Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bury St Edmunds and the Norman Conquest

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Bury St Edmunds and the Norman Conquest

Article excerpt

Bury St Edmunds and the Norman Conquest. Edited by Tom Licence. (Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, an imprint of Boydell Sc Brewer. 2014. Pp. xiv, 266. $99.00. ISBN 978-1-84383-931-6.)

The abbey of Bury St Edmunds, which grew up around the shrine of the last king of East Anglia, martyred by the Vikings in 869, was one of the most dominant and most wealthy monasteries in England. The essays in this volume commemorate the abbey in the context of the millennial anniversary of the death, in 1014, of the Danish king Swein Forkbeard who, according to legend, was slain by the hand of St. Edmund himself. Twelve essays illuminate the history of the abbey, which dominated East Anglia, in the years around the momentous events of 1066 and the subsequent Norman settlement of England. Bury was distinctive, as, by the Norman Conquest, it had a French abbot: Baldwin, monk of St. Denis and physician to Edward the Confessor. David Bates argues for Baldwin's importance in building the reputation of Edmund overseas and considers how the martyr-king and his abbey flourished under Norman patronage. Chapters by Thomas Waldman and Sarah Foot explore aspects of what Foot calls "the abbey's armoury of charters" (p. 31), the former looking at influences from St. Denis, and the latter arguing that Butys archive is distinctive both for the number of cartularies that have survived and for the monks' capacity for copying and recopying texts from the Anglo-Saxon period. Foot shows how these were put to good use, for instance, in the abbey's resistance to the ambitions of Bishop Herfast of East Anglia to relocate his see to Bury. Elizabeth van Houts draws our attention to the community around the abbey, in particular "the women of Bury St Edmunds" (p. 53), arguing compellingly for the particular circumstances that saw the emergence, by 1086, of a group of nearly thirty nonnae and poor women in the vicinity of the abbey. …

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