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Abbot Hadrian, in a Collection of Saints' Lives

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.233r

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 writings in the manuscript concern Augustine, 'Apostle of the English', first archbishop of Canterbury and founder of the monastery of Sts Peter and Paul (later St Augustine's), a considerable section of it tells of other Canterbury saints. The African-born abbot of Nerida (near Naples), Hadrian accompanied Theodore of Tarsus, the candidate for archbishop, to Canterbury and became the abbot of Sts Peter and Paul in 669. Hadrian's relics were enshrined at the monastery and were among those translated (moved) to a new tomb chapel in 1091, witnessed by Goscelin. Believed to have worked many miracles, Hadrian would have been venerated throughout the year but especially on his feast day, 9 January, when excerpts from his life and accounts of his miracles would have been read during the monastery's prayer services or offices.

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