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Caring for the dead in later Anglo-Saxon England

Hadley, D.M. and Buckberry, J.L. (2005) Caring for the dead in later Anglo-Saxon England. In: Tinti, F., (ed.) Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon Studies (6). Boydell , Woodbridge , pp. 121-147. ISBN 9781843831563



The textual evidence for attitudes to death and the regulations surrounding burial in the tenth and eleventh centuries includes law-codes, penitentials and homilies. There have been numerous studies of this evidence, including that by Tinti elsewhere in this volume, and therefore only a brief review is offered here. Law-codes reveal concern with where the dead should be buried and with ensuring that various payments, including those for mortuary provision, should be made to the appropriate church. The payment known as soul-scot, a burial tax which was paid to the minster church, is not codified until the early eleventh century, but is clearly of earlier origin given that it is mentioned in charters of the late ninth century. In a law-code issued by King Æthelred in 1008 it is stated that ‘if any body is buried elsewhere outside the proper parish (rihtscriftscire), the payment for the soul is nevertheless to be paid to the minster to which it belongs’, which implies that the income to minster churches was under threat. Indeed, the observations of Ælfric of Eynsham c.1006 imply that there was sometimes priestly competition to tend to the bodies of the deceased, and doubtless also to claim the funerary dues: ‘Some priests are glad when men die and they flock to the corpse like greedy ravens when they see a carcass, in wood or in field; but it is fitting for [a priest] . . . to attend the men who belong to his parish (hyrnysse) at his church; and he must never go into another’s district to any corpse, unless he is invited.’

Item Type: Book Section
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Department of Archaeology (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr D.M. Hadley
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2007 11:46
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 15:22
Status: Published
Publisher: Boydell
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3400

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