Welcome to the discussion forum of Ða Engliscan Gesiðas for all matters relating to the history, language and culture of Anglo-Saxon England. I hope it will provide a useful source of information, stimulate research, and be of real help. Ða Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions) maintains a strictly neutral line on all modern and current political and religious matters and it does not follow any particular interpretation of history. Transgression of this Rule will not be tolerated. Any posts which are perceived as breaking this Rule will be deleted with immediate effect without explanation.

Author Topic: Romeward Bound  (Read 4463 times)


  • Guest
Romeward Bound
« on: May 15, 2019, 03:26:21 PM »

On Monday I took receipt of Alfred the Wise ( ISBN 0 85991 515 8, D. S. Brewer 1997, edited by Jane Roberts and Janet L. Nelson) subtitled Studies in honour of Janet Bately from the interlibrary loan service and already it is, in the words of Adrian Mole, dead good.
One study is titled Anglo-Saxon Entries in the ‘Liber Vitae’ of Brescia by Simon Keynes.  It may be of special interest to ġesīþas who have travelled in the Alps.
Check any map of Italy and you will soon see that Brescia is a town in northern Italy or Lombardy, but about 100 miles to the east of the Pilgrim Route(s) taken by most Old English pilgrims to Rome.  “Route(s)” because, thanks to the map on folio 102, I see they had a choice of two.  The shorter but harder one crosses the Alps from Besançon in Burgundy and passes between the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc and takes the pilgrim over St Bernhard’s Pass, by Aosta, and down to Vercelli and thence to Pavia, the capital of Lombardy.  There Boethius was entombed and, in AD 888, so King Alfred’s sister, Queen Ethelswith of Mercia would be after the Fall of Mercia to the Vikings in AD 874.  Ġesīþas may also know that Pavia also had a xenodochium or pilgrims’ hostel, called St Mary of the Britons, because it put up pilgrims from the British Isles.
The longer route is easier if less scenic because it has fewer mountains in the way You turn right/ westerly at Besançon for Lyon, take a left for a lower pass near Mont Ceris so as to come down into Turin; then left until the Po, right along the Po until you come to Pavia-on-the-Po. 

Misled by common sense, I always assumed that King Athelwulf of Wessex took either of these, shorter routes on the two occasions the young Prince Alfred visited Rome.

