widespread than the surviving English evidence would suggest. As Toy demonstrates, Botolph appears almost universally in the Scandinavian kalendars, is frequently named in the martyrologies and litanies as well, and inspired the composition of a remarkable number of liturgical texts, including nine different sets of prayers for his mass, several sets of lessons to be read at matins, and at least one full office or historia (a complete set of special sung texts for the divine office on his feast-day). Other major English saints for whom Toy has gathered rich dossiers of liturgical material from his Scandinavian sources include the early martyr Alban, Augustine of Canterbury, the martyred Anglo-Saxon kings Edmund and Oswald, and Swithun, bishop of Winchester.