Introduction

A medieval ecclesiastical institution, such as an abbey or a cathedral church, operated within a matrix of affiliations. Within this matrix there were other, and often competing, ecclesiastical institutions operating in the same region and there were worldly figures of power such as nobles or royalty. This matrix also included the wider Christian church, represented in Latin Europe by the papacy, as well as various monastic orders. It was within this matrix that the ecclesiastical institution in question constructed its institutional identity, which is to say how that institution understood, formulated and propagated its own place within the history of a kingdom, a local geography or a regional church on the one hand, and the history of Christendom and as a member of the universal Christian church on the other. The history of an institution operated on these two levels simultaneously, both the regional and the universal (Hope, 2017: 3ff).1 This history, and this two-tiered identity, was formulated, constructed and maintained through the textual production at the institution itself, the pictorial decorations and architectural features of the church space and also through the performance of liturgical ritual and the maintenance of the cult of its patron saint. In the formulation and construction of its identity, the institution would emphasise those aspects which made the institution in question stand out among the other members of the church, as well as those aspects which demonstrated its links to the universal Christian church. In many cases, the focal point of the institutional identity was the cult of the patron saint. Consequently, the texts that were produced for this cult provided vehicles for the institution’s identity construction, and this was especially the case for liturgical texts (Gaposchkin, 2010: 151ff).

In the following article I wish to present three ways in which the institutional identity of Bury St Edmunds was constructed through the composition of the office for Saint Edmund’s feast. I have chosen to focus on texts from the office, because it is through the office that we often find the clearest formulation of how the cult centre understood its saint (Hughes, 1993: 375). The first of my three case studies aims to show how the saint-biography of Edmund was adapted in the composition of the readings of the office in order to connect Edmund with biblical imagery. The second case study illustrates how the adaptation of a liturgical chant for another saint affected how Edmund was understood and presented by those who venerated him at Bury. The third case study provides evidence for how the role of Edmund appears to have been deliberately shaped by the authority figures — i.e. the abbot, most likely the cantor, and also other high-ranking figures — at Bury in the late eleventh century in order to increase the standing of Edmund, and thus Bury, abroad.

It must be emphasised, however, that these three examples only offer a brief glimpse of how the image of Saint Edmund was developed in the liturgical office, and how the office texts both adapted the narrative of Edmund’s vita and added new material that became part of the authoritative image of Edmund. Moreover, the liturgical material was only a part of a much wider array of textual production through which Bury St Edmund sought to establish and strengthen its historical position both within England and within Christendom as a whole (cf. Pinner, 2015: 138ff). From the accession of Baldwin (d.1097) as abbot of Bury in 1065 and well into the first decades of the twelfth century, the abbey was the site of a significant production of texts by which the abbey’s institutional identity was cemented. This textual output is comprised of miracle collections, chronicles and charters,2 in addition to the liturgical material, and all of these works contribute to the same end, namely to formulate how monks at Bury St Edmunds saw and presented themselves to the world beyond the abbey, and also to the future generations of monks at Bury. All these types of texts were vehicles for writing, formulating and preserving history. Although my focus on the liturgical material prohibits any in-depth discussion of these non-liturgical or para-liturgical texts, their place within the overall programme of identity formation at Bury in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries must be both acknowledged and emphasised (cf. Pinner, 2015: 141ff).

Before going on to the three examples from the office of Saint Edmund, I will provide a historical and textual background for the office itself, where I present the office as belonging in both a historical and a textual/literary continuum. I will then provide a presentation of the key terms that guide my analyses of the three excerpts from the office, before I move on to each of the three cases in question. As my focus is on texts of the office, I will not enter into discussion about the music, but throughout my analyses I will address how these changes need to be understood in their performative contexts, which is particularly relevant for the question of audiences.

Background: the historical and textual context of the office for Saint Edmund Martyr

The earliest testimony of a cult of Edmund Martyr is the legend on some coins, most likely minted in East Anglia at the end of the ninth century (Blunt, 1969: 239–41). Although the cult seems to have remained more or less stable throughout the 900s, it was not until the 980s that Abbo of Fleury composed his Passio Sancti Eadmundi, while he was staying at Ramsey Abbey on the invitation of Bishop Oswald of Worcester. The content of the Passio was drawn from information provided by Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury (d.988), as Abbo himself states in the Passio’s prefatory letter addressed to Dunstan. By the time Abbo wrote Passio Eadmundi, the site of Edmund’s shrine, Bedricesgueord (or Bedricurtis in Latin), was a house of secular clerics and it remained as such until King Knud installed a monastic community there in 1020. According to Goscelin of Saint-Bertin, who wrote his Miracula Eadmundi in the 1090s, the foundation of a monastic community brought about an increase in the veneration of Saint Edmund (2014: 244–45). The next important step in Bury’s history came in 1065 when Edward the Confessor appointed Baldwin (d.1097), a monk from the abbey of Saint-Denis and his personal physician, as the new abbot of Bury after the death of Abbot Leofstan.

During his abbacy, Baldwin sought to strengthen the standing of the abbey both within the framework of the English kingdom as well as within Christendom at large. This was prompted by conflicts with Bishop Herfast of Thetford. During Archbishop Lanfranc’s post-conquest ecclesiastical reform, Herfast sought to move the episcopal seat to Bury, which would necessarily weaken the abbey’s own jurisdiction and institutional independence. In response to this conflict, Abbot Baldwin went to Rome in 1071 to appeal to the pope; during this journey he also exported the cult of Edmund to Lucca by distributing relics of the saint there (Herman, 2014: 80–81). Baldwin’s distribution of relics abroad is emblematic of the role the cult of Edmund played in the strengthening of Bury’s position as an institution independent from episcopal control.

