The English Church in the Middle Ages - William Hunt - ebook
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            The Gospel was first brought to the Teutonic conquerors of Britain by Roman missionaries, and was received by the kings of various kingdoms. From the first the Church that was planted here was national in character, and formed a basis for national union; and when that union was accomplished the English State became coextensive with the English Church, and was closely united with it. The main object of this book is to trace the relations of the Church both with the Papacy and with the State down to the new era that opened with the schism in the Papacy and the Wyclifite movement. St. Augustin’s landing at Ebbsfleet, 597.Our narrative will begin with the coming of Augustin and his companions in 597 to preach the Gospel to the English people. They landed in the Isle of Thanet. The way had, to some extent, been prepared for them, for Æthelberht, king of Kent, whose superiority was acknowledged as far north as the Humber, had married a Christian princess named Bertha, the daughter of a Frankish king, and had allowed her to bring a priest with her and to practise her own religion. He had not, however, learnt much about Christianity from his queen or her priest. Nevertheless, he received the Gospel from Augustin, and was baptized with many of his people. By Gregory’s command, Augustin was consecrated “archbishop of the English nation” by the archbishop of Arles. Æthelberht gave him his royal city of Canterbury, and built for him there the monastery of Christ Church, the mother-church of our country...

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THE ENGLISH CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE AGES

William Hunt

PERENNIAL PRESS

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This book is a work of nonfiction and is intended to be factually accurate.

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Copyright © 2015 by William Hunt

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

2015

CHAPTER I.

ROME AND IONA.

ST. AUGUSTIN’S MISSION—POPE GREGORY’S SCHEME OF ORGANIZATION—CAUSES OF ITS FAILURE—FOUNDATION AND OVERTHROW OF THE SEE OF YORK—INDEPENDENT MISSIONS—THE SEE OF LINDISFARNE—SCOTTISH CHRISTIANITY—THE SCHISM—THE SYNOD OF WHITBY—RESTORATION OF THE SEE OF YORK.

The Gospel was first brought to the Teutonic conquerors of Britain by Roman missionaries, and was received by the kings of various kingdoms. From the first the Church that was planted here was national in character, and formed a basis for national union; and when that union was accomplished the English State became coextensive with the English Church, and was closely united with it. The main object of this book is to trace the relations of the Church both with the Papacy and with the State down to the new era that opened with the schism in the Papacy and the Wyclifite movement. St. Augustin’s landing at Ebbsfleet, 597.Our narrative will begin with the coming of Augustin and his companions in 597 to preach the Gospel to the English people. They landed in the Isle of Thanet. The way had, to some extent, been prepared for them, for Æthelberht, king of Kent, whose superiority was acknowledged as far north as the Humber, had married a Christian princess named Bertha, the daughter of a Frankish king, and had allowed her to bring a priest with her and to practise her own religion. He had not, however, learnt much about Christianity from his queen or her priest. Nevertheless, he received the Gospel from Augustin, and was baptized with many of his people. By Gregory’s command, Augustin was consecrated “archbishop of the English nation” by the archbishop of Arles. Æthelberht gave him his royal city of Canterbury, and built for him there the monastery of Christ Church, the mother-church of our country.

Gregory’s scheme of organization, 601.

Gregory organized the new Church, in the full belief that it would extend over the whole island. He sent Augustin the “pall,” a vestment denoting metropolitan authority, and constituting the recipient vicar of the Pope. Two metropolitan sees were to be established—the one at London, the residence of the East Saxon King Sæberct, who reigned as sub-king under Æthelberht, a crowded mart, and the centre of a system of roads; the other at York, the capital of the old Roman province north of the Humber. Both archbishops were to receive the pall, and to be of equal authority. At the same time, the unity of the Church was ensured, for they were to consult together and act in unison. Both the provinces were to be divided into twelve suffragan bishoprics, and as the northern province took in the country now called Scotland, they were of fairly equal size. This arrangement was not to be carried out until after Augustin’s death. As long as he lived all the bishops alike were to obey him, and he was, we may suppose, to continue to reside at Canterbury. Moreover, the clergy of the Welsh or Britons were to be subject to him and to the future archbishops of the English Church. Augustin endeavoured to persuade the Welsh clergy to join him in preaching the Gospel to the Teutonic invaders, and held a meeting with them at or near Aust, on the Severn. But they refused to acknowledge his authority, or even to hold communion with him, and would not give up their peculiar usages with respect to the date of Easter and the administration of Baptism. At Augustin’s request, Gregory sent him a letter of instructions as to the government of the Church. It bears witness to the Pope’s largeness of mind. While morality and decency were to be enforced, the archbishop was not bound strictly to follow the Roman ritual; if he found anything that he thought would be helpful to his converts in the Gallican or any other use, he might adopt it, and so make up a use collected from various sources.

