On the Resting-Places of the Saints

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On the Resting-Places of the Saints (abbreviated R.P.S. by Farmer 1992; also known as the Secgan, after its incipit, Secgan be þam Godes sanctum þe on Engla lande aerost reston "Tale of God's saints who first rested in England") and the so-called Kentish royal legend (also known as Þá hálgan, incipit Her cyð ymbe þa halgan þe on Angelcynne restað "Here [follows] a relation on the saints who rest in the English nation") are two Old English hagiographical texts, compiled in the 11th century (but containing older material).

Their earliest attestation still dates to the 11th century. Rollason (1978) argued that the text was completed in or shortly after 1031, the date of Stowe MS 944 where the texts are first recorded (folia 29v-39r), but he also postulates the inclusion of material dating to as early as the mid 9th century (especially the Ubbanford entry). Stowe MS 944 is at the core a Liber vitae consisting of lists of names of brethren and benefactors of the New Minster, Winchester, supplemented by various historiographical texts, including the will of King Ælfred.[1] Another copy of the texts is extant in CCCC, pp. 149–151. A third copy was British Library, Cotton Vitellius D. xvii, destroyed in the fire of 1731. Both texts were edited by Liebermann (1889).

Þá hálgan deals with the earliest Christian kings of Kent and their families, and their pious acts, from the baptism of Æthelberht by Augustine in AD 597.[2] The text traces four generations after Æthelberht, spanning the 7th century and thus the entire period of the Christianization of England:

  1. Æthelberht's son Eadbald and his queen Imme, a Frankish princess; Æþelburh (also named Tate), married to Edwin of Northumbria (spreading the faith there)
  2. Eadbald's sons Eormenred, Eorcenberht (d. 664, married Seaxburh) and his daughter Eanswið, who founded Folkestone Priory.
  3. The children of Eormenred and his queen Oslafa were Eormenburh, also called Domne Eafe, Eormengið, and the princes Æthelred and Æthelberht. The sons of Eorcenberht and his queen Seaxburh, Ecgberht (d. 673) and Hlothhere (d. 685), their daughters were Eormenhild and Ercengota. Eormenhild married Wulfhere of Mercia, finally leading to the baptism of Mercia, the last pagan kingdom in England. Eormenhild with her mother Seaxburh and her mother's sisters Æthelthryth (d. 679) and Wihtburh (d. 743) was buried in Ely. Ercengota was "sent over sea" to her aunt Æthelburh, abbess at Faremoutiers
  4. Eafe was married to Merewald of Mercia, and their chilrden were Mildburh, Mildrið, Mildgið and Merefin (who died as a child). The brothers Æthelred and Æthelberht were fostered by Ecgberht, but they were murdered, and as a weregild, Eafe was given the Isle of Thanet, founding Minster-in-Thanet, and both she and her dautghter Mildrið came to live there. Wihtred of Kent (d. 725), son of Ecgberht. After Mildryð, the minster was headed by Eadburh, who built a church for her remains. Werburgh was the daughter of Eormenhild and Wulfhere.

The Secgan supplements the preceding with a list of places in England (and one place in Ireland) where saints' remains are deposited, listing a total of 89 saints, of whom 79 were active in England. The list is itemized with a formulaic Ðonne , e.g.

Ðonne resteð sanctus Congarus confessor on Cungresbirig (37b, "then, St Congar the confessor rests in Congresbury")

in many cases the site is further identified by a topographical feature, mostly a river, e.g.

Ðonne resteð sanctus Iohannes biscop on þare stowe Beferlic, neah þare ea Hul (5a, "then, St John the bishop rests at the site Beverley, near the River Hull").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ bl.uk Digitised Manuscripts Stowe MS 944
    Her Cyðymbe þa halgan þe on Angel cynne restað: a treatise on the family of the Kentish kings , their holy character and works (ff. 34v-36v).
    Her onygynð secgean be þam Godes s[an]c[tu]m þe on engla lande ærest reston: a treatise, in continuation of the preceding, showing the places, with their adjacent waters, in England, and one place in Ireland, where the Saints' remains are deposited (ff. 36v-39r).
  2. ^ the version of Cotton Caligula A. xiv was translated into modern English by Oswald Cockayne, Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, 3 vols, The Rolls Series, 35 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1864–68), iii pp. 422–29.
  • G. Hickes, Dissertatio Epistolaris in Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archeologicus (Oxford 1703-05), p. 115
  • F. Liebermann, Die Heiligen Englands, Hanover, 1889.
  • Susan J. Ridyard, The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England: A Study of West Saxon and East Anglican Cults, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series, 1988.
  • D. W. Rollason, "Lists of saints' resting-places in Anglo-Saxon England" in ASE 7 (1978), 61-93.
  • David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford Paperback Reference, Publisher Oxford University Press, 1992, 2004.

External links[edit]