“handmaid of the handmaids of God”: women’s Christian preeminence

Writing to Pope Boniface I about 720, the abbess Eangyth referred to herself as “handmaid of the handmaids of God {ancilla ancillarum dei}.” Popes onward from Pope Gregory I in 590 called themselves “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}.” Abbess Eangyth, who governed a double monastery of nuns and monks, adapted the pattern of this papal title. Eangyth also referred to herself as “unworthy {indigna}” and “serving without merit under the name of abbess {nomine abbatissae sine merito functa}.”[1] The greatest in a Christian perspective are those who present themselves as the most humble. For this reason among many others, women have long been preeminent over men in Christianity.

Pope Gregory I, who came to be called Saint Gregory the Great, wasn’t well-positioned to appear humble. He came from one of the most distinguished lineages of his time. Gregory’s great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III, the pope serving from 483-492. Gregory’s mother Silvia was a noble woman honored as a saint soon after her death. Gregory’s father Gordianus was a patrician who served as a Roman Senator and Prefect of the City of Rome. Gordianus owned a luxurious villa on Rome’s Caelian Hill and large estates in Sicily. Gregory inherited these properties. Moreover, Gregory himself served as Prefect of Rome in 574. He was then only about 33 years old.

Gregory nonetheless declared for himself the title “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}.” In 574, long before he was named pope, Gregory turned to monastic life and founded six monasteries in Sicily. In 587, he gave his family home on Rome’s Caelian Hill to Benedictine monks as a monastery dedicated to Saint Andrew the Apostle. In the deed of gift to the Benedictines, Gregory described himself as “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}.”[2]

Gregory was selected to be Pope in 590. He reportedly attempted to flee from Rome to avoid having the papacy conferred on him. He was miraculously located and persuaded to accept the papacy.[3] In his first papal letter, he referred to himself as “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}.” A life of Pope Gregory written in 875 reported:

If he soon became in fact the supreme pontiff of the most blessed city of Rome and consulted for mortals with Christ, nonetheless with a declaration of severe threats he refused the preeminent title of Universal. John, the Bishop of Constantinople, insolently usurped for himself this title at that time in the way of his pontifical predecessors. Gregory defined himself in his first written letters humbly enough first of all as the servant of the servants of God. He left to all his successors the inherited lesson of his humility, both in this title and in his modest pontifical vestments. One may see those vestments preserved until now in the holy Roman Church.

{ Si quidem mox ut summum pontificium felicissimae Romanae urbis, Christo mortalibus consulente, sortitus est, superstitiosum Universalis vocabulum, quod Joannes Constantinopolitanus episcopus insolenter sibi tunc temporis usurpabat, more antecessorum suorum pontificum, sub districtissimae interminationis sententia refutavit, et primus omnium se in principio epistolarum suarum servum servorum Dei scribi satis humiliter definivit, cunctisque suis successoribus documentum suae humilitatis tam in hoc quam in mediocribus pontificalibus indumentis, quod videlicet hactenus in sancta Romana Ecclesia conservatur, haereditarium reliquit. }[4]

Saint Gregory the Great thus achieved high renown for his humility.

Gregory competed vigorously, and probably unsuccessfully, to appear more humble than the wealthy, politically connected Roman aristocratic woman Rusticiana. Granddaughter of the eminent Boethius and holding considerable estates in Italy and Sicily, Rusticiana resided in Constantinople. There she was prominent in the court of the Emperor Maurice. In the 590s, Rusticiana’s daughter married Apion III, scion of an eminent family holding vast estates in Egypt. Rusticiana sent Gregory money and tapestries. The latter was a particularly prized Byzantine good. Despite her vast wealth and eminent status, Rusticiana presented herself as inferior to Gregory. In a letter to her, Gregory protested:

I received your Excellence’s letters. In their vigor, devotion, and sweetness, they fully comforted me when I was bedridden with a very grave sickness. Yet one matter I received painfully: that in those very letters to me, too often was stated what could have been said just once: “your handmaid” and again “your handmaid.” For what reason does Rusticiana call herself my handmaid? I, who in fact was made servant of all through the burdens of the papal office, was received before the papacy as her own suitable one. And therefore I ask through the power of the Almighty God that I would never again find this word in your letters written to me.

