English Language and Literature ETDs


Colleen Dunn

Publication Date



At the center of Anglo-Saxon life was a thriving religious culture, which—in one of its most vibrant forms—was expressed in the cult of saints. The virgin martyr became one of the most popular forms of sanctity, yet with hundreds of possible martyrs who could have been venerated, the question becomes which ones ultimately thrived in Anglo-Saxon England and why? Moreover, the very need for these two questions reveals a troubling fact: when writing about female virgin martyrs, the hagiographers never chose a native Anglo-Saxon woman as the focus of their passiones. In exploring both the reasons for and the implications of the choice made by these hagiographers to forgo local female virgin martyrs in favor of foreign models, I particularly investigate the appeal of Saint Juliana of Nicomedia and St. Margaret of Antioch, as they represent not only two of the earliest models of the virgin martyr brought to England, but also two of the models that would survive to the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and continue on into the Anglo-Norman one. The purpose of this dissertation is thus two-fold: firstly, to demonstrate that viable options existed for Anglo-Saxon female martyrs and were intentionally ignored by those who had the authority to promote their cults; and, secondly, to explore the specific appeal the Mediterranean female martyrs held for Anglo-Saxons.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Davis-Secord, Jonathan

Second Advisor

Damico, Helen

First Committee Member (Chair)

Obermeier, Anita

Second Committee Member

Graham, Timothy

Third Committee Member


Project Sponsors

Bilinski Foundation Fellowship




Saint Juliana, Saint Margaret, Anglo-Saxon England

Document Type