In addition to his exportation of the cult of Edmund, Abbot Baldwin also sought to strengthen the prestige of Edmund and thus also Bury at home. At some point in the 1080s, Baldwin initiated an extensive refurbishment of the abbey church, and on 29 April 1095, which appears to have been Resurrection Sunday, Edmund’s relics were translated and the occasion was reportedly marked by miracles, including the healing of a knight’s wounded arm and a downpour of rain for the arid soil (Herman, 2014: 118–20). These events were recorded in De Miraculis Sancti Eadmundi, a collection of miracles associated with Edmund that was written by a monk, Herman, and commissioned by Abbot Baldwin. This work not only recounts and explains miracles that God worked for the sake of Edmund, it also comprises a history of the abbey. In this way, the history of the abbey and the history of Edmund as a saint are unified in one narrative. This shows that Bury’s institutional identity was built around the patronage of Saint Edmund, since it was Edmund’s patronage which occupied the central point in the abbey’s most important historical events.

The importance of the textual aspect of the cult of Saint Edmund can also be seen in the manuscript production from the mid-eleventh century onwards. From the period c.1065–c.1130, five manuscripts containing material for Saint Edmund have survived, four of which contain Passio Eadmundi. Three of these five manuscripts have been identified as definitely originating from the scriptorium of Bury St Edmunds, while the remaining two might also share this provenance. These manuscripts testify to the importance of manuscript production in the strengthening of Edmund’s cult. It was not only relics that could be disseminated beyond Bury, but also the vita itself. The earliest of these manuscripts is København Kongelige Bibliotek GKS 1588 quarto, which also contains a near-complete office for Edmund’s feast day.3 This manuscript was most likely written between 1065–1087 (Hughes, 1993: 382; 392),4 and it will be the main source for my analysis along with a later manuscript, MS Pierpont Morgan 736, the youngest of the manuscripts of uncontested Bury provenance (written 1110–1130). The second oldest manuscript securely identified as a Bury manuscript is BL MS Cotton Tiberius B.ii, which contains both Passio and Herman’s De Miraculis. In addition, there is Lambeth Palace MS 362, which contains Passio Eadmundi as well as hymns and materials for the mass of Saint Edmund.5 Then there is BL MS Cotton Vespasian D.xii, which contains three hymns for Saint Edmund, two of which are the hymns found in Lambeth Palace MS 362.6, BL MS Cotton Vespasian D.xii does not contain Passio Eadmundi since it is a hymnal. While the provenance of these latter two manuscripts remains uncertain, Henry Parkes has argued that these, too, originated at Bury (2014: 137).

If we consider these manuscripts as a group, they exhibit a sustained interest in the cult of Edmund in the period 1065–1130. They furthermore show that not only was the vita copied to a relatively high degree, but there was also an ongoing production of new material, such as the office, the hymns and De Miraculis. Both the copying of old material and production of new material should best be understood in the context of Baldwin’s effort to strengthen the position of Edmund and Bury in England and abroad. Of particular interest to us here is the office for Edmund’s feast day, since the composition of an office with texts proper to, i.e. specifically written for, the saint itself (Hankeln, 2001) is a mark of a cult’s increased maturity.

Liturgical appropriation and audience

As mentioned in the introduction, the construction of institutional identity worked on two levels: a regional/local level, and a universal level. Moreover, this two-tiered identity construction consisted of emphasising an institution’s unique features as well as its connection to established Christian tradition, and it was in the negotiation of this balance that an abbey such as Bury St Edmunds could formulate its own place in Christian history. In short: a medieval religious institution needed to stand out from the rest of the church to which it belonged, but it also needed to demonstrate its connection to that church. Of particular interest to us here is the effort to connect Bury to the wider Christian world by emulation and adaptation of features whose origin outside of the abbey could give it some of the venerability of the institution, tradition and/or cult that was emulated. This approach appears to have been widespread throughout Latin Christendom and it could take many different forms. One example, that has nothing to do with Bury St Edmunds but which reached its institutional apogee at around the same time, is the imperial abbey of Farfa, Italy. In her study of Farfa and its monastic identity, Susan Boynton found that the monks fashioned some of its liturgy to evoke a connection to the liturgy of Cluny, and thus the abbey of Farfa increased its own aura of venerability, at least to its community of monks, by borrowing some of the venerability of Cluny (2006: 106–43).

While the primary methodological concerns at play in these strategies for identity construction are addressed in each of the case studies, there are two key aspects of the identity construction that need to be explained in more detail here. The first is how liturgical material which was shared by all Christian churches was adapted into and thus appropriated by the cult of one particular saint, a process whose importance will be explained shortly. The second aspect is the role of the audience, who they were and how they contributed to identity construction.

Liturgical appropriation

The monastic liturgy, and in particular the office, provided a very useful vehicle for establishing connections to other institutions, saints or repertoires of text, and for this end the liturgy could be utilised in different ways (Gaposchkin, 2010: 151–53). I’m here predominantly addressing two forms of liturgical appropriation that can be found in the office material for Saint Edmund, showing ways in which the material shared by all Latin Christian churches could be appropriated into the cult of Edmund. This shared material could be in the form of biblical texts (as seen in the first case study) and it could be in the form of chants from the office of another, older, saint (as seen in the second case study). It could also be in the form of appropriating the text for different types of saints, rather than individual saints. This textual repository organised by saint type is known as the commune sanctorum and is comprised of texts which were available to and used by all of Latin Christendom (Harper, 1991: 295). While I am not addressing cases of appropriating text from the commune in this article, it is nonetheless important to keep in mind that such a repository of text also existed and often provided the first stage in the development of a saint’s liturgy (Hankeln, 2001).