{ Excellentiae vestrae scripta suscepi, quae me in gravissima aegritudine positum de salute, de devotione ac de dulcedine sua omnino relevarent. Unum vero aegre suscepi, quia in eisdem epistolis ad me, quod semel esse poterat, saepius dicebatur: ancilla vestra, et ancilla vestra. Ego enim, qui per episcopatus onera servus sum omnium factus, qua ratione mihi se illa ancillam dicit, cuius susceptus ante episcopatum proprius fui? Et ideo rogo per omnipotentem Deum, ne hoc verbum aliquando ad me in scriptis vestris inveniam. }[5]

Rusticiana’s personal wealth was probably greater than Gregory’s. With her personal connections in the Byzantine court, she probably was more politically influential than he. Pope Gregory rightly insisted that Rusticiana was not his inferior. He surely also didn’t want her to place him rhetorically in the position of God, as he would be with her being the handmaid of him.

Whitby Abbey at sunset

For Christians, the most significant servant of God is Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to Luke, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would conceive a son. Her son would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High. Moreover, he would sit on the throne of David and reign over the House of Jacob. This was astonishing news for a young, otherwise unknown woman newly married to a carpenter from the dusty provincial town of Nazareth. Mary responded humbly to this divine prophecy:

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word.

{ ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum

ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη κυρίου γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου }[6]

In Mary’s response, the ancient Greek word δούλη, commonly translated as “handmaid,” means more precisely “female bond-servant.” The masculine form of this ancient Greek word, δοῦλος, is commonly translated as “servant.” It means more precisely “male bond-servant.” Mere difference in gender inflection of the ancient Greek word became in Latin and English translation two different words: “δούλη / ancilla / handmaid” and “δοῦλος / servus / servant,” respectively. Mary thus became more linguistically differentiated from male bond-servants in translation from the ancient Greek.

In the Christian gospels, Mary is distinguished from almost all bond-servants in that she is the “handmaid of the Lord {δούλη κυρίου}.” Most of the servants in the gospels are ordinary household servants. Only one other person in the gospels is described as a servant of the Lord. Upon seeing Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the temple, the righteous, devout, and otherwise unknown Simeon declared:

Most High, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples — a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

{ nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine secundum verbum tuum in pace quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israhel

νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλόν σου δέσποτα κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου ἐν εἰρήνῃ ὅτι εἶδον οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου τὸ σωτήριόν σου ὃ ἡτοίμασας κατὰ πρόσωπον πάντων τῶν λαῶν φῶς εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν καὶ δόξαν λαοῦ σου Ἰσραήλ }[7]

Mary, who described herself as a (female) servant of the Lord, become the most powerful person in medieval Europe. Simeon is a much less well-known servant of God. In fact, the presentation of Jesus in the temple has in Christian history commonly been celebrated as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Simeon is far less eminent than Mary as a servant / handmaid of the Most High Lord.

Simeon holding the baby Jesus {Nunc dimittis); excerpt from painting by Rembrandt

With his keen Christian understanding, the apostle Paul modeled himself on Mary as a servant of the Lord. Paul called himself a “servant of Jesus Christ {δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ}” in the opening address of his letters to the churches at Rome, Philippi, and Galatia. Paul regarded Jesus Christ to be the son of God and one with God. Paul thus effectively understood himself as a (male) servant of the Lord. In that sense Paul represented himself as having the same status as Mary, the mother of Jesus.[8] Surviving sources indicate no Christians until the mid-fourth century had the audacity to follow Paul in declaring themselves to have Mary’s status as a servant of the Lord.[9] Devotional competition eventually prompted Christians to describe themselves like Paul in imitating Mary in serving God. The phrase “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}” combines declarations of humility and devotion. In Christian understanding, the preeminent model of humility and devotion is Mary, not Paul.

