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Writing Friendship, Mourning the Friend in Late Anglo-Saxon Rules of Confraternity

  • Author(s): Saltzman, Benjamin A.
  • et al.

Mourning the death of a friend posed a problem for late Anglo-Saxon monasticism. Newly reformed under the authority of the Benedictine Rule and the Regularis Concordia, religious were precluded from developing personal friendships so as to protect a world in which all things—including friends—must be held in common. Within this context, two Old English documents, so-called Rules of Confraternity, were inscribed in the early eleventh century into two manuscripts at New Minster, Winchester and Sherborne, establishing provisions for a reciprocal exchange of prayers following a death at a neighboring monastery. However, through scribal amendments and emendations, the Sherborne Rules subtly break apart and reformulate the sense of community upheld in contemporary monastic codes: by liturgically imagining the confraternity as a bond of friendship between two monastic institutions, the Sherborne Rules clear ground for the possibility that one friend might singularly mourn the death of another.

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