Gregorius: An Incestuous Saint in Medieval Europe and Beyond

Gregorius: An Incestuous Saint in Medieval Europe and Beyond

by Brian Murdoch
     
 

The story of the apocryphal pope and saint Gregorius was extremely popular throughout the middle ages and later in Europe and beyond. In a memorable narrative Gregorius is born from an incestuous relationship between a noble brother and sister, and is set out to sea with (unspecific) details of his origin. He is found and brought up by an abbot, but when revealed

Overview

The story of the apocryphal pope and saint Gregorius was extremely popular throughout the middle ages and later in Europe and beyond. In a memorable narrative Gregorius is born from an incestuous relationship between a noble brother and sister, and is set out to sea with (unspecific) details of his origin. He is found and brought up by an abbot, but when revealed as a foundling leaves as a knight to seek his origins; he rescues his mother's land from attack, and marries her. On discovering his sin he undertakes years of penance on a rocky islet, which he survives miraculously. An angel sends emissaries from Rome to find him after the death of the pope, the key to his shackles is equally miraculously discovered, and he becomes pope. This hagiographical romance is not a variation upon Oedipus; it uses the invisible sin of incest as a parallel both for original sin (the sin of Adam and Eve) and for actual sin. It combines the universal theme of the quest for identity with the problem not of guilt as such, which is inevitable, but of how sinful humanity can cope with it. Brian Murdoch traces the story's probable origins in medieval England or France, and its later appearance in versions from Iceland and Ireland to Iraq and Egypt, in verse and prose, in full-scale literary forms or in much-reduced folktales, in theological as well as secular contexts, down to Thomas Mann and beyond.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199596409
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/25/2012
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Brian Murdoch is Emeritus Professor of German at Stirling University, and has held visiting fellowships at Cambridge and Oxford, where he delivered the Hulsean and the Speaker's lectures. He has also given the Waynflete lectures at Magdalen College, Oxford. He has published widely on medieval and renaissance religious (and also heroic) literature in German, English, the Celtic languages, and on a comparative basis, with handbooks on Old High German and on Cornish literature. He has been particularly concerned with the Bible and apocryphal writings, and especially the theme of Adam and Eve in vernacular literature, and in 2009 he published a study of the apocryphal Adam books. In the modern field he has written extensively on the literature of the world wars, notably on Erich Maria Remarque (a book on his novels appeared in 2006), and has published a number of translations from Latin and from medieval and modern German.

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