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Source: Traditio, Vol. 53 (1998), pp. 63-91
Published by: Fordham University
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In the preface to his edition of the ninth-century Book of Cerne (Cambridge,

University Library, MS LI. 1.10), A. B. Kuypers notes "two great currents of

influence, two distinct spirits, Irish and Roman" at work in the composition of
the prayers in this private devotional book. Moreover, Kuypers asserts that "these

influences are traceable through the whole range of the strictly devotional lit
erature of the period."1 Since it is generally acknowledged that the two great
forces shaping the early Anglo-Saxon church were the Roman missionaries in
the south and Irish monks in the north,2 it is reasonable to suspect that the Anglo

Saxon devotional practices to St. Michael the Archangel were also influenced
by both traditions.
1 A. . Kuypers, The Prayer Book of Aedeluald the Bishop, Commonly Called the Book of
Cerne (Cambridge, 1902), v-vi. An important new study of this prayerbook has appeared, by
Michelle P. Brown, The Book of Cerne: Prayer, Patronage, and Power in Ninth-Century Eng
land (Toronto, 1996). In his book, The Irish Tradition in Old English Literature (Cambridge,
1993), 3-7, Charles Wright provides a cogent discussion of the pitfalls of "impressionistic
characterizations" of Irish and Roman devotional expression based on tempermental differ
ences in style. Ultimately, Wright concludes that "the traditional contrast between 'Roman'
and 'Irish' piety and stylistic expression can still be useful," but warns that "such impression
istic criteria as 'sobriety' and 'imagination' as tests of national origin" should be abandoned

(7). In this essay, I hope to indicate a few more examples of the Irish influence on Anglo
Saxon culture and literature.
1 wish to thank Raymond J. S. Grant of the University of Alberta, Thomas N. Hall of the
University of Illinois-Chicago, Phillip Pulsiano of Villanova University, and E. Gordon What
ley of Queen's College for their constructive criticisms at various stages of this essay. I should
also like to thank Timothy Graham of the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University,
specifically for his aid in clarifying manuscript readings and other technical matters, and more
generally for his friendly support of my research. Finally, I should like to thank Mildred O.
Budny, Director of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, for her patience with and
unfailing encouragement of my work on the marginalia of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College
41. Versions of this essay were presented as a paper for the Research Group on Manuscript

Evidence Seminar concerning CCCC 41, held at the Parker Library on December 11, 1993;
the Medieval Studies Division of the Annual Meeting of the Michigan Academy of Science,
Arts & Letters held at Ferris State University on March 10, 1995; and a session of the 31st
International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University on May 12, 1996.
2 See Kuypers, The Book of Cerne, xxix-xxx. Although there are exceptions to this paradigm
(e.g., according to Bede [Historia ecclesiastica, Book 2, ch. 9-14], Paulinus, the Roman com
panion of Augustine, first evangelized Northumbria), its general parameters hold true. On the
early history of the cult in England, see H. P. R. Finberg, "The Archangel Michael in Britain,"
in Mill?naire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, vol. 3, ed. M. Baudot (Paris, 1971), 459-69;
and O. Rojdestvensky, Le culte de Saint Michel au Moyen ?ge latin (Paris, 1922), 18-28.

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The two traditions of devotion differ not so much in their appreciation of the

universal qualities of St. Michael as a saint (intercessor and patron), but in the
emphasis of their representations of the Archangel and his cultic power. Aside
from those characteristics universally associated with a saint, Christian tradition
in the West has assigned St. Michael four offices. These offices are based largely

on the Archangel's roles in the scriptural and apocryphal literature of the Old
and New Testment eras. The first is to do battle against Satan and his minions,
as in Rev. 12:7-9. The second is to be the untiring champion of God's chosen
people, namely the Jews in the Old Testament and the Christians in the New.
The third office is to protect the souls of the faithful from the influence of the

devil, especially at the moment of death. And the fourth office is to call away
men's souls from their earthly life and bring them to judgment, as is suggested
by the offertory chant of the Mass of the Dead ("sed signifer sanctus Michaelis

representet eas in lucem sanctam quam olim Abraham promisisti et semini

In general, Roman devotions to St. Michael stressed the first two offices:
Michael as warrior-angel against the forces of evil and as guardian angel of the
faithful. Thus, in Roman tradition, Michael was venerated in his military capacity
as the commander of the angelic host and as protector and patron of the church.

The Irish tradition, however, was preoccupied with the events of the Last Days
and naturally stressed the third and fourth offices: Michael in his roles at death

and judgment. In the liturgical and paraliturgical works of the Celtic church,
Michael is most often represented in his capacity as psychopomp and weigher
of souls at judgment.4
In Old English literature, the character of the representations of St. Michael
was determined by the syncretic union of the two forces which forged the Anglo

Saxon church, the Roman missionaries in the south and the Irish monastics in
the north. Considered individually, however, the evidence suggests a more com

plex process of accretion, conflation, and occasional original invention.5 The

literary evidence falls into six thematic or textual groupings: earthly visits and

heavenly roles; scenes of judgment and intercession; the vision of St. Paul; the
narratives of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; the anonymous homily in
praise of the Archangel in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41; and the Old

3On the non-Roman, possibly Irish, provenance of the offertory, see . M. Serpilli,
L'Offertorio della Messa dei Defunti (Rome, 1946), 21-30, and Brian Grogan, "Eschatological
Teaching in the Early Irish Church," in Martin McNamara, Biblical Studies: The Medieval
Irish Contribution (Dublin, 1976), 52-55.
4For a full treatment of Irish representations of St. Michael, see Chapter Two, "The Genesis
and Migration of the Archangel's Cult," of my Ph.D. dissertation, "The Cult of Saint Michael
the Archangel in Anglo-Saxon England" (Northwestern University, 1998).
5 For a discussion of representations of the Archangel in Old English literature, see Chapter
Four, "Representations of St. Michael in Old English Literature," of my dissertation.

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English and Anglo-Latin versions of BHL 5948 (the legendary account of the
Archangel's apparitions on Monte Gargano, Italy). Although in the descriptions
of St. Michael's earthly roles the Archangel is generally represented in his

traditional Roman capacity as guardian angel, in the scenes of judgment and

intercession he is characterized as a powerful intercessor whose intercession is
capable even of mitigating judgment, a representation corroborated in Irish hom

iletic texts. Most often in Old English texts, however, St. Michael is depicted
in such a way as to reflect a blend of the Irish and Roman traditions of repre
sentation. In the narratives of the Assumption of the Virgin and the vision of
St. Paul, for example, the heterdox character of St. Michael's roles suggests the
conflation of these dual influences.

Such a conflation does not seem to have taken place in the homilies written
in the margins of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41, a manuscript whose
Irish connections have been discussed by Raymond J. S. Grant.6 Using Kuypers's

and Grant's observations as points of departure, this essay will consider the
extent and nature of the Irish influence on the character of Anglo-Saxon rep
resentations of St. Michael in the marginal homilies of Corpus 41, providing
further evidence of an Irish literary milieu for the non-liturgical marginalia of
the manuscript.

The principal text of Corpus 41 is an Old English translation of Bede's Historia

ecclesiastica.1 In addition to the Bede text, the manuscript contains material in

both Old English and Latin written in the margins and open spaces. N. R. Ker
dates this marginal material a little later than the Bede text, roughly the middle
of the eleventh century.8 In Old English, there are three charms, one lorica,9 one

6 Raymond J. S. Grant, Three Homilies from Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41 (Ottawa,

1982), 26 and passim.

7 Detailed descriptions of the manuscript can be found in H. Wanley, Librorum Veterum
Septentrionalium Catalogus, vol. 2 of G. Hickes, Thesaurus Grammatico-Criticus et Archaeo
logicus (Oxford, 1705, repr. New York, 1970), 114-15; J. Schipper, K?nig Alfreds ?bersetzung
von Bedas Kirchengeschichte, Bibliothek der angels?chsischen Prosa 4 (Leipzig, 1897-99), 1,
xxv-xxviii; T. Miller, The Old English Version of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English
People, EETS o.s. 95, 96, 110, 111 (London, 1890 and 1898, repr. New York 1976); N. Ker,
Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), 43-45; M. R. James, A
Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cam
bridge, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1912), 1, 81-85; and the "Introduction" to Grant, Three Homilies
(1-12). Grant has also published much of the marginal material in Cambridge, Corpus Christi
College 41: The Loricas and the Missal (Amsterdam, 1979).
8 Ker states that the Bede text was written "in two parts simultaneously by two scribes" and

that the marginalia were written "probably all in one unusual angular hand" {Catalogue of
Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon [Oxford, 1957], 45).
9 By "charm," I refer to any solemn ritual utterance, generally sung or intoned, in a metrical

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medicinal recipe, selections from a martyrology, a version of the poem Solomon

and Saturn (of which only the first 91 lines were copied into this manuscript),
six homilies, rubrics for Latin masses and for three Latin charms and one Latin
lorica, and the translation of the Latin record of the gift of the manuscript to
Exeter. In Latin, there are three charms, three loricas, church offices, rubrics for

two of the Old English homilies, and the record of the gift to Exeter. The
manuscript seems to have been a working copy of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica,
which later had added to it a seemingly odd assortment of liturgical and poetical


Sarah Keefer has studied the marginalia of the manuscript closely, in particular
the liturgical material.10 In a meticulous study comparing the liturgical material

in the margins of pages 2 through 17 of Corpus 41 with that in several other

manuscripts,11 Keefer finds evidence to suggest that "the CCCC 41 liturgical
marginalia stand as an understandably late provincial witness, hitherto unseen,
to a very early stage of the contextualization process: disparate texts brought
together on whatever vellum was best available, and awaiting the next stage of
reorganization and recopying into a volume where they would form at least part

of the main liturgical text."12 Keefer's argument for a coherent, albeit idiosyn
cratic, plan governing the collection of the liturgical marginalia suggests the
possibility of an equally intentional impulse behind the copying of the non
liturgical marginalia.
With regard to the non-liturgical material, Raymond Grant has argued that
"the selection of the marginalia ... is to a great extent determined by a unity
of interests in texts with Irish connections and dealing with what Willard has
form. As with the connotations of Latin carmen and Middle English charme, my use of the
word "charm" indicates that the incantation works by means of the recitation of words, rather
than by the application of some medicinal concoction. I denote the use of herbal remedies by
the term "medicinal recipe," of which there is one among the eleven incantatory verses. From
the Irish l?irech (corselet or breast-plate), a lorica is a subset of charms that offers general
protection for the body and soul, as opposed to the protection of animals and material goods

against theft. According to L. Gougaud ("Etude sur les loric celtiques et sur les pri?res qui
s'en rapprochent," Bulletin d'ancienne litt?rature et d'arch?ologie chr?tiennes 1 [1911]: 265
81 and 2 [1912]: 33-41, 101-27), a lorica is "une pri?re de forme litanique, g?n?ralement
prolixe, ?crite soit en latin soit en langue celtique, dans laquelle on r?clame en termes pressants
la protection des trois personnes divines, des anges, et des saints contre les maux et les dangers
spirituels ou mat?riels, surtout contre ces derniers." Although only one of the Corpus 41 loricas
includes an invocation of the Trinity, as a whole they call variously upon angels and saints.
For a discussion of the tradition of loricas in Old English, see Thomas D. Hill, "Invocation of
the Trinity and the Tradition of the Lorica in Old English Poetry," Speculum 56 (1981): 259


10Sarah Larratt Keefer, "Margin as Archive: The Liturgical Marginalia of a Manuscript of

the Old English Bede," Traditio 51 (1996): 147-77.
11 In addition to her analysis of the liturgical material on pages 2 through 17 of the manu
script, Keefer provides a full list of all the other liturgical marginalia (ibid., 148, . 6).
12lbid., 151.

