BHL 5955b – the “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia”

There is a very obscure medieval text, dated to 1262, which is referred to in a couple of modern works as the “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia” – “The miracles at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall”.  It is, apparently, listed in the 1986 supplement to the Bibliographica Hagiographica Latina, “supplementum novum”, published by the Bollandists and still available on the website for no less than 130 euros.  The volume is itself not commonly held, and I have no access to it.  But I understand the author of the BHL supplement assigned the “Miracula” text the reference number  of BHL 5955b.

This information I derive from Richard F. Johnson, Saint Michael the Archangel in Medieval English Legend, (2002), p.68, n. 91.  This is a comment on

… Mirk follows the Garganic myth with a rendering of an apparition of St. Michael to “another bishop at a place that is now called Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.”[90] Although there indeed is a tradition of an apparition by St. Michael in Cornwall,[91]…

The footnote is:

91.  The apparition in Cornwall is designated “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia” (BHL 5955b). On this apparition and St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, see G. H. Doble, Miracles at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall in 1262 (St. Michael’s Mount, 1945) and J. R. Fletcher, Short History of St. Michael’s Mount (St. Michael’s Mount, 1951).

As printed this footnote can cause quite a bit of confusion.  It would be clearer in this form:

91.  The 12th century text recording healings by St Michael in Cornwall has been given the modern title “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia” (BHL 5955b). For the text and translation see G. H. Doble, Miracles at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall in 1262 (St. Michael’s Mount, 1945).  On St Michael’s Mount see J. R. Fletcher, Short History of St. Michael’s Mount (St. Michael’s Mount, 1951).

For the “Miracula” text itself does NOT in fact record any apparition; instead it records the miraculous healing of three people who came into the church of St Michael.  St Michael does not appear to anyone, unlike the situation alluded to and referenced to Mirk’s Festial which reads (p.258):

He aperet also to another byschop at a place that ys callet now Mychaell yn the mownt yn Corneweyle, and bade hym go to a hullus top that ys fer, and theras he fonde a bull tent wyih theues, ther he bade make a chyrche yn the worschyp of hym.

The Doble item is merely a couple of sheets of paper, with no title page, nor indication of date.  The catalogues that I have seen date it to the 1930s; which is perhaps more likely than 1945.  Thankfully it is online here.  The footnote does NOT make clear is that it is, in fact, the editio princeps of the “Miracula” text, together with an English translation of it.  In fact it contains nothing else of consequence.  (The Fletcher item is a small hardback, but I have no access to it.)

Let’s look further at the “Miracula” text.  From Doble we learn, by close reading, that he took the text from manuscript Avranches 159, folio 3r, at the foot of the second column.  This manuscript he says contains miscellaneous material, as well as its main text.  The “Miracula” is one such.

But we have an advantage over Canon Doble.  For we live in the age of digital manuscripts.

The surviving manuscripts of the great abbey of Mont S. Michel are now to be found at the public library – Bibliothèque Municipale – at Avranches, where the agents of the French Revolution deposited them.  Doubtless there were many losses.  But their modern heirs have placed the manuscripts online.  Our manuscript may be found here, and you can see the page images by clicking on the binding image at the bottom.

Avranches BM 159 is a 12th century manuscript of the Chronicon Eusebii, plus supplements.  But that work is preceded by three leaves of parchment in a different hand.  Folio 1r has an unreadable paragraph, at least to me; folio 1v starts talking about the books at the abbey of Bec; and fol. 2r, v and f.3r contain a catalogue of the books, giving their titles.  The red splodges seem to be intended to highlight such things as a change of author.  It is quite an impressive collection, for a 12th century abbey.  It is followed by a short paragraph, then more books; and then our text.

Our text is clearly visible on folio 3r.  It has no title, so “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia” is a modern coinage, presumably by the Bollandist editor.  Doble does not give the work any title; indeed it is probably just a translation of the English title of his pamphlet!  That this is indeed the same work can be seen by looking at the incipit (the starting words) and explicit (final words) of the text, as printed by Doble; as visible in the manuscript, and as given for BHL 5955b on the Bollandist website which gives no other details:

Incipit: Nulli monasterio S. Michaelis in Cornubia accedenti
Desinit: …anno Domini MCCLXII, XIII kal. septembris.

