"He is hope for the wretched, the salvation of the desperate": Miracles of Justice in Reginald of Durham's Libellus de admirandis beati Cuthberti virtutibus
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In twelfth-century northern England, the historical imagination was dominated by the region's most powerful and most popular saint. Both the bishops of Durham and the priors of the Benedictine convent attached to Durham cathedral drew on St. Cuthbert's renowned history and well-established authority to underline their own spiritual legitimacy. Involvement with the saint's cult was not limited to the ecclesiastical elite or the monks of the cathedral convent, however. Throughout the twelfth century, lay interest in the religious life dramatically increased, and saints' cults were a popular focus of lay religious energy. Reginald of Durham's Libellus de admirandis beati Cuthberti virtutibus, complied in the 1160s and 70s, provides a richly detailed glimpse of this period when the saint's miracle working powers were claimed by religious and laity alike. Much scholarly attention has already been paid to the increasing prevalence of pilgrimage to Cuthbert's shrine in the twelfth century. Pilgrims who visited Durham generally sought miraculous cures for illnesses or injuries, and as we would expect there is a higher proportion of stories about healing miracles in the Libellus than in earlier works of Cuthbertine hagiography. But pilgrims were not the only laity who became involved in St. Cuthbert's cult in the twelfth century. In addition to stories of miraculous healing, Reginald's Libellus contains accounts of the saint arbitrating the conflicts of lay inhabitants of the bishopric of Durham. My research examines these often overlooked "miracles of justice" in order to provide a fuller picture of lay interaction with St. Cuthbert in twelfth-century Durham. I analyze miracle stories involving freeing from false imprisonment; protection of lay interests; and punishment of immoral behavior in order to explore how and why members of every social strata increasingly claimed the patronage of the saint in order to mediate secular conflict. What emerges is a clearer portrait of a distinctive local political and social culture underlined by communal association with St. Cuthbert.