St Wulfstan is a figure with whom a number of books can be associated and who, according to William of Malmesbury, was a champion of pastoral care both as bishop and monk. Through an examination of St Wulfstan’s books, this paper seeks to shed light on some aspects of the performance of pastoral care in late Anglo-Saxon Worcester.
Liturgical books from the central Middle Ages (c. 900-1200) contain a variety of blessings for everyday objects and substances – such as wells, seeds and fields – which historians assume were tailored to meet the materialistic demands of the ordinary people. Thus, they have alighted on the themes of both Christianization and pastoral care. The cura animarum, however, is typically associated with priests and bishops, sermons, Masses and baptisms. Liturgical blessings, while containing ostensibly communal elements, were not designed solely for the wellbeing of the laity; the ‘communal life’ to which they refer is more likely to have been that of the monastic community in which they were composed, selected, copied and glossed. These texts therefore raise a series of questions about our perceptions of the Church’s delivery of pastoral care, and the nature of the role of monks and the liturgy in that process. My paper will consider whether benedictions can justifiably be viewed as pastoral texts, and the implications this might have for the ‘Christianization’ theories that presuppose such a use. In so doing, it will address an area of history that has received surprisingly little attention from scholars, but has much to tell us about the religious culture of the period.
Although Old English sermons continued to be copied after the conquest, and sermons in Middle English survive from the early 12th century onwards, their use, audience, and institutional context remain in most cases uncertain. The paper will explore the possible reasons why English continued to be used as a written medium for sermons in this period, looking closely at individual sermons, but also aiming to place them within the changing historical and institutional context of the post-Conquest period.