Drawn from Aelfric’s Old English Lives of the Saints, this is an edition of the lives of the little-known virgin spouses: Julian and Basilissa, Cecilia and Valerian, and Chrysanthus and Daria. As well as the Old English original texts, it provides the reader with modern English parallel-text translations. As a useful comparison, their closest Latin source texts are also reproduced – again with English parallel-text translations. As a leading churchman writing at the time of the Viking raids at the end of the first millennium, Aelfric wrote his Lives to bolster the faith of English Christians. These three stories of couples who marry but do not consummate their unions point to an ideal of marital celibacy in Aelfric’s programme of pastoral care. Taken together, the group provides an opportunity to emphasise different but related points about literal and figurative types of chastity and purity appropriate to the laity.
Robert Upchurch is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, University of North Texas, Denton