Guthlac of Crowland

Guthlac (* 673, † April 11 714 in Croyland, England ) was an English hermit and saint. His life is known from written by the monk Felix Vita.


Guthlac, son of Penwald and Tette came from a noble Anglo-Saxon family. His birth was indicated by miraculous signs and Guthlac already caught the eye as a child by extraordinary piety. After several years as a warrior, he joined with 24 years in the monastery of Repton Abbey in Derbyshire one. Soon, however, the monastic life, he was bored and decided to follow the example of the oriental desert saints, and retired with the boatswain and his servant Tatwin Beccelm 699 on the island of Croyland back. This was after Guthlac A is one of several wooded islands in the black water of the Fens, in Markland ( mearclond ) between Cambridge and the North Sea.

He dressed in skins and lived in a grave hill on a " secret place " ( duggle stowe ) in a forest clearing in a remote area ( Anade ). The grave hill ( Beorg ) consisted of lumps of earth and contained a stone chamber. Whether it is acted by a Neolithic long bed, a Roman grave mound, a Bronze Age stone box or even a pagan Anglo-Saxon grave hills with wooden built, is controversial in research. The hill was destroyed in the construction of the cathedral. Guthlac covered the stone chamber in order to live in this beorgseƿel, and erected a wooden cross on the top of the hill. An angel gave him this helpful instructions. However, the tumulus was the ancestral home of many demons who had looted its treasures and the religious squatters and its unauthorized modifications were understandably incensed. According to the description of Felix they had large heads, thin faces, a sallow complexion, long necks, shaggy ears, horse teeth, knotty knees, swollen ankles and spreading feet. They tried Guthlac amicably persuade and convince him that he here in the swamp, no one will bring food. They emphasize then that the hill was her only refuge, the only place where they could rest, but also the moving Guthlac, an angel in the dispute supported, not to move. He insisted that this hill was now his home until he feeding into the heavenly Jerusalem. Then he tried the demons by showing him the good life of the monks in a nearby monastery and dragged him, when that did not fertilized, up to the gates of hell, where they threatened him with eternal damnation. St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of Guthlac drove them but gave this a whip to ward them off henceforth. A manuscript in the British Library ( Harley Roll Y.6 ) shows Guthlac with the whip in the fight against the now homeless demons.

Guthlac fasted during the day and also ate at night only barley bread and drank swamp water. Not surprisingly he was repeatedly attacked by malaria. Guthlac became friends with the animals of the neighborhood and fed the birds that were eating out of his hand. The locals, however, he had little use, they were to him as savages. His sister Pega finally persuaded him to eat during the day, to which he referred them from the island.

Soon he fell into the Ruch of holiness, and multitudes of pilgrims visited his grave mound. Also Aethelbald, the nephew of Penda, who had fled from his cousin Ceolred, spent some time in the hermitage. Bishop Hedda went to see him and ordained him to the priesthood. After 15 years of Guthlac foretold his death and died after seven days. His sister Pega buried him in his oratory that Hedda had consecrated.

After his death Guthlac Aethelbald appeared in a vision and predicted that he would become king of Mercia, which also fulfilled. Numerous miracles occurred at his grave.

At the site of the hermitage was 716 Aethelbald in fulfillment of a vow built the Abbey of Croyland by Orderic Vitalis. Kenulph of Evesham was the first abbot, the monks followed the rule of St. Benedict. A Norman archway from the 12th century is worth seeing. Today, the north aisle of the 15th century is used as Anglican parish church.

Guthlacs feast day is April 11. He is considered the patron saint of archaeologists.


  • Felix, Vita Sancti Guthlaci
  • Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica
  • Pseudo - Ingulph (1076-1109), "History of Croyland " from the 14th century
  • Cynewulf, biography in verse, Codex Exoniensis ( Guthlac B)