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Trinity Hall : History of St Augustine’s Abbey of Canterbury

Thomas, of Elmham, 1364-1440?

Trinity Hall

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This History of St Augustine’s Abbey of Canterbury, known as the <i>Speculum Augustinian</i> was written in the early 15th century by Thomas of Elmham (1364-c1427). Elmham was a Benedictine monk of the Abbey. Partly based on Bede and William of Malmesbury, it defends the privileges of the Abbey in particular its exemption from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It is a folio manuscript in fine calligraphy, possibly written by Thomas Elmham. It is of historical interest because in recording the history of the Abbey, the author copies old Anglo-Saxon Charters from 1066 to 1191, now lost (and some fictitious). The manuscript contains a complex chronological table which shows that Elmham intended to cover the whole period from 597 to 1414 (a later hand has extended the table to 1418). However Elmham’s departure from the Abbey on his appointment as Prior of the Cluniac House at Lenton, and the sheer scale of the project means that it is unfinished, breaking off in 806.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript has two full-page illustrations, which are perhaps Elmham’s own work. The first is a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(90);return false;'>map of the Isle of Thanet</a>, marking the parish churches, the Roman roads, and the extent of the Abbey’s property. It illustrates the course said to have been taken by Domme Eafe’s hind when it designated the land to be granted for the foundation of the monastery of Minster-in-Thanet.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The other, is a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(159);return false;'>picture of the high altar of the Abbey church</a> surrounded by its shrines. On the high altar itself are pictured some books, and a legend above them reads: ‘libri missi a Greg ad Augustin’ representing the gift of books sent to St Augustine by Pope Gregory for his new abbey.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Robert Hare when he gave this manuscript to the College added a condition. The book having fortunately fallen into his hands, he wrote that, if the monastery at Canterbury were ever to be (‘by God’s grace’) revived, the book should be returned to it. </p>

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