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Saints’ Lives or Vitae sanctorum were a new and popular form of historical writing developed in Europe in the Middle Ages. Monastic institutions made collections of these sacred biographies and this one was probably copied at the monastery of Saint-Arnoul in the town of Crépy-en-Valois, Picardy, in the late 11th century. A number of widely-venerated saints, such as St Margaret and the twins, Sts Cosmo and Damian, together with less well-known local figures, like the sixth century bishop of Cambrai, St Gaugerius are included.

The volume opens with the life of the patron saint of France, St Denis or Dionysis, who, together with his companions, Eleutherius and Rusticus, was martyred in the third century by members of the pagan Parisi tribe, according to legend. The life of St Bathilde (b. 626, d. 680), devout queen of the Merovingians and founder-patron of early monastic institutions, begins with an initial ‘V’[erba], containing a picture of her holding a cross.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.