This book focuses on the period from the seventh to eleventh centuries that witnessed the rise and fall of Mercia, the great Midland kingdom, and, later, the formation of England. Specifically, it explores the relationship between the bishops of Lichfield and the multiple communities of their diocese.
Andrew Sargent tackles the challenge posed by the evidential ‘hole’ at the heart of Mercia by synthesising different kinds of evidence — archaeological, textual, topographical and toponymical — to reconstruct the landscapes inhabited by these communities, which intersected at cathedrals and minsters and other less formal meeting-places.
Most such communities were engaged in the construction of hierarchies, and Sargent assigns spiritual lordship a dominant role in this.
Tracing the interconnections of these communities, he focuses on the development of the Church of Lichfield, an extensive episcopal community situated within a dynamic mesh of institutions and groups within and beyond the diocese, from the royal court to the smallest township.
The regional elite combined spiritual and secular forms of lordship to advance and entrench their mutual interests, and the entanglement of royal and episcopal governance is one of the key focuses of Andrew Sargent's outstanding new research.
How the bishops shaped and promoted spiritual discourse to establish their own authority within society is key. This is traced through the meagre textual sources, which hint at the bishops’ involvement in the wider flow of ecclesiastical politics in Britain, and through the archaeological and landscape evidence for churches and minsters held not only by bishops, but also by kings and aristocrats within the diocese.
Saints’ cults offer a particularly effective medium through which to study these developments: St Chad, the Mercian bishop who established the see at Lichfield, became an influential spiritual patron for subsequent bishops of the diocese, but other lesser known saints also focused claims to spiritual authority on behalf of their own communities.
Ultimately, Sargent takes issue with the dominance of the ‘minster narrative’ in much recent scholarship, proposing that episcopal communities be recognised as far more pro-active than is often credited, and that the notion of spiritual lordship offers a more effective way of framing the developments of the period, both ecclesiastical and lay.
Andrew Sargent lectures in Medieval History at Keele University and is Editor of the Staffordshire Victoria County History.
ISBN 978-1-912260-25-6; Oct 2020; 296pp; Paperback
“Thoroughly researched, stimulating and illuminating, Lichfield and the Lands of St Chad could be a useful model for research projects in parts of the country where archival evidence may be thin and where a multi-disciplinary approach may yield new insights into what ‘community’ signified in the medieval period. For instance, comments on the dissemination and after-life of cults of local saints in Mercia suggest ways in which to approach the persistence of similar traditions in other localities. In addition to illustrations of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture from the region, other strengths of this work are its well-presented maps, plans and tables, including data from Domesday Book showing the distribution of estates of the bishop of Lichfield in 1066 from Burton in Wirral to Tachbrook, Warwickshire. Informative footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography add notably to its usefulness. Originally based on a PhD thesis, Lichfield and the Lands of St Chad will be of lasting interest to the general reader as well as to the medievalist.” Margaret O’Sullivan, The Local Historian
“This is a book that deserves to be read by all those interested in the early medieval period, particularly if their interests touch upon the religious culture of the period, although it clearly has a relevance beyond that. It is also a significant addition to the corpus of regional studies in this period. A stimulating book that challenges many familiar notions, in the best traditions of good scholarship, it will undoubtedly prompt continued debate and evaluation of its conclusions. No author could ask for more.” John Hunt, Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Transactions
“[A]n impressive survey of the religious landscape of early medieval Lichfield. Scholars of Anglo-Saxon England or local history will find no more complete guide to Lichfield and its environs than the one provided here.” Ben Reinhard, Church History
“It is challenging, stimulating and often insightful, and provides a welcome review of some key historiographical debates on the period.” John Hunt, Landscape History
“It is possible to argue with the ways in which Sargent reassembles the pieces of this jigsaw, but it is difficult to argue that this sort of activity is long overdue; as such, it not only makes an important contribution to our understanding of the region in the early medieval period, but also offers an alternative way of conceptualizing and analysing communities that has much broader implications.” Katharine Sykes, Midland History
This screen shows you the details for the selected product.
Click the "Add to Cart" button to add this product to your shopping cart. You can enter a quantity larger then 1 to add multiples of this product to your shopping cart.
If the product is full you will see a "Wait List" button. Click this button if you would like to be notified if/when capacity is added. If capacity is increased we will email you. Upon receipt of the increased capacity notification, registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
If the product is not ready for purchase you will see a "Notify Me" button. You can click this button if you would like to be notified when this product is ready for purchase.
Some products can only be purchased through our partner. In this case you will see an "External Register" button. Click this button to purchase through our partner's website.