Patrons of That Place: The Cults of Anglo-Saxon Saints in Twelfth-Century Northumbria

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation examines the persistent cult of Anglo-Saxon saints after the Norman Conquest of 1066 in the medieval region of Northumbria; it investigates why the saints from the distant past and from a conquered people were so compelling in this contested border region. Using a thorough examination of a wide variety of sources, it argues that local concerns drove veneration. The saints who were most explicitly linked with specific places in the region, who were connected with other saints, and who had a local tradition for holiness were most likely to be venerated.

Chapter One sets out the parameters of the discussion and evaluates the wealth of surviving source material for the study of saints’ cults in the region. Chapter Two considers the region of Northumbria, setting out the particular geographical, political, and religious realities that defined the area. Political upheaval and dramatic religious change formed the context for the veneration of the saints. Three case studies of cults follow: the cult of Æbbe at Coldingham in Chapter Three, the cult of a group of bishops at Hexham in Chapter Four, and the cult of Oswald at Durham in Chapter Five. The cult of Æbbe reveals how an ancient figure with no particular reputation for holiness was celebrated as a saint long after her death. The cult of the Hexham bishops gives us a glimpse of the way local laity, Augustinian canons, and Cistercian monks all celebrated the local past. The cult of Oswald at Durham demonstrates how a widespread cult could be adapted for a particular local context. There is a wide variety of evidence that reveals diversity of belief and practice in the veneration of saints. Chapter Six returns to the relationship between place and cult and suggests that the concern with place, the connections among saints, and an on-going local tradition of sanctity are the reasons why the cults of these Anglo-Saxon saints were celebrated in the long twelfth century.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12042014-122556

Author Lauren Linn Whitnah
Advisor John Van Engen
Contributor Daniel Hobbins, Committee Member
Contributor Hildegund Muller, Committee Member
Contributor Amy Mulligan, Committee Member
Contributor John Van Engen, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Medieval Studies
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2014-08-29

Submission Date 2014-12-04
  • United States of America

  • Medieval History

  • Anglo-Latin Literature

  • British History

  • Hagiography

  • Saints’ Cults

  • Medieval Liturgy

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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