Causes of its failure.

Excellent as Gregory’s scheme would have been had Britain still been under Roman rule, it was unsuited to a country divided as England then was into several rival kingdoms. London did not become a metropolitan see, probably because Æthelberht was unwilling that the seat of ecclesiastical authority should be transferred from his own kingdom to the chief city of a dependent people, while Augustin had no wish that the church which he had founded at Canterbury, and the second monastery, now called after him, which he had begun to build there for a burying-place for himself and his successors, should be reduced to a lower rank. Other Roman clergy had been sent by Gregory to reinforce the mission, and of these Augustin consecrated Mellitus to be bishop of London, Justus to be bishop over Kent west of the Medway, with Rochester as the city of his see, an arrangement that marks an early tribal distinction, and Laurentius to be his own successor at Canterbury. Thus the metropolitan see remained with Kent. More generally, Gregory’s scheme failed because it was founded on the old division of Britain as a province of the Roman empire, and was not adapted to the tribal distinctions of the English. Moreover, political circumstances determined the development of the Church; for the Roman mission received a series of checks, and the work of evangelization was taken up by Scottish missionaries. The kingdoms into which the country was divided were finally converted by efforts more or less independent of the Kentish mission; the work of evangelization followed tribal lines, and for sixty years after Augustin’s death the tendency of the Church was towards disunion.

Although the king of the East Angles received baptism in Kent at the bidding of Æthelberht, he fell back into idolatry on his return to his own land. And as Æthelberht’s son, Eadbald, was a pagan, many of the Kentishmen and East Saxons also deserted Christianity when he became king. Eadbald was converted by Laurentius, and did what he could to forward the cause of Christ. With Æthelberht’s death, however, the greatness of Kent passed away, and Eadbald could not insist on the destruction of idols even in his own country. While Kent sank into political insignificance the Kentish mission made one great advance, and then ended in failure. Foundation and overthrow of the see of York, 627-633.The Northumbrian king, Eadwine, who reigned over the two Northumbrian kingdoms, Bernicia and Deira, from the Forth to the Humber, and gradually established a supremacy over the whole English people except the Kentishmen, married Æthelburh, the daughter of Æthelberht. She was accompanied to her new home by Paulinus, who was ordained bishop by Justus, the successor of Mellitus; and Boniface V. wrote to her exhorting her to labour for the conversion of her husband, and saying that he would not cease to pray for her success. His prayers were heard; Eadwine was baptized, and made his capital, York, the seat of the bishopric of Paulinus. The people of Deira (Yorkshire) followed their king’s example, while Bernicia, though Paulinus preached and baptized there, remained, on the whole, heathen; no church was built and no altar was raised. South of the Humber the authority of Eadwine and the preaching of Paulinus effected the conversion of Lindsey, and of the king, at least, of the East Angles. In 633, however, Eadwine was defeated and slain by Penda, the heathen king of Mercia, and Cadwallon, the Briton. Heathenism was already triumphant in East Anglia, and on Eadwine’s death many of the Northumbrians relapsed into idolatry. Æthelburh and her children sought shelter in Kent, and Paulinus fled with them. Only one Roman clergyman, the deacon James, remained in Northumbria to labour on in faith that God’s cause would yet triumph there. Ignorant of the calamity that had befallen the Church, the Pope, in pursuance of Gregory’s scheme, sent the pall to Paulinus. When the papal gift arrived in England the Church of York had been overthrown, and Paulinus had been translated to Rochester.

Independent missions.