By such liturgical appropriations as I will address here, bonds were established between the original context of the old text and the cult of the new or younger saint, thus connecting the cult of that saint to the universal Christian church. This relied on the idea that saints were part of a collegium and would come to each other’s assistance in petitioning the community’s case before the throne of God. In other words, a saint was the ambassador of a community, and if that saint were closely affiliated with another — usually a more senior — saint, then the community could rely on the petitions of both. The efficaciousness of a saint was measured by its meritum (the merit that had been accumulated through the saint’s holy living) and it was this meritum that was the saint’s leverage in negotiations with God for divine intervention on behalf of the saint’s community. A saint who was connected to other saints could, simply put, draw on the merit of those other saints (Boynton, 2008: 208).

These liturgical appropriations were of both regional and universal significance. The regional significance lay in how the monks at Bury St Edmunds would perform both the chants of the original repertoire and also the new repertoire of Edmund containing connections to the original one. Through the yearly rhythm of performing the liturgy of the church calendars, the original liturgy and the appropriation of it would be instilled into the memory of the monks through performance, and they would learn how their own patron was connected to older, more venerable and more merited colleagues. This served to teach the monks at Bury about the potential of their own patron, on whom the entire history and the identity of the abbey was centred. For this reason, the connections to older saints and older textual repertoires provided the community at Bury with a better sense of how their own institution was positioned within the wider matrix of the universal church.

These liturgical appropriations were also of universal significance since these connections to a shared textual repertoire could be caught and understood by visiting representatives from other ecclesiastical institutions, and these connections would be part and parcel of the liturgy when it was exported to other institutions either regionally within England or universally throughout Christendom. In this way, members of the wider Christian church would be informed of Bury’s position within the matrix of the Christian church, just as the monks of Bury had been instructed about that position. Whether these connections were accepted by members of other ecclesiastical institutions, however, is impossible to say. On the whole, it is reasonable to suspect that not all aspects of an institution’s self-constructed identity were accepted outside that institution. However, whether or not such an institutional identity was successfully exported beyond the institution itself, we should expect that an institution of the size of Bury would be alert to how exporting one’s identity could increase the institution’s prestige abroad. And as I hope to demonstrate, there seems to be evidence to support the claim that Abbot Baldwin did seek to enhance Bury’s prestige both at home and abroad.

It is important to mention that such connections with other institutions and saints could also be shaped through adaptation of the music for the office. One example of this practice has been explored by Roman Hankeln in the liturgy of Saint Olaf in twelfth-century Norway. Here, the newly-established archbishopric, with its metropolis in Trondheim, recycled melodies from offices of saints important to the Augustinian order and especially the abbey of Saint Victor in Paris (Hankeln, 2012: 138ff). It is entirely possible that the music of the office of Saint Edmund might also evince connections to other saints and repertoires, but this requires a study of its own and is not part of my present work. To date, the most comprehensive investigations of the music of the office for Saint Edmund have been carried out by Lisa Colton (2009) and Parkes (2014).

Audience

When addressing how the formulation of the saint changed due to measures taken by the authorities at Bury, it is important to keep in mind the question of the audience. For whom were these changes made, and for what purpose did the monks and clerics undertake these adaptations? In order to answer these questions, I will here distinguish between the intended audience and the actual audience. The intended audience would in the case of the liturgical office be a three-part audience, as a liturgical office was — to quote Hankeln — a trialogue.7 One part of this trialogue was the saint who would receive the chants and readings and who would then go on to plead the case of the ministrants before the throne of God. The second part of the trialogue was God whose omniscience guaranteed that also He would hear the chants and the readings of the office. The third part of the trialogue was the members of the cult centre, the clerics and monks who were performing the chants and readings. As stated, since these members were performing the liturgical cycle year after year, they would not only be able to pick up on the appropriated items but they would also be taught the details of the saint’s history through the performance of those chants and readings, i.e. through the saint’s historia (Hankeln, 2016: 150–51).

The actual audience, however, would encompass a wider range of people, as on the feast day of the community’s patron saint there would be a throng of lay people of all walks of life and both sexes gathered at the shrine to pray for the saint’s intercession and God’s performance of miracles. Sometimes the laity could be physically separated by a rood screen from the choir where the office was performed (Harper, 1991: 40–41). However, judging from Goscelin’s account of the healing of a crippled woman, this was not the case at Bury in the late eleventh century. According to Goscelin, the woman was allowed to crawl up to the altar during the vigil of John the Baptist (2014: 272). Moreover, most, if not all, laypeople were not versed in Latin and so they were not expected to grasp the communication that took place during the performance of the office. But they would still be a part of the scene and they would be affected by the mystery of the office in its multi-sensorial framework of music, scents of incense and candles, and the light of the candles and torches in the church space. The actual audience thus encompasses the intended audience as well as those who were not intended as recipients of the office message, but who would nonetheless experience the performance on the feast day.

In order to understand the effect of the liturgical appropriation, we must look at the intended audience. The appropriation of material, and connecting a saint to other saints and other institutions, were both part of the institutional identity that was constructed by the leaders of that institution, and which was constructed for the institution’s community, i.e. its intended audience of the liturgical celebration. This identity was meant to be sustained ad perpetuum through the performance of liturgical ritual and through the education of new generations of monks. The institutional identity was, in other words, a self-sustaining self-image that was perpetuated and cultivated, and could be improved upon by the community itself. As mentioned, this identity was not available or accessible only to the members of the institution’s community, but also to a wider audience of visiting members from other abbeys or churches who could grasp the complexity of the institution’s identity. This meant in turn that these visitors could disseminate the knowledge of the institution’s identity beyond the institution in question. What was being disseminated in such cases was a formulation of how Bury was different from as well as similar to other members of the Christian universal church. Furthermore, by appropriating the proper liturgy of a saint — containing layers of appropriated material and uniquely proper material — to other churches or abbeys, an institution such as Bury St Edmunds could also actively disseminate its own identity beyond the confines of its own community. In this way, we see that different audiences also had their roles in the construction of identity. The community of the institution performed and instilled into itself the identity through the performance of the office. Audiences from other institutions disseminated the identity beyond the cult centre of the saint in question.

