Medieval Welsh religious history, Saints’ cults and literature

Prof Jane Cartwright

Jane has published a variety of books and articles on medieval Welsh poetry and prose. Her work has discussed the rich body of Marian texts available in Middle Welsh and she was one of the first people to draw attention to the importance of images and medieval art depicting Mary and the saints in Welsh churches. Jane’s publications are often multidisciplinary drawing on material culture and the importance of particular medieval sites in Wales, as well as literary texts and historical documentation. She has provided a detailed study of the medieval nunneries of Wales, as well as various sites associated with saints. Jane is particularly interested in hagiography and is currently Co-Investigator on a major research project entitled ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales: Welsh-language sources and their transmission’ which is funded by the AHRC (2013-2017) and based at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies. She has provided the first scholarly edition and translation of the Middle Welsh Lives of Mary Magdalene and Martha complete with a detailed discussion of the Welsh manuscripts which include the texts and a full glossary. She has also published on women writers in medieval Wales. 

 

Jane is particularly interested in hagiography and is Co-Investigator on a major research project entitled ‘The Cult of Saints in Wales: Welsh-language sources and their transmission’ which is funded by the AHRC (2013-2017). The project involves transcribing, editing and translating a vast corpus of Welsh material venerating saints (poetry, prose and genealogies) and making this available via a website. The introduction to each text will discuss its date, authorship, manuscript context(s), and its relationship to other texts and traditions both in Wales and elsewhere.

The project, based at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, is a collaboration between CAWCS, Trinity Saint David, King’s College London and the National Library of Wales. Included on the website will be high-quality images of some of the most important Welsh manuscripts digitized by the National Library of Wales. The website, which will host the digital edition, will also hold a range of related material (such as medieval and modern images of the saints and maps that show dedications and place-name patterns) designed to be of interest to a wide range of audiences.

Jane, along with Alaw Mai Edwards, is responsible for the prose Lives of saints – some 34 bucheddau including some of the longest texts extant in Middle Welsh. Jane is currently compiling editions and translations of the Lives of Ieuan Gwas Padrig, Gwenfrewy (Winefride) and Ursula. Jane’s interests are not restricted to native Welsh saints and she has recently published (with the Catholic University of America Press) the first scholarly edition and translation of the Middle Welsh Lives of Mary Magdalene and Martha making these texts available to an international audience for the first time.

Jane also liaises with Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru, translation companies (such as Trywydd) and bodies such as Ceredigion County Council and the Welsh Assembly Government to organize work placements for students following the Postgraduate Certificate in Simultaneous Translation. In 2011 Jane acted as a consultant for CADW and contributed to the ‘Pan-Wales heritage interpretation plan: Celtic saints, spiritual places and pilgrimage’ (2011).

  • AHRC

Jane is a member of the International Hagiography Society and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has lectured on hagiography and saints’ cults at various international conferences including the University of Holàr, Iceland, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Leeds and the University of Marburg. She organized an international conference on Celtic Hagiography and Saints Cults at Lampeter which gave rise to a volume published by the University of Wales Press in 2003 and she recently organized a conference on the international Cult of St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins at Carmarthen which attracted speakers from America, Paris, Hungary, Germany, Iceland and England. She is currently preparing an edited volume for the press based on these multidisciplinary papers. 

Feminine Sanctity and Spirituality in Medieval Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008), xv, 301pp. + 25 Plates

Through a series of detailed case studies including saints’ cults, religious history and iconography, this book illuminates the context of women’s devotional practice in medieval Wales. Drawing on a wide range of sources it sheds light on the Welsh cult of the Virgin Mary and various Welsh saints, as well as the history of the Welsh nunneries.

Mary Magdalene and her Sister Martha: An Edition and Translation of the Medieval Welsh Lives (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2013), 146 pp. + 1 Plate

This volume provides the first scholarly editions and English translations of the medieval Welsh versions of the legends of Mary Magdalene and Martha. Cartwright provides a detailed study of the Welsh manuscripts that contain the texts, a comparison between the different manuscript versions, and a discussion of the wider hagiographical context of the texts in Wales, showing Wales to have participated fully in European hagiographic traditions.

‘Abbess Annes and the Ape’, in Monastic Wales, eds Janet Burton and Karen Stöber (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, forthcoming), pp. 191–207.

This article analyses a medieval poem requesting a pet ape as a gift for Annes abbess of Llanllŷr and sheds light on medieval monastic practice, as well as literary sponsorship and familial and social networks in medieval Wales.