Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England


Title: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England
Creator(s): Bede, St. (“The Venerable,” c. 673-735)
Print Basis: London: George Bell and Sons, 1907
Rights: Public Domain



By Region or Country












The English version of the “Ecclesiastical History” in the following
pages is a revision of the translation of Dr. Giles, which is itself a
revision of the earlier rendering of Stevens. In the present edition
very considerable alterations have been made, but the work of Dr. Giles
remains the basis of the translation. The Latin text used throughout is
Mr. Plummer’s. Since the edition of Dr. Giles appeared in 1842, so much
fresh work on the subject has been done, and recent research has
brought so many new facts to light, that it has been found necessary to
rewrite the notes almost entirely, and to add a new introduction. After
the appearance of Mr. Plummer’s edition of the Historical Works of
Bede, it might seem superfluous, for the present at least, to write any
notes at all on the “Ecclesiastical History.” The present volume,
however, is intended to fulfil a different and much humbler function.
There has been no attempt at any original work, and no new theories are
advanced. The object of the book is merely to present in a short and
convenient form the substance of the views held by trustworthy
authorities, and it is hoped that it may be found useful by those
students who have either no time or no inclination to deal with more
important works.

Among the books of which most use has been made, are Mr. Plummer’s
edition of the Ecclesiastical History, Messrs’ Mayor and Lumby’s
edition of Books III and IV, Dr. Bright’s “Early English Church
History,” and Dr. Hunt’s “History of the English Church from its
foundation to the Norman Conquest.” Many of the articles in the
“Dictionary of Christian Biography ” and the “Dictionary of Christian
Antiquities,” Dr. Mason’s “Mission of St. Augustine,” Dr. Rhys’s
“Celtic Britain,” and a number of other books, mentioned in the notes,
have been consulted.

For help received in different ways I wish to express my gratitude to
various correspondents and friends. I am particularly indebted to Mr.
Edward Bell, who has kindly revised my proofs and made many valuable
suggestions. For information on certain points I have to thank the Rev.
Charles Plummer, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Professor
Lindsay of St. Andrews University, Miss Wordsworth, Principal, and Miss
Lodge, Vice-Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; and in a very
special sense I wish to acknowledge my obligations to Miss Paterson,
Assistant Librarian at the University Library, St. Andrews, whose
unfailing kindness in verifying references, and supplying me with
books, has greatly lightened my labours.


There are, it has been estimated, in England and on the Continent, in
all about 140 manuscripts of the “Ecclesiastical History.” Of these,
four date from the eighth century: the Moore MS. (Cambridge), so
called, because, after being sold by auction in the reign of William
III, it came into the possession of Bishop Moore, who bequeathed it to
the University of Cambridge; Cotton, Tiberius A, xiv; Cotton, Tiberius
C, ii; and the Namur MS. A detailed account of these, as well as of a
great number of other manuscripts, will be found in Mr. Plummer’s
Introduction to his edition of Bede’s Historical Works. He has been the
first to collate the four oldest MSS., besides examining numerous
others and collating them in certain passages. He has pointed out that
two of the MSS. dating from the eighth century (the century in which
Bede died), the Moore MS. and Cotton, Tiberius A, xiv, point to a
common original which cannot be far removed from Bede’s autograph. We
are thus brought very near to our author, and may have more than in
most cases the assurance that we have before us what he actually meant
to say.

The earliest editions were printed on the Continent; the “editio
princeps” is believed to date from 1475. A number of editions followed
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the first in England was
published by Abraham Whelock at Cambridge in 1643-4. Smith’s edition in
1722 marked a new era in the history of the book. It was the first
critical edition, the text being based on the Moore MS. collated with
three others, of which two were eighth century MSS.; and succeeding
editors, Stevenson (1841), Giles (1842), Hussey (1846), the editor in
the “Monumenta Historica Britannica” (1848), Moberly (1869), Holder
(1882), base their work mainly on Smith’s. Mr. Mayor and Mr. Lumby
together edited Books III and IV with excellent notes in 1878. Their
text “reproduces exactly the Moore MS.” which they collated with some
other Cambridge MSS. (cf. Mayor and Lumby, Excursus II). In 1896 the
Rev. C. Plummer published his edition of Bede’s Historical Works, the
first critical edition since Smith’s, and “the very first which
exhibits in an apparatus criticus the various readings of the MSS. on
which the text is based.” For the student of Bede this admirable book
is of the highest value, and the labours of all succeeding editors are
made comparatively light. Besides the most minute and accurate work on
the text, it contains a copious and interesting commentary and the
fullest references to the various sources upon which the editor has

The first translation of the “Ecclesiastical History” is the
Anglo-Saxon version, executed either by Alfred himself or under his
immediate supervision. Of this version Dr. Hodgkin says: “As this book
had become a kind of classic among churchmen, Alfred allowed himself
here less liberty than in some of his other translations. Some letters,
epitaphs, and similar documents are omitted, and there is an almost
complete erasure of the chapters relating to the wearisome Paschal
controversy. In other respects the king’s translation seems to be a
fairly accurate reproduction of the original work.” Mr. Plummer,
however, finds it “very rarely available for the settlement of minute
differences of reading.”

The first modern English translation is Thomas Stapleton’s (1565),
published at Antwerp. It is a controversial work, intended to point out
to Queen Elizabeth “in how many and weighty pointes the pretended
refourmers of the Church . . . have departed from the patern of that
sounde and Catholike faith planted first among Englishmen by holy S.
Augustine, our Apostle, and his vertuous company, described truly and
sincerely by Venerable Bede, so called in all Christendom for his
passing vertues and rare lerning, the Author of this History.” To save
Elizabeth’s time “in espying out the particulars,” the translator has
“gathered out of the whole History a number of diversities between the
pretended religion of Protestants and the primitive faith of the
English Church.” If charm and appropriateness of style were the only
qualities to be aimed at in a translation, we might well content
ourselves with this rendering, which fills with despair the translator
of to-day, debarred by his date from writing Elizabethan English.

The work was again translated by John Stevens (1723), and a third time
(with some omissions) by W. Hurst in 1814. In 1840 Dr. Giles published
a new edition of Stevens’s translation with certain alterations; and a
second edition of the same volume was published in 1842, and
incorporated in the collected works of Bede, edited by Dr. Giles. In
1870 a literal translation by the Rev. L. Gidley was published. The
present volume is a revision of the translation of Dr. Giles.

A brief analysis of the work may be of some use to the student in
keeping distinct the different threads of the narrative, as owing to
the variety of subjects introduced, and the want of strict
chronological order, it is difficult to grasp the sequence of events as
a coherent whole.

The sources from which Bede draws his material are briefly indicated in
the dedication to King Ceolwulf which forms the Preface, and in it he
acknowledges his obligations to the friends and correspondents who have
helped and encouraged him. For the greater part of Book I (cc. 1-22),
which forms the introduction to his real subject, he depends on earlier
authors. Here he does not specify his sources, but indicates them
generally as priorum scripta. These authors are mainly Pliny, Solinus,
Orosius, Eutropius, and the British historian Gildas. In the story of
Germanus and Lupus he follows closely the Life of Germanus by
Constantius of Lyons. Prosper of Aquitaine also supplies him with some
materials. When he comes to his main subject, the History of the
English Church, he appears to rely but little upon books. Only a very
few are referred to here and there, e.g., The Life of St. Fursa, The
Life of St. Ethelburg, Adamnan’s work on the Holy Places, and the
Anonymous Life of St. Cuthbert. That some form of annalistic records
existed before his time, and that these were consulted by him, we may
infer from some of his chronological references (cf. iii, I, 9). Local
information with regard to provinces other than Northumbria he obtains
from his correspondents in various parts of England, and these are
expressly mentioned in the Preface.

For the history of the Roman mission and of Kent generally, as well as
some particulars with regard to the conversion of other provinces, his
chief source is the Church of Canterbury, which apparently possessed,
besides oral tradition, written documents relating to the first
beginnings of the Church. Moreover, Nothelm, who was the bearer of much
important material, had been to Rome and had permission to search the
papal archives. But it is in dealing with the history of Northumbria,
as is natural, that Bede’s information is most varied and copious. Much
of it is apparently obtained directly from eye-witnesses of the events,
much would doubtless be preserved in the records of the Church of
Lindisfarne, to which he had access, perhaps also in his own monastery.
We know that the monasteries kept calendars in which the death-days of
saints and others were entered, and other records of similar nature
(cf. iv, 14), and that these were used as materials for history.

Passing to the history itself, we may trace a division of subjects or
periods roughly analogous to the division into books. Book I contains
the long introduction, the sending of the Roman mission, and the
foundation of the Church; Books II and III, the period of missionary
activity and the establishment of Christianity throughout the land.
Book IV may be said to describe the period of organization. In Book V
the English Church itself becomes a missionary centre, planting the
faith in Germany, and. drawing the Celtic Churches into conformity with

BOOK I.– In Book I, cc. 1-22, Bede sketches the early history of
Britain, describing the country and giving some account of the various
races by whom it was inhabited. The story of the Roman occupation is
narrated at some length, the invasions of the Picts and Scots and
consequent miseries of the Britons, their appeals for help to the
Romans, the final departure of their protectors, and the coming of the
,Saxons are described. We have some shadowy outlines of British Church
History in the legendary account of the conversion of King Lucius, in
the story of St. Alban, affording evidence of a great persecution of
Christians during the Roman occupation, in the allusions to the Arian
and Pelagian heresies, and in the mission of Germanus and Lupus. A
brief allusion to the mission of Palladius is all that we hear of the
Irish Church at this period.

These chapters are introductory to the main subject, the History of the
English Church, which begins in Chapter 23 with the mission of St.
Augustine in 597 AD. The reception of the Christian faith in the
kingdom of Kent and the foundation of a national Church occupy the
remaining chapters of the book. Various letters of Pope Gregory
relating to the mission and his answers to the questions of Augustine
are given at length ;and the Book concludes with a piece of
Northumbrian history, Ethelfrid’s conquests of the Britons and the
defeat of Aedan, king of the Dalriadic Scots, at Degsastan in 603 A.D.

BOOK II.– Book II opens with a biographical sketch of Gregory the
Great, the founder of the Mission. This is followed by an account of
Augustine’s negotiations with the leaders of the British Church with
regard to the Paschal question and some other matters, his failure to
win them over (a failure apparently largely due to his own want of tact
in dealing with the susceptible Celtic temperament), his alleged
prophecy of disaster and its fulfilment some time after at the battle
of Chester. Then we have the consecration of Mellitus to London, as
Bishop of the East Saxons, and Justus to Rochester (604 A.D.); the
evangelization of the East Saxons by Mellitus; the death of Augustine
and succession of Laurentius as Archbishop (no date is given; it may
have been in 605); fresh attempts at union with the Celtic Churches, in
which again we can perceive a failure of courtesy on the one side met
by an obstinate pride on the other. The death of Ethelbert in Kent (616
A.D.) and that of Sabert in Essex, soon after, lead to a pagan reaction
in both provinces; Mellitus apd Justus take refuge on the Continent;
Laurentius, intending to follow them, is stopped by a vision which
leads to the conversion of King Eadbald and the recovery of Kent for
Christianity. Essex, however, continues to be pagan. On the death of
Laurentius (619 A.D.), Mellitus succeeds to Canterbury and is himself
succeeded by Justus (in 624). In Chapter 9 we enter upon a new
development of the highest importance in the work of the mission. The
marriage of Edwin, king of Northumbria, and the Kentish princess,
Ethelberg, brings about the conversion of Northumbria through the
preaching of Paulinus. The story is told in detail. Letters from Pope
Boniface to Edwin and his consort are quoted at length, Edwin’s early
history with its bearing on the great crisis of his life is related;
finally we have the decisive debate in the Witenagemot at Goodmanham
and the baptism of the king at Easter, 627 A.D. Through the influence
of Edwin on Earpwald, king of East Anglia, that province is next
converted, but on the death of Earpwald the people lapse into paganism
for three years, till Christianity is finally established by the
labours of Bishop Felix, under the enlightened King Sigbert, who had
himself been drawn to the faith in Gaul.

Meanwhile, peace and prosperity reign in Northumbria, and Paulinus
extends his preaching to Lindsey. He receives the pall from Pope
Honorius, in accordance with the original intention of Gregory that the
Bishop of York should rank as a metropolitan. At Canterbury, Justus is
succeeded by Archbishop Honorius. Parenthetically we have extracts from
letters, probably of the year 640 A.D., addressed by the Roman see to
the Irish clergy on the Paschal question and the Pelagian heresy.

In Chapter 20 we have a dramatic climax to the book in the overthrow
and death of Edwin at the battle of Hatfield in 633 A.D.; the
devastation of Northumbria by the British king, Caedwalla, and Penda of
Mercia; and the flight of Paulinus, taking with him Ethelberg and
Eanfled to Kent, where he ends his life in charge of the Church of
Rochester. His work in Northumbria seems for the time, at least, wholly
overthrown. Only James the Deacon remains heroically at his post to
keep alive the smouldering embers of the faith.

BOOK III.–Book III opens with the story of the apostasy of the
Northumbrian kings and the miseries of the “Hateful Year,” terminated
by the victory of Oswald at Heavenfield in 634 A.D. Christianity is
brought again to Northumbria (635 A.D.) by the Celtic Mission, sent
from lona at the request of Oswald, who nobly cooperates with Aidan in
the work of evangelization. Aidan fixes his see at Lindisfarne. The
mention of lona leads to a short account of the mission of St. Columba
to the Northern Picts in 565 A.D., and incidentally of St. Ninian’s
mission to the Southern Picts “long before the grant of Iona to St.
Columba, and its constitution, the character of its monks and their
error with regard to Easter. The characters of Aidan and Oswald are
described; and the union of Deira and Bernicia under Oswald is briefly

In Chapter 7 we pass to a fresh missionary enterprise. Birinus, sent to
Britain by Pope Honorius, converts the West Saxons. Their king,
Cynegils, is baptized, and a see is established at Dorchester, in
Oxfordshire. Under Coinwalch, the successor of Cynegils, the province
passes through various vicissitudes, political and ecclesiastical, and
finally the West Saxon see is fixed at Winchester.

In Kent, Earconbert succeeds Eadbald in 640 A.D., and takes vigorous
measures for the suppression of idolatry. His daughter, Earcongota, and
many other high-born English ladies enter the religious life in Gaul,
for convents are still scarce in England.

In Chapter 9, reverting to the history of Northumbria, Bede tells us of
the death of Oswald at Maserfelth in 642, and relates at length various
miracles wrought by his relics. Oswald is succeeded by Oswy in Bernicia
and in Deira by Oswin. The latter is treacherously murdered by Oswy;
his character is described. The death of Aidan (in 651) immediately
follows that of his beloved king; Aidan’s miracles are related, and a
warm tribute is paid to his character, in spite of the inevitable error
with regard to Easter, which is severely condemned.

In Chapter 18, passing again to East Anglian history, we hear of King
Sigbert’s services to education, and of his retirement to a monastery
from which he was forcibly drawn to fall in battle against the
Mercians. (The chronology is here very vague.) A vision of the Irish
St. Fursa, who founded the monastery of Cnobheresburg in East Anglia is
told in detail. Changes in the episcopate in East Anglia and elsewhere
are mentioned. Deusdedit succeeds Honorius as Archbishop of Canterbury
in 654.

Again, a Northumbrian prince gives a fresh impulse to the spread of
Christianity. In 653 the Middle Angles (who occupied a part of Mercia)
are converted, their prince, Peada, being persuaded chiefly by his
brother-in-law, Alchfrid, a son of Oswy. Four priests are sent to them
to preach and baptize, Cedd, Adda, Betti, and Diuma, and Diuma becomes
bishop of the Middle Angles and Mercians. Similarly, at this time, King
Sigbert of Essex listens to the exhortations of his friend, King Oswy,
and, at the preaching of Cedd, the East Saxons receive the faith a
second time. Cedd becomes their bishop. Sigbert’s tragic death is
related. His successor, Suidhelm, receives baptism at the hands of
Cedd. The foundation of Lastingham by Ethelwald of Deira and its
consecration by Cedd are described. Cedd dies of the plague of 664.

Meanwhile, important political changes have taken place in the north:
the defeat and death of Penda at the Winwaed in 655 are followed by
Oswy’s rule, which established Christianity in Mercia, in spite of a
successful rebellion after three years, when the Mercians threw off the
yoke of Northumbria and set up Penda’s son, Wuifhere, as their king.

In Chapter 25 we come to the Synod of Whitby (664 A.D.), which settled
the Easter question for the English Church. Wilfrid comes to the front
as a champion of the Catholic rules. The opposing party either retire
or conform. The self-denial and devotion of the Celtic missionaries are
highly praised, and some account of the life led by English students in
Ireland follows, with the story of the self-dedication of Egbert, who
is destined to play a prominent part afterwards in the history of the

The consecration of both Wilfrid and Ceadda (664 A.D.), as bishops of
Northumbria leads to complications in the episcopate. An important step
towards the unity of the English nation in ecclesiastical matters is
taken when Wighard is sent to Rome by the kings Oswy and Egbert, acting
in concert, to be consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury (667 A.D.).
Wighard dies there, and Pope Vitalian undertakes to find an archbishop
for the English Church.

The book ends with a fresh apostasy in Essex during the miseries of the
great plague of 664. Mercia, so lately itself evangelized, becomes a
new missionary centre, King Wulfhere sending Bishop Jaruman to recall
the East Saxons to the faith.

BOOK IV.–In all but one of the kingdoms of England Christianity is
now, at least in name, established, and the Church settles down to the
work of organization. The man for this task is found in Theodore of
Tarsus, consecrated Archbishop of the English in 668. He arrives at
Canterbury in 669. We hear at once of the vigorous impulse given by him
and Abbot Hadrian to the various departments of education there.
Finding an irregularity in Ceadda’s orders, he completes his ordination
and makes him Bishop of the Mercians (probably in 669), with his see at
Lichfield. Ceadda’s death (672 A.D.), his character, and the miracles
and visions connected with him are described. Parenthetically we get an
account of Colman’s activity in Ireland after his retirement, in
consequence of the decision at Whitby. The most important political
events at this time are the death of Oswy and succession of Egfrid in
Northumbria in 670 or 671, and the death of Egbert and succession. of
Hlothere in Kent in 673.

In the same year the Council of Hertford, the first English provincial
council, is held, and marks the strength and independence of the
Church. Theodore proceeds with his reforms in the episcopate. Various
events of ecclesiastical importance follow; the East Anglian diocese is
divided about this time, and other changes are effected.

Essex, so long prone to lapses into paganism, becomes at this time a
centre of religious life under its Bishop Earconwald and its king
Sebbi. Earconwald, whose holiness is attested by many miraculous
circumstances, was the founder of the monasteries of Chertsey and
Barking, the latter of which was ruled by his sister, the saintly
Ethelburg. Various miracles are related in connection with her and her
monastery. The king of the East Saxons, Sebbi, is a man of unusual
piety who resigns his kingdom and receives the tonsure.

After a brief allusion to West Saxon history, the devastation of Kent
by Ethelred of Mercia in 676, and certain changes in the episcopate, we
come to an important step in the organization of the Church taken by
Theodore. In pursuance of his policy of increasing the number of
bishops, he subdivides the great Northumbrian diocese. Wilfrid is
expelled (678 AD.). From these events we pass summarily to the
evangelization of the South Saxons by Wilfrid, who extends his labours
to the Isle of Wight, and thus the last of the English provinces is won
for the faith.

In the Council of Hatfield (68o A.D.) the English Church asserts its
orthodoxy and unites with the continental Churches in repudiating the
heresy of the Monothelites. Turning to Northumbrian history, we have
the story of Egfrid’s queen, Ethelthryth, and a hymn composed in her
honour by Bede. The war between Mercia and Northumbria in 679 is ended
by the mediation of Theodore, and a miracle in connection with the
battle of the Trent is related.

The remainder of the book is occupied mainly with Northumbrian history,
the life and death of Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, the story of the poet
Caedmon, the destruction of Coldingham, prophesied by the monk Adamnan,
Egfrid’s invasion of Ireland (684 A.D.) and of the country of the Picts
(685 A.D.), his defeat and death in that year, the decline of
Northumbria, the flight of Bishop Trumwine from Abercorn, and the
succession of Aldfrid to the kingdom. The death of Hlothere of Kent
(685 A.D.) is followed by anarchy in that province, till Wictred
succeeds and restores peace.

In Chapters 27-32 we have an account of the life of St. Cuthbert and
stories of the miracles wrought by his relics.

Book V.–Book V opens with the story of the holy Ethelwald, who
succeeded Cuthbert as anchorite at Fame, and a miracle wrought through
his intercession. This is followed (cc. 2-6) by an account of John of
Beverley, Bishop of Hexham, and the miracles attributed to him. In
Chapter 7 we have a piece of West Saxon history: Caedwalla, King of
Wessex, after a life of war and bloodshed, goes to Rome to receive
baptism there, and dies immediately after his admission into the Church
(689 A.D.). He is succeeded by Ini, who in 725 likewise ended his days
at Rome.

In 690 Theodore dies, after an episcopate of twenty-two years. Bertwald
succeeds him at Canterbury in 693.

At this time Englishmen begin to extend their missionary enterprise
abroad. Various missions are undertaken by men who have lived long in
Ireland and caught the Celtic zeal for the work of evangelization. The
story is told of the attempted mission of Egbert to Germany and the
unsuccessful venture of Witbert. Wilbrord (in 690) and others plant the
faith among the German tribes.

The vision of Drytheim is inserted here, probably on chronological
grounds (“his temporibus”), and other visions of the future world

Apparently about the same time a change is effected in the attitude of
the greater part of the Celtic Church towards the Paschal question. The
Northern Irish are converted to the Roman usages by Adamnan, Abbot of
lona, whose book on the “Holy Places” is here described.

The death of Aldfrid and succession of Osred in Northumbria in 705 are
the next events narrated.

About this time the division of the West Saxon diocese is carried out,
Aldhelm being appointed to Sherborne and Daniel to Winchester; the
South Saxons receive a bishop of their own for the first time. In 709
A.D. Coenred of Mercia and Offa of Essex receive the tonsure at Rome,
and in the same year Bishop Wilfrid dies. The story of his life is

Not long after, Hadrian dies and is succeeded by Albinus as Abbot of
St. Augustine’s. Bede’s friend, Acca, succeeds Wilfrid as Bishop of
Hexham. His services to the Church are enumerated.

An important step is taken at this time by the Northern Picts in the
acceptance of the Roman rules with regard to Easter and the tonsure.
The letter of Abbot Ceolfrid of Wearmouth and Jarrow to the Pictish
king Naiton on this subject is quoted at length. Soon after, lona
yields to the preaching of Egbert, and receives the Catholic usages.
Egbert dies in 729. In Chapter 23 a number of events are briefly
mentioned; the death of Wictred of Kent in 725, and the succession of
his sons, the death of the learned Tobias, Bishop of Rochester, in 726,
the appearance of two comets in 729, followed by the devastation of
Gaul by the Saracens, the death of the Northumbrian king Osric, and
succession of Ceolwulf in 729; finally, the death of Archbishop
Bertwald in 731 and the succession of Tatwine. Then follows an account
of the state of the English episcopate in 731, the year in which Bede
finished the History. The relations of the English with Picts, Scots,
and Britons are described, and some allusion is made to the growth of
monasticism in this time of external peace.

The book closes in Chapter 24 with a chronological summary of the whole
work, an autobiographical sketch of the author, and a list of his


Few lives afford less material for the biographer than Bede’s; few seem
to possess a more irresistible fascination. Often as the simple story
has been told, the desire to tell it afresh appears to be perennial.
And yet it is perhaps as wholly devoid of incident as any life could
be. The short autobiographical sketch at the end of the “Ecclesiastical
History” tells us practically all: that he was born in the territory of
the twin monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow; that at the age of seven he
was sent by his kinsfolk to be brought up, first under the Abbot
Benedict, afterwards under Ceolfrid; that in his nineteenth year (the
canonical age was twenty-five) he was admitted to the diaconate, and
received priest’s orders in his thirtieth year, in both instances at
the hands of John, Bishop of Hexham, and by order of the Abbot
Ceolfrid; that he spent his whole life in the monastery in learning, in
teaching, and in writing, and in the observance of the monastic rule
and attendance at the daily services of the Church. Of his family we
know nothing; the name Beda appears to have been not uncommon. The fact
that he was handed over by kinsmen (“cura propinquorum”) to Abbot
Benedict would seem to imply that he was an orphan when he entered the
monastery at the age of seven, but it was not unusual for parents to
dedicate their infant children to the religious life, in many cases
even at an earlier age than Bede’s. We may compare the story of the
little boy, Aesica, at Barking, related by Bede, and of Elfied, the
daughter of Oswy, dedicated by her father before she was a year old.

The epithet “Venerable,” commonly attached to his name, has given rise
to more than one legend. It was apparently first applied to him in the
ninth century, and is said to have been an appellation of priests. The
best known of these legends is Fuller’s story of a certain “dunce monk”
who set about writing Bede’s epitaph, and being unable to complete the
verse, “Hic sunt in fossa Bedae . . . ossa,” went to bed with his task
unfinished. Returning to it in the morning, he found that an angel had
filled the gap with the word “venerabilis.” Another account tells how
Bede, in his old age, when his eyes were dim, was induced by certain
“mockers” to preach, under the mistaken belief that the people were
assembled to hear him. As he ended his sermon with a solemn invocation
of the Trinity, the angels (in one version it is the stones of a rocky
valley) responded “Amen, very venerable Bede.”

The land on which Bede was born was granted by Egfrid to Benedict
Biscop for the foundation of the monasteries a short time after the
birth of Bede. Wearmouth was founded in 674, Jarrow in 681 or 682. Bede
was among those members of the community who were transferred to Jarrow
under Abbot Ceolfrid, and under his rule and that of his successor,
Huaetbert, he passed his life. With regard to the chief dates, the
authorities differ, Simeon of Durham and others placing his birth as
late as 677. Bede himself tells us that he was in his fifty-ninth year
when he wrote the short autobiography at the end of the History. That
work was finished in 731, and there seems to be no good reason to
suppose that the autobiographical sketch was written at a later time.
We may infer then that he was born in 673, that he was ordained deacon
in 691 and priest in 702. For his death, 735, the date given in the
“Continuation,” seems to be supported by the evidence of the letter of
Cuthbert to Cuthwin (v. infra). From this it appears that he died on a
Wednesday, which nevertheless is called Ascension Day, implying,
doubtless, that his death occurred on the eve, after the festival had
begun, according to ecclesiastical reckoning. It is further explained
that Ascension Day was on the 26th of May (“VII Kal. Junii”) which was
actually the case in the year 735.

Beyond the testimony borne to his exceptional diligence as a student in
a letter from Alcuin to the monks of Wearmouth and Jarrow, we hear
nothing of his childhood and early youth. One anecdote in the Anonymous
History of the Abbots may perhaps refer to him, though no name is
given. It tells how, when the plague of 686 devastated the monastery,
the Abbot Ceolfrid, for lack of fit persons to assist at the daily
offices, decided to recite the psalms without antiphons, except at
vespers and matins. But after a week’s trial, unable to bear it any
longer, he restored the antiphons to their proper place, and with the
help of one little boy carried on the services in the usual manner.
This little boy is described as being, at the time the History was
written, a priest of that monastery who “duly, both by his words and
writings, commends the Abbot’s praiseworthy deeds to all who seek to
know them,” and he has generally been supposed to be Bede.

In the “Ecclesiastical History” (IV, 3) there is an allusion to Bede’s
teachers, one of whom, Trumbert, educated at Lastingham under Ceadda,
is mentioned by name. The monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow must have
offered exceptional facilities for study. Benedict had enriched it with
many treasures which he brought with him from his travels. Chief among
these was the famous library which he founded and which was enlarged by
Abbot Ceolfrid. Here Bede acquired that wide and varied learning
revealed in his historical, scientific, and theological works. He
studied with particular care and reverence the patristic writings; his
theological treatises were, as he says, “compiled out of the works of
the venerable Fathers.” He must have had a considerable knowledge of
Greek, probably he knew some Hebrew. Though he is not wholly free from
the mediaeval churchman’s distrust of pagan authors, he constantly
betrays his acquaintance with them, and the sense of form which must
unconsciously influence the student of classical literature has passed
into his own writings and preserved him from the barbarism of monkish
Latin. His style is singularly clear, simple, and fluent, as free from
obscurity as from affectation and bombast.

Thus was the foundation laid of that sound learning upon which his
widespread influence both as a teacher and writer was reared. “I always
took delight,” he tells us, “in learning, or teaching, or writing.”
Probably his writing was, as is so often the case, the outcome of his
teaching; his object in both is to meet “the needs of the brethren.”
One of his pupils was Archbishop Egbert, the founder of the school of
York, which gave a fresh impulse to learning, not only in England, but
through Alcuin in France, at a time when a revival was most to be

It was to Egbert that he paid one of the only two visits which he
records. In the “Epistola ad Ecgbertum” he alludes to a short stay he
had made with him the year before, and declines, on account of the
illness which proved to be his last, an invitation to visit him again.
He visited Lindisfarne in connection with his task of writing the life
of Cuthbert. Otherwise we have no authentic record of any absence from
the monastery. The story that he went to Rome at the request of Pope
Sergius, founded on a statement of William of Malmesbury, is now
regarded as highly improbable. The oldest MS. of the letter of Sergius,
requesting Ceolfrid to send one of his monks to Rome, has no mention of
the name of Bede. If such an event had ever disturbed his accustomed
course of life, it is inconceivable that he should nowhere allude to
it. Still less is the assertion that he lived and taught at Cambridge
one which need be seriously debated by the present generation. We may
fairly assume that, except for a few short absences such as the visits
to York and Lindisfarne, his whole life was spent in the monastery. It
must have been a life of unremitting toil. His writings, numerous. as
they are, covering a wide range of subjects and involving the severest
study, can only have been a part of his work; he had, besides, his
duties as priest, teacher, and member of a religious community to
fulfil. Even the manual labour of his literary work must have been
considerable. He did not employ an amanuensis, and he had not the
advantages with regard to copyists which a member of one of the larger
monasteries might have had. “Ipse mihi dictator simul notarius
(=shorthand writer) et librarius (=copyist),” he writes. Yet he never
flags. Through all the outward monotony of his days his own interest
remains fresh. He “takes delight” (“dulce habui”) in it all. It is a
life full of eager activity in intellectual things, of a keen and
patriotic interest in the wider life beyond the monastery walls, which
shows itself sadly enough in his reflections on the evils of the times,
of the ardent charity which spends itself in labour for the brethren,
and, pervading the whole, that spirit of quiet obedience and devotion
which his own simple words describe as “the observance of monastic rule
and the daily charge of singing in the Church.” We can picture him, at
the appointed hours, breaking off his absorbing occupations to take his
place at the daily offices, lest, as he believed, he should fail to
meet the angels there. Alcuin records a saying of his, “I know that
angels visit the canonical hours and the congregations of the brethren.
What if they do not find me among the brethren? May they not say, Where
is Bede?'”

It is probably here, in this harmony of work and devotion, that we may
find the secret of the fascination in the record of his uneventful
days. It reconciles the sharp antithesis between the active and the
contemplative life. It seems to attain to that ideal of “toil unsever’d
from tranquillity” which haunts us all, but which we have, almost
ceased to associate with the life of man under present conditions.
Balance, moderation, or rather, that rare quality which has been well
called “the sanity of saintliness,” these give a unity to the life of
Bede and preserve him from the exaggerations of the conventual ideal.
With all his admiration for the ascetic life, he recognizes human
limitations. It is cheering to find that even he felt the need of a
holiday. “Having completed,” he writes, “the third book of the
Commentary on Samuel, I thought I would rest awhile, and, after
recovering in that way my delight in study and writing, proceed to take
in hand the fourth.” Intellectual power commands his homage, but his
mind is open to the appreciation of all forms of excellence. It is the
unlearned brother, unfit for study and occupied in manual labour, to
whom, in his story, it is vouchsafed to hear the singing of the angels
who came to summon Ceadda to his rest. The life of devotion ranks
highest in his estimation, but he records with approval how St.
Cuthbert thought “that to afford the weak brethren the help of his
exhortation stood in the stead of prayer, knowing that He Who said Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God,’ said likewise, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself.'” He tells us how St. Gregory bewailed his own
loss in being forced by his office to be entangled in worldly affairs.
“But,” adds the human-hearted biographer, “it behoves us to believe
that he lost nothing of his monastic perfection by reason of his
pastoral charge, but rather that he gained greater profit through the
labour of converting many, than by the former calm of his private
life.” Yet he holds that this immunity from the evil influence of the
world was chiefly due to Gregory’s care in organizing his house like a
monastery and safeguarding the opportunities for prayer and devotional
study, even while he was immersed in affairs at the court of
Constantinople, and afterwards, when he held the most onerous office in
the Church.

This quality of sanity shows itself again in an unusual degree of
fairness to opponents. The Paschal error, indeed, moves his indignation
in a manner which is incomprehensible and distasteful to the modern
reader, but even in the perverse and erring Celts he can recognize “a
zeal of God, though not according to knowledge.” Aidan’s holiness of
life wins from him a warm tribute of admiration. In the monks of lona,
the stronghold of the Celtic system, he can perceive the fruit of good
works and find an excuse for their error in their isolated situation.
In the British Church it is the lack of missionary zeal, rather than
their attitude towards the Easter question, which calls forth his
strongest condemnation.

A characteristic akin to this is his love of truth. As a historian, it
shows itself in his scrupulous care in investigating evidence and in
acknowledging the sources from which he draws. Nowhere is his
intellectual honesty more apparent than in dealing with what he
believes to be the miraculous element in his history. In whatever way
we may regard these anecdotes, there can be no doubt that Bede took the
utmost pains to assure himself of their authenticity. He is careful to
acquire, if possible, first-hand evidence; where this cannot be
obtained, he scrupulously mentions the lack of it. He admits only the
testimony of witnesses of high character and generally quotes them by

These are but a few of the glimpses afforded us of the personality of
Bede, a personality never obtruded, but everywhere unconsciously
revealed in his work. Everywhere we find the impress of a mind of wide
intellectual grasp, a character of the highest saintliness, and a
gentle refinement of thought and feeling. The lofty spirituality of
Bede, his great learning and scholarly attainment are the more striking
when we reflect how recently his nation had emerged from barbarism and
received Christianity and the culture which it brought with it to these

The letter in which he declines Egbert’s invitation on the plea of
illness is dated November, 734. If we may assume that his death took
place on the eve of Ascension Day in 735, no long period of enfeebled
health clouded the close of his life, and weakness never interrupted
his work. His death has been described by his pupil, Cuthbert, who
afterwards became Abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow in succession to
Huaetbert, in the letter quoted below. He was first buried at Jarrow
but, according to Simeon of Durham, his relics were stolen by the
priest, Elfred, and carried to Durham. In 1104, when the bones of
Cuthbert were translated to the new Cathedral, those of Bede were found
with them. Not long after, Hugh de Puisac erected a shrine of gold and
silver, adorned with jewels, in which he placed them, along with the
relics of many other saints. The shrine disappeared at the Reformation,
and only the stone on which it rested remains.

Letter of Cuthbert to Cuthwin.

“To his fellow-lector, Cuthwin, beloved in Christ, Cuthbert, his
fellow-student, greeting and salvation for ever in the Lord. I have
very gladly received the gift which thou sentest to me, and with much
joy have read thy devout and learned letter, wherein I found that which
I greatly desired, to wit, that masses and holy prayers are diligently
offered by you for our father and master Bede, beloved of God.
Wherefore I rejoice, rather for love of him than from confidence in my
own power, to relate in few words after what manner he departed out of
this world, understanding also that thou hast desired and asked this of
me. He was troubled with weakness and chiefly with difficulty in
breathing, yet almost without pain, for about a fortnight before the
day of our Lord’s Resurrection; and thus he afterwards passed his time,
cheerful and rejoicing, giving thanks to Almighty God every day and
night, nay, every hour, till the day of our Lord’s Ascension, to wit,
the twenty-sixth day of May, and daily gave lessons to us, his
disciples; and whatsoever remained of the day he spent in singing
psalms, as far as he was able; he also strove to pass all the night
joyfully in prayer and thanksgiving to God, save only when a short
sleep prevented it; and then he no sooner awoke than he straightway
began again to repeat the well-known sacred songs, and ceased not to
give thanks to God with uplifted hands. I declare with truth that I
have never seen with my eyes, or heard with my ears, any man so earnest
in giving thanks to the living God. O truly blessed man! He repeated
the words of St. Paul the Apostle, It is a fearful thing to fall into
the hands of the living God,’ and much more out of Holy Scripture;
wherein also he admonished us to think of our last hour, and to arise
out of the sleep of the soul; and being learned in our native poetry,
he said also in our tongue, concerning the dread parting of souls from
the body:

Fore then neidfaerae
naenig uiuurthit
thonc suotturra
than him tharf sie
to ymb hycggannae
aer his hin iongae
huaet his gastae
godaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege
doemid uueorthae.

Which being interpreted is: Before the inevitable journey hence, no man
is wiser than is needful that he may consider, ere the soul departs,
what good or evil it hath done and how it shall be judged after its

“He also sang antiphons for our comfort and his own. One of these is, O
King of Glory, Lord of all power, Who, triumphing this day, didst
ascend above all the heavens, leave us not comfortless, but send to us
the promise of the Father, even the Spirit of Truth–Hallelujah.’ And
when he came to the words, leave us not comfortless,’ he burst into
tears and wept much. And an hour after, he fell to repeating what he
had begun. And this he did the whole day, and we, hearing it, mourned
with him and wept. Now we read and now we lamented, nay, we wept even
as we read. In such rapture we passed the fifty days’ festival^ till
the aforesaid day; and he rejoiced greatly and gave God thanks, because
he had been accounted worthy to suffer such weakness. And he often
said, God scourgeth every son whom He receiveth; and the words of St.
Ambrose, I have not so lived as to be ashamed to live among you; but
neither do I fear to die, because we have a merciful Lord.’ And during
those days, besides the lessons we had daily from him, and the singing
of the Psalms, there were two memorable works, which he strove to
finish; to wit, his translation of the Gospel of St. John, from the
beginning, as far as the words, But what are they among so many?’ into
our own tongue, for the benefit of the Church of God; and some
selections from the books of Bishop Isidore, saying, I would not have
my boys read a lie, nor labour herein without profit after my death.’

“When the Tuesday before the Ascension of our Lord came, he began to
suffer still more in his breathing, and there was some swelling in his
feet. But he went on teaching all that day and dictating cheerfully,
and now and then said among other things, Learn quickly, I know not how
long I shall endure, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away.’
But to us it seemed that haply he knew well the time of his departure;
and so he spent the night, awake, in giving of thanks. And when the
mornino dawned, that is, on the Wednesday, he bade us write with all
speed what we had begun. And this we did until the third hour. And from
the third hour we walked in procession with the relics of the saints,
according to the custom of that day.^1 And there was one of us with him
who said to him, There is still one chapter wanting of the book which
thou hast been dictating, but I deem it burdensome for thee to be
questioned any further.’ He answered, Nay, it is light, take thy pen
and make ready, and write quickly.’ And this was done. But at the ninth
hour he said to me, I have certain treasures in my coffer, some spices,
napkins and incense; run quickly and bring the priests of our monastery
to me; that I may distribute among them the gifts which God has
bestowed on me.’ And this I did trembling, and when they were come, he
spoke to every one of them, admonishing and entreating them that they
should diligently offer masses and prayers for him, and they promised
readily. But they all mourned and wept, sorrowing most of all for the
words which he spake, because they thought that they should see his
face no long time in this world. But they rejoiced for that he said, It
is time for me, if it be my Maker’s will, to be set free from the
flesh, and come to Him Who, when as yet I was not, formed me out of
nothing. I have lived long; and well has my pitiful judge disposed my
life for me; the time of my release is at hand; for my soul longs to
see Christ my King in His beauty.’ Having said this and much more for
our profit and edification, he passed his last day in gladness till the
evening; and the aforesaid boy, whose name was Wilbert, still said,
Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written.’ He answered, It is
well, write it.’ Soon after, the boy said, Now it is written.’ And he
said, It is well, thou hast said truly, it is finished. Take my head in
thy hands, for I rejoice greatly to sit facing my holy place where I
was wont to pray, that I too, sitting there, may call upon my Father.’
And thus on the pavement of his little cell, chanting Glory be to the
Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and the rest, he
breathed his last.

“And without doubt we must believe that inasmuch as he had always been
devout and earnest on earth in the praise of God, his soul was carried
by angels to the joys of Heaven which he desired. And all who heard him
or beheld the death of our father Bede, said that they had never seen
any other end his life in so great devotion and peace. For, as thou
hast heard, so long as the soul abode in the body, he chanted the
Gloria Patri’ and other words to the glory of God, and with
outstretched hands ceased not to give thanks to God.

