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Saint Guthlac: Wikis


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St. Guthlac holding the whip given to him by St. Bartholomew and, a demon at his feet. (The statue from the second tier of the Croyland Abbey's west front of the ruined nave; dates from the XVth century).

Saint Guthlac of Croyland (Old English: Gūðlāc; 673-714) was a Christian saint from Lincolnshire in England. He is particularly venerated in the Fens of eastern England.



Guthlac was the son of Penwalh or Penwald, a noble of the English kingdom of Mercia, and his wife Tette. His sister is also venerated as Saint Pega. As a young man, he fought in the army of Æthelred of Mercia and subsequently became a monk at Repton Monastery in Derbyshire at age twenty-four. Two years later he sought to live the life of a hermit, and moved out to the island of Croyland (now Crowland) on St. Bartholomew's Day, AD 699.

Guthlac built a small oratory and cells to live in in the side of a plundered barrow on the island, and he lived there the rest of his life until his death on April 11 in AD 714. Felix, writing within living memory of Guthlac, says that Guthlac dressed in animal skins, and the only nourishment he took was a scrap of barley bread and a small cup of muddy water after sunset. Ague and marsh fever assailed him. He lived in a barrow.

His pious and holy life became the talk of the land, and many people visited Guthlac during his life to seek spiritual guidance from him. He gave sanctuary to Æthelbald, future king of Mercia, who was fleeing from his cousin Ceolred. Guthlac predicted that Ethelbald would become king, and so Ethelbald promised to build Guthlac an abbey if his prophesy became true. Ethelbald did become king and, even though Guthlac had died two years previously, kept his word and started construction of Croyland Abbey on St. Bartholomew's Day, 716 AD. Guthlac's feast day is celebrated on April 11.

The Vita sancti Guthlaci is written in Latin by Felix. A short Old English sermon (Vercelli XXIII) and a longer prose translation into Old English are both based on Felix's Vita. There are also two poems in Old English known as Guthlac A and Guthlac B. The relationship of Guthlac A to Felix's Vita is debated, but Guthlac B is based on Felix's account of the saint's death. The story of Saint Guthlac is told pictorially in the Guthlac Roll, a set of detailed illustrations of the 12th century; it is kept in the British Library. Copies of it can be seen on display at Croyland Abbey.

The St Guthlac Fellowship

The quatrefoil above the West Door of the Croyland Abbey shows in relief scenes from the life of St. Guthlac. The sculpture dates from the middle years of the 13th century.
Croyland Abbey, Crowland
St. Guthlac's Church, Stathern.
St Guthlac's Church, Market Deeping.

Formed in 1987, the St Guthlac Fellowship is a group of churches which share a dedication to St Guthlac. The group comprises:[1]


Further reading

Primary sources
  • Felix, Vita Sancti Guthlaci, early eighth-century Latin prose Life of St Guthlac:
    • Colgrave, Bertram (ed. and tr.). Felix's Life of Saint Guthlac. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956.
  • Old English prose translation/adaptation (late ninth or early tenth century) of the Life of St Guthlac by Felix:
    • Gonser, P. (ed.). Das angelsächsische Prosa-Leben des heiligen Guthlac. Anglistische Forschungen 27. Heidelberg, 1909.
    • Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe (ed. and tr.). The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Life of St. Guthlac, Hermit of Crowland. London, 1848.
  • Two chapters from the Old English prose adaptation as incorporated into Vercelli Homily 23.
    • Scragg, D.G. (ed.). The Vercelli Homilies and Related Texts. EETS 300. Oxford: University Press, 1992.
  • Guthlac A and Guthlac B (Old English poems):
    • Roberts, Jane (ed.). The Guthlac Poems of the Exeter Book. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.
    • Krapp, G. and E.V.K. Dobbie (eds.). The Exeter Book. Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 3. 1936. 49-88
    • Bradley, S.A.J. (tr.). Anglo-Saxon Poetry. London: Everyman, 1982.
  • Harley Roll or Guthlac Roll (BL, Harleian Roll Y.6)
    • Warner, G.F. (ed.). The Guthlac Roll. Roxburghe Club, 1928. 25 plates in facsimile.
Secondary sources
  • Olsen, Alexandra. Guthlac of Croyland: a Study of Heroic Hagiography. Washington, 1981.
  • Powell, Stephen D. "The Journey Forth: Elegiac Consolation in Guthlac B." English Studies 79 (1998): 489-500.
  • Roberts, Jane. "The Old English Prose Translation of Felix’s Vita Sancti Guthlaci." Studies in Earlier Old English Prose: Sixteen Original Contributions, ed. Paul E. Szarmach. Albany, 1986. 363-79.
  • Roberts, Jane. "An inventory of early Guthlac materials." Mediaeval Studies 32 (1970): 193–233.
  • Sharma, Manish. "A Reconsideration of Guthlac A: The Extremes of Saintliness." Journal of English and Germanic Philology 101 (2002): 185-200.
  • Shook, Laurence K. "The Burial Mound in 'Guthlac A'." Modern Philology 58, 1 (Aug., 1960): 1-10.
  • Soon Ai, Low. "Mental Culturation in Guthlac B." Neophilologus 81 (1997): 625-36.
  • Roberts, Jane. "Guthlac of Crowland, a Saint for Middle England." Fursey Occasional Paper 3. Norwich: Fursey Pilgrims, 2009. 1-36. [1]

External links



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