Anglo-Saxon manuscript warns Nuns in 7th century Essex against dressing provocatively

Anglo-Saxon manuscript warns Nuns in 7th century Essex against dressing provocatively

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The 1,300 year old Latin manuscript, titled ‘De Laude Virginitatis‘ [In Praise of Virginity], is expected to fetch up to £500,000 when it goes to auction at Sotheby’s next month.  It was written by the Anglo-Saxon cleric Aldhelm and was dedicated to the nuns of Barking Abbey, founded in 666 AD.  It advises the nuns to dress modestly to avoid “nourishing the fires of sexual anticipation.”



Aldhelm tells the nuns that their “stainlessness of bodily virginity” must be accompanied by a “chastity of the spirit” if they are to avoid the “untamed impulses of bodily wantonness”.  He warns them against garments which “set off” the body:

“If you dress yourself sumptuously and go out in public so as to attract notice, if you rivet the eyes of young men to you and draw the sighs of adolescents after you, and nourish the fires of sexual anticipation … you cannot be excused as if you were of a chaste and modest mind.”

The manuscript is part of a very rare collection being sold by Norwegian collector Martin Schoyen, including fragments of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ dating to the birth of Christ; the earliest surviving text of St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans from the late 3rd century AD; and a document in Old English belonging to the father of the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Source:  The Telegraph

The manuscript ‘De Laude Virginitatis’ [In Praise of Virginity] – image by Jane Mingay
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