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aptly termed 'ecclesiastical fiction.' "13 The Irish influence Grant notices is man
ifest in the incantatory verses (the charms and the loricas), the poetical dialogue

of Solomon and Saturn, and the homilies.

Although it is impossible to know the reasons for their inclusion in this manu
script, it is likely that the selection of charms, loricas, and the portion of Solomon

and Saturn was further determined by a prevailing interest in texts which offer
protection, both material and spiritual. It is in this larger context of protection

that St. Michael finds his place. Although neither the incantatory verses nor
Solomon and Saturn mentions St. Michael by name, his abiding presence as
protector of the people of the Lord and of their material, physical, and spiritual

well-being seems to pervade these texts. For example, considered as a unit the
three Old English charms against the theft or loss of property suggest a concern
on the part of the compiler of the marginalia for the protection of material goods,

presumably those goods belonging to his monastic establishment.14

Angelology even seems to have been a concern of the compiler with regard
to certain charms. The three charms against physical illness are rubricated in
Old English but written in Latin. They are significant not only for the fact that
they are meant to be invoked to protect the body from sickness, but also as they

comprise a catalogue of familiar and unfamiliar angels. In the charm against

sore ears ("t>i sarum earum"), Raphael (whose name means "God has healed")
is appealed to as the archangel responsible for healing the faithful.15 His power

is also hinted at in the charm against sore eyes ("t)i? sarum ea3um"), which
alludes to the healing of Tobit's blindness in Tobit 11:7-9.16 In the charm against
a great sickness ("{)i? ma3an seocnesse"), two uncommon angels are mentioned.17

13 Grant, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 41, 26; and Rudolph Willard, Two Apoc
rypha in Old English Homilies, Beitr?ge zur englischen Philologie (Leipzig, 1935), 2.
14 The first of these charms is the Old English Bee Charm found on page 186 of the manuscript

and printed by O. Cockayne, Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft in Early England, 1 (Lon

don, 1864), 384; G. Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic (The Hague, 1948), no. 1, 132; and E. V. K.
Dobbie, The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems, Anglo-Saxon Poetical Records 6 (New York, 1942),
125. The charm beginning, "Ne forstolen ne forholen nanuht i>aes ?e ic age," is found on p. 206
of the manuscript and has been printed by Cockayne, Leechdoms 1, 384; Storms, Anglo-Saxon

Magic, no. 15, 208-11; and Dobbie, Minor Poems, 125. The third charm, "Dis mon sceal
cwe an," is also found on p. 206 of the manuscript and has been printed by Cockayne, Leechdoms

1, 392; Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, no. 13, 206-7; and Dobbie, Minor Poems, 126.
15The charm is found on p. 326 of the manuscript and has been printed by Cockayne, Leech
doms 1, 387; and Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, Appendix no. 5, 315.
16The charm is found on p. 326 of the manuscript and has been printed by Cockayne, Leech
doms 1, 387; Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, Appendix no. 4, 314. A virtually identical charm
is found in the Anglo-Saxon leechbook known as Lacnunga, and is printed in J. H. Grattan
and Charles Singer, Anglo-Saxon Magic and Medicine (Oxford, 1952), 182-85.
17The charm is found on p. 326 of the manuscript and has been printed by Cockayne, Leech
doms 1, 387; Storms, Anglo-Saxon Magic, Appendix no. 6, 315; and M. R. James, Descriptive

Catalogue (Cambridge, 1912), 84.

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An evil angel named "Lanielum"18 is blamed for causing stomach aches, and a
benevolent angel, "Dormielo," is invoked to restore the patient to health. Another
unknown but clearly evil angel, "Fandorohel," appears in the charm against sore
ears as the angel responsible for causing earaches. Although none of these names
appears in any Insular list of angels, the names are similar by one letter or two

to the names of several archangels found in Irish sources.19 The three charms

against various bodily ailments find their place alongside the loricas designed
for protection of the body and soul.

The prevailing concern for the protection of body and soul against spiritual
assault reflected in the loricas suggests an eschatological fear of the ultimate
fate of the soul, an outcome, as the homilies will show, in which St. Michael

often plays a decisive role.20 Thus, protection seems to have played a role in
the choice of charms and loricas for inclusion in this manuscript, and the compiler

seems to have aimed not only at protecting material goods but more importantly

at protecting the body and soul against physical and spiritual assault. Although
he is not mentioned explicitly in these charms, St. Michael's prominence in this

manuscript has to do with the overall tenor of the choices the compiler made
in putting this commonplace book together. Michael is the protector par excel
lence and leader of the celestial troops. With his lieutenant Raphael, mentioned

in the charm against sore ears ("J)i? sarum earum"), Michael is a powerful
guardian and healer of the faithful.
Among the poetical pieces, there is finally the inclusion of the poetic dialogue
of Solomon and Saturn among the marginalia of Corpus 41 to consider.21 Of the
18 M. R. James reads "Sanielem" in the manuscript. Cockayne reads "Lanielum" in Corpus
41 and Storms reads "Lanielem" from the same charm found in Cambridge, Gonville and Caius
College MS 379 (f. 49r). Timothy Graham of the Medieval Institute (Western Michigan Uni
versity) has looked at this passage in the manuscript under cold fiber-optic light and has com
municated to me that he is "pretty confident that the correct reading is 'lanielum' " (private

correspondence, dated August 29, 1995). Graham writes, "It was possible clearly to see a
curved stroke towards the right at the bottom of the letter, such as would be appropriate for

the foot of this scribe's .' By contrast, I could see no trace of a curved stroke towards the
right at the top of the letter, such as would be necessary for this scribe's tall 's' ('/'). I also
examined the area under ultra-violet light, but this did not add anything further."

19 Lists of archangels in Irish sources include the Liber de numeris (R. E. McNally, Der
irische Liber de numeris [Munich, 1957], 126-27), the Leiden Lorica (M. Herren, The His
perica Famina: II. Related Poems [Toronto, 1987], 90, lines 26-28); "A Prayer to the Arch
angels for Each Day of the Week" (T. P. O'Nowlan, ?riu 2 [1905]: 92-94); "Imchl?d Aingel"
(T. P. O'Nowlan, in Miscellany Presented to Kuno Meyer, ed. O. Bergin and C. Marstrander
[Halle, 1912], 253-57); the Saltair na Rann (W. Stokes, Saltair na Rann [Oxford, 1883], 12,
lines 793-804); Recension 3 of the Tenga Bithnua (G. Dottin, "Une r?daction moderne du
Teanga Bithnua," Revue Celtique 28 [1907]: 277-307 at 298). See also J. Cary, "Angelology
in Saltair na Rann," Celtica 19 (1987): 1-8; and P. Sims-Williams, Religion and Literature in
Western England 600-800 (Cambridge, 1990), 286, with more references at . 57.
20The loricas of Corpus 41 have been studied by Grant, Cambridge, 1-26.

21 The poem begins "Saturnus cwae?: Hwast, ic ?3landa eallra haebbe boca on byr3ed" on
p. 196 of the manuscript and continues for some ninety odd lines to the bottom of p. 198. It

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various forms of this dialogue extant in Old English,22 the poetical version in
Corpus 41 is partial, containing only lines 1 through 94 of Poem I. Although
one editor of the poem concedes that there is not sufficient evidence to determine
whether the two extant poetical versions derive from a common exemplar, Grant

has persuasively shown that the two versions must have been independently
copied, ruling out the possibility that either was copied from the other.23

In keeping with his analysis of the marginalia and its Irish influence, Grant
concludes from this fact that "the scribe of Corpus 41 chose to transcribe only
a part of the poem of Solomon and Saturn that was available to him, a part he
considered important for his own purpose in assembling the marginalia."24 The
portion of the poem copied in Corpus 41 comprises a conversation between
Solomon, representing Judaeo-Christian wisdom, and Saturn, representing pagan

knowledge, concerning the use and efficacy of the Paternoster. Solomon enu
merates the powers of the Paternoster letter by letter in a manner reminiscent
in theme, tone, and alphabetic technique of the Old English charm which includes

a portion of the Hymn to St. Patrick of Sechnall in Latin and the Latin charm
which includes the "sator" formula.25 The scribe of this manuscript then chose
to transcribe the portion of his exemplar that took as its subject matter the
supernatural power of the Paternoster. The portion of the poem Solomon and
Saturn that appears here must also join the growing list of loricas assembled in
the margins of Corpus 41.
Thus, the tenor of the charms and the loricas (including the portion of the
poetical Solomon and Saturn) suggests a degree of continuity in the compiler's
selections of texts: both the verses and the homilies reflect a concern for the
fate of the body and soul in this life and the next.

