Proving the dead: doubt and skepticism in the late medieval lives of saints Æthelthryth and Edith

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Anglo-Saxon women wielded a remarkable amount of power in the early English church. They founded some of the country’s most influential institutions, and modern Christians continue to venerate many of

Anglo-Saxon women wielded a remarkable amount of power in the early English church. They founded some of the country’s most influential institutions, and modern Christians continue to venerate many of them as saints. Their path to canonization, however, was informal—especially compared to men and women who were canonized after Pope Gregory IX’s decree in 1234 that reserved those powers for the pope. Many of Anglo-Saxon England’s most popular saints exhibited behaviors that, had they been born later, would have disqualified them from canonization. This project examines how the problematic lives of St. Æthelthryth of Ely and St. Edith of Wilton were simultaneously doubted and adopted by post-Norman Christians. Specifically, it considers the flawed ways that the saints, petitioners, and their communities were simultaneously doubted and legitimized by late-medieval hagiographers.