The liturgy of Saint Edmund and institutional identity: three case studies

As stated, the present article is in no way an exhaustive outline of the various strategies by which Bury St Edmunds sought to construct its institutional identity through liturgy. The three examples I focus on here are drawn from two manuscripts, one (København GKS 1588) from Baldwin’s abbacy and one from the early twelfth century (Pierpont Morgan 736). Although this final source dates from a period after Baldwin’s death, it nonetheless follows the same programme of liturgical appropriation and identity construction that was instigated under Abbot Baldwin’s aegis and gives an example of the active engagement with the textual repertoire of Saint Edmund that was carried out at Bury in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries.

First case study: Lesson 5 for the office of Saint Edmund

The first example is drawn from the fifth lesson of Matins in the office for Saint Edmund as contained in Pierpont Morgan MS 736. This manuscript is the earliest surviving copy of the lessons for the office, since København GKS 1588 only contains the chants. The lessons from Pierpont Morgan MS 736 are drawn from Passio Sancti Eadmundi, but the text has been altered to various and significant degrees in the adaptation of the vita into the office for Matins (Hope, 2017: 84–94). These changes comprise different strategies of adaptation, but I am here concerned with the alteration that occurs in the fifth lesson. It should be pointed out that we do not know when the lessons for the office were adapted from Passio Eadmundi, since our earliest source to them comes from c.1125–1130. It is possible, therefore, that this adaptation was done after Baldwin’s abbacy, but I argue that it must nonetheless be understood as part of the identity construction set in motion by Baldwin from the late 1060s onwards. Before the text of Passio Eadmundi was adapted into liturgical lessons as found in Pierpont Morgan MS 736, it is likely that the lessons were read straight from the Passio.

The fifth lesson begins after Edmund has responded to the messenger sent by the Danish chieftain Hingwar and refused to comply with Hingwar’s demands (as has been described in the fourth lesson). In Passio Eadmundi, København GKS 1588 f.15v and Pierpont Morgan 736 f.161r, this is not presented as an isolated or standalone episode. Instead the text is a continuous narrative. It is only in lesson five that Edmund’s discharge of the messenger and the arrival of the Danes to Edmund’s court comprise an episode of their own. In addition to this adaptation of a section of Passio Eadmundi into lesson five, small changes have been made to the text itself. The changes to the opening lines of the lesson can be seen below marked in bold (my translations).

Passio Eadmundi Office for Saint Edmund, lesson 5

Uix sanctus uir uerba compleuerat et renuntiaturus miles pedem domo extulerat cum ecce Hinguar obuius iubet breuiloquio ut utatur, illi pandens per omnia archana regis ultima Sanctus uir et rex uix uerba compleuerat et renuntiaturus miles iniquus response gloriosi regis suo iniquio domino pedem de domo extulerat cum ecce obuius iniquissimius iudex hinguar iubet breuiloquo ut utatur. Illi pandens per omnia archana regis ultima
Barely had the holy king finished announcing these words and the soldier exited the house on foot when lo Hingwar stood nearby, and ordered [him] to use a concise speech when spreading out to all the king’s last missive The holy man and king had barely finished announcing these words and the soldier exited the house on foot when lo Hingwar, the iniquitous judge, stood nearby, and ordered [him] to use a concise speech when spreading out to all the king’s last missive.

The most important change is arguably found in the opening of the fifth lesson, where the first word is changed from uix to sanctus. The change consists merely of moving uix further into the sentence and adding et rex after sanctus uir, but this affects the text significantly. One consequence of the moving of sanctus to the opening of the sentence is that it makes it possible to grasp that word even for the unlettered listeners, such as the laypeople keeping vigil at Edmund’s shrine or the novices not yet sufficiently Latinate to follow the reading. A word such as sanctus would probably be accessible to most listeners and although the rest of the lesson might be beyond the grasp of several, the opening word alone would alert them to the fact that the reading concerned the holy king whose aid they were seeking at the foot of his shrine. The word sanctus might also have been legible on inscriptions and decorations near the shrine (Pinner, 2015: 152ff). Although this position would allow for greater accessibility among the non-Latinate members of the audience, this is unlikely to have been an important reason for the change in the text, considering that the laypeople were rarely, if ever, considered part of the intended audience.

The second consequence, however, is much more tangible and should probably be understood as the main reason why this text was altered. By opening the lesson with Sanctus uir, a lexical echo of the opening of the first psalm is created, whose incipit is Beatus uir, as seen below. It must be emphasised that although beatus and sanctus are not lexically identical, they are nonetheless used interchangeably in medieval saint-texts from before c.1300 (Vauchez, 2005: 85f).

Psalm 1:1–2 (The Clementine Vulgata) Psalm 1:1–2 (Douay-Rheims)

Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum, et in via peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit; sed in lege Domini voluntas ejus, et in lege ejus meditabitur die ac nocte. Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.

