Sunday, 20 March 2016

Saint Patrick: An Acceptable Saint in 12th-century England

As we have just witnessed the annual and ever-growing phenomenon of Saint Patrick's Day being celebrated all over the world (and not just by people of the Irish diaspora), I found it interesting to reflect that his cult had already spread beyond these shores in medieval times. Jocelin of Furness was one of three English writers who wrote a Life of Patrick in the twelfth century. I have already made a post on the conclusions of Professor Robert Bartlett on this subject here. The conclusion of another recent scholar is also worth considering in trying to put Jocelin's work into context:
In the 12th century the British Isles were free from hagiographical barriers: cults of Irish saints, notably Patrick and Brigid, were perfectly acceptable in England. No reader of the twelfth-century Life of Patrick by Jocelin of Furness, which was dedicated to the Ulster conquistador John de Courcy, as well as to northern Irish bishops, could avoid the message that Patrick the Briton's career belonged to Britain and Europe as well as to Ireland.
R. Frame, 'Exporting state and nation: being English in medieval Ireland' in L. Scales and O. Zimmer, eds., Power and the Nation in European History (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005), 155.

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