“But know this, that much could be told and written concerning him, but
my want of learning cuts short my words. Nevertheless, with the help of
God, I purpose at leisure to write more fully concerning him, of those
things which I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.”



CHAP. I. Of the Situation of Britain and Ireland, and of their ancient

Britain, an island in the Atlantic, formerly called Albion, lies to the
north-west, facing, though at a considerable distance, the coasts of
Germany, France, and Spain, which form the greatest part of Europe. It
extends 800 miles in length towards the north, and is 200 miles in
breadth, except where several promontories extend further in breadth,
by which its compass is made to be 4,875 miles. To the south lies
Belgic Gaul. To its nearest shore there is an easy passage from the
city of Rutubi Portus, by the English now corrupted into Reptacaestir.
The distance from here across the sea to Gessoriacum, the nearest shore
in the territory of the Morini, is fifty miles, or as some writers say,
450 furlongs. On the other side of the island, where it opens upon the
boundless ocean, it has the islands called Orcades. Britain is rich in
grain and trees, and is well adapted for feeding cattle and beasts of
burden. It also produces vines in some places, and has plenty of land
and water fowl of divers sorts; it is remarkable also for rivers
abounding in fish, and plentiful springs. It has the greatest plenty of
salmon and eels; seals are also frequently taken, and dolphins, as also
whales; besides many sorts of shell-fish, such as mussels, in which are
often found excellent pearls of all colours, red, purple, violet and
green, but chiefly white. There is also a great abundance of snails, of
which the scarlet dye is made, a most beautiful red, which never fades
with the heat of the sun or exposure to rain, but the older it is, the
more beautiful it becomes. It has both salt and hot springs, and from
them flow rivers which furnish hot baths proper for all ages and both
sexes, in separate places, according to their requirements. For water,
as St. Basil says,^ receives the quality of heat, when it runs along
certain metals, and becomes not only hot but scalding. Britain is rich
also in veins of metals, as copper, iron, lead, and silver; it produces
a great deal of excellent jet, which is black and sparkling, and burns
when put to the fire, and when set on fire, drives away serpents; being
warmed with rubbing, it attracts whatever is applied to it, like amber.
The island was formerly distinguished by twenty-eight famous cities,
besides innumerable forts, which were all strongly secured with walls,
towers, gates, and bars. And, because it lies almost under the North
Pole, the nights are light in summer, so that at midnight the beholders
are often in doubt whether the evening twilight still continues, or
that of the morning has come; since the sun at night returns to the
east in the northern regions without passing far beneath the earth. For
this reason the days are of a great length in summer, and on the other
hand, the nights in winter are eighteen hours long, for the sun then
withdraws into southern parts. In like manner the nights are very short
in summer, and the days in winter, that is, only six equinoctial hours.
Whereas, in Armenia, Macedonia, Italy, and other countries of the same
latitude, the longest day or night extends but to fifteen hours, and
the shortest to nine.

There are in the island at present, following the number of the books
in which the Divine Law was written, five^ languages of different
nations employed in the study and confession of the one self-same
knowledge, which is of highest truth and true sublimity, to wit,
English, British, Scottish, Pictish, and Latin, the last having become
common to all by the study of the Scriptures. But at first this island
had no other inhabitants but the Britons, from whom it derived its
name, and who, coming over into Britain, as is reported, from Armorica,
[Editor’s note: In Caesar’s time, the whole district lying along the
northwestern coast of Gaul, afterwards narrowed down to the modern
Brittany. That the Britons (or Brythons)came from Gaul is doubtless a
fact. Another branch of the Celtic race, the Goidels or Gaels, appears
to have been in possession in Britain before them. They possessed
themselves of the southern parts thereof. Starting from the south, they
had occupied the greater part of the island, when it happened, that the
nation of the Picts, putting to sea from Scythia,^ as is reported, in a
few ships of war, and being driven by the winds beyond the bounds of
Britain, came to Ireland and landed on its northern shores. [Editors
note: By Scythia Bede means Scandinavia. He only mentions this account
as a tradition. The problem of the Picts has not been solved yet.
According to one view, they belonged to the pre-Aryan inhabitants of
Britain, pushed westward and northward by the Celtic invaders. In
Scotland they held their own for a considerable time in a wide tract of
country, and they may have to some extent amalgamated with the Celts
who dispossessed them (Rhys). Others regard them as Celts of the same
branch as Welsh, Cornish, and Britons, being probably nearest to
Cornish. The absence of all but the scantiest remains of their language
makes the question of their origin one of great difficulty.] There,
finding the nation of the Scots, they begged to be allowed to settle
among them, but could not succeed in obtaining their request. Ireland
is the largest island next to Britain, and lies to the west of it; but
as it is shorter than Britain to the north, so, on the other hand, it
runs out far beyond it to the south, over against the northern part of
Spain, though a wide sea lies between them. The Picts then, as has been
said, arriving in this island by sea, desired to have a place granted
them in which they might settle. The Scots answered that the island
could not contain them both; but “We can give you good counsel,” said
they, “whereby you may know what to do; we know there is another
island, not far from ours, to the eastward, which we often see at a
distance, when the days are clear. If you will go thither, you can
obtain settlements; or, if any should oppose you, we will help you.”
The Picts, accordingly, sailing over into Britain, began to inhabit the
northern parts thereof, for the Britons had possessed themselves of the
southern. Now the Picts had no wives, and asked them of the Scots; who
would not consent to grant them upon any other terms, than that when
any question should arise, they should choose a king from the female
royal race rather than from the male: which custom, as is well known,
has been observed among the Picts to this day. In process of time,
Britain, besides the Britons and the Picts, received a third nation,
the Scots, who, migrating from Ireland under their leader, Reuda,
either by fair means, or by force of arms, secured to themselves those
settlements among the Picts which they still possess. From the name of
their commander, they are to this day called Dalreudini; for, in their
language, Dal signifies a part.

Ireland is broader than Britain and has a much healthier and milder
climate; for the snow scarcely ever lies there above three days: no man
makes hay in the summer for winter’s provision, or builds stables for
his beasts of burden. No reptiles are found there, and no snake can
live there; for, though snakes are often carried thither out of
Britain, as soon as the ship comes near the shore, and the scent of the
air reaches them, they die. On the contrary, almost all things in the
island are efficacious against poison. In truth, we have known that
when men have been bitten by serpents, the scrapings of leaves of books
that were brought out of Ireland, being put into water, and given them
to drink, have immediately absorbed the spreading poison, and assuaged
the swelling. The island abounds in milk and honey, nor is there any
lack of vines, fish, or fowl; and it is noted for the hunting of stags
and roe-deer. It is properly the country of the Scots, who, migrating
from thence, as has been said, formed the third nation in Britain in
addition to the Britons and the Picts.

There is a very large gulf of the sea, which formerly divided the
nation of the Britons from the Picts; it runs from the west far into
the land, where, to this day, stands a strong city of the Britons,
called Alcluith.^ The Scots, arriving on the north side of this bay,
settled themselves there.

CHAP. II. How Caius Julius Caesar was the first Roman that came into Britain.
[54 AD]

Now Britain had never been visited by the Romans, and was entirely
unknown to them before the time of Caius Julius Caesar, who, in the
year 693 after the foundation of Rome, but the sixtieth year before the
Incarnation of our Lord, was consul with Lucius Bibulus. While he was
making war upon the Germans and the Gauls, who were divided only by the
river Rhine, he came into the province of the Morini, whence is the
nearest and shortest passage into Britain. Here, having provided about
eighty ships of burden and fast-sailing vessels, he sailed over into
Britain; where, being first roughly handled in a battle, and then
caught in a storm, he lost a considerable part of his fleet, no small
number of foot-soldiers, and almost all his cavalry. Returning into
Gaul, he put his legions into winter-quarters, and gave orders for
building six hundred sail of both sorts. With these he again crossed
over early in spring into Britain, but, whilst he was marching with the
army against the enemy, the ships, riding at anchor, were caught in a
storm and either dashed one against another, or driven upon the sands
and wrecked. Forty of them were lost, the rest were, with much
difficulty, repaired. Caesar’s cavalry was, at the first encounter,
defeated by the Britons, and there Labienus, the tribune, was slain. In
the second engagement, with great hazard to his men, he defeated the
Britons and put them to flight. Thence he proceeded to the river
Thames, where a great multitude of the enemy had posted themselves on
the farther side of the river, under the command of Cassobellaunus,^
and fenced the bank of the river and almost all the ford under water
with sharp stakes: the remains of these are to be seen to this day,
apparently about the thickness of a man’s thigh, cased with lead, and
fixed immovably in the bottom of the river. This being perceived and
avoided by the Romans, the barbarians, not able to stand the charge of
the legions, hid themselves in the woods, whence they grievously
harassed the Romans with repeated sallies. In the meantime, the strong
state of the Trinovantes,^ with their commander Androgius,^ surrendered
to Caesar, giving him forty hostages. Many other cities, following
their example, made a treaty with the Romans. Guided by them, Caesar at
length, after severe fighting, took the town of Cassobellaunus,^
situated between two marshes, fortified by sheltering woods, and
plentifully furnished with all necessaries. After this, Caesar returned
from Britain into Gaul, but he had no sooner put his legions into
winter quarters, than he was suddenly beset and distracted with wars
and sudden risings on every side.

CHAP. III. How Claudius, the second of the Romans who came into Britain,
brought the islands Orcades into subjection to the Roman empire; and
Vespasian, sent by hint, reduced the Isle of Wight under the dominion of the
Romans. [44 AD]

In the year of Rome 798, Claudius, fourth emperor from Augustus, being
desirous to approve himself a prince beneficial to the republic, and
eagerly bent upon war and conquest on every side, undertook an
expedition into Britain, which as it appeared, was roused to rebellion
by the refusal of the Romans to give up certain deserters. No one
before or after Julius Caesar had dared to land upon the island.
Claudius crossed over to it, and within a very few days, without any
fighting or bloodshed, the greater part of the island was surrendered
into his hands. He also added to the Roman empire the Orcades,^ which
lie in the ocean beyond Britain, and, returning to Rome in the sixth
month after his departure, he gave his son the title of Britannicus.
This war he concluded in the fourth year of his reign, which is the
forty-sixth from the Incarnation of our Lord. In which year there came
to pass a most grievous famine in Syria, which is recorded in the Acts
of the Apostles to have been foretold by the prophet Agabus.

Vespasian, who was emperor after Nero, being sent into Britain by the
same Claudius, brought also under the Roman dominion the Isle of Wight,
which is close to Britain on the south, and is about thirty miles in
length from east to west, and twelve from north to south; being six
miles distant from the southern coast of Britain at the east end, and
three at the west. Nero, succeeding Claudius in the empire, undertook
no wars at all; and, therefore, among countless other disasters brought
by him upon the Roman state, he almost lost Britain; for in his time
two most notable towns were there taken and destroyed.

CHAP. IV. How Lucius, king of Britain, writing to Pope Eleutherus, desired to
be made a Christian.

In the year of our Lord 156, Marcus Antoninus Verus, the fourteenth
from Augustus, was made emperor, together with his brother, Aurelius
Commodus. [Editor’s note: Marcus Antoninus Verus, commonly called
Marcus Aurelius, succeeded in 161 A.D. His colleague in the empire was
his adopted brother, Lucius Verus, whose full adoptive name was Lucius
Aurelius Antoninus Verus Commodus. He died in 169. Eleutherus became
Pope between 171 and 177. Bede’s chronology is therefore wrong.] In
their time, whilst the holy Eleutherus presided over the Roman Church,
Lucius, king of Britain, sent a letter to him, entreating that by a
mandate from him he might be made a Christian.^ He soon obtained his
pious request, and the Britons preserved the faith, which they had
received, uncorrupted and entire, in peace and tranquillity until the
time of the Emperor Diocletian.

CHAP. V. How the Emperor Severus divided from the rest by a rampart that part
of Britain which had been recovered.

In the year of our Lord 189, Severus, an African, born at Leptis, in
the province of Tripolis, became emperor. He was the seventeenth from
Augustus; and reigned seventeen years. Being naturally of a harsh
disposition, and engaged in many wars, he governed the state
vigorously, but with much trouble. Having been victorious in all the
grievous civil wars which happened in his time, he was drawn into
Britain by the revolt of almost all the confederated tribes; and, after
many great and severe battles, he thought fit to divide that part of
the island, which he had recovered, from the other unconquered nations,
not with a wall, as some imagine, but with a rampart.^ For a wall is
made of stones, but a rampart, with which camps are fortified to repel
the assaults of enemies, is made of sods, cut out of the earth, and
raised high above the ground, like a wall, having in front of it the
trench whence the sods were taken, with strong stakes of wood fixed
above it. Thus Severus drew a great trench and strong rampart,
fortified with several towers, from sea to sea. And there, at York, he
fell sick afterwards and died, leaving two sons, Bassianus and Geta; of
whom Geta died, adjudged an enemy of the State; but Bassianus, having
taken the surname of Antonius, obtained the empire.

CHAP. VI. Of the reign of Diocletian, and how he persecuted the Christians.
[286 AD]

In the year of our Lord 286, Diocletian, the thirty-third from
Augustus, and chosen emperor by the army, reigned twenty years, and
created Maximian, surnamed Herculius, his colleague in the empire. In
their time, one Carausius,^ of very mean birth, but a man of great
ability and energy, being appointed to guard the sea-coasts, then
infested by the Franks and Saxons, acted more to the prejudice than to
the advantage of the commonwealth, by not restoring to its owners any
of the booty taken from the robbers, but keeping all to himself; thus
giving rise to the suspicion that by intentional neglect he suffered
the enemy to infest the frontiers. When, therefore, an order was sent
by Maximian that he should be put to death, he took upon him the
imperial purple, and possessed himself of Britain, and having most
valiantly conquered and held it for the space of seven years, he was at
length put to death by the treachery of his associate Allectus.^ The
usurper, having thus got the island from Carausius, held it three
years, and was then vanquished by Asclepiodotus, the captain of the
Praetorian guards, who thus at the end of ten years restored Britain to
the Roman empire.

Meanwhile, Diocletian in the east, and Maximian Herculius in the west,
commanded the churches to be destroyed, and the Christians to be
persecuted and slain. This persecution was the tenth since the reign of
Nero, and was more lasting and cruel than almost any before it; for it
was carried on incessantly for the space of ten years, with burning of
churches, proscription of innocent persons, and the slaughter of
martyrs. Finally, Britain also attained to the great glory of bearing
faithful witness to God.

CHAP. VIII. How, when the persecution ceased, the Church in Britain enjoyed
peace till the time of the Arian heresy. [325 AD]

When the storm of persecution ceased, the faithful Christians, who,
during the time of danger, had hidden themselves in woods and deserts
and secret caves, came forth and rebuilt the churches which had been
levelled to the ground; founded, erected, and finished the cathedrals
raised in honour of the holy martyrs, and, as if displaying their
conquering standards in all places, celebrated festivals and performed
their sacred rites with pure hearts and lips. This peace continued in
the Christian churches of Britain until the time of the Arian madness,
which, having corrupted the whole world, infected this island also, so
far removed from the rest of the world, with the poison of its error;
and when once a way was opened across the sea for that plague,
straightway all the taint of every heresy fell upon the island, ever
desirous to hear some new thing, and never holding firm to any sure

At this time Constantius, who, whilst Diocletian was alive, governed
Gaul and Spain, a man of great clemency and urbanity, died in Britain.
This man left his son Constantine [Constantine the Great] born of
Helena, his concubine, emperor of the Gauls. Eutropius writes that
Constantine, being created emperor in Britain, succeeded his father in
the sovereignty. In his time the Arian heresy broke out, and although
it was exposed and condemned in the Council of Nicaea,^ nevertheless,
the deadly poison of its evil spread, as has been said, to the Churches
in the islands, as well as to those of the rest of the world.

CHAP. IX. How during the reign of Gratian, Maximus, being created Emperor in
Britain, returned into Gaul with a mighty army. [377 AD]

In the year of our Lord 377, Gratian, the fortieth from Augustus, held
the empire for six years after the death of Valens; though he had long
before reigned with his uncle Valens, and his brother Valentinian.
Finding the condition of the commonwealth much impaired, and almost
gone to ruin, and impelled by the necessity of restoring it, he
invested the Spaniard, Theodosius, with the purple at Sirmium, and made
him emperor of Thrace and the Eastern provinces. At that time,
Maximus,^a man of energy and probity, and worthy of the title of
Augustus, if he had not broken his oath of allegiance, was made emperor
by the army somewhat against his will, passed over into Gaul, and there
by treachery slew the Emperor Gratian, who in consternation at his
sudden invasion, was attempting to escape into Italy. His brother, the
Emperor Valentinian, expelled from Italy, fled into the East, where he
was entertained by Theodosius with fatherly affection, and soon
restored to the empire, for Maximus the tyrant, being shut up in
Aquileia, was there taken by them and put to death.

CHAP. X. How, in the reign of Arcadius, Pelagius, a Briton, insolently
impugned the Grace of God. [395 AD]

In the year of our Lord 394, Arcadius, the son of Theodosius, the
forty-third from Augustus, succeeding to the empire, with his brother
Honorius, held it thirteen years. In his time, Pelagius, [Pelagius, the
founder of the heresy known as Pelagianism, was probably born in 370
A.D., and is said to have been a Briton. His great opponent, St.
Augustine, speaks of him as a good and holy man; later slanders are to
be attributed to Jerome’s abusive language. The cardinal point in his
doctrine is his denial of original sin, involving a too great reliance
on the human will in achieving holiness, and a limitation of the action
of the grace of God] a Briton, spread far and near the infection of his
perfidious doctrine, denying the assistance of the Divine grace, being
seconded therein by his associate Julianus of Campania,^ who was
impelled by an uncontrolled desire to recover his bishopric, of which
he had been deprived. St . Augustine, and the other orthodox fathers,
quoted many thousand catholic authorities against them, but failed to
amend their folly; nay, more, their madness being rebuked was rather
increased by contradiction than suffered by them to be purified through
adherence to the truth; which Prosper, the rhetorician,^ has
beautifully expressed thus in heroic” verse :–

“They tell that one, erewhile consumed with gnawing spite, snake-like
attacked Augustine in his writings. Who urged the wretched viper to
raise from the ground his head, howsoever hidden in dens of darkness?
Either the sea-girt Britons reared him with the fruit of their soil, or
fed on Campanian pastures his heart swells with pride.”

CHAP. XI. How during the reign of Honorius, Gratian and Constantine were
created tyrants in Britain; and soon after the former was slain in Britain,
and the latter in Gaul. [407 A.D.]

IN the year of our Lord 407, Honorius, the younger son of Theodosius,
and the forty-fourth from Augustus, being emperor, two years before the
invasion of Rome by Alaric, king of the Goths, when the nations of the
Alani, Suevi, Vandals, and many others with them, having defeated the
Franks and passed the Rhine, ravaged all Gaul, Gratianus, a citizen of
the country, was set up as tyrant in Britain and killed. In his place,
Constantine, one of the meanest soldiers, only for the hope afforded by
his name, and without any worth to recommend him, was chosen emperor.
As soon as he had taken upon him the command, he crossed over into
Gaul, where being often imposed upon by the barbarians with
untrustworthy treaties, he did more harm than good to the
Commonwealth.^Whereupon Count Constantius,^ by the command of Honorius,
marching into Gaul with an army, besieged him in the city of Arles,
took him prisoner, and put him to death. His son Constans, a monk, whom
he had created Caesar, was also put to death by his own follower Count
Gerontius, at Vienne.

Rome was taken by the Goths, in the year from its foundation, 1164.
Then the Romans ceased to rule in Britain, almost 470 years after Caius
Julius Caesar came to the island. They dwelt within the rampart, which,
as we have mentioned, Severus made across the island, on the south side
of it, as the cities, watch-towers,^ bridges, and paved roads there
made testify to this day; but they had a right of dominion over the
farther parts of Britain, as also over the islands that are beyond

CHAP. XII. How the Britons, being ravaged by the Scots and Picts, sought
succour from the Romans, who coming a second time, built a wall across the
island; but when this was broken down at once by the aforesaid enemies, they
were reduced to greater distress than before. [410-420 AD]

FROM that time, the British part of Britain, destitute of armed
soldiers, of all military stores, and of the whole flower of its active
youth, who had been led away by the rashness of the tyrants never to
return, was wholly exposed to rapine, the people being altogether
ignorant of the use of weapons. Whereupon they suffered many years from
the sudden invasions of two very savage nations from beyond the sea,
the Scots from the west, and the Picts from the north. We call these
nations from beyond the sea, not on account of their being seated out
of Britain, but because they were separated from that part of it which
was possessed by the Britons, two broad and long inlets of the sea
lying between them, one of which runs into the interior of Britain,
from the Eastern Sea, and the other from the Western, though they do
not reach so far as to touch one another. The eastern has in the midst
of it the city Giudi.^ On the Western Sea, that is, on its right shore,
stands the city of Alcluith,^ which in their language signifies the
Rock Cluith, for it is close by the river of that name.

On account of the attacks of these nations, the Britons sent messengers
to Rome with letters piteously praying for succour, and promising
perpetual subjection, provided that the impending enemy should be
driven away. An armed legion was immediately sent them, which, arriving
in the island, and engaging the enemy, slew a great multitude of them,
drove the rest out of the territories of their allies, and having in
the meanwhile delivered them from their worst distress, advised them to
build a wall between the two seas across the island, that it might
secure them by keeping off the enemy. So they returned home with great
triumph. But the islanders building the wall which they had been told
to raise, not of stone, since they had no workmen capable of such a
work, but of sods, made it of no use. Nevertheless, they carried it for
many miles between the two bays or inlets of the sea of which we have
spoken;^ to the end that where the protection of the water was wanting,
they might use the rampart to defend their borders from the irruptions
of the enemies. Of the work there erected, that is, of a rampart of
great breadth and height, there are evident remains to be seen at this
day. It begins at about two miles distance from the monastery of
Aebbercurnig,^ west of it, at a place called in the Pictish language
Peanfahel, but in the English tongue, Penneltun, and running westward,
ends near the city of Aicluith.

But the former enemies, when they perceived that the Roman soldiers
were gone, immediately coming by sea, broke into the borders, trampled
and overran all places, and like men mowing ripe corn, bore down all
before them. Hereupon messengers were again sent to Rome miserably
imploring aid, lest their wretched country should be utterly blotted
out, and the name of a Roman province, so long renowned among them,
overthrown by the cruelties of foreign races, might become utterly
contemptible. A legion was accordingly sent again, and, arriving
unexpectedly in autumn, made great slaughter of the enemy, obliging all
those that could escape, to flee beyond the sea; whereas before, they
were wont yearly to carry off their booty without any opposition. Then
the Romans declared to the Britons, that they could not for the future
undertake such troublesome expeditions for their sake, and advised them
rather to take up arms and make an effort to engage their enemies, who
could not prove too powerful for them, unless they themselves were
enervated by cowardice. Moreover, thinking that it might be some help
to the allies, whom they were forced to abandon, they constructed a
strong stone wall from sea to sea, in a straight line between the towns
that had been there built for fear of the enemy, where Severus also had
formerly built a rampart. This famous wall, which is still to be seen,
was raised at public and private expense, the Britons also lending
their assistance. It is eight feet in breadth, and twelve in height, in
a straight line from east to west, as is still evident to beholders.
This being presently finished, they gave the dispirited people good
advice, and showed them how to furnish themselves with arms. Besides,
they built towers to command a view of the sea, at intervals, on the
southern coast, where their ships lay, because there also the invasions
of the barbarians were apprehended, and so took leave of their allies,
never to return again.

After their departure to their own country, the Scots and Picts,
understanding that they had refused to return, at once came back, and
growing more confident than they had been before, occupied all the
northern and farthest part of the island, driving out the natives, as
far as the wall. Hereupon a timorous guard was placed upon the
fortification, where, dazed with fear, they became ever more dispirited
day by day. On the other side, the enemy constantly attacked them with
barbed weapons, by which the cowardly defenders were dragged in piteous
fashion from the wall, and dashed against the ground. At last, the
Britons, forsaking their cities and wall, took to flight and were
scattered. The enemy pursued, and forthwith followed a massacre more
grievous than ever before; for the wretched natives were torn in pieces
by their enemies, as lambs arc torn by wild beasts. Thus, being
expelled from their dwellings and lands, they saved themselves from the
immediate danger of starvation by robbing and plundering one another,
adding to the calamities inflicted by the enemy their own domestic
broils, till the whole country was left destitute of food except such
as could be procured in the chase.

CHAP. XIII. How in the reign of Theodosius the younger, in whose time
Palladius was sent to the Scots that believed in Christ, the Britons begging
assistance of Aetius, the consul, could not obtain it. [446 A.D.]

In the year of our Lord 423, Theodosius, the younger, the forty-fifth
from Augustus, succeeded Honorius and governed the Roman empire
twenty-six years. In the eighth year of his reign, Palladius was sent
by Celestinus, the Roman pontiff, to the Scots that believed in Christ,
to be their first bishop. In the twenty-third year of his reign,
Aetius,^ a man of note and a patrician, discharged his third consulship
with Symmachus for his colleague. To him the wretched remnant of the
Britons sent a letter, which began thus :–“To Aetius, thrice Consul,
the groans of the Britons.” And in the sequel of the letter they thus
unfolded their woes:–” The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea
drives us back to the barbarians: between them we are exposed to two
sorts of death; we are either slaughtered or drowned.” Yet, for all
this, they could not obtain any help from him, as he was then engaged
in most serious wars with Bledla and Attila, kings of the Huns. And
though the year before this^ Bledla had been murdered by the treachery
of his own brother Attila, yet Attila himself remained so intolerable
an enemy to the Republic, that he ravaged almost all Europe, attacking
and destroying cities and castles. At the same time there was a famine
at Constantinople, and soon after a plague followed; moreover, a great
part of the wall of that city, with fifty-seven towers, fell to the
ground. Many cities also went to ruin, and the famine and pestilential
state of the air destroyed thousands of men and cattle.

CHAP. XIV. How the Britons, compelled by the great famine, drove the
barbarians out of the their territories, and soon after there ensued, along
with abundance of corn, decay of morals, pestilence, and the downfall of the

IN the meantime, the aforesaid famine distressing the Britons more and
more, and leaving to posterity a lasting memory of its mischievous
effects, obliged many of them to submit themselves to the depredators;
though others still held out, putting their trust in God, when human
help failed. These continually made raids from the mountains, caves,
and woods, and, at length, began to inflict severe losses on their
enemies, who had been for so many years plundering the country. The
bold Irish robbers thereupon returned home, intending’ to come again
before long. The Picts then settled down in the farthest part of the
island and afterwards remained there; but they did not fail to plunder
and harass the Britons from time to time.

Now, when the ravages of the enemy at length abated, the island began
to abound with such plenty of grain as had never been known in any age
before; along with plenty, evil living increased, and this was
immediately attended by the taint of all manner of crime; in
particular, cruelty, hatred of truth, and love of falsehood; insomuch,
that if any one among them happened to be milder than the rest, and
more inclined to truth, all the rest abhorred and persecuted him
unrestrainedly, as if he had been the enemy of Britain. Nor were the
laity only guilty of these things, but even our Lord’s own flock, with
its shepherds, casting off the easy yoke of Christ, gave themselves up
to drunkenness, enmity, quarrels, strife, envy, and other such sins. In
the meantime, on a sudden, a grievous plague fell upon that corrupt
generation, which soon destroyed such numbers of them, that the living
scarcely availed to bury the dead: yet, those that survived, could not
be recalled from the spiritual death, which they had incurred’ through
their sins, either by the death of their friends, or the fear of death.
Whereupon, not long after, a more severe vengeance for their fearful
crimes fell upon the sinful nation. They held a council to determine
what was to be done, and where they should seek help to prevent or
repel the cruel and frequent incursions of the northern nations; and in
concert with their King Vortigern,^ it was unanimously decided to call
the Saxons to their aid from beyond the sea, which, as the event
plainly showed, was brought about by the Lord’s will, that evil might
fall upon them for their wicked deeds.

CHAP. XV. How the Angles, being invited into Britain, at first drove off the
enemy; but not long after, making a league with them, turned their weapons
against their allies.

In the year of our Lord 449, Marcian, the forty-sixth from Augustus,
being made emperor with Valentinian, ruled the empire seven years. Then
the nation of the Angles, or Saxons,^ being invited by the aforesaid
king, arrived in Britain with three ships of war and had a place in
which to settle assigned to them by the same king, in the eastern part
of the island, on the pretext of fighting in defence of their country,
whilst their real intentions were to conquer it. Accordingly they
engaged with the enemy, who were come from the north to give battle,
and the Saxons obtained the victory. When the news of their success and
of the fertility of the country, and the cowardice of the Britons,
reached their own home, a more considerable fleet was quickly sent
over, bringing a greater number of men, and these, being added to the
former army, made up an invincible force. The newcomers received of the
Britons a place to inhabit among them, upon condition that they should
wage war against their enemies for the peace and security of the
country, whilst the Britons agreed to furnish them with pay. Those who
came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany–Saxons,
Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people, of Kent,
and of the Isle of Wight, including those in the province of the
West-Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the
Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, the country which is now
called Old Saxony, came the East-Saxons, the South-Saxons, and the West
Saxons. From the Angles, that is, the country which is called Angulus,
and which is said, from that time, to have remained desert to this day,
between the provinces of the Jutes and the Saxons, are descended the
East-Angles, the Midland-Angles, the Mercians, all the race of the
Northumbrians, that is, of those nations that dwell on the north side
of the river Humber, and the other nations of the Angles. The first
commanders are said to have been the two brothers Hengist and Horsa. Of
these Horsa was afterwards slain in battle by the Britons,^ and a
monument, bearing his name, is still in existence in the eastern parts
of Kent. They were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vitta, son
of Vecta, son of Woden; from whose stock the royal race of many
provinces trace their descent. In a short time, swarms of the aforesaid
nations came over into the island, and the foreigners began to increase
so much, that they became a source of terror to the natives themselves
who had invited them. Then, having on a sudden entered into league with
the Picts, whom they had by this time repelled by force of arms, they
began to turn their weapons against their allies. At first, they
obliged them to furnish a greater quantity of provisions; and, seeking
an occasion of quarrel, protested, that unless more plentiful supplies
were brought them, they would break the league, and ravage all the
island; nor were they backward in putting their threats into execution.
In short, the fire kindled by the hands of the pagans, proved God’s
just vengeance for the crimes of the people; not unlike that which,
being of old lighted by the Chaldeans, consumed the walls and all the
buildings of Jerusalem. For here, too, through the agency of the
pitiless conqueror, yet by the disposal of the just Judge, it ravaged
all the neighbouring cities and country, spread the conflagration from
the eastern to the western sea, without any opposition, and overran the
whole face of the doomed island. Public as well as private buildings
were overturned; the priests were everywhere slain before the altars;
no respect was shown for office, the prelates with the people were
destroyed with fire and sword; nor were there any left to bury those
who had been thus cruelly slaughtered. Some of the miserable remnant,
being taken in the mountains, were butchered in heaps. Others, spent
with hunger, came forth and submitted themselves to the enemy, to
undergo for the sake of food perpetual servitude, if they were not
killed upon the spot. Some, with sorrowful hearts, fled beyond the
seas. Others, remaining in their own country, led a miserable life of
terror and anxiety of mind among the mountains, woods and crags.

CHAP. XVI. How the Britons obtained their first victory over the Angles, under
the command of Ambrosius, a Roman. [456 A.D.]

When the army of the enemy, having destroyed and dispersed the natives,
had returned home to their own settlements,^ the Britons began by
degrees to take heart, and gather strength, sallying out of the lurking
places where they had concealed themselves, and with one accord
imploring the Divine help, that they might not utterly be destroyed.
They had at that time for their leader, Ambrosius Aurelianus,^ a man of
worth, who alone, by chance, of the Roman nation had survived the
storm, in which his parents, who were of the royal race, had perished.
Under him the Britons revived, and offering battle to the victors, by
the help of God, gained the victory. From that day, sometimes the
natives, and sometimes their enemies, prevailed, till the year of the
siege of Badon-hill,^ when they made no small slaughter of those
enemies, about forty-four years after their arrival in England. But of
this hereafter.

CHAP. XVII. How Germanus the Bishop, sailing into Britain with Lupus, first
quelled the tempest of the sea, and afterwards that of the Pelagians, by
Divine power. [429 A.D.]

Some few years before their arrival, the Pelagian heresy, brought over
by Agricola, the son of Severianus, a Pelagian bishop, had corrupted
with its foul taint the faith of the Britons. But whereas they
absolutely refused to embrace that perverse doctrine, and blaspheme the
grace of Christ, yet were not able of themselves to confute the
subtilty of the unholy belief by force of argument, they bethought them
of wholesome counsels and determined to crave aid of the Gallican
prelates in that spiritual warfare. Hereupon, these, having assembled a
great synod, consulted together to determine what persons should be
sent thither to sustain the faith, and by unanimous consent, choice was
made of the apostolic prelates, Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus
of Troyes, to go into Britain to confirm the people’s faith in the
grace of God. With ready zeal they complied with the request and
commands of the Holy Church, and put to sea. The ship sped safely with
favouring winds till they were halfway between the coast of Gaul and
Britain. There on a sudden they were obstructed by the malevolence of
demons, who were jealous that men of such eminence and piety should be
sent to bring back the people to salvation. They raised storms, and
darkened the sky with clouds. The sails could not support the fury of
the winds, the sailors’ skill was forced to give way, the ship was
sustained by prayer, not by strength, and as it happened, their
spiritual leader and bishop, being spent with weariness, had fallen
asleep. Then, as if because resistance flagged, the tempest gathered
strength, and the ship, overwhelmed by the waves, was ready to sink.
Then the blessed Lupus and all the rest, greatly troubled, awakened
their elder, that he might oppose the raging elements. He, showing
himself the more resolute in proportion to the greatness of the danger,
called upon Christ, and having, in the name of the Holy Trinity, taken
and sprinkled a little water, quelled the raging waves, admonished his
companion, encouraged all, and all with one consent uplifted their
voices in prayer. Divine help was granted, the enemies were put to
flight, a cloudless calm ensued, the winds veering about set themselves
again to forward their voyage, the sea was soon traversed, and they
reached the quiet of the wished-for shore. A multitude flocking thither
from all parts, received the bishops, whose coming had been foretold by
the predictions even of their adversaries. For the evil spirits
declared their fear, and when the bishops expelled them from the bodies
of the possessed, they made known the nature of the tempest, and the
dangers they had occasioned, and confessed that they had been overcome
by the merits and authority of these men.

In the meantime the bishops speedily filled the island of Britain with
the fame of their preaching and miracles; and the Word of God was by
them daily preached, not only in the churches, but even in the streets
and fields, so that the faithful and Catholic were everywhere
confirmed, and those who had been perverted accepted the way of
amendment. Like the Apostles, they acquired honour and authority
through a good conscience, learning through the study of letters, and
the power of working miracles through their merits. Thus the whole
country readily came over to their way of thinking; the authors of the
erroneous belief kept themselves in hiding, and, like evil spirits,
grieved for the loss of the people that were rescued from them. At
length, after long deliberation, they had the boldness to enter the
lists. They came forward in all the splendour of their wealth, with
gorgeous apparel, and supported by a numerous following; choosing
rather to hazard the contest, than to undergo among the people whom
they had led astray, the reproach of having been silenced, lest they
should seem by saying nothing to condemn themselves. An immense
multitude had been attracted thither with their wives and children. The
people were present as spectators and judges; the two parties stood
there in very different case; on the one side was Divine faith, on the
other human presumption; on the one side piety, on the other pride; on
the one side Pelagius, the founder of their faith, on the other Christ.
The blessed bishops permitted their adversaries to speak first, and
their empty speech long took up the time and filled the ears with
meaningless words. Then the venerable prelates poured forth the torrent
of their eloquence and showered upon them the words of Apostles and
Evangelists, mingling the Scriptures with their own discourse and
supporting their strongest assertions by the testimony of the written
Word. Vainglory was vanquished and unbelief refuted; and the heretics,
at every argument put before them, not being able to reply, confessed
their errors. The people, giving judgement, could scarce refrain from
violence, and signified their verdict by their acclamations.

CHAP. XVIII. How the same holy man gave sight to the blind daughter of a
tribune, and then coming to St. Alban, there received of his relics, and left
other relics of the blessed Apostles and other martyrs. [429 A.D.]

After this, a certain man, who held the office of tribune, came forward
with his wife, and brought his blind daughter, a child of ten years of
age, to be healed of the bishops. They ordered her to be brought to
their adversaries, who, being rebuked by their own conscience, joined
their entreaties to those of the child’s parents, and besought the
bishops that she might be healed. They, therefore, perceiving their
adversaries to yield, poured forth a short prayer, and then Germanus,
full of the Holy Ghost, invoking the Trinity, at once drew from his
side a casket which hung about his neck, containing relics of the
saints, and, taking it in his hands, applied it in the sight of all to
the girl’s eyes, which were immediately delivered from darkness and
filled with the light of truth. The parents rejoiced, and the people
were filled with awe at the miracle; and after that day, the heretical
beliefs were so fully obliterated from the minds of all, that they
thirsted for and sought after the doctrine of the bishops.

This damnable heresy being thus suppressed, and the authors thereof
confuted, and all the people settled in the purity of the faith, the
bishops went to the tomb of the martyr, the blessed Alban, to give
thanks to God through him. There Germanus, having with him relics of
all the Apostles, and of divers martyrs, after offering up his prayers,
commanded the tomb to be opened, that he might lay therein the precious
gifts; judging it fitting, that the limbs of saints brought together
from divers countries, as their equal merits had procured them
admission into heaven, should find shelter in one tomb. These being
honourably bestowed, and laid together, he took up a handful of dust
from the place where the blessed martyr’s blood had been shed, to carry
away with him. In this dust the blood had been preserved, showing that
the slaughter of the martyrs was red, though the persecutor was pale in
death.’ In consequence of these things, an innumerable multitude of
people was that day converted to the Lord.

CHAP. XIX. How the same holy man, being detained there by sickness, by his
prayers quenched a fire that had broken out among the houses, and was himself
cured of his infirmity by a vision. [429 A.D.]

AS they were returning thence, the treacherous enemy, having, as it
chanced, prepared a snare, caused Germanus to bruise his foot by a
fall, not knowing that, as it was with the blessed Job, his merits
would be but increased by bodily affliction. Whilst he was thus
detained some time in the same place by his infirmity, a fire broke out
in a cottage neighbouring to that in which he was; and having burned
down the other houses which were thatched with reed, fanned by the
wind, was carried on to the dwelling in which he lay. The people all
flocked to the prelate, entreating that they might lift him in their
arms, and save him from the impending danger. But he rebuked them, and
in the assurance of his faith, would not suffer himself to be removed.
The whole multitude, in terror and despair, ran to oppose the
conflagration; but, for the greater manifestation of the Divine power,
whatsoever the crowd endeavoured to save, was destroyed; and what the
sick and helpless man defended, the flame avoided and passed by, though
the house that sheltered the holy man lay open to it, and while the
fire raged on every side, the place in which he lay appeared untouched,
amid the general conflagration. The multitude rejoiced at the miracle,
and was gladly vanquished by the power of God. A great crowd of people
watched day and night before the humble cottage; some to have their
souls healed, and some their bodies. All that Christ wrought in the
person of his servant, all the wonders the sick man performed cannot be
told. Moreover, he would suffer no medicines to be applied to his
infirmity; but one night he saw one clad in garments as white as snow,
standing by him, who reaching out his hand, seemed to raise him up, and
ordered him to stand firm upon his feet; from which time his pain
ceased, and he was so perfectly restored, that when the day came, with
good courage he set forth upon his journey.

CHAP. XX. How the same Bishops brought help from Heaven to the Britons in a
battle, and then returned home. [430 A.D.]