Although the manuscript itself has been dated to the first half of the eleventh
century, Rudolph Willard has argued that the composition of the homilies belongs
is printed by R. J. Menner, The Poetical Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, MLA Monograph
Series 13 (New York and London, 1941), 80-86, and Dobbie, Minor Poems, 30-48.
22There are extant four dialogues between Solomon and Saturn in Old English: two are in
verse and two are in prose. The two verse versions are found in Cambridge, Corpus Christi
College MS 422, which also includes one of the prose versions, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi
College MS 41, which includes only the first 91 lines of the verse dialogue and none of the
prose dialogue. The other prose version is found in Cotton Vittelius A. xv.
23 Although Menner argues that it is impossible to determine whether both poetical versions
derive from a common exemplar, he does allow that neither manuscript was copied directly
from the original (Solomon and Saturn, 3-8). Raymond J. S. Grant is in general agreement

with Menner but is willing to consider the likelihood that the poems were copied from a
common exemplar (Grant, Cambridge, 24).
24Ibid., 24.
25This charm is found on p. 329 of the manuscript and has been printed by Storms, Anglo

Saxon Magic, no. 43, 281; and Grant, Cambridge, 18-19.

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to an earlier period, what he calls the "unreformed, or pre-^lfric, period," i.e.,

before the middle of the tenth century.26 As Willard and Grant have both noted,

these homilies abound in apocryphal and apocalyptic material; it is natural then

that St. Michael should appear in these homilies. Of the six homilies copied into
the manuscript, St. Michael plays a role in four.27 The first of these is a homily
on the Assumption of the Virgin, a unique version in Old English of a Transitus

Mariae text.

Homily on the Assumption

Although the doctrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary has no warrant

in scripture, a group of apocryphal works concerning the final fate of Mary,

perhaps originating in Egypt, began to circulate from about the fourth century

in several different languages (principally Syriac, Coptic, Greek, and Latin).28

While the Syriac form of the legends influenced the Irish tradition of Assumption
apocrypha, the Latin versions of this apocryphon are the most important for the
legends of the Assumption that made their way to Anglo-Saxon England.29 The
principal Latin versions of the Assumption thought to have been known in Anglo

Saxon England are Transitus Mari 1, Transitus Mari 2, Transitus Mari

C, and Transitus Mari E.30
Of the Latin versions of the Assumption legends which were known in Anglo

Saxon England, the vernacular Corpus 41 homily on the Assumption has been

26 Willard, Two Apocrypha, 2.

27 For a list and description of these six homilies, see Grant, Three Homilies, 5-9.
28 For a summary of the complicated textual history of the Assumption apocrypha, see Mary
Clayton, The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, 1990), 8-10; and
Simon Claude Mimouni, Dormition et Assomption de Marie: Histoire des traditions anciennes

(Paris, 1996).
29 For a succinct discussion of the Latin versions relevant to the study of Anglo-Saxon knowl

edge of Assumption apocrypha, see Mary Clayton, "De Transitu Mariae," Sources of Anglo
Saxon Literary Culture: A Trial Version, ed. F. Biggs et al. (Binghamton, New York, 1990),


30Transitus Mari 1 has been edited by Constantin Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae

Mosis, Esdr , Pauli, Iohannis item Mari Dormitio (Leipzig, 1866), 124-36. Following Tis
chendorf, I will refer to alternate B1 readings as "MB" variants. Transitus Mari 2 has been
edited by Monika Haibach-Reinisch, Ein neuer 'Transitus Mari ' des Pseudo-Melito (Rome,
1962), 63-87. Both B1 and B2 are versions of the so-called Gospel of Pseudo-Melito, which
has recently been translated in J. K. Elliott, Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1993), 708
14. Transitus Mari C has been edited by Andr? Wilmart, Analecta Reginensia (Rome, 1933),
325-57. Transitus E is a variant of Transitus and is found in Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana,
MS Lat. 58. Tischendorf has printed excerpts from it in the prolegomena to his Apocalypses

Apocryphae (xliii-xlvi). Rudolph Willard first designated this text Transitus Mari E
("On B?ckling Homily XIII: 'The Assumption of the Virgin,' " Review of English Studies 12

[1936]: 4).

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shown by several critics31 to depend, albeit loosely, on Transitus Mari 1.

Recently, however, Mary Clayton has argued convincingly that the Old English

homily corresponds much more closely with Transitus Mari 2.32 Despite the
close correspondence of many aspects of the Assumption homily in Corpus 41
and the Transitus B2 version of Pseudo-Melito, however, an examination of the
role of St. Michael in the Old English homily reveals an anomaly between the
two texts.33

The Corpus 41 homily on the Assumption of the Virgin presents Michael in

the role of guardian and conveyor to heaven of the Virgin's soul, a role he
performs in some of the Coptic and Syriac accounts of the Assumption and in
the two versions of the Gospel of Pseudo-Melito (B!and B2). In the third year
after Christ's ascension,34 an angel of the Lord appears to Mary. The angel
informs her that her death is imminent and gives her a palm branch to be placed

on her bier. Mary beseeches the angel to have the apostles gather beside her.
The angel declares that they will come to her "from the glory of Paradise,"35

31 Principal among these is Rudolph Willard in Two Apocrypha, 3 and "The Two Accounts

of the Assumption in B?ckling Homily XIII," Review of English Studies 12 (1936): 2; H. L.

C. Tristram, Vier altenglische Predigten aus der heterodoxen Tradition, mit Kommentar, ?ber
setzung und Glossar sowie drei weiteren Texten im Anhang (Freiburg, 1970), who points out
that the Old English of the Corpus 41 homily and the Latin of Tischendorf 's Transitus text
do not always correspond; and Grant, Three Homilies, who edits and translates the homily


32Mary Clayton, "The Assumption Homily in CCCC 41," Notes & Queries n.s. 36 (1989):
293-95. In this article (293), Clayton also points out that Transitus B2 is the older of the two
versions of the Pseudo-Melito and was known in England from at least the first half of the
eighth century, as Bede quotes from it in his Retractatio in Acta Apostolorum (ed. M. L. W.

Laistner, CCL 121 [Turnhout, 1983], 134-35).

33 Clayton discusses three anomalies: the year of Mary's death, the angel's assurance to Mary

that the apostles will be brought from Paradise to her bedside, and Michael's roles ("The
Assumption Homily in CCCC 41," 294).
^Transitus B2 puts the Virgin's death in the second year after Christ's ascension. Clayton
remarks that the Corpus homily is unique in assigning it to the third year and that the date
"must stem from a misreading of .iii. for .ii." (ibid., 294).
35The angel's assurance in the Corpus homily reads, "Nu toda^e hi beo? 3enumene of Neo
rhxna[)on3es 3efean 7 her to ?e cuma " (This very day they will be taken from the glory of
Paradise and will come hither to thee) (Grant, Three Homilies, 18). The Transitus B2 text reads,
"Ecce hodie omnes apostoli per virtutem Domini assumpti hue venient" (ed. Haibach-Reinisch,
67). This anomaly is discussed by Clayton, who reviews Tristram's conjecture that the Corpus
text may rely at this point on a parallel passage in the Greek "Discourse of St. John the Divine
concerning the Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God," in which Mary requests that all
the apostles, "both those who have already come to dwell with you and those who are in this
present world" (trans. J. K. Elliot, Apocryphal New Testament, 701) be brought to her side.
Clayton concludes that Tristram's argument is ultimately unsatisfactory as it relies both on the
"loss of part of a sentence and . . . the knowledge of a detail which does not otherwise appear
in any version of Transitus or, indeed, in any known Latin apocryphon" ("The Assumption

Homily in CCCC 41," 294).

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and they are miraculously transported to her side. Once the apostles have as
sembled and the vigil begun, Christ and a great host of angels come to Mary,
who is fearful of an encounter with dark spirits after her death. Christ comforts
her by telling her that although she will likely encounter the prince of darkness,
she will have nothing to fear as she will be escorted to paradise by the heavenly

host. Mary then gives thanks to God and sends forth her spirit. Her soul rises
from her body shining, and Christ passes it into the protection of St. Michael
who is acknowledged as "Neorxnaj3on3es hyrde, ealdormon, Ebrea ?eoden" (a

guardian of Paradise, chieftain and prince of the Hebrews).36 In keeping with

his traditional roles as psychopomp and guardian of souls of the living and the
dead, St. Michael is entrusted with the protection and conveyance of Mary's

soul. In the Latin Transitus B1, but not Transitus B2, the archangel Gabriel
accompanies Michael and the soul of the Virgin Mary to paradise (see Table 1).
The identification of these two archangels and their roles is significant because
the two are later confused in the Old English text.

After Mary's soul is entrusted to St. Michael, Christ assigns the body of the
Virgin to St. Peter for burial with the injunction that the body should be buried
for three days, at which point He will return. Christ then departs amid the singing

and rejoicing of the heavenly host. Mary's body is transported to a sepulcher

"in Pa swi?ran healfe Paere ceastre" (on the right-hand side of the city).37 At the
third hour of the third day, Christ and the angels return. In a scene prefiguring

the role the apostles will play at Judgment, Christ asks the apostles what they
would have Him do with Mary's body. Peter and the apostles reply that it is
just that Mary's body should be raised into heaven.38 It is at this point that the

Old English text confuses the names and roles of the archangels.
In Tischendorf's principal text, Transitus B1, St. Michael returns with Mary's

soul and is commanded to move the stone from in front of the sepulcher (see
Table 2). Christ then raises the body of Mary. In this version, however, St.

Michael does not receive the reunited soul and body of Mary for conveyance
to heaven; the host of angels carries her into paradise. Among Tischendorf' s
variants, it is interesting to note that MB depicts Gabriel as removing the stone

from the sepulcher, an anomaly which the Old English follows.39 In most man
uscripts of Transitus B2, Michael returns with Mary's soul, but there is no mention

of either the removal of the stone in front of the sepulcher or the archangel
36 Grant, Three Homilies, 24.
37 Ibid.

38 In her book, The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Anglo-Saxon England, Mary Clayton argues
that the justification for the corporal assumption of Mary lies in her "virginal maternity: that
the body which had given birth without corruption should not suffer corruption in death" (8).
39Citing Haibach-Reinisch {Ein neuer 'Transitus Mariae,' 122-24), Mary Clayton notes that

this anomaly was also copied into some versions of Transitus B2 ("The Assumption Homily

in CCCC41," 294).

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Table 1. Summary of Michael's Roles in the Latin

Transitus Marije Tradition
Transitus Mari B1

Chapter 8:
Michael receives Mary's soul from
Christ. Gabriel accompanies Michael

Transitus Mari 2
Chapter 8:
Michael receives Mary's soul from

Christ. There is no mention of Gabriel.

and Mary's soul to heaven.

