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Memory, myth, and creating the cult of St Æbbe of Coldingham

Salter, R. ORCID: (2020) Memory, myth, and creating the cult of St Æbbe of Coldingham. Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, 9. pp. 31-49. ISSN 2034-3515

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1484/J.JMMS.5.120395


During the twelfth century, Durham Cathedral Priory founded a dependent daughter house at Coldingham, Berwickshire. In founding Coldingham Priory, the Durham monks encountered an older monastic heritage present in the peninsular: that of the seventh-century St Æbbe (d. 683). Æbbe’s own monastic foundation at Coludi urbs had long since been destroyed, but her presence had not entirely dispersed from the region and, following the rediscovery of her tomb and surviving relics, her cult was established at Coldingham. By the close of the twelfth century, this cult had become predominantly focused on a clifftop oratory two miles from the priory where, it was believed, Æbbe’s original monastery had stood. The case study of the creation of Æbbe’s cult offers important insight into the ways in which myths and memories were remembered, rewritten, and adapted in order that the priory could connect its present to its monastic predecessor. In the case of Coldingham Priory, this took the form of establishing a spiritual heritage that linked the new priory to the saintly abbess. This article highlights the ways in which Coldingham Priory presented their connection to their spiritual ancestor, Æbbe, considering how a balance was found between monastic and lay association with the cult, and revealing how the cult’s establishment suggests that the monks of Coldingham were pressing for greater independence than Durham was willing to grant.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS)
Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Health Humanities (CHH)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:101888

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