After the success of the Kentish mission had received this terrible check, the work of evangelization was carried on by efforts that were more or less independent of it. East Anglia was finally converted by a Burgundian priest named Felix, who was consecrated bishop by Honorius, archbishop of Canterbury, and fixed his see at Dunwich, once on the Suffolk coast. The Italian, Birinus, who was consecrated in Italy, brought the Gospel to the West Saxons, and received Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, for the place of his see. Northumbria was evangelized by Celtic missionaries who were not in communion with Rome and Canterbury. About the middle of the sixth century the Irish Scot, Columba, founded the monastery of Iona. He and his companions preached the Gospel to the northern Picts and the Scots of the western isles, and Iona became a centre of Christian light. During the reign of Eadwine, Oswald and Oswiu, princes of the rival Bernician line, had found shelter in Iona. Oswald returned to become king of Bernicia shortly after the death of Eadwine, and before long brought Deira also under his dominion. As soon as he had gained possession of the kingdom of Bernicia, he sent to Iona for missionaries to instruct his people. Aidan, a missionary from Columba’s house, came to him, and so it came to pass that Bernicia received Christianity from Celtic teachers, from Aidan and his fellow-workers. Foundation of the see of Lindisfarne, 635.Oswald warmly seconded their efforts, and fixed the see of Aidan, who was in bishop’s orders, in Lindisfarne, or Holy Isle, not far from Bamborough, where he resided; for though he ruled over both the Northumbrian kingdoms, and completed the minster at York, he made his home in the North, among his own people. Bernicia thus became the stronghold of Celtic Christianity under the rule of the kings of the house of Ida, while the Christians of Deira were naturally more inclined to the Roman usages which had been introduced by Paulinus and practised by Eadwine and his queen. Aidan built a monastery at Lindisfarne, and peopled it with monks from Iona. This gave him a good supply of clergy, and the work of evangelization prospered and took deep root. The greatness of Oswald provoked Penda to renew his struggle with the northern kingdom, and the Northumbrian king was defeated and slain at Maserfield. As his foes closed round him he prayed for their conversion. His words sank deeply into men’s hearts. “‘May God have mercy on their souls,’ said Oswald, as he fell to earth,” was a line handed down from generation to generation. From his hermit’s retreat on Farne Island, Aidan beheld the thick clouds of smoke rise from the country round Bamborough, and cried, “Behold, Lord, the evil that Penda doeth!” Still the work of God went on; and when Oswiu came to the throne the prayer of Oswald received its answer, for a marriage between his house and the house of Penda led to the evangelization of the Mercians and Middle Angles by the monks of Iona. From them too the East Saxons received the Gospel, and Cedd, an English monk of Lindisfarne, was consecrated to the bishopric that had been held by the Roman Mellitus.

Scottish Christianity.

By the middle of the seventh century only Kent and East Anglia remained in full and exclusive communion with Rome; for Sussex was still heathen, Wini, the West Saxon bishop, acted with British bishops, and Scottish Christianity prevailed in all the rest of England. The Scottish missionaries were full of zeal and self-devotion, and were masters of a considerable store of learning. Their nature was impulsive; while they were loving and tender-hearted, passionate invectives came as readily from their lips as words of love. Celtic Christianity was a religion of perpetual miracles, of deep and varying emotions, and of contempt for worldly things, that, however noble in itself, was sometimes manifested extravagantly. While its teachers seldom failed to win men’s love, they were not equally successful in influencing their conduct. It was well that the English Church turned away from them, for their religious system could never have produced an organized ecclesiastical society. It was monastic rather than hierarchical, and a Celtic priest-abbot was a far more important person than a bishop who was not the ruler of an abbey, though in England the bishops were probably always abbots. In founding their sees they sought seclusion rather than good administrative centres, and the bishop’s monastery was less a place of diocesan government than the headquarters of missionary effort. They had no regular diocesan system, and bishops and clergy ministered where they would. Their monasticism was of a specially ascetic character. Both Aidan and Cuthberht loved to leave the society of the monks at Lindisfarne, and to retire to the barren little Farne Island, where they could only hear the roaring of the northern ocean and the crying of the sea-birds. Cuthberht, indeed, even after he joined the Roman Church, kept the characteristics of the Scottish monk. He left the duties of his bishopric altogether and ended his days in his island-hermitage. This love of asceticism was fatal to the well-being of the Church; the individual soul was everything; the Church was nothing; and though great victories were won over heathenism, the Scottish Church remained without corporate life. Lastly, it was not in communion with Rome, and so lay outside Catholic Christendom. And though it had much to offer the English both in religion and learning, every gift would have been rendered fruitless by isolation from the progressive life of Western Christendom.

The schism.

