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Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian, in a Collection of Saints' Lives

Archbishop Theodore and Abbot Hadrian, in a Collection of Saints' Lives

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Vespasian B XX

Item number: f.222r

Length: 24.5

Width: 15

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

Once belonging to the monastery of St Augustine in Canterbury, this manuscript has a collection of saints' lives, all of them associated with Canterbury. Several of the lives are the work of the biographer Goscelin, a Flemish benedictine monk who came to England with Hermann, Bishop of Salisbury, probably in 1053. He went on the road to gather material from all over the kingdom, writing the lives of the English saints as he travelled, finally settling at Canterbury. This manuscript may have been copied within a decade of his death, at Canterbury, making it an important record of his work and evidence of the cults of saints there.

While most of the manuscript's writings concern St Augustine, the Roman monk whom Pope Gregory the Great sent in the late 6th century to convert the Anglo-Saxons and who became the first archbishop of the English, one section has lives of the archbishops of Canterbury and other saints important to the monastery. On this page, an account of the arrival of Theodore of Tarsus and his colleague Hadrian begins. Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek-speaking Syrian, furthered Christianity in Britain by organising the church and its administration as well as bringing the intellectual culture of the Mediterranean to Kent. Hadrian, the African-born abbot of Nerida near Naples, became abbot of the monastery of Sts Peter and Paul (later St Augustine's). The scene opens with a solar eclipse, foretelling the death of archbishop Deusdedit in 664. The three-pointed decoration on the tail of the first letter refers to earlier Anglo-Saxon art--a reminder of the monastery's ties to the beginning of Christianity in England.

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