Posted by: kljolly | January 31, 2012


Another curious feature of Aldred’s colophon page in Durham A.IV.19 is that below on the left column is a “memorandum,” seemingly separate from the colophon under the right column (the four Cuthbert collects are two and two above).  The memo is very worn, hard to read, and in experimental “Greek” and Roman scripts, although arguably still Aldred’s (I would insert an image of the manuscript page but don’t have copyright permission):

Ds omnipns

7 Maria 7 Helena 7 sctus


gelanid.. …d’.

Paleographers who have looked at it under special lighting (I had less success with black light) have posited this:

Deus omnipotens et(?) Maria et Helena et sanctus Cudbertus…te gelanidon [Aldre]d’.

God Almighty and Mary and Helen and St Cuthbert granted…  to Aldred.

This item raises many unanswered questions that, in a fictional piece, I could attempt to answer.

1.  Appearance:  Why the experimental scripts and why is it so worn?  Was Aldred copying from a monument or artifact and why?  Did he or someone else attempt to scrape/erase it later or is it over erasure?

2.  Timing:  Was it written after the colophon or on the same day, 10 August 970?  Certainly it was after the collects, seems to be a different writing stint from the colophon, and could have been done either before or after it.

3.  Names:  Is the last word really Aldred, based on a final d?  Why Mary and Helen with Cuthbert and which Mary, absent St. or Blessed?  The feast days associated with any of them do not line up with Lawrence’ massday from the colophon.

I am inclined to guess a monument and look for a dedication or reference to Mary and Helen.  There is a St. Mary and St. Helen church at Neston, Cheshire, which has viking era fragments, although I have not verified that the dedication dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era.

Gosforth Cross

A more likely scenario is to consider a cross monument:  both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene are portrayed at the cross; and Helen as the finder of the true cross (and of lost things in Anglo-Saxon charms) is a likely association, although I have not found Helen pictured or named on a cross.   Jerusalem has a chapel dedicated to Sts Helen and Mary Magdalene.  Cynewulf’s poem Elene, following the Dream of the Rood in the Vercelli Book, ends with a reference to Mary, presumably the Blessed Virgin:  “let their [those saved] have their portion with Mary” (1228b-35).

Mary Magdalene presents an interesting possibility because of her depiction on the Gosforth cross with her jar (discussed by Richard Bailey).  She also appears on the Ruthwell cross washing the feet of Jesus.  Both monuments pull us back up north, into Cumbria, but Aldred is presumably still in Wessex when he writes the memo.

St. Cuthbert’s presence completes the picture linking God and Aldred, in a way similar to Aldred’s colophons in the Lindisfarne Gospels:

Thou Living God, remember Eadfrith and Æthelwald and Billfrith and Aldred, a sinner; these four, with God, were concerned with [devoted to?] this book. [fol. 89v]

+Eadfrith, Oethiluald, Billfrith, Aldred this gospelbook for God and Cuthbert constructed or ornamented.  [fol. 259r]

Aldred is accustomed to saying “for God and St. Cuthbert,” so his addition of Mary and Helen must have some meaning in this context.  But what?


Bailey, Richard N.  Viking Age Sculpture in Northern Britain.  London:  Collins, 1980.

Bailey, Richard N.  “Scandinavian Myth on Viking-period Stone Sculpture in England,” pp. 15–23 in Old Norse Myths, Literature, and Society, ed. Geralidine Barnes, and Margaret Ross Clunies.  Sydney: University of Sydney.

Durham Ritual. Edited by T. J. Brown, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 16. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1969.

Lindisfarne Gospels. Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Lindisfarnensis. 2 Vols. Edited by T. D. Kendrick, et al. Olten and Lausanne: Urs Graf, 1956–60. [Cod. Lind.].  Shows close up of Durham memo under special lighting.

Lindisfarne Gospels, “Pinnacle of Anglo-Saxon Art,” British Library Turning the Pages.  Shows the John colophon page.

Vercelli Book, Elene, Aaron Hostetter translation.  Anglo-Saxon Aloud:  Elene.  See also the Dream of the Rood.

Ruthwell Cross


  1. […] draft of the Oakley chapter/short story that tries to account for the Durham A.IV.19 colophon and memorandum Aldred wrote.  This revision has taken a great deal of time, hence the silence in recent posts, […]

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