Chapter 16:

Chapter 16:

Michael retrieves Mary's soul from

Michael returns with Mary's soul.

There is no mention of either the

heaven and rolls the stone away from

before the sepulcher in which her
earthly body lies.

MB variants:
Michael brings Mary's soul from
heaven, but Gabriel is introduced to
roll away the stone from before the


stone or the archangel Gabriel.

1. Gabriel is commanded to remove
the stone from before the sepulcher,
and Michael presents the soul of

Mary before the Lord (Haibach

Reinisch manuscripts: T, F, O1, O2,

and V).

2. Michael and Gabriel together

present the soul of Mary before the
Lord. There is no mention of the

stone (manuscripts: 2, P3).

3. Michael is commanded to bring
Mary's soul from heaven, and
Gabriel is commanded to remove
the stone from before the sepulcher

(manuscripts: P1, D, P4).

Chapter 17:
Mary's risen body is entrusted to the
angelic host for conveyance to


Chapter 17:
Michael receives Mary's body and
conveys it to heaven, accompanied by
the angelic host.

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Table 2. Summary of Anomalous Archangel Roles

in the Assumption Narratives
Texts Angel who rolls stone Psychopomp

Transitus B1 Michael Michael

MB Variants of B1 Gabriel Michael
Transitus B2 (MSS T,

F, O1, O2 and V) Gabriel Michael

Transitus E No mention of stone Michael
CCCC 41 Gabriel Gabriel presents the soul
of Mary before the Lord,

but Michael conveys her

body to heaven.

Gabriel. In this text, St. Michael is also restored to his role of psychopomp; the
Archangel conveys the reunited body and soul of Mary to paradise. Thus, despite

several anomalies, St. Michael is the only angel to play a significant role in the
principal texts of both Latin versions (B1 and B2) of the Transitus apocryphon.
In the Old English homily, however, the various roles of the two angels are

confused. In the principal Transitus B1 text, its MB variants, and the B2 text,
St. Michael returns with Mary's soul so that it may be reunited with her body.

Although St. Michael receives Mary's soul from Christ to be conveyed to heaven
in the Corpus homily, he is not charged with bringing her soul back to be reunited

with her body. As in the MB variants of Transitus B1, the archangel Gabriel is
first introduced to remove the stone from Mary's sepulcher. In the Old English,

it is Gabriel who also brings Mary's soul back for its reunion with her body.
Furthermore, he makes the speech that in all the Latin sources is made by Christ

and effects the corporeal reunification.40 Once reunited, Mary's body and soul
are entrusted by Christ to St. Michael, who immediately takes her up to heaven
surrounded by the host of angels.

Thus, despite the anomalies of the Corpus text, the principal role assigned to
St. Michael is that of psychopomp. Given the preponderance of apocryphal
40This is in pointed contrast to Gabriel's role in the Assumption homily found in the anon

ymous B?ckling collection (R. Morris, The B?ckling Homilies, EETS 58, 63, 73 [London,
1874-80]; repr. as one volume, 1967). There Gabriel is only introduced to remove the stone
from before the Virgin's tomb (ibid., 156-57).

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material in these homilies and Michael's role as protector and conveyor of souls,
it would seem likely that the representation of the Archangel in this homily is

Irish in spirit, if not by direct influence. The evidence of direct influence is

tentative, since the Corpus text and the two Irish vernacular accounts of the
Transitas Mari differ considerably at various significant stages of their nar
ratives.41 Nevertheless, the points of correspondence between the Irish versions
and the Corpus text, and particularly their representation of St. Michael's roles,

suggest that they both derive from a literary milieu in which the Archangel's
apotropaic powers are stressed. Since an exact duplication of textual details is
not necessarily needed to assert influence, such a conclusion is not entirely

Homily on the Last Judgment

The second Corpus 41 homily in which St. Michael appears is the homily on
the Last Judgment, in which he guards the door to the first heaven and ushers

souls before the throne of the Lord in the seventh heaven.42 The homily is
concerned generally with the fate of the soul and contains a vivid description
of Doom which is based largely on the apocryphal Apocalypse of Thomas. More
important for the study of St. Michael, however, is the inclusion in this homily

of the apocryphon of the Seven Heavens, a theme common in Irish vernacular


The doctrine of the Seven Heavens,44 which describes the journey and trials
of purgation of souls after death, can be found in many Jewish and early Christian

41 Charles Donahue, The Testament of Mary: The Gaelic Version of the Dormitio Mariae
together with an Irish Latin Version (New York, 1942). For example, the Old English text does
not contain the apostolic controversy, an episode central to the Irish versions of this apocry

phon. Neither does the Old English text include a tour of Hell and a successful intercession
by the Virgin Mary and Michael.
42 This homily is found on pp. 287-95 of the manuscript. The text has been printed in part

by M. F?rster, "A New Version of the Apocalypse of Thomas in Old English," Anglia 73
(1955): 17-27, who prints the equivalent of manuscript pages 287-92 of the homily, and by
R. Willard, Two Apocrypha (3-6), who picks up where F?rster leaves off and prints all but a
final portion of the homily. This final section of the homily contains a full account of the pains

of hell and a brief comparison of these pains with the joys of heaven.
43 For a general discussion of the knowledge of this apocryphon among the Irish, see Martin

McNamara, The Apocrypha in the Irish Church (Dublin, 1975), no. 108, pp. 141-43; R. E.
McNally, The Bible in the Early Middle Ages (Westminster, Md., 1959); and Brian Grogan,
"The Eschatological Doctrines of the Early Irish Church" (Ph.D. Diss., Fordham University,

1973), 185-91.

44The doctrine is discussed in terms of its relation to Greek, Oriental, Jewish, and Christian

literature in the preface (xxx-xlvii) to R. H. Charles and W. R. Morfill's edition of The Book
of the Secrets of Enoch (Oxford, 1896).

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sources.45 From the Middle Ages, the apocryphon of the Seven Heavens is pre
served in several versions: a Latin epitome, three Irish versions, and in the Corpus

41 homily on the Last Judgment.46 Among Irish sources, lists that enumerate
the seven heavens and their respective doors can be found in the Liber de numeris

and the late-eighth-century Hiberno-Latin commentary on the Bible known as

the Reference Bible.47 References to the seven heavens also occur in the Mar
45 Principal among the Jewish sources are The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch or
Slavonic Enoch) and the Testament of Levi. In the apocrypha of the early Christian era, the
doctrine can be found in the Ascension of Isaiah and the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch. Among
the Church Fathers, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen each refer to the
doctrine of the Seven Heavens in their writings. For a discussion of the views of the Church
Fathers with regard to the doctrine of the Seven Heavens, see D. de Bruyne, "Fragments

retrouv?s d'apocryphes priscillianistes," Revue B?n?dictine 24 (1907): 318-35 at 319-20,

where a full bibliography can be found.

46 As will be evident from my notes, I am indebted to Charles D. Wright's discussion of this
apocryphon in his book, The Irish Tradition in Old English Literature (218-20) and in his
entry on the Apocrypha Priscillianistica in Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture: A Trial
Version (ed. F. Biggs et al., Binghamton, 1990, 69-70).
The Latin epitome of the apocryphon is among the Apocrypha Priscillianistica from a flor
ilegium in Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek Aug. CCLIV, published by D. de Bruyne,
"Fragments retrouv?s," 318-35. The three Irish versions of the apocryphon are found in sec
tions 15-20 of the Fis Adamn?n , Recension 3 of the Tenga Bithnua, and in the Liber Flavus

In his study of the Seven Heavens apocryphon, Rudolph Willard (Two Apocrypha, 3, n. 113)
notes that there is an allusion to the doctrine of the seven heavens in an unpublished Easter

homily in CCCC 162 (384). Willard prints the relevant passage in his note. Since Willard's
study appeared, however, the homily has been edited several times, most recently by Clare
Lees, "Theme and Echo in an Anonymous Old English Homily for Easter," Traditio 42 (1986):

115-42. The passage in question occurs at lines 35-38 (118) of Lees's edition. Willard also
points out that the Seven Heaven apocryphon must have influenced another Old English hom
ily, "Be heofonwarum 7 be helwarum," which describes hell in terms closely resembling the
Latin and Old English versions of the apocryphon. Willard prints the passage (24) and analyzes
its significance in relation to the other versions of the Seven Heavens apocryphon (25-28).
Wright discusses this homily in several places as an Old English homily influenced by Irish

sources (31, 149-51, 159, 219-20, 229 and passim). The entire homily is printed in T. C.
Callison, "An Edition of Previously Unpublished Anglo-Saxon Homilies in MSS C.C.C.C. 302
and Cotton Faustina A. ix" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1973). Wright also notes
that Vercelli 4 refers to the seventh heaven in terms identical to those found in the Old English
version of the apocryphon, in Irish lists of the seven heavens, and in the Easter homily pub
lished by Lees (Wright, Irish Tradition, 265). There occur several references to the seventh

heaven in two homilies of Pseudo-Wulfstan: Homily 43 and 44 (ed. A. Napier, Wulfstan.

Sammlung der ihm zugeschriebenen Homilien nebst Untersuchungen ?ber ihre Echtheit [Ber
lin, 1883], 207, line 2; 213, line 13; and 217, line 16). Yet another reference to the doctrine

of the Seven Heavens occurs in a Rogationtide homily edited by J. Bazire and J. E. Cross,
Eleven Old English Rogationtide Homilies, King's College London Medieval Studies 4 (Lon
don, 1990), 64, line 90.
47 Wright, Irish Tradition, 218. The Liber de numeris has been edited by R. E. McNally, Der
irische Liber de numeris (Munich, 1957), who argues for the Irish composition of the text. For

bibliography on the Reference Bible, see Charles D. Wright, "Hiberno-Latin: Biblical Com

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tyrology of Oengus and in the "Poem to Our Lady," by Blathmac.48 In his study
of the Irish influence on Old English literature, Charles Wright points out that

the presence of the Latin homily "among the Apocrypha Priscillianistica and
its dissemination in Irish and Old English vernacular versions suggests that its

circulation in the West was concentrated in the British Isles and in Insular centres

on the Continent."49 Although the Latin homily appears to be closely related to

the vernacular versions of the apocryphon, Jane Stevenson has argued that it
cannot be said to be the direct source of any of these versions.50 The Irish versions

include sections 15-20 of Fis Adamn?n (Vision of Adamnan), a recension of

the Tenga Bithnua (Ever-New Tongue), and a text in the Liber Flavus Fergu
siorum.51 In each of these versions, St. Michael plays a dual role. The Archangel
guards the door of the first heaven and presents the souls before the throne of

the Lord in the seventh heaven (see Table 3).