It was, indeed, impossible, from the very nature of things, that Celtic Christianity should long prevail in England, for its arrangements were based on the loose organization of the sept, and the English needed arrangements that suited kingship and tended towards political as well as ecclesiastical union. Its rejection was, however, determined by questions of Church order. Up to the middle of the fifth century the Celtic Christians computed Easter by the Roman lunar cycle, which had gradually diverged from that of Eastern Christendom. When, however, the Romans adopted a new system of computation, the Welsh and the Irish Scots adhered to the old cycle; and they further differed from the Roman Church as regards the shape of the tonsure and the rites observed in the administration of Baptism. Unimportant as such differences may seem to us, they were really no light matters; for, as the Church was engaged in a conflict with paganism, unity with itself was of the first consequence. The points at issue began to be much debated in Northumbria when the gentle-spirited Aidan was succeeded at Lindisfarne by Finan, a man of violent temper. The Bernician court was divided. Oswiu was attached to the Scottish communion, and his attachment was strengthened by his regard for Colman, the successor of Finan. On the other hand, his queen, Eanflæd, the daughter of Eadwine, belonged to the Roman party; and so it came about that, while the king was keeping his Easter feast, his queen was still in the Lenten fast. Oswiu’s son, Alchfrith, who reigned as under-king in Deira, left the Scottish communion and eagerly upheld the Roman party. He was encouraged by Wilfrith, the abbot of Ripon. Wilfrith, who was the child of wealthy parents, had been led by the unkindness of his stepmother to desire to become a monk, and had been sent, when a handsome, clever lad of thirteen, to Queen Eanflæd, that she might decide what he should do. Eanflæd sent him to Lindisfarne, and he stayed there for some years. Then she helped him to visit Rome, and he made the journey, which was as yet unknown to his fellow-countrymen, partly in the company of Benedict Biscop, who became the founder of Roman monasticism in the north of England. While he was at Rome Wilfrith studied ecclesiastical matters, and especially the subject of the computation of Easter. He returned home fully convinced of the excellence of the Roman Church, and found in Alchfrith a warm friend and willing disciple. Alchfrith had built a monastery at Ripon, and peopled it with Scottish monks from Melrose. When he adopted the Roman customs, these monks, of whom Cuthberht was one, refused to follow his example, and accordingly he turned them out, and gave the monastery to Wilfrith.

The synod of Whitby, 664.

Before long Wilfrith, who was a good preacher and charitable to the poor, became exceedingly popular. The ecclesiastical dispute was evidently closely connected with the rivalry between the two Northumbrian kingdoms; the Roman cause was upheld in Deira and by the Deiran under-king, while the Celtic clergy were strong in Bernicia, and trusted in the support of Oswiu. A visit from Agilberct, a Frank, who had held the West Saxon bishopric, and had since returned to Gaul, gave Alchfrith an opportunity of bringing matters to an issue. Agilberct admitted Wilfrith to the priesthood, and urged on a decision of the dispute. A conference was held at the abbey of Strenæshalch, or Whitby. The abbey was ruled by Hild, great-niece of King Eadwine, who presided over a congregation composed of monks as well as nuns. Five of Hild’s monks became bishops, and the poet Cædmon was first a herdsman, and then a brother of her house. Hild belonged to the Scottish party, which was represented at the conference by Colman, Cedd, and others. The leaders on the Roman side were Agilberct, Wilfrith, James the deacon of Paulinus, and Eanflæd’s chaplain, Romanus. The question was decided in a synod of the whole Northumbrian kingdom, presided over by Oswiu and Alchfrith. Oswiu opened the proceedings with a short speech, in which he urged the necessity of union and the importance of finding out what the true tradition was. Colman then stated his case, which he rested on the tradition of his Church and the authority of St. John. At the request of Agilberct, Oswiu called on Wilfrith to answer him. Wilfrith spoke in an overbearing tone, for he was of an impatient temper. He sneered at the obstinacy of “a few Picts and Britons” in setting themselves in opposition to the whole world, and met Colman’s arguments by declaring that the Celtic Easter was condemned by St. Peter, of whom the Lord had said, “Thou art Peter,” &c. (Matt. xvi. 18). On this, Oswiu asked Colman whether the Lord had indeed spoken thus, and when he said that He had done so, further demanded whether his Columba had received any such power. Colman allowed that he had not. The king then asked whether both parties were agreed that Peter had received the keys of Heaven. “Even so,” was the answer. “Then,” said he, “I will not go against him who is doorkeeper, but will do all I know and can to obey him, lest perchance, when I come to the door of the kingdom of Heaven, I should find none to open to me, because he who holds the keys is offended with me.” The assembly agreed with the king’s decision, and declared for the Roman usages. James the deacon saw the reward of his long and faithful labour; he was a skilful singer, and introduced the Roman method of chanting into Northumbria.

