'Always Fleeing Away': Emotion, exile and rest in the Old English Life of St Mary of Egypt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The legend of St Mary of Egypt, first appearing in sixth-century Byzantine Middle Eastern culture, became widely popular in medieval Latin and vernacular versions. The first known version, sometimes attributed to Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, reworks an earlier tale of a holy man who finds a solitary female penitent living in a cave. Sophronius was a strong defender of the dual nature of Christ – human and divine – and so of Christ’s possession of the human ability to choose. If he or a like-minded cleric is the legend’s author, that may lie behind its interest in an appalling sinner’s conversion by divine mercy, and its veneration of a being that late antique society considered “a sort of human vermin.” Nevertheless, this is not a story of a potentially overweening monk who needs to be humbled by seeing the superior virtues of a convertite.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMatters of Engagement
Subtitle of host publicationEmotions, Identity, and Cultural Contact in the Premodern World
EditorsDaniela Hacke, Claudia Jarzebowski, Hannes Ziegler
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-48868-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-59465-4 (hbk), 978-1-138-59467-8 (pbk)
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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