Monastic Reform and Lay Religion in Æthelwold's Winchester
Riedel, Christopher Tolin. “Monastic Reform and Lay Religion in Æthelwold's Winchester”, PhD, Boston College, 2015. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104635.
Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester (d. 984) was a reformer of Anglo-Saxon monasticism, but he was also deeply concerned with the religion of ordinary English laypeople. Whether in his promulgation of the cult of saints, vast elaboration of the liturgy, or extensive rebuilding of Winchester’s churches, Æthelwold demonstrated an interest in the lay religion that has been consistently ignored by modern scholars who fixate on his monastic zeal. This concern for the laity is natural in the context of Æthelwold’s own interpretation of the English past, as his goal of an all-monastic English Church necessitated a pastoral role for his reformed monks rather than their strict seclusion from the world. Such a goal was possible because Æthelwold initiated his reform program in the mid tenth century, when corporate religious life still provided the bulk of pastoral care in Winchester and the rest of southwest England, and the organized parish system was only a dim possibility as small local churches began to appear haphazardly in the north and east of the country. Æthelwold’s reforms were therefore very different from similar ones taking place on the continent or even in the sees of his fellow English reformers, and he attempted to recreate an imagined English past very unlike the Church that would eventually result a century later. The influence of his students, however, especially Wulfstan Cantor and the prolific Ælfric of Eynsham, shows that Æthelwold’s unusual interest in lay religion had far reaching consequences for the medieval English Church.