In the Corpus 41 homily, St. Michael performs these same functions. The first

heaven is the "lyftlic" (air-like or aery) heaven, which is entered through the
door "Abyssus."52 Another door is mentioned in connection with this heaven: it

is called "Sabaoth, Pxt is, weoroda duru, for I>on englas ?ider inga and manna
sawla" (Sabaoth, that is, the Door of the Host, because angels and the souls of
men enter thither).53 St. Michael guards these doors, accompanied by two at
mentaries ? Old and New Testament" 1, Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture: A Trial
Version (Binghamton, 1990), 90-92.
48 These references are pointed out by Martin McNamara in his useful discussion of the
Seven Heavens apocryphon in The Apocrypha in the Irish Church (Dublin, 1975), no. 108,
pp. 141-43. Blathmac's poem has been published by James Carney, The Poems of Blathmac
Son of C? Brettan together with the Irish Gospel of Thomas and a Poem on the Virgin Mary,

Irish Text Society 47 (Dublin, 1964), 84-87.

49Wright, Irish Tradition, 218.
50Jane Stevenson, "Ascent through the Heavens, from Egypt to Ireland," Cambridge Me

dieval Celtic Studies 5 (1983): 21-35 (quoted in Wright, Irish Tradition, 218). M. R. James
has argued that the Latin text in the Karlsruhe manuscript is a fragment of a lost apocryphon
from which the Irish versions derive ("Irish Apocrypha," Journal of Theological Studies 20

[1918-19]: 9-16 at 16).

51 These three texts are summarized and discussed by St. John Seymour, "The Seven Heavens
in Irish Literature," Zeitschrift f?r celtische Philologie 14 (1923): 18-30. Each of these texts
is also discussed by Martin McNamara, The Apocrypha in the Irish Church (Dublin, 1975).
See also Brian Grogan, "The Eschatological Doctrines of the Early Irish Church" (Ph.D. Diss.,
Fordham University, 1973), 185-91. Fis Adamn?n has been published by H. Windisch in his

Irische Texte 1 (Leipzig, 1880), 180-84 (McNamara, no. 100). Recension 3 of the Tenga
Bithnua has been printed by G. Dottin, "Une r?daction moderne du Teanga Bithnua," Revue

Celtique 28 (1907): 277-307 (McNamara, no. 94). The Liber Flavus Fergusiorum text has
been printed by Gear?id Mac Niocaill, "Na Seacht Neamha," ?igse 8 (1956): 239-41 (McNa
mara, no. 108).
52The Seven Heavens portion of this homily is printed by Willard, Two Apocrypha, 4-6.
53Ibid., 4, lines 7-9. In his study, Willard compares eleven versions of this apocryphon and
notes a close correspondence between the Latin, Irish, and Old English texts in the names of
the seven heavens, the doors of the heavens, and the guardian angels, except in the instance

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Table 3. Summary of Seven Heavens Apocrypha

CCCC 41 Vision of Liber Flavus Ever-New

Adamnan Fergusiorum Tongue

First heaven lyftlic (airy) No name Aer Air

door Abyssus and No name Abistum Abisus


angel Michael Michael Michael Michael

attendants Equitas and 2 unnamed Continentia 2 unnamed
Estimado spirits and Fortitudo spirits

punishment Burning rods Iron rods Iron rods No punishment


Second heaven oferlyftlic No name Ether Ether


door Elioth No name Elioth Illisiom



and Contenda




2 unnamed


2 unnamed


and Fortitudo


Fiery rods

Fiery rods
which strike
face and eyes

Three springs
in which souls


Three springs
are not named

Fiery rods
which strike

which strike

Fiery river

No name of


face and eyes

river, but an




are washed



Sixth heaven Engla (of No name Caelum Hesperium

Angels) Angelorum
door Ieru No name Erictus

No angel



No angel


No angel


punishments No torments No torments No torments


Place of Light
of Precious


Seventh heaven Drinnisse

Place of Light
as of Precious


No name



No name

No name

Michael brings Michael and

souls from 6th Angel of the
heaven before
the throne of

Trinity bring

the Lord

throne of the

souls before


Place of Light

from Precious






No name

Michael and

Michael brings

Angel of the
Trinity bring
souls before
throne of the


souls to 7th

heaven and

presents them
to the Lord

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tendants, Equitas and Estimatio, who bear in their hands burning rods. Evidently
the souls are to be disciplined at the hands of these personified cardinal virtues

before proceeding to the next heaven.54 In each succeeding heaven, souls are
punished according to the severity of their sins until they reach the seventh
heaven, the heaven of the Holy Trinity. In the seventh heaven, "Sanctus Michael

agife? ?>a sawla t>aera so faestra and Paera sinfulra" (St. Michael delivers the
souls of the truth-fast and the sinful) before the throne of the Lord so that they

may be judged.55
Although the conception of Seven Heavens seems to have been commonplace
in apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature, many of the details in the Corpus

homily are unique. Furthermore, in the Jewish and early Christian apocalypses

a system of doors and guardian angels for each heaven is lacking. The doors
must have been added at a later date and were probably associated with guardian
angels after that doctrine was affirmed in the writings of the Fathers of the

The close correspondence of the Corpus 41 homily with the Irish versions,
as indicated in Table 3, suggests a strong degree of influence. Although Jane
Stevenson has cautioned that "the dependence of the 'seven heavens' text on an
Irish model cannot be proved," she ultimately concludes that the "apocryphon
was known in Ireland first."57 Her conclusion is supported by the fact that the
Corpus version of the apocryphon is unique in Old English,58 and that it is found
in a manuscript with other material partly derived from Irish sources. In addition
to these facts, the striking similarity of detail outlined in Table 3 suggests that
the influence is likely to have been from the direction of Ireland rather than vice

of this second door in the first heaven. Here the Old English is unique in mentioning a second


54In each of the first two heavens, there are two attendants assisting the guardian angel. In
the Corpus homily, these attendants are named as four cardinal virtues: Equitas and Estimatio
are found in the first heaven, Continentia and Contenda in the second. The Liber Flavus Fer

gusiorum text names only the pair found in the second heaven. All accounts refer to these
attendants as "youths" or "virgins."
55 Willard, Two Apocrypha, 5, lines 50-51.
56For an overview of the subject of guardian angels in the Old Testament, see William G.
Heidt, Angelology of the Old Testament (Washington, D.C., 1949), 40-50; and in the writings
of the Fathers of the Church, see Jean Dani?lou, Les Anges et leur Mission (Chevetogne,
Belgium, 1953); The Angels and their Mission, trans. David Heimann (Westminster, Md.,

1957), 68-82.

57 Stevenson, "Ascent through the Heavens," 22 and 34.

58 Although the anonymous homily "Be heofonwarum 7 be helwarum" is clearly related to
the Corpus version of the apocryphon, it differs in significant details, particularly in its virtual

neglect of St. Michael. For an edition of this homily, see T. C. Callison, "An Edition of Pre
viously Unpublished Anglo-Saxon Homilies in MSS C.C.C.C. 302 and Cotton Faustina A ix,"
(Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1973), 243-48.

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Homily for Easter

The third Corpus 41 homily in which St. Michael is mentioned is a homily
for Easter.59 Much of the material in this homily is taken from the Gospel of
Nicodemus and other non-biblical sources for the life of Christ.60 Structurally,
this homily falls into three sections: the Harrowing of Hell; the Last Judgment;
and the Intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and St. Peter on behalf of

sinners. The first section consists of an account of Christ's Descent into Hell

and a description of the signs of Doomsday. The homilist then treats the Judgment

scene, in which he employs a dramatic first-person address by Christ as Judge

to the assembled sinners.
The most unusual feature of this homily, however, is the final section in which

the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and St. Peter each intercede with Christ for a
portion of humankind and gain salvation for many.61 As has been noted by several

scholars, ?Elfric dismissed as heretical the view that the Virgin Mary and other

saints could successfully intercede to rescue some of the sinners condemned to

hell at the Last Judgment.62 The Corpus homily is unique and problematic,
however, in representing just this view. After relating Christ's Judgment of the
sinful,63 the homilist warns that the condemned souls are to be led off to hell.

At the beginning of the intercession scene, the Virgin Mary rises, approaches
the Lord, and asks him to grant her a third portion of the sinful souls. He does

59This homily is found on pp. 295-301 of the manuscript and has been printed by W. H.

Hulme, "The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus," Modem Philology 1 (1904): 32-36 (610
14). Virtually the same text for Easter appears in CCCC 303 (fols. 72-75), where the inter
cession scene is lacking.
60For an exhaustive study of the influence of the Gospel of Nicodemus in Anglo-Saxon
England, see Jackson J. Campbell, "To Hell and Back: Latin Tradition and Literary Use of the

'Descensus ad Inferos' in Old English," Viator 13 (1982): 107-58. For the most recent con
sideration of this apocryphon, see Thomas N. Hall, "The Euangelium Nichodemi and Vindicta

Saluatoris in Anglo-Saxon England," in Two Old English Apocrypha and Their Manuscript
Source: The Gospel ofNichodemus and the Avenging of the Saviour, ed. J. E. Cross, Cambridge

Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 19 (Cambridge, 1997), 36-81.

61 Mary Clayton has treated this scene in her article, "Delivering the Damned: A Motif in

Old English Homiletic Prose," Medium JEvum 55 (1986): 92-102. The following discussion
of this motif is indebted to her many insights.
62 Mary Clayton, "Delivering the Damned," 92 and Thomas D. Hill, "Delivering the Damned

in Old English Anonymous Homilies and J?n Arason's Lj?mur," Medium JEvum 61 (1992):
75-82 at 75. ^Elfric's condemnation is found in his homily "In Natale Sanctorum Virginum"
in JElfric's Catholic Homilies: The Second Series, ed. M. Godden, EETS s.s. 5 (London, 1979),


63 le cwe?e nu to eow, gewita? ge awirgede fram me in Paet ecce fyr; and ic eow betyne to
daeg heofona rices duru to geanes, swa ge betyndon eowra dura togenes ?earfum ?[e] an mine
naman to eow cigdon. Nelle ic gehiran to daeg eowre stefne Pe ma ?e ge woldon gehiran ?>aes

earman stefne. (William H. Hulme, "The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus," Modern Philo

logy 1 [1904]: 35.)

