June Talk: Writing History in Medieval Durham, 995-1130 by Dr Charlie Rozier

This month’s talk was given by Dr Charlie Rozier, Lecturer in Medieval History and Supporting Lecturer of Gorffennol at Swansea University.

The talk considered how medieval societies considered the past and how they used it. Particular reference was made to the medieval manuscripts held at Durham where a good number  survive. In this  important Anglo Norman centre, history was written and copied.

Then there was an account of the life and legends associated with Saint Cuthbert, patron saint of Durham Cathedral. Following Viking raids Cuthbert’s followers left the monastery at Lindisfarne and wandered through their estates in the North East until settling atChester-Le -Street in the 880s, where they remained for over 100 years. In the 990s they moved to a good defensive position in Durham. In 1083 the Normans replaced the Durham Clerics with a Benedictine Order but only after the Norman Bishop had enquired how matters were arranged in Cuthbert’s time.

The Normans were sceptical of Anglo Saxon saints and new accounts of their lives appeared after 1066. An important scribe was Symeon of Durham, probably a Norman trained in Northern France who is responsible for over 40 manuscripts. His History of the Durham Church refers to the Benedictine Reform of 1083 and ends in 1115.

Symeon presents the reformed Church as a continuation of the Church under Cuthbert and his followers. The veneration of Cuthbert was maintained at Durham and the Lindisfarne Gospels were displayed on the altar during the time of Symeon.

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