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Art. 116, De martirio sancti Wistani


Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

2 Wiglafus rex Merciorum. Wiglaf was King of Mercia, 827–840. His son Wigmund succeeded him, but died in the same year, leaving the throne to a kinsman Brithwulf [Berhtwulf], who ruled Mercia 840–52. The background of the tale involves three rival lineages of ninth-century Mercia: King Ceolwulf I (821–823) and his daughter Elfleda [Ælfflæd]; Ceolwulf’s successor Wiglaf and his son Wigmund (who married Elfleda); and Wigmund’s successor Brithwulf and his son Brithfard [Berhtfrith]. In his ambition to marry Elfleda and secure the Mercian kingdom — a plan opposed by Wistan — Brithfard becomes the villain of the legend.

23 By divine punishment, Brithfard is struck with insanity as soon as he commits the murders.

31 die kalendas Iunii prima feria. Wistan’s feast day is June 1, the day of his martyrdom. Modern historians set the year of his death in 849, not 850.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; : Böddeker; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1937; Dea: J. M. Dean; Do: Dove 1969; Fl: Flood; : Förster; Fu: Furnivall; HB: Hunt and Bliss; Kem: Kemble; Ken: Kennedy; Mi: Millett; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu1: H. J. R. Murray; Mu2: J. A. H. Murray; NB: Noomen and van den Boogard; Pa: Patterson; Rev: Revard 2005a; Ri: Ritson 1877; Ro: Robbins 1959; SP: Short and Pearcy; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

4 Repedone. So MS (ne written on stub; see Ker, p. xvi).

15 mortuus. So MS (s written on stub; see Ker, p. xvi).

16 sustinuisti. MS: sustinusti.

20 notificavit. So MS (first i written on stub; see Ker, p. xvi).












De martirio sancti Wistani.

Wiglafus rex Merciorum, vir illustris, genuit de Kyneswytha regina uxore sua filium     
nomine Wygmundum. Defuncto Wiglafo rege Merciorum anno regni sui
terciodecimo sepultrique apud Repedone, Wigmundus filius eius successit in
regnum Merciorum et duxit in uxorem Ealfledam filiam Cheolwolfi regis, de qua
generavit Wystanum. Qui sese tota animi diligencia divino mancipavit obsequio.
Deinde, defuncto Wigmundo patre suo, comprovinciales Wistanum pecierunt ut
regni que iure hereditario sibi competere debebant gubernacula reciperet. Puer
vero Wistanus, malens celestis regni quam temporalis fieri coheres, singula
mundana neglexit imperia.

Quod audiens, quidam consul nomine Brithfardus, cognatus et compater Wistani,
misit nuncios, scilicet, Wibaldum, Man, et Ethulfum, ad Ealfledam reginam,
matrem Wistani, ut eam duceret in uxorem et sic regnum Merciorum sibi
adquireret. Quod audiens, Wistanus dixit matri sue, “Mater mea dulcissima,
habuisti patrem meum regem Wigmundum in maritum, qui iam mortuus est. Pro
cuius morte dolores infinitos sustinuisti et adhuc sustines in presenti. Operare de
meo concilio, et maritum habebis immortalem pro quo nunquam dolere set
eternaliter gaudere videberis.” Cuius concilio regina se promisit adquiescere.

Tunc Wistanus, filiolus et cognatus Brithfardi consulis, per legatos suos predictos
sibi notificavit commatrem uxoremque cognati ducere non posse. Quod cum
audivisset Brithfardus consul, misit amicabiliter ad Wistanum ut specialiter ad
certum locum assignatum cum tribus sociis de necessariis diversis secum
colloquiturum adveniret. Quem cum vidisset Brithfardus in loco assignato, accessit
et osculatus est. Cum quo facto, extraxit gladium quem latenter habuit, et Wistani
capitis summitatem in cono amputavit, et socios eius qui secum venerant perforavit.
Et statim amens effectus est.

Corpus vero Wistani apud Reopedune monasterium, tunc temporis famosum,
delatum est, et in mausoleo Wiglafi regis avi sui tumulatum est. De loco nempe ubi
innocenter occisus est, columpna lucis — usque ad oculum porrecta — omnibus
eiusdem loci incolis per triginta dies conspicua stabat. Passus est puer sanctus sub
die kalendas Iunii prima feria anno incarnationis Dominice octingentesimo
quinquagesimo. Pro quo Deus diversa et infinita operatur miracula.
On the martyrdom of Saint Wistan.

King Wiglaf of the Mercians, a noble man, fathered by his wife Queen Cyneswitha
a son named Wigmund. When King Wiglaf of the Mercians died in the thirteenth
year of his reign and was buried at Repton, his son Wigmund succeeded him in the
realm of the Mercians and took as wife Elfleda, daughter of King Ceolwulf, by
whom he fathered Wistan. Wistan dedicated himself with the entire steadfastness
of his soul to the worship of God. Then, when his father Wigmund died, his fellow
Mercians asked Wistan to accept the direction of the realm which by right of
inheritance was owed to him. But the boy Wistan, preferring to become coheir of
a heavenly rather than temporal realm, neglected every earthly rule.

Hearing this, a certain consul named Brithfard, a relation and godfather of Wistan,
sent messengers, that is, Wibald, Man, and Ethulf, to Queen Elfleda, Wistan’s
mother, that he intended to take her as his wife and thus acquire the realm of the
Mercians for himself. Hearing this, Wistan said to his mother, “My sweet, sweet
mother, you had as husband my father King Wigmund, who has now died. For his
death you endured countless sorrows and you still endure them even now. Act in
accord with my counsel, and you will have an undying husband for whom you will
be seen never to grieve but rather to rejoice everlastingly.” The queen promised to
accept his counsel.

Then Wistan, her young son and the relative of the consul Brithfard, made known
to him through his legates that he could not marry the mother and wife of his
relation. When consul Brithfard had heard this, he send word in friendly fashion
to Wistan that he should come to a certain designated place with three companions
to confer with him about various important matters. When Brithfard had seen him
in the designated place, he approached and kissed him. With that done, he drew
a sword that he had hidden, and he cut off the peak of Wistan’s head at the apex
of his helmet, and he pierced through the companions who had come with him.
And at once he was made insane.

But the body of Wistan was conveyed to the monastery of Repton, which was at that
time famous, and was entombed in the mausoleum of his grandfather King Wiglaf.
From the place where he was innocently slain, a column of light — stretched out
as far as the eye could see — was visible thirty days to all the inhabitants of the
place. The saintly boy suffered his death on the calends of June in the 850th year
of the Lord’s incarnation. On his account God performs countless miracles of
different types.

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