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so, and Mary transfers her saved souls to Christ's right side. Sts. Michael and
Peter next intercede each for another third of the souls, transferring in turn their

company to Christ's right side. Devils carry off the remainder to hell,64 as St.
Peter locks the doors of hell behind them and throws the keys on the ground,
"Pa naefre si an gode angeminde ne cuma " (so that never thereafter might the
good-minded come there).65 The homily ends with Christ's address to the good
souls (a paraphrase of Matt. 25:35-40), and the Ascension of Christ and the
good souls into heaven.
Versions of the intercession motif are found in Vercelli homily 15; two ver
sions of the "Sunday Letter," Pseudo-Wulfstan 45 and a homily in CCCC 140,
edited by Priebsch; and a Last Judgment homily in Oxford, Bodleian Library,
Hatton MS 114.66 The fullest account of the motif is found in Vercelli 15, where

Mary, Michael, and Peter each fall at Christ's feet to utter an appeal which is
reported in direct speech. Mary bases her intercession on her humble maternity

of Christ; Michael bases his on his mighty dominion over heaven; and Peter
does so on his possession of the keys of heaven and hell. After the intercessions,

Christ calls the blessed souls on his right side to receive the kingdom of the
Lord (Matt. 25:34). He then turns to the sinful band on his left side and banishes

them to the eternal punishments of hell (Matt. 25:41). As devils drive the last
of the sinful souls into hell, St. Peter locks the door of hell and tosses the key
over his back into hell. Although there exist differences between the intercession

scenes in Vercelli 15 and Corpus 41, the most significant of which is in the
sequence of events, the scenes are clearly related. Donald Scragg has argued
that despite the differences, the source for the intercession motif in both homilies

is "undoubtedly the same."67 While Mary Clayton concedes that the homilies
must indeed be related, she argues that the theologically problematic order of

64The mathematics of this passage has troubled several critics (e.g. Clayton and Hill) as it
seems illogical that there should remain any souls after the three intercessions of one third
each. Given the identical rhetorical structure of each intercessory appeal, however, it is possible
that the third portion which each saint acquires is not a third of the total number of sinners at

the beginning of the scene, but rather a third of the sinners left after each successful interces
sion. This accounting scheme ensures that some souls would remain to be damned.
65Hulme, "The Old English Gospel of Nicodemus," 35.
66Mary Clayton has considered the complex relationships between these various texts in her

article "Delivering the Damned" (100-101). Vercelli 15 has been printed by Donald Scragg,
The Vercelli Homilies, EETS 300 (Oxford, 1992), 253-65. Pseudo-Wulfstan 45 appears in
Napier, Wulf start, 226-32. The "Sunday Letter" homily in CCCC MS 140 is printed in R.
Priebsch, "The Chief Sources of Some Anglo-Saxon Homilies," Otia Merseiana 1 (1899):
135-38. The Last Judgment homily in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hatton MS 114 is printed in

A. M. L. Fadda, Nuove omelie anglosassoni della rinascenza benedettina (Florence, 1977),


67Donald Scragg, The Vercelli Homilies, 251. See also Scragg, "Vernacular Homilies and
Prose Saints' Lives before jElfric," Anglo-Saxon England 8 (1979): 223-77, at 231.

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events in the Corpus homily rules out the possibility that the two homilies were
translated independently from the same source.68

A similar intercession scene occurs in two Old English homilies based on the
"Sunday Letter" tradition.69 Robert Priebsch has published the Latin source for

both these homilies, Pseudo-Wulfstan 45 and a homily in CCCC MS 140.70 In

the Latin and Old English homilies, the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and Sts. Peter
and Paul intercede to avert the imminent destruction of the world. Thus, while
it can be seen that the motif of the intercession, and even most of the characters

involved, are related to those found in Corpus 41, the ultimate aim of the in
tercessions differs and therefore rules out any direct realtionship between the

The third episode occurs in a Last Judgment homily under the rubric, "Dom
inica II ebdomadae Quadragesime," in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Hatton
114. As in the Corpus and Vercelli scenes, the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and
St. Peter are present at the Last Judgment. First, St. Michael ushers a good soul
before the Lord, and the soul is blessed. Then the Archangel brings a sinful soul
before the Lord, who condemns the soul to hell. The Virgin Mary intercedes on
behalf of the sinful soul, but the outcome of her intercession is never reported.

Clearly, the motif of an intercession by the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and St.
Peter (and occasionally some number of the other apostles) at the Last Judgment
captured the popular imagination and found its way into the homiletic prose of
the ninth century.

The intercession scene in the Corpus 41 homily has recently received attention

from three astute critics. Mary Clayton has argued that the scene ultimately
derives from a similar motif which occurs as an appendix to some versions of
the Apocalypse of Mary.71 This Apocalypse exists in two forms, one of which
derives from Greek, with versions in Armenian, Ethiopie, Slavonian, Syriac,
Latin, and Old Irish, while the other is found only in an Ethiopie witness.72

68 Clayton, "Delivering the Damned," 96.

69For a summary of the Sunday Letter tradition in Anglo-Saxon England, see Clare Lees's
entry under "Sunday Letter," Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture: A Trial Version (Bing

hamton, 1990), 38-40.

70Robert Priebsch, "The Chief Sources of Some Anglo-Saxon Homilies," Otia Merseiana 1

(1899): 129-47.

71 Clayton, "Delivering the Damned," 97.

72 For the purposes of this study the most important versions of the Greek form are the Greek,

Syriac, and Old Irish. The Greek Apocalypse is printed in M. R. James, Apocrypha Anecdota,
vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1893), 109-26, and has been translated as, "The Apocalypse of the Virgin,
or the Apocalypse of the Holy Mother of God concerning the Chastisements," by R. Rutherford

in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. 9, ed. A. Menzies (Edinburgh, 1897), 167-74. The
Syriac version is printed in W. Wright, Contributions to the Apocryphal Literature of the New

Testament (London, 1865), 42-51. The Old Irish version is printed in Charles Donahue, The
Testament of Mary: The Gaelic Version of the Dormitio Mariae together with an Irish Latin

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In the Apocalypse of Mary, the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, and the apostles
view the torments of hell immediately after Mary's bodily Assumption. The
tortured souls of hell plead with each of the saints, who in turn intercede on
their behalf with Christ. After accusing the dreadful souls of forgetfulness, Christ

grants them a respite of three hours because of the intercession of Mary, Michael,
and the apostles.73 Although it is clear that the Apocalypse of Mary is dependent

on the Apocalypse of Paul, Mary Clayton argues that "the dependence of the
Old English motif on the Apocalypse of Mary rather than on the better-known
Apocalypse of Paul is clear from the non-appearance of Paul and the prominence

of Mary in the Anglo-Saxon."74

Thomas D. Hill has noted that the motif of delivering the damned was current
in the early Christian world, as St. Augustine condemns the view that the damned

can be delivered in De civitate dei (Book xxi, Chapter 18), but concedes that
"there are no patristic or apocryphal texts which could have served as a model
to the Old English homilists who fashioned the narrative in the form in which
it is preserved in Anglo-Saxon England."75 Hill draws attention instead to a late

medieval Icelandic poem which contains "an exact parallel to the Old English
apocryphal motif as condemned by ?Elfric."76 Although St. Michael is not men
tioned in J?n ?rason's poem, Lj?mur, Mary and the apostle John are portrayed
as interceding successfully on behalf of sinners at Judgment. Unlike its Old
English counterpart, in which a portion of sinners is left unsaved after the in
tercession, however, the intercession in the Icelandic poem saves all of human
kind, the evil and the good. Noting the common convention of citing Old Norse

Icelandic parallels to Old English texts, Hill discounts the view that a lost Latin
text may have been the source of the intercession scene in both the Old English

homilies and Arason's poem in favor of "the possibility that this motif was
disseminated in the vernacular form from Anglo-Saxon England to Iceland,
where it was preserved in mediaeval Icelandic religious tradition."77
In the most recent article on the currency of this motif, Sarah Cutforth explores

Version (New York, 1942). The sole Ethiopie witness has been edited by M. Cha?ne, "Apo
calypsis seu Visio Mariae Virginis," in Apocrypha de Beata Maria Virgine: Scriptores Aethiop

ici, series 1, vol. 7 (Rome, 1909), 43-68. For a succinct discussion of both forms of the
Apocalypse with full bibliography, see R. Bauckham, "Virgin, Apocalypses of the," in the
Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. D. N. Freedman, vol. 6 (New York, 1992), 854-56.
73 The efficacy of the intercession of Mary and Michael is also a popular motif in Coptic
homiletic literature where they are often associated with natural phenomena. See below for a
discusssion of several Coptic homilies in which the Virgin Mary and St. Michael are depicted
as intercessors whose advocacy before the Lord guarantees the rising and setting of the sun
and other such natural phenomena as keep the world functioning properly.
74Clayton, "Delivering the Damned," 96.
75Hill, "Delivering the Damned," 83.

76Ibid., 79.

77 Ibid.

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the relationship between the two manuscript texts of the Easter homily in CCCC

41 and CCCC 303 (fols. 72-75).78 Cutforth points out that the Easter homily in
CCCC 303, which is virtually identical in wording to the Corpus 41 homily,
lacks entirely the Intercession scene of Mary, Michael, and Peter. The passage
omitted occurs in Corpus 41 between two sentences that repeat the same idea,
namely, that the devil will seize the souls left and lead them to hell. Cutforth
concludes that although the omission could have been the result of an eyeskip,
it is more likely that "the omission reflects conscious scribal intervention de

signed to improve a passage which was theologically problematic."79 Following

Clayton, Cutforth underscores the theological significance of the successful in
tercession after the assembled sinners have been judged (i.e., after the Discedite
passage): "the intercession of the saints occurs after Christ has condemned them
to hell's eternity, providing the truly wicked with a further chance of redemption:

theologically this is seen to undermine Christ's powers as Judge."80

Despite the apocalyptic nature of this homily, the homilist does not mention
St. Michael's usual role as slayer of Antichrist at the end of time. Instead he

stresses the efficacy of the Archangel's intercession on behalf of sinners at

Judgment. St. Michael's importance as intercessor is well attested in apocryphal

and pseudepigraphal sources of both the Old and New Testaments.81 So too, in

Anglo-Saxon sources, Michael is acknowledged as a powerful advocate of hu

mankind. In his homily for St. Michael's feast day, ^Elfric describes angels in
general as " ening-gastum" (ministering spirits), and Michael in particular as
an "fingere on heofonum to am ^lmihtigan Gode" (intercessor in heaven with

78Sarah Cutforth, "Delivering the Damned in Old English Homilies: An Additional Note,"
Notes & Queries, n.s. 40 (1993): 435-37. Ker dates the marginalia of Corpus 41 to the same
date as the Bede text or a little later. He dates CCCC 303 about a century later than the Bede
(i.e., first half of the twelfth century) (Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon

[Oxford, 1957], 45 and 105).

