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Anonymous Old English Lives of Saints

Anonymous Old English Lives of Saints

Edited and translated by Johanna Kramer, Hugh Magennis, and Robin Norris

ISBN 9780674244641

Publication date: 05/12/2020

From the first centuries of Christianity, believers turned to the perfection modeled by saints for inspiration, and a tradition of recounting saints’ Lives flourished. The Latin narratives followed specific forms, dramatizing a virgin’s heroic resolve or a martyr’s unwavering faith under torture.

In early medieval England, saints’ Lives were eagerly received and translated into the vernacular. The stories collected here by unknown authors are preserved in manuscripts dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They include locally venerated saints like the abbess Seaxburh, as well as universally familiar ones like Nicholas and Michael the Archangel, and are set everywhere from Antioch to Rome, from India to Ephesus. These Lives also explore such topics as the obligations of rulers, marriage and gender roles, private and public devotion, the environment, education, and the sweep of human history. This volume presents new Old English editions and modern English translations of twenty-two unattributed saints’ Lives.


  • A welcome addition to the field…It will surely become the standard edition for anyone studying anonymous Old English saints’ lives.

    —Brandon W. Hawk, Speculum


  • Johanna Kramer is Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri.
  • Hugh Magennis is Professor Emeritus of English at Queen’s University Belfast.
  • Robin Norris is Associate Professor of English at Carleton University.

Book Details

  • 816 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press