Locus, sanctus, et virtus: monastic surnaming in late medieval and early Tudor England reviewed

Date
2021
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Source Title
The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies
Print ISSN
2034-3515
Electronic ISSN
2034-3523
Publisher
Brepols Publishers
Volume
10
Issue
Pages
211 - 246
Language
English
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Abstract

This article examines the apparent practice among monks and regular canons in England before the Dissolution of dropping their family surnames on admission/profession, and adopting instead a new ‘monastic byname’, derived from a place name (toponym) or, by the late fifteenth century onwards, from a saint’s name (hagionym) or a virtue. The article begins by reviewing evidence that this onomastic practice existed and determining how widespread it was. The nature and distribution of the toponymic, hagionymic, and virtue bynames are then examined in turn. The article concludes by considering the underlying reason for the adoption of monastic bynames and argues that this practice served as a means of reflecting symbolically the new monk’s or canon’s separation from lay society, and from his family in particular, and his incorporation into the monastic community.

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