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Art. 97, Scriptum quod peregrini deferunt: Introduction

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).

This document replicates a letter provided to medieval pilgrims when they made pilgrimage to the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo, a city located in the Asturias region of northern Spain. It lists a precise inventory of the holy relics housed inside the Arca Santa, a magnificent gilded silver casket that still draws pilgrims today. The Arca is claimed in this document to be authentically ancient, a priceless treasure transferred over time by God’s plan from Jerusalem to Africa, then to Carthage, Seville, Toledo, and finally Oviedo and the Church of the Holy Savior, its ordained resting place. According to legend, the odyssey of the Arca Santa began around 614 and ended in Oviedo in 751 (Janice Bennett, pp. 28–44, plates 1–3).

This letter and the Arca itself are now both assigned to what historians call the Corpus Pelagianum, that is, a set of elaborate, historical fabrications designed by Pelagius [Pelayo], Bishop of Oviedo (1101–1130, 1142–1143; d. 1153), to promote and defend the privileges and prestige of the diocese (Barton and Fletcher, pp. 65–71). The Arca Santa, which is considerably less ancient than the letter claims, probably dates from the eleventh century (Harris, pp. 82, 87 n. 18). In MS Harley 2253 the cross drawn by the scribe at the base of the letter appears to belong with this text and not the next one (Ker, p. xiv). This item has not been previously edited. The translation is by Jan Ziolkowski, prepared for this edition.

[Fols. 131v–132r. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 14. Layout: Prose written with no columns. The incipit is underlined in red. Editions: None. Other MSS: None. Translations: None.]

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