Verse Saints’ Lives Written in the French of England, Translated by Delbert W. Russell
This selection from a rich and varied corpus of England’s late twelfth and thirteenth-century hagiograpahy involves legendary figures whose lives are spectacularly full of bizarre and grotesque events.
Yet these treatments are fundamentally serious, informed, and well-written exemplary biographies in which many concerns of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries are addressed.
The spectacular dismembering tortures suffered by St George, for instance, may have particular resonances for audiences necessarily concerned with bringing home the bodies of crusaders, even as the saint’s miracles present the holy man as priest-hero.
Simon of Walsingham’s early thirteenth-century life of Faith, on the other hand, asserts a different religious identity, that of monastic life as a source of devotional energy and dedicated artistry. The (probably slightly later) life of Mary Magdalen by Guillaume le Clerc can be seen in the context of lay response to the thirteenth-century church and the increased importance of semi-religious life styles for both men and women.
Includes: Saint Giles, by Guillaume de Berneville; Saint George, by Simund de Freine; Saint Faith of Agen, by Simon de Walsingham; and Saint Mary Magdalene, by Guillaume Le Clerc de Normandie