Gengulphus in Scotland

St Gengulphus in the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland

Although traces of a cultus of St Gengulphus in England are slight almost to the point of indiscernibility, the Saint fared slightly better in northern Britain where he makes a surprising appearance in one of the great monuments of Middle Scottish literature, the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, by Androw of Wyntoun.

Wyntoun (ca 1350 – post 1420) was a canon regular of the priory of St Andrews, and subsequently prior of the Augustinian priory which had been established in the C12th on St Serf’s Inch, the largest of the islands on Lochleven. The Orygynale Cronykil is a lengthy work in rhyming couplets in which the writer relates the history of Scotland from the creation of the angels down to his own period.

The writer is, throughout the work, attentive to matters of chronology, and places the narrative of St Gengulphus during the reign of Pope St Paul I (757-67), which is consonant with the generally accepted date of ca 760 for the Saint’s death, and links him chronologically with the reigns of ‘Kyng Pypyne’ and the emperor Constantine V.

In Burgoyhne that tyme wes a man,
That Gengulphus cald wes than;
He wes a man of gret Pytè:
Bot a wykked Wyf had he,      
That levyd in-til adultery,
And had a Lemman specially,
That for til have at wyll that Wyf,
Rest frà hyr Husband sowne the lyf:

And eftyr that he was dede, he wroucht 
Myrakylys, but yhit scho trowyd nought
That hys Wyf; bot scho sayd ay,
Als oft as scho herd say,
That eftyre hys dede he wroucht swilk thyng,
Swth scho sayd in hyr hethyng;

‘My Mayster wes kend of gret Pytè;
Ane haly man, I wyst, wes he,
And a man of gret meryte;
I trowe hys Sawle frá hell is qwyte:
Quhen he doys Myrakylis, or swylk thyng,
Than oysys myn ers,’ scho sayd, ‘to sing.’

In publyk pláces frá that day
Scho wes behynd than trumpand ay:
Sá wes scho schamyd in ilk sted,
Quihil in this warld hyr lyf scho led.

Quha that luwe wald per drwry,
He suld have chosyn this Lady:
In welth he ware that Wenche to wede,
That couth sá blyth bere hyr in bede.

In those days there was in Burgundy a man whose name was Gengulphus. He was a most devout man, but had a wicked wife who committed adultery. She had a particular lover who – in order to enjoy the woman without opposition –  murdered her husband whilst he was asleep.
And after he was dead he performed miracles  –  but she, his wife, gave no credit to this, but whenever she heard it alleged that after his death he did such deeds she would say, contemptuously,
‘Indeed, my Lord was considered to be most devout. He was indeed a holy man and a most worthy one and I suppose that he has avoided hell. But when he performs miracles, or anything of that kind, then,’ she said ‘my arse will be able to sing.’
And from that day forwards she would in public places make a continual trumpetting from behind, and this humiliating retribution lasted the rest of her earthly life.

Considering the paucity of books in Scotland at the time, and the remoteness of his situation, Wyntoun’s learning and resources were by no means inconsiderable, and his work contains evidence of his use of a great number of classical, ecclesiastical, and later writers. The abbreviated nature of his account of St Gengulphus suggests that the source was not Vita 1 but an abridgment, perhaps already inserted into some previous chronicle.

St Serf’s Inch, Loch Leven.
The site of the Augustinian house of which Wintoun was prior.

a. The Sext Buke of the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, Ed. David Macpherson  1745 Chapter II lines 77-104. The letter Eth has been expanded throughout.

© Paul Trenchard
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Page last revised 03.09.08