A Middle English Version of Saint Ursula’s Prayer Instruction in Nijmegen, Universiteitsbibliotheek, HS 194
SourceStudies in Philology, 110, 4, (2013), pp. 714-730
Article / Letter to editor
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Engelse Taal en Cultuur
Studies in Philology
SubjectMemory: Cultural and Religious Identities
Dating back to the late antique period, the martyrdom of St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins became a focus of devotion in the late medieval and early modern period in continental Europe and the British Isles. Jacobus de Voragine discussed St. Ursula’s martyrdom in detail in the Legenda Aurea, which included a prayer instruction that St. Ursula revealed to a dying monk in return for his faithful devotion to her. Taking their cue from St. Ursula’s revelation in the Legenda Aurea, late medieval narratives such as the Shropshire Miracle expanded the prayer instruction revealed by St. Ursula and contextualized it in the historical setting of the life of the fifteenth-century English hermit John of Warwick. The Shropshire Miracle, in turn, was embedded in lives of St. Ursula, which were exported from England to Germany, and subsequently imported back into England. The key feature of these late medieval and early modern sources is the prayer instruction revealed by St. Ursula, a form of reciprocated devotion which cemented the reputation of St. Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins on the one hand, and on the other hand ensured protection in this life and access to heaven for the petitioner. While Ursuline prayer instructions survive in large numbers in Latin, the number of instructions in English is limited. The fifteenth-century English manuscript Nijmegen, Universiteitsbibliotheek, HS 194 contains a uniquely attested and recontextualized version of St. Ursula’s prayer instruction that is here situated within the medieval and early modern development of the cult of St. Ursula and printed for the first time.
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