The phrases “handmaid of the handmaids of God {ancilla ancillarum dei}” and “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}” are essentially Marian. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the first and by far the most important Christian servant of God. She is also the most eminent Christian model of humility. Men of course are capable of identifying with Mary and learning from Mary even though she is a woman. Yet from a gender perspective, women are advantaged in learning the Christian meaning of service from someone of the same gender. The exclusion of women from Christian priesthood and some leading Church offices obfuscates women’s fundamental Christian preeminence. Not even a pope as “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}” can measure up to an abbess similarly declaring herself “handmaid of the handmaids of God {ancilla ancillarum dei}.”

Christian churches urgently need to raise men’s status as a gender. Much more can and should be done to affirm men’s God-created goodness as fully human beings. Nonetheless, men probably won’t ever achieve equality with women in Christianity. Men as Christians simply must humbly accept their inferiority to woman in a Christian sense.[10]

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[1] Letter to Winfred (Pope Boniface I), from Abbess Eangyth and her daughter Heaburg (Bugga), dated 719-722, Latin text from Dümmler (1887), Letter 14, with English translation (modified) by Emerton (2000) p. 14. On the greatest in a Christian perspective, Matthew 23:11-12.

Superlatives of the form “x of x’s” have long existed in Mesopotamia. King Tukulti-Ninurta I, who reigned over the Middle Assyrian Empire from 1233 to 1197 BGC, used the title “king of kings.” Hebrew scripture uses the phrases “god of gods” and “lord of lords.” Psalms 136:2-3. The phrase “flower of flowers” has for at least two millennia described supreme beauty.

[2] Mourret (1946) p. 60. Writing on Gregory the Great for the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, James Bramby late in the nineteenth century noted with regard to Gregory’s use of “servant of the servants of God {servus servorum dei}”:

The designation, however, had been used by others before him, as by Pope Damasus (Ep. IV. ad Stephanum et Africæ Episcopos), and Augustine (Ep. ad Vitalem). Gregory may have been the first to use it habitually.

Note to Gregory the Great, Register of Letters {Registum Epistolarum}, Book I, Epistle 1. Augustine’s letter “To Vitalis {ad Vitalem}” (Letter 217, written about 427) is addressed from “Bishop Augustine, servant of Christ, and through Him the servant of His servants {Augustinus episcopus servus Christi, et per ipsum servus servorum ipsius}.” That’s not quite equivalent to “servus servorum dei.” “To Stephan and the African bishops {Ad Stephanum et Africæ Episcopos}” apparently isn’t now regarded as one of Damasus’s genuine epistles.

[3] According to the earliest life of Pope Gregory I, known as the Whitby Life of Gregory {Vita Gregorii}, Gregory fled from Rome to escape from being confirmed as pope:

So when Gregory was elected by the people of God to the pastoral office and the apostolic dignity already mentioned, he fled from it with great humility and very anxiously sought a place to hide. But he was watched with such care that even the entrance gates of the city were surrounded by guards on every side. He is hence said to have persuaded some merchants to take him out, hidden in a cask. He then immediately sought out a hiding-place in the depths of the woods. Thrusting himself into the leafiest shades of the bushes, there he lay hidden. But after he had been there for three days and three nights, the watchmen at the heavenly gates forthwith declared his whereabouts. For the people of God did not elect someone else, as he had hoped, but gave themselves up to fasting and supplication day and night, praying earnestly that God would show them where he was. Then for three whole nights there appeared to them a very bright column of light, which penetrated the forest so that its top reached up to the sky. It appeared in the form of a ladder to a certain holy man who was an anchorite, or so we have heard, with angels descending and ascending on it, as we read of the blessed Jacob at Luz, the place which, from this incident, came to be called Bethel, that is, the house of God. … When his hiding-place was revealed, Gregory was found and led to the sacred office.