In early Christian interpretation, this psalm provides the characteristics of Christ as man and divinity, as explained by Cassiodorus (1990: 47). The characteristics of the blessed man are also the qualities of the biblical ideal king, the rex iustus (‘just king’) whom all Christian kings were measured against (Klaniczay, 2002: 147), and on whom saint kings were usually modelled in their vitae (Hope, 2017: 11). In light of this, it is interesting to note the addition of ‘et rex’ in the lesson. This highlights that Edmund’s role as king was an important aspect of his sainthood. Psalm 1 was often the first to be performed in the sequence of psalms typically used in the office of a martyr (Harper, 1991: 260). We know that Beatus uir was sung in the office of Saint Edmund, as this is noted in MS København GKS 1588 f.28r and in MS Pierpont Morgan M. 736 f.90r. In both these manuscripts we also see that the antiphon chanted as a response to Psalm 1 also opens with Sanctus, describing Edmund as Sanctus Eadmundus. In this way, the fifth lesson reinforces the connection between Edmund and the blessed man that previously was established through the first antiphon for Matins performed together with Psalm 1. This is furthermore a strengthening of the Christological imagery of Edmund, which was already thoroughly established in Passio Eadmundi. This way of fusing the blessed man of Psalm 1 with Saint Edmund is a form of biblical appropriation which embedded into the historical understanding of the members at that cult centre the image of Saint Edmund as an imitator of Christ. This furthermore allows the devotees at Bury St Edmunds to tap into the ore of biblical imagery that strengthens the liturgical representation of Saint Edmund and creates a mnemonic link between him and the biblical canon in the minds of the institution’s members, who were responsible for the upkeep and continuation of the cult.

Second case study: Saint Edmund and John the Baptist

While the first example connected Edmund with the yardstick of Christian living, Christ, the second example demonstrates how Edmund was linked to a specific saint, John the Baptist. As hinted above, it was typical for saint-biographers and liturgists to connect a saint with an older colleague in sanctity. Such links could be forged out of a similarity of type, emphasising that the older and the younger saint were both martyrs, for instance. In some cases, there could also be further similarities that allowed for a stronger connection than one of merely belonging to the same type. In the office for Saint Edmund, we see the establishment of such a connection in the seventh antiphon. The words which are the same in both chants have been put in bold, while the words that are different but fulfil the same purpose are underlined (my translations).

Matins antiphon 7, Saint Edmund[CID: 203146] Antiphon for the beheading of John the Baptist [CID: 003790]

Misso spiculator[a]e8decrevit tyrannus dei adletam eadmundus dum capite detruncari sicque ymnum deo personuit et animam celo gaudens intulit Misso Herodes spiculatore praecepit amputare caput Joannis in carcere quo audito discipuli ejus venerunt et tulerunt corpus ejus et posuerunt illud in monumento
The tyrant decreed that the executioners be sent, and the athlete of God, Edmund, when his head was cut off, thus resounded with hymns for God and brought the soul rejoicing to Heaven Herodes ordered the executioner to be sent to cut off the head of John in prison, which when his disciples heard they came and buried it in a tomb. (Mark 6: 27; 29)9

Although there are only three words that are common to both chants, there are three other words that serve the same purpose and carry the same message. These six words, marked above, are also key elements in the respective narratives. Moreover, it is important to note that in the antiphon for Edmund, the chieftain Hingwar is not mentioned by name but instead referred to as tyrannus. This title can be found in several liturgical chants as shorthand for the antagonist of the passion story. Most importantly, in the liturgy for the feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December), there are chants where Herodes is referred to only by the title tyrannus. It must be emphasised that we do not know for certain whether these chants for the Holy Innocents were performed at Bury, but this is highly likely given the universal nature of that feast. If so, the monks performing the chant for Edmund would be familiar with the conventional use of tyrannus in liturgical chant and therefore understand that this term connected Edmund with the victims of Herodes, such as John the Baptist.10 The links to John the Baptist would, moreover, be particularly clear in the incipit misso spiculatore, since this is a phrase taken from the biblical account of his death, and also performed annually in the chant for the anniversary of his beheading, the decollatio (29 August).11

The desire on the part of the authorities at Bury to connect Edmund with John the Baptist is suggested by the strong lexical overlap between the two chants, and it is clear that the chant for the decollatio has served as the foundation for the chant for Edmund. The reason for this desire is not at all surprising, partly since the two saints share a common method of martyrdom, but also because John the Baptist is one of the biblical saints and therefore of superior antiquity, venerability and meritum. Such a colleague in sanctity would confer onto Edmund a greater importance and efficaciousness.

This connection between Edmund and John the Baptist, formulated through liturgical borrowings, also must be understood in terms of institutional identity. The appropriation of a chant that is very likely to have been performed at Bury, would allow the members of Saint Edmund’s community to grasp the link — forged by the recycling of the chant for John the Baptist — between the two saints, since the monks themselves sung these chants every year. This would in turn instil into the minds of the monks at Bury that their patron could rely on John the Baptist if need be, and because of this Edmund’s patronage was stronger. In this way, Edmund was formulated so that his community — and the communities to which the liturgy was exported — would have an increased respect and veneration for Saint Edmund and, concomitantly, for the abbey of Bury St Edmunds which was his house and place of patronage. This link would thus have both regional and universal relevance.

The chant Misso spiculatore appears to be a deliberate effort to connect Edmund and John the Baptist. Moreover, from the miracle collections of Herman and Goscelin, we have further indications that this connection was actively cultivated at Bury. This suggests that the connection between Edmund and John the Baptist can be understood as a part of the collective memory of the Bury monks at the end of the eleventh century, and that it had become one of the interpretative lenses through which events at the abbey were seen and by which events were explained. The first reference to a connection between Edmund and John the Baptist in the miracle collections is in Herman’s De Miraculis (2014: 122) but the most expansive version is in Goscelin’s reworking of the miracles and this is the version on which I will focus here.

