The First Arrival of the Saxons and the Normans


This volume includes a diverse range of texts, two of which were copied in northern England in the middle of the 12th century: the Libellus de primo Saxonum vel Normannorum adventu (Tract on the First Arrival of the Saxons and the Normans); and part of the Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum (History of the English and Danish Kings) composed by Symeon of Durham (d. c. 1128), the precentor of Durham Cathedral and a noted historian. Durham was a major centre for book production and the composition of historical works, and it is possible that this portion of the manuscript was made there.

These historical works show how post-Conquest writers continued to be interested in the long-distant past. An illustration shows Woden, the most important of the Germanic pagan gods and the reputed ancestor of many historical and pseudo-historical Anglo-Saxon kings. Six of them surround Woden, including the kings of Wessex, Sussex and Kent in southern England, Mercia (corresponding roughly to the Midlands) and Bernicia (part of Northumbria). This imagery is in the tradition of earlier royal genealogies and of the writing of the monk and historian Bede (d. 735), in which he claimed that a figure called Woden (Uoden) was an ancestor of the royal families of many regions, along with Christian forefathers such as Adam. 

The manuscript also contains an obituary calendar, recording the death-dates of figures associated with the abbey at Beauchief, and a collection of saints’ Lives. 

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

Full title:
The First Arrival of the Saxons and the Normans
3rd quarter of the 12th century, Northern England
Symeon of Durham
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Caligula A VIII

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