IN the meantime, the Saxons and Picts, with their united forces, made
war upon the Britons, who in these straits were compelled to take up
arms. In their terror thinking themselves unequal to their enemies,
they implored the assistance of the holy bishops; who, hastening to
them as they had promised, inspired so much confidence into these
fearful people, that one would have thought they had been joined by a
mighty army. Thus, by these apostolic leaders, Christ Himself commanded
in their camp. The holy days of Lent were also at hand, and were
rendered more sacred by the presence of the bishops, insomuch that the
people being instructed by daily sermons, came together eagerly to
receive the grace of baptism. For a great multitude of the army desired
admission to the saving waters, and a wattled church was constructed
for the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, and so fitted up for the
army in the field as if it were in a city. Still wet with the baptismal
water the troops set forth; the faith of the people was fired; and
where arms had been deemed of no avail, they looked to the help of God.
News reached the enemy of the manner and method of their purification,
who, assured of success, as if they had to deal with an unarmed host,
hastened forward with renewed eagerness. But their approach was made
known by scouts. When, after the celebration of Easter, the greater
part of the army, fresh from the font, began to take up arms and
prepare for war, Germanus offered to be their leader. He picked out the
most active, explored the country round about, and observed, in the way
by which the enemy was expected, a valley encompassed by hills^ of
moderate height. In that place he drew up his untried troops, himself
acting as their general. And now a formidable host of foes drew near,
visible, as they approached, to his men lying in ambush. Then, on a
sudden, Germanus, bearing the standard, exhorted his men, and bade them
all in a loud voice repeat his words. As the enemy advanced in all
security, thinking to take them by surprise, the bishops three times
cried, “Hallelujah.” A universal shout of the same word followed, and
the echoes from the surrounding hills gave back the cry on all sides,
the enemy was panic-stricken, fearing, not only the neighbouring rocks,
but even the very frame of heaven above them; and such was their
terror, that their feet were not swift enough to save them. They fled
in disorder, casting away their arms, and well satisfied if, even with
unprotected bodies, they could escape the danger; many of them, flying
headlong in their fear, were engulfed by the river which they had
crossed. The Britons, without a blow, inactive spectators of the
victory they had gained, beheld their vengeance complete. The scattered
spoils were gathered up, and the devout soldiers rejoiced in the
success which Heaven had granted them. The prelates thus triumphed over
the enemy without bloodshed, and gained a victory by faith, without the
aid of human force. Thus, having settled the affairs of the island, and
restored tranquillity by the defeat of the invisible foes, as well as
of enemies in the flesh, they prepared to return home. Their own
merits, and the intercession of the blessed martyr Alban, obtained for
them a calm passage, and the happy vessel restored them in peace to the
desires of their people.

CHAP. XXI. How, when the Pelagian heresy began to spring up afresh, Germanus,
returning to Britain with Severus, first restored bodily strength to a lame
youth, then spiritual health to the people of God, having condemned or
converted the Heretics [447 A.D.]

NOT long after, news was brought from the same island, that certain
persons were again attempting to teach and spread abroad the Pelagian
heresy, and again the holy Germanus was entreated by all the priests,
that he would defend the cause of God, which he had before maintained.
He speedily complied with their request; and taking with him Severus, a
man of singular sanctity, who was disciple to the blessed father,
Lupus, bishop of Troyes, and at that time, having been ordained bishop
of the Treveri, was preaching the Word of God to the tribes of Upper
Germany, put to sea, and with favouring winds and calm waters sailed to

In the meantime, the evil spirits, speeding through the whole island,
were constrained against their will to foretell that Germanus was
coming, insomuch, that one Elafius, a chief of that region, without
tidings from any visible messenger, hastened to meet the holy men,
carrying with him his son, who in the very flower of his youth laboured
under a grievous infirmity; for the sinews of the knee were wasted and
shrunk, so that the withered limb was denied the power to walk. All the
country followed this Elafius. The bishops arrived, and were met by the
ignorant multitude, whom they blessed, and preached the Word of God to
them. They found the people constant in the faith as they had left
them; and learning that but few had gone astray, they sought out the
authors of the evil and condemned them. Then suddenly Elafius cast
himself at the feet of the bishops, presenting his son, whose distress
was visible and needed no words to express it. All were grieved, but
especially the bishops, who, filled with pity, invoked the mercy of
God; and straightway the blessed Germanus, causing the youth to sit
down, touched the bent and feeble knee and passed his healing hand over
all the diseased part. At once health was restored by the power of his
touch, the withered limb regained its vigour, the sinews resumed their
task, and the youth was, in the presence of all the people, delivered
whole to his father. The multitude was amazed at the miracle, and the
Catholic faith was firmly established in the hearts of all; after
which, they were, in a sermon, exhorted to amend their error. By the
judgement of all, the exponents of the heresy, who had been banished
from the island, were brought before the bishops, to be conveyed into
the continent, that the country might be rid of them, and they
corrected of their errors. So it came to pass that the faith in those
parts continued long after pure and untainted. Thus when they had
settled all things, the blessed prelates returned home as prosperously
as they had come.

But Germanus, after this, went to Ravenna to intercede for the
tranquillity of the Armoricans,^ where, after being very honourably
received by Valentinian and his mother, Placidia, he departed hence to
Christ; his body was conveyed to his own city with a splendid retinue,
and mighty works attended his passage to the grave. Not long after,
Valentinian was murdered by the followers of Aetius, the patrician,
whom he had put to death, in the sixth^ year of the reign of Marcian,
and with him ended the empire of the West.

CHAP. XXII. How the Britons, being for a time at rest from foreign invasions,
wore themselves out by civil wars, and at the same time gave themselves up to
more heinous crimes.

IN the meantime, in Britain, there was some respite from foreign, but
not from civil war. The cities destroyed by the enemy and abandoned
remained in ruins; and the natives, who had escaped the enemy, now
fought against each other. Nevertheless, the kings, priests, private
men, and the nobility, still remembering the late calamities and
slaughters, in some measure kept within bounds; but when these died,
and another generation succeeded, which knew nothing of those times,
and was only acquainted with the existing peaceable state of things,
all the bonds of truth and justice were so entirely broken, that there
was not only no trace of them remaining, but only very few persons
seemed to retain any memory of them at all. To other crimes beyond
description, which their own historian, Gildas, mournfully relates,
they added this–that they never preached the faith to the Saxons, or
English, who dwelt amongst them. Nevertheless, the goodness of God did
not forsake his people, whom he foreknew, but sent to the aforesaid
nation much more worthy heralds of the truth, to bring it to the faith.

CHAP. XXIII. How the holy Pope Gregory sent Augustine, with other monks, to
preach to the English nation, and encouraged them by a letter of exhortation,
not to desist from their labour. [596 A. D.]

IN the year of our Lord 582, Maurice, the fifty-fourth from Augustus,
ascended the throne, and reigned twenty one years. In the tenth year of
his reign, Gregory, a man eminent in learning and the conduct of
affairs, was promoted to the Apostolic see of Rome, and presided over
it thirteen years, six months and ten days. He, being moved by Divine
inspiration, in the fourteenth year of the same emperor, and about the
one hundred and fiftieth after the coming of the English into Britain,
sent the servant of God, Augustine,^ and with him divers other monks,
who feared the Lord, to preach the Word of God to the English nation.
They having, in obedience to the pope’s commands, undertaken that work,
when they had gone but a little way on their journey, were seized with
craven terror, and began to think of returning home, rather than
proceed to a barbarous, fierce, and unbelieving nation, to whose very
language they were strangers; and by common consent they decided that
this was the safer course. At once Augustine, who had been appointed to
be consecrated bishop, if they should be received by the English, was
sent back, that he might, by humble entreaty, obtain of the blessed
Gregory, that they should not be compelled to undertake so dangerous,
toilsome, and uncertain a journey. The pope, in reply, sent them a
letter of exhortation, persuading them to set forth to the work of the
Divine Word, and rely on the help of God. The purport of which letter
was as follows:

“Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to the servants of our
Lord. Forasmuch as it had been better not to begin a good work, than to
think of desisting from one which has been begun, it behoves you, my
beloved sons, to fulfil with all diligence the good work, which, by the
help of the Lord, you have undertaken. Let not, therefore, the toil of
the journey, nor the tongues of evil-speaking men, discourage you; but
with all earnestness and zeal perform, by God’s guidance, that which
you have set about; being assured, that great labour is followed by the
greater glory of an eternal reward. When Augustine, your Superior,
returns, whom we also constitute your abbot, humbly obey him in all
things; knowing, that whatsoever you shall do by his direction, will,
in all respects, be profitable to your souls. Almighty God protect you
with His grace, and grant that I may, in the heavenly country, see the
fruits of your labour, inasmuch as, though I cannot labour with you, I
shall partake in the joy of the reward, because I am willing to labour.
God keep you in safety, my most beloved sons. Given the 23rd of July,
in the fourteenth year of the reign of our most religious lord,
Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, the thirteenth year after the consulship
of our lord aforesaid, and the fourteenth indiction.”

CHAP. XXIV. How he wrote to the bishop of Arles to entertain them. [596 A.D.]

THE same venerable pope also sent at the same time a letter to
Aetherius, archbishop of Arles,’ exhorting him to give favourable
entertainment to Augustine on his way to Britain; which letter was in
these words:

To his most reverend and holy brother and fellow bishop Aetherius,
Gregory, the servant of the servants of God. Although religious men
stand in need of no recommendation with priests who have the charity
which is pleasing to God; yet because an opportunity of writing has
occurred, we have thought fit to send this letter to you, Brother, to
inform you, that with the help of God we have directed thither, for the
good of souls, the bearer of these presents, Augustine, the servant of
God, of whose zeal we are assured, with other servants of God, whom it
is requisite that your Holiness readily assist with priestly zeal,
affording him all the comfort in your power. And to the end that you
may be the more ready in your help, we have enjoined him to inform you
particularly of the occasion of his coming; knowing, that when you are
acquainted with it, you will, as the matter requires, for the sake of
God, dutifully dispose yourself to give him comfort. We also in all
things recommend to your charity, Candidus,^ the priest, our common
son, whom we have transferred to the administration of a small
patrimony in our Church. God keep you in safety, most reverend brother.
Given the 23rd day of July, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our
most religious lord, Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, the thirteenth year
after the consulship of our lord aforesaid, and the fourteenth

CHAP. XXV. How Augustine, coming into Britain, first preached in the Isle of
Thanet to the King of Kent, and having obtained licence from him, went into
Kent, in order to preach therein. [597 A. D.]

Augustine, thus strengthened by the encouragement of the blessed Father
Gregory, returned to the work of the Word of God, with the servants of
Christ who were with him, and arrived in Britain. The powerful
Ethelbert was at that time king of Kent; he had extended his dominions
as far as the boundary formed by the great river Humber, by which the
Southern Saxons are divided from the Northern. On the east of Kent is
the large Isle of Thanet, containing, according to the English way of
reckoning, 600 families,^ divided from the mainland by the river
Wantsum,^ which is about three furlongs in breadth, and which can be
crossed only in two places; for at both ends it runs into the sea. On
this island landed^ the servant of the Lord, Augustine, and his
companions, being, as is reported, nearly forty men. They had obtained,
by order of the blessed Pope Gregory, interpreters of the nation of the
Franks,^ and sending to Ethelbert, signified that they were come from
Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to
those that hearkened to it everlasting joys in heaven, and a kingdom
that would never end, with the living and true God. The king hearing
this, gave orders that they, should stay in the island where they had
landed, and be furnished with necessaries, till he should consider what
to do with them. For he had before heard of the Christian religion,
having a Christian wife of the royal family of the Franks, called
Bertha; whom he had received from her parents, upon condition that she
should be permitted to preserve inviolate the rites of her religion
with the Bishop Liudhard,^ who was sent with her to support her in the
faith. Some days after, the king came into the island, and sitting in
the open air, ordered Augustine and his companions to come and hold a
conference with him. For he had taken precaution that they should not
come to him in any house, lest, by so coming, according to an ancient
superstition, if they practised any magical arts, they might impose
upon him, and so get the better of him. But they came endued with
Divine, not with magic power, bearing a silver cross for their banner,
and the image of our Lord and Saviour painted on a board; and chanting
litanies, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal
salvation both of themselves and of those to whom and for whom they had
come. When they had sat down, in obedience to the king’s commands, and
preached to him and his attendants there present the Word of life, the
king answered thus: “Your words and promises are fair, but because they
are new to us, and of uncertain import, I cannot consent to them so far
as to forsake that which I have so long observed with the whole English
nation. But because you are come from far as strangers into my kingdom,
and, as I conceive, are desirous to impart to us those things which you
believe to be true, and most beneficial, we desire not to harm you, but
will give you favourable entertainment, and take care to supply you
with all things necessary to your sustenance; nor do we forbid you to
preach and gain as many as you can to your religion.” Accordingly he
gave them an abode in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis
of all his dominions, and, as he had promised, besides supplying them
with sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach. It is told
that, as they drew near to the city, after their manner, with the holy
cross, and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they
sang in concert this litany: “We beseech thee, Lord, for Thy great
mercy, that Thy wrath and anger be turned away from this city, and from
Thy holy house, for we have sinned. Hallelujah.”

CHAP. XXVI. How St. Augustine in Kent followed the doctrine and manner of life
of the primitive Church, and settled his episcopal see in the royal city. [597
A. D.]

AS soon as they entered the dwelling-place assigned to them, they began
to imitate the Apostolic manner of life in the primitive Church;
applying themselves to constant prayer, watchings, and fastings;
preaching the Word of life to as many as they could; despising all
worldly things, as in nowise concerning them; receiving only their
necessary food from those they taught; living themselves in all
respects conformably to what they taught, and being always ready to
suffer any adversity, and even to die for that truth which they
preached. In brief, some believed and were baptized, admiring the
simplicity of their blameless life, and the sweetness of their heavenly
doctrine. There was on the east side of the city, a church dedicated of
old to the honour of St. Martin, (Note: St. Martin was regarded with
special reverence in Britain and Ireland. Possibly some of the earliest
missionaries may have been his disciples, e.g., St. Ninian and, St.
Patrick. The Roman church of St. Martin at Canterbury has been
frequently altered and partly rebuilt, so that “small portions only of
the Roman walls remain. Roman bricks are used as old materials in the
parts rebuilt”) built whilst the Romans were still in the island,
wherein the queen, who, as has been said before, was a Christian, was
wont to pray. In this they also first began to come together, to chant
the Psalms, to pray, to celebrate Mass, to preach, and to baptize, till
when the king had been converted to the faith, they obtained greater
liberty to preach everywhere and build or repair churches.

When he, among the rest, believed and was baptized, attracted by the
pure life of these holy men and their gracious promises, the truth of
which they established by many miracles, greater numbers began daily to
flock together to hear the Word, and, forsaking their heathen rites, to
have fellowship, through faith, in the unity of Christ’s Holy Church.
It is told that the king, while he rejoiced at their conversion and
their faith, yet compelled none to embrace Christianity, but only
showed more affection to the believers, as to his fellow citizens in
the kingdom of Heaven. For he had learned from those who had instructed
him and guided him to salvation, that the service of Christ ought to be
voluntary, not by compulsion. Nor was it long before he gave his
teachers a settled residence suited to their degree in his metropolis
of Canterbury, with such possessions of divers sorts as were necessary
for them.

CHAP. XXVII. How St. Augustine, being made a bishop, sent to acquaint Pope
Gregory with what had been done in Britain, and asked and received replies, of
which he stood in need. [597-601 A.D.]

IN the meantime, Augustine, the man of God, went to Aries, and,
according to the orders received from the holy Father Gregory, was
ordained archbishop of the English nation, (Note: Augustine was not
consecrated as archbishop either of London or Canterbury, but by the
general title of “Archbishop of the English.” According to Gregory’s
original scheme, London, not Canterbury, was to have been the seat of
the primacy of southern England. London and York being doubtless the
most important cities of south and north known to him from their
history during the Roman occupation. But Christianity was not
permanently established in London till it was too late to remove the
see from Canterbury, which would obviously commend itself to Augustine
as the most suitable place to be the metropolitan city) by Aetherius,^
archbishop of that city. Then returning into Britain, he sent
Laurentius the priest^ and Peter the monk^ to Rome, to acquaint Pope
Gregory, that the English nation had received the faith of Christ, and
that he was himself made their bishop. At the same time, he desired his
solution of some doubts which seemed urgent to him. He soon received
fitting answers to his questions, which we have also thought meet to
insert in this our history:

The First Question of the blessed Augustine, Bishop of the Church of
Canterbury.–Concerning bishops, what should be their manner of
conversation towards their clergy? or into how many portions the
offerings of the faithful at the altar are to be divided? and how the
bishop is to act in the Church?

Gregory, Pope of the City of Rome, answers.–Holy Scripture, in which
we doubt not you are well versed, testifies to this, and in particular
the Epistles of the Blessed Paul to Timothy, wherein he endeavours to
show him what should be his manner of conversation in the house of God;
but it is the custom of the Apostolic see to prescribe these rules to
bishops when they are ordained: that all emoluments which accrue, are
to be divided into four portions ;–one for the bishop and his
household, for hospitality and entertainment of guests; another for the
clergy; a third for the poor; and the fourth for the repair of
churches. But in that you, my brother, having been instructed in
monastic rules, must not live apart from your clergy in the Church of
the English, which has been lately, by the will of God, converted to
the faith, you must establish the manner of conversation of our fathers
in the primitive Church, among whom, none said that aught of the things
which they possessed was his own, but they had all things common.

But if there are any clerks not received into holy orders, who cannot
live continent, they are to take wives, and receive their stipends
outside of the community; because we know that it is written concerning
the same fathers of whom we have spoken that a distribution was made
unto every man according as he had need. Care is also to be taken of
their stipends, and provision to be made, and they are to be kept under
ecclesiastical rule, that they may live orderly, and attend to singing
of psalms, and, by the help of God, preserve their hearts and tongues
and bodies from all that is unlawful. But as for those that live in
common, there is no need to say anything of assigning portions, or
dispensing hospitality and showing mercy; inasmuch as all that they
have over is to be spent in pious and religious works, according to the
teaching of Him who is the Lord and Master of all, “Give alms of such
things as ye have over, and behold all things are clean unto you.”

Augustine’s Second Question–Whereas the faith is one and the same, are
there different customs in different Churches? and is one custom of
Masses observed in the holy Roman Church, and another in the Church of

Pope Gregory answers.–You know, my brother, the custom of the Roman
Church in which you remember that you were bred up. But my will is,
that if you have found anything, either in the Roman, or the Gallican,
or any other Church, which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you
should carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the
Church of the English, which as yet is new in the faith, whatsoever you
can gather from the several Churches. For things are not to be loved
for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose,
therefore, from every Church those things that are pious, religious,
and right, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one bundle,
let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto.

Augustine’s Third Question.–I beseech you, what punishment must be
inflicted on one who steals anything from a church?

Gregory answers.–You may judge, my brother, by the condition of the
thief, in what manner he is to be corrected. For there are some, who,
having substance, commit theft; and there are others, who transgress in
this matter through want. Wherefore it is requisite, that some be
punished with fines, others with stripes; some with more severity, and
some more mildly. And when the severity is greater, it is to proceed
from charity, not from anger; because this is done for the sake of him
who is corrected, that he may not be delivered up to the fires of Hell.
For it behoves us to maintain discipline among the faithful, as good
parents do with their children according to the flesh, whom they punish
with stripes for their faults, and yet they design to make those whom
they chastise their heirs, and preserve their possessions for those
whom they seem to visit in wrath. This charity is, therefore, to be
kept in mind, and it dictates the measure of the punishment, so that
the mind may do nothing beyond the rule prescribed by reason. You will
add to this, how men are to restore those things which they have stolen
from the church. But let not the Church take more than it has lost of
its worldly possessions, or seek gain from vanities.

Augustine’s Fourth Question. — Whether two full brothers may marry two
sisters, who are of a family far removed from them?

Gregory answers.–Most assuredly this may lawfully be done; for nothing
is found in Holy Writ on this matter that seems to contradict it.

Augustine’s Fifth Question.–To what degree may the faithful marry with
their kindred? and is it lawful to marry a stepmother or a brother’s

Gregory answers.–A certain secular law in the Roman commonwealth
allows, that the son and daughter of a brother and sister,^ or of two
full brothers, or two sisters, may be joined in matrimony; but we have
found, by experience, that the offspring of such wedlock cannot grow
up; and the Divine law forbids a man to “uncover the nakedness of his
kindred.” Hence of necessity it must be the third or fourth generation
of the faithful, that can be lawfully joined in matrimony; for the
second, which we have mentioned, must altogether abstain from one
another. To marry with one’s stepmother is a heinous crime, because it
is written in the Law, “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy
father:” now the son, indeed, cannot uncover his father’s nakedness;
but in regard that it is written, “They twain shall be one flesh,” he
that presumes to uncover the nakedness of his stepmother, who was one
flesh with his father, certainly uncovers the nakedness of his father.
It is also prohibited to marry with a sister-in-law, because by the
former union she is become the brother’s flesh. For which thing also
John the Baptist was beheaded, and obtained the crown of holy
martyrdom. For, though he was not ordered to deny Christ, and it was
not for confessing Christ that he was killed, yet inasmuch as the same
Jesus Christ, our Lord, said, “I am the Truth,” because John was killed
for the truth, he also shed his blood for Christ.

But forasmuch as there are many of the English, who, whilst they were
still heathens, are said to have been joined in this unholy union, when
they attain to the faith they are to be admonished to abstain, and be
made to known that this is a grievous sin. Let them fear the dread
judgement of God, lest, for the gratification of their carnal desires,
they incur the torments of eternal punishment. Yet they are not on this
account to be deprived of the Communion of the Body and Blood of
Christ, lest they should seem to be punished for those things which
they did through ignorance before they had received Baptism. For in
these times the Holy Church chastises some things with zeal, and
tolerates some in mercy, and is blind to some in her wisdom, and so, by
forbearance and blindness often suppresses the evil that stands in her
way. But all that come to the faith are to be admonished not to presume
to do such things. And if any shall be guilty of them, they are to be
excluded from the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. For as the
offence is, in some measure, to be tolerated in those who did it
through ignorance, so it is to be rigorously punished in those who do
not fear to sin knowingly.

Augustine’s Sixth Question.–Whether a bishop may be consecrated
without other bishops being present, if there be so great a distance
between them, that they cannot easily come together?

Gregory answers.–In the Church of England, of which you are as yet the
only bishop, you cannot otherwise ordain a bishop than in the absence
of other bishops. For when do bishops come over from Gaul, that they
may be present as witnesses to you in ordaining a bishop? But we would
have you, my brother, to ordain bishops in such a manner, that the said
bishops may not be far asunder, to the end that there be no lack, but
that at the ordination of a bishop other pastors also, whose pretence
is of great benefit, should easily come together. Thus, when, by the
help of God, bishops shall have been ordained in places near to one
another, no ordination of a bishop is to take place without assembling
three or four bishops. For, even in spiritual affairs, we may take
example by the temporal, that they may be wisely and discreetly
conducted. For surely, when marriages are celebrated in the world, some
married persons are assembled, that those who went before in the way of
matrimony, may also partake in the joy of the new union. Why, then, at
this spiritual ordinance, wherein, by means of the sacred ministry, man
is joined to God, should not such persons be assembled, as may either
rejoice in the advancement of the new bishop, or jointly pour forth
their prayers to Almighty God for his preservation?

Augustine’s Seventh Question.–How are we to deal with the bishops of
Gaul and Britain?

Gregory answers.–We give you no authority over the bishops of Gaul,
because the bishop of Aries received the pall in the old times of my
predecessors, and we must by no means deprive him of the authority he
has received. If it shall therefore happen, my brother, that you go
over into the province of Gaul, you are to concert with the said bishop
of Aries, how, if there be any faults among the bishops, they may be
amended. And if he shall be lukewarm in keeping up discipline, he is to
be fired by your zeal; to whom we have also written, that aided by the
presence of your Holiness in Gaul, he should exert himself to the
utmost, and put away from the behaviour of the bishops all that is
opposed to the command of our Creator. But you shall not have power to
go beyond your own authority and judge the bishops of Gaul, but by
persuading, and winning them, and showing good works for them to
imitate, you shall recall the perverted to the pursuit of holiness; for
it is written in the Law, “When thou comest into the standing corn of
thy neighbour, then thou mayest bruise the ears with thine hand and
eat; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbours’ standing
corn.” For thou mayest not apply the sickle of judgement in that
harvest which thou seest to have been committed to another; but by the
influence of good works thou shalt clear the Lord’s wheat of the chaff
of its vices, and convert it by exhortation and persuasion in the body
of the Church, as it were, by eating. But whatsoever is to be done by
authority, must be transacted with the aforesaid bishop of Aries, lest
that should be omitted, which the ancient institution of the fathers
has appointed.^ But as for all the bishops of Britain, we commit them
to your care, that the unlearned may be taught, the weak strengthened
by persuasion, and the perverse corrected by authority.

Augustine’s Eighth Question.–Whether a woman with child ought to be
baptized? Or when she has brought forth, after what time she may come
into the church? As also, after how many days the infant born may be
baptized, lest he be prevented by death? Or how long after her husband
may have carnal knowledge of her? Or whether it is lawful for her to
come into the church when she has her courses, or to receive the
Sacrament of Holy Communion? Or whether a man, under certain
circumstances, may come into the church before he has washed with
water? Or approach to receive the Mystery of the Holy Communion? All
which things are requisite to be known by the ignorant nation of the

Gregory answers.–I do not doubt but that these questions have been put
to you, my brother, and I think I have already answered you therein.
But I believe you would wish the opinion which you yourself might give
and hold to be confirmed by my reply also. Why should not a woman with
child be baptized, since the fruitfulness of the flesh is no offence in
the eyes of Almighty God? For when our first parents sinned in
Paradise, they forfeited the immortality which they had received, by
the just judgement of God. Because, therefore, Almighty God would not
for their fault wholly destroy the human race, he both deprived man of
immortality for his sin, and, at the same time, of his great goodness
and loving-kindness, reserved to him the power of propagating his race
after him. On what ground, then, can that which is preserved to human
nature by the free gift of Almighty God, be excluded from the privilege
of Holy Baptism? For it is very foolish to imagine that the gift can be
opposed to grace in that Mystery in which all sin is blotted out. When
a woman is delivered, after how many days she may come into the church,
you have learnt from the teaching of the Old Testament, to wit, that
she is to abstain for a male child thirty-three days, and sixty-six for
a female. Now you must know that this is to be received in a mystery;
for if she enters the church the very hour that she is delivered, to
return thanks, she is not guilty of any sin; because the pleasure of
the flesh is a fault, and not the pain; but the pleasure is in the
copulation of the flesh, whereas there is pain in bringing forth the
child. Wherefore it is said to the first mother of all, “In sorrow thou
shalt bring forth children.” If, therefore, we forbid a woman that has
brought forth, to enter the church, we make a crime of her very
punishment. To baptize either a woman who has brought forth, if there
be danger of death, even the very hour that she brings forth, or that
which she has brought forth the very hour it is born, is in no way
prohibited, because, as the grace of the Holy Mystery is to be with
much discretion provided for those who are in full life and capable of
understanding, so is it to be without any delay administered to the
dying; lest, while a further time is sought to confer the Mystery of
redemption, if a small delay intervene, the person that is to be
redeemed be dead and gone. Her husband is not to approach her, till the
infant born be weaned. An evil custom is sprung up in the lives of
married people, in that women disdain to suckle the children whom they
bring forth, and give them to other women to suckle; which seems to
have been invented on no other account but incontinency; because, as
they will not be continent, they will not suckle the children whom they
bear. Those women, therefore, who, from evil custom, give their
children to others to bring up, must not approach their husbands till
the time of purification is past. For even when there has been no
child-birth, women are forbidden to do so, whilst they have their
courses, insomuch that the Law condemns to death any man that shall
approach unto a woman during her uncleanness. Yet the woman,
nevertheless, must not be forbidden to come into the church whilst she
has her courses; because the superfluity of nature cannot be imputed to
her as a crime; and it is not just that she should be refused
admittance into the church, for that which she suffers against her
will. For we know, that the woman who had the issue of blood, humbly
approaching behind our Lord’s back, touched the hem of his garment, and
her infirmity immediately departed from her. If, therefore, she that
had an issue of blood might commendably touch the garment of our Lord,
why may not she, who has her courses, lawfully enter into the church of
God? But you may say, Her infirmity compelled her, whereas these we
speak of are bound by custom. Consider, then, most dear brother, that
all we suffer in this mortal flesh, through the infirmity of our
nature, is ordained by the just judgement of God after the fall; for to
hunger, to thirst, to be hot, to be cold, to be weary, is from the
infirmity of our nature; and what else is it to seek food against
hunger, drink against thirst, air against heat, clothes against cold,
rest against weariness, than to procure a remedy against distempers?
Thus to a woman her courses are a distemper. If, therefore, it was a
commendable boldness in her, who in her disease touched our Lord’s
garment, why may not that which is allowed to one infirm person, be
granted to all women, who, through the fault of their nature, are
rendered infirm?

She must not, therefore, be forbidden to receive the Mystery of the
Holy Communion during those days. But if any one out of profound
respect does not presume to do it, she is to be commended; yet if she
receives it, she is not to be judged. For it is the part of noble minds
in some manner to acknowledge their faults, even when there is no
fault; because very often that is done without a fault, which,
nevertheless, proceeded from a fault. Thus, when we are hungry, it is
no sin to eat; yet our being hungry proceeds from the sin of the first
man. The courses are no sin in women, because they happen naturally;
yet, because our nature itself is so depraved, that it appears to be
defiled even without the concurrence of the will, a defect arises from
sin, and thereby human nature may itself know what it is become by
judgement. And let man, who wilfully committed the offence, bear the
guilt of that offence against his will. And, therefore, let women
consider with themselves, and if they do not presume, during their
courses, to approach the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord,
they are to be commended for their praiseworthy consideration; but when
they are carried away with love of the same Mystery to receive it
according to the custom of the religious life, they are not to be
restrained, as we said before. For as in the Old Testament the outward
works are observed, so in the New Testament, that which is outwardly
done, is not so diligently regarded as that which is inwardly thought,
that the punishment may be with discernment. For whereas the Law
forbids the eating of many things as unclean, yet our Lord says in the
Gospel, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that
which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” And afterwards he
added, expounding the same, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.”
Where it is abundantly shown, that that is declared by Almighty God to
be polluted in deed, which springs from the root of a polluted thought.
Whence also Paul the Apostle says, “Unto the pure all things are pure,
but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.” And
presently, declaring the cause of that defilement, he adds, “For even
their mind and conscience is defiled.” If, therefore, meat is not
unclean to him whose mind is not unclean, why shall that which a woman
suffers according to nature, with a clean mind, be imputed to her as

A man who has approached his own wife is not to enter the church unless
washed with water, nor is he to enter immediately although washed. The
Law prescribed to the ancient people, that a man in such cases should
be washed with water, and not enter into the church before the setting
of the sun. Which, nevertheless, may be understood spiritually, because
a man acts so when the mind is led by the imagination to unlawful
concupiscence; for unless the fire of concupiscence be first driven
from his mind, he is not to think himself worthy of the congregation of
the brethren, while he sees himself burdened by the iniquity of a
perverted will. For though divers nations have divers opinions
concerning this affair, and seem to observe different rules, it was
always the custom. of the Romans, from ancient times, for such an one
to seek to be cleansed by washing, and for some time reverently to
forbear entering the church. Nor do we, in so saying, assign matrimony
to be a fault; but forasmuch as lawful intercourse cannot be had
without the pleasure of the flesh, it is proper to forbear entering the
holy place, because the pleasure itself cannot be without a fault. For
he was not born of adultery or fornication, but of lawful marriage, who
said, “Behold I was conceived in iniquity, and in sin my mother brought
me forth.” For he who knew himself to have been conceived in iniquity,
lamented that he was born from sin, because he bears the defect, as a
tree bears in its bough the sap it drew from the root. In which words,
however, he does not call the union of the married couple iniquity, but
the will itself. For there are many things which are lawful and
permitted, and yet we are somewhat defiled in doing them. As very often
by being angry we correct faults, and at the same time disturb our own
peace of mind; and though that which we do is right, yet it is not to
be approved that our mind should be disturbed. For he who said, “My eye
was disturbed with anger,” had been angry at the vices of sinners. Now,
seeing that only a calm mind can rest in the light of contemplation, he
grieved that his eye was disturbed with anger; because, whilst he was
correcting evil actions below, he was obliged to be confused and
disturbed with regard to the contemplation of the highest things. Anger
against vice is, therefore, commendable, and yet painful to a man,
because he thinks that by his mind being agitated, he hag incurred some
guilt. Lawful commerce, therefore, must be for the sake of children,
not of pleasure; and must be to procure offspring, not to satisfy
vices. But if any man is led not by the desire of pleasure, but only
for the sake of getting children, such a man is certainly to be left to
his own judgement, either as to entering the church, or as to receiving
the Mystery of the Body and Blood of our Lord, which he, who being
placed in the fire cannot burn, is not to be forbidden by us to
receive. But when, not the love of getting children, but of pleasure
prevails, the pair have cause to lament their deed. For this the holy
preaching concedes to them, and yet fills the mind with dread of the
very concession. For when Paul the Apostle said, “Let him that cannot
contain have his own wife;” he presently took care to subjoin, “But
this I say by way of permission, not of commandment.” For that is not
granted by way of permission which is lawful, because it is just; land,
therefore, that which he said he permitted, he showed to be an offence.

It is seriously to be considered, that when God was about to speak to
the people on Mount Sinai, He first commanded them to abstain from
women. And if purity of body was there so carefully required, where God
spoke to the people by the means of a creature as His representative,
that those who were to hear the words of God should abstain; how much
more ought women, who receive the Body of Almighty God, to preserve
themselves in purity of flesh, lest they be burdened with the very
greatness of that inestimable Mystery? For this reason also, it was
said to David, concerning his men, by the priest, that if they were
clean in this particular, they should receive the shewbread, which they
would not have received at all, had not David first declared them to be
clean. Then the man, who, afterwards, has been washed with water, is
also capable of receiving the Mystery of the Holy Communion, when it is
lawful for him, according to what has been before declared, to enter
the church.

Augustine’s Ninth Question–Whether after an illusion, such as is wont
to happen in a dream, any man may receive the Body of our Lord, or if
he be a priest, celebrate the Divine Mysteries?

Gregory answers.–The Testament of the Old Law, as has been said
already in the article above, calls such a man polluted, and allows him
not to enter into the church till the evening, after being washed with
water. Which, nevertheless, a spiritual people, taking in another
sense, will understand in the same manner as above; because he is
imposed upon as it were in a dream, who, being tempted with
uncleanness, is defiled by real representations in thought, and he is
to be washed with water, that he may cleanse away the sins of thought
with tears; and unless the fire of temptation depart before, may know
himself to be in a manner guilty until the evening. But a distinction
is very necessary in that illusion, and one must carefully consider
what causes it to arise in the mind of the person sleeping; for
sometimes it proceeds from excess of eating or drinking; sometimes from
the superfluity or infirmity of nature, and sometimes from the
thoughts. And when it happens either through superfluity or infirmity
of nature, such an illusion is not to be feared at all, because it is
to be lamented, that the mind of the person, who knew nothing of it,
suffers the same, rather than that he occasioned it. But when the
appetite of gluttony commits excess in food, and thereupon the
receptacles of the humours are oppressed, the mind thence contracts
some guilt; yet not so much as to hinder the receiving of the Holy
Mystery, or celebrating Mass, when a holy day requires it, or necessity
obliges the Mystery to be shown forth, because there is no other priest
in the place; for if there be others who can perform the ministry, the
illusion proceeding from over-eating ought not to exclude a man from
receiving the sacred Mystery; but I am of opinion he ought humbly to
abstain from offering the sacrifice of the Mystery, but not from
receiving it, unless the mind of the person sleeping has been disturbed
with some foul imagination. For there are some, who for the most part
so suffer the illusion, that their mind, even during the sleep of the
body, is not defiled with filthy thoughts. In which case, one thing is
evident, that the mind is guilty, not being acquitted even in its own
judgement; for though it does not remember to have seen anything whilst
the body was sleeping, yet it calls to mind that, when the body was
awake, it fell into gluttony. But if the illusion of the sleeper
proceeds from evil thoughts when he was awake, then its guilt is
manifest to the mind; for the man perceives from what root that
defilement sprang, because what he had consciously thought of, that he
afterwards unconsciously endured. But it is to be considered, whether
that thought was no more than a suggestion, or proceeded to delight,
or, what is worse, consented to sin. For all sin is committed in three
ways, viz., by suggestion, by delight, and by consent. Suggestion comes
from the Devil, delight from the flesh, and consent from the spirit.
For the serpent suggested the first offence, and Eve, as flesh, took
delight in it, but Adam, as the spirit, consented. And when the mind
sits in judgement on itself, it must clearly distinguish between
suggestion and delight, and between delight and consent. For when the
evil spirit suggests a sin to the mind, if there ensue no delight in
the sin, the sin is in no way committed; but when the flesh begins to
take delight in it, then sin begins to arise. But if it deliberately
consents, then the sin is known to be full-grown. The seed, therefore,
of sin is in the suggestion, the nourishment of it in delight, its
maturity in the consent. And it often happens that what the evil spirit
sows in the thought, in that the flesh begins to find delight, and yet
the soul does not consent to that delight. And whereas the flesh cannot
be delighted without the mind, yet the mind struggling against the
pleasures of the flesh, is after a manner unwillingly bound by the
carnal delight, so that through reason it opposes it, and does not
consent, yet being bound by delight, it grievously laments being so
bound. Wherefore that great soldier of our Lord’s host, groaned and
said, “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my
mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my
members.” Now if he was a captive, he did not fight; but he did fight;
wherefore he was a captive and at the same time therefore fought
against the law of the mind, which the law that is in the members
opposed; but if he fought, he was no captive. Thus, then, man is, as I
may say, a captive and yet free. Free on account of justice, which he
loves, a captive by the delight which he unwillingly bears within him.

CHAP. XXVIII. How Pope Gregory wrote to the bishop of Aries to help Augustine
in the work of God. [601 A.D.]

Thus far the answers of the holy Pope Gregory, to the questions of the
most reverend prelate, Augustine. Now the letter, which he says he had
written to the bishop of Aries, was directed to Vergilius, successor to
Aetherius, and was in the following words:

“To his most reverend and holy brother and fellow bishop, Vergilius;
Gregory, servant of the servants of God. With how much kindness
brethren, coming of their own accord, are to be entertained, is shown
by this, that they are for the most part invited for the sake of
brotherly love. Therefore, if our common brother, Bishop Augustine,
shall happen to come to you, let your love, as is becoming, receive him
with so great kindness and affection, that it may refresh him by the
benefit of its consolation and show to others how brotherly charity is
to be cultivated. And, since it often happens that those who are at a
distance first learn from others the things that need correction, if he
bring before you, my brother, any sins of bishops or others, do you, in
conjunction with him, carefully inquire into the same, and show
yourself so strict and earnest with regard to those things which offend
God and provoke His wrath, that for the amendment of others, the
punishment may fall upon the guilty, and the innocent may not suffer
under false report. God keep you in safety, most reverend brother.
Given the 22^nd day of June, in the nineteenth year of the reign of our
most religious lord, Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, the eighteenth year
after the consulship of our said lord, and the fourth indiction.”

CHAP. XXIX. How the same Pope sent to Augustine the Pall and a letter, along
with several ministers of the Word. [601 A.D.]

Moreover, the same Pope Gregory, hearing from Bishop Augustine, that
the harvest which he had was great and the labourers but few, sent to
him, together with his aforesaid envoys, certain fellow labourers and
ministers of the Word, of whom the chief and foremost were Mellitus,
Justus, Paulinus, and Rufinianus, and by them all things in general
that were necessary for the worship and service of the Church, to wit,
sacred vessels and altar-cloths, also church-furniture, and vestments
for the bishops and clerks, as likewise relics of the holy Apostles and
martyrs; besides many manuscripts. He also sent a letter, wherein he
signified that he had despatched the pall to him, and at the same time
directed how he should constitute bishops in Britain. The letter was in
these words:

“To his most reverend and holy brother and fellow bishop, Augustine,
Gregory, the servant of the servants of God. Though it be certain, that
the unspeakable rewards of the eternal kingdom are reserved for those
who labour for Almighty God, yet it is requisite that we bestow on them
the benefit of honours, to the end that they may by this recompense be
encouraged the more vigorously to apply themselves to the care of their
spiritual work. And, seeing that the new Church of the English is,
through the bounty of the Lord, and your labours, brought to the grace
of God, we grant you the use of the pall in the same, only for the
celebration of the solemn service of the Mass; that so you may ordain
twelve bishops in different places, who shall be subject to your
jurisdiction. But the bishop of London shall, for the future, be always
consecrated by his own synod, and receive the pall, which is the token
of his office, from this holy and Apostolic see, which I, by the grace
of God, now serve. But we would have you send to the city of York such
a bishop as you shall think fit to ordain; yet so, that if that city,
with the places adjoining, shall receive the Word of God, that bishop
shall also ordain twelve bishops, and enjoy the honour of a
metropolitan; for we design, if we live, by the help of God, to bestow
on him also the pall; and yet we would have him to be subject to your
authority, my brother; but after your decease, he shall so preside over
the bishops he shall have ordained, as to be in no way subject to the
jurisdiction of the bishop of London. But for the future let there be
this distinction as regards honour between the bishops of the cities of
London and York, that he who has been first ordained have the
precedence.^ But let them take counsel and act in concert and with one
mind dispose whatsoever is to be done for zeal of Christ; let them
judge rightly, and carry out their judgement without dissension.

“But to you, my brother, shall, by the authority of our God and Lord
Jesus Christ, be subject not only those bishops whom you shall ordain,
and those that shall be ordained by the bishop of York, but also all
the prelates in Britain; to the end that from the words and manner of
life of your Holiness they may learn the rule of a right belief and a
good life, and fulfilling their office in faith and righteousness, they
may, when it shall please the Lord, attain to the kingdom of Heaven.
God preserve you in safety, most reverend brother.