{ Nam cum ad curam pastoralem prefatam apostolice dignitatis a populo Dei electus est, tam eam humiliter aufugit, ut ubi se potuisset abscondere satis anxie querebat. Qui cum fuisset tanta servatus cura ut iam porte urbis qua inerat passim custodibus cingebantur, dictur a negotiatoribus se obtinuisse ut in cratere occultatus educeretur. Sicque statim silve avias querendo latebras, interseruit se frondissimis fruticum opacis occultandum. Ubi cum fuisset tribus diebus et noctibus, eum etiam portarum vigiles celestium, confestim quo erat declamabant. Cum populus Dei non alterum pro eo ut dilexit elegit, sed ut ille monstraretur ab eo, ieiuniis et orationibus illis diebus ac noctibus serviens, diligentur precatus est. Nam visa est omnibus per totas tres noctes columna lucidissima silvam intrasse, porrecto cacumine usque ad celum. Que cuidam sancto viro quem anachoretam fuisse audivimus visa est scala, et descendentes per eam et ascendentes angeli sicut de beato Iacob in Luza legimus, que ex inde Bethel, hoc est domus Dei vocata est. … Cum declaratus ubi latebat inventus, ductus est ad sacerdotium. }

Whitby Vita Gregorii, Chapter 7, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Colgrave (1968) pp. 84-7. This story of Gregory fleeing from being appointed pope draws upon hagiographic motifs. On the Whitby Vita Gregorii and hagiography, Butler (2005).

The Whitby Vita Gregorii, also called the Book of the Blessed Pope Gregory {Liber beatae Gregorii papae}, apparently was written at Whitby Abbey in Northumbria, England, between 704 and 714. Colgrave (1968) p. 48. It survives in one manuscript, Switzerland, St. Gallen, Codex 567, written early in the ninth century. The monastery / abbey at Whitby (Old English Streanaeshalch / Streoneshealh) was founded in 657. Underscoring this institution’s importance, a synod held there in 664, called the Synod of Whitby, set the date for celebrating Easter in Northumbria.

Whitby Abbey was a double monastery: a monastery containing distinct communities of nuns and monks. Women commonly ruled such institutions. Whitby Abbey had as its founder and first leader Lady Hilda, an abbess now regarded as a saint. Five bishops trained under Lady Hilda’s rule at Whitby Abbey. The second and third leaders of Whitby Abbey were the noble women Eanflæd and Ælfflæd. Women thus ruled Whitby Abbey at least until 714. Given these circumstances, a woman might have domineeringly ordered a monk to write the Whitby Vita Gregorii. That would be similar to how Heloise ordered Abelard to do literary work for her Oratory of the Paraclete. Scholars haven’t yet fully recognized and understood the implications of such arrangements.

Gregory’s resistance to being appointed pope also appears in less elaborate representations in subsequent lives of Gregory. The Lombard and Benedictine monk Paul the Deacon wrote the Life of Saint Gregory the Great {Vita Sancti Gregorii Magni}, probably in the 780s at the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino. Heath (2018) pp. 67-72. Vita Sancti Gregorii Magni, section 10, describes Gregory resisting with all his strength being appointed pope and striving to escape. For the currently leading edition of the Latin text, Tuzzo (2002). A earlier, inferior Latin edition is available in Patrologia Latina 75. For a freely accessible English translation, Jones (1951).

An interpolator extended Paul the Deacon’s Vita Sancti Gregorii Magni considerably. The interpolated life was formerly dated to the mid-ninth century. Heath (2018) pp. 68-9. Id. p. 68, n. 88 gives the date for the interpolated life of Gregory. It’s better regarded as dating to the late eighth or early ninth century. Leyser (2016) p. 188. The interpolated version was highly successful and survives in over a hundred manuscripts. Id.