The episode in question occurred on the vigil of the nativity of John the Baptist (24 June). Goscelin tells how a crippled woman crawled to the altar of Saint Edmund, and Edmund brought about her healing because he wished to grant (or bestow) her, deferre, to his fellow-soldier, commilitioni suo,12 i.e. John the Baptist (2014: 272). The passage is somewhat obscure because of the many possible meanings of the crucial verb deferre, but it is clear that the incident was interpreted as Edmund taking care of the woman’s petition out of respect for and fellowship with John the Baptist. That the term commilitioni is used suggests strongly that the monks at Bury had an understanding of the relationship between their patron and John the Baptist as being very close. Also of great interest in this regard is Goscelin’s reference to the witnesses who testified to the miracle by stating that the woman had hitherto been lame. When the miracle is thus proved, praise is sung in honour of God and Goscelin formulates it as follows: in creatoris preconio cunctorum ora laxantur, ‘and all with loosened voices sounded the Creator’s praise’ (translated by Tom Licence, see Goscelin 2014: 272–73). This passage has been identified by Rosalind Love as being a play on the incipit of a hymn (CID: 008406) for the nativity of John the Baptist (Goscelin, 2014: 272, n.365). Moreover, if this is, as Tom Licence suspects (Goscelin, 2014: 272, n.365), an intertextuality provided by Herman, this provides another indication that there existed a connection between Edmund and John the Baptist in the collective memory at Bury.13

Third case study: Edmund as a saint of all of England

As part of Abbot Baldwin’s effort to construct an institutional identity for Bury St Edmunds, it appears that he and those in his closest circle sought to promote the idea of Edmund as a saint for all of England, not just East Anglia. Such a promotion would — as in the cases of both previous examples — have regional as well as universal significance. On the regional level, the image of Edmund as a saint of all England would strengthen the community of monks at Bury in their self-understanding vis-à-vis other ecclesiastical institutions in England, perhaps most importantly the bishop of Norwich. On the universal level, such an image would establish Bury as the home of England’s most important representative in the Christian church. While there were many saints in England and while the idea of national saints had not yet been formulated, some saints were more important to a region than others.

Tom Licence has argued it was only in the 1090s — i.e. after the composition of the office for Edmund — that saint-biographers active in post-conquest England began to formulate their saints as ‘patrons of regions, even entire peoples’ (2014: 116). He does, however, allow for the possibility that the idea of Edmund as a saint of region-wide importance had been in place in East Anglia for a much longer period, but he nonetheless argues that ‘the notion [of Edmund’s regional patronage] seems not to have occurred to other hagiographers […] until Herman gave it expression’ (Licence, 2014: 116). Licence is here referring to Herman’s De Miraculis where he emphasises Edmund’s patronage of East Anglia, being its defender and protector (Herman, 2014: 10, 16, 26, 40).

However, I argue that from liturgical evidence we can see hints that the authorities at Bury sought to promote the view of Edmund as a representative of all of England, reformulating him as a patron not only of their own abbey but of all of England. As mentioned, this would have significance for the Bury community as well as the wider church, and this reformulation should thus be understood as part of Abbot Baldwin’s efforts to disseminate the cult of Edmund — and thus the standing of Bury — on the continent. Possibly the earliest evidence of such a reformulation is the Magnificat antiphon from the office of Edmund’s feast day from København GKS 1588 (f.28r). This chant exhorts the church of the ‘entire English people’, totius gentis anglice, to rejoice in ‘holy father Edmund’, sancte pater Edmunde. The complete text of the antiphon reads as follows (my translation):


Exulta sancta ecclesia totius gentis anglice ecce in manibus est laudatio eadmundi regis inclyti et martyris inuictissimi qui triumphato mundi principe celos ascendit uictoriosissime sancta pater eadmundo tuis supplicibus intende Rejoice, holy church of the entire English people, behold in [whose] hands is Edmund praised, the illustrious king and invincible martyr, who triumphing over the prince of the world ascended victoriously in heaven. Holy father Edmund hold out your prayers

Edmund’s textual iconography in the Magnificat antiphon is an interesting combination of typical and novel features. The typical features are the descriptions of Edmund’s kingship and martyrdom which have been part of the textual tradition about Edmund since Abbo’s Passio Eadmundi (Hope, 2017: 64–65). What is noteworthy in this antiphon, however, is the way that the church of the English people, Edmund’s patronage and his role as a holy father are brought into one and the same context. It must be emphasised, however, that the text of the antiphon does not state outright that Edmund is a patron of the English church, but rather that his patronage is accessible to the Church of the English if that church rejoices in him. This is a feature that first becomes part of the iconography of Edmund in the third quarter of the eleventh century.

Moreover, there is a second feature connected to Edmund’s patronage that is contained in the antiphon, namely his role as a father. The formulation of Edmund as a paternal figure only appears once in Passio Sancti Eadmundi, when Abbo, drawing on the ideal kingship of the Bible, describes Edmund as being a most clement father to widows and orphans, pupillis uiduis clementissimum pater.14 In the liturgical office, however, there are four instances where Edmund is addressed as father, namely the ninth antiphon, and the eighth, ninth and twelfth responsories. This frequency suggests that by the time the office was composed, the idea of Edmund as a father had gained increased importance at Bury.15

Edmund’s role as a father is not surprising, as this is a title commonly bestowed on male saints. However, that his role as a father is presented as something that is accessible to the church of the entire English people is significant. Such a presentation of the saint elevates him from a saint of local relevance to a saint relevant to an entire people. It is important, however, to note that this does not necessarily mean that we can see the monks at Bury at this point propagating the idea of Edmund as a patron saint of England. Being important to the entire English church does not equate to patronage of that church.

However, the claim that Edmund, as a representative of all of England, was important to the community at Bury in the eleventh century is also supported by one of the hymns in Cotton Vespasian D.xii. As mentioned, Parkes (2014: 137) has argued that the provenance of this manuscript is possibly Bury St Edmunds, and I argue that the imagery of this hymn strengthens that idea. At the very least, the hymn provides another eleventh-century source to the idea of Edmund as more than a representative of Bury.

