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Saint Guthlac

The Church is dedicated to Saint Guthlac, a local Anglo Saxon hermit, who lived at the turn of the 8th Century. He came to the Island of Crowland from the Monastery at Repton in 699 AD.  Formerly a soldier of fortune, he had then dedicated his life to religious study, counselling and solitude.  He died, aged about forty, in 714 AD, and Crowland Abbey was founded in his memory by Ethelbald, King of Mercia, a few years later.

The Life of Saint Guthlac was written by a monk named Felix at the behest of King Ælfwald of the East Angles, to whom it was dedicated.  Written within 35 years of Guthlac's death; it was based it on the recollections of Wilfred (a hermit who visited Guthlac often) and Cissa (who was Guthlac's successor at Crowland).  Consequently, this manuscript can be considered to be the most reliable history of his life. One-two hundred years later, other works on St Guthlac's life started to appear, written in Anglo-Saxon and Latin. These included poems as well as prose, and embellishments by the various authors and through traditions that had grown up at the Abbey of Crowland as the years went on.

The Guthlac Roll is believed to have been drawn by monk(s) at Crowland Abbey in late 12th Century or early 13th Century. It is based on Felix, other histories and/or the Crowland tradition.  The Roll comprises 18 roundels on vellum measuring 2,910mm long by 165mm wide. The purpose for which the Roll was drawn is not known. However, archived as Harley Roll Y6 in the British Library, it is one of its most highly regarded illuminated manuscripts.

We have a booklet called ‘St Guthlac – His Life & the Guthlac Roll’ available online or as a paper booklet from the Church, for £1.50. It outlines the story of his life based on a translation of the earliest manuscript and tells his story through The Guthlac Roll. The booklet is sold in aid of church funds and if you would like to have a copy, either digitally or as a paper booklet, please contact our Administrator.