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Four Scottish indulgences at Sens

Abstract

English interest in the great Cistercian abbey of Pontigny was stimulated by the exiles there of two archbishops of Canterbury, Thomas Becket and Stephen Langton.1 As archbishops of Canterbury, Langton and Edmund of Abingdon made gifts to Pontigny abbey in consideration of the welcome given to Becket.2 Edmund did not die at Pontigny, but was a confrater of the community, and the abbot claimed the body, asserting that Edmund had expressed a wish to be buried there. The process of canonisation was rapid.3 After Edmund's canonisation, Henry III sent a chasuble and a chalice for the first celebration of the feast, and granted money to maintain four candles round the saint's shrine.4 In 1254, en route from Gascony to meet Louis IX in Chartres and Paris,5 Henry visited Pontigny, as his brother Richard of Cornwall, who seems to have pressed for canonisation, had done in 1247.6 Archbishop Boniface of Canterbury ordered the celebration of the feast to be observed throughout his province.7 Pope Alexander IV granted a dispensation to allow Englishwomen to enter the precinct of Pontigny abbey on the feast of the translation of the relics of St Edmund8 (women were normally forbidden to enter a Cistercian monastery). Matthew Paris, the greatest English chronicler of the age, wrote a life of the saint.9 English interest continued into the fourteenth century. In 1331 an English priest was given a licence to visit the shrine,10 but it seems likely that the Hundred Years’ War made pilgrimage to Pontigny difficult.11 The indulgences preserved by the abbey reveal an interest in the shrine throughout the Western Church, granted as they were by prelates from Tortosa to Livonia and Estonia, and from Messina to Lübeck.1

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