The hymn in question is Eadmundus martyr inclytus and is the first of the three hymns to Saint Edmund in the manuscript. The first two verses of the first strophe refers to Edmund as Eadmundus martyr inclytus/Anglorum rex sanctissimus (‘Edmund the famous martyr, most holy king of the English’). The importance of England as a whole is highlighted again in the first two verses of the second strophe: Tulit iubar hoc splendidum/Opima tellus anglica (‘the fertile land of England produced this glittering source of light [i.e. Edmund]’).16 It is noteworthy that it is not East Anglia or the East Angles that are being referred to here, but England and the English. Whether or not this hymn was composed at Bury — which is very plausible — and whether or not the manuscript in question was put together at Bury, it shows, together with the Magnificat antiphon, that the idea of Edmund as a representative of all of England can arguably be found in its earliest form in manuscripts of English provenance.

The hymn and the Magnificant antiphon comprise what is probably the earliest step towards the idea of Edmund as a patron saint for all of England. A more fully-fledged version of this idea can be found in the antiphons for the Vesper of Edmund’s feast day, which were composed by Abbot Warner of Rebais during his visit to Bury in 1087. In his De Miraculis, Herman tells about Warner and states that he composed four antiphons in honour of Saint Edmund (2014: 84–85). Due to Warner’s increased love of Edmund, Baldwin entrusted him with relics of Bury’s patron. Herman expressly states that by these relics, Edmund might be venerated in exteras regiones (‘in foreign regions) (2014: 84). We see again how Baldwin actively sought to promote Edmund’s cult beyond Bury, and indeed beyond England.

From Herman’s account we know that Warner composed the four antiphons at Bury. Rodney Thomson has identified these to be the four Vespers antiphons found in Pierpont Morgan MS 736 (1984). Of interest to us here are the first and fourth antiphons, as these present Edmund as far more than a local saint. The first antiphon opens with the address to Edmund as rex gentis anglorum (‘king of the English people’).17 This is noteworthy in that the historical Edmund, and indeed the Edmund of saint-biography, was not a king of the English, but specifically of East Anglia. Indeed, the description of Edmund’s kingship is made more precise in the adaptation of Passio Eadmundi into the lessons of the office. While Abbo refers to the province that the English call Eastengle, the first lesson of Matins states that Edmund was rex orientalium anglos (‘king of the East Angles’) (Hope, 2017: 85). We do not know when the lessons for Matins were adapted for liturgical performance, but it is likely that they were part of the office by the time Warner visited Bury. This means that Warner might have heard Edmund’s kingship delineated in the office, yet still, when composing the first antiphon, he referred to Edmund as king of the English people, not just of the East Angles. Moreover, since the antiphon is addressing the saint in Heaven, rather than referring back to the historical life of Edmund, it appears that when Warner refers to Edmund as king of the English people, he means in the present, in the liturgical here-and-now, and as a saint. This furthermore suggests that Warner’s idea of Edmund is of a patron of all of the English people. The fourth antiphon strengthens this suggestion. The opening words are an address to Saint Edmund, referring to him as [p]rinceps et pater patri[a]e (‘prince and father of the fatherland’). These appellations are, directly or indirectly, drawn from Res Gestae Divi Augustus, the account of the deeds of Augustus, where we are told how Augustus was given titles such as princeps senatus and patrem patriae. It might be this image of Augustus that Warner sought to evoke and confer onto Edmund.18 When we see this combined with the first antiphon, which states that Edmund was the king of the English people, it appears that Warner is addressing Edmund the saint as someone who is protecting all of England, not just East Anglia.

That Edmund’s patronage extended to include all of England is already suggested by the Magnificat antiphon and the hymn — if the hymn was performed at Bury, which is highly plausible. Moreover, it is likely that it was from these two chants that Warner was inspired to speak of Edmund in such elevated terms.19 Warner’s antiphons, however, do not constitute an isolated incident. In his version of De Miraculis, Goscelin recounts a visit to Bury by Abbot Lambert of Saint-Nicholas in Anjou, and quotes him as calling Edmund totius Anglie patronum gloriosissimum (‘the most glorious patron of all of England’) (2014: 300). Licence states that this description was likely Lambert’s own ‘because it far exceeds any claims made for Edmund by Goscelin’ (2014: 117). This I believe to be a correct assertion, but it should be understood as a part of an iconographical continuum orchestrated and sustained by the authorities at Bury, and above all by Abbot Baldwin, whereby the status and fama sanctitatis of their patron and paterfamilias were exported beyond Bury and intended to present Edmund as more than a saint of local patronage, but rather a saint whose patronage was available to the entire English church and people in foreign regions.

Baldwin’s effort is shown not only through his deployment of relics at Lucca, or the relics given to Warner of Rebais, but also through exportation of the liturgy itself. The manuscript København GKS 1588 (the oldest surviving text-witness to the liturgical office), was at some point in time donated to the Abbey of Saint-Denis. We do not know when the manuscript arrived at Saint-Denis, but it was there by the thirteenth century.20 It is, however, likely that the cult of Edmund was disseminated to Saint-Denis by Abbot Baldwin himself, as suggested by Antonia Gransden, since he had been a monk at Saint-Denis before becoming Edward the Confessor’s physician (Pinner, 2015: 46). That Edmund was venerated at Saint-Denis by the mid-twelfth century is well attested and suggests that by the rebuilding of the cathedral, by Abbot Suger, the cult there was well-established (Robertson, 1991: 46, 71; Guibert de Nogent 1996: 12).

