, Volume 89, Issue 2, pp 311–328 | Cite as

The Sacrament of Baptism in St. Erkenwald: The Perfect Transformation of the Trajan Legend

  • Annemarie ThijmsEmail author


In this article I argue that in the late fourteenth-century poem St. Erkenwald the anonymous poet does not want to glorify the church and its sacraments, but God’s grace through the sacrament of baptism. The poet regards the baptism scene as the key issue of his work, as the whole poem points towards this climax. The poet shows that through simplicity and accidence, God creates the circumstances for a pagan judge to be saved. The role of the church has been overrated by other scholars, as it is clear that God triumphs through the baptism of the judge at the expense of the bishop Erkenwald, the representative of the church. It is clear that God is in control of the salvation. The poet has adapted the Trajan legend as was known through time, by avoiding former theological difficulties to Gregory praying like God for the salvation of Trajan and by supplying the reader with a orthodox salvation through the sacrament of baptism. The result is a perfect transformation of the Trajan legend.


Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic Anonymous Poet Perfect Transformation Poem Point 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Trinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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