The Synod of Whitby is the turning-point in the history of the schism. Before many years the Celtic party died out in the north, and though the Celtic customs lingered a little longer among the Britons of the west, the decisive blow had been struck; the Church of England was to follow Rome. The gain was great. The Church was to have a share in the progressive life of Catholic Christianity; it was to have a stately ritual, and to be adorned by the arts and strengthened by the learning of the west; it gained unity and organization for itself, and the power of exercising a determining influence on the lives of individual men, and on the formation and history of the future State. Nevertheless, the decision of the synod was not all gain, for it led to the submission of the Church to papal authority, and in times of national weakness exposed it to papal aggression.

Restoration of the see of York, 664.

Colman refused to accept the decision of the synod, and left England in anger, taking several of his monks with him. His departure ruined the cause of his Church. His successor in the vast Northumbrian diocese died of the terrible plague that visited England the year of the Synod. Then the two kings held a meeting of the Northumbrian witan, and Wilfrith was chosen bishop. The victory of his party was further declared by the restoration of the see of York. Ever since the flight of Paulinus, York had remained without a bishop; now, doubtless at the instance of Alchfrith and the people of Deira, it took the place of Bernician Lindisfarne as the seat of the Northumbrian bishopric. Wilfrith went to Gaul to receive consecration, on the ground that there were not three canonically ordained bishops in England, an assertion which seems to have been hasty and incorrect. He stayed abroad for three years, and so well-nigh threw away the victory he had gained, for while he was absent Alchfrith lost his kingdom, and the rivalry between the two divisions of Northumbria found expression in a revulsion of feeling in ecclesiastical matters. When he came back he found that Aidan’s disciple, Ceadda (St. Chad), the brother of Cedd, who had adopted the Roman customs, had been appointed bishop in his place. He retired to Ripon, acted as bishop in other parts, and helped forward the introduction of Roman monasticism into monasteries that had hitherto followed the Columban model.

CHAPTER II.

ORGANIZATION.

ARCHBISHOP THEODORE—HIS WORK IN ORGANIZATION—NEW DIOCESES—WILFRITH’S APPEALS TO ROME—LITERARY GREATNESS OF NORTHUMBRIA—PARISHES—TITHES—THE CHURCH IN WESSEX—A THIRD ARCHBISHOPRIC—THE CHURCH IN RELATION TO THE STATE—TO ROME—TO WESTERN CHRISTENDOM.

Archbishop Theodore, 668-690.

Among the victims of the plague of 664 was Archbishop Deusdedit, the first English successor of Augustin. After the see of Canterbury had lain vacant for three years, Oswiu, who held a kind of supremacy in England, and Ecgberht of Kent joined in writing to Pope Vitalian, asking him to consecrate a Kentish priest named Wighard as archbishop. Wighard died of the plague at Rome before he was consecrated, and the Pope wrote to the kings that, agreeably to their request, he was looking for a fit man to be consecrated. As, however, the kings had made no such request, and had simply asked him to consecrate the man whom they and the English Church had chosen, his letter was more clever than honest. He made choice of a Greek monk, a native of Tarsus, named Theodore, who had joined the Roman Church; and as the Greeks held unorthodox opinions, he sent with him Hadrian, an African, abbot of the Niridan monastery, near Naples, that he might prevent him from teaching any wrong doctrines. Theodore was consecrated by the Pope in 668, and set out for England with Hadrian and Benedict Biscop, of whom much will be said in the volume of this series on monasticism. Both Theodore and Hadrian were learned men, and the archbishop gathered round him a number of students, whom they instructed in arts and sciences as well as in Biblical knowledge. They also taught Latin and Greek so thoroughly that some of their scholars spoke both languages as readily as English, and for the first time England had a learned native clergy. Many of their scholars became teachers of others, and in the darkest period of ignorance in Gaul, England, and especially Northumbria, entered on a period of literary splendour that lasted until the Danish invasions.