So all these items are the same item.

Let’s look at folio 3r:

Avranches 159, fol. 3

Look at the right-hand column.  The top section is just the list of books.  Then there is a blank line, then a chunk of text, then another blank line.  Then a paragraph with red marks, which seems to be additional “libri”. And then, without any blank line, our text begins with a capital N beginning “Nulli…”.  The whole text is contained here, with abbreviations, and ends with “septembris”.

Here is the transcription by Canon Doble:

Nulli monasterio sancti michaelis in Cornubia accedenti vertatur in dubium quin quaedam mulier nomine Christina de partibus glastonie per sex fere annos occulorum luminibus orbata ad dictum monasterium orationis et peregrinationis causa cum maxima deuocione accedens ii ydus maii anno domini m cc lx ii ante magnam missam quadam die dominica in conspectu populi in maxima fide perseuerans intercessione beati archangeli michaelis clausorum recuperauit diuinitus lumen occulorum testibus presentibus quamplurimis religiosis & aliis. Eodem anno iii ydus Junii quedam mulier nomine matildis de parrochia lanescli que per duos dies & duas noctes sensum amiserat & loquelam a parentibus suis ducta ad illud monasterium die dominica statim cum intrasset ecclesiam precibus celestis milicie principis sensui & loquele fuit restituta. Ego vidi & interfui. erat tunc temporis prior illius loci Radulfus viel. Eodem anno quedam iuuencula nomine aalicia de partibus de herefort engales nata per septem annos elapsos occulorum luminibus orbata ad dictam ecclesiam orationis et peregrinationis causa cum maxima deuotione accedens iii i kal. Februarii ante solis ortum quadam die lune in maxima fide persuerans precibus beati michaelis archangeli clausorum recuperauit diuinitus lumen occulorum erant tunc temporis socii illius loci petrus de vallibus eng(elrannus) de baiocis mauricius taboeier quando illa iiii miracula in illa ecclesia acciderant quartum miraculum de quodam muto est in principio huius libri in vii folio anno domini mcclxii xiii kal septembris.

And his translation:

“Let no one going to the Monastery of St. Michael in Cornwall doubt that a certain woman, named Christina, of the neighbourhood of Glastonbury, who had been deprived of the sight of her eyes for about six years, coming with the greatest devotion to the said monastery for the sake of prayer and pilgrimage, on 14th May, 1262, before High Mass, on a certain Sunday, in the sight of the people, persevering in the greatest faith, by the intercession of the Blessed Archangel Michael, recovered miraculously (lit. divinely) the sight of her closed eyes. There were present as witnesses many monks and others.

In the same year, on the 11th June, a certain woman named Matilda, of the parish of Lanescli (Gulval), who for two days and two nights had lost consciousness and the power of speech, being brought by her parents to that monastery, on Sunday, immediately she had entered the church, by the prayers of the Captain of the Heavenly Chivalry, was restored to consciousness and power of speech. I saw it and was present. The Prior of that place then was Ralph Viel.

In the same year a certain girl named Alice, of the parts of Hereford, born in Wales, who for seven years past had been deprived of the sight of her eyes, coming with the greatest devotion to the said church for the sake of prayer and pilgrimage on the 29th of January, before the rising of the sun, on a certain Monday, persevering in the greatest faith, by the prayers of the Blessed Archangel Michael recovered miraculously the sight of her closed eyes. The socii of that place then were Peter De Vallibus, Engelran of Bayeux, Maurice Taboeier, when those four miracles happened in that church.

The fourth miracle, on a certain dumb man, is in the beginning of this book on page 7, in the year of Our Lord 1262, on the 20th August.

Mr Doble adds,

Unfortunately the page containing the record of the fourth miracle has disappeared.

These few leaves at the start of the manuscript evidently were part of a larger volume before being found in as endleaves to Avranches BM 159.

I hope that anybody in search of “Miracula in Monte S. Michaelis in Cornubia” will find these notes useful.


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