79Cutforth, "Delivering the Damned," 436.

80Ibid., 437, and Clayton, "Delivering the Damned," 95-96.
81 In Old Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, Michael is most commonly understood

as the protector of Israel (Dan. 10:13, 21 and 12:1; 1 Enoch 20:5; 2 Enoch 22:6 and 33:10).
In the Testament of Levi 5:6-7, Michael is the angel who intercedes for Israel and all the
righteous. He is a mediator between God and man in the Testament of Dan 6:2. In the Testament
of Abraham 14, Michael and Abraham intercede successfully on behalf of a sinful soul. In the
Latin and Slavonic versions of the Ascension of Isaiah 9:23, Michael is the "magnus angelus
deprecans semper pro humanitate." Although the New Testament generally seems to oppose
the doctrine of the mediation of angels, in New Testament apocrypha Michael is often regarded
as a powerful protector of Christians. Thus, in the Oil of Mercy exempla in the Latin A version
of Christ's "Descent into Hell," Michael tells Seth that he is set over the human race as pro
tector. In the Apocalypse of Paul, in a speech to sinful souls who beg him to intercede on their

behalf, Michael acknowledges his role as intercessor before the Lord. As has been shown
above, Michael is also regarded as a powerful intercessor in many versions of the Assumption

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Almighty God).82 In the homily for St. Michael's feast found in the anonymous

B?ckling collection, St. Michael is portrayed in his role as an intercessor on

behalf of the Sepontans in their battle with the pagan Neapolitans. The Archangel
is also invoked in numerous prayers in Latin and Old English alike as a powerful

intercessor on behalf of humankind.83 The unique aspect of this homily's rep

resentation of St. Michael as an intercessor, then, lies in its transference of the

scene of intercession to the Last Judgment. As has been discussed, the effec
tiveness of any intercession after Christ's judgment is theologically troubling.
It has even been suggested that ?Elfric's condemnation may have been in reaction

to a Corpus-like text.84 Although it seems unlikely that the depiction of St.

Michael in this homily is directly influenced by Irish representations of the
Archangel, the transference of the scene to the Last Judgment suggests a concern

with the ultimate fate of individual souls in those Last Days, a concern often
repeated in Irish homiletic texts and a theme common to the charms and loricas

found in Corpus 41.

Homily in Praise of the Archangel
The fourth and final homily which makes explicit mention of the Archangel
is a unique homily in praise of St. Michael.85 The text of the praise-homily falls
into twenty-eight sections of varying length and is written in a rhythmic prose

style much like a hymn, or as Raymond Grant has described it, like an "incan
tation."86 In the prefatory remarks to his edition of this homily, Grant cites the
apocryphal content and stylistic extravagance of this homily as evidence for his
suspicion of Irish and possibly eastern influence.87 The first two verse-paragraphs

82Benjamin Thorpe, The Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church. The First Part, Containing
the Sermones Catholici or Homilies of Ail)rie, vol. 1 (London, 1844), 510.
83 These prayers are too numerous to provide a full accounting of here. The sheer volume of
prayers invoking St. Michael as an intercessor suggests the wide currency of this belief through

the Anglo-Saxon age. For a selection of such prayers, see A. B. Kuypers, The Prayer Book of
Aedeluald (Cambridge, 1902), passim. For a discussion of St. Michael in the liturgy of the
Anglo-Saxon church, see Chapter Three, "St. Michael in Anglo-Saxon Liturgy," of my dis
sertation ("The Cult of Saint Michael").
84 Mary Clayton remarks that vElfric may have been referring to a Corpus-like text, "as he

specifies that no one can rescue a soul 'f>e crist Pus to ewe?: Discedite . ..' " (Clayton, "De
livering the Damned," 96).
85The homily is found on pp. 402-17 of the manuscript and has been edited by Grant, Three

Homilies, 56-67.

86Grant, Three Homilies, 7. It should be noted, however, that in the manuscript the homily
is written continuously in the margins and appears only in sections when modern editorial

conventions are applied.

87 Grant, Three Homilies, 52.

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introduce the text as a homily in honor of St. Michael on his feast day,88 des
ignating him by a series of epithets as the "eallra hali3ra fultum" (helper of all

the holy), "reccend eallra hali3ra saula" (guide of the holy souls), "ner3ende
3odes folces" (preserver of God's people).89 His role at the end of time, as the
"stron3 on 3efeohte \>i6 ?ane mielan dracan" (strong fighter against the great
serpent), is also mentioned.90 These opening sections close with an appeal for
Christians to pray to the Archangel for help in danger: "On Pisne heahen3el {)e
sculon 3elyfan 7 biddan us on fultom on ae3h|)ilcere frecennesse Pam cristenum
folce" (In this Archangel, we must trust and [to him] pray for help in every
danger to Christian people).91
The next twenty-five sections of the homily comprise an extended litanie
sequence, each enumerating several of St. Michael's roles in salvation history
and beginning, "Dis is se hal3a heahen3el sanctus michael" (This is the holy
archangel St. Michael).92 In these praise-paragraphs, Michael is cast in a wide
range of unfamiliar and often extravagant roles: he is said to have received the
soul of Abel when Cain slew him (? 3); saved Noah, his three sons, and their
wives in the great flood (?4); protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in hostile
lands (?5); slain the firstborn of Egypt at the Passover (?6); led the Israelites
into the promised land at the hands of Joshua (? 8); and helped in the construction

of Solomon's temple (?9).

Charles Wright has noted the similarity between the form of the praises to
Michael in the Corpus 41 homily and that of a sequence of praises to Michael
found in the Irish Liber Flavus Fergusiorum.93 Structurally the Irish praise poem

is similar to the Corpus 41 homily in that it is "a sequence of eleven sentences

each beginning Ts ? Michel.' "94 It is worth noting that a quatrain depicting St.
Michael as the slayer of Antichrist in the poem to the Virgin Mary by the early

Irish poet Blathmac begins with these same words:

It is Michael, your Son's warrior, who will
take a smiting sword to the body of impious
Antichrist, who shall be born of a great sin.95
(footnote on facing page)
88September 29. Most Anglo-Saxon martyrologies and calendars before a.D. 1100 only men
tion the feast of September 29th in connection with St. Michael (see F. Wormald, English
Kalendars before A.D. 1100 [London, 1934]). The Old English Martyrology seems to have
been an exception as it mentions the feasts of both May 8 and September 29.
89 Grant, Three Homilies, 56.


91 Ibid.
92 Ibid.

93Charles D. Wright, The Irish Tradition, 262, n. 167. The Irish sequences of praises are
found on folios lva, margin and 34vb of the Liber Flavus Fergusiorum (Royal Irish Academy,

Dublin, MS 23. O. 48, pt. II).

94 Ibid.

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Furthermore, Wright remarks that "the sequence [of praises in the Irish poem]
includes references to Michael's Old Testament roles as guide of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, and protector of the Israelites during the plagues of Egypt and during
their forty-year sojourn in the desert, as well as to his roles at the Resurrection

and Judgement, corresponding generally to the Old English homily sections 5

8 and 26."96

In an article on the various manuscript connections of a previously unpublished

homily on St. Michael found in Cambridge, Pembroke College MS 25, J. E.

Cross has shown that the homilist of that manuscript typically abstracted,
adapted, and interwove material from a variety of sources to create his homilies.97

In the instance of the homily on St. Michael, Cross points out that many of the

phrases of eulogy the homilist employs are in fact "found as antiphons and
responses of the liturgical feast for the archangel" in such texts as the pseudo
Gregorian Liber responsalis9* Citing Cross's discussion, Wright concludes, "It
is likely that both the Irish and the Old English Michael texts depend on a
common (Hiberno-Latin?) source," which in turn may have borrowed eulogistic
phrases from a variety of sources, including antiphonaries such as the Liber
Thus, the Irish connections of this homily are clear, but what of the Eastern
influences Grant suspected? It is a well-known fact that Michael is especially
venerated in the Coptic church. In fact, a list of ascriptions to St. Michael, equally

as extravagant as that in the Corpus homily, can be found in several Coptic

sermons printed by the Egyptologist E. A. W. Budge.100 While attributing many
of the same feats to St. Michael, however, the Coptic sermons add others to the

list. In a sermon entitled "Encomium of Theodosius, Archbishop of Alexandria,

on Saint Michael the Archangel,"101 the homilist employs the device of a meta
phorical banquet at which many Old and New Testament figures are assembled.
The guest list includes, among others, Adam, Seth, Abel, Enoch, Methuselah,
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, the Twelve Apostles, the martyrs and

95The poem has been edited and translated by James Carney, The Poems of Blathmac Son
of C? Brettan together with the Irish Gospel of Thomas and a Poem on the Virgin Mary, Irish

Texts Society 47 (Dublin, 1964), 88.

96Wright, The Irish Tradition, 262, n. 167.
97 J. E. Cross, "An Unpublished Story of Michael the Archangel and its Connections," Mag
ister Regis: Studies in Honor of Robert Earl Kaske (New York, 1986), 23-35 (cited in Wright,
The Irish Tradition, 262, n. 167).
98 Cross, "An Unpublished Story," 26.
"Wright, The Irish Tradition, 262, n. 167.
100Grant, Three Homilies, 50. E. A.W. Budge, ed., Saint Michael the Archangel Three En
comiums by Theodosius, Archbishop of Alexandria, Severus, Patriarch of Antioch, and Eus
tathius, Bishop ofTrake (London, 1894).
101 Budge, Saint Michael, 893-947.

