Recording and curating relics at Westminster Abbey in the late Middle Ages

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Abstract

Westminster Abbey’s relics, and objects functionally related to them, were kept in the shrine chapel of St Edward the Confessor, where the kings and queens of England were customarily buried. They constituted a discrete collection, curated by a dedicated monastic officer titled ‘the keeper of St Edward’s shrine and the relics of St Peter’s church’. Inventories of the chapel, made when the office changed hands, survive from 1467, 1479 and 1520. These documents are analysed here for what they reveal of the contents of the collection, monastic interest in it, and the way the relics and related objects were cared for. As an important aspect of the chapel’s spatial configuration, the problem of where precisely the relics were located is also investigated. By examining the routine management of a single, important collection, the article aims to contribute to a more holistic understanding of the cult of relics in the late Middle Ages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-230
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Volume45
Issue number2
Early online date24 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Relics
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Shrine
  • Relic inventories
  • Chapel of Edward the Confessor

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