Aelred of Rievaulx: Lives of the Northern Saints

Collection includes what’s probably Aelred’s best-known story, the miracle of the Nun of Watton. For my discussion, see here.

What else? Precious few of what we at Kzoo jeered at as “stupid miracles.” No hidden beer here, and more’s the pity, but there is a miracle with some leeks; yet another miracle of a flowering staff; another of a bull who gores a cattle thief (some miracle!); another of a man provided with surety and bond right before execution (a legal miracle!); Galwagian marauders, and others, turned back; a madman abandoned to the wilderness “until he should yield his expelled soul to the depths and give his body to the beasts and birds”; and another, “Ninian’s umbrella,” by which he was able to read in the rain without his book getting wet so long as his mind didn’t wander. Healings include many blinds; some lepers; a craftsman (unnamed craft, but essential to his town) cured of some boil; a hernia; scabies; a talking, accusatory infant in a paternity case; a child with horribly twisted limbs abandoned by his parents (“Here, then, let him die or live, let him be healed or perish”).

Perhaps my favorite character, but only because of his name? “Bearded Hugh,” the formerly rich conversus who neither takes a tonsure nor shaves.

Fans of relic narratives will find much here. Come and get it.

Interesting cultural references include: a coracle in the Life of Ninian; Aelred’s annoyance over the expulsion of his ancestor from Durham cathedral when a Norman monk purged it of married canons; Ninian’s construction of a stone church in Britain (either a rare structure, according to Bede, or previously unknown, according to Aelred), his imitation of Roman custom.

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