The humility of Gregory is emphasized in the Life of Pope Gregory I {Vita Gregorii I papae} written by John the Deacon / John Hymmonides the Roman Deacon {Iohannes Hymmonides Diaconus Romanus} about 875. This John the Deacon has been confused with other like-named persons. John the Deacon / Iohannes Hymmonides Diaconus Romanus included the story of Gregory fleeing the papacy, but with less biblical allusions than in Whitby Vita Gregorii. Vita Gregorii I papae, Bk 1, section 40. John also told of Gregory writing to the Emperor Maurice to request that Maurice not consent to Gregory being made pope. Gregory’s letter, however, was intercepted.

John the Deacon explicitly dismissed alternate accounts of Gregory’s character:

Indeed, because not a few perfidious Lombards assert that Gregory desired greatly the pontificate rather than fled from it, it is worthwhile to introduce a few things among many by which show more clearly than light that, in so far as he could without committing the vice of stubbornness, he certainly did not desire the pontificate, but rather, he ardently desired to avoid it as an unsupportable burden.

{ Verum, quia sunt nonnulli Langobardorum perfidi, qui Gregorium appetisse magis pontificium autument quam fugisse, operae pretium reor pauca de multis inserere, quibus eum, in quantum sine pertinaciae vitio potuit, noluisse pontificium, imo quasi pondus importabile penitus cavere voluisse, luce clarius manifestem. }

Vita Gregorii I papae, Bk 1, section 45, Latin text from Patrologia Latina 75:81C, English translation (modified) from Bush (1950) p. 64.

Vita Gregorii I papae consists of four books. The currently best Latin edition is Castaldi (2004). The Latin edition from Patrologia Latina 75:72ff is readily available online. For an English translation of the first two books, Bush (1950). For an English translation of the third book, Ware (1951).

In telling of Pope Gregory I Christianizing England, Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People {Historica Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum} (completed c. 731) apparently drew upon the Whitby Vita Gregorii. However, Gregory wasn’t highly honored in Rome until the ninth century. Latham (2015) pp. 6-12. That’s a fitting tribute to his humility. For a modern, effusively laudatory life of Saint Gregory the Great, Sister of Notre Dame (1924). For scholarly appraisals of Gregory’s life, Dudden (1905), Mourret (1946) Ch. 2, and Herrin (2021) Ch. 4.

[4] John the Deacon, Life of Pope Gregory I {Vita Gregorii I papae}, Book 2, Section 1, Latin text from Patrologia Latina 75:87, my English translation, benefiting from that of Bush (1950). The “topic {argumentum}” of this section is “Gregory, inscribing himself as a servant of the servants of God, dresses himself in ordinary clothes {Gregorius servum servorum Dei se scribens, mediocribus vestimentis amicitur}.” Some aspects of the quote’s Latin are ambiguous. Bush has made some different choices in resolving the ambiguity than I have.

John the Faster, the bishop of Constantinople, titled himself the Universal / Ecumenical Patriarch {patriarches oikoumenikos}. That title could imply the preeminence of the bishop of Constantinople over the bishop of Rome. Gregory, who did not take the title Universal Pastor {Pastor Universalis}, strongly objected to John describing himself as universal or ecumenical. Vita Gregorii I papae, Book 2, sections 51-54, 60.

Here’s Gregory’s first letter. For the best current edition of Gregory’s letters, Martyn (2004). Bramby noted:

in the Registrum Epistolarum {of Pope Gregory I} we find it {servum servorum Dei} four times only, viz., in the headings of Epistles I. 1, I. 36, VI. 51, XIII. 1. But it may have been omitted in the copies of his letters preserved at Rome. This is probable from the fact that it occurs in the letters relating to the English Mission as given by Bede, though absent from the same letters in the Registrum.

Gregory describing himself as “servum servorum Dei” in his deed of gift for his Caelian Hill home indicates the importance to him of this title. On papal titles more generally, Żmudziński (2019).

