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E06657: Aldhelm, in his prose On Virginity, names *Victoria and Anatolia (martyrs of Picenum (central Italy), S01406) – whose names are read out in churches 'through all the corners of the world' on their feast day – as exemplary virgins. Written in Latin in southern Britain, for the nuns at the monastery at Barking (south-east Britain), c. 675/686.

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posted on 29.09.2018, 00:00 by bsavill
Aldhelm, prose On Virginity, 52

Nec praetereunda censeo sanctarum virginum Anatoliae et Victoriae praeconia, quarum rumores et prodigiorum privilegia per totos mundi cardines longiuscule crebrescunt, dum scedarum apicibus, quando rotante anni circulo natalicia earundem catholici celebrant, in pulpito ecclesiae recitantur [...]

'Nor do I think that the renown of the holy virgins ANATOLIA and VICTORIA should be by-passed: their fame and the uniqueness of their miracles spread far and wide through all the corners of the world so long as their names are read out from the written characters (of service-books) from the pulpit of the Church, when catholic (Christians), in the revolving cycle of the year, celebrate their birthdays [...]'

Text: Ehwald 1919, 308. Translation: Lapidge and Herren 1979, 119-21.

History

Evidence ID

E06657

Saint Name

Victoria, Anatolia and Audax, martyrs of Picenum in central Italy : S01406

Saint Name in Source

Victoria, Anatolia

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

675

Evidence not after

686

Activity not before

675

Activity not after

686

Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Major author/Major anonymous work

Aldhelm

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Liturgical invocation

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Source

Aldhelm’s prose treatise On Virginity (De Virginitate), for Abbess Hildelith and the nuns of Barking (south-east Britain), survives in twenty manuscripts, the earliest of which are 9th c. Together with its later, poetic counterpart, it forms what Bede described in 731 as a ‘twinned work’ (opus geminatum), although there is a notable difference between the content and style of the two sections, the second part constituting more than a straightforward ‘versification’ of the first (see E06659). Aldhelm (ob. 709/10) appears to have been a son of Centwine, king of the Gewisse or West Saxons (south-west Britain) from 676 until 682/5, when he abdicated and retired to a monastery. We do not know when Aldhelm himself took religious vows, but he definitely attended, perhaps for many years, Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian’s school at Canterbury (from shortly after 670?), and possibly studied at the Irish foundation of Iona, off the coast of north-west Britain (perhaps in the 660s?). Around 682/6 he became abbot of the West Saxon monastery of Malmesbury, and in 689 probably accompanied King Cædwalla on his pilgrimage to Rome (see E05710 and E06661). In 705/6 he was appointed ‘bishop west of the wood’ in his home kingdom (later identifiable with the diocese of Sherborne). (For all aspects of Aldhelm’s career see now Lapidge, 2007.) At the core of On Virginity is a lengthy catalogue of exemplary virgins, first men (Old Testament prophets; New Testament figures; martyrs and other saints of the Roman Empire), then women (Mary; martyrs and other saints of the Empire), followed by some remarks on a group of non-virginal, Old Testament sancti who in some sense prefigured Christ. As with Bede in his Marytrology (725/31), Aldhelm makes good use of Roman Martyrdoms and Acts in his accounts of many post-Biblical saints. Although he does not seem to have had the same range of hagiographical material at hand as Bede later would at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow (north-east Britain), his use of the texts is more creative, and he extensively reworks them in his characteristically florid prose style. The prose On Virginity presents difficulties with dating, but the author’s reference to himself in its preface as only a ‘servant’ (bernaculus) of the Church would seem to place it before his abbacy in 682/6 (ibid., 67-9). Meanwhile – if the twelfth-century chronicler John of Worcester is correct – Aldhelm’s chief dedicatee Hildelith only appears to have taken control over Barking in 675, thus allowing us to date the work cautiously to somewhere within 675/86. This is significant, since it suggests that the many Martyrdoms which Aldhelm used among his sources (including several translated from the Greek) were available to him in southern Britain before his probable visit to Rome in 689.

Discussion

Aldhelm's main source for this passage comes from the hagiographical cycle The Martyrdom of Calocerus, Parthenius, Victoria, Anatolia and Audax (E02486) (cf. Lapidge and Herren, 1979, 178).

Bibliography

Edition: Ehwald, R., Aldhelmi opera (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 15; Berlin, 1919). Translation: Lapidge, M., and Herren, M., Aldhelm, The Prose Works (Cambridge, 1979). Further reading: Lapidge, M., "The Career of Aldhelm," Anglo-Saxon England 36 (2007), 15-69.

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