“Given the 22^nd of June, in the nineteenth year of the reign of our
most religious lord, Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, the eighteenth year
after the consulship of our said lord, and the fourth indiction.”

CHAP. XXX. A copy of the letter which Pope Gregory sent to the Abbot Mellitus,
then going into Britain. [601 A.D.]

The aforesaid envoys having departed, the blessed Father Gregory sent
after them a letter worthy to be recorded, wherein he plainly shows how
carefully he watched over the salvation of our country. The letter was
as follows:

“To his most beloved son, the Abbot Mellitus; Gregory, the servant of
the servants of God. We have been much concerned, since the departure
of our people that are with you, because we have received no account of
the success of your journey. Howbeit, when Almighty God has led, you to
the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what I have
long been considering in my own mind concerning the matter of the
English people; to wit, that the temples of the idols in that nation
ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be
destroyed; let water be consecrated and sprinkled in the said temples,
let altars be erected, and relics placed there. For if those temples
are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship
of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that
their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts,
and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely resort to the
places to which they have been accustomed. And because they are used to
slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be
given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication,
or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there
deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees
about those churches which have been turned to that use from being
temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no
more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in
their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their
abundance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are
retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys. For
there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once
from their rude natures; because he who endeavours to ascend to the
highest place rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps. Thus the
Lord made Himself known to the people of Israel in Egypt; and yet He
allowed them the use, in His own worship, of the sacrifices which they
were wont to offer to the Devil, commanding them in His sacrifice to
kill animals, to the end that, with changed hearts, they might lay
aside one part of the sacrifice, whilst they retained another; and
although the animals were the same as those which they were wont to
offer, they should offer them to the true God, and not to idols; and
thus they would no longer be the same sacrifices. This then, dearly
beloved, it behoves you to communicate to our aforesaid brother, that
he, being placed where he is at present, may consider how he is to
order all things. God preserve you in safety, most beloved son.

“Given the 17^th of June, in the nineteenth year of the reign of our
most religious lord, Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, the eighteenth year
after the consulship of our said lord, and the fourth indiction.”

CHAP. XXXI. How Pope Gregory, by letter, exhorted Augustine not to glory in
his miracles. [601 A.D.]

At which time he also sent Augustine a letter concerning the miracles
that he had heard had been wrought by him; wherein he admonishes him
not to incur the danger of being puffed up by the number of them. The
letter was in these words:

“I know, dearly beloved brother, that Almighty God, by means of you,
shows forth great miracles to the nation which it was His will to
choose. Wherefore you must needs rejoice with fear, and fear with joy
concerning that heavenly gift; for you will rejoice because the souls
of the English are by outward miracles drawn to inward grace; but you
will fear, lest, amidst the wonders that are wrought, the weak mind may
be puffed up with self-esteem, and that whereby it is outwardly raised
to honour cause it inwardly to fall through vain-glory. For we must
call to mind, that when the disciples returned with joy from preaching,
and said to their Heavenly Master, Lord, even the devils are subject to
us through Thy Name;’ forthwith they received the reply, In this
rejoice not; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in
heaven.’ For their minds were set on private and temporal joys, when
they rejoiced in miracles; but they are recalled from the private to
the common joy, and from the temporal to the eternal, when it is said
to them, Rejoice in this, because your names are written in heaven.’
For all the elect do not work miracles, and yet the names of all are
written in heaven. For those who are disciples of the truth ought not
to rejoice, save for that good thing which all men enjoy as well as
they, and in which their joy shall be without end.

“It remains, therefore, most dear brother, that amidst those outward
actions, which you perform through the power of the Lord, you should
always carefully judge yourself in your heart, and carefully understand
both what you are yourself, and how much grace is bestowed upon that
same nation, for the conversion of which you have received even the
gift of working miracles. And if you remember that you have at any time
sinned against our Creator, either by word or deed, always call it to
mind, to the end that the remembrance of your guilt may crush the
vanity which rises in your heart. And whatsoever gift of working
miracles you either shall receive, or have received, consider the same,
not as conferred on you, but on those for whose salvation it has been
given you.”

CHAP. XXXII. How Pope Gregory sent letters and gifts to King Ethelbert. [601

The same blessed Pope Gregory, at the same time, sent a letter to King
Ethelbert, with many gifts of divers sorts; being desirous to glorify
the king with temporal honours, at the same. time that he rejoiced that
through his own labour and zeal he had attained to the knowledge of
heavenly glory. The copy of the said letter is as follows:

“To the most glorious lord, and his most excellent son, Ethelbert, king
of the English, Bishop Gregory. Almighty God advances good men to the
government of nations, that He may by their means bestow the gifts of
His lovingkindness on those over whom they are placed. This we know to
have come to pass in the English nation, over whom your Highness was
placed, to the end, that by means of the blessings which are granted to
you, heavenly benefits might also be conferred on your subjects.
Therefore, my illustrious son, do you carefully guard the grace which
you have received from the Divine goodness, and be eager to spread the
Christian faith among the people under your rule; in all uprightness
increase your zeal for their conversion; suppress the worship of idols;
overthrow the structures of the temples; establish the manners of your
subjects by much cleanness of life, exhorting, terrifying, winning,
correcting, and showing forth an example of good works, that you may
obtain your reward in Heaven from Him, Whose Name and the knowledge of
Whom you have spread abroad upon earth. For He, Whose honour you seek
and maintain among the nations, will also render your Majesty’s name
more glorious even to posterity.

“For even so the most pious emperor, Constantine, of old, recovering
the Roman commonwealth from the false worship of idols, brought it with
himself into subjection to Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and
turned to Him with his whole mind, together with the nations under his
rule. Whence it followed, that his praises transcended the fame of
former princes; and he excelled his predecessors in renown as much as
in good works. Now, therefore, let your Highness hasten to impart to
the kings and peoples that are subject to you, the knowledge of one
God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that you may surpass the ancient
kings of your nation in praise and merit, and while you cause the sins
of others among your own subjects to be blotted out, become the more
free from anxiety with regard to your own sins before the dread
judgement of Almighty God.

“Willingly hear, devoutly perform, and studiously retain in your
memory, whatsoever counsel shall be given you by our most reverend
brother, Bishop Augustine, who is trained up in the monastic rule, full
of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, and, by the help of God, endued
with good works; for if you give ear to him when he speaks on behalf of
Almighty God, the sooner will Almighty God hear his prayers for you.
But if (which God forbid!) you slight his words, how shall Almighty God
hear him on your behalf, when you neglect to hear him on behalf of God?
Unite yourself, therefore, to him with all your mind, in the fervour of
faith, and further his endeavours, by that virtue which God has given
you, that He may make you partaker of His kingdom, Whose faith you
cause to be received and maintained in your own.

“Besides, we would have your Highness know that, as we find in Holy
Scripture from the words of the Almighty Lord, the end of this present
world, and the kingdom of the saints, which will never come to an end,
is at hand. But as the end of the world draws near, many things are
about to come upon us which were not before, to wit, changes in the
air, and terrors from heaven, and tempests out of the order of the
seasons, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes in divers places;
which things will not, nevertheless, all happen in our days, but will
all follow after our days. If, therefore, you perceive that any of
these things come to pass in your country, let not your mind be in any
way disturbed; for these signs of the end of the world are sent before,
for this reason, that we may take heed to our souls, and be watchful
for the hour of death, and may be found prepared with good works to
meet our Judge. Thus much, my illustrious son, I have said in few
words, with intent-that when the Christian faith is spread abroad in
your kingdom, our discourse to you may also be more copious, and we may
desire to say the more, as joy for the full conversion of your nation
is increased in our mind.

“I have sent you some small gifts, which will not appear small to you,
when received by you with the blessing of the blessed Apostle, Peter.
May Almighty God, therefore, perfect in you His grace which He has
begun, and prolong your life here through a course of many years, and
in the fulness of time receive you into the congregation of the
heavenly country. May the grace of God preserve you in safety, my most
excellent lord and son.

“Given the 22^nd day of June, in the nineteenth year of the reign of
our most religious lord, Mauritius Tiberius Augustus, in the eighteenth
year after his consulship, and the fourth indiction.”

CHAP. XXXIII. How Augustine repaired the church of our Saviour, and built the
monastery of the blessed Peter the Apostle; and concerning Peter the first
abbot of the same.

Augustine having had his episcopal see granted him in the royal city,
as has been said, recovered therein, with the support of the king, a
church, which he was informed had been built of old by the faithful
among the Romans, and consecrated it in the name of the Holy Saviour,
our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, and there established a residence for
himself and all his successors.’ He also built a monastery not far from
the city to the eastward, in which, by his advice, Ethelbert erected
from the foundation the church of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul,
and enriched it with divers gifts; wherein the bodies of the same
Augustine, and of all the bishops of Canterbury, and of the kings of
Kent, might be buried. Nevertheless, it was not Augustine himself who
consecrated that church, but Laurentius, his successor.

The first abbot of that monastery was the priest Peter, who, being sent
on a mission into Gaul, was drowned in a bay of the sea, which is
called Amfleat,^ and committed to a humble tomb by the inhabitants of
the place; but since it was the will of Almighty God to reveal his
merits, a light, from Heaven was seen over his grave every night; till
the neighbouring people who saw it, perceiving that he had been a holy
man that was buried there, and inquiring who and whence he was, carried
away the body, and interred it in the church, in the city of Boulogne,
with the honour due to so great a person.

CHAP. XXXIV. How Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians, having vanquished the
nations of the Scots, expelled them from the territories of the English. [603
A. D.]

At this time, the brave and ambitious king, Ethelfrid, governed the
kingdom of the Northumbrians, and ravaged the Britons more than all the
chiefs of the English, insomuch that he might be compared to Saul of
old, king of the Israelites, save only in this, that he was ignorant of
Divine religion. For he conquered more territories from the Britons
than any other chieftain or king, either subduing the inhabitants and
making them tributary, or driving them out and planting the English in
their places. To him might justly be applied the saying of the
patriarch blessing his son in the person of Saul, “Benjamin shall ravin
as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he
shall divide the spoil.” Hereupon, Aedan, king of the Scots that dwell
in Britain,^ being alarmed by his success, came against him with a
great and mighty army, but was defeated and fled with a few followers;
for almost all his army was cut to pieces at a famous place, called
Degsastan, that is, Degsa Stone. In which battle also Theodbald,
brother to Ethelfrid, was killed, with almost all the forces he
commanded. This war Ethelfrid brought to an end in the year of our Lord
603, the eleventh of his own reign, which lasted twenty-four years, and
the first year of the reign of Phocas, who then was at the head of the
Roman empire. From that time, no king of the Scots durst come into
Britain to make war on the English to this day.



AT this time, that is, in the year of our Lord 605, the blessed Pope
Gregory, after having most gloriously governed the Roman Apostolic see
thirteen years, six months, and ten days, died, and was translated to
an eternal abode in the kingdom of Heaven. Of whom, seeing that by his
zeal he converted our nation, the English, from the power of Satan to
the faith of Christ, it behoves us to discourse more at large in our
Ecclesiastical History, for we may rightly, nay, we must, call him our
apostle; because, as soon as he began to wield the pontifical power
over all the world, and was placed over the Churches long before
converted to the true faith, he made our nation, till then enslaved to
idols, the Church of Christ, so that concerning him we may use those
words of the Apostle; “if he be not an apostle to others, yet doubtless
he is to us; for the seal of his apostleship are we in the Lord.”
He was by nation a Roman, son of Gordianus, tracing his descent from
ancestors that were not only noble, but religious. Moreover Felix, once
bishop of the same Apostolic see, a man of great honour in Christ and
in the Church, was his forefather, Nor did he show his nobility in
religion by less strength of devotion than his parents and kindred. But
that nobility of this world which was seen in him, by the help of the
Divine Grace, he used only to gain the glory of eternal dignity; for
soon quitting his secular habit, he entered a monastery, wherein he
began to live with so much grace of perfection that (as he was wont
afterwards with tears to testify) his mind was above all transitory
things; that he rose superior to all that is subject to change; that he
used to think of nothing but what was heavenly; that, whilst detained
by the body, he broke through the bonds of the flesh by contemplation;
and that he even loved death, which is a penalty to almost all men, as
the entrance into life, and the reward of his labours. This he used to
say of himself, not to boast of his progress in virtue, but rather to
bewail the falling off which he imagined he had sustained through his
pastoral charge. Indeed, once in a private conversation with his
deacon, Peter, after having enumerated the former virtues of his soul,
he added sorrowfully, “But now, on account of the pastoral charge, it
is entangled with the affairs of laymen, and, after so fair an
appearance of inward peace, is defiled with the dust of earthly action.
And having wasted itself on outward things, by turning aside to the
affairs of many men, even when it desires the inward things, it returns
to them undoubtedly impaired. I therefore consider what I endure, I
consider what I have lost, and when I behold what I have thrown away;
that which I bear appears the more grievous.”
So spake the holy man constrained by his great humility. But it behoves
us to believe that he lost nothing of his monastic perfection by reason
of his pastoral charge, but rather that he gained greater profit
through the labour of converting many, than by the former calm of his
private life, and chiefly because, whilst holding the pontifical
office, he set about organizing his house like a monastery. And when
first drawn from the monastery, ordained to the ministry of the altar,
and sent to Constantinople as representative of the Apostolic see,
though he now took part in the secular affairs of the palace, yet he
did not abandon the fixed course of his heavenly life; for some of the
brethren of his monastery, who had followed him to the royal city in
their brotherly love, he employed for the better observance of monastic
rule, to the end that at all times, by their example, as he writes
himself, he might be held fast to the calm shore of prayer, as it were,
with the cable of an anchor, whilst he should be tossed up and down by
the ceaseless waves of worldly affairs; and daily in the intercourse of
studious reading with them, strengthen his mind shaken with temporal
concerns. By their company he was not only guarded against the assaults
of the world, but more and more roused to the exercises of a heavenly
For they persuaded him to interpret by a mystical exposition the book
of the blessed Job, which is involved in great obscurity; nor could he
refuse to undertake that work, which brotherly affection imposed on him
for the future benefit of many; but in a wonderful manner, in five and
thirty books of exposition, he taught how that same book is to be
understood literally; how to be referred to the mysteries of Christ and
the Church; and in what sense it is to be adapted to every one of the
faithful. This work he began as papal representative in the royal city,
but finished it at Rome after being made pope. Whilst he was still in
the royal city, by the help of the grace of Catholic truth, he crushed
in its first rise a new heresy which sprang up there, concerning the
state of our resurrection. For Eutychius, bishop of that city, taught,
that our body, in the glory of resurrection, would be impalpable, and
more subtle than wind and air. The blessed Gregory hearing this, proved
by force of truth, and by the instance of the Resurrection of our Lord,
that this doctrine was every way opposed to the orthodox faith. For the
Catholic faith holds that our body, raised by the glory of immortality,
is indeed rendered subtile by the effect of spiritual power, but is
palpable by the reality of nature; according to the example of our
Lord’s Body, concerning which, when risen from the dead, He Himself
says to His disciples, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh
and bones, as ye see Me have. In maintaining this faith, the venerable
Father Gregory so earnestly strove against the rising heresy, and with
the help of the most pious emperor, Tiberius Constantine, so fully
suppressed it, that none has been since found to revive it.
He likewise composed another notable book, the “Liber Pastoralis,”
wherein he clearly showed what sort of persons ought to be preferred to
rule the Church; how such rulers ought to live; with how much
discrimination they ought to instruct the different classes of their
hearers, and how seriously to reflect every day on their own frailty.
He also wrote forty homilies on the Gospel, which he divided equally
into two volumes; and composed four books of Dialogues, in which, at
the request of his deacon, Peter, he recounted the virtues of the more
renowned saints of Italy, whom he had either known or heard of, as a
pattern of life for posterity; to the end that, as he taught in his
books of Expositions what virtues men ought to strive after, so by
describing the miracles of saints, he might make known the glory of
those’ virtues. Further, in twenty-two homilies, he showed how much
light is latent in the first and last parts of the prophet Ezekiel,
which seemed the most obscure. Besides which, he wrote the “Book of
Answers,” to the questions of the holy Augustine, the first bishop of
the English nation, as we have shown above, inserting the same book
entire in this history; and the useful little “Synodical Book,” which
he composed with the bishops of Italy on necessary matters of the
Church; as well as private letters to certain persons. And it is the
more wonderful that he could write so many lengthy works, seeing that
almost all the time of his youth, to use his own words, he was
frequently tormented with internal pain, constantly enfeebled by the
weakness of his digestion, and oppressed by a low but persistent fever.
But in all these troubles, forasmuch as he carefully reflected that, as
the Scripture testifies, “He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth,”
the more severely he suffered under those present evils, the more he
assured himself of his eternal hope.
Thus much may be said of his immortal genius, which could not be
crushed by such severe bodily pains. Other popes applied themselves to
building churches or adorning them with gold and silver, but Gregory
was wholly intent upon gaining souls. Whatsoever money he had, he took
care to distribute diligently and give to the poor, that his
righteousness, might endure for ever, and his horn be exalted with
honour; so that the words of the blessed Job might be truly said of
him, “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw
me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and
the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him
that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart
to sing for, joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my
judgement was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet
was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I
knew not, I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and
plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” And a little after: “If I have
withheld,” says he, “the poor from their desire; or have caused the
eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and
the fatherless hath not eaten thereof: (for from my youth compassion
grew up with me, and from my mother’s womb it came forth with me.”)
To his works of piety and righteousness this also may be added, that he
saved our nation, by the preachers he sent hither, from the teeth of
the old enemy, and made it partaker of eternal liberty. Rejoicing in
the faith and salvation of our race, and worthily commending it with
praise, he says, in his exposition of the blessed Job, “Behold, the
tongue of Britain, which only knew how to utter barbarous cries, has
long since begun to raise the Hebrew Hallelujah to the praise of God!
Behold, the once swelling ocean now serves prostrate at the feet of the
saints; and its wild upheavals, which earthly princes could not subdue
with the sword, are now, through the fear of God, bound by the lips of
priests with words alone; and the heathen that stood not in awe of
troops of warriors, now believes and fears the tongues of the humble!
For he has received a message from on high and mighty works are
revealed; the strength of the knowledge of God is given him, and
restrained by the fear of the Lord, he dreads to do evil, and with all
his heart desires to attain to everlasting grace.” In which words the
blessed Gregory shows us this also, that St. Augustine and his
companions brought the English to receive the truth, not only by the
preaching of words, but also by showing forth heavenly signs.
The blessed Pope Gregory, among other things, caused Masses to be
celebrated in the churches of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, over
their bodies. And in the celebration of Masses, he added three
petitions of the utmost perfection: “And dispose our days in thy peace,
and bid us to be preserved from eternal damnation, and to be numbered
in the flock of thine elect.”
He governed the Church in the days of the Emperors Mauritius and
Phocas, and passing out of this life in the second year of the same
Phocas, departed to the true life which is in Heaven. His body was
buried in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter before the sacristy,
on the 12th day of March, to rise one day in the same body in glory
with the rest of the holy pastors of the Church. On his tomb was
written this epitaph:
Receive, Earth, his body taken from thine own; thou canst restore it,
when God calls to life. His spirit rises to the stars; the claims of
death shall not avail against him, for death itself is but the way to
new life. In this tomb are laid the limbs of a great pontiff, who yet
lives for ever in all places in countless deeds of mercy. Hunger and
cold he overcame with food and raiment, and shielded souls from the
enemy by his holy teaching. And whatsoever he taught in word, that he
fulfilled in deed, that he might be a pattern, even as he spake words
of mystic meaning. By his guiding love he brought the Angles to Christ,
gaining armies for the Faith from a new people. This was thy toil, thy
task, thy care, thy aim as shepherd, to offer to thy Lord abundant
increase of the flock. So, Consul of God, rejoice in this thy triumph,
for now thou hast the reward of thy works for evermore.
Nor must we pass by in silence the story of the blessed Gregory, handed
down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, which explains his
earnest care for the salvation of our nation. It is said that one day,
when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were
exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither
to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares
some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing
countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked,
it is said, from what region or country they were brought? and was
told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like
that in appearance. He again inquired whether those islanders were
Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was
informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the
bottom of his heart, “Alas! what pity,” said he, “that the author of
darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such
grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace. He
therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was
answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they
have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with
the Angels in heaven. What is the name of the province from which they
are brought?” It was replied, that the natives of that province were
called Deiri. (Note: Southern Northumbria) “Truly are they Deira,” said
he, “saved from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the
king of that called?” They told him his name was Aelli;’ and he,
playing upon the name, said, “Allelujah, the praise of God the Creator
must be sung in those parts.”
Then he went to the bishop of the Roman Apostolic see (for he was not
himself then made pope), and entreated him to send some ministers of
the Word into Britain to the nation of the English, that it might be
converted to Christ by them; declaring himself ready to carry out that
work with the help of God, if the Apostolic Pope should think fit to
have it done. But not being then able to perform this task, because,
though the Pope was willing to grant his request, yet the citizens of
Rome could not be brought to consent that he should depart so far from
the city, as soon as he was himself made Pope, he carried out the
long-desired work, sending, indeed, other preachers, but himself by his
exhortations and prayers helping the preaching to bear fruit. This
account, which we have received from a past generation, we have thought
fit to insert in our Ecclesiastical History.


IN the meantime, Augustine, with the help of King Ethelbert, drew
together to a conference the bishops and doctors of the nearest
province of the Britons, at a place which is to this day called, in the
English language, Augustine’s Ac, that is, Augustine’s Oak, on the
borders of the Hwiccas and West Saxons; and began by brotherly
admonitions to persuade them to preserve Catholic peace with him, and
undertake the common labour of preaching the Gospel to the heathen for
the Lord’s sake. For they did not keep Easter Sunday at the proper
time, but from the fourteenth to the twentieth moon; which computation
is contained in a cycle of eighty-four years. Besides, they did many
other things which were opposed to the unity of the church. When, after
a long disputation, they did not comply With the entreaties,
exhortations, or rebukes of Augustine and his companions, but preferred
their own traditions before all the Churches which are united in Christ
throughout the world, the holy father, Augustine, put an end to this
troublesome and tedious contention, saying, “Let us entreat God, who
maketh men to be of one mind in His Father’s house, to vouchsafe, by
signs from Heaven, to declare to us which tradition is to be followed;
and by what path we are to strive to enter His kingdom. Let some sick
man be brought, and let the faith and practice of him, by whose prayers
he shall be healed, be looked upon as hallowed in God’s sight and such
as should be adopted by all.” His adversaries unwillingly consenting, a
blind man of the English race was brought, who having been presented to
the British bishops, found no benefit or healing from their ministry;
at length, Augustine, compelled by strict necessity, bowed his knees to
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying that He would restore his
lost sight to the blind man, and by the bodily enlightenment of one
kindle the grace of spiritual light in the hearts of many of the
faithful. Immediately the blind man received sight, and Augustine was
proclaimed by all to be a true herald of the light from Heaven. The
Britons then confessed that they perceived that it was the true way of
righteousness which Augustine taught; but that they could not depart
from their ancient customs without the consent and sanction of their
people. They therefore desired that a second time a synod might be
appointed, at which more of their number should be present.
This being decreed, there came, it is said, seven bishops of the
Britons, and many men of great learning, particularly from their most
celebrated monastery, which is called, in the English tongue,
Bancornaburg, and over which the Abbot Dinoot is said to have presided
at that time. They that were to go to the aforesaid council, be-took
themselves first to a certain holy and discreet man, who was wont to
lead the life of a hermit among them, to consult with him, whether they
ought, at the preaching of Augustine, to forsake their traditions. He
answered, “If he is a man of God, follow him.”– “How shall we know
that?” said they. He replied, “Our Lord saith, Take My yoke upon you,
and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; if therefore,
Augustine is meek and lowly of heart, it is to be believed that he
bears the yoke of Christ himself, and offers it to you to bear. But, if
he is harsh and proud, it is plain that he is not of God, nor are we to
regard his words.” They said again, “And how shall we discern even
this?” – “Do you contrive,” said the anchorite, “that he first arrive
with his company at the place where the synod is to be held; and if at
your approach he rises tip to you, hear him submissively, being assured
that he is the servant of Christ; but if he despises you, and does not
rise up to you, whereas you are more in number, let him also be
despised by you.”
They did as he directed; and it happened, that as they approached,
Augustine was sitting on a chair. When they perceived it, they were
angry, and charging him with pride, set themselves to contradict all he
said. He said to them, “Many things ye do which are contrary to our
custom, or rather the custom of the universal Church, and yet, if you
will comply with me in these three matters, to wit, to keep Easter at
the due time; to fulfil the ministry of Baptism, by which we are born
again to God, according to the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic
Church; and to join with us in preaching the Word of God to the English
nation, we will gladly suffer all the other things you do, though
contrary to our customs.” They answered that they would do none of
those things, nor receive him as their archbishop; for they said among
themselves, “if he would not rise up to us now, how much more will he
despise us, as of no account, if we begin to be under his subjection?”
Then the man of God, Augustine, is said to have threatened them, that
if they would not accept peace with their brethren, they should have
war from their enemies; and, if they would not preach the way of life
to the English nation, they should suffer at their hands the vengeance
of death. All which, through the dispensation of the Divine judgement,
fell out exactly as he had predicted.
For afterwards the warlike king of the English, Ethelfrid, of whom we
have spoken, having raised a mighty army, made a very great slaughter
of that heretical nation, at the city of Legions, (Chester) which by
the English is called Legacaestir, but by the Britons more rightly
Car-legion. Being about to give battle, he observed their priests, who
were come together to offer up their prayers to God for the combatants,
standing apart in a place of greater safety; he inquired who they were,
and what they came together to do in that place. Most of them were of
the monastery of Bangor, in which, it is said, there was so great a
number of monks, that the monastery being divided into seven parts,
with a superior set over each, none of those parts contained less than
three hundred men, who all lived by the labour of their hands. Many of
these, having observed a fast of three days,. had come together along
with others to pray at the aforesaid battle, having one Brocmail for
their protector, to defend them, whilst they were intent upon their
prayers, against the swords of the barbarians. King Ethelfrid being
informed of the occasion of their coming, said; “If then they cry to
their God against us, in truth, though they do not bear arms, yet they
fight against us, because they assail us with their curses.” He,
therefore, commanded them to be attacked first, and then destroyed the
rest of the impious army, not without great loss of his own forces.
About twelve hundred of those that came to pray are said to have been
killed, and only fifty to have escaped by flight. Brocmail, turning his
back with his men, at the first approach of the enemy, left those whom
he ought to have defended unarmed and exposed to the swords of the
assailants. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of the holy Bishop
Augustine, though he himself had been long before taken up into the
heavenly kingdom, that the heretics should feel the vengeance of
temporal death also, because they had despised the offer of eternal


IN the year of our Lord 604, Augustine, Archbishop of Britain, ordained
two bishops, to wit, Mellitus and Justus; Mellitus to preach to the
province of the East Saxons, who are divided from Kent by the river
Thames, and border on the Eastern sea. Their metropolis is the city of
London, which is situated on the bank of the aforesaid river, and is
the mart of many nations resorting to it by sea and land. At that time,
Sabert, nephew to Ethelbert through his sister Ricula, reigned over the
nation, though he was under subjection to Ethelbert, who, as has been
said above, had command over all the nations of the English as far as
the river Humber. But when this province also received the word of
truth, by the preaching of Mellitus, King Ethelbert built the church of
St. Paul the Apostle, in the city of London, where he and his
successors should have their episcopal see. As for Justus, Augustine
ordained him bishop in Kent, at thc city of Dorubrevis, which the
English call Hrofaescaestrae, from one that was formerly the chief man
of it, called Hrof. It is about twenty-four miles distant from the city
of Canterbury to the westward, and in it King Ethelbert dedicated a
church to the blessed Apostle Andrew, and bestowed many gifts on the
bishops of both those churches, as well as on the Bishop of Canterbury,
adding lands and possessions for the use of those who were associated
with the bishops.
After this, the beloved of God, our father Augustine, died, and his
body was laid outside, close by the church of the blessed Apostles,
Peter and Paul, above spoken of, because it was not yet finished, nor
consecrated, but as soon as it was consecrated, the body was brought
in, and fittingly buried in the north chapel a thereof; wherein also
were interred the bodies of all the succeeding archbishops, except two
only, Theodore and Bertwald, whose bodies are in the church itself,
because the aforesaid chapel could contain no more.’ Almost in the
midst of this chapel is an altar dedicated in honour of the blessed
Pope Gregory, at which every Saturday memorial Masses are celebrated
for the archbishops by a priest of that place. On the tomb of Augustine
is inscribed this epitaph:
“Here rests the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, who,
being of old sent hither by the blessed Gregory, Bishop of the city of
Rome, and supported by God in the working of miracles, led King
Ethelbert and his nation from the worship of idols to the faith of
Christ, and having ended the days of his office in peace, died the 26th
day of May, in the reign of the same king”


LAURENTIUS succeeded Augustine in the bishopric, having been ordained
thereto by the latter, in his lifetime, lest, upon his death, the
Church, as yet in so unsettled a state, might begin to falter, if it
should be destitute of a pastor, though but for one hour. Wherein he
also followed the example of the first pastor of the Church, that is,
of the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, who, having founded
the Church of Christ at Rome, is said to have consecrated Clement to
help him in preaching the Gospel, and at the same time to be his
successor. Laurentius, being advanced to the rank of archbishop,
laboured indefatigably, both by frequent words of holy exhortation and
constant example of good works to strengthen the foundations of the
Church, which had been so nobly laid, and to carry it on to the fitting
height of perfection. In short, he not only took charge of the new
Church formed among the English, but endeavoured also to bestow his
pastoral care upon the tribes of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, as
also of the Scots, who inhabit the island of Ireland, which is next to
Britain. For when he understood that the life and profession of the
Scots in their aforesaid country, as well as of the Britons in Britain,
was not truly in accordance with the practice of the Church in many
matters, especially that they did not celebrate the festival of Easter
at the due time, but thought that the day of the Resurrection of our
Lord ought, as has been said above, to be observed between the 14th and
20th of the moon; he wrote, jointly with his fellow bishops, a
hortatory epistle, entreating and conjuring them to keep the unity of
peace and Catholic observance with the Church of Christ spread
throughout the world. The beginning of which epistle is as follows:
“To our most dear brethren, the Lords Bishops and Abbots throughout all
the country of the Scots,’ Laurentius, Mellitus, and Justus, Bishops,
servants of the servants of God. When the Apostolic see, according to
the universal custom which it has followed elsewhere, sent us to these
western parts to preach to pagan nations, and it was our lot to come
into this island, which is called Britain, before we knew them, we held
both the Britons and Scots in great esteem for sanctity, believing that
they walked according to the custom of the universal Church; but
becoming acquainted with the Britons, we thought that the Scots had
been better. Now we have learnt from Bishop Dagan, who came into this
aforesaid island, and the Abbot Columban, (Note: The most famous of the
great Irish missionaries who laboured on the Continent. He was born in
Leinster about 540, went to Gaul about 574, founded three monasteries
(Annegray, Luxeuil, and Fontaines), worked for twenty years among the
Franks and Burgundians, afterwards among the Suevi and Alemanni, and
finally in Italy, where he founded a monastery at Bobbio and died there
in 615. He was a vigorous supporter of the Celtic usages and an active
opponent of Arianism. He instituted a monastic rule of great severity.)
in Gaul, that the Scots in no way differ from the Britons in their
walk; for when Bishop Dagan came to us, not only did he refuse to eat
at the same table, but even to eat in the same house where we were
Also Laurentius with his fellow bishops wrote a letter to the bishops
of the Britons, suitable to his degree, by which he endeavoured to
confirm them in Catholic unity; but what he gained by so doing the
present times still show.
About this time, Mellitus, bishop of London, went to Rome, to confer
with the Apostolic Pope Boniface about the necessary affairs of the
English Church. And the same most reverend pope, assembling a synod of
the bishops of Italy, to prescribe rules for the life and peace of the
monks, Mellitus also sat among them, in the eighth year of the reign of
the Emperor Phocas, the thirteenth incliction, on the 27th of February,
to the end that he also might sign and confirm by his authority
whatsoever should be regularly decreed, and on his return into Britain
might carry the decrees to the Churches of the English, to be committed
to them and observed; together with letters which the same pope sent to
the beloved of God, Archbishop Laurentius, and to all the clergy; as
likewise to King Ethelbert and the English nation. This pope was
Boniface, the fourth after the blessed Gregory, bishop of the city of
Rome. He obtained for the Church of Christ from the Emperor Phocas the
gift of the temple at Rome called by the ancients Pantheon, as
representing all the gods; wherein he, having purified, it from all
defilement, dedicated a church to the holy Mother of God, and to all
Christ’s martyrs, to the end that, the company of devils being
expelled, the blessed company of the saints might have therein a
perpetual memorial.


IN the year of our Lord 616, which is the twenty-first year after
Augustine and his company were sent to preach to the English nation,
Ethelbert, king of Kent, having most gloriously governed his temporal
kingdom fifty-six years, entered into the eternal joys of the kingdom
of Heaven. He was the third of the English kings who ruled over all the
southern provinces that are divided from the northern by the river
Humber and the borders contiguous to it; but the first of all that
ascended to the heavenly kingdom. The first who had the like
sovereignty was Aelli, king of the South-Saxons; the second, Caelin,
king of the West-Saxons, who, in their own language, is called Ceaulin;
the third, as has been said, was Ethelbert, king of Kent; the fourth
was Redwald, king of the East-Angles, who, even in the life-time of
Ethelbert, had been acquiring the leadership for his own race. The
fifth was Edwin, king of the Northumbrian nation, that is, of those who
live in the district to the north of the river H umber; his power was
greater; he had the overlordship over all the nations who inhabit
Britain, both English and British, except only the people of Kent; and
he reduced also under the dominion of the English, the Mevanian Islands
of the Britons, lying between Ireland and Britain; the sixth was
Oswald, the most Christian king of the Northumbrians, whose kingdom was
within the same bounds; the seventh, his brother Oswy, ruled over a
kingdom of like extent for a time, and for the most part subdued and
made tributary the nations of the Picts and Scots, who occupy the
northern parts of Britain: but of that hereafter.
King Ethelbert died on the 24th day of the month of February,
twenty-one years after he had received the faith, and was buried in St.
Martin’s chapel within the church of the blessed Apostles Peter and
Paul, where also lies his queen, Bertha. Among other benefits which he
conferred upon his nation in his care for them, he established, with
the help of his council of wise men, judicial decisions, after the
Roman model; which are written in the language of the English, and are
still kept and observed by them. Among which, he set down first what
satisfaction should be given by any one who should steal anything
belonging to the Church, the bishop, or the other clergy, for he was
resolved to give protection to those whom he had received along with
their doctrine.
This Ethelbert was the son of Irminric, whose father was Octa, whose
father was Oeric, surnamed Oisc, from whom the kings of Kent are wont
to be called Oiscings. His father was Hengist, who, being invited by
Vortigern, first came into Britain, with his son Oisc, as has been said
But after the death of Ethelbert, the accession of his son Eadbald
proved very harmful to the still tender growth of the new Church; for
he not only refused to accept the faith of Christ, but was also defiled
with such fornication, as the Apostle testifies, as is not so much as
named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. By
both which crimes he gave occasion to those to return to their former
uncleanness, who, under his father, had, either for favour or fear of
the king, submitted to the laws of the faith and of a pure life. Nor
did the unbelieving king escape without the scourge of Divine severity
in chastisement and correction; for he was troubled with frequent fits
of madness, and possessed by an unclean spirit. The storm of this
disturbance was increased by the death of Sabert, king of the East
Saxons, who departing to the heavenly kingdom, left three sons, still
pagans, to inherit his temporal crown. They immediately began openly to
give themselves up to idolatry, which, during their father’s lifetime,
they had seemed somewhat to abandon, and they granted free licence to
their subjects to serve idols. And when they saw the bishop, whilst
celebrating Mass in the church, give the Eucharist to the people,
filled, as they were, with folly and ignorance, they said to him, as is
commonly reported, “Why do you not give us also that white bread, which
you used to give to our father Saba (for so they were wont to call
him), and which you still continue to give to the people in the
church?” To whom he answered, “If you will be washed in that font of
salvation, in which your father was washed, you may also partake of the
holy Bread of which he partook; but if you despise the laver of life,
you can in no wise receive the Bread of life.” They replied, “We will
not enter into that font, because we know that we do not stand in need
of it, and yet we will be refreshed by that bread.” And being often
earnestly admonished by him, that this could by no means be done, nor
would any one be admitted to partake of the sacred Oblation without the
holy cleansing, at last, they said, filled with rage, “If you will not
comply with us in so small a matter as that which we require, you shall
not stay in our province.” And they drove him out and bade him and his
company depart from their kingdom. Being driven thence, he came into
Kent, to take counsel with his fellow bishops, Laurentius and Justus,
and learn what was to be done in that case; and with one consent they
determined that it was better for them all to return to their own
country, where they might serve God in freedom of mind, than to
continue to no purpose among barbarians, who had revolted from the
faith. Mellitus and Justus accordingly went away first, and withdrew
into the parts of Gaul, intending there to await the event. But the
kings, who had driven from them the herald of the truth, did not
continue long unpunished in their worship of devils. For marching out
to battle against the nation of the Gewissi, they were all slain with
their army. Nevertheless, the people having been once turned to
wickedness, though the authors of it were destroyed, would not be
corrected, nor return to the unity of faith and charity which is in


LAURENTIUS, being about to follow Mellitus and Justus, and to quit
Britain, ordered his bed to be laid that night in the church of the
blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, which has been often mentioned
before; wherein having laid himself to rest, after he had with tears
poured forth many prayers to God for the state of the Church, he fell
asleep; in the dead of night, the blessed chief of the Apostles
appeared to him, and scourging him grievously a long time, asked of him
with apostolic severity, why he was forsaking the flock which he had
committed to him? or to what shepherd he was leaving, by his flight,
Christ’s sheep that were in the midst of wolves? “Hast thou,” he said,
“forgotten my example, who, for the sake of those little ones, whom
Christ commended to me in token of His affection, underwent at the
hands of infidels and enemies of Christ, bonds, stripes, imprisonment,
afflictions, and lastly, death itself, even the death of the cross,
that I might at last be crowned with Him?” Laurentius, the servant of
Christ, roused by the scourging of the blessed Peter and his words of
exhortation, went to the king as soon as morning broke, and laying
aside his garment, showed the scars of the stripes which he had
received. The king, astonished, asked who had presumed to inflict such
stripes on so great a man. And when he heard that for the sake of his
salvation the bishop had suffered these cruel blows at the hands of the
Apostle of Christ, he was greatly afraid; and abjuring the worship of
idols, and renouncing his unlawful marriage, he received the faith of
Christ, and being baptized, promoted and supported the interests of the
Church to the utmost of his power.
He also sent over into Gaul, and recalled Mellitus and Justus, and bade
them return to govern their churches in freedom. They came back one
year after their departure, and Justus returned to the city of
Rochester, where he had before presided; but the people of London would
not receive Bishop Mellitus, choosing rather to be under their
idolatrous high priests; for King Eadbald had not so much authority in
the kingdom as his father, and was not able to restore the bishop to
his church against the will and consent of the pagans. But he and his
nation, after his conversion to the Lord, sought to obey the
commandments of God. Lastly, he built the church of the holy Mother of
God, in the monastery of the most blessed chief of the Apostles, which
was afterwards consecrated by Archbishop Mellitus.


IN this king’s reign, the blessed Archbishop Laurentius was taken up to
the heavenly kingdom: he was buried in the church and monastery of the
holy Apostle Peter, close by his predecessor Augustine, on the 2nd day
of the month of February. Mellitus, who was bishop of London, succeeded
to the see of Canterbury, being the third archbishop from Augustine;
Justus, who was still living, governed the church of Rochester. These
ruled the Church of the English with much care and industry, and
received letters of exhortation from Boniface, bishop of the Roman
Apostolic see, who presided over the Church after Deusdedit, in the
year of our Lord 619. Mellitus laboured under the bodily infirmity of
gout, but his mind was sound and active, cheerfully passing over all
earthly things, and always aspiring to love, seek, and attain to those
which are celestial. He was noble by birth, but still nobler by the
elevation of his mind.
In short, that I may give one instance of his power, from which the
rest may be inferred, it happened once that the city of Canterbury,
being set on fire through carelessness, was in danger of being consumed
by the spreading conflagration; water was thrown on the fire in vain; a
considerable part of the city was already destroyed, and the fierce
flames were advancing towards the bishop’s abode, when he, trusting in
God, where human help failed, ordered himself to be carried towards the
raging masses of fire which were spreading on every side. The church of
the four crowned Martyrs was in the place where the fire raged most
fiercely. The bishop, being carried thither by his servants, weak as he
was, set about averting by prayer the danger which the strong hands of
active men had not been able to overcome with all their exertions.
Immediately the wind, which blowing from the south had spread the
conflagration throughout the city, veered to the north, and thus
prevented the destruction of those places that had been exposed to its
full violence, then it ceased entirely and there was a calm, while the
flames likewise sank and were extinguished. And because the man of God
burned with the fire of divine love, and was wont to drive away the
storms of the powers of the air, by his frequent prayers and at his
bidding, from doing harm to himself, or his people, it was meet that he
should be allowed to prevail over the winds and flames of this world,
and to obtain that they should not injure him or his.
This archbishop also, having ruled the church five years, departed to
heaven in the reign of King Eadbald, and was buried with his fathers in
the monastery and church, which we have so often mentioned, of the most
blessed chief of the Apostles, in the year of our Lord 624, on the 24th
day of April.

