Female Saints in Early Tudor Chester: Henry Bradshaw's Lives of Werburgh and Radegund

I am currently preparing an edition of the two hagiographic poems of Henry Bradshaw (d. 1513), a monk of St. Werburgh's Abbey in Chester and one of the last English hagiographers to compose substantial Lives of saints before the English Reformation. His poetic Life of St. Werburge (seventh-century Mercian princes and abbess) and Life of St. Radegunde (sixth-century Merovingian queen and nun) offer models of ethical deportment for laywomen and professed religious alike, while also tracing the historical elements of the saints' lives. Both poems display Bradshaw's interest in unearthing the history of his own monastery and integrating contemporary spiritual virtues into the stories of historical women. Straddling divides between the cloister and the town square, hagiography and antiquarianism, female piety and universal devotion, and the medieval and early modern periods, these two poems demonstrate the liveliness and relevance of hagiographic discourse on the eve of the Reformation.

This volume, provisionally entitled Female Saints in Early Tudor Chester: Henry Bradshaw's Lives of Werburgh and Radegund, will newly edit these two poems from the early modern printings of Richard Pynson (1521 and c. 1525 respectively). The introduction to the edition will discuss this printing history alongside the history of Bradshaw and his community, the relationship of these two poems to Middle English hagiography, and the ways these poems position their saintly protagonists amidst discourses of virginity, holiness, antiquity, and female communities. I also aim to include two appendices that trace the medieval and early modern cults of Werburgh and Radegund.

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