My research explores the experiences of pilgrims who sought out miraculous cures through saint cults in medieval England. A key resource for this topic are the hagiographical sources which include reports of the posthumous miracles (collected together in a subgenre called miracula) worked by various saints through their shrines. However, these formally written-up texts were not produced for all saints’ cults, and even when they were, not all survive. One saint’s cult that we know drew in pilgrims was that of St Robert of Knaresborough (d. 1218). Yet, while some hagiographical evidence survives for the saint, most writings on St Robert are focused towards his vita (life) with only passing mentions of what happened following his death.
How, then, can we find out about the types of experiences that cure-seekers travelling to St Robert’s tomb and shrine were likely to have? This is the challenge that faced me when I was asked to present a paper on St Robert of Knaresborough as part of commemorations of the 800th anniversary of his death last summer. What follows below is an adapted version of the paper I presented for the celebratory conference ‘St Robert in his Time’.