However, as I have learned from Simon Keynes, these are no grounds for doubting that King Athelwulf and his entourage passed through Brescia using a pilgrim route frequented rather by German, Raetian ( Swiss) and other Christians from northern and central Europe.  This crosses the Alps from St Gallen, across Lake Constance from the imperial palace complex at Reichanau, goes via Pfäfers, Chur and Chiavenna to Lake Como, then down to Bergamo and thence to Brescia. 
First and foremost the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does say that King Athelwulf went “with great state” and according to a local chronicler he was “honourably received” by King Charles the Bald of the Franks.  So one may imagine reasons of state why, on the way out, he may have wished to visit courts in the German Kulturkreis north of the Alps, and pious and historical reasons why his pilgrimage may have taken in shrines to and foundations by Old English missionaries, such as Mainz, who converted the ancestors of the Germans and Dutch and some of the Austrians and Swiss to Christianity.  Keynes himself mentions a visit by Bishop Coenwald of Worcester to Reichenau and St Gallen in AD 929.  Also, since we are talking about rich and powerful people, why rule out just-plain wanderlust?   Would any Old English king go all the way to Rome just for a weekend?
Certainly young Alfred would have seen the sights, crossing the Alps by that route.
Evidence for King Athelwulf and his court taking that route takes the form of his, Alfred’s and other Old English names entered in the Liber Vitae of St Salvatore’s monastery in Brescia.  Keynes writes, “The first pair of names in the left-hand column denotes Æthelred ( ‘Ederath’) and Alfred ( ‘Elfr&h’); .... The entry in the right-and column refers explicitly to Æthelwulf, king of the West Saxons ( 839-58), here styled ‘king of the English’ ( ‘Ædæluulf . rex . anglorum’), who is well known to have journeyed to Rome in 855.”  This Æthelred/ ‘Ederath’ seems to be young Alfred’s elder brother who became king of Wessex in AD 865 and died in AD 871, bringing Alfred to the throne.
Furthermore, a “Burgur&h . rex .” and an “Adelsuith . regina” are recorded later in the same century. “The names which constitute the rest of the group are recognisably English” as were others with King Athelwulf and his sons’ names. “[ I]t is thus entirely appropriate to find Burgred and Æthelswith registered as a pair in the ‘Liber Vitae’, at a point in the internal chronology of the book that fits well enough with the presumption that they were visiting Brescia of their way to Rome; and one might be disposed to imagine that the royal party was following the route which had been taken nearly twenty years previously by Æthelswith’s father and brother.”
Thickening the plot is the fact that, as Keynes says here, that xenodochium in Pavia I mentioned, St Mary of the Britons, was a daughter house of St Salvatore in Brescia. 
Had King Alfred’s pilgrimages taken him through Germany as a boy, this suggests an answer to a question raised by Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge in their compendium Alfred the Great ( ISBN 0-14-044409-2, 1983 Penguin Books).  To that line of King Alfred’s from the preface of Pastoral Care in reference to Christian scripture, “all the other Christian peoples turned some part of them into their own language”, they remark “There is no certainty about what translations Alfred is here referring to. The Bible was translated into Gothic by Ulfilas in the fourth century, but Alfred is unlikely to have known of this work.  It is more likely that he knew of one of the translations made in Germany during the ninth century: a prose translation of the gospel story ( based on Tatian’s Diatessaron in East Franconian made at Fulda c. 830; a metrical ... gospel story ( similarly based on the Diatessaron) in Old Saxon made during the decade 830-40, perhaps at Werden, known as the Heliand; and a metrical version of the gospels in Rhenish Franconian made by the monk Otfrid of Weissenburg sometime between 863 and 871.  ....  Alfred may have known of one or all these translations through his continental helpers, Grimbald and John the Old Saxon. See also Wormald, ‘Uses of Literacy’, p. 106.”   
As I have remarked elsewhere, this Diatessaron is a pick’n’mix gospel editing all the best incidents and dialogue into a continuous narrative.  Says Wikipedia, “this harmony, the Codex Fuldensis, survives in the monastic library at Fulda, where it served as the source text for vernacular harmonies in Old High German, Eastern Frankish and Old Saxon ( the alliterative poem ‘Heliand’).” Old English pilgrims definitely visited Fulda, where St Boniface’s tomb was.  The hot springs at Aachen didn’t exactly put our lot off either, if my impressions serve.
Also I have since ascertained that Gothic-language bibles still existed in King Alfred’s day.  Seemingly there’s nothing so poisonously Arian about the Gothic translation as to threaten their survival.  However they do seem to be very few and, for no reason I have yet discovered, the only ones I could nail were gathering dust in Carolingian monasteries; not Italian or Balkan ones, in the geographical footprint of “the Kingdom of the Goths and the Romans”, as one might have expected. 
So maybe the young Prince Alfred knew of German translations from first hand, and maybe even of Gothic bibles, after all.
The moral right of the author to be identified as a hunt supporter has been asserted.


  • Guest
Re: Romeward Bound
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2019, 03:44:36 PM »
Pilgrimslog Supplemental:
Another book the long loan came up with for me on Monday was A Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages ( ISBN 978 90 04 18354 4, Koninklijke Brill 2012) edited by N. H. Kaylor and P. E. Phillips and yes that, too, is dead good.
In the chapter ‘Boethius’s Influence on German Literature to c.1500’ by Christine Hehle, she says of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy that, “Twenty-six manuscripts from the 9th to the 13th centuries are known  that contain German glosses, and most of them are from the 10th and 11th centuries.  Geographically, Southern Germany prevails: eight manuscripts are from the Alemannic region ( St Gall and Einseldeln), seven from the Bavarian language area ( Regensburg, Tegernsee, Salzburg, St Florian, Heiligenkreuz), and six from the Main-Frankish region ( Cologne and Echternach)” etc. 
Of course the young Prince Alfred could have heard about the Consolation of Philosophy before he left home and it doesn’t jump out and wave at you why German churchmen should mention it to his father’s court if it did go on circuit around English-connected shrines and foundations ( such as Tegernsee) or English-connected courts ( such as the ducal court of Saxony) in the German Kulturkreis
Yet it so happens this seems inherently feasible and all the time Boethius’ tomb is waiting for them over the Alps, at Pavia. 
So... I’m just saying.
The moral right of the author to be identified as the model for the Turin Shroud has been asserted.