[5] Pope Gregory I to Rusticiana, letter written in February, 601, excerpt, Latin text from Ewald & Hartmann (1887-91), English translation (modified) by Angela Kinney for Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters. On the biography of Rusticiana, Cameron (1979) pp. 225-6.

Rusticiana also apparently sent Gregory a poem that she ordered Andrew the Orator to compose for her. Cameron (1979) pp. 226-7. This song has commonly been called “Song of Andrew the Orator to Rusticiana about the Virgin Mary {Andreae oratoris de Maria virgine ad Rusticianam carmen}.” It survives in numerous manuscripts. The phrase “about the Virgin Mary {de Maria virgine}” has no specific manuscript basis. Id. p. 223. Like for many men in history, virtually nothing is known about Andrew {Andreas}. He did write this poem for Rusticiana. That meager fact provides insight into Byzantine gender. In reality, “patriarchy” explains actual personal relationships about as well as storks explain human babies.

[6] Luke 1:38. Here and in subsequent quotations, the source text includes Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate) and the original Greek of Luke’s gospel.

[7] Luke 2:29-32. For ordinary household servants, see, e.g. Luke 7:2, 12:43, 14:17, 17:7. The household master in actual practice typically was the woman married to the man formally regarded as the head of the household.

The Gospel of John distinguishes servants not through who they serve, but with different Greek terms. In John 12:26, Jesus describes his Christian servants using a different Greek word from “δοῦλος”:

If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. If anyone serves me, that one my Father will honor.

{ si quis mihi ministrat me sequatur et ubi sum ego illic et minister meus erit si quis mihi ministraverit honorificabit eum Pater meus

ἐὰν ἐμοί τις διακονῇ ἐμοὶ ἀκολουθείτω καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ἐκεῖ καὶ ὁ διάκονος ὁ ἐμὸς ἔσται ἐάν τις ἐμοὶ διακονῇ τιμήσει αὐτὸν ὁ πατήρ }

Here the Greek for servant is “διάκονος.” That Greek word is the root for the English word “deacon.” The Vulgate picks up the change in the Greek by using for servant not “servus,” but “minister,” the Latin root for the English word “minister.” In John 15:15, Jesus distinguishes his “friends {φίλοι}” from “servants {δοῦλοί}.”

[8] The extensive literatue considering “slave to God” in the New Testament has largely ignored Mary, the mother of Jesus. For overviews of that literature, Goodrich (2013) and Raguse (2015).

[9] Curtius (1953) p. 407. Curtius differentiated the topos of “affected modesty,” which seems to be equivalent to the “modesty topos” in his analysis, from the “devotional formula.” He categorized “servus servorum Dei” as a devotional formula. Id. p. 84. However, “servus servorum Dei” formally expresses both devotion to God and modesty relative to others devoted to God.

[10] Men, whom scholars regard as communicatively inferior to women, might have difficulty understanding Christian humility. A scholar observed:

A truly humble Christian is not wont to vouch for his humility himself. The Rhenish prelate to whom is ascribed the saying, “Humility is the rarest of all virtues; God be praised, I have it!” — this eminent ecclesiastic can hardly serve as a model of humility.

Curtius (1953) p. 408. Cf. Luke 18:11. The great scholar and saint Jerome exemplified a much more sophisticated practice of communication.

[images] (1) Saint Hilda stained glass window in the cloister of Chester Cathedral. Saint Hilda was abbess of Whitby Abbey, a double monastery in Northumbria, from its founding in 657 to her death in 680. This stained glass window (window south 3.4) was designed by Archibald Keightley Nicholson and installed about 1927. For more information, Brooke et al. (2020) pp. 302, 310-1. Source image from id. (2) Whitby Abbey at sunset on April 12, 2009. Source image thanks to Ackers72 and Wikimedia Commons. (3) Simeon holding the baby Jesus (“Nunc dimittis…”); excerpt from painting (“Simeon’s Song of Praise”) by Rembrandt in 1631. Preserved as accession # 145 in the Mauritshuis {Maurice House} (The Hauge, Netherlands). Source image via Wikimedia Commons. (4) Mary holding the baby Jesus with Simeon looking on (“Nunc dimittis…”). Manuscript illumination painted about 1415. Detail from folio 63r of Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Musée Condé (Chantilly, France), MS 65.


