Hagiography and History in the Icelandic Saga of Edward the Confessor

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This article investigates the historical context of Jatvarðar saga, the Icelandic saga of the English saint, King Edward the Confessor (d. 1066). Compiled from a variety of Norse and Latin sources, the saga survives in four medieval manuscripts and demonstrates a persistent interest in Edward’s life and legacy. Yet although the saga has often been categorized as a saint’s life, there is no evidence that Edward was the subject of an Icelandic cult; moreover, the text focuses extensively on political history and lacks the hallmarks of Old Norse hagiographical writing. Accordingly, I propose that Jatvarðar saga was not composed as a devotional text. Instead, I argue that Edward was portrayed as a model of lay piety who supported the Church and clergy—a valuable exemplar for Icelandic magnates at a time of ecclesiastical reform.

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Brepols Publishers

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Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies