Much reading as well as (seemingly) endless writing has brought me closer to saying something about Bevis that feels worth saying. The coincidence that the original Boeve poem was written around the time when Bovo of St Laurence was living in Southampton still eludes a definitive treatment, but clearly St Bovo of Fraxinet relates to both. Furthermore, the apparent crossover of material between the poem and the Vita of Thomas Becket confirms the use of St Bovo’s story as a source for Boeve. The propaganda encoded by reference to the crusader saint Bovo refers to Cluniac constructions of the saint as the ideal of the pious lay warrior, defender of the Christian faith. It is, then no accident that his example, inflected with the ill-treatment of abbot Maiolus by the Andalusi pirates, should be flagged up in fashionable literary form in the aftermath of Henry II’s conflict with Becket when the rights of the Church were at stake. The implicit message seems to be that lay warriors should defend Christianity against its infidel enemies, and not persecute its ministers like Saracens.
Yesterday 22nd May, was St Bovo’s Day. Maybe next year research conditions will be easier, and I will be able to write up the rest of the issues that the current work is throwing up. There is certainly more to be said about the relationship between Boeve, St Bovo, and Becket.