OF THE AUSTRALIAN EARLY MEDIEVAL ASSOCIATION
VOLUME 1 - ABSTRACTS, WITH FULL TEXT WHERE INDICATED
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The erotic poetry of the Exeter Book
Quoting from Pauline texts concerning marital continence, Pope Gregory the Great, in his Pastoralis, warned that it was better to fall upon 'the soft bed of marriage rather than the hard earth of fornication' [397.22-23]. The legal implications of this admonition are borne out by close study of medieval European law codes, but the social implications have excited less interest, especially in relation to the erotic landscape of the Anglo-Saxons. This paper will seek to partially illuminate that landscape by surveying some Anglo-Saxon poems that deal with sexual relationships. These poems - several of them narrated in a feminine voice and thereby, perhaps, implying female authorship - catalogue a range of physical and emotional responses to love, lust, marriage and infidelity. A close reading of this poetry reveals a discourse that embraces the aesthetic of the sensual and argues for the acceptance of erotica within the genres of the West Saxon poetic corpus.
Threshold to the gospels: the carpet page in the Book of Kells
Thresholds and entrances form defining spaces between the external and the internal. From ancient times, belief in the vulnerability of open buildings and spaces to spirits, good and evil, led to superstitions surrounding entrances and thresholds as places in need of protection. In a religious context, these defining spaces became a boundary between the secular and the sacred. The symbolic barriers of thresholds and entrances were often marked with disorientating designs and spells, petitions and prayers, aimed at ensuring that only the benign entered. With particular emphasis on the patterns and symbolism of folio 33r, the carpet page in the Book of Kells, this paper will examine the development of carpet pages, one of the standard features to be found in the early Insular illuminated gospel manuscripts.
Aspects of the Cáin: Adomnán's Lex Innocentium
Cáin Adomnáin was promulgated at the Synod of Birr, Ireland, in 697 CE. This law was a clever fusion of secular compensatory legislation and ecclesiastical canon and penitential law. As a secular law enforced by ecclesiastics, it may have been the first of its kind in Britain and Ireland. It has many interesting features; not least of which is the list of 91 signatories, which reads as a 'who's who' of the period. The aim of this paper is to look at the possible impact of Cáin Adomnáin: What were the advantages and disadvantages accruing from its promulgation and why was it created? This will require a review of the period in which it was created, in particular the position of the Columban familia in the enactment of the law.
British Christian continuity in Anglo-Saxon England: the case of Sherborne/Lanprobi
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A feature of recent work on early Anglo-Saxon England has been an emerging consensus that a substantial British population was subsumed under and persisted within Anglo-Saxon territorial boundaries as they expanded to the west and north. In such circumstances, it has been argued, British identity and culture continued within the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. If there was a substantial British substrate, some evidence of their continued presence and influence should certainly be expected. The concept of continuity, however, is one fraught with problems concerning both its meaning and the evidence that would be necessary to establish such an eventuality. This is particularly the case in the ecclesiastical domain, where it is currently popular to assert that the Anglo-Saxon border kingdoms - Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria - were exposed to a considerable degree of British ecclesiastical influence prior to the arrival of Roman and Irish/Columban missionaries. The aim of this paper is to explore some of the difficulties associated with the term 'continuity' by examining the case of Sherborne, an early West Saxon monastery in Dorset, and the claim that it originated as a British community called Lanprobi.
Pope Gregory the Great and the Irish
John R C Martyn
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Pope Gregory the Great's apparently close links with Columban and the Irish clergy between 592 and 601 are revealed through five of his letters: 2.43 (July 592), an encyclical sent to the Irish clergy, almost certainly including Columban; 4.18 (March 594) about an Irish priest valuable to the Pope in Rome; 5.17 (November 594) about Columban's reception of Gregory's 'Pastoral Care'; 9.11 (October 600) praising Columban; and 11.52 (July 601) about an Irish Bishop Quiritus. My version of Columban's letter to the Pope follows, with brief analysis of his irony, word-play and literary style. It shows how the Irishman's erudite and very rhetorical letter would have tickled the Pope's fancy rather than offend him.
Computus digitorum for the calculation of Easter
Bede's The Reckoning of Time is about computus, the science of measuring time and constructing a Christian calendar. The Reckoning of Time is the earliest comprehensive treatment of computus that has survived. All earlier calendar literature was both fragmented and partisan in character. The Reckoning of Time begins with the representation of numbers for the purpose of calculation. This is achieved through finger signs, computus digitorum. Bede claimed that the hand was used to represent numbers up to 9999 while other parts of the body were used to represent numbers beyond 10 000. Exactly how these calculations were executed with these hand and body signs is not explained in the book. However, ancient and medieval authors gave hints as to the form of these calculations. This paper first discusses the problem of dating Easter. Second, it examines Bede's representation of numbers through hand and body gestures. Third, it considers some of the hints to the method of calculation using these gestures for the purposes of calculating the dates for Easter, and finally the paper explains how Bede formulated the calculations that were needed to date Easter.
Anthologists, poets and scribes in Anglo-Saxon England
The appearance of high-quality digital facsimile editions of the surviving collections of Anglo-Saxon poetry offers scholars the opportunity to take a closer look at the work habits of the anthologists, poets and scribes responsible for their production. The evidence suggests that the anthologists at times did more than merely select and arrange poetry found in earlier collections; they may have actually adapted earlier poems and made additions to them in order to establish a rationale for their new anthologies. It is also apparent that poems were freely adapted during the course of transmission, perhaps in quite short periods of time. Finally, the discovery of hundreds of previously unnoticed alterations in the poetic codices demands a reconsideration of the competence of Anglo-Saxon scribes and raises the question of whether foreign scribes (and artists) may have been involved in manuscript production in England during the Monastic Reform period.
The political and ecclesiastical extent of Scottish Dalriada
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The Irish settlement of Dalriada on the west coast and islands of Scotland was formed sometime around the fifth century. It continued to exist as a distinct entity until at least the ninth century. Many of the principal sites within Dalriada have long been recognised, such as the political centre at Dunadd or the ecclesiastical centre on Iona. However, there is less clarity about the fringes of the territory over the 500 or so years of its existence. This paper discusses the documentary and, more particularly, the material evidence for the extent of Scottish Dalriada. Particular attention is given to Dalriada's relationship to waterways, islands and coastal areas. Indications are sought concerning the political boundaries of the territory. Against this background, the geographical extent of the ecclesiastical organisation of Scottish Dalriada is considered.
Vita mortalis: Augustine of Hippo's spirituality of tears
Saint Augustine of Hippo was born in 354 and died in 430. Already by his lifetime, a Christian spirituality of tears had developed established conventions. This paper locates Augustine's spirituality of tears within contemporary tradition, offering a brief overview of the latter's development, from the Bible to the ascetics and the ultimate shift to contemplative goals. It acknowledges Augustine's indebtedness to ascetic teachings, but views his rejection of the contemplative model in a positive light, arguing that it derives from his unique view of the human moral situation. Augustine's spirituality of tears is structured by an alternative spiritual model, one that represents, indeed, a different means of progression per crucem ad lucem [through the cross to the light], but one to which tears are no less central.