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The Translation of St Mildred, in the 'Life of St Mildred'

The Translation of St Mildred, in the 'Life of St Mildred'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1205

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3908

Item number: f.51r

Length: 16.6

Width: 11.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

In the middle ages, tombs for relics of local saints could be upgraded because of belief in their miracles, as an expression of local or regional identity or if promotion of the saint became desirable to bring political and economic benefit to the area, assuming a really good tomb and miracles would bring in lots of pilgrims and royal support. These motivations often reinforced each other. Moving a saint's relics to a new and better tomb-shrine is called 'translation'. Mildred is one of a constellation of royal female saints from Kent who were members--and in most cases abbesses--of Minster-in-Thanet, a monastery founded by her mother, Ermenburga. Her sisters, Midlgytha and Milburge, were members, as well. After her death in 700, she was commemorated for her holiness. One of her successors, Edburga, translated Mildred's relics to the new church she had built in 759. It is believed that later on the relics were moved again to St Gregory's hospital, near St Augustine's monastery, Canterbury. St Augustine is mentioned several times in this manuscript of her life, suggesting that it belonged to that monastery. The story of the translation of Mildred's relics in 759 follows her 'Life' in the manuscript. Most of the 'Translation' story consists of high-flown praise of the saint. The style of the handwriting resembles that of St Augustine's and suggests a date early in the 12th century because it is mostly in the style used in the century after the Norman invasion, with a strong component of the style of late Anglo-Saxon England. The Normans did not ignore Anglo-Saxon saints but aided their memory with books like this so that they would be linked to the Christian history of their English kingdom.

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