The Anglo-Saxon and European background

Tom Licence

in Hermits and Recluses in English Society, 950–1200

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592364
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595639 | DOI:
The Anglo-Saxon and European background

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter provides the context, first by examining the Anglo-Saxon background (the tradition of reverence for anchorites in Anglo-Saxon England); then by tracing the growth of the eremitic movement from its origins in tenth-century Italy into Normandy and France, where ‘new hermits’ multiplied. It shows how society was already conditioned to admire anchorites, and that during the eleventh century a movement arose to revive the asceticism of the desert fathers, in hope of securing salvation. Famous anchorites were canonized, and their vocation fast won recognition as a recommended route to sanctity. Identifying spheres where prominent hermits influenced lay rulers, moulded patterns of spirituality, or won promotion and influence within the church, this chapter shows how their ideas developed, took hold, and spread.

Keywords: saints' cults; desert fathers; Italy; normandy; new hermits; sin

Chapter.  11196 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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