A family and its saint in the Vita prima Samsonis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

The first Life of St Samson is quite atypical in the attention it gives to the saint’s family. The standard tropes of noble lineage and honourable parents are dutifully rolled out by the hagiographer, along with details of how Samson ultimately turned from their worldly life in pursuit of ascetic excellence, but Samson never entirely leaves his family behind. Their continued involvement with the saint is a recurring theme in the Life, and it has not always been noted just how prominent a theme it is. From his parents’ conflicted plans for their child’s fate and his father’s involvement with ‘worldly magic’, to the excommunication of his sister, the tonsuring of his relatives and the church-building program of his mother and aunt, the Vita Samsonis is almost as much the history of a family network as a history of its sainted son. The family connection forms an equally important part of the Life’s own claims to authority and authenticity, since the hagiographer insists that his work is founded upon testimonies once related by Samson’s mother and cousins. More is implied than stated about the spread of this family network across the ecclesiastical landscape of sixth-century Britain; and in this paper, I explore this familial backdrop to the Life and determine its significance to those who preserved the saint’s memory in Britain and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSt Samson of Dol and the Earliest History of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales
EditorsLynette Olson
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell and Brewer
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781783272181
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Publication series

NameStudies in Celtic History
PublisherBoydell and Brewer
ISSN (Print)0261-9865


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