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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

King Edmund: The Shrine
[Picture of
Henry VI kneeling at shrine of St. Edmund] There are few contemporary descriptions of the shrine of St. Edmund, seen here in a miniature showing Henry VI doing obeisance to it (an engraving found in Dugdale's Monasticon, based upon a miniature in Harley 2278). It was, however, briefly described in 1536 by the Commissioners at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in a letter to Archbishop Cromwell, indicating the something of the general wealth of the abbey:
"wee have ben at saynt Edmondes Bury, where we founde a riche shryne whiche was very comberous to deface. We have takyn in the seyd monastery in golde and sylver ml.ml.ml.ml.ml. [5000] markes, and above, over and besydes a well and riche crosse with emereddes, as also dyvers and sundry stones of great value, and yet we have lefte the churche, abbott, and covent very well ffurnesshed with plate of sylver necessary for the same" (Letters Relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries 144).
Goodwin makes the somewhat irreligious, though probable, observation that, if St. Edmund's body had indeed been preserved incorrupt at least until 1465, as the monks claimed, in the fire that destroyed the church in that year it was almost certainly cremated (Goodwin 76). The monks, however, claimed that the shrine had been miraculously preserved, like Shadrach and his friends in the fiery furnace (Arnold, Memorials, 3: 286). Whatever the truth, there was certainly a magnificent shrine in place at the time of the visit of the Commissioners who stripped it of its jewels.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 9 Nov. 1995

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