Hagiography at the Frontiers: Jocelin of Furness and Insular Politics

Jocelin of Furness was one of the most influential hagiographers of the Insular Middle Ages. He lived at the turn of the thirteenth century and was a monk of the Cistercian abbey of Furness (a site whose ruins lie in south Cumbria).

Furness Abbey‌Four substantial Lives composed by Jocelin survive, namely of St Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), St Kentigern (patron saint of Glasgow), St Waltheof (abbot of Melrose), and St Helena of Britain (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great).

Jocelin worked under the patronage of prominent British and Irish ecclesiastical and secular leaders. These included Jocelin, bishop of Glasgow; Patrick, abbot of Melrose; and John de Courcy, conqueror of Ulster.

Aims of the Project

The aims of the project were threefold:

  • to bring forth editions and translations of two texts (Jocelin’s Lives of Patrick and Helena);
  • to conduct research into the cultural context in which Jocelin was working;
  • and to further knowledge of Jocelin’s work among the general public.

The writings of Jocelin of Furness have not attracted a great deal of scholarship, although there has been a resurgence of interest in his work recently, as witnessed by Dr Helen Birkett’s book, The Saints’ Lives of Jocelin of Furness (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2010).

The study of Jocelin’s work has been hampered by the absence of satisfactory published editions of his writings, notably the Life of St Patrick. Jocelin’s Lives of Saints are, however, of great interest to scholars of medieval Britain and Ireland.

This AHRC funded project ran for two years from July 2010.


  • Fiona Edmonds, 'Saints' Cults and Gaelic-Scandinavian Influence around the Cumberland Coast and North of the Solway Firth', in Jón Viðar Sigurðsson and Timothy Bolton (eds.), Celtic-Norse Relationships in the Irish Sea in the Middle Ages 800-1200 (Leiden:Brill, 2014), pp. 39-63
  • Fiona Edmonds, 'Norse influence in north-west England: Jocelin of Furness's Interpretation of the Name "Waltheof"' The Journal of Scottish Name Studies, 9 (2015), 43-62
  • Clare Downham (ed.) Jocelin of Furness: Essays from the 2011 Conference (Donington, 2013) ISBN 978-1-907730-33-7. Learn more on Wikipedia.
  • Ingrid Sperber, Ludwig Bieler and Clare Downham (eds and trans) (forthcoming) The Life of St Patrick by Jocelin of Furness, PIMS: Toronto.
  • Translation of the Life of St Helena by Jocelin of Furness
  • The Latin text of the Life of St Patrick by Jocelin of Furness (edited by Ingrid Sperber and Ludwig Bieler) is available in online searchable edition at:
    Anthony Harvey and Angela Malthouse (eds), Royal Irish Academy Archive of Celtic-Latin literature (2nd development and expanded edition, ACLL-2) http://www.brepolis.net

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