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Ælfrics Lay Patrons

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Chapter Summary

Ælfric himself 'served' a number of thegns in his lifetime: from the great aristocrats and ealdormen, Æthelweard and Æthelmær, to the lesser thegns, the local gentry, Sigeweard of Asthall, Wulfgea. The sources which historians often use to assess lay status and actions-charters, wills, and historical writings-are less forthcoming for these two men, partly because their names are relatively common and it is hard to identify them definitively in the documentary record. Both Æthelweard and Æthelmær must have possessed great landed wealth not only through inheritance and personal acquisition but also by virtue of their office as ealdormen. The conflicting tensions of aristocratic life and the teachings of the church over issues such as sexuality and warfare could place a well-nigh intolerable strain upon pious laymen. The new thegnly churches were now providing essential pastoral services such as burial, Eucharistic and penitential provision.

Keywords: Ælfric; Æthelmær; Æthelweard; thegnly churches



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