[MR] BBC: Battle Abbey Relics List Translated
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Wed Dec 18 03:00:18 PST 2019
Today the BBC reports that a historian at English Heritage has translated a
mid-15th century inventory of relics held at Battle Abbey. Among the
treasures were a finger of Santa Claus . . . er . . . Saint Nicolas, pieces
from both the True Cross and Jesus's manger, and stones used to kill Saint
While we might believe, with reasonable skepticism, that many of these
"relics" were fake, they were accepted as genuine in the middle ages and
were venerated by the faithful.
I wasn't able to find the actual translation online, but the translator,
Michael Carter, gave a lecture on his work in 2016. Here is an summary that
says a lot more than the BBC piece:
"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"This paper will discuss a previously unpublished and largely overlooked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
The BBC story is found at
A brief history of the Abbey is at
At English Heritage's site you can see photos of some surviving objects
from the abbey. They are worthy of study by our A&S folks:
(the images are slow to load, so be patient).
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
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