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all the righteous, and the Hosts of Heaven. Trembling with awe, the homilist
approaches the feast table and questions Adam as to why he has come to this
banquet. Adam narrates the events of the Creation and the Fall, enumerating St.

Michael's roles in these events. Michael defeats Satanael and is appointed "Com
mander in Chief" in his place. As commander of the heavenly host, Michael
receives a great crown on which there are "three seals in the form of the Holy

Trinity, and the similitude of His image . . ., so that the Archangel Michael
might continue to invoke God at all times on behalf of His image."102 By a
similar series of questions and answers, the homilist elicits from each guest a
full catalogue of St. Michael's roles in salvation history: Michael entreated God
to forgive Adam, took Methuselah's prayers up to God, caused Joseph to be
made ruler of Egypt, gave Samson to his parents, comforted Isaiah and Jeremiah
in their afflictions, and strengthened every saint and martyr to endure affliction
and torture.

In the early Christian church of Egypt and the countries along the Nile, the
feast of St. Michael was celebrated on the twelfth day of every month. The
Archangel's popularity was due in large measure to his role as intercessor on
behalf of mankind before the Lord. In this capacity, St. Michael was often
invoked to guarantee the proper regulation of natural phenomena: prayers were

made to the Archangel to ensure that the Nile would flood, that rainfall would
be sufficient for crops, and that the temperature would not be excessive. St.

Michael was not perceived as the master of these elements, but as the most
efficacious and sympathetic intercessor with the true Master of these phenomena,

God. Thus, in another Coptic sermon printed by Budge, "A Discourse on the
Compassion of God and on the Freedom of Speech of the Archangel Michael,
by Severus, Archbishop of Antioch,"103 the homilist ascribes a list of natural
phenomena to the intercession of Michael: the sun rises through the supplication

of Michael; trees bear fruit, sheep grow wool, and goats give milk, all through

his constant supplication before the Lord. It is also St. Michael who reconciled
the world with God and who protects everyone from the snares of the Devil.104

A third Coptic homily found in a manuscript of the tenth century merits

attention here, since it underscores the importance of St. Michael as an intercessor

for the Coptic church. The homily is attributed to St. John Chrysostom, and
entitled "St. Michael and the Good Thief."105 The section of the text on St.
Michael falls into four parts. The first part introduces the theme of St. Michael
as a powerful intercessor on behalf of humankind. The second section enumerates
102 Ibid., 908.

103Ibid., 735-60.
104Ibid., 757.
105 Jean Simon, "Hom?lie copte in?dite sur S. Michel et le Bon Larron, attribu?e ? S. Jean
Chrysostome," Orientalia n.s. 3 (1934): 217-42 (introduction and Coptic text), and Orientalia
n.s. 4 (1935): 222-34 (French translation).

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St. Michael's twelve apparitions on earth, each of which is commemorated by

one of twelve feast days in the Coptic liturgical calendar. The third section and
thematic climax of the homily lists twelve benefits assured by the intercession

of St. Michael and the Virgin Mary. It should be noted that there exist several

scenes in Old English literature which feature the Virgin and St. Michael in
terceding on behalf of humankind. The benefits enumerated in the Coptic homily,

however, are principally natural phenomena, although several include socio

political guarantees, such as the establishment of God-loving rulers over the
peoples of the earth, and the prevalence of peace, charity, purity, and repentance

in the relations among peoples.106 The conclusion of the homily reiterates the
value of St. Michael's intercession by praying for his aid at the Last Judgment.
Budge dates the first two Coptic texts to the seventh century, a time when the
Coptic church was still Greek-speaking. It is, therefore, possible that these hom

ilies were also known in Greek and that they were partly responsible for a
tradition of extravagant praise for St. Michael spreading to the West. Greek
devotion to St. Michael is well attested,107 but one writer in particular deserves

attention in connection with the Corpus homily. In a sermon on the power of

St. Michael, the deacon Pantoleon attributes a series of Old Testament miracles

to the intervention of the Archangel.108 The sermon opens with a eulogistic

passage which describes Michael by a string of epithets: he is "maxime et im

primis admirabilis Michael princeps Dei militiae" (the greatest and especially
wonderful Michael chief of God's troops), "benigne Michael" (kind-hearted
Michael), "qui es fortissimus pugnator et propugnator ac defensor eorum qui
Dominum diligunt" (who are the most powerful combatant and champion and
defender of those who love the Lord).109 Of the miracles Pantoleon attributes to
Michael, perhaps the most striking is the Archangel's intervention at the sacrifice

of Isaac: Michael stays the hand of Abraham as he is about to slay his son Isaac

(? XI). Michael is also said to be the angel who wrestles with Jacob (? XI);
who leads the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land (? XIII); who contends

with the Devil over the body of Moses (? XIV); who aids Joshua in destroying
Jericho (? XV); who saves Sidrach, Misach, and Abednago from the flames of
Nabuchodonosor's furnace (? XX); and who preserves Daniel in the iion's den

106The theme of the Archangel's intercession seems to have suggested to the homilist the
story of the Good Thief, which according to the editor, Jean Simon, was inserted after the third

St. Michael section at a later date.

107See Victor Saxer, "Jalons pour servir a l'histoire du culte de l'archange Saint Michel en

orient jusqu'? l'Iconoclasme," Noscere Sancta: Miscellanea in memoria di Agostino Amore,

OFM (Rome, 1985), 357-426.

108Pantoleonis, Diaconi et Chartophylacis magnae Ecclesiae: "Narrano miraculorum maximi

Archangeli Michaelis," PG 140. 573-88.

,09Ibid., 574-75.

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(? XXI). Although the Greek sermon bears no relation to the Old English homily
structurally, the same inclination toward hyperbolic praise pervades both texts.
Thus, it seems from the evidence of Irish and Coptic devotional literature that

the Corpus praise-homily to St. Michael could reasonably reflect a degree of

Coptic influence mediated by a Hiberno-Latin source. Such a conclusion might
not be as far-fetched as it seems. Eastern monasticism is known to have had a
profound effect on Irish asceticism.110 It is known that there were "foreigners"

in Ireland from the earliest Christian times. Many of these eastern monks or
pilgrims were Egyptians who took up residence in Ireland after the Arab invasion
of Egypt in 641/42. The Irish "Litany of the Pilgrim Saints," a text compiled in
the early ninth century, refers to "Seven monks of Egypt in Disert Uilagi."111

The text also mentions "twelve dogheads," or devotees of the cult of St. Chris
topher (who is often represented iconographically as having a dog's head), who
were also possibly eastern ascetics. The eastern ascetic impulse was embraced

by the movement of the C?li D?, one of whose leaders was Mael-Ruain of
Tallaght who held St. Michael in special devotion. Saint Oengus the Culd?e,
author of the Martyrology of Oengus, introduced into his martyrology a list of

several Coptic monks who lived and died as hermits in Ireland in the second
half of the eighth century.112 Although it is impossible to say whether any of
these "foreign" monks brought Coptic texts with them (and if so, whether they

were translated and disseminated), it is possible that they brought with them a
devotion to the Archangel that found fertile ground in Irish spirituality. Although

an ultimate source for the homily remains for the moment elusive, it is clear
that the closest analogues for the exuberant rhetoric and the extravagant praise
of St. Michael in the anonymous Corpus homily are to be found in Coptic sources.

Furthermore, the commonality of Coptic and Celtic admiration for, and their

lavish praise of, the Archangel suggests that the possibility of some form of
indirect influence ought not be dismissed.
110 For a discussion of Ireland's relations with the East, see Whitley Stokes, "Ireland and the
East," in Ireland and the Celtic Church (London, 1888), 166-88. For discussion of specifically
Coptic and Egyptian influences in medieval Ireland, see Margaret Schlauch, "On Conall Core
and the Relations of Old Ireland with the Orient," Journal of Celtic Studies 1 (1950): 152-66;
J. N. Hillgarth, "The East, Visigothic Spain and the Irish," Studia Patristica 4 (1961): 442
56; Robert . Ritner, Jr., "Egyptians in Ireland: A Question of Coptic Peregrination," Rice
University Studies 62 (1976): 65-87; and John Carey, "The Sun's Night Journey: A Pharaonic
Image in Medieval Ireland," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 37 (1994): 14


111 Kathleen Hughes, "On an Irish Litany of Pilgrim Saints Compiled c. 800," Analecta
Bollandiana 11 (1959): 305-31, at 325. The text also mentions "twelve dogheads," or devotees
of St. Christopher's cult, whom Hughes suggests were also possibly eastern ascetics. The litany

has been edited by C. Plummer, Irish Litanies, HBS 62 (London, 1925), 60-67.
I12The Book of Litanies, as the list is known, is written in the form of a litanie sequence
(not unlike the "meter" of the anonymous praise-homily to St. Michael in Corpus 41) and has
been published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, vol. 8, no. 32 (May-June 1867).

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Although much of the rich and manifold character of Anglo-Saxon devotion
to the Archangel seems to have developed out of the syncretic union of the two

forces that forged the Anglo-Saxon church, such a conflation of influences is

not evident in the marginal homilies of Corpus 41. Given the preponderance of
apocalyptic themes and the abundance of apocryphal material in the Corpus 41
homilies, it is not surprising that St. Michael should appear in four of the six
homiletic texts copied in the margins of the manuscript. Although St. Michael
is not mentioned in the charms or loricas, the protective theme of these verses
is in keeping with his apotropaic power. Furthermore, the tenor of these incan
tatory verses suggests a continuity in the compiler's selection of non-liturgical
texts: both the verses and the homilies share a concern for the fate of the body

and the soul in this life and the next. It should also not be surprising that the
homilies in which the Archangel appears are interlaced with Irish connections.
In these homilies, St. Michael is most often depicted in roles favored by the
Celtic tradition of representation. He appears as pyschopomp, leading the Virgin

Mary's pristine soul to heaven, as conveyor of souls before the Judge, and as a
powerful intercessor on behalf of sinners. In the unique homily in honor of the

Archangel, St. Michael is cast in a range of unfamiliar Old and New Testament
roles, roles most closely paralleled in Irish and Coptic texts. Thus, in the homilies

collected in the margins of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41, the Irish
representation of St. Michael prevails over that of Roman tradition, a conclusion

which suggests that the homilies were composed in a literary milieu influenced
by Irish sources.

Northwestern University

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