Who Was St Guthlac?


St Guthlac was an Anglo Saxon hermit, who came to the Island of Crowland from the Monastery at Repton in 699 AD.  Formerly a soldier of fortune, he had then dedicated his life to religious study, counselling and solitude.  He died, aged about forty, in 714 AD, and Crowland Abbey was founded in his memory by Ethelbald, King of Mercia, a few years later.

The booklet "St Guthlac ~ His Life & the Guthlac Roll outlines the story of St Guthlac's life based on a translation of the earliest manuscript, and then tells his story through The Guthlac Roll.

The Life of Saint Guthlac was written by a monk named Felix at the behest of King Ælfwald of the East Angles, to whom it was dedicated.  Written within 35 years of Guthlac's death; it was based it on the recollections of Wilfred (a hermit who visited Guthlac often) and Cissa (who was Guthlac's successor at Crowland).  Consequently, this manuscript can be considered to be the most reliable history of his life.

It was not for another one to two hundred years that other works on St Guthlac's life started to appear, written in Anglo-Saxon and Latin. These included poems as well as prose.  They also included embellishments by the various authors and through traditions that had grown up at the Abbey of Crowland as years passed. 

Click here to see the Guthlac Roll - St Guthlac Roll

The Guthlac Roll is believed to have been drawn by monk(s) at Crowland Abbey in late 12th Century or early 13th Century. It is based on Felix, other histories and/or the Crowland tradition.  The Roll comprises 18 roundels on vellum measuring 2,910mm long by 165mm wide. The purpose for which the Roll was drawn is not known. However, archived as Harley Roll Y6 in the British Library, it is one of its most highly regarded illuminated manuscriptsThe booklet is sold in aid of church funds so, should you wish to download a copy, it would be apreciated if you could forward £1.50 to The Rector, The Rectory, Church Street, Market Deeping PE6 , Lincs