The CAS Council, in its meeting during the Buckfast conference, revisited the idea that it would be appropriate for the Society to have and to celebrate patrons drawn from history. These individuals would be reflective of the values of the society in encouraging the preservation of archival records for cultural and administrative reasons, and of the society’s identity as a Catholic body informed by religious values and the traditions of the Christian Faith.
The keeping of historic books and manuscripts has long been at the centre of religious life, in fact in some sense it may be said that this concern for record keeping and the preservation of knowledge is a gift which has been bestowed by the Church on the wider society. All archivists may thus be said to be in the debt of the Catholic tradition of record keeping.
A decree of the Congregation of the Council of Trent (1626) specified what should be kept in an Episcopal archive, namely court records, Episcopal decrees and decisions, reports of ecclesiastical business, and inventories of property. The concern to keep records of decisions made (such as minutes), reports of events and projects, and of property and fixed assets, are still a central concern of archivists, and the core of many archival collections.
However, the history of the involvement of the church in record keeping goes back considerably further than this. Caring for records and manuscripts may be said to have been one of the central concerns of the monastic tradition from the early medieval period onwards. One of the earliest systemised forms of recordkeeping is represented by the monastic chronicles, which even by the C12th were sometimes referred to as ‘annals’.
The whole idea of accumulating a stereotyped series of records, year upon year, may be traced back to this development. The concern to keep obituaries of religious – or necrologies – was clearly also a feature of the religious life by this period – there is a record of the obituary roll of Matilda, Abbess of Caen being toured around England as early as 1113, as was the tradition of the time.
From this period onwards, it is reasonable to argue, with the historian M T Clanchy, that it is ecclesiastics who were most concerned to establish procedures for the systematic keeping of records.
The late Sr St. Mildred Coburne DW was a strong advocate of St Bede as patron, and he appears to have been accepted in this capacity by the time of CAS Conference at Ushaw in 1994. Bede’s considerable reputation as a pioneering early historian, who had a great respect for the careful use of archival sources, made him an ideal candidate, additionally to the fact that he is a person venerated by the Catholic Church.
However, the council accepted the proposal that, in addition to Bede, a further individual should be chosen reflective of the pioneering role and long tradition of the Church in establishing norms for the preservation of records. In this capacity, Hemming, a medieval monk of Worcester, was chosen. He is a figure whom historians have identified as showing great care in the identification, formation and preservation of documentation relating to his own community, guided by his enlightened ecclesiastical superior.
Short summaries of the lives and careers of these individuals can be found by clicking on their name:
M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record, England 1066-1307 (1979)
C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
William Page and J. W. Willis-Bund, Victoria County History of Worcester vol 2 (1971)
Stephen and S. Lee (eds), Dictionary of National Biography (1908-9)