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Dr Clare Stancliffe

Honorary Fellow(1 Feb 2024 - 31 Jan 2027)

Honorary Fellow
(1 Feb 2024 - 31 Jan 2027) in the Department of Theology and Religion


In 2000 I was made an Honorary Reader in Ecclesiastical History in the Departments of History and of Theology & Religion. I originally came to Durham in 1981 and was made an Honorary Lecturer in the Theology Department the following year. I have also held a Research Fellowship in the History Department (1984-86), and taught in both departments at undergraduate and postgraduate levels on topics which include the early Irish church and Christian Northumbria 600-800. The latter is an MATR module. My interests range widely from late antiquity to the early medieval west, especially Ireland and Northumbria between the late sixth and early eighth centuries. This was the conversion period, and I am interested in exploring the ways in which Christianity, accompanied by literacy and a knowledge of Latin, interacted with the native culture and society of the Irish and of the Anglo-Saxons. Ireland is particularly interesting here, and has been less studied. One of my current long-term projects is a book on seventh-century Irish saints' Lives, set against the background of the development of hagiography on the Continent (to be published by the Oxford University Press). A second, concurrent, research interest is the question of what lay behind the clash at this period between churchmen representing a Roman standpoint and those in Britain and Ireland who clung to their own traditions, particularly as regards the dating of Easter. My interest here lies not in the methods used to calculate Easter, but rather in the repercussions of the controversy: the way in which it was raised to the status of a heresy, and how Bede has erected a smokescreen to obscure the bitterest parts of the controversy (see, for instance, my Jarrow Lecture for 2003, Bede, Wilfrid, and the Irish). This has also led me to probe further the question of relations between the Anglo-Saxons and the Britons, and of Bede's attitudes towards the Britons (Bede and the Britons, the Whithorn Lecture for 2005, forthcoming). My interest in this period was first sparked when I was an undergraduate at Oxford, reading History. I remained in Oxford to do a D.Phil. thesis on Sulpicius Severus's hagiographical writings about St Martin. This was completed while I was a Research Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge, and was subsequently published by Oxford University Press (St Martin and his Hagiographer, Oxford 1983). From Cambridge I moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where I held a Research Fellowship in the History Department, investigating early Irish spirituality (cf. my 'Red, White and Blue Martyrdom'), and getting interested in the question of conversion ('The Christianisation of the Touraine' and 'Kings and Conversion'). This was followed by my move to Durham, where my interest in early Irish spirituality led to my working on Columbanus and his sermons ('The thirteen sermons attributed to Columbanus and the question of their authorship'). At the same time anniversaries of prominent Northumbrian saints led to my co-organising conferences on St Cuthbert in 1987 and King/Saint Oswald in 1992, and co-editing the papers as books.

Research interests

  • Christianity in Britain, especially Northumbria, to c. 800
  • Early Irish Church
  • Early western hagiography
  • Relations between the Britons and Anglo-Saxons in the early middle ages


Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Edited book

Journal Article


Other (Print)