CHAP. VIII.[624 A.D.]

JUSTUS, bishop of the church of Rochester, immediately succeeded
Mellitus in the archbishopric. He consecrated Romanus bishop of that
see in his own stead, having obtained authority to ordain bishops from
Pope Boniface, whom we mentioned above as successor to Deusdedit: of
which licence this is the form:
“Boniface, to his most beloved brother Justus. We have learnt not only
from the contents of your letter addressed to us, but from the
fulfilment granted to your work, how faithfully and vigilantly you have
laboured, my brother, for the Gospel of Christ; for Almighty God has
not forsaken either the mystery of His Name, or the fruit of your
labours, having Himself faithfully promised to the preachers of the
Gospel, ‘Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’;
which promise His mercy has particularly manifested in this ministry
imposed upon you, opening the hearts of the nations to receive the
wondrous mystery of your preaching. For He has blessed with a rich
reward your Eminence’s acceptable course, by the support of His loving
kindness; granting a plentiful increase to your labours in the faithful
management of the talents committed to you, and bestowing it on that
which you might confirm to many generations. This is conferred on you
by that recompense whereby, constantly persevering in the ministry
imposed upon you, you have awaited with praiseworthy patience the
redemption of that nation, and that they might profit by your merits,
salvation has been bestowed on them. For our Lord Himself says, ‘He
that endureth to the end shall be saved.” You are, therefore, saved by
the hope of patience, and the virtue of endurance, to the end that the
hearts of unbelievers, being cleansed from their natural disease of
superstition, might obtain the mercy of their Saviour: for having
received letters from our son Adulwald, we perceive with how much
knowledge of the Sacred Word you, my brother, have brought his mind to
the belief in true conversion and the certainty of the faith.
Therefore, firmly confiding in the long-suffering of the Divine
clemency, we believe that, through the ministry of your preaching,
there will ensue most full salvation not only of the nations subject to
him, but also of their neighbours; to the end, that as it is written,
the recompense of a perfect work may be conferred on you by the Lord,
the Rewarder of all the just; and that the universal confession of all
nations, having received the mystery of the Christian faith, may
declare, that in truth ‘Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and
their words unto the end of the world.’
“We have also, my brother, moved by the warmth of our goodwill, sent
you by the bearer of these presents, the pall, giving you authority to
use it only in the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries; granting to you
likewise to ordain bishops when there shall be occasion, through the
Lord’s mercy; that so the Gospel of Christ, by the preaching of many,
may be spread abroad in all the nations that are not yet converted. You
must, therefore, endeavour, my brother, to preserve with unblemished
sincerity of mind that which you have received through the kindness of
the Apostolic see, bearing in mind what it is that is represented by
the honourable vestment which you have obtained to be borne on your
shoulders. And imploring the Divine mercy, study to show yourself such
that you may present before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge that is
to come, the rewards of the favour granted to you, not with guiltiness,
but with the benefit of souls. “God preserve you in safety, most dear


AT this time the nation of the Northumbrians, that is, the English
tribe dwelling on the north side of the river Humber, with their king,
Edwin, received the Word of faith through the preaching of Paulinus, of
whom we have before spoken. This king, as an earnest of his reception
of the faith, and his share in the heavenly kingdom, received an
increase also of his temporal realm, for he reduced under his dominion
all the parts of Britain that were provinces either of the English, or
of the Britons, a thing which no English king had ever done before; and
he even subjected to the English the Mevanian islands, as has been said
above. The more important of these, which is to the southward, is the
larger in extent, and more fruitful, containing nine hundred and sixty
families, according to the English computation; the other contains
above three hundred.
The occasion of this nation’s reception of the faith was the alliance
by marriage of their aforesaid king with the kings of Kent, for he had
taken to wife Ethelberg, otherwise called Tata, (a term of endearment)
daughter to King Ethelbert. When he first sent ambassadors to ask her
in marriage of her brother Eadbald, who then reigned in Kent, he
received the answer, “That it was not lawful to give a Christian maiden
in marriage to a pagan husband, lest the faith and the mysteries of the
heavenly King should be profaned by her union with a king that was
altogether a stranger to the worship of the true God.” This answer
being brought to Edwin by his messengers, he promised that he would in
no manner act in opposition to the Christian faith, which the maiden
professed; but would give leave to her, and all that went with her, men
and women, bishops and clergy, to follow their faith and worship after
the custom of the Christians. Nor did he refuse to accept that religion
himself, if, being examined by wise men, it should be found more holy
and more worthy of God.
So the maiden was promised, and sent to Edwin, and in accordance with
the agreement, Paulinus, a man beloved of God, was ordained bishop, to
go with her, and by daily exhortations, and celebrating the heavenly
Mysteries, to confirm her, and her company, lest they should be
corrupted by intercourse with the pagans. Paulinus was ordained bishop
by the Archbishop Justus, on the 21st day of July, in the year of our
Lord 625, and so came to King Edwin with the aforesaid maiden as an
attendant on their union in the flesh. But his mind was wholly bent
upon calling the nation to which he was sent to the knowledge of truth;
according to the words of the Apostle, “To espouse her to the one true
Husband, that he might present her as a chaste virgin to Christ.”‘
Being come into that province, he laboured much, not only to retain
those that went with him, by the help of God, that they should not
abandon the faith, but, if haply he might, to convert some of the
pagans to the grace of the faith by his preaching. But, as the Apostle
says, though he laboured long in the Word, “The god of this world
blinded the minds of them that believed not, lest the light of the
glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”
The next year there came into the province one called Eumer, sent by
the king of the West-Saxons, whose name was Cuichelm, to lie in wait
for King Edwin, in hopes at once to deprive him of his kingdom and his
life. He had a two-edged dagger, dipped in poison, to the end that, if
the wound inflicted by the weapon did not avail to kill the king, it
might be aided by the deadly venom. He came to the king on the first
day of the Easter festival,’ at the river Derwent, where there was then
a royal township, and being admitted as if to deliver a message from
his master, whilst unfolding in cunning words his pretended embassy, he
startled up on a sudden, and unsheathing the dagger under his garment,
assaulted the king. When Lilla, the king’s most devoted servant, saw
this, having no buckler at hand to protect the king from death, he at
once interposed his own body to receive the blow; but the enemy struck
home with such force, that he wounded the king through the body of the
slaughtered thegn. Being then attacked on all sides with swords, in the
confusion he also slew impiously with his dagger another of the thegns,
whose name was Forthhere.
On that same holy Easter night, the queen had brought forth to the king
a daughter, called Eanfled. The king, in the presence of Bishop
Paulinus, gave thanks to his gods for the birth of his daughter; and
the bishop, on his part, began to give thanks to Christ, and to tell
the king, that by his prayers to Him he had obtained that the queen
should bring forth the child in safety, and without grievous pain. The
king, delighted with his words, promised, that if God would grant him
life and victory over the king by whom the murderer who had wounded him
had been sent, he would renounce his idols, and serve Christ; and as a
pledge that he would perform his promise, he delivered up that same
daughter to Bishop Paulinus, to be consecrated to Christ. She was the
first to be baptized of the nation of the Northumbrians, and she
received Baptism on the holy day of Pentecost, along with eleven others
of her house. At that time, the king, being recovered of the wound
which he had received, raised an army and marched against the nation of
the West-Saxons; and engaging in war, either slew or received in
surrender all those of whom he learned that they had conspired to
murder him. So he returned victorious into his own country, but he
would not immediately and unadvisedly embrace the mysteries of the
Christian faith, though he no longer worshipped idols, ever since he
made the promise that he would serve Christ; but first took heed
earnestly to be instructed at leisure by the venerable Paulinus, in the
knowledge of faith, and to confer with such as he knew to be the wisest
of his chief men, inquiring what they thought was fittest to be done in
that case. And being a man of great natural sagacity, he often sat
alone by himself a long time in silence, deliberating in the depths of
his heart how he should proceed, and to which religion he should


AT this time he received a letter from Pope Boniface exhorting him to
embrace the faith, which was as follows:
“To the illustrious Edwin, king of the English, Bishop Boniface, the
servant of the servants of God. Although the power of the Supreme Deity
cannot be expressed by the function of human speech, seeing that, by
its own greatness, it so consists in invisible and unsearchable
eternity, that no keenness of wit can comprehend or express how great
it is; yet inasmuch as His Humanity, having opened the doors of the
heart to receive Himself, mercifully, by secret inspiration, puts into
the minds of men such things as It reveals concerning Itself, we have
thought fit to extend our episcopal care so far as to make known to you
the fulness of the Christian faith; to the end that, bringing to your
knowledge the Gospel of Christ, which our Saviour commanded should be
preached to all nations, we might offer to you the cup of the means of
“Thus the goodness of the Supreme Majesty, which, by the word alone of
His command, made and created all things, the heaven, the earth, the
sea, and all that in them is, disposing the order by which they should
subsist, hath, ordaining all things, with the counsel of His co-eternal
Word, and the unity of the Holy Spirit, made man after His own image
and likeness, forming him out of the mire of the earth; and granted him
such high privilege of distinction, as to place him above all else; so
that, preserving the bounds of the law of his being, his substance
should be established to eternity. This God,–Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, the undivided Trinity,–from the east unto the west, through
faith by confession to the saving of their souls, men worship and adore
as the Creator of all things, and their own Maker; to Whom also the
heights of empire and the powers of the world are subject, because the
pre-eminence of all kingdoms is granted by His disposition. It hath
pleased Him, therefore, in the mercy of His loving kindness, and for
the greater benefit of all His creatures, by the fire of His Holy
Spirit wonderfully to kindle the cold hearts even of the nations seated
at the extremities of the earth in the knowledge of Himself.
“For we suppose, since the two countries are near together, that your
Highness has fully understood what the clemency of our Redeemer has
effected in the enlightenment of our illustrious son, King Eadbald, and
the nations under his rule; we therefore trust, with assured confidence
that, through the long-suffering of Heaven, His wonderful gift will be
also conferred on you; since, indeed, we have learnt that your
illustrious consort, who is discerned to be one flesh with you, has
been blessed with the reward of eternity, through the regeneration of
Holy Baptism. We have, therefore, taken care by this letter, with all
the goodwill of heartfelt love, to exhort your Highness, that,
abhorring idols and their worship, and despising the foolishness of
temples, and the deceitful flatteries of auguries, you believe in God
the Father Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, to
the end that, believing and being released from the bonds of captivity
to the Devil, you may, through the co-operating power of the Holy and
undivided Trinity, be partaker of the eternal life.
“How great guilt they lie tinder, who adhere in their worship to the
pernicious superstition of idolatry, appears by the examples of the
perishing of those whom they worship. Wherefore it is said of them by
the Psalmist, ‘All the gods of the nations are devils,’ but the Lord
made the heavens.’ And again, ‘Eyes have they, but they see not; they
have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they
have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not.
Therefore they are made like unto those that place the hope of their
confidence in them.’ For how can they have power to help any man, that
are made out of corruptible matter, by the hands of your inferiors and
subjects, and on which, by employing human art, you have bestowed a
lifeless similitude of members? which, moreover, unless they be moved
by you, will not be able to walk; but, like a stone fixed in one place,
being so formed, and having no understanding, sunk in insensibility,
have no power of doing harm or good. We cannot, therefore, by any
manner of discernment conceive how you come to be so deceived as to
follow and worship those gods, to whom you yourselves have given the
likeness of a body.
“It behoves you, therefore, by taking upon you the sign of the Holy
Cross, by which the human race has been redeemed, to root out of your
hearts all the accursed deceitfulness of the snares of the Devil, who
is ever the jealous foe of the works of the Divine Goodness, and to put
forth your hands and with all your might set to work to break in pieces
and destroy those which you have hitherto fashioned of wood or stone to
be your gods. For the very destruction and decay of these, which never
had the breath of life in them, nor could in any wise receive feeling
from their makers, may plainly teach you how worthless that was which
you hitherto worshipped. For you yourselves, who have received the
breath of life from the Lord, are certainly better than these which are
wrought with hands, seeing that Almighty God has appointed you to be
descended, after many ages and through many generations, from the first
man whom he formed. Draw near, then, to the knowledge of Him Who
created you, Who breathed the breath of life into you, Who sent His
only-begotten Son for your redemption, to save you from original sin,
that being delivered from the power of the Devil’s perversity and
wickedness, He might bestow on you a heavenly reward.
Hearken to the words of the preachers, and the Gospel of God, which
they declare to you, to the end that, believing, as has been said
before more than once, in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ
His Son, and the Holy Ghost, and the indivisible Trinity, having put to
flight the thoughts of devils, and driven from you the temptations of
the venomous and deceitful enemy, and being born again of water and the
Holy Ghost, you may, through the aid of His bounty, dwell in the
brightness of eternal glory with Him in Whom you shall have believed.
We have, moreover, sent you the blessing of your protector, the blessed
Peter, chief of the Apostles, to wit, a shirt of proof with one gold
ornament, and one cloak of Ancyra, which we pray your Highness to
accept with all the goodwill with which it is sent by us.”


[Circ. 625 A.D.]
THE same pope also wrote to King Edwin’s consort, Ethelberg, to this
“To the illustrious lady his daughter, Queen Ethelberg, Boniface,
bishop, servant of the servants of God. The goodness of our Redeemer
has in His abundant Providence offered the means of salvation to the
human race, which He rescued, by the shedding of His precious Blood,
from the bonds of captivity to the Devil; to the end that, when He had
made known His name in divers ways to the nations, they might
acknowledge their Creator by embracing the mystery of the Christian
faith. And this the mystical purification of your regeneration plainly
shows to have been bestowed upon the mind of your Highness by God’s
gift. Our heart, therefore, has greatly rejoiced in the benefit
bestowed by the bounty of the Lord, for that He has vouchsafed, in your
confession, to kindle a spark of the orthodox religion, by which He
might the more easily inflame with the love of Himself the
understanding, not only of your illustrious consort, but also of all
the nation that is subject to you.
“For we have been informed by those, who came to acquaint us with the
laudable conversion of our illustrious son, King Eadbald, that your
Highness, also, having received the wonderful mystery of the Christian
faith, continually excels in the performance of works pious and
acceptable to God; that you likewise carefully refrain from the worship
of idols, and the deceits of temples and auguries, and with unimpaired
devotion, give yourself so wholly to the love of your Redeemer, as
never to cease from lending your aid in spreading the Christian faith.
But when our fatherly love earnestly inquired concerning your
illustrious consort, we were given to understand, that he still served
abominable idols, and delayed to yield obedience in giving ear to the
voice of the preachers. This occasioned us no small grief, that he that
is one flesh with you still remained a stranger to the knowledge of the
supreme and undivided Trinity. Whereupon we, in our fatherly care, have
not delayed to admonish and exhort your Christian Highness, to the end
that, filled with the support of the Divine inspiration, you should not
defer to strive, both in season and out of season, that with the
co-operating power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, your husband
also may be added to the number of Christians; that so you may uphold
the rights of marriage in the bond of a holy and unblemished union. For
it is written, ‘They twain shall be one flesh.’ How then can it be
said, that there is unity in the bond between you, if he continues a
stranger to the brightness of your faith, separated from it by the
darkness of detestable error?
“Wherefore, applying yourself continually to prayer, do not cease to
beg of the long-suffering of the Divine Mercy the benefits of his
illumination; to the end, that those whom the union of carnal affection
has manifestly made in a manner to be one body, may, after this life
continue in perpetual fellowship, by the unity of faith. Persist,
therefore, illustrious daughter, and to the utmost of your power
endeavour to soften the hardness of his heart by carefully making known
to him the Divine precepts; pouring into his mind a knowledge of the
greatness of that mystery which you have received by faith, and of the
marvellous reward which, by the new birth, you have been made worthy to
obtain. Inflame the coldness of his heart by the message of the Holy
Ghost, that he may put from him the deadness of an evil worship, and
the warmth of the Divine faith may kindle his understanding through
your frequent exhortations; and so the testimony of Holy Scripture may
shine forth clearly, fulfilled by you, ‘The unbelieving husband shall
be saved by the believing wife.’ For to this end you have obtained the
mercy of the Lord’s goodness, that you might restore with increase to
your Redeemer the fruit of faith and of the benefits entrusted to your
hands. That you may be able to fulfil this task, supported by the help
of His loving kindness we do not cease to implore with frequent
“Having premised thus much, in pursuance of the duty of our fatherly
affection, we exhort you, that when the opportunity of a bearer shall
offer, you will with all speed comfort us with the glad tidings of the
wonderful work which the heavenly Power shall vouchsafe to perform by
your means in the conversion of your consort, and of the nation subject
to you; to the end, that our solicitude, which earnestly awaits the
fulfilment of its desire in the soul’s salvation of you and yours, may,
by hearing from you, be set at rest; and that we, discerning more fully
the light of the Divine propitiation shed abroad in you, may with a
joyful confession abundantly return due thanks to God, the Giver of all
good things, and to the blessed Peter, the chief of the Apostles.
We have, moreover, sent you the blessing of your protector, the blessed
Peter, the chief of the Apostles, to wit, a silver looking-glass, and a
gilded ivory comb, which we pray your Highness to accept with all the
goodwill with which it is sent by us.


THUS wrote the aforesaid Pope Boniface for the salvation of King Edwin
and his nation. But a heavenly vision, which the Divine Goodness was
pleased once to reveal to this king, when he was in banishment at the
court of Redwald, king of the Angles, was of no little use in urging
him to receive and understand the doctrines of salvation. For when
Paulinus perceived that it was a difficult task to incline the king’s
proud mind to the humility of the way of salvation and the reception of
the mystery of the life-giving Cross, and at the same time was
employing the word of exhortation with men, and prayer to the Divine
Goodness, for the salvation of Edwin and his subjects; at length, as we
may suppose, it was shown him in spirit what the nature of the vision
was that had been formerly revealed from Heaven to the king. Then he
lost no time, but immediately admonished the king to perform the vow
which he had made, when he received the vision, promising to fulfil it,
if he should be delivered from the troubles of that time, and advanced
to the throne.
The vision was this. When Ethelfrid, his predecessor, was persecuting
him, he wandered for many years as an exile, hiding in divers places
and kingdoms, and at last came to Redwald, beseeching him to give him
protection against the snares of his powerful persecutor. Redwald
willingly received him, and promised to perform ‘what was asked of him.
But when Ethelfrid understood that he had appeared in that province,
and that he and his companions were hospitably entertained by Redwald,
he sent messengers to bribe that king with a great sum of money to
murder him, but without effect. He sent a second and a third time,
offering a greater bribe each time, and, moreover, threatening to make
war on him if his offer should be despised. Redwald, whether terrified
by his threats, or won over by his gifts, complied with this request,
and promised either to kill Edwin, or to deliver him up to the envoys.
A faithful friend of his, hearing of this, went into his chamber, where
he was going to bed, for it was the first hour of the night; and
calling him out, told him what the king had promised to do with him,
adding, “If, therefore, you are willing, I will this very hour conduct
you out of this province, and lead you to a place where neither Redwald
nor Ethelfrid shall ever find you.” He answered, “I thank you for your
good will, yet I cannot do what you propose, and be guilty of being the
first to break the compact I have made with so great a king, when he
has done me no harm, nor shown any enmity to me; but, on the contrary,
if I must die, let it rather be by his hand than by that of any meaner
man. For whither shall I now fly, when I have for so many long years
been a vagabond through all the provinces of Britain, to escape the
snares of my enemies?” His friend went away; Edwin remained alone
without, and sitting with a heavy heart before the palace, began to be
overwhelmed with many thoughts, not knowing what to do, or which way to
When he had remained a long time in silent anguish of mind, consumed
with inward fire, on a sudden in the stillness of the dead of night he
saw approaching a person, whose face and habit were strange to him, at
sight of whom, seeing that he was unknown and unlooked for, he was not
a little startled. The stranger coming close up, saluted him, and asked
why he sat there in solitude on a stone troubled and wakeful at that
time, when all others were taking their rest, and were fast asleep.
Edwin, in his turn, asked, what it was to him, whether he spent the
night within doors or abroad. The stranger, in reply, said, “Do not
think that I am ignorant of the cause of your grief, your watching, and
sitting alone without. For I know of a surety who you are, and why you
grieve, and the evils which you fear will soon fall upon you. But tell
me, what reward you would give the man who should deliver you out of
these troubles, and persuade Redwald neither to do you any harm
himself, nor to deliver you up to be murdered by your enemies.” Edwin
replied, that he would give such an one all that he could in return for
so great a benefit. The other further added, “What if he should also
assure you, that your enemies should be destroyed, and you should be a
king surpassing in power, not only all your own ancestors, but even all
that have reigned before you in the English nation?” Edwin, encouraged
by these questions, did not hesitate to promise that he would make a
fitting return to him who should confer such benefits upon him. Then
the other spoke a third time and said, “But if he who should truly
foretell that all these great blessings are about to befall you, could
also give you better and more profitable counsel for your life and
salvation than any of your fathers or kindred ever heard, do you
consent to submit to him, and to follow his wholesome guidance?” Edwin
at once promised that he would in all things follow the teaching of
that man who should deliver him from so many great calamities, and
raise him to a throne.
Having received this answer, the man who talked to him laid his right
hand on his head saying, “When this sign shall be given you, remember
this present discourse that has passed between us, and do not delay the
performance of what you now promise.” Having uttered these words, he is
said to have immediately vanished. So the king perceived that it was
not a man, but a spirit, that had appeared to him.
Whilst the royal youth still sat there alone, glad of the comfort he
had received, but still troubled and earnestly pondering who he was,
and whence he came, that had so talked to him, his aforesaid friend
came to him, and greeting him with a glad countenance, “Rise,” said he,
“go in; calm and put away your anxious cares, and compose yourself in
body and mind to sleep; for the king’s resolution is altered, and he
designs to do you no harm, but rather to keep his pledged faith; for
when he had privately made known to the queen his intention of doing
what I told you before, she dissuaded him from it, reminding him that
it was altogether unworthy of so great a king to sell his good friend
in such distress for gold, and to sacrifice his honour, which is more
valuable than all other adornments, for the love of money.” In short,
the king did as has been said, and not only refused to deliver up the
banished man to his enemy’s messengers, but helped him to recover his
kingdom. For as soon as the messengers had returned home, he raised a
mighty army to subdue Ethelfrid; who, meeting him with much inferior
forces, (for Redwald had not given him time to gather and unite all his
power,) was slain on the borders of the kingdom of Mercia, on the east
side of the river that is called Idle. In this battle, Redwald’s son,
called Raegenheri, was killed. Thus Edwin, in accordance with the
prophecy he had received, not only escaped the danger from his enemy,
but, by his death, succeeded the king on the throne.
King Edwin, therefore, delaying to receive the Word of God at the
preaching of Paulinus, and being wont for some time, as has been said,
to sit many hours alone, and seriously to ponder with himself what he
was to do, and what religion he was to follow, the man of God came to
him one day, laid his right hand on his head, and asked, whether he
knew that sign? The king, trembling, was ready to fall down at his
feet, but he raised him up, and speaking to him with the voice of a
friend, said, “Behold, by the gift of God you have escaped the hands of
the enemies whom you feared. Behold, you have obtained of His bounty
the kingdom which you desired. Take heed not to delay to perform your
third promise; accept the faith, and keep the precepts of Him Who,
delivering you from temporal adversity, has raised you to the honour of
a temporal kingdom; and if, from this time forward, you shall be
obedient to His will, which through me He signifies to you, He will
also deliver you from the everlasting torments of the wicked, and make
you partaker with Him of His eternal kingdom in heaven.”


THE king, hearing these words, answered, that he was both willing and
bound to receive the faith which Paulinus taught; but that he would
confer about it with his chief friends and counsellors, to the end that
if they also were of his opinion, they might all together be
consecrated to Christ in the font of life. Paulinus consenting, the
king did as he said; for, holding a council with the wise men,’ he
asked of every one in particular what he thought of this doctrine
hitherto unknown to them, and the new worship of God that was preached?
The chief of his own priests, Coifi, immediately answered him, ” king,
consider what this is which is now preached to us; for I verily declare
to you what I have learnt beyond doubt, that the religion which we have
hitherto professed has no virtue in it and no profit. For none of your
people has applied himself more diligently to the worship of our gods
than I; and yet there are many who receive greater favours from you,
and are more preferred than I, and are more prosperous in all that they
undertake to do or to get. Now if the gods were good for any thing,
they would rather forward me, who have been careful to serve them with
greater zeal. It remains, therefore, that if upon examination you find
those new doctrines, which are now preached to us, better and more
efficacious, we hasten to receive them without any delay.”
Another of the king’s chief men, approving of his wise words and
exhortations, added thereafter: “The present life of man upon earth, O
king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us,
like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit
at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, while the fire
blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of
rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and
immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the
wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately
vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again. So
this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow
or what went before we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new
doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to
be followed.” The other elders and king’s counsellors, by Divine
prompting, spoke to the same effect.
But Coifi added, that he wished more attentively to hear Paulinus
discourse concerning the God Whom he preached. When he did so, at the
king’s command, Coifi, hearing his words, cried out, “This long time I
have perceived that what we worshipped was naught; because the more
diligently I sought after truth in that worship, the less I found it.
But now I freely confess, that such truth evidently appears in this
preaching as can confer on us the gifts of life, of salvation, and of
eternal happiness. For which reason my counsel is, O king, that we
instantly give up to ban and fire those temples and altars which we
have consecrated without reaping any benefit from them.” In brief, the
king openly assented to the preaching of the Gospel by Paulinus, and
renouncing idolatry, declared that he received the faith of Christ: and
when he inquired of the aforesaid high priest of his religion, who
should first desecrate the altars and temples of their idols, with the
precincts that were about them, he answered, “I; for who can more
fittingly than myself destroy those things which I worshipped in my
folly, for an example to all others, through the wisdom which has been
given me by the true God?” Then immediately, in contempt of his vain
superstitions, he desired the king to furnish him with arms and a
stallion, that he might mount and go forth to destroy the idols; for it
was not lawful before for the high priest either to carry arms, or to
ride on anything but a mare. Having, therefore, girt a sword about him,
with a spear in his hand, he mounted the king’s stallion, and went his
way to the idols. The multitude, beholding it, thought that he was mad;
but as soon as he drew near the temple he did not delay to desecrate it
by casting into it the spear which he held; and rejoicing in the
knowledge of the worship of the true God, he commanded his companions
to tear down and set on fire the temple, with all its precincts. This
place where the idols once stood is still shown, not far from York, to
the eastward, beyond the river Derwent, and is now called
Godmunddingaham, where the high priest, by the inspiration of the true
God, profaned and destroyed the altars which he had himself


[627 A.D.]
KING EDWIN, therefore, with all the nobility of the nation, and a large
number of the common sort, received the faith, and the washing of holy
regeneration, in the eleventh year of his reign, which is the year of
our Lord 627, and about one hundred and eighty after the coming of the
English into Britain. He was baptized at York, on the holy day of
Easter, being the 12th of April, in the church of St. Peter the
Apostle, which he himself had built of timber there in haste, whilst he
was a catechumen receiving instruction in order to be admitted to
baptism. In that city also he bestowed upon his instructor and bishop,
Paulinus, his episcopal see. But as soon as he was baptized, he set
about building, by the direction of Paulinus, in the same place a
larger and nobler church of stone, in the midst whereof the oratory
which he had first erected should be enclosed. Having, therefore, laid
the foundation, he began to build the church square, encompassing the
former oratory. But before the walls were raised to their full height,
the cruel death of the king left that work to be finished by Oswald his
successor. Paulinus, for the space of six years from this time, that
is, till the end of the king’s reign, with his, consent and favour,
preached the Word of God in that country, and as many as were
foreordained to eternal life believed and were baptized. Among them
were Osfrid and Eadfrid, King Edwin’s sons who were both born to him,
whilst he was in banishment, of Quenburga, the daughter of Cearl, king
of the Mercians.
Afterwards other children of his, by Queen Ethelberg, were baptized,
Ethelhun and his daughter Ethelthryth, and another, Wuscfrea, a son;
the first two were snatched out of this life whilst they were still in
the white garments of the newly-baptized, and buried in the church at
York. Yffi, the son of Osfrid, was also baptized, and many other noble
and royal persons. So great was then the fervour of the faith, as is
reported, and the desire for the laver of salvation among the nation of
the Northumbrians, that Paulinus at a certain time coming with the king
and queen to the royal township, which is called Adgefrin, stayed there
with them thirty-six days, fully occupied in catechizing and baptizing;
during which days, from morning till night, he did nothing else but
instruct the people resorting from all villages and places, in Christ’s
saving Word; and when they were instructed, he washed them with the
water of absolution in the river Glen, which is close by. This
township, under the following kings, was abandoned, and another was
built instead of it, at the place called Maelmin.
These things happened in the province of the Bernicians; but in that of
the Deiri also, where he was wont often to be with the king, he
baptized in the river Swale, which runs by the village of Cataract; for
as yet oratories, or baptisteries, could not be built in the early
infancy of the Church in those parts. But in Campodonum, where there
was then a royal township, he built a church which the pagans, by whom
King Edwin was slain, afterwards burnt, together with all the place.
Instead of this royal seat the later kings built themselves a township
in the country called Loidis. But the altar, being of stone, escaped
the fire and is still preserved in the monastery of the most reverend
abbot and priest, Thrydwulf, which is in the forest of Elmet.


EDWIN was so zealous for the true worship, that he likewise persuaded
Earpwald, king of the East Angles, and son of Redwald, to abandonhis
idolatrous superstitions, and with his whole province to receive the
faith and mysteries of Christ. And indeed his father Redwald had long
before been initiated into the mysteries of the Christian faith in
Kent, but in vain; for on his return home, he was seduced by his wife
and certain perverse teachers, and turned aside from the sincerity of
the faith; and thus his latter state was worse than the former; so
that, like the Samaritans of old, he seemed at the same time to serve
Christ and the gods whom he served before; and in the same temple he
had an altar for the Christian Sacrifice, and another small one at
which to offer victims to devils. Aldwulf, king of that same province,
who lived in our time, testifies that this temple had stood until his
time, and that he had seen it when he was a boy. The aforesaid King
Redwald was noble by birth, though ignoble in his actions, being the
son of Tytilus, whose father was Uuffa, from whom the kings of the East
Angles are called Uuffings.
Earpwald, not long after he had embraced the Christian faith, was slain
by one Ricbert, a pagan; and from that time the province was in error
for three years, till Sigbert succeeded to the kingdom, brother to the
same Earpwald, a most Christian and learned man, who was banished, and
went to live in Gaul during his brother’s life, and was there initiated
into the mysteries of the faith, whereof he made it his business to
cause all his province to partake as soon as he came to the throne. His
exertions were nobly promoted by Bishop Felix, who, coming to Honorius,
the archbishop, from the parts of Burgundy, where he had been born and
ordained, and having told him what he desired, was sent by him to
preach the Word of life to the aforesaid nation of the Angles. Nor were
his good wishes in vain; for the pious labourer in the spiritual field
reaped therein a great harvest of believers, delivering all that
province (according to the inner signification of his name) from long
iniquity and unhappiness, and bringing it to the faith and works of
righteousness, and the gifts of everlasting happiness. He had the see
of his bishopric appointed him in the city Dommoc, and having presided
over the same province with pontifical authority seventeen years, he
ended his days there in peace.


PAULINUS also preached the Word to the province of Lindsey, which is
the first on the south side of the river H umber, stretching as far as
the sea; and he first converted to the Lord the reeve of the city of
Lincoln, whose name was Blaecca, with his whole house. He likewise
built, in that city, a stone church of beautiful workmanship; the roof
of which has either fallen through long neglect, or been thrown down by
enemies, but the walls are still to be seen standing, and every year
miraculous cures are wrought in that place, for the benefit of those
who have faith to seek them. In that church, when Justus had departed
to Christ, Paulinus consecrated Honorius bishop in his stead, as will
be hereafter mentioned in its proper place. A certain priest and abbot
of the monastery of Peartaneu,(Partney in Lincolnshire)a man of
singular veracity, whose name was Deda, told me concerning the faith of
this province that an old man had informed him that he himself had been
baptized at noon-day, by Bishop Paulinus, in the presence of King
Edwin, and with him a great multitude of the people, in the river
Trent, near the city, which in the English tongue is called
Tiouulfingacaestir; and he was also wont to describe the person of the
same Paulinus, saying that he was tall of stature, stooping somewhat,
his hair black, his visage thin, his nose slender and aquiline, his
aspect both venerable and awe-inspiring. He had also with him in the
ministry, James, the deacon, a man of zeal and great fame in Christ and
in the church, who lived even to our days.
It is told that there was then such perfect peace in Britain,
wheresoever the dominion of King Edwin extended, that, as is still
proverbially said, a woman with her new-born babe might walk throughout
the island, from sea to sea, without receiving any harm. That king took
such care for the good of his nation, that in several places where he
had seen clear springs near the highways, he caused stakes to be fixed,
with copper drinking-vessels hanging on them, for the refreshment of
travellers; nor durst any man touch them for any other purpose than
that for which they were designed, either through the great dread they
had of the king, or for the affection which they bore him. His dignity
was so great throughout his dominions, that not only were his banners
borne before him in battle, but even in time of peace, when he rode
about his cities, townships, or provinces, with his thegns, the
standard-bearer was always wont to go before him. Also, when he walked
anywhere along the streets, that sort of banner which the Romans call
Tufa, and the English, Thuuf, was in like manner borne before him.


AT that time Honorius, successor to Boniface, was Bishop of the
Apostolic see. When he learned that the nation of the Northumbrians,
with their king, had been, by the preaching of Paulinus, converted to
the faith and confession of Christ, he sent the pall to the said
Paulinus, and with it letters of exhortation to King Edwin, with
fatherly love inflaming his zeal, to the end that he and his people
should persist in belief of the truth which they had received. The
contents of which letter were as follow:
“To his most noble son, and excellent lord, Edwin king of the Angles,
Bishop Honorius, servant of the servants of God, greeting. The
wholeheartedness of your Christian Majesty, in the worship of your
Creator, is so inflamed with the fire of faith, that it shines out far
and wide, and, being reported throughout the world, brings forth
plentiful fruits of your labours. For the terms of your kingship you
know to be this, that taught by orthodox preaching the knowledge of
your King and Creator, you believe and worship God, and as far as man
is able, pay Him the sincere devotion of your mind. For what else are
we able to offer to our God, but our readiness to worship Him and to
pay Him our vows, persisting in good actions, and confesssing Him the
Creator of mankind? And, therefore, most excellent son, we exhort you
with such fatherly love as is meet, to labour to preserve this gift in
every way, by earnest striving and constant prayer, in that the Divine
Mercy has vouchsafed to call you to His grace; to the end that He, Who
has been pleased to deliver you from all errors, and bring you to the
knowledge of His name in this present world, may likewise prepare a
place for you in the heavenly country. Employing yourself, therefore,
in reading frequently the works of my lord Gregory, your Evangelist, of
apostolic memory, keep before your eyes that love of his doctrine,
which he zealously bestowed for the sake of your souls; that his
prayers may exalt your kingdom and people, and present you faultless
before Almighty God. We are preparing with a willing mind immediately
to grant those things which you hoped would be by us ordained for your
bishops, and this we do on account of the sincerity of your faith,
which has been made known to us abundantly in terms of praise by the
bearers of these presents. We have sent two palls to the two
metropolitans, Honorius and Paulinus; to the intent, that when either
of them shall be called out of this world to his Creator, the other
may, by this authority of ours, substitute another bishop in his place;
which privilege we are induced to grant by the warmth of our love for
you, as well as by reason of the great extent of the provinces which
lie between us and you; that we may in all things support your devotion
and likewise satisfy your desires. May God’s grace preserve your
Highless in safety!”


IN the meantime, Archbishop Justus was taken up to the heavenly
kingdom, on the 10th of November, and Honorius, who was elected to the
see in his stead, came to Paulinus to be ordained, and meeting him at
Lincoln was there consecrated the fifth prelate of the Church of
Canterbury from Augustine. To him also the aforesaid Pope Honorius sent
the pall, and a letter, wherein he ordains the same that he had before
ordained in his epistle to King Edwin, to wit, that when either the
Archbishop of Canterbury or of York shall depart this life, the
survivor, being of the same degree, shall have power to ordain another
bishop in the room of him that is departed; that it might not be
necessary always to undertake the toilsome journey to Rome, at so great
a distance by sea and land, to ordain an archbishop. Which letter we
have also thought fit to insert in this our history:
“Honorius to his most beloved brother Honorius: Among the many good
gifts which the mercy of our Redeemer is pleased to bestow on His
servants He grants to us in His bounty, graciously conferred on us by
His goodness, the special blessing of realizing by brotherly
intercourse, as it were face to face, our mutual love. For which gift
we continually render thanks to His Majesty; and we humbly beseech Him,
that He will ever confirm your labour, beloved, in preaching the
Gospel, and bringing forth fruit, and following the rule of your master
and head, the holy Gregory; and that, for the advancement of His
Church, He may by your means raise up further increase; to the end,
that through faith and works, in the fear and love of God, what you and
your predecessors have already gained from the seed sown by our lord
Gregory, may grow strong and be further extended; that so the promises
spoken by our Lord may hereafter be brought to pass in you; and that
these words may summon you to everlasting happiness: ‘Come unto Me all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ‘Well
done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few
things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the
joy of thy Lord.” And we, most beloved brothers, sending you first
these words of exhortation out of our enduring charity, do not fail
further to grant those things which we perceive may be suitable for the
privileges of your Churches.
“Wherefore, in accordance with your request, and that of the kings our
sons, we do hereby in the name of the blessed Peter, chief of the
Apostles, grant you authority, that when the Divine Grace shall call
either of you to Himself, the survivor shall ordain a bishop in the
room of him that is deceased. To which end also we have sent a pall to
each of you, beloved, for celebrating the said ordination; that by the
authority which we hereby commit to you, you may make an ordination
acceptable to God; because the long distance of sea and land that lies
between us and you, has obliged us to grant you this, that no loss may
happen to your Church in any way, on any pretext whatever, but that the
devotion of the people committed to you may increase the more. God
preserve you in safety, most dear brother! Given the 11th day of June,
in the reign of these our lords and emperors, in the twenty-fourth year
of the reign of Heraclius, and the twenty-third after his consulship;
and in the twenty-third of his son Constantine, and the third after his
consulship; and in the third year of the most prosperous Caesar, his
son Heraclius, the seventh indiction; that is, in the year of our Lord,


THE same Pope Honorius also wrote to the Scots, whom he had found to
err in the observance of the holy Festival of Easter, as has been shown
above, with subtlety of argument exhorting them not to think
themselves, few as they were, and placed in the utmost borders of the
earth, wiser than all the ancient and modern Churches of Christ,
throughout the world; and not to celebrate a different Easter, contrary
to the Paschal calculation and the decrees of all the bishops upon
earth sitting in synod. Likewise John, who succeeded Severinus,
successor to the same Honorius, being yet but Pope elect, sent to them
letters of great authority and erudition for the purpose of correcting
the same error; evidently showing, that Easter Sunday is to be found
between the fifteenth of the moon and the twenty-first, as was approved
in the Council of Nicaea He also in the same epistle admonished them to
guard against the Pelagian heresy, and reject it, for he had been
informed that it was again springing up among them. The beginning of
the epistle was as follows:
To our most beloved and most holy Tomianus, Columbanus, Cromanus,
Dinnaus, and Baithanus, bishops; to Cromanus, Ernianus, Laistranus,
Scellanus, and Segenus, priests; to Saranus and the rest of the
Scottish doctors and abbots, Hilarus, the arch-presbyter, and
vice-gerent of the holy Apostolic See; John, the deacon, and elect in
the name of God; likewise John, the chief of the notaries and
vicegerent of the holy Apostolic See, and John, the servant of God, and
counsellor of the same Apostolic See. The writings which were brought
by the bearers to Pope Severinus, of holy memory, were left, when he
departed from the light of this world, without an answer to the
questions contained in them. Lest any obscurity should long remain
undispelled in a matter of so great moment, we opened the same, and
found that some in your province, endeavouring to revive a new heresy
out of an old one, contrary to the orthodox faith, do through the
darkness of their minds reject our Easter, when Christ was sacrificed;
and contend that the same should be kept with the Hebrews on the
fourteenth of the moon.”
By this beginning of the epistle it evidently appears that this heresy
arose among them in very late times, and that not all their nation, but
only some of them, were involved in the same.
After having laid down the manner of keeping Easter, they add this
concerning the Pelagians in the same epistle:
“And we have also learnt that the poison of the Pelagian heresy again
springs up among you; we, therefore, exhort you, that you put away from
your thoughts all such venomous and superstitious wickedness. For you
cannot be ignorant how that execrable heresy has been condemned; for it
has not only been abolished these two hundred years, but it is also
daily condemned by us and buried under our perpetual ban; and we exhort
you not to rake up the ashes of those whose weapons have been burnt.
For who would not detest that insolent and impious assertion, ‘That man
can live without sin of his own free will, and not through the grace of
God?’ And in the first place, it is blasphemous folly to say that man
is without sin, which none can be, but only the one Mediator between
God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived and born without
sin; for all other men, being born in original sin, are known to bear
the mark of Adam’s transgression, even whilst they are without actual
sin, according to the saying of the prophet, ‘For behold, I was
conceived in iniquity; and in sin did my mother give birth to me.’


