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Demise of the Wolf – Medieval manuscripts weblog

Demise of the Wolf – Medieval manuscripts weblog

2023-07-11 17:13:27

Precisely a thousand years in the past, on 28 Could 1023, Lupus – ‘The Wolf’ – died in York. Lupus was the punning Latin identify utilized by the prolific author, cleric and royal adviser, Archbishop Wulfstan.

On the finish of his entry on Wulfstan within the Oxford Dictionary of Nationwide Biography, Patrick Wormald wrote that analysis on Wulfstan’s manuscripts within the twentieth century had reworked him ‘from simply one other likely worthy Anglo-Saxon prelate into one of many half dozen most important figures even within the crowded and dramatic historical past of eleventh-century England’. Deciding on an inventory of the opposite 5 most important figures is a distracting little sport.

The opening of Wulfstan's Sermon to the English.

Wulfstan known as himself Lupus (‘The Wolf’): Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 110r

Wulfstan, who had been bishop of London from 996 to 1002, grew to become bishop of Worcester from 1002 to 1016 and archbishop of York from 1002 till his demise in 1023. He had been a number one non secular and political determine within the turbulent reign of King Æthelred the Unready (r. 978–1016). Though the Danish conquest of England by Cnut in 1016 noticed a turnover within the English the Aristocracy, Wulfstan remained each a key royal adviser and archbishop of York underneath the brand new regime. He drafted legal guidelines for Cnut, as he had for Æthelred, and launched reforms of each church and lay society.

Wulfstan’s personal handwriting survives in quite a few manuscripts, and a Latin poem praising him in a single such quantity (Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV), is considered in his personal hand. The poem mentions Wulfstan’s identify admiringly in every verse. It contains the road, Est laus wulfstano mea pulchritudo benigno pontifici cui sit dominus sine effective serenus ([This poem’s] magnificence is reward for the type Bishop Wulfstan, my Lord be endlessly merciful to him).

A Latin praise poem written by Wulfstan.

A poem praising Wulfstan, apparently written in his personal hand: Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 148v

Whereas no modern biographical account of Wulfstan’s life survives to set alongside the poem, we will reconstruct his life and profession from his different works and from the manuscripts that he annotated. They present him to be a busy, stressed determine, accumulating authorized, liturgical and educational texts to be used within the many crises of his day.

Wulfstan’s ‘letter-book’ (additionally Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV), compiled when he was Archbishop of York, features a assortment of letters written round 200 years beforehand by the royal adviser and abbot, Alcuin (d. 804). Alcuin had despatched recommendation to the English archbishops and to King Æthelred of Northumbria (r. 774–779, 789–796). He warned of the perils of sin, which he believed had led to Viking raids as divine punishment for the wickedness of the English. As Wulfstan was adviser to his personal King Æthelred throughout one other interval of Danish invasion, he likely recognised the analogies between Alcuin’s occasions and his personal.

The opening of Wulfstan's letterbook.

The opening of Wulfstan’s letter ebook: Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 114r

Wulfstan took these classes to coronary heart in his personal time and drew upon Alcuin in his most well-known work, Sermo Lupi advert Anglos quando Dani maxime persecuti sunt eos (The Sermon of the Wolf to the English when the Danes had been persecuting them most). On this barnstorming speech, he warned the those that they may lose their kingdom except they repented from sin:

Leofan males, gecnawað þæt soð is. Ðeos worold is on ofste, and hit nealæcð þam ende, and þy hit is on worolde aa swa leng swa wyrse. And swa hit sceal nyde for folces synnan ær antecristes tocyme yfelian swyþe, and huru hit wyrð þænne egeslic and grimlic broad on worolde.

Beloved males, recognise what’s true: this world is in haste and approaches its finish; and due to this fact, on this world issues all the time worsen the longer they final. And so, it should by necessity deteriorate drastically earlier than the approaching of the Antichrist, due to the folks sins, and certainly it’ll then be horrible and grim broadly on the earth. 

The opening of Wulfstan's sermon to the English.

The Sermo Lupi advert Anglos (Sermon of the Wolf to the English): Cotton MS Nero A I, f. 110r

This manuscript additionally comprises law-codes, drafted by Wulfstan for Æthelred and Cnut. It contains the earliest surviving copy of legal guidelines (generally known as I–II Cnut) issued in Cnut’s identify at a gathering at Winchester round 1020 or 1021. These legal guidelines are essentially the most intensive document of legislation in England earlier than the Norman Conquest. They drew on earlier English kings’ law-codes, and this copy, made within the third quarter of the eleventh century, is now sure with copies of earlier law-codes that Wulfstan used and annotated.

An English law-code of King Cnut drafted by Wulfstan.

A law-code of King Cnut drafted by Wulfstan: Cotton MS Nero A I, f. 16r

We will see different features of Wulfstan’s actions in certainly one of his personal liturgical books (Cotton MS Claudius A III). It is a pontifical, a service ebook for the rites carried out by a bishop. Wulfstan included in it Latin and Outdated English variations of an Æthelred legislation code that he had drafted. He appears to have added in his personal hand the names of King Æthelred and himself between the traces of the textual content.

See Also

An Old English law-code of King Æthelred with added names written by Wulfstan.

A law-code of King Æthelred drafted by Wulfstan, with the added names of King Æthelred and Wulfstan: Cotton MS Claudius A III, f. 35r

In different manuscripts, Wulstan’s annotations present him minutely altering the wording of his personal sermons, in addition to correcting and supplementing the texts of others. He additionally oversaw the compilation of the primary cartulary gathering collectively proof of presents of property to the cathedral priory of Worcester and leases of its land.

A page from the first cartulary of Worcester containing copies of leases.

Copies of leases within the first cartulary of Worcester: Cotton MS Tiberius A XIII, f. 87v

The manuscripts linked to Wulfstan reveal the multifaceted function of an early medieval bishop, chargeable for pastoral care in his diocese and for the schooling and disciplining of the clergy, managing property, taking part on the nationwide stage as a significant voice on the royal council and advising on the non secular welfare of the dominion.

Though Wulfstan died in York on 28 Could 1023, he was buried, in accordance along with his needs, within the fenland abbey at Ely.

Claire Breay

Comply with us on Twitter @BLMedieval

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