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The Relics of Battle Abbey

The Relics of Battle Abbey

Lecture by Dr Michael Carter, FSA (English Heritage).

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Battle Abbey’s association with relics extends back to the events leading to invasion of England by William of Normandy in 1066; relics also feature prominently in the foundation of the monastery by the Conqueror.

This paper will discuss a previously unpublished and largely overlooked inventory of relics in the possession of Battle Abbey in the 15th century. The inventory is now at the Huntingdon Library, San Marino (MS HM 30319). Compiled by Thomas Byrd, cellarer of Battle between 1436-8, the manuscript lists approximately 150 relics. These include relics of Christ, sacred locations in the Holy Land and Rome, and also relics of the Virgin and many other saints, some of which are not found in other English inventories.
The inventory provides valuable evidence of the liturgical and devotional life of the monks of Battle Abbey. In many instances it is possible to determine how the abbey obtained its relics, thus expanding understanding of the monastery’s relationship with its patrons and other English Benedictine monasteries.

The 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings falls on 14 October of this year (2016).


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