EDWIN reigned most gloriously seventeen years over the nations of the
English and the Britons, six whereof, as has been said, he also was a
soldier in the kingdom of Christ. Caedwalla, king of the Britons,
rebelled against him, being supported by the vigorous Penda, of the
royal race of the Mercians, who from that time governed that nation for
twenty-two years with varying success.
A great battle being fought in the plain that is called Haethfelth,
Edwin was killed on the 12th of October, in the year of our Lord 633,
being then forty-eight years of age, and all his army was either slain
or dispersed. In the same war also, Osfrid, one of his sons, a warlike
youth, fell before him; Eadfrid, another of them, compelled by
necessity, went over to King Penda, and was by him afterwards slain in
the reign of Oswald, contrary to his oath. At this time a great
slaughter was made in the Church and nation of the Northumbrians;
chiefly because one of the chiefs, by whom it was carried on, was a
pagan, and the other a barbarian, more cruel than a pagan; for Penda,
with all the nation of the Mercians, was an idolater, and a stranger to
the name of Christ; but Caedwalla, though he professed and called
himself a Christian, was so barbarous in his disposition and manner of
living, that he did not even spare women and innocent children, but
with bestial cruelty put all alike to death by torture, and overran all
their country in his fury for a long time, intending to cut off all the
race of the English within the borders of Britain. Nor did he pay any
respect to the Christian religion which had sprung up among them; it
being to this day the custom of the Britons to despise the faith and
religion of the English, and to have no part with them in anything any
more than with pagans. King Edwin’s head was brought to York, and
afterwards taken into the church of the blessed Peter the Apostle,
which he had begun, but which his successor Oswald finished, as has
been said before. It was laid in the chapel of the holy Pope Gregory,
from whose disciples he had received the word of life.
The affairs of the Northumbrians being thrown into confusion at the
moment of this disaster, when there seemed to be no prospect of safety
except in flight, Paulinus, taking with him Queen Ethelberg, whom he
had before brought thither, returned into Kent by sea, and was very
honourably received by the Archbishop Honorius and King Eadbald. He
came thither under the conduct of Bassus, a most valiant thegn of King
Edwin, having with him Eanfled, the daughter, and Wuscfrea, the son of
Edwin, as well as Yffi, the son of Osfrid, Edwin’s son. Afterwards
Ethelberg, for fear of the kings Eadbald and Oswald, sent Wuscfrea and
Yffi over into Gaul to be bred up by King Dagobert, who was her friend;
and there they both died in infancy, and were buried in the church with
the honour due to royal children and to Christ’s innocents. He also
brought with him many rich goods of King Edwin, among which were a
large gold cross, and a golden chalice, consecrated to the service of
the altar, which are still preserved, and shown in the church of
At that time the church of Rochester had no pastor, for Romanus, the
bishop thereof, being sent on a mission to Pope Honorius by Archbishop
Justus, was drowned in the Italian Sea; and thus Paulinus, at the
request of Archbishop Honorius and King Eadbald, took upon him the
charge of the same, and held it until he too, in his own time, departed
to heaven, with the fruits of his glorious labours; and, dying in that
Church, he left there the pall which he had received from the Pope of
Rome. He had left behind him in his Church at York, James, the deacon,
a true churchman and a holy man, who continuing long after in that
Church, by teaching and baptizing, rescued much prey from the ancient
enemy; and from him the village, where he chiefly dwelt, near Cataract,
has its name to this day. He had great skill in singing in church, and
when the province was afterwards restored to peace, and the number of
the faithful increased, he began to teach church music to many,
according to the custom of the Romans, or of the Cantuarians. And being
old and full of days, as the Scripture says. He went the way of his


CHAP. I. How King Edwin’s next successors lost both the faith of their nation
and the kingdom; but the most Christian King Oswald retrieved both. [633 A.D.]

EDWIN being slain in battle, the kingdom of the Deiri, to which
province his family belonged, and where he first began to reign, passed
to Osric, the son of his uncle Aelfric, who, through the preaching of
Paulinus, had also received the mysteries of the faith. But the kingdom
of the Bernicians–for into these two provinces the nation of the
Northumbrians was formerly divided –passed to Eanfrid, the son of
Ethelfrid,^ who derived his origin from the royal family of that
province. For all the time that Edwin reigned, the sons of the
aforesaid Ethelfrid, who had reigned before him, with many of the
younger nobility, lived in banishment among the Scots or Picts, and
were there instructed according to the doctrine of the Scots, and were
renewed with the grace of Baptism. Upon the death of the king, their
enemy, they were allowed to return home, and the aforesaid Eanfrid, as
the eldest of them, became king of the Bernicians. Both those kings,^
as soon as they obtained the government of their earthly kingdoms,
abjured and betrayed the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom to which
they had been admitted, and again delivered themselves up to defilement
and perdition through the abominations of their former idolatry.

But soon after, the king of the Britons, Caedwalla,^ the unrighteous
instrument of rightful vengeance, slew them both. First, in the
following summer, he put Osric to death; for, being rashly besieged by
him in the municipal town, he sallied out on a sudden with all his
forces, took him by surprise, and destroyed him and all his army. Then,
when he had occupied the provinces of the Northumbrians for a whole
year, not ruling them like a victorious king, but ravaging them like a
furious tyrant, he at length put an end to Eanfrid, in like manner,
when he unadvisedly came to him with only twelve chosen soldiers, to
sue for peace. To this day, that year is looked upon as ill-omened, and
hateful to all good men; as well on account of the apostacy of the
English kings, who had renounced the mysteries of the faith, as of the
outrageous tyranny of the British king. Hence it has been generally
agreed, in reckoning the dates of the kings, to abolish the memory of
those faithless monarchs, and to assign that year to the reign of the
following king, Oswald, a man beloved of God. This king, after the
death of his brother Eanfrid, advanced with an army, small, indeed, in
number, but strengthened with the faith of Christ; and the impious
commander of the Britons, in spite of his vast forces, which he boasted
nothing could withstand, was slain at a place called in the English
tongue Denisesburna, that is, the brook of Denis.

CHAP. II. How, among innumerable other miracles of healing wrought by the wood
of the cross, which King Oswald, being ready to engage against the barbarians,
erected, a certain man had his injured arm healed. [634 A.D.]

THE place is shown to this day, and held in much veneration, where
Oswald, being about to engage in this battle, erected the symbol of the
Holy Cross, and knelt down and prayed to God that he would send help
from Heaven to his worshippers in their sore need. Then, we are told,
that the cross being made in haste, and the hole dug in which it was to
be set up, the king himself, in the ardour of his faith, laid hold of
it and held it upright with both his hands, till the earth was heaped
up by the soldiers and it was fixed. Thereupon, uplifting his voice, he
cried to his whole army, “Let us all kneel, and together beseech the
true and living God Almighty in His mercy to defend us from the proud
and cruel enemy; for He knows that we have undertaken a just war for
the safety of our nation.” All did as he had commanded, and accordingly
advancing towards the enemy with the first dawn of day, they obtained
the victory, as their faith deserved. In the place where they prayed
very many miracles of healing are known to have been wrought, as a
token and memorial of the king’s faith; for even to this day, many are
wont to cut off small splinters from the wood of the holy cross, and
put them into water, which they give to sick men or cattle to drink, or
they sprinkle them therewith, and these are presently restored to

The place is called in the English tongue Hefenfelth, or the Heavenly
Field, which name it undoubtedly received of old as a presage of what
was afterwards to happen, denoting, that the heavenly trophy was to be
erected, the heavenly victory begun, and heavenly miracles shown forth
to this day. The place is near the wall in the north which the Romans
formerly drew across the whole of Britain from sea to sea, to restrain
the onslaught of the barbarous nations, as has been said before. Hither
also the brothers of the church of Hagustald, which is not far distant,
long ago made it their custom to resort every year, on the day before
that on which King Oswald was afterwards slain, to keep vigils there
for the health of his soul, and having sung many psalms of praise, to
offer for him in the morning the sacrifice of the Holy Oblation. And
since that good custom has spread, they have lately built a church
there, which has attached additional sanctity and honour in the eyes of
all men to that place;and this with good reason; for it appears that
there was no symbol of the Christian faith, no church, no altar erected
throughout all the nation of the Bernicians, before that new leader in
war, prompted by the zeal of his faith, set up this standard of the
Cross as he was going to give battle to his barbarous enemy.

Nor is it foreign to our purpose to relate one of the many miracles
that have been wrought at this cross. One of the brothers of the same
church of Hagulstald, whose name is Bothelm, and who is still living, a
few years ago, walking carelessly on the ice at night, suddenly fell
and broke his arm; he was soon tormented with a most grievous pain in
the broken part, so that he could not lift his arm to his mouth for the
anguish. Hearing one morning that one of the brothers designed to go up
to the place of the holy cross, he desired him, on his return to bring
him a piece of that sacred wood, saying, he believed that with the
mercy of God he might thereby be healed. The brother did as he was
desired; and returning in the evening, when the brothers were sitting
at table, gave him some of the old moss which grew on the surface of
the wood. As he sat at table, having no place to bestow the gift which
was brought him, he put it into his bosom; and forgetting, when he went
to bed, to put it away, left it in his bosom. Awaking in the middle of
the night, he felt something cold lying by his side, and putting his
hand upon it to feel what it was, he found his arm and hand as sound as
if he had never felt any such pain.

CHAP. III. How the same King Oswald, asking a bishop of the Scottish nation,
had Aidan sent him, and granted him an episcopal see in the Isle of
Lindisfarne. [635A.D.]

THE same Oswald, as soon as he ascended the throne, being desirous that
all the nation under his rule should be endued with the grace of the
Christian faith, whereof he had found happy experience in vanquishing
the barbarians, sent to the elders of the Scots, among whom himself and
his followers, when in banishment, had received the sacrament of
Baptism, desiring that they would send him a bishop, by whose
instruction and ministry the English nation, which he governed, might
learn the privileges and receive the Sacraments of the faith of our
Lord. Nor were they slow in granting his request; for they sent him
Bishop Aidan, a man of singular gentleness, piety, and moderation;
having a zeal of God, but not fully according to knowledge; for he was
wont to keep Easter Sunday according to the custom of his country,
which we have before so often mentioned, from the fourteenth to the
twentieth of the moon; the northern province of the Scots, and all the
nation of the Picts, at that time still celebrating Easter after that
manner, and believing that in this observance they followed the
writings of the holy and praiseworthy Father Anatolius. Whether this be
true, every instructed person can easily judge. But the Scots which
dwelt in the South of Ireland had long since, by the admonition of the
Bishop of the Apostolic see, learned to observe Easter according to the
canonical custom.

On the arrival of the bishop, the king appointed him his episcopal see
in the island of Lindisfarne, as he desired. Which place, as the tide
ebbs and flows, is twice a day enclosed by the waves of the sea like an
island; and again, twice, when the beach is left dry, becomes
contiguous with the land. The king also humbly and willingly in all
things giving ear to his admonitions, industriously applied himself to
build up and extend the Church of Christ in his kingdom; wherein, when
the bishop, who was not perfectly skilled in the English tongue,
preached the Gospel, it was a fair sight to see the king himself
interpreting the Word of God to his ealdormen and thegns, for he had
thoroughly learned the language of the Scots during his long
banishment. From that time many came daily into Britain from the
country of the Scots, and with great devotion preached the Word to
those provinces of the English, over which King Oswald reigned, and
those among them that had received priest’s orders administered the
grace of Baptism to the believers.. Churches were built in divers
places; the people joyfully flocked together to hear the Word; lands
and other property were given of the king’s bounty to found
monasteries; English children, as well as their elders, were instructed
by their Scottish teachers in study and the observance of monastic
discipline. For most of those who came to preach were monks. Bishop
Aidan was himself a monk, having been sent out from the island called
Hii (Iona)whereof the monastery was for a long time the chief of almost
all those of the northern Scots, and all those of the Picts, and had
the direction of their people. That island belongs to Britain, being
divided from it by a small arm of the sea, but had been long since
given by the Picts, who inhabit those parts of Britain, to the Scottish
monks, because they had received the faith of Christ through their

CHAP. IV. When the nation of the Picts received the faith of Christ. [565

IN the year of our Lord 565, when Justin, the younger, the successor of
Justinian, obtained the government of the Roman empire, there came into
Britain from Ireland a famous priest and abbot, marked as a monk by
habit and manner of life, whose name was Columba, to preach the word of
God to the provinces of the northern Picts, who are separated from the
southern parts belonging to that nation by steep and rugged mountains.
For the southern Picts, who dwell on this side of those mountains, had,
it is said, long before forsaken the errors of idolatry, and received
the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and
holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at
Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see,
named after St. Martin the bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to
him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is
now in the possession of the English nation. The place belongs to the
province of the Bernicians, and is commonly called the White House,^
because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual among the

Columba came into Britain in the ninth year of the reign of Bridius,
who was the son of Meilochon, and the powerful king of the Pictish
nation, and he converted that nation to the faith of Christ, by his
preaching and example. Wherefore he also received of them the gift of
the aforesaid island whereon to found a monastery. It is not a large
island, but contains about five families, according to the English
computation; his successors hold it to this day; he was also buried
therein, having died at the age of seventy-seven, about thirty-two
years after he came into Britain to preach. Before he crossed over into
Britain, he had built a famous monastery in Ireland, which, from the
great number of oaks, is in the Scottish tongue called Dearmach–The
Field of Oaks. From both these monasteries, many others had their
beginning through his disciples, both in Britain and Ireland; but the
island monastery where his body lies, has the pre-eminence among them

That island has for its ruler an abbot, who is a priest, to whose
jurisdiction all the province, and even the bishops, contrary to the
usual method, are bound to be subject, according to the example of
their first teacher, who was not a bishop, but a priest and monk;of
whose life and discourses some records are said to be preserved by his
disciples. But whatsoever he was himself, this we know for certain
concerning him, that he left successors renowned for their continence,
their love of God, and observance of monastic rules. It is true they
employed doubtful cycles in fixing the time of the great festival, as
having none to bring them the synodal decrees for the observance of
Easter, by reason of their being so far away from the rest of the
world; but they earnestly practiced such works of piety and chastity as
they could learn from the Prophets, the Gospels and the Apostolic
writings. This manner of keeping Easter continued among them no little
time, to wit, for the space of 150 years, till the year of our Lord

But then the most reverend and holy father and priest, Egbert, of the
English nation, who had long lived in banishment in Ireland for the
sake of Christ, and was most learned in the Scriptures, and renowned
for long perfection of life, came among them, corrected their error,
and led them to observe the true and canonical day of Easter; which,
nevertheless, they did not always keep on the fourteenth of the moon
with the Jews, as some imagined, but on Sunday, although not in the
proper week. For, as Christians, they knew that the Resurrection of our
Lord, which happened on the first day of the week, was always to be
celebrated on the first day of the week; but being rude and barbarous,
they had not learned when that same first day after the Sabbath, which
is now called the Lord’s day, should come. But because they had not
failed in the grace of fervent charity, they were accounted worthy to
receive the full knowledge of this matter also, according to the
promise of the Apostle, “And if in any thing ye be otherwise minded,
God shall reveal even this unto you.” Of which we shall speak more
fully hereafter in its proper place.

CHAP. V. Of the life of Bishop Aidan. [635 A.D.]

FROM this island, then, and the fraternity of these monks, Aidan was
sent to instruct the English nation in Christ, having received the
dignity of a bishop. At that time Segeni, abbot and priest, presided
over that monastery. Among other lessons in holy living, Aidan left the
clergy a most salutary example of abstinence and continence; it was the
highest commendation of his doctrine with all men, that he taught
nothing that he did not practice in his life among his brethren; for he
neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in
distributing immediately among the poor whom he met whatsoever was
given him by the kings or rich men of the world. He was wont to
traverse both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless
compelled by some urgent necessity; to the end that, as he went, he
might turn aside to any whomsoever he saw, whether rich or poor, and
call upon them, if infidels, to receive the mystery of the faith, or,
if they were believers, strengthen them in the faith, and stir them up
by words and actions to giving of alms and the performance of good

His course of life was so different from the slothfulness of our times,
that all those who bore him company, whether they were tonsured or
laymen, had to study either reading the Scriptures, or learning psalms.
This was the daily employment of himself and all that were with him,
wheresoever they went; and if it happened, which was but seldom, that
he was invited to the king’s table, he went with one or two clerks, and
having taken a little food, made haste to be gone, either to read with
his brethren or to pray. At that time, many religious men and women,
led by his example, adopted the custom of prolonging their fast on
Wednesdays and Fridays, till the ninth hour, throughout the year,
except during the fifty days after Easter. Never, through fear or
respect of persons, did he keep silence with regard to the sins of the
rich; but was wont to correct them with a severe rebuke. He never gave
money to the powerful men of the world, but only food, if he happened
to entertain them; and, on the contrary, whatsoever gifts of money he
received from the rich, he either distributed, as has been said, for
the use of the poor, or bestowed in ransoming such as had been
wrongfully sold for slaves. Moreover, he afterwards made many of those
he had ransomed his disciples, and after having taught and instructed
them, advanced them to priest’s orders.

It is said, that when King Oswald had asked a bishop of the Scots to
administer the Word of faith to him and his nation, there was first
sent to him another man of more harsh disposition, who, after preaching
for some time to the English and meeting with no success, not being
gladly heard by the people, returned home, and in an assembly of the
elders reported, that he had not been able to do any good by his
teaching to the nation to whom he had been sent, because they were
intractable men, and of a stubborn and barbarous disposition. They
then, it is said, held a council and seriously debated what was to be
done, being desirous that the nation should obtain the, salvation it
demanded, but grieving that they had not received the preacher sent to
them. Then said Aidan, who was also present in the council, to the
priest in question, “Methinks, brother, that you were more severe to
your unlearned hearers than you ought to have been, and did not at
first, conformably to the Apostolic rule, give them the milk of more
easy doctrine, till, being by degrees nourished with the Word of God,
they should be capable of receiving that which is more perfect and of
performing the higher precepts of God.” Having heard these words, all
present turned their attention to him and began diligently to weigh
what he had said, and they decided that he was worthy to be made a
bishop, and that he was the man who ought to be sent to instruct the
unbelieving and unlearned; since he was found to be endued preeminently
with the grace of discretion, which is the mother of the virtues. So
they ordained him and sent him forth to preach; and, as time went on,
his other virtues became apparent, as well as that temperate discretion
which had marked him at first.

CHAP. VI. Of King Oswald’s wonderful piety and religion. [635-642 A.D.]

KING OSWALD, with the English nation which he governed, being
instructed by the teaching of this bishop, not only learned to hope for
a heavenly kingdom unknown to his fathers, but also obtained of the one
God, Who made heaven and earth, a greater earthly kingdom than any of
his ancestors. In brief, he brought under his dominion all the nations
and provinces of Britain, which are divided into four languages, to
wit, those of the Britons, the Picts, the Scots, and the English.
Though raised to that height of regal power, wonderful to relate, he
was always humble, kind, and generous to the poor and to strangers.

To give one instance, it is told, that when he was once sitting at
dinner, on the holy day of Easter, with the aforesaid bishop, and a
silver dish full of royal dainties was set before him, and they were
just about to put forth their hands to bless the bread, the servant,
whom he had appointed to relieve the needy, came in on a sudden, and
told the king, that a great multitude of poor folk from all parts was
sitting in the streets begging alms of the king; he immediately ordered
the meat set before him to be carried to the poor, and the dish to be
broken in pieces and divided among them. At which sight, the bishop who
sat by him, greatly rejoicing at such an act of piety, clasped his
right hand and said, “May this hand never decay.” This fell out
according to his prayer, for his hands with the arms being cut off from
his body, when he was slain in battle, remain uncorrupted to this day,
and are kept in a silver shrine, as revered relics, in St. Peter’s
church in the royal city, which has taken its name from Bebba, one of
its former queens. Through this king’s exertions the provinces of the
Deiri and the Bernicians, which till then had been at variance, were
peacefully united and moulded into one people. He was nephew to King
Edwin through his sister Acha; and it was fit that so great a
predecessor should have in his own family such an one to succeed him in
his religion and sovereignty.

CHAP. VII. How the West Saxons received the Word of God by the preaching of
Birinus; and of his successors, Agilbert and Leutherius. [635-670 A. D.]

AT that time, the West Saxons, formerly called Gewissae, in the reign
of Cynegils, received the faith of Christ, through the preaching of
Bishop Birinus, who came into Britain by the counsel of Pope Honorius ;
having promised in his presence that he would sow the seed of the holy
faith in the farthest inland regions of the English, where no other
teacher hadbeen before him. Hereupon at the bidding of the Pope he
received episcopal consecration from Asterius, bishop of Genoa, but on
his arrival in Britain, he first came to the nation of the Gewissae,
and finding all in that place confirmed pagans, he thought it better to
preach the Word there, than to proceed further to seek for other
hearers of his preaching.

Now, as he was spreading the Gospel in the aforesaid province, it
happened that when the king himself, having received instruction as a
catechumen, was being baptized together with his people, Oswald, the
most holy and victorious king of the Northumbrians, being present,
received him as he came forth from baptism, and by an honourable
alliance most acceptable to God, first adopted as his son, thus born
again and dedicated to God, the man whose daughterhe was about to
receive in marriage. The two kings gave to the bishop the city called
Dorcic, there to establish his episcopal see; where having built and
consecrated churches, and by his pious labours called many to the Lord,
he departed to the Lord, and was buried in the same city; but many
years after, when Haedde was bishop,” he was translated thence to the
city of Venta, and laid in the church of the blessed Apostles, Peter
and Paul.

When the king died, his son Coinwalch succeeded him on the throne, but
refused to receive the faith and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom;
and not long after he lost also the dominion of his earthly kingdom;
for he put away the sister of Penda, king of the Mercians, whom he had
married, and took another wife; whereupon a war ensuing, he was by him
deprived of his kingdom, and withdrew to Anna, king of the East Angles,
where he lived three years in banishment, and learned and received the
true faith; for the king, with whom he lived in his banishment, was a
good man, and happy in a good and saintly offspring, as we shall show

But when Coinwalch was restored to his kingdom, there came into that
province out of Ireland, a certain bishop called Agilbert,^ a native of
Gaul, but who had then lived a long time in Ireland, for the purpose of
reading the Scriptures. He attached himself to the king, and
voluntarily undertook the ministry of preaching. The king, observing
his learning and industry, desired him to accept an episcopal see there
and remain as the bishop of his people. Agilbert complied with the
request. And presided over that nation as their bishop for many years.
At length the king, who understood only the language of the Saxons,
weary of his barbarous tongue, privately brought into the province
another bishop, speaking his own language, by name Wini, who had also
been ordained in Gaul; and dividing his province into two dioceses,
appointed this last his episcopal see in the city of Venta, by the
Saxons called Wintancaestir. (Winchester) Agilbert, being highly
offended, that the king should do this without consulting him, returned
into Gaul, and being made bishop of the city of Paris, died there,
being old and full of days. Not many years after his departure out of
Britain, Wini was also expelled from his bishopric by the same king,
and took refuge with Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, of whom he
purchased for money the see of the city of London, and remained bishop
thereof till his death. Thus the province of the West Saxons continued
no small time without a bishop.

During which time, the aforesaid king of that nation, sustaining
repeatedly very great losses in his kingdom from his enemies, at length
bethought himself, that as he had been before expelled from the throne
for his unbelief, he had been restored when he acknowledged the faith
of Christ; and he perceived that his kingdom, being deprived of a
bishop, was justly deprived also of the Divine protection. He,
therefore, sent messengers into Gaul to Agilbert, with humble apologies
entreating him to return to the bishopric of his nation. But he excused
himself, and protested that he could not go, because he was bound to
the bishopric of his own city and diocese; notwithstanding, in order to
give him some help in answer to his earnest request, he sent thither in
his stead the priest Leutherius, his nephew, to be ordained as his
bishop, if he thought fit, saying that he thought him worthy of a
bishopric. The king and the people received him honourably, and asked
Theodore, then Archbishop of Canterbury, to consecrate him as their
bishop. He was accordingly consecrated in the same city, and many years
diligently governed the whole bishopric of the West Saxons by synodical

CHAP. VIII. How Earconbert, King of Kent, ordered the idols to be destroyed,
and of his daughter Earcongota, and his kinswoman Ethelberg, virgins
consecrated to God. [640 A.D.]

IN the year of our Lord 640, Eadbald, king of Kent, departed this life,
and left his kingdom to his son Earconbert, who governed it most nobly
twenty-four years and some months. He was the first of the English
kings that of his supreme authority commanded the idols throughout his
whole kingdom to be forsaken and destroyed, and the fast of forty days
to be observed; and that the same might not be lightly neglected, he
appointed fitting and condign punishments for the offenders. His
daughter Earcongota, as became the offspring of such a parent, was a
most virtuous virgin, serving God in a monastery in the country of the
Franks, built by a most noble abbess, named Fara, at a place called In
Brige; for at that time but few monasteries had been built in the
country of the Angles, and many were wont, for the sake of monastic
life, to repair to the monasteries of the Franks or Gauls; and they
also sent their daughters there to be instructed, and united to their
Heavenly Bridegroom, especially in the monasteries of Brige, of Cale,
and Andilegum. Among whom was also Saethryth, daughter of the wife of
Anna, king of the East Angles, above mentioned; and Ethelberg, the
king’s own daughter; both of whom, though strangers, were for their
virtue made abbesses of the monastery of Brige. Sexburg, that king’s
elder daughter, wife to Earconbert, king of Kent, had a daughter called
Earcongota, of whom we are about to speak.

Many wonderful works and miracles of this virgin, dedicated to God, are
to this day related by the inhabitants of that place; but for us it
shall suffice to say something briefly of her departure out of this
world to the heavenly kingdom. The day of her summoning drawing near,
she began to visit in the monastery the cells of the infirm handmaidens
of Christ, and particularly those that were of a great age, or most
noted for their virtuous life, and humbly commending herself to their
prayers, she let them know that her death was at hand, as she had
learnt by revelation, which she said she had received in this manner.
She had seen a band of men, clothed in white, come into the monastery,
and being asked by her what they wanted, and what they did there, they
answered, “They had been sent thither to carry away with them the gold
coin that had been brought thither from Kent.” Towards the close of
that same night, as morning began to dawn, leaving the darkness of this
world, she departed to the light of heaven. Many of the brethren of
that monastery who were in other houses, declared they had then plainly
heard choirs of singing angels, and, as it were, the sound of a
multitude entering the monastery. Whereupon going out immediately to
see what it might be, they beheld a great light coming down from
heaven, which bore that holy soul, set loose from the bonds of the
flesh, to the eternal joys of the celestial country. They also tell of
other miracles that were wrought that night in the same monastery by
the power of God; but as we must proceed to other matters, we leave
them to be related by those whose concern they are. The body of this
venerable virgin and bride of Christ was buried in the church of the
blessed protomartyr, Stephen. It was thought fit, three days after, to
take up the stone that covered the tomb, and to raise it higher in the
same place, and whilst they were doing this, so sweet a fragrance rose
from below, that it seemed to all the brethren and sisters there
present, as if a store of balsam had been opened.

Her aunt also, Ethelberg, of whom we have spoken, preserved the glory,
acceptable to God, of perpetual virginity, in a life of great
self-denial, but the extent of her virtue became more conspicuous after
her death. Whilst she was abbess, she began to build in her monastery a
church, in honour of all the Apostles, wherein she desired that her
body should be buried; but when that work was advanced half way, she
was prevented by death from finishing it, and was buried in the place
in the church which she had chosen. After her death, the brothers
occupied themselves with other things, and this structure was left
untouched for seven years, at the expiration whereof they resolved, by
reason of the greatness of the work, wholly to abandon the building of
the church, and to remove the abbess’s bones thence to some other
church that was finished and consecrated. On opening her tomb, they
found the body as untouched by decay as it had been free from the
corruption of carnal concupiscence, and having washed it again and
clothed it in other garments, they removed it to the church of the
blessed Stephen, the Martyr. And her festival is wont to be celebrated
there with much honour on the 7th of July.

CHAP. IX. How miracles of healing have been frequently wrought in the place
where King Oswald was killed; and how, first, a traveller’s horse was restored
and afterwards a young girl cured of the palsy. [642 A.D.]

OSWALD, the most Christian king of the Northumbrians, reigned nine
years, including that year which was held accursed for the barbarous
cruelty of the king of the Britons and the reckless apostacy of the
English kings; for, as was said above, it is agreed by the unanimous
consent of all, that the names and memory of the apostates should be
erased from the catalogue of the Christian kings, and no year assigned
to their reign. After which period, Oswald was killed in a great
battle, by the same pagan nation and pagan king of the Mercians, who
had slain his predecessor Edwin, at a place called in the English
tongue Maserfelth, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, on the fifth
day of the month of August.

How great his faith was towards God, and how remarkable his devotion,
has been made evident by miracles even after his death; for, in the
place where he was killed by the pagans, fighting for his country, sick
men and cattle are frequently healed to this day. Whence it came to
pass that many took up the very dust of the place where his body fell,
and putting it into water, brought much relief with it to their friends
who were sick. This custom came so much into use, that the earth being
carried away by degrees, a hole was made as deep as the height of a
man. Nor is it surprising that the sick should be healed in the place
where he died; for, whilst he lived, he never ceased to provide for the
poor and the sick, and to bestow alms on them, and assist them.

Many miracles are said to have been wrought in that place, or with the
dust carried from it; but we have thought it sufficient to mention two,
which we have heard from our elders.

It happened, not long after his death, that a man was travelling on
horseback near that place, when his horse on a sudden fell sick, stood
still, hung his head, and foamed at the mouth, and, at length, as his
pain increased, he fell to the ground; the rider dismounted, and taking
off his saddle, waited to see whether the beast would recover or die.
At length, after writhing for a long time in extreme anguish, the horse
happened in his struggles to come to the very place where the great
king died. Immediately the pain abated, the beast ceased from his
frantic kicking, and, after the manner of horses, as if resting from
his weariness, he rolled from side to side, and then starting up,
perfectly recovered, began to graze hungrily on the green herbage. The
rider observing this, and being an intelligent man, concluded that
there must be some wonderful sanctity in the place where the horse had
been healed, and he marked the spot. After which he again mounted his
horse, and went on to the inn where he intended to stop. On his arrival
he found a girl, niece to the landlord, who had long been sick of the
palsy; and when the members of the household, in his presence, lamented
the girl’s grievous calamity, he gave them an account of the place
where his horse had been cured. In brief, she was put into a wagon and
carried to the place and laid down there. At first she slept awhile,
and when she awoke, found herself healed of her infirmity. Upon which
she called for water, washed her face, arranged her hair, put a
kerchief on her head, and returned home on foot, in good health, with
those who had brought her.

CHAP. X. How the dust of that place prevailed against fire. [After 642 A.D.]

ABOUT the same time, another traveller, a Briton, as is reported,
happened to pass by the same place, where the aforesaid battle was
fought. Observing one particular spot of ground greener and more
beautiful than any other part of the field, he had the wisdom to infer
that the cause of the unusual greenness in that place must be that some
person of greater holiness than any other in the army had been killed
there. Ide therefore took along with him some of the dust of that piece
of ground, tying it up in a linen cloth, supposing, as was indeed the
case, that it would be of use for curing sick people, and proceeding on
his journey, came in the evening to a certain village, and entered a
house where the villagers were feasting at supper. Being received by
the owners of the house, he sat down with them at the entertainment,
hanging the cloth, with the dust which he had carried in it, on a post
in the wall. They sat long at supper and drank deep. Now there was a
great fire in the middle of the room, and it happened that the sparks
flew up and caught the roof of the house, which being made of wattles
and thatch, was suddenly wrapped in flames; the guests ran out in panic
and confusion, but they were not able to save the burning house, which
was rapidly being destroyed. Wherefore the house was burnt down, and
only that post on which the dust hung in the linen cloth remained safe
and untouched by the fire. When they beheld this miracle, they were all
amazed, and inquiring into it diligently, learned that the dust had
been taken from the place where the blood of King Oswald had been shed.
These wonderful works being made known and reported abroad, many began
daily to resort to that place, and received the blessing of health for
themselves and their friends.

CHAP. XI. How a light from Heaven stood all night over his relics, and how
those possessed with devils were healed by them. [679-697 A.D.]

AMONG the rest, I think we ought not to pass over in silence the
miracles and signs from Heaven that were shown when King Oswald’s bones
were found, and translated into the church where they are now
preserved. This was done by the zealous care of Osthryth, queen of the
Mercians, the daughter of his brother Oswy, who reigned after him, as
shall be said hereafter.

There is a famous monastery in the province of Lindsey, called
Beardaneu, which that queen and her husband Ethelred greatly loved and
venerated, conferring upon it many honours. It was here that she was
desirous to lay the revered bones of her uncle. When the wagon in which
those bones were carried arrived towards evening at the aforesaid
monastery, they that were in it were unwilling to admit them, because,
though they knew him to be a holy man, yet, as he was a native of
another province, and had obtained the sovereignty over them, they
retained their ancient aversion to him even after his death. Thus it
came to pass that the relics were left in the open air all that night,
with only a large tent spread over the wagon which contained them. But
it was revealed by a sign from Heaven with how much reverence they
ought to be received by all the faithful; for all that night, a pillar
of light, reaching from the wagon up to heaven, was visible in almost
every part of the province of Lindsey. Hereupon, in the morning, the
brethren of that monastery who had refused it the day before, began
themselves earnestly to pray that those holy relics, beloved of God,
might be laid among them. Accordingly, the bones, being washed, were
put into a shrine which they had made for that purpose, and placed in
the church, with due honour; and that there might be a perpetual
memorial of the royal character of this holy man, they hung up over the
monument his banner of gold and purple. Then they poured out the water
in which they had washed the bones, in a corner of the cemetery. From
that time, the very earth which received that holy water, had the power
of saving grace in casting out devils from the bodies of persons

Lastly, when the aforesaid queen afterwards abode some time in that
monastery, there came to visit her a certain venerable abbess, who is
still living, called Ethelhild, the sister of the holy men, Ethelwinand
Aldwin, the first of whom was bishop in the province of Lindsey, the
other abbot of the monastery of Peartaneu; not far from which was the
monastery of Ethelhild. When this lady was come, in a conversation
between her and the queen, the discourse, among other things, turning
upon Oswald, she said, that she also had that night seen the light over
his relics reaching up to heaven. The queen thereupon added, that the
very dust of the pavement on which the water that washed the bones had
been poured out, had already healed many sick persons. The abbess
thereupon desired that some of that health-bringing dust might be given
her, and, receiving it, she tied it up in a cloth, and, putting it into
a casket, returned home. Some time after, when she was in her
monastery, there came to it a guest, who was wont often in the night to
be on a sudden grievously tormented with an unclean spirit; he being
hospitably entertained, when he had gone to bed after supper, was
suddenly seized by the Devil, and began to cry out, to gnash his teeth,
to foam at the mouth, and to writhe and distort his limbs. None being
able to hold or bind him, the servant ran, and knocking at the door,
told the abbess. She, opening the monastery door, went out herself with
one of the nuns to the men’s apartment, and calling a priest, desired
that he would go with her to the sufferer. Being come thither, and
seeing many present, who had not been able, by their efforts, to hold
the tormented person and restrain his convulsive movements, the priest
used exorcisms, and did all that he could to assuage the madness of the
unfortunate man, but, though he took much pains, he could not prevail.
When no hope appeared of easing him in his ravings, the abbess
bethought herself of the dust, and immediately bade her handmaiden go
and fetch her the casket in which it was. As soon as she came with it,
as she had been bidden, and was entering the hall of the house, in the
inner part whereof the possessed person was writhing in torment, he
suddenly became silent, and laid down his head, as if he had been
falling asleep, stretching out all his limbs to rest. “Silence fell
upon all and intent they gazed,” anxiously waiting to see the end of
the matter. And after about the space of an hour the man that had been
tormented sat up, and fetching a deep sigh, said, “Now I am whole, for
I am restored to my senses.” They earnestly inquired how that came to
pass, and he answered, “As soon as that maiden drew near the hall of
this house, with the casket she brought, all the evil spirits that
vexed me departed and left me, and were no more to be seen.” Then the
abbess gave him a little of that dust, and the priest having prayed, he
passed that night in great peace; nor was he, from that time forward,
alarmed by night, or in any way troubled by his old enemy.

CHAP. XII. How a little boy was cured of a fever at his tomb.

SOME time after, there was a certain little boy in the said monastery,
who had been long grievously troubled with a fever; he was one day
anxiously expecting the hour when his fit was to come on, when one of
the brothers, coming in to him, said, “Shall I tell you, my son, how
you may be cured of this sickness? Rise, enter the church, and go close
to Oswald’s tomb; sit down and stay there quiet and do not leave it; do
not come away, or stir from the place, till the time is past, when the
fever leaves you: then I will go in and fetch you away.” The boy did as
he was advised, and the disease durst not assail him as he sat by the
saint’s tomb; but fled in such fear that it did not dare to touch him,
either the second or third day, or ever after. The brother that came
from thence, and told me this, added, that at the time when he was
talking with me, the young man was then still living in the monastery,
on whom, when a boy, that miracle of healing had been wrought. Nor need
we wonder that the prayers of that king who is now reigning with our
Lord, should be very efficacious with Him, since he, whilst yet
governing his temporal kingdom, was always wont to pray and labour more
for that which is eternal. Nay, it is said, that he often continued in
prayer from the hour of morning thanksgiving till it was day; and that
by reason of his constant custom of praying or giving thanks to God, he
was wont always, wherever he sat, to hold his hands on his knees with
the palms turned upwards. It is also commonly affirmed and has passed
into a proverb, that he ended his life in prayer; for when he was beset
with the weapons of his enemies, and perceived that death was at hand,
he prayed for the souls of his army. Whence it is proverbially said,
“Lord have mercy on their souls,’ said Oswald, as he fell to the

Now his bones were translated to the monastery which we have mentioned,
and buried therein: but the king who slew him commanded his head, and
hands, with the arms, to be cut off from the body, and set upon stakes.
But his successor in the throne, Oswy, coming thither the next year
with his army, took them down, and buried his head in the cemetery of
the church of Lindisfarne, and the hands and arms in his royal city.

CHAP. XIII. How a certain person in Ireland was restored, when at the point of
death, by his relics.

NOR was the fame of the renowned Oswald confined to Britain, but,
spreading rays of healing light even beyond the sea, reached also to
Germany and Ireland. For the most reverend prelate, Acca, is wont to
relate, that when, in his journey to Rome, he and his bishop Wilfrid
stayed some time with Wilbrord, the holy archbishop of the Frisians, he
often heard him tell of the wonders which had been wrought in that
province at the relics of that most worshipful king. And he used to say
that in Ireland, when, being yet only a priest, he led the life of a
stranger and pilgrim for love of the eternal country, the fame of that
king’s sanctity was already spread far and near in that island also.
One of the miracles, among the rest, which he related, we have thought
fit to insert in this our history.

“At the time,” said he, “of the plague which made such widespread havoc
in Britain and Ireland, among others, a certain scholar of the Scottish
race was smitten with the disease, a man learned in the study of
letters, but in no way careful or studious of his eternal salvation;
who, seeing his death near at hand, began to fear and tremble lest, as
soon as he was dead, he should be hurried away to the prison-house of
Hell for his sins. He called me, for I was near, and trembling and
sighing in his weakness, with a lamentable voice made his complaint to
me, after this manner: You see that my bodily distress increases, and
that I am now reduced to the point of death. Nor do I question but that
after the death of my body, I shall be immediately snatched away to the
everlasting death of my soul, and cast into the torments of hell, since
for a long time, amidst all my reading of divine books, I have suffered
myself to be ensnared by sin, instead of keeping the commandments of
God. But it is my resolve, if the Divine Mercy shall grant me a new
term of life, to correct my sinful habits, and wholly to devote anew my
mind and life to obedience to the Divine will. But I know that I have
no merits of my own whereby to obtain a prolongation of life, nor can I
hope to have it, unless it shall please God to forgive me, wretched and
unworthy of pardon as I am, through the help of those who have
faithfully served him. We have heard, and the report is widespread,
that there was in your nation a king, of wonderful sanctity, called
Oswald, the excellency of whose faith and virtue has been made famous
even after his death by the working of many miracles. I beseech you, if
you have any relics of his in your keeping, that you will bring them to
me; if haply the Lord shall be pleased, through his merits, to have
mercy on me.’ I answered, I have indeed a part of the stake on which
his head was set up by the pagans, when he was killed, and if you
believe with steadfast heart, the Divine mercy may, through the merits
of so great a man, both grant you a longer term of life here, and
render you worthy to be admitted into eternal life.’ He answered
immediately that he had entire faith therein. Then I blessed some
water, and put into it a splinter of the aforesaid oak, and gave it to
the sick man to drink. He presently found ease, and, recovering of his
sickness, lived a long time after; and, being entirely converted to God
in heart and deed, wherever he went, he spoke of the goodness of his
merciful Creator, and the honour of His faithful servant.”

