Rebecca Browett

The Cult of St. Æthelwold

Award: 
M.Phil
Supervisor(s): 

'Æthelwold was terrible as a lion to malefactors and the wayward… If ever zeal for the right compelled him to impose discipline of the law on his subjects, his very rage proceeded from love, not from cruelty…'

These words summarise the character of St Æthelwold, the Bishop of Winchester in tenth-century Anglo-Saxon England, who was revered as a saint after his death in 984.  Æthelwold’s cult is curious as it emerged despite the fact that he was a harsh and punishing character, known for ordering one of his monks to plunge his hand into boiling water to prove his obedience. Æthelwold’s unlikeable personality traits have dogged his reputation and lead historians to assume that the cult was as unpopular as the man, which has been disparagingly dismissed as unsuccessful.  My thesis seeks to address this oversight and to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Æthelwold’s cult, from his death until the English Reformation, and place it in context with the issues, policies and activities of the English Church during this period.

Rebecca graduated from the University of Kent in 2010 with a 2.1 BA in History and went on to achieve a Distinction for her MA in Medieval History from Durham University in 2012.