English Medieval Shrines, by John Crook, explores the sanctity of physical remains in the medieval cult of saints, and traces the major saints cults from the Norman Conquest to the Reformation.
The cult of saints is one of the most fascinating manifestations of medieval piety. It was intensely physical; saints were believed to be present in the bodily remains that they had left on earth. Medieval shrines were created in order to protect these relics and yet to show off their spiritual worth, at the same time allowing pilgrims limited access to them. English Medieval Shrines traces the development of such structures, from the earliest cult activities at saintly tombs in the late Roman empire, through Merovingian Gaul and the Carolingian Empire, via Anglo-Saxon England, to the great shrines of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The greater part of the book is a definitive exploration, on a basis that is at once thematic and chronological, of the major saints cults of medieval England, from the Norman Conquest to the Reformation. These include the famous cults of St Cuthbert, St Swithun, and St Thomas Becket – and lesser known figures such as St Eanswyth of Folkestone or St Ecgwine of Evesham.
John Crook, an independent architectural historian, archaeological consultant, and photographer, is the foremost authority on English shrines. He has published numerous books and papers on the cult of saints.