CHAP. XIV. How on the death of Paulinus, Ithamar was made Bishop of Rochester
in his stead; and of the wonderful humility of King Oswin, who was cruelly
slain by Oswy. [644-651 A. D.]

OSWALD being translated to the heavenly kingdom, his brother Oswy, a
young man of about thirty years of age, succeeded him on the throne of
his earthly kingdom, and held it twenty-eight years with much trouble,
being attacked by the pagan nation of the Mercians, that had slain his
brother, as also by his son Alchfrid, and by his nephew Oidilwald, the
son of his brother who reigned before him. In his second year, that is,
in the year of our Lord 644, the most reverend Father Paulinus,
formerly Bishop of York, but at that time Bishop of the city of
Rochester, departed to the Lord, on the ioth day of October, having
held the office of a bishop nineteen years, two months, and twenty-one
days; and was buried in the sacristy of the blessed Apostle Andrew,’
which King Ethelbert had built from the foundation, in the same city of
Rochester. In his place. Archbishop Honorius ordained Ithamar, of the
Kentish nation, but not inferior to his predecessors in learning and
conduct of life.

Oswy, during the first part of his reign, had a partner in the royal
dignity called Oswin, of the race of King Edwin, and son to Osricof
whom we have spoken above, a man of wonderful piety and devotion, who
governed the province of the Deiri seven years in very great
prosperity, and was himself beloved by all men. But Oswy, who governed
all the other northern part of the nation beyond the Humber, that is,
the province of the Bernicians, could not live at peace with him; and
at last, when the causes of their disagreement increased, he murdered
him most cruelly. For when each had raised an army against the other,
Oswin perceived that he could not maintain a war against his enemy who
had more auxiliaries than himself, and he thought it better at that
time to lay aside all thoughts of engaging, and to reserve himself for
better times. He therefore disbanded the army which he had assembled,
and ordered all his men to return to their own homes, from the place
that is called Wilfaraesdun, that is, Wilfar’s Hill, which is about ten
miles distant from the village called Cataract, towards the north-west.
He himself, with only one trusty thegn, whose name was Tondhere,
withdrew and lay concealed in the house of Hunwald, a noble, whom he
imagined to be his most assured friend. But, alas! it was far
otherwise; for Hunwald betrayed him, and Oswy, by the hands of his
reeve, Ethilwin, foully slew him and the thegn aforesaid. This happened
on the 20th of August, in the ninth year of his reign, at a place
called Ingetlingum, where afterwards, to atone for this crime, a
monastery was built, wherein prayers should be daily offered up to God
for the redemption of the souls of both kings, to wit, of him that was
murdered, and of him that commanded the murder.

King Oswin was of a goodly countenance, and tall of stature, pleasant
in discourse, and courteous in behaviour; and bountiful to all, gentle
and simple alike; so that he was beloved by all men for the royal
dignity of his mind and appearance and actions, and men of the highest
rank came from almost all provinces to serve him. Among all the graces
of virtue and moderation by which he was distinguished and, if I may
say so, blessed in a special manner, humility is said to have been the
greatest, which it will suffice to prove by one instance.

He had given a beautiful horse to Bishop Aidan, to use either in
crossing rivers, or in performing a journey upon any urgent necessity,
though the Bishop was wont to travel ordinarily on foot. Some short
time after, a poor man meeting the Bishop, and asking alms, he
immediately dismounted, and ordered the horse, with all his royal
trappings, to be given to the beggar; for he was very compassionate, a
great friend to the poor, and, in a manner, the father of the wretched.
This being told to the king, when they were going in to dinner, he said
to the Bishop, “What did you mean, my lord Bishop, by giving the poor
man that royal horse, which it was fitting that you should have for
your own use? Had not we many other horses of less value, or things of
other sorts, which would have been good enough to give to the poor,
instead of giving that horse, which I had chosen and set apart for your
own use?” Thereupon the Bishop answered, “What do you say, O king? Is
that son of a mare more dear to you than that son of God?” Upon this
they went in to dinner, and the Bishop sat in his place; but the king,
who had come in from hunting, stood warming himself, with his
attendants, at the fire. Then, on a sudden, whilst he was warming
himself, calling to mind what the bishop had said to him, he ungirt his
sword, and gave it to a servant, and hastened to the Bishop and fell
down at his feet,’ beseeching him to forgive him; “For from this time
forward,” said he, “I will never speak any more of this, nor will. I
judge of what or how much of our money you shall give to the sons of
God.” The bishop was much moved at this sight, and starting up, raised
him, saying that he was entirely reconciled to him, if he would but sit
down to his meat, and lay aside all sorrow. The king, at the bishop’s
command and request, was comforted, but the bishop, on the other hand,
grew sad and was moved even to tears. His priest then asking him, in
the language of his country, which the king and his servants did not
understand, why he wept, “I know,” said he, “that the king will not
live long; for I never before saw a humble king; whence I perceive that
he will soon be snatched out of this life, because this nation is not
worthy of such a ruler.” Not long after, the bishop’s gloomy foreboding
was fulfilled by the king’s sad death, as has been said above. But
Bishop Aidan himself was also taken out of this world, not more than
twelve days after the death of the king he loved, on the 31st of
August, to receive the eternal reward of his labours from the Lord.

CHAP. XV. How Bishop Aidan foretold to certain seamen that a storm would
arise, and gave them some holy oil to calm it. [Between 642 and 645 AD.]

How great the merits of Aidan were, was made manifest by the Judge of
the heart, with the testimony of miracles, whereof it will suffice to
mention three, that they may not be forgotten. A certain priest, whose
name was Utta,^2 a man of great weight and sincerity, and on that
account honoured by all men, even the princes of the world, was sent to
Kent, to bring thence, as wife for King Oswy, Eanfled, the daughter of
King Edwin, who had been carried thither when her father was killed.
Intending to go thither by land, but to return with the maiden by sea,
he went to Bishop Aidan, and entreated him to offer up his prayers to
the Lord for him and his company, who were then to set out on so long a
journey. He, blessing them, and commending them to the Lord, at the
same time gave them some holy oil, saying, “I know that when you go on
board ship, you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but be
mindful to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind will
cease immediately; you will have pleasant calm weather to attend you
and send you home by the way that you desire.

All these things fell out in order, even as the bishop had foretold.
For first, the waves of the sea raged , and the sailors endeavoured to
ride it out at anchor, but all to no purpose; for the sea sweeping over
the ship on all sides and beginning to fill it with water, they all
perceived that death was at hand and about to overtake them. The priest
at last, remembering the bishop’s words, laid hold of the phial and
cast some of the oil into the sea, which at once, as had been foretold,
ceased from its uproar. Thus it came to pass that the man of God, by
the spirit of prophecy, foretold the storm that was to come to pass,
and by virtue of the same spirit, though absent in the body, calmed it
when it had arisen. The story of this miracle was not told me by a
person of little credit, but by Cynimund, a most faithful priest of our
church, who declared that it was related to him by Utta, the priest, in
whose case and through whom the same was wrought.

CHAP. XVI. How the same Aidan, by his prayers, saved the royal city when it
was fired by the enemy. [Before 651 A.D.]

ANOTHER notable miracle of the same father is related by many such as
were likely to have knowledge thereof; for during the time that he was
bishop, the hostile army of the Mercians, under the command of Penda,
cruelly ravaged the country of the Northumbrians far and near, even to
the royal city, which has its name from Bebba, formerly its queen. Not
being able to take it by storm or by siege, he endeavoured to burn it
down; and having pulled down all the villages in the neighbourhood of
the city, he brought thither an immense quantity of beams, rafters,
partitions, wattles and thatch, wherewith he encompassed the place to a
great height on the land side, and when he found the wind favourable,
he set fire to it and attempted to burn the town.

At that time, the most reverend Bishop Aidan was dwelling in the Isle
of Fame, which is about two miles from the city; for thither he was
wont often to retire to pray in solitude and silence; and, indeed, this
lonely dwelling of his is to this day shown in that island. When he saw
the flames of fire and the smoke carried by the wind rising above the
city walls, he is said to have lifted up his eyes and hands to heaven,
and cried with tears, “Behold, Lord, how great evil is wrought by
Penda!” These words were hardly uttered, when the wind immediately
veering from the city, drove back the flames upon those who had kindled
them, so that some being hurt, and all afraid, they forebore any
further attempts against the city, which they perceived to be protected
by the hand of God.

CHAP. XVII. How a prop of the church on which Bishop Aidan was leaning when he
died, could not be consumed when the rest of the Church was on fire; and
concerning his inward life. [651 A. D.]

AIDAN was in the king’s township, not far from the city of which we
have spoken above, at the time when death caused him to quit the body,
after he had been bishop sixteen years; for having a church and a
chamber in that place, he was wont often to go and stay there, and to
make excursions from it to preach in the country round about, which he
likewise did at other of the king’s townships, having nothing of his
own besides his church and a few fields about it. When he was sick they
set up a tent for him against the wall at the west end of the church,
and so it happened that he breathed his last, leaning against a
buttress that was on the outside of the church to strengthen the wall.
He died in the seventeenth year of his episcopate, on the 31st of
August. His body was. thence presently translated to the isle of
Lindisfarne, and buried in the cemetery of the brethren. Some time
after, when a larger church was built there and dedicated in honour of
the blessed prince of the Apostles, his bones were translated thither,
and laid on the right side of the altar, with the respect due to so
great a prelate.

Finan, who had likewise been sent thither from Hii, the island
monastery of the Scots, succeeded him, and continued no small time in
the bishopric. It happened some years after, that Penda, king of the
Mercians, coming into these parts with a hostile army, destroyed all he
could with fire and sword, and the village where the bishop died, along
with the church above mentioned, was burnt down; but it fell out in a
wonderful manner that the buttress against which he had been leaning
when he died, could not be consumed by the fire which devoured all
about it. This miracle being noised abroad, the church was soon rebuilt
in the same place, and that same buttress was set up on the outside, as
it had been before, to strengthen the wall. It happened again, some
time after, that the village and likewise the church were carelessly
burned down the second time. Then again, the fire could not touch the
buttress; and, miraculously, though the fire broke through the very
holes of the nails wherewith it was fixed to the building, yet it could
do no hurt to the buttress itself. When therefore the church was built
there the third time, they did not, as before, place that buttress on
the outside as a support of the building, but within the church, as a
memorial of the miracle; where the people coming in might kneel, and
implore the Divine mercy. And it is well known that since then many
have found grace and been healed in that same place, as also that by
means of splinters cut off from the buttress, and put into water, many
more have obtained a remedy for their own infirmities and those of
their friends

I have written thus much concerning the character and works of the
aforesaid Aidan, in no way commending or approving his lack of wisdom
with regard to the observance of Easter; nay, heartily detesting it, as
I have most manifestly proved in the book I have written, “De
Temporibus”; but, like an impartial historian, unreservedly relating
what was done by or through him, and commending such things as are
praiseworthy in his actions, and preserving the memory thereof for the
benefit of the readers; to wit, his love of peace and charity; of
continence and humility; his mind superior to anger and avarice, and
despising pride and vainglory; his industry in keeping and teaching the
Divine commandments, his power of study and keeping vigil; his priestly
authority in reproving the haughty and powerful, and at the same time
his tenderness in comforting the afflicted, and relieving or defending
the poor. To be brief, so far as I have learnt from those that knew
him, he took care to neglect none of those things which he found in the
Gospels and the writings of Apostles and prophets, but to the utmost of
his power endeavoured to fulfil them all in his deeds.

These things I greatly admire and love in the aforesaid bishop, because
I do not doubt that they were pleasing to God; but I do not approve or
praise his observance of Easter at the wrong time, either through
ignorance of the canonical time appointed, or, if he knew it, being
prevailed on by the authority of his nation not to adopt it. Yet this I
approve in him, that in the celebration of his Easter, the object which
he had at heart and reverenced and preached was the same as ours, to
wit, the redemption of mankind, through the Passion, Resurrection and
Ascension into Heaven of the Man Christ Jesus, who is the mediator
between God and man. And therefore he always celebrated Easter, not as
some falsely imagine, on the fourteenth of the moon, like the Jews, on
any day of the week, but on the Lord’s day, from the fourteenth to the
twentieth of the moon; and this he did from his belief that the
Resurrection of our Lord happened on the first day of the week, and for
the hope of our resurrection, which also he, with the holy Church,
believed would truly happen on that same first day/ of the week, now
called the Lord’s day.

CHAP. XVIII. Of the life and death of the religious King Sigbert [Circ. 631

AT this time, the kingdom of the East Angles, after the death of
Earpwald, the successor of Redwald, was governed by his brother
Sigbert, a good and religious man, who some time before had been
baptized in Gaul, whilst he lived in banishment, a fugitive from the
enmity of Redwald. When he returned home, as soon as- he ascended the
throne, being desirous to imitate the good institutions which he had
seen in Gaul, he founded a school wherein boys should be taught
letters, and was assisted therein by Bishop Felix, who came to him from
Kent, and who furnished them with masters and teachers after the manner
of the people of Kent.

This king became so great a lover of the heavenly kingdom, that at
last, quitting the affairs of his kingdom, and committing them to his
kinsman Ecgric, who before had a share in that kingdom, he entered a
monastery, which he had built for himself, and having received the
tonsure, applied himself rather to do battle for a heavenly throne. A
long time after this, it happened that the nation of the Mercians,
under King Penda, made war on the East Angles; who finding themselves
no match for their enemy, entreated Sigbert to go with them to battle,
to encourage the soldiers. He was unwilling and refused, upon which
they drew him against his will out of the monastery, and carried him to
the army, hoping that the soldiers would be less afraid and less
disposed to flee in the presence of one who had formerly been an active
and distinguished commander. But he, still mindful of his profession,
surrounded, as he was, by a royal army, would carry nothing in his hand
but a wand, and was killed with King Ecgric; and the pagans pressing
on, all their army was either slanghtered or dispersed.

They were succeeded in the kingdom by Anna, the son of Eni, of the
blood royal, a good man, and the father of good children, of whom, in
the proper place, we shall speak hereafter. He also was afterwards
slain like his predecessors by the same pagan chief of the Mercians.

CHAP. XIX. How Fursa built a monastery among the East Angles, and of his
visions and sanctity, to which, his flesh remaining uncorrupted after death
bore testimony. [Circ. 633 A.D.]

WHILST Sigbert still governed the kingdom, there came out of Ireland a
holy man called Fursa, renowned both for his words and actions, and
remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live as a stranger
and pilgrim for the Lord’s sake, wherever an opportunity should offer.
On coming into the province of the East Angles, he was honourably
received by the aforesaid king, and performing his wonted task of
preaching the Gospel, by the example of his virtue and the influence of
his words, converted many unbelievers to Christ, and confirmed in the
faith and love of Christ those that already believed.

Here he fell into some infirmity of body, and was thought worthy to see
a vision of angels; in which he was admonished diligently to persevere
in the ministry of the Word which he had undertaken, and indefatigably
to apply himself to his usual watching and prayers; inasmuch as his end
was certain, but the hour thereof uncertain, according to the saying of
our Lord, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.”
Being confirmed by this vision, he set himself with all speed to build
a monastery on the ground which had been given him by King Sigbert, and
to establish a rule of life therein. This monastery was pleasantly
situated in the woods, near the sea; it was built within the area of a
fort, which in the English language is called Cnobheresburg, that is,
Cnobhere’s Town; afterwards, Anna, king of that province, and certain
of the nobles, embellished it with more stately buildings and with

This man was of noble Scottishblood, but much more noble in mind than
in birth. From his boyish years, he had earnestly applied himself to
reading sacred books and observing monastic discipline, and, as is most
fitting for holy men, he carefully practised all that he learned to be

Now, in course of time he himself built a monastery, wherein he might
with more freedom devote himself to his heavenly studies. There,
falling sick, as the book concerning his life clearly informs us, he
fell into a trance, and quitting his body from the evening till
cockcrow, he accounted worthy to behold the sight of the choirs of
angels, and to hear their glad songs of praise. He was wont to declare,
that among other things he distinctly heard this refrain: “The saints
shall go from strength to strength.”And again, “The God of gods shall
be seen in Sion.” Being restored to his body, and again taken from it
three days after, he not only saw the greater joys of the blessed, but
also fierce conflicts of evil spirits, who by frequent accusations
wickedly endeavoured to obstruct his journey to heaven; but the angels
protected him, and all their endeavours were in vain. Concerning all
these matters, if any one desires to be more fully informed, to wit,
with what subtlety of deceit the devils recounted both his actions and
idle words, and even his thoughts, as if they had been written down in
a book; and what joyous or grievous tidings he learned from the holy
angels and just men who appeared to him among the angels; let him read
the little book of his life which I have mentioned, and I doubt not
that he will thereby reap much spiritual profit.

But there is one thing among the rest, which we have thought it may be
beneficial to many to insert in this history. When he had been taken up
on high, he was bidden by the angels that conducted him to look back
upon the world. Upon which, casting his eyes downward, he saw, as it
were, a dark valley in the depths underneath him. He also saw four
fires in the air, not far distant from each other. Then asking the
angels, what fires those were, he was told, they were the fires which
would kindle and consume the world. One of them was of falsehood, when
we do not fulfil that which we promised in Baptism, to renounce the
Devil and all his works. The next was of covetousness, when we prefer
the riches of the world to the love of heavenly things. The third was
of discord, when we do not fear to offend our neighbour even in
needless things. The fourth was of ruthlessness when we think it a
light thing to rob and to defraud the weak. These fires, increasing by
degrees, extended so as to meet one another, and united in one immense
flame. When it drew near, fearing for himself, he said to the angel,
“Lord, behold the fire draws near to me.” The angel answered, “That
which you did not kindle will not burn you; for though this appears to
be a terrible and great pyre, yet it tries every man according to the
merits of his works; for every man’s concupiscence shall burn in this
fire; for as a man burns in the body through unlawful pleasure, so,
when set free from the body, he shall burn by the punishment which he
has deserved.”

Then he saw one of the three angels, who had been his guides throughout
both visions, go before and divide the flaming fires, whilst the other
two, flying about on both sides, defended him from the danger of the
fire. He also saw devils flying through the fire, raising the flames of
war against the just. Then followed accusations of the envious spirits
against himself, the defence of the good spirits, and a fuller vision
of the heavenly hosts; as also of holy men of his own nation, who, as
he had learnt, had worthily held the office of priesthood in old times,
and who were known to fame; from whom he heard many things very
salutary to himself, and to all others that would listen to them. When
they had ended their discourse, and returned to Heaven with the angelic
spirits, there remained with the blessed Fursa, the three angels of
whom we have spoken before, and who were to bring him back to the body.
And when they approached the aforesaid great fire, the angel divided
the flame, as he had done before; but when the man of God came to the
passage so opened amidst the flames, the unclean spirits, laying hold
of one of those whom they were burning in the fire, cast him against
him, and, touching his shoulder and jaw, scorched them. He knew the
man, and called to mind that he had received his garment when he died.
The holy angel, immediately laying hold of the man, threw him back into
the fire, and the malignant enemy said, “Do not reject him whom you
before received; for as you received the goods of the sinner, so you
ought to share in his punishment.” But the angel withstood him, saying,
“He did not receive them through avarice, but in order to save his
soul.” The fire ceased, and the angel, turning to him, said, “That
which you kindled burned you; for if you had not received the money of
this man that died in his sins, his punishment would not burn you.” And
he went on to speak with wholesome counsel of what ought to be done for
the salvation of such as repented in the hour of death.

Being afterwards restored to the body, throughout the whole course of
his life he bore the mark of the fire which he had felt in the spirit,
visible to all men on his shoulder and jaw; and the flesh openly
showed, in a wonderful manner, what the spirit had suffered in secret.
He always took care, as he had done before, to teach all men the
practice of virtue, as well by his example, as by preaching. But as for
the story of his visions, he would only relate them to those who, from
desire of repentance, questioned him about them. An aged brother of our
monastery is still living, who is wont to relate that a very truthful
and religious man told him, that he had seen Fursa himself in the
province of the East Angles, and heard those visions from his lips;
adding, that though it was in severe winter weather and a hard frost,
and the man was sitting in a thin garment when he told the story, yet
he sweated as if it had been in the heat of mid-summer, by reason of
the great terror or joy of which he spoke.

To return to what we were saying before, when, after preaching the Word
of God many years in Scotland, he could not well endure the disturbance
of the crowds that resorted to him, leaving all that he looked upon as
his own, he departed from his native island, and came with a few
brothers through the Britons into the province of the English, and
preaching the Word there, as has been said, built a famous monastery.
When this was duly carried out, he became desirous to rid himself of
all business of this world, and even of the monastery itself, and
forthwith left the care of it and of its souls, to his brother Fullan,
and the priests Gobban and Dicull, and being himself free from all
worldly affairs, resolved to end his life as a hermit. He had another
brother called Ultan, who, after a long monastic probation, had also
adopted the life of an anchorite. So, seeking him out alone, he lived a
whole year with him in self-denial and prayer, and laboured daily with
his hands.

Afterwards seeing the province thrown into confusion by the irruptions
of the pagans, and foreseeing that the monasteries would also be in
danger, he left all things in order, and sailed over into Gaul, and
being there honourably entertained by Clovis, king of the Franks, or by
the patrician Ercinwald, he built a monastery in the place called
Latineacum,^2and falling sick not long after, departed this life. The
same Ercinwald, the patrician, took his body, and kept it in the porch
of a church he was building in his town of Perrona, till the church
itself should be dedicated. This happened twenty-seven days after, and
the body being taken from the porch, to be re-buried near the altar,
was found as whole as if he had died that very hour. And again, four
years after, when a more beautiful shrine had been built to receive his
body to the east of the altar, it was still found without taint of
corruption, and was translated thither with due honour; where it is
well known that his merits, through the divine operation, have been
declared by many miracles. We have briefly touched upon these matters
as well as the incorruption of his body, that the lofty nature of the
man may be better known to our readers. All which, as also concerning
the comrades of his warfare, whosoever will read it, will find more
fully described in the book of his life.

CHAP. XX. How, when Honorius died, Deusdedit became Archbishop of Canterbury;
and of those who were at that time bishops of the East Angles, and of the
church of Rochester. [653 A.D.]

IN the meantime, Felix, bishop of the East Angles, dying, when he had
held that see seventeen years, Honorius ordained Thomas his deacon, of
the province of the Gyrwas, in his place; and he being taken from this
life when he had been bishop five years, Bertgils, surnamed Boniface,
of the province of Kent, was appointed in his stead. Honoriushimself
also, having run his course, departed this life in the year of our Lord
653, on the 30th of September; and when the see had been vacant a year
and six months, Deusdedit of the nation of the West Saxons, was chosen
the sixth Archbishop of Canterbury. To ordain him, Ithamar, bishop of
Rochester, came thither. His ordination was on the 26th of March, and
he ruled the church nine years, four months, and two days; and when
Ithamar died, he consecrated in his place Damian, who was of the race
of the South Saxons.

CHAP. XXI. How the province of the Midland Angles became Christian under King
Peada. [653 A.D.]

AT this time, the Middle Angles, that is, the Angles of the Midland
country (probably Leicestershire)under their Prince Peada, the son of
King Penda, received the faith and mysteries of the truth. Being an
excellent youth, and most worthy of the name and office of a king, he
was by his father elevated to the throne of that nation, and came to
Oswy, king of the Northumbrians, requesting to have his daughter
Aichfled given him to wife; but he could not obtain his desire unless
he would receive the faith of Christ, and be baptized, with the nation
which he governed. When he heard the preaching of the truth, the
promise of the heavenly kingdom, and the hope of resurrection and
future immortality, he declared that he would willingly become a
Christian, even though he should not obtain the maiden; being chiefly
prevailed on to receive the faith by King Oswy’s son Alchfrid, who was
his brother-in-law and friend, for he had married his sister
Cyneburg,^3 the daughter of King Penda.

Accordingly he was baptized by Bishop Finan, with all his his nobles
and thegns, and their servants, that came along with him, at a noted
township, belonging to the king, called At the Wall. And having
received four priests, who by reason of their learning and good life
were deemed proper to instruct and baptize his nation, he returned home
with much joy. These priests were Cedd and Adda, and Betti and Diuma;
the last of whom was by nation a Scot, the others English. Adda was
brother to Utta, whom we have mentioned before, a renowned priest, and
abbot of the monastery which is called At the Goat’s Head.^8The
aforesaid priests, arriving in the province with the prince, preached
the Word, and were heard willingly; and many, as well of the nobility
as the common sort, renouncing the abominations of idolatry, were daily
washed in the fountain of the faith.

Nor did King Penda forbid the preaching of the Word even among his
people, the Mercians, if any were willing to hear it; but, on the
contrary, he hated and despised those whom he perceived to be without
the works of faith, when they had once received the faith of Christ,
saying, that they were contemptible and wretched who scorned to obey
their God, in whom they believed. These things were set on foot two
years before the death of King Penda.

But when he was slain, and the most Christian king, Oswy, succeeded him
in the throne, as we shall hereafter relate, Diuma, one of the
aforesaid four priests, was made bishop of the Midland Angles, as also
of the Mercians, being ordained by Bishop Finan; for the scarcity of
priests made it necessary that one prelate should be set over two
nations. Having in a short time gained many people to the Lord, he died
among the Midland Angles, in the country called Infeppingum; and
Ceollach, also of the Scottish nation, succeeded him in the bishopric.
But he, not long after, left his bishopric, and returned to the island
of Hii, which, among the Scots, was the chief and head of many
monasteries. His successor in the bishopric was Trumhere, a godly man,
and trained in the monastic life, an Englishman, but ordained bishop by
the Scots. This happened in the days of King Wulfhere, of whom we shall
speak hereafter.

CHAP. XXII. How under King Sigbert, through the preaching of Cedd, the East
Saxons again received the faith, which they had before cast off [653 A.D.]

AT that time, also, the East Saxons, at the instance of King Oswy,
again received the faith, which they had formerly cast off when they
expelled Mellitus, their bishop. For Sigbert, who reigned next to
Sigbert surnamed The Little, was then king of that nation, and a friend
to King Oswy, who, when Sigbert came to the province of the
Northumbrians to visit him, as he often did, used to endeavour to
convince him that those could not be gods that had been made by the
hands of men; that a stock or a stone could not be proper matter to
form a god, the residue whereof was either burned in the fire, or
framed into any vessels for the use of men, or else was cast out as
refuse, trampled on and turned into dust. That God is rather to be
understood as incomprehensible in majesty and invisible to human eyes,
almighty, eternal, the Creator of heaven and earth and of mankind; Who
governs and will judge the world in righteousness, Whose eternal abode
must be believed to be in Heaven, and not in base and perishable metal;
and that it ought in reason to be concluded, that all those who learn
and do the will of Him by Whom they were created, will receive from Him
eternal rewards. King Oswy having often, with friendly counsel, like a
brother, said this and much more to the like effect to King Sigbert, at
length, aided by the consent of his friends, he believed, and after he
had consulted with those about him, and exhorted them, when they all
agreed and assented to the faith, he was baptized with them by Bishop
Finan, in the king’s township above spoken of, which is called At the
Wall, because it is close by the wall which the Romans formerly drew
across the island of Britain, at the distance of twelve miles from the
eastern sea.

King Sigbert, having now become a citizen of the eternal kingdom,
returned to the seat of his temporal kingdom, requesting of King Oswy
that he would give him some teachers, to convert his nation to the
faith of Christ, and cleanse them in the fountain of salvation.
Wherefore Oswy, sending into the province of the Midland Angles,
summoned the man of God, Cedd, and, giving him another priest for his
companion, sent them to preach the Word to the East Saxons. When these
two, travelling to all parts of that country, had gathered a numerous
Church to the Lord, it happened once that Cedd returned home, and came
to the church of Lindisfarne to confer with Bishop Finan; who, finding
that the work of the Gospel had prospered in his hands, made him bishop
of the nation of the East Saxons, calling to him two other bishops to
assist at the ordination. Cedd, having received the episcopal dignity,
returned to his province, and pursuing the work he had begun with more
ample authority, built churches in divers places, and ordained priests
and deacons to assist him in the Word of faith, and the ministry of
Baptism, especially in the city which, in the language of the Saxons,
is called Ythancaestir, as also in that which is named Tilaburg. The
first of these places is on the bank of the Pant, the other on the bank
of the Thames. In these, gathering a flock of Christ’s servants, he
taught them to observe the discipline of a rule of life, as far as
those rude people were then capable of receiving it.

Whilst the teaching of the everlasting life was thus, for no small
time, making daily increase in that province to the joy of the king and
of all the people, it happened that the king, at the instigation of the
enemy of all good men, was murdered by his own kindred. They were two
brothers who did this wicked deed; and being asked what had moved them
to it, they had nothing else to answer, but that they had been incensed
against the king, and hated him, because he was too apt to spare his
enemies, and calmly forgave the wrongs they had done him, upon their
entreaty. Such was the crime for which the king was killed, because he
observed the precepts of the Gospel with a devout heart; but in this
innocent death his real offence was also punished, according to the
prediction of the man of God. For one of those nobles that murdered him
was unlawfully married, and when the bishop was not able to prevent or
correct the sin, he excommunicated him, and commanded all that would
give ear to him not to enter this man’s house, nor to eat of his meat.
But the king made light of this command, and being invited by the
noble, went to a banquet at his house. As he was going thence, the
bishop met him. The king, beholding him, immediately dismounted from
his horse, trembling, and fell down at his feet, begging pardon for his
offence; for the bishop, who was likewise on horseback, had also
alighted. Being much incensed, he touched the prostrate king with the
rod he held in his hand, and spoke thus with the authority of his

“I tell thee, forasmuch as thou wouldest not refrain from the house of
that sinful and condemned man, thou shalt die in that very house.” Yet
it is to be believed, that such a death of a religious man not only
blotted out his offence, but even added to his merit; because it
happened on account of his piety and his observance of the commands of

Sigbert was succeeded in the kingdom by Suidhelm, the son of Sexbald,
who was baptized by the same Cedd, in the province of the East Angles,
in the royal township, called Rendlaesham,’ that is, Rendil’s Dwelling;
and Ethelwald, king of the East Angles, brother to Anna, king of the
same people, received him as he came forth from the holy font.

CHAP. XXIII. How Bishop Cedd, having a place for building a monastery given
him by King Etheiwald, consecrated it to the Lord with prayer and fasting; and
concerning his death. [659-664 A. D.]

THE same man of God, whilst he was bishop among the East Saxons, was
also wont oftentimes to visit his own province, Northumbria, for the
purpose of exhortation. Oidilwald, the son of King Oswald, who reigned
among the Deiri, finding him a holy, wise, and good man, desired him to
accept some land whereon to build a monastery, to which the king
himself might frequently resort, to pray to the Lord and hear the Word,
and where he might be buried when he died; for he believed faithfully
that he should receive much benefit from the daily prayers of those who
were to serve the Lord in that place. The king had before with him a
brother of the same bishop, called Caelin, a man no less devoted to
God, who, being a priest, was wont to administer to him and his house
the Word and the Sacraments of the faith; by whose means he chiefly
came to know and love the bishop. So then, complying with the king’s
desires, the Bishop chose himself a place whereon to build a monastery
among steep and distant mountains, which looked more like
lurking-places for robbers and dens of wild beasts, than dwellings of
men; to the end that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, “In the
habitation of dragons, where each lay, might be grass with reeds and
rushes;” that is, that the fruits of good works should spring up, where
before beasts were wont to dwell, or men to live after the manner of

But the man of God, desiring first to cleanse the place which he had
received for the monastery from stain of former crimes, by prayer and
fasting, and so to lay the foundations there, requested of the king
that he would give him opportunity and leave to abide there for prayer
all the time of Lent, which was at hand. All which days, except
Sundays, he prolonged his fast till the evening, according to custom,
and then took no other sustenance than a small piece of bread, one
hen’s egg, and a little milk and water. This, he said, was the custom
of those of whom he had learned the rule of regular discipline, first
to consecrate to the Lord, by prayer and fasting, the places which they
had newly received for building a monastery or a church. When there
were ten days of Lent still remaining, there came a messenger to call
him to the king; and he, that the holy work might not be intermitted,
on account of the king’s affairs, entreated his priest, Cynibill, who
was also his own brother, to complete his pious undertaking. Cynibill
readily consented, and when the duty of fasting and prayer was over, he
there built the monastery, which is now called Laestingaeu, and
established therein religious customs according to the use of
Lindisfarne, where he had been trained.

When Cedd had for many years held the office of bishop in the aforesaid
province, and also taken charge of this monastery, over which he placed
provosts, it happened that he came thither at a time when there was
plague, and fell sick and died. He was first buried without the walls;
but in the process of time a church was built of stone in the
monastery, in honour of the Blessed Mother of God, and his body was
laid in it, on the right side of the altar.

The bishop left the monastery to be governed after him by his brother
Ceadda, who was afterwards made bishop, as shall be told hereafter.
For, as it rarely happens, the four brothers we have mentioned, Cedd
and Cynibill, and Caelin and Ceadda, were all celebrated priests of the
Lord, and two of them also came to be bishops. When the brethren who
were in his monastery, in the province of the East Saxons, heard that
the bishop was dead and buried in the province of the Northumbrians,
about thirty men of that monastery came thither, being desirous either
to live near the body of their father, if it should please God, or to
die and be buried there. Being gladly received by their brethren and
fellow soldiers in Christ, all of them died there struck down by the
aforesaid pestilence, except one little boy, who is known to have been
saved from death by the prayers of his spiritual father. For being
alive long after, and giving himself to the reading of Scripture, he
was told that he had not been regenerated by the water of Baptism, and
being then cleansed in the layer of salvation, he was afterwards
promoted to the order of priesthood, and was of service to many in the
church. I do not doubt that he was delivered at the point of death, as
I have said, by the intercession of his father, to whose body he had
come for love of him, that so he might himself avoid eternal death, and
by teaching, offer the ministry of life and salvation to others of the

CHAP. XXIV. How when King Penda was slain, the province of the Mercians
received the faith of Christ, and Oswy gave possessions and territories to
God, for building monasteries, as a thank offering for the victory obtained.
[655 A.D.]

AT this time, King Oswy was exposed to the cruel and intolerable
invasions of Penda, king of the Mercians, whom we have so often
mentioned, and who had slain his brother; at length, compelled by his
necessity, he promised to give him countless gifts and royal marks of
honour greater than can be believed, to purchase peace; provided that
he would return home, and cease to waste and utterly destroy the
provinces of his kingdom. The pagan king refused to grant his request,
for he had resolved to blot out and extirpate all his nation, from the
highest to the lowest; whereupon King Oswy had recourse to the
protection of the Divine pity for deliverance from his barbarous and
pitiless foe, and binding himself by a vow, said, “If the pagan will
not accept our gifts, let us offer them to Him that will, the Lord our
God.” He then vowed, that if he should win the victory, he would
dedicate his daughter to the Lord in holy virginity, and give twelve
pieces of land whereon to build monasteries. After this he gave battle
with a very small army: indeed, it is reported that the pagans had
thirty times the number of men; for they had thirty legions, drawn up
under most noted commanders. King Oswy and his son Alchfrid met them
with a very small army, as has been said, but trusting in Christ as
their Leader; his other son, Egfrid was then kept as a hostage at the
court of Queen Cynwise, in the province of the Mercians. King Oswald’s
son Oidilwald, who ought to have supported them, was on the enemy’s
side, and led them on to fight against his country and his uncle;
though, during the battle, he withdrew, and awaited the event in a
place of safety. The engagement began, the pagans were put to flight or
killed, the thirty royal commanders, who had come to Penda’s
assistance, were almost all of them slain; among whom was Ethelhere,^
brother and successor to Anna, king of the East Angles. He had been the
occasion of the war, and was now killed, having lost his army and
auxiliaries. The battle was fought near the river Winwaed, which then,
owing to the great rains, was in flood, and had overflowed its banks,
so that many more were drowned in the flight than destroyed in battle
by thc sword.

Then King Oswy, according to the vow he had made to the Lord, returned
thanks to God for the victory granted him, and gave his daughter
Elfled, who was scarce a year old, to be consecrated to Him in
perpetual virginity; bestowing also twelve small estates of land,
wherein the practice of earthly warfare should cease, and place and
means should be afforded to devout and zealous monks to wage spiritual
warfare, and pray for the eternal peace of his nation. Of these estates
six were in the province of the Deiri, and the other six in that of the
Bernicians. Each of the estates contained ten families, that is, a
hundred and twenty in all. The aforesaid daughter of King Oswy, who was
to be dedicated to God, entered the monastery called Heruteu, or, “The
Island of the Hart,” at that time ruled by the Abbess Hilda, who, two
years after, having acquired an estate of ten families, at the place
called Streanaeshalch, built a monastery there, in which the aforesaid
king’s daughter was first trained in the monastic life and afterwards
became abbess; till, at the age of fifty-nine, the blessed virgin
departed to be united to her Heavenly Bridegroom. In this monastery,
she and her father, Oswy, her mother, Eanfled, her mother’s father,
Edwin, and many other noble persons, are buried in the church of the
holy Apostle Peter. King Oswy concluded this war in the district of
Loidis, in the thirteenth year of his reign, on the 15th of November,
to the great benefit of both nations; for he delivered his own people
from the hostile depredations of the pagans, and, having made an end of
their heathen chief, converted the Mercians and the adjacent provinces
to the grace of the Christian faith.

Diuma was made the first bishop of the Mercians, as also of Lindsey and
the Midland Angles, as has been said above, and he died and was buried
among the Midland Angles. The second was Ceollach,^ who, giving up his
episcopal office before his death, returned into Scotland. Both these
bishops belonged to the nation of the Scots. The third was Trumhere, an
Englishman, but educated and ordained by the Scots. He was abbot of the
monastery that is called Ingetlingum, and is the place where King Oswin
was killed, as has been said above; for Queen Eanfled, his kinswoman,
in expiation of his unjust death, begged of King Oswy that he would
give Trumhere, the aforesaid servant of God, a place there to build a
monastery, because he also was kinsman to the slaughtered king; in
which monastery continual prayers should be offered up for the eternal
welfare of the kings, both of him that was murdered, and of him that
commanded the murder. The same King Oswy governed the Mercians, as also
the people of the other southern provinces, three years after he had
slain King Penda; and he likewise subdued the greater part of the Picts
to the dominion of the English.

At this time he gave to the above-mentioned Peada, son to King Penda,
because he was his kinsman, the kingdom of the Southern Mercians,
consisting, as is said, of 5,000 families, divided by the river Trent
from the Northern Mercians, whose land contains 7,000 families; but
Peada was foully slain in the following spring, by the treachery, as is
said, of his wife, during the very time of the Easter festival. Three
years after the death of King Penda, the Mercian chiefs, Immin, and
Eafa, and Eadbert, rebelled against King Oswy, setting up for their
king, Wulfhere, son to the said Penda, a youth whom they had kept
concealed; and expelling the ealdormen of the foreign king, they
bravely recovered at once their liberty and their lands; and being thus
free, together with their king, they rejoiced to serve Christ the true
King, for the sake of an everlasting kingdom in heaven. This king
governed the Mercians seventeen years, and had for his first bishop
Trumhere, above spoken of; the second was Jaruman; the third Ceadda;
the fourth Wynfrid. All these, succeeding each other in order under
King Wulfhere, discharged episcopal duties to the Mercian nation.

CHAP. XXV. How the question arose about the due time of keeping Easter, with
those that came out of Scotland. [664 A.D.]

IN the meantime, Bishop Aidan being taken away from this life, Finan,
who was ordained and sent by the Scots, succeeded him in the bishopric,
and built a church in the Isle of Lindisfarne, fit for the episcopal
see; nevertheless, after the manner of the Scots, he made it, not of
stone, but entirely of hewn oak, and covered it with reeds; and it was
afterwards dedicated in honour of the blessed Peter the Apostle, by the
most reverend Archbishop Theodore. Eadbert, also bishop of that place,
took off the thatch, and caused it to be covered entirely, both roof
and walls, with plates of lead.