His ecclesiastical organization.

As the Church was now rapidly passing from the missionary to the pastoral stage of its existence, it needed organization as a permanent institution. This organization was given to it by Theodore. He established his authority over the whole Church, and, long before any one thought of a national monarchy, planned a national archiepiscopate. He made a visitation of every see, and for the first time every bishop owned obedience to Canterbury; while, as far as the English were concerned, he virtually brought the schism to an end by enforcing the decision of the Synod of Whitby. When he came to York he told Ceadda that his consecration was uncanonical. The saintly bishop declared his readiness to resign; he had ever, he said, deemed himself unworthy of the episcopal office. Theodore was touched by his humility, and reordained him; he received the Mercian bishopric, and lived for a little while in great holiness at Lichfield. Wilfrith was restored to York, and ruled his diocese with magnificence. When Theodore had thus established his authority, he proceeded to give the Church a diocesan system and a means of legislation in ecclesiastical matters. He called a national council of the Church to meet at Hertford; it was attended by the bishops and several “masters of Church,” men learned in ecclesiastical affairs, and in it the archbishop produced a body of canons which were universally accepted. These canons declared that the Roman Easter was to be observed everywhere; that no bishop should intrude into another’s diocese; that no priest should minister out of his own diocese without producing letters of recommendation; that a synod of the whole Church should be held every year at Clevesho, probably near London; and that more bishops were needed, a matter which it was decided to defer for the present.

Creation of new dioceses.

Instead of the symmetrical arrangement contemplated by Gregory, certain bishoprics were of immense size, for the diocese in each case was simply the kingdom looked at from an ecclesiastical point of view, and as the boundaries of a kingdom were changed by the fortune of war the diocese was enlarged or diminished. The whole of Central England was included in the one Mercian diocese, and the whole of Northumbria—for Lindisfarne was now without a separate bishop—lay in the diocese of Wilfrith. Theodore saw that it was necessary to subdivide these and other dioceses, and his intention was approved at Rome. His plan of procedure was first to gain the approval of the king whose kingdom would be affected by the change he wished to make, and then to obtain the consent of the witan. Hitherto the dioceses had been based on political circumstances; the new dioceses were generally formed on tribal lines. He divided East Anglia into two dioceses. The North folk and the South folk each had a bishop of their own, and the new see was placed at Elmham. Mercia was divided into five dioceses; the Hwiccan, the Hecanan, the Mercians proper, the Middle Angles, and the Lindsey folk each received a bishop, and the five sees were respectively at Worcester, Hereford, Lichfield, Leicester, and Sidnacester. The division of the West Saxon see was put off until the death of the bishop. In dealing with the Northumbrian diocese King Ecgfrith and the archbishop seem to have expected opposition from Wilfrith, for they divided his diocese in a council at which he was not present. According to the plan then adopted, Theodore consecrated bishops for Deira, Bernicia, and Lindsey, which, though originally part of the Mercian diocese, had lately been added to the Northumbrian kingdom and bishopric by conquest.

Wilfrith’s first appeal to Rome, 678.