The textual material from Abbot Baldwin’s abbacy and subsequent decades demonstrates that the formulation of Edmund’s patronage was in flux. The strongest of these formulations that have survived to this day do not appear to come from Bury but from the visiting abbots Warner and Lambert. This appears at first sight to mean that it was in France rather than in England that Edmund was understood as a saint whose patronage extended across all of England. However, the aforementioned chants of the office of København GKS 1588 demonstrate that it was at Bury that the reformulation of Edmund’s image was taking place, and it was from Bury that the seed to the idea of Edmund as a patron available to the entire English church was once disseminated. Through the incorporation of Abbot Warner’s antiphons and through the quotation from Abbot Lambert, together with the general surge in textual production centred on Saint Edmund, Abbot Baldwin and his circle constructed an image of their patron that was exported into the universal church. In this way, Baldwin sought to establish Bury’s institutional identity on a universal level by making Edmund a representative of the entire English church and as such England’s representative in the eyes of ecclesiastics from the continent. This is not to say that Baldwin presented Edmund as a national saint, because the very notion of national saints was somewhat anachronistic by this time. What we can see, however, is that Baldwin exported his patron’s cult abroad and oversaw formulations as in the Magnificat antiphon (we do not know whether the hymn was exported also), whereby Edmund appeared to be venerated throughout England and not only in East Anglia. It is unlikely, however, that other English churches in Baldwin’s time would agree with such an assessment, but it was this appearance that Baldwin propagated abroad to establish Bury St Edmund’s identity on a universal level and in the eyes of an audience beyond Bury St Edmunds, and it seems to have worked.

Concluding remarks

From the late 1060s and for several decades after, Abbot Baldwin and his immediate successors were actively engaged in strengthening the position of Bury St Edmunds both within the region of East Anglia, within the kingdom of post-conquest England and within Latin Christendom as a whole. The purpose of these efforts was to ensure Bury’s liberty from episcopal control, to sustain the good standing with the English kings that Bury had enjoyed from before the conquest and to perpetuate Bury’s role as a site of pilgrimage whose patron saint could efficiently bring about God’s cures. In order to meet these goals, Baldwin and his successors oversaw increased production of manuscripts containing Edmund’s vita and copies of charters proving Bury’s landownership and privileges, alongside the composition of new texts and a liturgical office proper to Edmund. In addition, relics of Edmund were distributed abroad and to abbots visiting from the continent, and it is likely also that manuscripts containing material for Edmund (such as København GKS 1588) were exported to other ecclesiastical houses with the purpose of increasing Bury’s position among other ecclesiastical institutions.

The abbots aimed to construct an institutional identity for Bury St Edmunds through these efforts: 1) the figure of Saint Edmund and the house of his relics were established in relation to regional and universal entities of worldly and ecclesiastical power; 2) the figure of Saint Edmund was iconographically and typologically connected to other saints, partly through liturgical appropriation; and 3) the institution of Bury formulated its own history both at the regional and the universal level. This institutional identity was also presented to various audiences. The most immediate audience consisted of the Bury monks themselves, and through the chants and lessons of liturgical office — as well as readings from Passio Eadmundi — they were taught how to understand, and thus how to address, the patron of their house and to supplicate for his intervention before the throne of God. When the monks were taught, through the performance of liturgical ritual and communal reading, about Edmund and the history of their own abbey, a cultural memory was created, and by this cultural memory the traditions and judicial rights became common knowledge. In this way, we see that the construction of an institutional identity consists of establishing a shared, authoritative, understanding of the institution’s patron saint, and also its history, that will be handed down to later generations through the same means.

In addition to the monks at Bury, the exportation of Edmund’s cult also created an audience of monks and high-ranking ecclesiastics on the continent. By presenting these members of the Christian church with a unified version of Bury, its history and its patron saint, the abbots at Bury ensured that Bury became known within the matrix of Christian history and that Bury garnered a reputation abroad. The importance of spreading Bury’s identity is easy to understand when we consider that conflicts with episcopal authorities brought Baldwin to petition to the pope in order to secure Bury’s independence. By exporting the cult of Edmund — and thus also some knowledge of Bury’s institutional identity — Baldwin informed ecclesiastical leaders about Bury’s existence and its position within England. Judging from the antiphons by Warner of Rebais and the quotation from Lambert, it appears that Bury’s position within England had been presented in a more favourable light than other English ecclesiastics might have agreed with. Even so, the result was that Bury became known outside of England, and this was done both to ensure support from ecclesiastics able to influence the papacy in conflict resolutions and to attract ecclesiastics and pilgrims to come to Bury St Edmunds.

The way that Bury’s institutional identity was constructed, and the way in which these audiences were taught about Bury, was through the reformulation of Edmund as a patron saint. Through the examples I have provided above, we can see that the way Edmund was formulated in texts at Bury was not static but subject to continuous development. In the first example, this was done through a manipulation of the narrative of Abbo’s Passio Eadmundi, where the division of the office into lessons provided an opportunity to create pauses in the narratives and — in the case of lesson five — an episodic starting point in which Edmund’s Christological dimension was emphasised. In the second example, parts of Edmund’s passion narrative are not only rendered in verse in the antiphon, but also modelled on an antiphon for John the Baptist in order to instil into the audience a sense of a typological — and thus collegial — connection between the two, serving ultimately to enhance Edmund’s efficaciousness. In the third example, we see how one feature of Edmund’s iconography — Edmund as a father — is elaborated upon and developed so that it takes on a more salient position within the cultural memory of Bury and makes him a father-figure for all of England, as well as England’s representative within the universal church, at least in the minds of ecclesiastics from outside of England.

These changes that were made to the figure of Saint Edmund and to the institutional identity of Bury St Edmunds were made possible by the format of the liturgical office, where the straightforward narrative of Passio Eadmundi was divided into smaller textual units whose performative context allowed for the instilling of a shared, unified vision of Saint Edmund’s history and characteristics into the minds of the audiences. Because of the performative context of the office, and its multisensorial fabric through its mixture of words and music, this authoritative image of Edmund and his house, Bury, could be infused more efficiently, and more widely, being accessible to any ecclesiastic who attended the office celebration. The very format of the office allowed for a reordering of the original narrative whereby new features could be inserted, and as we have seen in the examples above this is exactly what Baldwin and his successors tried to achieve.