Saint Michael: Early Anglo-Saxon Tradition

St Michael Defeating the Dragon, A Contemporary Rendition (M Grant, 2022)
St Michael Defeating the Dragon above Mont St Michel (Normandy). Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Musée Condé, Chantilly MS 65/1284 f.195r (c. 1411-16)
St Michael's Mount (Cornwall). James Webb (c.1825–1895)

IntroductionEdit

Saint Michael holds a pre-eminent place among the archangels, evidenced in writings from the earliest days of the church and the earliest mediaeval roots of the English literary tradition. In that tradition, the first glimpses of St Michael reflect a nuanced and complex understanding, informed by many pertinent perspectives. At the heart of this tradition is St Michael's eulogaic presentation in the manuscript Cambridge Corpus Christi College 41, in a treatment that draws on apocryphal references to Michael as much as it does on those many passages in the Scriptures that refer to him by implication—references initiated and identified by the church fathers, variously assembled and reassembled in later writings, and, in this way, drawn into the larger and broader understanding of St Michael. Nuanced and complex as it is, this understanding requires a fuller view of Michael than is typical, in pursuit of context for the seemingly effusive and extravagant praise of him found in this Old English encomium.

This extended study provides context for this understanding. It begins with Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 41, a source of interest to scholars greater than its appearance would at first glance suggest, containing as its principal text the B-version of the Old English translation of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum Libri Quinque and a range of marginalia—portions of a Latin missal, six homiletic texts in Old English, macaronic charms and loricas in Old English and Latin, a version of the Old English poem Solomon and Saturn, and fragments of an Old English martyrology.

The author of this work is Professor Raymond JS Grant, formerly of the University of Alberta Department of English and Film Studies, and graduate of the Universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge (Peterhouse, 1970/1, under the supervision of Dorothy Whitelock). The work appears here with permission of his estate. The editors of this work are grateful for the time and expertise so generously offered by Tara Gale, Tim Sobie, Pamela Farvolden, Stephen Reimer, Anne Correia, and Ray Siemens.

Table of ContentsEdit

Acknowledgements

  1. General Introduction to Corpus 41
  2. The Saint Michael Text in Corpus 41
  3. Saint Michael in Judaeo-Christian and Anglo-Saxon Tradition
  4. The Veneration of Saint Michael
  5. Saint Michael—The Celtic Connection
  6. White Martyrdom, Saint Michael's Way, the Celtic Sites
  7. Saint Michael and the Norman Conquest of England
  8. Leofric of Exeter
  9. Leofric, the Liturgy, and Saint Michael
  10. Conclusion: The Saint Michael Text and the Exeter Parish Guild
  11. Appendix: Saint Michael and Saint George