St GENGULPHUS

 

In England






Item, a tooth of S. Gengulphus, good for the falling sickness, in a small ivory pyx…

[C14th inventory, Durham cathedral]


Painting of St Gengulph at Gennes (25)

 

A popular devotion to St Gengulph did not establish itself in England. There are various reasons for this. In the first place Gengulph was pre-eminently as Carolingian saint. According to his Vita I he was a military leader during the reign of Pépin the Short - the first member of the Carolingian dynasty to assume the royal power. His cultus spread most vigorously during the Carolingian period, and the geographical extent of his cultus remained firmly within the boundaries of the Carolingian empire.

Secondly, given the political situation in England during the C9th and C10th it is difficult to conceive of a channel through which, on a practical basis, a popular devotion to St Gengulph might have been introduced - there were few dynastic marriages with Carolingian princesses, for example, and no prominent Burgundian clerics were advanced to high office in the English church during this unsettled period of English history.  William of Normandy's accession to the English throne did nothing to bring about a devotion to St Gengulphus in the British Isles, as Normandy was, and remains, a region of France in which little if any sign of his cultus can be traced.

We do not, therefore, find the name of St Gengulph among the dedications of English parish churches, and we will look in vain for representations of him amongst the figures depicted on rood screens or in stained-glass windows. His name, however, is not utterly unknown in England; and this leads us to the consideration of various curiosities:  The Lay of St Gengulphus by the Revd Richard Harris Barham; the not entirely unrelated question of whether the once popular English exclamation By Jingo! has any connection with the saint; and the poem Whoever has heard of St Gingo by Thomas Lovell Beddoes.




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