Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies

Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies – Rosenkilde and Bagger – Ms. Royal 7 c. xii – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Cerne (United Kingdom) — 990

Edifying sermons for the "common people": Ælfric of Eynsham's 10th century Old English translations of 40 Latin homilies on the most important events of the liturgical year

  1. Ælfric of Eynsham (ca. 955 – ca. 1010) was an abbot and prolific author in Anglo-Saxon England

  2. His earliest work is an Old English translation of Latin texts concerning various religious themes

  3. It also includes texts by Gregory of Tours (ca. 538–594) and Cassiodorus Senator (ca. 485 – ca. 585)

Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies

Ælfric of Eynsham was an abbot in Anglo-Saxon England who was a prolific author of Old English homilies, hagiographies, and commentaries on the Bible who was also highly influential in shaping monastic reform during the 10th century. Created ca. 990–995, the Sermones Catholici are his earliest known works and are Old English translations of Latin texts that draw on the gospels, saints' lives´, and other doctrinal themes. Ælfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies consists of 40 homilies devoted to the chief events of the liturgical year and is, according to the author’s own Latin preface, intended “for the edification of the simple” – the laity. Aside from holding the earliest known copy of the work, other texts in the manuscript include fragments of Canon Tables from a 7th or 8th century Gospel Book and extracts from Gesta Francorum by Gregory of Tours, Sermo de Sabbato Pasche, Gospel of Nicodemus, and fragments of Expositio Psalmorum by Cassiodorus Senator.

Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies

Ælfric of Eynsham (ca. 955 – ca. 1010), also known as Ælfric the Grammarian, Ælfric of Cerne, and Ælfric the Homilist, was a theologian and writer whose works and intellect have been compared with Saint Bede and who represented the pinnacle of both Anglo-Saxon literature and the Benedictine reform movement in England. In the Latin preface to his first series of Catholic homilies, Ælfric lists the various authors whose works he consulted, first and foremost Gregory the Great. He goes on to lament the lack of access Englishmen have to the teachings of the Church Fathers.
The forty homilies are devoted to the principal events of the liturgical year and are divided into three parts: fragments of canon tables from a 7th or 8th century Gospel Book, a copy of Aelfric’s first series of Old English homilies from the turn of the 11th century, and extracts from Gregory of Tours, Gesta Francorum, Sermo de Sabbato Pasche, the Gospel of Nicodemus, and fragments of Cassiodorus Senator’s Expositio Psalmorum. Decorative initials, zoomorphic ornaments, and rubrics adorn the text. The coveted manuscript was once owned by Thomas Wolsey (1473–1530), the distinguished English statesman and Archbishop of York under King Henry VIII.

The Life of Ælfric

Previously confused with Ælfric of Abingdon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ælfric of Eynsham was an abbot who was educated in the Benedictine Old Minster at Winchester under Saint Æthelwold of Winchester, who reigned there as bishop during the years 963–984. He carried on the reforms of Saint Dunstan to monastic life in his governance of the abbeys at Abingdon, Berkshire, and Winchester. It was in Winchester that he began to build his reputation as a scholar and when Cerne Abbey was founded in 987, he was sent by Bishop Ælfheah at the request of its chief benefactor, the ealdorman Æthelmær the Stout, to instruct the Benedictine monks there. Ælfric created two series of English homilies while at Cerne, which were dedicated to Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury, the first of which is presented here. He appears to have split his time between Cerne and Winchester before the year 1005, when he set out for the newly founded Eynsham Abbey, where he became its first abbot and lived there for the rest of his life.

Ælfric’s Teachings and Works

Remembered as the most prolific Old English author, the main theme of Ælfric’s writings is God’s mercy, but he also expressed some progressive views toward women. The early English Church did not abide by the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and Ælfric did not believe in the Immaculate Conception. He also made significant contributions to the instruction of Latin in England: his Grammar is regarded as the first vernacular translation of Latin grammar in medieval Europe, his Glossary was not organized alphabetically but thematically, and his Colloquy was a conversational manual for Latin students. He went on to create a third, hagiographic series of homilies, and an Old English translation of selections from the Haxateuch. After becoming abbot of Eynsham, he wrote his Letter to the Monks of Eynsham concerning monastic life, a vita of his old master Æthelwold, an introduction for the study of the Bible, an English translation of Bede’s De Temporibus, and various letters to contemporary scholars.


Alternative Titles
Aelfrics erste Reihe katholischer Homilien
Size / Format
462 pages / 31.0 × 21.0 cm
Anglo-Saxon minusclue

Available facsimile editions:
Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies – Rosenkilde and Bagger – Ms. Royal 7 c. xii – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1966
Facsimile Editions

#1 Aelfric’s First Series of Catholic Homilies

Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1966

Publisher: Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1966
Commentary: 1 volume by Norman Eliason and Peter Clemoes
Language: English
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of folios 4-218 of the original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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