Collection of homilies


Most sermons (or homilies) in this collection are copies of earlier ones in Old English. But this one is different. It is an English translation of a Latin sermon in which we can see many of the changes that signal the end of Old English. The rhythm and pattern of the sentences are beginning to sound distinctly modern. That is why linguists have called it the first text in Middle English. The sermon was given by Ralph d’Escures, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the 12th century. 

The homily begins 'Se godspellere Lucas sægð on þyssen godspelle' ('The evangelist Luke says in this gospel'). Word order is identical to present-day English, and remains so across much of the text. The origins of the word ‘gospel’ would have been clearer in the 12th century: god (good) combined with spel (news or story).

Full title:
A collection of Homilies; Isidore of Seville, Synonyma; Boethius, De consolatione philosophie (excerpts); Fides sancti Ambrosii episcopi; Fides sancti Gregorii pape; Fides beati Gregorii Neocesariae ; Pelagius, Libellus fidei calculation for the year 912.
Mid 9th century-12th century
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton Vespasian D. xiv

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Middle English

Article by:
David Crystal
Language and voice

David Crystal explains how Middle English developed from Old English, changing its grammar, pronunciation and spelling and borrowing words from French and Latin.

Saints and sanctity in medieval England

Article by:
Sarah Salih
Faith and religion

Sarah Salih explores how medieval Europeans memorialised the lives of real and fictional Christian saints, transforming them into the superheroes and celebrities of the Middle Ages.

Religion in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Article by:
Alison Hudson

From paganism to Christianity, we explore the religions of Anglo-Saxon England.

Related collection items