Connecting Saints: Travel and Hagiography in the Northwestern Atlantic, 500-800

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation asks how and why connection, communication, exchange, and travel were such integral parts of early medieval hagiography in northern Europe and how this kind of religious travel fit into the larger picture of early medieval travel, which has previously focused on secular or commercial exchange. First, I argue that the way that people connected and traveled through networks of spiritual and biological kinship. In addition to these networks, travel was shaped by the interaction between micro-regions (such as Neustria in Francia or Northumbria in Anglo-Saxon England), which focuses less on individual saints and their movements are more on authors’ and audiences’ responses to travel within hagiographical texts. Second, I argue that the reason that travel was such an important part of hagiography was that saints’ knowledge of geographically distant places mirrored their knowledge of the divine; their holiness was as dependent upon their stature as miracle workers or ascetics as well as their stature as wanderers or travelers. From these questions and arguments, we get a picture of early medieval regions travel that reflects both the continuity and the change inherent in the “Transformation of the Roman World.” The continuity exists because the practicalities of travel changed little between antiquity and the early Middle Ages; not only did the currents and tides remain unchanged, but the technology of travel also remained stable. The changes in religious travel in the period 500 åÐ 800 particularly involved the direction of travel, with the early travelers focusing on the Mediterranean. Over time, this focus broadened to include northern Europe without excluding the Mediterranean basin. Travel and cultural exchange in this period involved the delicate negotiation of multiple and intersecting loyalties to God, to family and kin groups, to local and communities, and to secular and ecclesiastical authorities that provided economic advantages, societal benefits, and religious blessings. Religious travel often overlapped with secular travel and this dissertation’s analysis of hagiographical and religious sources complements previous important work on political and commercial travel.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07182011-131837

Author Courtney Luckhardt
Advisor Thomas F.X. Noble
Contributor Julia M.H. Smith, Committee Member
Contributor Olivia Remie Constable, Committee Member
Contributor John van Engen, Committee Member
Contributor Thomas F.X. Noble, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Medieval Studies
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2011-07-14

Submission Date 2011-07-18
  • United States of America

  • Francia

  • early medieval

  • Neustria

  • connection

  • Transformation of the Roman World

  • hagiography

  • travel

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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