Brooke, Jane, Nicholas Fry, Barry Ingram, Elizabeth Moncrieff, and James Thomson. 2020. Chester Cathedral: The Windows of the Cloister. Blessed be God in his Angels and in his Saints: A record of the windows of the Cloister of Chester Cathedral. Online.

Bush, Cecilia M. 1950. Life of Saint Gregory the Great Written in Four Books by John the Deacon: A Translation and Commentary of Books I and II. Master of Arts Thesis, Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska).

Butler, Brian. 2005. The Whitby life of Gregory the Great: exegesis and hagiography. PhD Thesis, University College Cork, Ireland.

Cameron, Averil. 1979. “A Nativity Poem of the Sixth Century A.D.” Classical Philology. 74(3): 222–32.

Castaldi, Lucia. 2004. Giovanni Diacono. Vita Gregorii I Papae (Bibliotheca hagiographica Latina / B.H.L. 3641-3642); Edizione Critica. Vol. 1: La Tradizione Manoscritta. Firenze: SISMEL.

Colgrave, Bertram, ed. and trans. 1968. The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Dudden, F. Homes. 1905. Gregory the Great: His Place in History and Thought. London: Longmans Green.

Dümmler, Ernst Ludwig, ed. 1887. “S. Bonifacii et Lulli Epistolae.” Section 6 (pp. 215-413) in Monumenta Germaniae historica. Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi. Tomus I. Edidit Societas Aperiendis Fontibus Rerum Germanicarum Medii Aevi. Berolini: Apud Weidmannos.

Emerton, Ephraim, trans. 2000. The Letters of Saint Boniface. First printed, 1940. Reprint with a new introduction & bibliography by Thomas F. X. Noble. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ewald, Paulus and Ludovicus Hartmann, eds. 1887-91. Gregorius Magnus. Registrum Epistularum. MGH Epp. in Quart 2: Gregorii papae registrum epistolarum. Berlin: Weidmann.

Goodrich, John. 2013. “From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God: Reconsidering the Origin of Paul’s Slavery Metaphor in Romans 6.” Bulletin for Biblical Research. 23(4): 509-30.

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Herrin, Judith. 2021. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jones, Mary Emmanuel. 1951. The Life of Saint Gregory the Great / Vita Sancti Gregorii Magni by Paul the Deacon: A Translation and Commentary. Master of Arts Thesis, Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska).

Latham, Jacob A. 2015. “Inventing Gregory ‘the Great’: Memory, Authority, and the Afterlives of the ‘Letania Septiformis.’” Church History. 84(1): 1–31.

Leyser, Conrad. 2016. “The Memory of Gregory the Great and the Making of Latin Europe, 600-1000.” Chapter 8 (pp. 181-201) in Kate Cooper and Conrad Leyser, eds. Making Early Medieval Societies: Conflict and Belonging in the Latin West, 300-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Preprint version.

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Raguse, Chanan. 2015. “Enslaved to Christ: Paul and the Free Corinthian Christian As ‘Slaves of Christ’ : A Metaphor Theoretical Investigation into the Pauline Expression δοῦλος Χριστοῦ.” Dissertation Protestant Theological University. PThU. .

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Żmudziński, Marek Andrzej. 2019. “Papal titles as a manifestation of the primatial power of the Bishop of Rome.” Horyzonty Polityki. 10(31):45-59.

Mary holding the baby Jesus with Simeon looking on (Nunc dimittis); medieval manuscript illumination

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