Saint's Law: Anglo-Saxon Sanctuary Protection in the Translatio et Miracula S. Swithuni

John P. Sexton

Abstract


Lantfred of Winchester's Translatio et Miracula S. Swithuni is one of many hagiographical texts incorporating legal and customary traditions connected to the sanctuary privilege as proof of the saints' protection of holy places. Lantfred's specific usage of sanctuary episodes highlights Swithun's intercessory role in secular as well as spiritual matters. Analysis of the "wheat thief" narrative (previously unrecognized as a sanctuary case) along with other tales in the miracle collection suggests Lantfred's strategic use of Winchester's sanctuary space as a rebuke to overzealous enforcers of later Anglo-Saxon law. The text carefully presents Swithun as a merciful alternative to the harshness of royal justice — a notable feat considering the Wessex royal family's close involvement with Winchester and Swithun's early cult.

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