In the Seven Sleepers’ den

There must have been many people who have come across this line from John Donne’s seventeenth-century poem and wondered who the Seven Sleepers might have been – or why the poet might have snorted there.  The second question has a quick answer: it simply means ‘snored’.  But who were the Seven Sleepers? In June last…

Faithful cross, gate of heaven

Today is Good Friday, the day which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  For today’s blogpost, I’ve decided simply to post and translate some Anglo-Saxon texts dedicated to the Holy Cross: a hymn, a poem, and two prayers.  As my research is all about how texts were adapted and reused in different contexts, in each…

Have mercy, guide me, guard me: an eighth- (and eleventh-) century prayer

It’s Lent, and time for something a bit more penitential than some of the glorious manuscripts and linguistic fun that I have been writing about in recent posts.  It happens that a lot of my current work (adapting my doctoral thesis for publication) has been on confessional prayers of various kinds, which is pretty convenient. …

An Old English Alphabet (part 1)

Sometimes, in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, we come across grammatical treatises and lists of Latin words, to act as learning aids for those new to the vocabulary and grammar of the main language of the church.  Unfortunately for us, nobody at the time created word lists in Old English: there was no real need, and dictionaries as…

Naming names in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook

It’s strange how you think you know a manuscript well and then realise that there are things in it that you didn’t even know were there.  Take London, British Library Cotton MS Titus D. xxvii + xxvi (originally one manuscript, later divided into two), a compendium of liturgical prayers, private prayers, and scientific information.  It’s…

Solidify us unto Thy charity: the medicinal and liturgical uses of cheese

On this blog, I write about some of the most important aspects of Christian spirituality in early medieval England.  The feast of Easter.  The healing of the sick.  Confession.  Expressing one’s deepest yearnings to God in prayer. And now: cheese. I’ve written before about Ælfric of Eynsham, abbot and homilist, and also the author of…

The Feast of St Michael (and his cute little dragons)

Today is the Feast of St Michael.  While other saints might be a martyr, a confessor or a virgin, Michael is the chief of the angels.  He appears four times in the Bible, but is best remembered for his part in a brief but exciting twist in the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse): Et factum…

Gentle deaths and softening hearts: an Old English confession

The main focus of my academic work is on private prayer in eleventh-century English religious institutions, and at least three-quarters of the prayers that I look at are in Latin.  However, people did pray in their native language, and a number of prayers in Old English survive: some of these are known to be translations…

Thinking of Syria in Anglo-Saxon England

It was the summer of my first year as a PhD student.  I had just finished work on a chapter of my thesis, and was looking to move into another area of study; but I couldn’t really think where to go next, except that I wanted to look back to an earlier period of time and…

Galba A. xiv: the Cinderella of medieval prayerbooks

I research medieval prayerbooks.  When I say that, it conjures up an image of a gorgeous, multicoloured, exquisitely-decorated Book of Hours.  Like this one: Unfortunately, they’re not all like that.  Some of them look more like this: That is London, British Library Cotton Galba A. xiv, an eleventh-century English manuscript which, for convenience’s sake, I…