Wilfrith appeared before the king and the archbishop, and demanded to be told why he was thus deprived of his rights. No answer was given him, and he appealed to the judgment of the Apostolic See. This appeal to Rome against the decision of a king and his witan, and of an archbishop acting in concert, the first that was ever made by an Englishman, is a notable event. It was greeted with the jeers of the great men of the court. Wilfrith went to Rome in person, and Theodore appeared by a proctor. Pope Agatho and his council decreed that Wilfrith should be reinstated, that his diocese should be divided, but that he should choose the new bishops, and that Theodore’s bishops should be turned out. Wilfrith returned in triumph, bringing the papal decrees with their bulls (seals) attached. A witenagemót was held to hear them, and the king and his nobles decided to disregard them. Wilfrith was imprisoned, and Theodore made a further division of his diocese by establishing a see at Abercorn, and appointed bishops for Lindisfarne, Hexham, and perhaps Ripon without consulting him. After Wilfrith was released he was forced by the hatred of Ecgfrith to wander about seeking shelter, until at last he found it among the heathen South Saxons. He converted them to Christianity, and lived as their bishop at Selsey. Then he preached to the people of the Isle of Wight, and by their conversion completed the work that Augustin came to do. The death of Ecgfrith made it possible for Theodore to come to terms with him. The archbishop and the injured bishop were reconciled in 686, and at Theodore’s request Ealdfrith, the new king of Northumbria, reinstated Wilfrith as bishop of York. Nevertheless the division that Theodore had made was not disturbed, and he only presided over the Deiran diocese. He is driven from York a second time, 691.After some years he and Ealdfrith had a dispute about the rights and possessions of his see. He was again driven from York, and again appealed to Rome. Pope Sergius took his part. But Ealdfrith, though a religious man, was not more inclined to submit to papal interference than his predecessor. He found an ally in Archbishop Brihtwald, for Theodore was now dead, and in spite of the Pope’s mandates, Wilfrith’s claims were rejected by a national synod of the Church. He again appealed to Rome, and was excommunicated by the English bishops. Again he journeyed to Rome, and John VI. pronounced a decree in his favour. Ealdfrith, however, declared that he would never change his decision for papal writings, and it was not until after his death that a compromise was effected in a Northumbrian synod held on the Nidd in 705. Dies bishop of Hexham, 709.The settlement was unfavourable to Wilfrith, for he was not restored to York, but ended his days as bishop of Hexham. He was a man of blameless life and indomitable courage. It was mainly through his efforts that the Church of England was brought into conformity with the Roman Church. Defeat never made him idle or despondent, and his noblest triumphs, the conversion of the last heathen people of English race, were won in exile. At the same time, he was hasty, impolitic, and perhaps over-jealous for his own honour. In the part that the two archbishops took against him it is hard not to see some fear lest the magnificence of the northern prelate should endanger the authority of Canterbury in Northumbria, though they certainly acted for the good of the Church in insisting on the division of his vast diocese. He made the first attempt to control English ecclesiastical affairs by invoking the appellate jurisdiction of the Pope, and his defeat was the first of the many checks that papal interference received from Englishmen.

Literary greatness of Northumbria, 664-782.

Cædmon, d. 680.

Æddi [Eddius], fl. 710.

Bæda, 673-735.

From the time of its conversion by Aidan to its devastation by the Scandinavian pirates, Northumbria excelled the rest of England in arts and literature. Another volume of this series will deal with the famous monasteries of Lindisfarne, Jarrow, Wearmouth, Whitby, and York, with their scholar-monks, and with the splendours of Roman and Gallic art with which their churches were enriched. While Celtic culture was on the point of yielding to Roman influence, Cædmon, the herdsman, the first of our sacred poets, began to sing at Whitby. His story illustrates the love of the English for music; and this national characteristic caused the introduction of the Roman system of chanting to hold an important place in the process of bringing the Church into conformity with Rome. This part of the work of James the deacon was carried on by Æddi, a choirmaster of Canterbury, whom Wilfrith invited into Northumbria. Æddi became the bishop’s companion, and wrote a “Life of Wilfrith,” a work of considerable value. Shortly afterwards Bæda composed his “Ecclesiastical History.” Bæda was absolutely free from narrowness of mind, and though he held that the Roman tradition was authoritative, loved and venerated the memory of the holy men of the Celtic Church. As a story-teller he is unrivalled: full of piety and tenderness, he preserved through life a simplicity of heart that invests his narratives with a peculiar grace. At the same time, he did all in his power to find out the exact truth, and constantly tells his readers where he derived his information. He was well read in the best Latin authors, and in patristic divinity; he understood Greek, and had some acquaintance with Hebrew. Besides his works on the Bible and his historical and biographical books, he wrote treatises on chronology, astronomy, mathematics, and music. From boyhood he spent all his life in the monastery of Jarrow in religious exercises and in literary labours, that he undertook not for his own sake, but for the sake of others. During his last sickness he worked hard to finish his translation of the Gospel of St. John, for he knew that it would be useful to his scholars. His last day on earth was spent upon it; and when evening came, and the young scribe said, “There is yet one more sentence, dear master, to be written out,” he answered, “Write quickly.” After a while the lad said, “Now the sentence is written;” and he answered, “Good; thou hast spoken truly. It is finished.” Then he bade him raise his head, for he wished to look on the spot where he was wont to pray. And so, lying on the pavement of his cell, he sang the Gloria Patri, and as he uttered the name of the Holy Ghost he passed to the heavenly kingdom.