A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

MDT Ep. 74: Concerning Bad Bishops, Buried Treasure, and an Unchaste Priest

Detail from British Library MS Royal 6 E VI  f.246v.

This episode we go to Durham with its greatest chronicler, Simeon, to first hear about the short, shameful, and Cuthbert-cursed 10th-century episcopate of Bishop Sexhelm, and then we pick up about a hundred years later with the similarly flawed bishop brothers, Aegelric and Aegelwin. Finally, we wrap up by seeing what happens when a priest who just slept with his wife gets unexpectedly called upon to perform Mass.

Today’s Texts

  • Simeon of Durham. Simeon’s History of the Church of Durham. Church Historians of England, edited and translated by Joseph Stevenson, vol. 3, part 2, Seeley’s, 1855, pp. 619-711. Google Books.
  • The History of Ingulf. The Church Historians of England, edited and translated by Joseph Stevenson, vol. 2, part 2, Seeleys, 1854, pp. 565-725. Google Books.


  • Hutchinson, William. The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham. Vol. 1, G. Walker, 1817. Google Books.
  • Symeon of Durham. Libellus de exordio atque procursu istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis, ecclesie: Tract on the Origin and Progress of this the Church of Durham. Edited and translated by David Rollason, Oxford UP, 2000.
  • Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologia, 2 Part 2, Q. 76, Art. 1. Available at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3076.htm, which reproduces the text of the Second and Revised Edition, 1920, literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.

Image: Detail from British Library MS Royal 6 E VI  f.246v.


  1. Rick

    I love the podcast! For the political situation at Durham when Symeon was writing, see William Aird’s work where he suggests that the Libellus was motivated by the priory’s need to defend itself against the incoming Ranulf Flambard. It is possible that the episode of the illness of the priest serving Mass after sleeping with his wife was inserted as a way of validating the reforms introduced to the priory in 1083. One of those reforms was the expulsion of married canons and their replacement by celibate monks.

    • Patrick

      Very interesting, thanks! It did seem to me like the story was transposing somewhat later attitudes onto its setting, but it was close enough that I wasn’t sure. And given old Ranulf’s reputation for vice, I almost wouldn’t be surprised if the story was directed a bit at him, too, in the fable tradition of indirect criticism.

  2. L.

    Hi Patrick!

    Congratulations on your new post!! Your students have no idea what kind of awesome trip they’re in for. We will definitely miss you during your hiatus. Please come back soon – Medieval Death Trip has quickly become my hands-down favorite podcast!

    • Patrick

      Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

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