At this time, a great and frequently debated question arose about the
observance of Easter; those that came from Kent or Gaul affirming, that
the Scots celebrated Easter Sunday contrary to the custom of the
universal Church. Among them was a most zealous defender of the true
Easter, whose name was Ronan, a Scot by nation, but instructed in the
rule of ecclesiastical truth in Gaul or Italy. Disputing with Finan, he
convinced many, or at least induced them to make a more strict inquiry
after the truth; yet he could not prevail upon Finan, but, on the
contrary, embittered him the more by reproof, and made him a professed
opponent of the truth, for he was of a violent temper. James, formerly
the deacon of the venerable Archbishop Paulinus, as has been said
above, observed the true and Catholic Easter, with all those that he
could instruct in the better way. Queen Eanfled and her followers also
observed it as she had seen it practised in Kent, having with her a
Kentish priest who followed the Catholic observance, whose name was
Romanus. Thus it is said to have sometimes happened in those times that
Easter was twice celebrated in one year; and that when the king, having
ended his fast, was keeping Easter, the queen and her followers were
still fasting, and celebrating Palm Sunday. Whilst Aidan lived, this
difference about the observance of Easter was patiently tolerated by
all men, for they well knew, that though he could not keep Easter
contrary to the custom of those who had sent him, yet he industriously
laboured to practise the works of faith, piety, and love, according to
the custom of all holy men; for which reason he was deservedly beloved
by all, even by those who differed in opinion concerning Easter, and
was held in veneration, not only by less important persons, but even by
the bishops, Honorius of Canterbury, and Felix of the East Angles.

But after the death of Finan, who succeeded him, when Colman, who was
also sent from Scotland, came to be bishop, a greater controversy arose
about the observance of Easter, and other rules of ecclesiastical life.
Whereupon this question began naturally to influence the thoughts and
hearts of many who feared, lest haply, having received the name of
Christians, they might run, or have run, in vain. This reached the ears
of the rulers, King Oswy and his son Alchfrid. Now Oswy, having been
instructed and baptized by the Scots, and being very perfectly skilled
in their language, thought nothing better than what they taught; but
Alchfrid, having for his teacher in Christianity the learned Wilfrid,
who had formerly gone to Rome to study ecclesiastical doctrine, and
spent much time at Lyons with Dalfinus,^ archbishop of Gaul, from whom
also he had received the crown of ecclesiastical tonsure, rightly
thought that this man’s doctrine ought to be preferred before all the
traditions of the Scots. For this reason he had also given him a
monastery of forty families, at a place called Inhrypum; which place,
not long before, he had given for a monastery to those that were
followers of the Scots; but forasmuch as they afterwards, being left to
their choice, preferred to quit the place rather than alter their
custom, he gave it to him, whose life and doctrine were worthy of it.

Agilbert, bishop of the West Saxons,^ above-mentioned, a friend of King
Alchfrid and of Abbot Wilfrid, had at that time come into the province
of the Northumbrians, and was staying some time among them; at the
request of Alchfrid, he made Wilfrid a priest in his aforesaid
monastery. He had in his company a priest, whose name was Agatho. The
question being raised there concerning Easter and the tonsure and other
ecclesiastical matters, it was arranged, that a synod should be held in
the monastery of Streanaeshalch, which signifies the Bay of the
Lighthouse, where the Abbess Hilda, a woman devoted to the service of
God, then ruled; and that there this question should be decided. The
kings, both father and son, came thither, and the bishops, Colman with
his Scottish clerks, and Agilbert with the priests Agatho and Wilfrid.
James and Romanus were on their side; but the Abbess Hilda and her
followers were for the Scots, as was also the venerable Bishop Cedd,
long before ordained by the Scots, as has been said above, and he acted
in that council as a most careful interpreter for both parties.

King Oswy first made an opening speech, in which he said that it
behoved those who served one God to observe one rule of life; and as
they all expected the same kingdom in heaven, so they ought not to
differ in the celebration of the heavenly mysteries; but rather to
inquire which was the truer tradition, that it might be followed by all
in common; he then commanded his bishop, Colman, first to declare what
the custom was which he observed, and whence it derived its origin.
Then Colman said, “The Easter which I keep, I received from my elders,
who sent me hither as bishop; all our forefathers, men beloved of God,
are known to have celebrated it after the same manner; and that it may
not seem to any contemptible and worthy to be rejected, it is the same
which the blessed John the Evangelist, the disciple specially beloved
of our Lord, with all the churches over which he presided, is recorded
to have celebrated.”‘ When he had said thus much, and more to the like
effect, the king commanded Agilbert to make known the manner of his
observance and to show whence it was derived, and on what authority he
followed it. Agilbert answered, “I beseech you, let my disciple, the
priest Wilfrid, speak in my stead; because we both concur with the
other followers of the ecclesiastical tradition that are here present,
and he can better and more clearly explain our opinion in the English
language, than I can by an interpreter.”

Then Wilfrid, being ordered by the king to speak, began thus:– “The
Easter which we keep, we saw celebrated by all at Rome, where the
blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul, lived, taught, suffered, and were
buried; we saw the same done by all in Italy and in Gaul, when we
travelled through those countries for the purpose of study and prayer.
We found it observed in Africa, Asia, Egypt, Greece, and all the world,
wherever the Church of Christ is spread abroad, among divers nations
and tongues, at one and the same time; save only among these and their
accomplices in obstinacy, I mean the Picts and the Britons, who
foolishly, in these two remote islands of the ocean, and only in part
even of them, strive to oppose all the rest of the world.”

When he had so said, Colman answered, “It is strange that you choose to
call our efforts foolish, wherein we follow the example of so great an
Apostle, who was thought worthy to lean on our Lord’s bosom, when all
the world knows him to have lived most wisely.” Wilfrid replied, ” Far
be it from us to charge John with folly, for he literally observed the
precepts of the Mosaic Law, whilst the Church was still Jewish in many
points, and the Apostles, lest they should give cause of offence to the
Jews who, were among the Gentiles, were not able at once to cast off
all the observances of the Law which had been instituted by God, in the
same way as it is necessary that all who come to the faith should
forsake the idols which were invented by devils. For this reason it
was, that Paul circumcised Timothy, that he offered sacrifice in the
temple, that he shaved his head with Aquila and Priscilla at
Corinth;for no other advantage than to avoid giving offence to the
Jews. Hence it was, that James said to the same Paul, “Thou seest,
brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they
are all zealous of the Law.” ” And yet, at this time, when the light of
the Gospel is spreading throughout the world, it is needless, nay, it
is not lawful, for the faithful either to be circumcised, or to offer
up to God sacrifices of flesh. So John, according to the custom of the
Law, began the celebration of the feast of Easter, on the fourteenth
day of the first month, in the evening, not regarding whether the same
happened on a Saturday, or any other week-day. But when Peter preached
at Rome, being mindful that our Lord arose from the dead, and gave to
the world the hope of resurrection, on the first day of the week, he
perceived that Easter ought to be kept after this manner: he always
awaited the rising of the moon on the fourteenth day of the first month
in the evening, according to the custom and precepts of the Law, even
as John did. And when that came, if the Lord’s day, then called the
first day of the week, was the next day, he began that very evening to
celebrate Easter, as we all do at the present time. But if the Lord’s
day did not fall the next morning after the fourteenth moon, but on the
sixteenth, or the seventeenth, or any other moon till the twenty-first,
he waited for that, and on the Saturday before, in the evening, began
to observe the holy solemnity of Easter. Thus it came to pass, that
Easter Sunday was only kept from the fifteenth moon to the
twenty-first. Nor does this evangelical and apostolic tradition abolish
the Law, but rather fulfil it; the command being to keep the passover
from the fourteenth moon of the first month in the evening to the
twenty-first moon of the same month in the evening; which observance
all the successors of the blessed John in Asia, since his death, and
all the Church throughout the world, have since followed; and that this
is the true Easter, and the only one to be celebrated by the faithful,
was not newly decreed by the council of Nicaea, but only confirmed
afresh; as the history of the Church informs us.

“Thus it is plain, that you, Colman, neither follow the example of
John, as you imagine, nor that of Peter, whose tradition you oppose
with full knowledge, and that you neither agree with the Law nor the
Gospel in the keeping of your Easter. For John, keeping the Paschal
time according to the decree of the Mosaic Law, had no regard to the
first day of the week, which you do not practise, seeing that you
celebrate Easter only on the first day after the Sabbath. Peter
celebrated Easter Sunday between the fifteenth and the twenty-first
moon, which you do not practise, seeing that you observe Easter Sunday
from the fourteenth to the twentieth moon; so that you often begin
Easter on the thirteenth moon in the evening, whereof neither the Law
made any mention, nor did our Lord, the Author and Giver of the Gospel,
on that day either eat the old passover in the evening, or deliver the
Sacraments of the New Testament, to be celebrated by the Church, in
memory of His Passion, but on the fourteenth. Besides, in your
celebration of Easter, you utterly exclude the twenty-first moon, which
the Law ordered to be specially observed. Thus, as I have said before,
you agree neither with John nor Peter, nor with the Law, nor the
Gospel, in the celebration of the greatest festival.”

To this Colman rejoined: “Did the holy Anatolius, much commended in the
history of the Church, judge contrary to the Law and the Gospel, when
he wrote, that Easter was to be celebrated from the fourteenth to the
twentieth moon? Is it to be believed that our most reverend Father
Columba and his successors, men beloved by God, who kept Easter after
the same manner, judged or acted contrary to the Divine writings?
Whereas there were many among them, whose sanctity was attested by
heavenly signs and miracles which they wrought; whom I, for my part,
doubt not to be saints, and whose life, customs, and discipline I never
cease to follow.”

“It is evident,” said Wilfrid, “that Anatolius was a most holy,
learned, and commendable man; but what have you to do with him, since
you do not observe his decrees? For he undoubtedly, following the rule
of truth in his Easter, appointed a cycle of nineteen years, which
either you are ignorant of, or if you know it, though it is kept by the
whole Church of Christ, yet you despise it as a thing of naught. He so
computed the fourteenth moon in our Lord’s Paschal Feast, that
according to the custom of the Egyptians, he acknowledged it to be the
fifteenth moon on that same day in the evening; so in like manner he
assigned the twentieth to Easter-Sunday, as believing that to be the
twenty-first moon, when the sun had set. That you are ignorant of the
rule of this distinction is proved by this, that you sometimes
manifestly keep Easter before the full moon, that is, on the thirteenth
day. Concerning your Father Columba and his followers, whose sanctity
you say you imitate, and whose rule and precepts confirmed by signs
from Heaven you say that you follow, I might answer, then when many, in
the day of judgement, shall say to our Lord, that in His name they have
prophesied, and have cast out devils, and done many wonderful works,
our Lord will reply, that He never knew them. But far be it from me to
speak thus of your fathers, for it is much more just to believe good
than evil of those whom we know not. Wherefore I do not deny those also
to have been God’s servants, and beloved of God, who with rude
simplicity, but pious intentions, have themselves loved Him. Nor do I
think that such observance of Easter did them much harm, as long as
none came to show them a more perfect rule to follow; for assuredly I
believe that, if any teacher, reckoning after the Catholic manner, had
come among them, they would have as readily followed his admonitions,
as they are known to have kept those commandments of God, which they
had learned and knew.

“But as for you and your companions, you certainly sin, if, having
heard the decrees of the Apostolic see, nay, of the universal Church,
confirmed, as they are, by Holy Scripture, you scorn to follow them;
for, though your fathers were holy, do you think that those few men, in
a corner of the remotest island, are to be preferred before the
universal Church of Christ throughout the world? And if that Columba of
yours, (and, I may say, ours also, if he was Christ’s servant,) was a
holy man and powerful in miracles, yet could he be preferred before the
most blessed chief of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said, Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the .keys of
the kingdom of Heaven?’

When Wilfrid had ended thus, the king said, “Is it true, Colman, that
these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?” He answered, “It is
true, O king!” . Then said he, “Can you show any such power given to
your Columba?” Colman answered, “None.” Then again the king asked, ” Do
you both agree in this, without any controversy, that these words were
said above all to Peter, and that the keys of the kingdom of Heaven
were given to him by our Lord?” They both answered, “Yes.” Then the
king concluded, “And I also say unto you, that he is the door-keeper,
and I will not gainsay him, but I desire, as far as I know and am able,
in all things to obey his laws, lest haply when I come to the gates of
the kingdom of Heaven, there should be none to open them, he being my
adversary who is proved to have the keys.” The king having said this,
all who were seated there or standing by, both great and small, gave
their assent, and renouncing the less perfect custom, hastened to
conform to that which they had found to be better.

CHAP. XXVI. How Colman, being worsted, returned home, and Tuda succeeded him
in the bishopric, and of the state of the church under those teachers. [664

THE disputation being ended, and the assembly broken up, Agilbert
returned home. Colman, perceiving that his doctrine was rejected, and
his party despised, took with him those who wished to follow him, to
wit, such as would not accept the Catholic Easter and the tonsure in
the form of a crown,(for there was no small dispute about that also,)
and went back into Scotland, to consult with his people what was to be
done in this case. Cedd, forsaking the practices of the Scots, returned
to his bishopric, having submitted to the Catholic observance of
Easter. This debate took place in the year of our Lord 664, which was
the twenty-second year of the reign of King Oswy, and the thirtieth of
the episcopate of the Scots among the English; for Aidan was bishop
seventeen years, Finan ten, and Colman three.

When Colman had gone back into his own country, Tuda, the servant of
Christ, was made bishop of the Northumbriansin his place, having been
instructed and ordained bishop among the Southern Scots, having also
the crown of the ecclesiastical tonsure, according to the custom of
that province, and observing the Catholic rule with regard to the time
of Easter. He was a good and religious man, but he governed the church
a very short time; he had come from Scotlandwhilst Colman was yet
bishop, and, both by word and deed, diligently taught all men those
things that appertain to the faith and truth. But Eata, who was abbot
of the monastery called Mailros, a man most reverend and gentle, was
appointed abbot over the brethren that chose to remain in the church of
Lindisfarne, when the Scots went away. It is said that Colman, upon his
departure, requested and obtained this of King Oswy, because Eata was
one of Aidan’s twelve boys of the English nation, whom he received in
the early years of his episcopate, to be instructed in Christ; for the
king greatly loved Bishop Colman on account of his innate discretion.
This is that Eata, who, not long after, was made bishop of the same
church of Lindisfarne. Colman carried home with him part of the bones
of the most reverend Father Aidan, and left part of them in the church
where he had presided, ordering them to be interred in the sacristy.

The place which they governed shows how frugal and temperate he and his
predecessors were, for there were very few houses besides the church
found at their departure; indeed, no more than were barely sufficient
to make civilized life possible; they had also no money, but only
cattle; for if they received any money from rich persons, they
immediately- gave it to the poor; there being no need to gather money,
or provide houses for the entertainment of the great men of the world;
for such never resorted to the church, except to pray and hear the Word
of God. The king himself, when occasion required, came only with five
or six servants, and having performed his devotions in the church,
departed. But if they happened to take a repast there, they were
satisfied with the plain, daily food of the brethren, and required no
more. For the whole care of those teachers was to serve God, not the
world–to feed the soul, and not the belly.

For this reason the religious habit was at that time held in great
veneration; so that wheresoever any clerk or monk went, he was joyfully
received by all men, as God’s servant; and even if they chanced to meet
him upon the way, they ran to him, and with bowed head, were glad to be
signed with the cross by his hand, or blessed by his lips. Great
attention was also paid to their exhortations; and on Sundays they
flocked eagerly to the church, or the monasteries, not to feed their
bodies, but to hear the Word of God; and if any priest happened to come
into a village, the inhabitants came together and asked of him the Word
of life; for the priests and clerks went to the villages for no other
reason than to preach, baptize, visit the sick, and, in a word, to take
care of souls; and they were so purified from all taint of avarice,
that none of them received lands and possessions for building
monasteries, unless they were compelled to do so by the temporal
authorities; which custom was for some time after universally observed
in the churches of the Northumbrians. But enough has now been said on
this subject.

CHAP. XXVII. How Egbert, a holy man of the English nation, led a monastic life
in Ireland. [664 A.D.]

IN the same year of our Lord 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun,
on the third day of May, about the tenth hour of the day. In the same
year, a sudden pestilence depopulated first the southern parts of
Britain, and afterwards attacking the province of the Northumbrians,
ravaged the country far and near, and destroyed a great multitude of
men. By this plague the aforesaid priest of the Lord, Tuda, was carried
off, and was honourably buried in the monastery called Paegnalaech.^2
Moreover, this plague prevailed no less disastrously in the island of
Ireland. Many of the nobility, and of the lower ranks of the English
nation, were there at that time, who, in the days of the Bishops Finan
and Colman, forsaking their native island, retired thither, either for
the sake of sacred studies, or of a more ascetic life; and some of them
presently devoted themselves faithfully to a monastic life, others
chose rather to apply themselves to study, going about from one
master’s cell to another. The Scots willingly received them all, and
took care to supply them with daily food without cost, as also to
furnish them with books for their studies, and teaching free of charge.

Among these were Ethelhun and Egbert, two youths of great capacity, of
the English nobility. The former of whom was brother to Ethelwin, a man
no less beloved by God, who also at a later time went over into Ireland
to study, and having been well instructed, returned into his own
country, and being made bishop in the province of Lindsey, long and
nobly governed the Church. These two being in the monastery which in
the language of the Scots is called Rathmelsigi, and having lost all
their companions, who were either cut off by the plague, or dispersed
into other places, were both seized by the same sickness, and
grievously afflicted. Of these, Egbert, (as I was informed by a priest
venerable for his age, and of great veracity, who declared he had heard
the story from his own lips,) concluding that he was at the point of
death, went out of the chamber, where the sick lay, in the morning, and
sitting alone in a fitting place, began seriously to reflect upon his
past actions, and, being full of compunction at the remembrance of his
sins, bedewed his face with tears, and prayed fervently to God that he
might not die yet, before he could forthwith more fully make amends for
the careless offences which he had committed in his boyhood and
infancy, or might further exercise himself in good works. He also made
a vow that he would spend all his life abroad and never return into the
island of Britain, where he was born; that besides singing the psalms
at the canonical hours, he would, unless prevented by bodily infirmity,
repeat the whole Psalter daily to the praise of God; and that he would
every week fast one whole day and night. Returning home, after his
tears and prayers and vows, he found his companion asleep; and going to
bed himself, he began to compose himself to rest. When he had lain
quiet awhile, his comrade awaking, looked on him, and said, “Alas!
Brother Egbert, what have you done? I was in hopes that we should have
entered together into life everlasting; but know that your prayer is
granted.” For he had learned in a vision what the other had requested,
and that he had obtained his request.

In brief, Ethelhun died the next night; but Egbert, throwing off his
sickness, recovered and lived a long time after to grace the episcopal
office, which he received, by deeds worthy of it; and blessed with many
virtues, according to his desire, lately, in the year of our Lord 729,
being ninety years of age, he departed to the heavenly kingdom. He
passed his life in great perfection of humility, gentleness,
continence, simplicity, and justice. Thus he was a great benefactor,
both to his own people, and to those nations of the Scots and Picts
among whom he lived in exile, by the example of his life, his
earnestness in teaching, his authority in reproving, and his piety in
giving away of those things which he received from the rich. He also
added this to the vows which we have mentioned: during Lent, he would
eat but one meal a day, allowing himself nothing but bread and thin
milk, and even that by measure. The milk, new the day before, he kept
in a vessel, and skimming off the cream in the morning, drank the rest,
as has been said, with a little bread. Which sort of abstinence he
likewise always observed forty days before the Nativity of our Lord,
and as many after the solemnity of Pentecost, that is, of the fifty
days’ festival.

CHAP. XXVIII. How, when Tuda was dead, Wilfrid was ordained, in Gaul, and
Ceadda, among the West Saxons, to be bishops for the province of the
Northumbrians. [664 A.D.]

IN the meantime, King Alchfrid sent the priest, Wilfrid, to the king of
Gaul, in order that he should cause him to be consecrated bishop for
himself and his people. That prince sent him to be ordained by
Agilbert, of whom we have before spoken, and who, having left Britain,
was made bishop of the city of Paris;and by him Wilfrid was honourably
consecrated, several bishops meeting together for that purpose in a
village belonging to the king, called In Compendio. He stayed some time
in the parts beyond the sea for his ordination, and King Oswy,
following the example of his son’s zeal, sent into Kent a holy man, of
modest character, well read in the Scripture, and diligently practising
those things which he had learned therein, to be ordained bishop of the
church of York. This was a priest called Ceadda, brother to the most
reverend prelate Cedd, of whom mention has been often made, and abbot
of the monastery of Laestingaeu. With him the king also sent his priest
Eadhaed, who was afterwards, in the reign of Egfrid, made bishop of the
church of Ripon. Now when they arrived in Kent, they found that
Archbishop Deusdedit had departed this life, and no other bishop was as
yet appointed in his place; whereupon they betook themselves to the
province of the West Saxons, where Wini was bishop, and by him Ceadda
was consecrated; two bishops of the British nation, who kept Easter
Sunday, as has been often said, contrary to the canonical manner, from
the fourteenth to the twentieth moon, being called in to assist at the
ordination; for at that time there was no other bishop in all Britain
canonically ordained, except Wini.

So Ceadda, being consecrated bishop, began immediately to labour for
ecclesiastical truth and purity of doctrine; to apply himself to
humility, self-denial, and study; to travel about, not on horseback,
but after the manner of the Apostles, on foot, to preach the Gospel in
towns, the open country, cottages, villages, and castles; for he was
one of the disciples of Aidan, and endeavoured to instruct his people
by the same manner of life and character, after his and his own brother
Cedd’s example. Wilfrid also having been now made a bishop, came into
Britain, and in like manner by his teaching brought into the English
Church many rules of Catholic observance. Whence it followed, that the
Catholic principles daily gained strength, and all the Scots that dwelt
in England either conformed to these, or returned into their own

CHAP. XXIX. How the priest Wighard was sent from Britain to Rome, to be
ordained archbishop; of his death there, and of the letters of the Apostolic
Pope giving an account thereof. [667 A.D.]

AT this time the most noble kings of the English, Oswy, of the province
of the Northumbrians, and Egbert of Kent, consulted together to
determine what ought to be done about the state of the English Church,
for Oswy, though educated by the Scots, had rightly perceived that the
Roman was the Catholic and Apostolic Church. They selected, with the
consent and by the choice of the holy Church of the English nation, a
priest named Wighard, one of Bishop Deusdedit’s clergy, a good man and
fitted for the episcopate, and sent him to Rome to be ordained bishop,
to the end that, having been raised to the rank of an archbishop, he
might ordain Catholic prelates for the Churches of the English nation
throughout all Britain. But Wighard, arriving at Rome, was cut off by
death, before he could be consecrated bishop, and the following letter
was sent back into Britain to King Oswy:– “To the most excellent lord,
our son, Oswy, king of the Saxons, Vitalian, bishop, servant of the
servants of God. We have received to our comfort your Excellency’s
letters; by reading whereof we are acquainted with your most pious
devotion and fervent love of the blessed life; and know that by the
protecting hand of God you have been converted to the true and
Apostolic faith, in hope that even as you reign in your own nation, so
you may hereafter reign with Christ. Blessed be the nation, therefore,
that has been found worthy to have as its king one so wise and a
worshipper of God; forasmuch as he is not himself alone a worshipper of
God, but also studies day and night the conversion of all his subjects
to the Catholic and Apostolic faith, to the redemption of his own soul.
Who would not rejoice at hearing such glad tidings? Who would not exult
and be joyful at these good works? For your nation has believed in
Christ the Almighty God, according to the words of the Divine prophets,
as it is written in Isaiah, In that day there shall be a root of Jesse,
which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles
seek.’ And again, Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from
far.’And a little after, It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my
servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the outcast of
Israel. I have given thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayst
be my salvation unto the end of the earth.’ And again, Kings shall see,
princes also shall arise and worship.’ And immediately after, I have
given thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, and
possess the scattered heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners,
Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.’And again, I
the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and have held thine hand,
and have kept thee, and have given thee for a covenant of the people,
for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the
prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness from the

“Behold, most excellent son, how it is plain as day that it was
prophesied not only of you, but also of all the nations, that they
should believe in Christ, the Creator of all things. Wherefore it
behoves your Highness, as being a member of Christ, in all things
continually to follow the pious rule of the chief of the Apostles, in
celebrating Easter, and in all things delivered by the holy Apostles,
Peter and Paul, whose doctrine daily enlightens the hearts of
believers, even as the two lights of heaven illumine the world.”

And after some lines, wherein he speaks of celebrating the true Easter
uniformly throughout all the world,– “Finally,” he adds, “we have not
been able now, on account of the length of the journey, to find a man,
apt to teach, and qualified in all respects to be a bishop, according
to the tenor of your letters. But, assuredly, as soon as such a fit
person shall be found, we will send him well instructed to your
country, that he may, by word of mouth, and through the Divine oracles,
with the blessing of God, root out all the enemy’s tares throughout
your island. We have received the presents sent by your Highness to the
blessed chief of the Apostles, for an eternal memorial of him, and
return you thanks, and always pray for your safety with the clergy of
Christ. But he that brought these presents has been removed out of this
world, and is buried at the threshold of the Apostles, for whom we have
been much grieved, because he died here. Nevertheless, we have caused
the blessed gifts of the saints, that is, the relics of the blessed
Apostles, Peter and Paul, and of the holy martyrs, Laurentius, John,
and Paul, and Gregory, and Pancratius, to be given to your servants,
the bearers of these our letters, to be by them delivered to your
Excellency. And to your consort also, our spiritual daughter, we have
by the aforesaid bearers sent a cross, with a gold key to it, made out
of the most holy chains of the blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul; for,
hearing of her pious zeal, all the Apostolic see rejoices with us, even
as her pious works smell sweet and blossom before God.

“We therefore desire that your Highness should hasten, according to our
wish, to dedicate all your island to Christ our God; for assuredly you
have for your Protector, the Redeemer of mankind, our Lord Jesus
Christ, Who will prosper you in all things, that you may gather
together a new people of Christ, establishing there the Catholic and
Apostolic faith. For it is written, Seek ye first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto
you.’Truly your Highness seeks, and shall obtain, and all your islands
shall be made subject to you, even as we desire. Saluting your
Excellency with fatherly affection, we never cease to pray to the
Divine Goodness, to vouchsafe to assist you and yours in all good
works, that you may reign with Christ in the world to come. May the
Heavenly Grace preserve your Excellency in safety!”

In the next book we shall have a more suitable occasion to show who was
selected and consecrated in Wighard’s place.

CHAP. XXX. How the East Saxons, during a pestilence, returned to idolatry, but
were soon brought back from their error by the zeal of Bishop Jaruman. [665

AT the same time, the Kings Sighere and Sebbi, though themselves
subject to Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, governed the province of the
East Saxons after Suidhelm, of whom we have spoken above. When that
province was suffering from the aforesaid disastrous plague, Sighere,
with his part of the people, forsook the mysteries of the Christian
faith, and turned apostate. For the king himself, and many of the
commons and nobles, loving this life, and not seeking after another, or
even not believing in any other, began to restore the temples that had
been abandoned, and to adore idols, as if they might by those means be
protected against the plague. But Sebbi, his companion and co-heir in
the kingdom, with all his people, very devoutly preserved the faith
which he had received, and, as we shall show hereafter, ended his
faithful life in great felicity.

King Wulfhere, hearing that the faith of the province was in part
profaned, sent Bishop Jaruman, who was successor to Trumhere, to
correct their error, and recall the province to the true faith. He
acted with much discretion, as I was informed by a priest who bore him
company in that journey, and had been his fellow labourer in the Word,
for he was a religious and good man, and travelling through all the
country, far and near, brought back both the people and the aforesaid
king to the way of righteousness, so that, either forsaking or
destroying the temples and altars which they had erected, they opened
the churches, and gladly confessed the Name of Christ, which they had
opposed, choosing rather to die in the faith of resurrection in Him,
than to live in the abominations of unbelief among their idols. Having
thus accomplished their works, the priests and teachers returned home
with joy.


CHAP. I. How when Deusdedit died, Wigihard was sent to Rome to receive the
episcopate; but he dying there, Theodore was ordained archbishop, and sent
into Britain with the Abbot Hadrian. [664-669 A.D.]

IN the above-mentioned year of the aforesaid eclipse and of the
pestilence which followed it immediately, in which also Bishop Colman,
being overcome by the united effort of the Catholics, returned home,
Deusdedit, the sixth bishop of the church of Canterbury, died on the
14th of July. Earconbert, also, king of Kent, departed this life the
same month and day; leaving his kingdom to his son Egbert, who held it
for nine years. The see then became vacant for no small time, until,
the priest Wighard, a man of great learning in the teaching of the
Church, of the English race, was sent to Rome by King Egbert and Oswy,
king of the Northumbrians, as was briefly mentioned in the foregoing
book, with a request that he might be ordained Archbishop of the Church
of England; and at the same time presents were sent to the Apostolic
pope, and many vessels of gold and silver. Arriving at Rome, where
Vitalianpresided at that time over the Apostolic see, and having made
known to the aforesaid Apostolic pope the occasion of his journey, he
was not long after carried off, with almost all his companions who had
come with him, by a pestilence which fell upon them.

But the Apostolic pope having consulted about that matter, made
diligent inquiry for some one to send to be archbishop of the English
Churches. There was then in the monastery of Niridanum, which is not
far from Naples in Campania, an abbot called Hadrian, by nation an
African, well versed in Holy Scripture, trained in monastic and
ecclesiastical teaching, and excellently skilled both in the Greek and
Latin tongues. The pope, sending for him, commanded him to accept the
bishopric and go to Britain. He answered, that he was unworthy of so
great a dignity, but said that he could name another, whose learning
and age were fitter for the episcopal office. He proposed to the pope a
certain monk named Andrew, belonging to a neighbouring nunnery and he
was by all that knew him judged worthy of a bishopric; but the weight
of bodily infirmity prevented him from becoming a bishop. Then again
Hadrian was urged to accept the episcopate; but he desired a respite,
to see whether in time he could find another to be ordained bishop.

There was at that time in Rome, a monk, called Theodore, known to
Hadrian, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, a man instructed in secular and
Divine writings, as also in Greek and Latin; of high character and
venerable age, being sixty-six years old. Hadrian proposed him to the
pope to be ordained bishop, and prevailed; but upon the condition that
he should himself conduct him into Britain, because he had already
travelled through Gaul twice upon different occasions, and was,
therefore, better acquainted with the way, and was, moreover,
sufficiently provided with men of his own; as also, to the end that,
being his fellow labourer in teaching, he might take special care that
Theodore should not, according to the custom of the Greeks, introduce
any thing contrary to the truth of the faith into the Church where he
presided. Theodore, being ordained subdeacon, waited four months for
his hair to grow, that it might be shorn into the shape of a crown; for
he had before the tonsure of St. Paul, the Apostle, after the manner of
the eastern people. He was ordained by Pope Vitalian, in the year of
our Lord 668, on Sunday, the 26th of March, and on the 27th of May was
sent with Hadrian to Britain.

They proceeded together by sea to Marseilles, and thence by land to
Arles, and having there delivered to John, archbishop of that city,
Pope Vitalian’s letters of recommendation, were by him detained till
Ebroin, the king’s mayor of the palace, gave them leave to go where
they pleased. Having received the same, Theodore went to Agilbert,
bishop of Paris, of whom we have spoken above, and was by him kindly
received, and long entertained. But Hadrian went first to Emma, Bishop
of the Senones, and then to Faro, bishop of the Meldi, and lived in
comfort with them a considerable time; for the approach of winter had
obliged them to rest wherever they could. King Egbert, being informed
by sure messengers that the bishop they had asked of the Roman prelate
was in the kingdom of the Franks, sent thither his reeve, Raedfrid, to
conduct him. He, having arrived there, with Ebroin’s leave took
Theodore and conveyed him to the port called Quentavic; where, falling
sick, he stayed some time, and as soon as he began to recover, sailed
over into Britain. But Ebroin detained Hadrian, suspecting that he went
on some mission from the Emperor to the kings of Britain, to the
prejudice of the kingdom of which he at that time had the chief charge;
however, when he found that in truth he had never had any such
commission, he discharged him, and permitted him to follow Theodore. As
soon as he came to him, Theodore gave him the monastery of the blessed
Peter the Apostle, where the archbishops of Canterbury are wont to be
buried, as I have said before; for at his departure, the Apostolic lord
had enjoined upon Theodore that he should provide for him in his
province, and give him a suitable place to live in with his followers.

CHAP. II. How Theodore visited all places; how the Churches of the English
began to be instructed in the study of holy Scripture, and in the catholic
truth, and how Putta was made bishop of the Church of Rochester in the roam of
Damianus. [669 A.D.]

THEODORE came to his Church in the second year after his consecration,
on Sunday, the 27th of May, and spent in it twenty-one years, three
months, and twenty-six days. Soon after, he visited all the island,
wherever the tribes of the English dwelt, for he was gladly received
and heard by all persons; and everywhere attended and assisted by
Hadrian, he taught the right rule of life, and the canonical custom of
celebrating Easter. This was the first archbishop whom all the English
Church consented to obey. And forasmuch as both of them were, as has
been said before, fully instructed both in sacred and in secular
letters, they gathered a crowd of disciples, and rivers of wholesome
knowledge daily flowed from them to water the hearts of their hearers;
and, together with the books of Holy Scripture, they also taught them
the metrical art, astronomy, and ecclesiastical arithmetic. A testimony
whereof is, that there are still living at this day some of their
scholars, who are as well versed in the Greek and Latin tongues as in
their own, in which they were born. Nor were there ever happier times
since the English came into Britain; for having brave Christian kings,
they were a terror to all barbarous nations, and the minds of all men
were bent upon the joys of the heavenly kingdom of which they had but
lately heard; and all who desired to be instructed in sacred studies
had masters at hand to teach them.

From that time also they began in all the churches of the English to
learn Church music, which till then had been only known in Kent. And,
excepting James, of whom we have spoken above, the first teacher of
singing in the churches of the Northumbrians was Eddi, surnamed
Stephen, invited from Kent by the most reverend Wilfrid, who was the
first of the bishops of the English nation that learned to deliver to
the churches of the English the Catholic manner of life.

Theodore, journeying through all parts, ordained bishops in fitting
places, and with their assistance corrected such things as he found
faulty. Among the rest, when he charged Bishop Ceadda with not having
been duly consecrated, he, with great humility, answered, “If you know
that I have not duly received episcopal ordination, I willingly resign
the office, for I never thought myself worthy of it; but, though
unworthy, for obedience sake I submitted, when bidden to undertake it.”
Theodore, hearing his humble answer, said that he should not resign the
bishopric, and he himself completed his ordination after the Catholic
manner. Now at the time when Deusdledit died, and a bishop for the
church of Canterbury was by request ordained and sent, Wilfrid was also
sent from Britain into Gaul to be ordained; and because he returned
before Theodore, he ordained priests and deacons in Kent till the
archbishop should come to his see. But when Theodore came to the city
of Rochester, where the bishopric had been long vacant by the death of
Damian, he ordained a man named Putta, trained rather in the teaching
of the Church and more addicted to simplicity of life than active in
worldly affairs, but specially skilful in Church music, after the Roman
use, which he had learned from the disciples of the blessed Pope

CHAP. III. How the above-mentioned Ceadda was made Bishop of the province of
Mercians. Of his life, death, and burial. [669 A.D.]

AT that time, the province of the Mercians was governed by King Wulf
here, who, on the death of Jaruman, desired of Theodore that a bishop
should be given to him and his people; but Theodore would not ordain a
new one for them, but requested of King Oswy that Ceadda might be their
bishop. He then lived in retirement at his monastery, which is at
Laestingaeu, while Wilfrid administered the bishopric of York, and of
all the Northumbrians, and likewise of the Picts, as far as King Oswy
was able to extend his dominions. And, seeing that it was the custom of
that most reverend prelate to go about the work of the Gospel
everywhere on foot rather than on horseback, Theodore commanded him to
ride whenever he had a long journey to undertake; and finding him very
unwilling, in his zeal and love for his pious labour, he himself, with
his own hands, lifted him on horseback; for he knew him to be a holy
man, and therefore obliged him to ride wherever he had need to go.
Ceadda having received the bishopric of the Mercians and of Lindsey,
took care to administer it with great perfection of life, according to
the example of the ancient fathers. King Wulfhere also gave him land of
the extent of fifty families, to build a monastery, at the place called
Ad Barvae, or “At the Wood,” in the province of Lindsey, wherein traces
of the monastic life instituted by him continue to this day.

He had his episcopal see in the place called Lyccidfelth, in which he
also died, and was buried, and where the see of the succeeding bishops
of that province continues to this day. He had built himself a retired
habitation not far from the church, wherein he was wont to pray and
read in private, with a few, it might be seven or eight of the
brethren, as often as he had any spare time from the labour and
ministry of the Word. When he had most gloriously governed the church
in that province for two years and a half, the Divine Providence so
ordaining, there came round a season like that of which Ecclesiastes
says, “That there is a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather
stones together;” I for a plague fell upon them, sent from Heaven,
which, by means of the death of the flesh, translated the living stones
of the Church from their earthly places to the heavenly building. And
when, after many of the Church of that most reverend prelate had been
taken away out of the flesh, his hour also drew near wherein he was to
pass out of this world to the Lord, it happened one day that he was in
the aforesaid habitation with only one brother, called Owini, his other
companions having upon some due occasion returned to the church.

Now Owini was a monk of great merit, having forsaken the world with the
sole desire of the heavenly reward; worthy in all respects to have the
secrets of the Lord revealed to him in special wise, and worthy to have
credit given by his hearers to what he said. For he had come with Queen
Ethelthryth from the province of the East Angles, and was the chief of
her thegns, and governor of her house. As the fervour of his faith
increased, resolving to renounce the secular life, he did not go about
it slothfully, but so entirely forsook the things of this world, that,
quitting all that he had, clad in a plain garment, and carrying an axe
and hatchet in his hand, he came to the monastery of the same most
reverend father, which is called Laestingaeu. He said that he was not
entering the monastery in order to live in idleness, as some do, but to
labour; which he also confirmed by practice; for as he was less capable
of studying the Scriptures, the more earnestly he applied himself to
the labour of his hands. So then, forasmuch as he was reverent and
devout, he was kept by the bishop in the aforesaid habitation with the
brethren, and whilst they were engaged within in reading, he was
without, doing such things as were necessary.

One day, when he was thus employed abroad, his companions having gone
to the church, as I began to tell, and the bishop was alone reading or
praying in the oratory of that place, on a sudden, as he afterwards
said, he heard a sweet sound of singing and rejoicing descend from
heaven to earth. This sound he said he first heard coming from the sky
in the south-east, above the winter sunrise, and that afterwards it
drew near him gradually, till it came to the roof of the oratory where
the bishop was, and entering the rein, filled all the place and
encompassed it about. He listened attentively to what he heard, and
after about half an hour, perceived the same song of joy to ascend from
the roof of the said oratory, and to return to heaven in the same way
as it came, with unspeakable sweetness. When he had stood some time
amazed, and earnestly considering in his mind what this might be, the
bishop opened the window of the oratory, and making a sound with his
hand, as he was often wont to do, bade anyone who might be without to
come in to him. He went hastily in, and the bishop said to him, “Make
haste to the church, and cause those seven brothers to come hither, and
do you come with them.” When they were come, he first admonished them
to preserve the virtue of love and peace among themselves, and towards
all the faithful; and with unwearied earnestness to follow the rules of
monastic discipline, which they had either been taught by him, and had
seen him observe, or had found in the words and actions of the former
fathers. Then he added that the day of his death was at hand; for, said
he, “that gracious guest, who was wont to visit our brethren, has
vouchsafed also to come to me this day, and to call me out of this
world. Return, therefore, to the church, and speak to the brethren,
that in their prayers they commend my departure to the Lord, and that
they be mindful to prepare for their own, the hour whereof is
uncertain, by watching, and prayer, and good works.”

When he had spoken thus much and more to the same end, and they, having
received his blessing, had gone away in great sorrow, he who had heard
the heavenly song returned alone, and prostrating himself on the
ground, said, “I beseech you, father, may I be permitted to ask a
question? “–” Ask what you will,” answered the bishop. Then he said,
“I beseech you to tell me what was that song which I heard as of a
joyful company coming from heaven upon this oratory, and after some
time returning to heaven?” The bishop answered: “If you heard the
singing, and know of the coming of the heavenly company, I command you,
in the Name of the Lord, that you tell it not to any before my death.
But in truth they were angelic spirits, who came to call me to my
heavenly reward, which I have always loved and longed after, and they
promised that they would return seven days hence, and take me away with
them.” Which was indeed fulfilled, as had been said to him; for being
presently seized with bodily infirmity, and the same daily increasing,
on the seventh day, as had been promised to him, when he had prepared
for death by receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord, his saintly soul
being delivered from the prison of the body, led, as may justly be
believed, by the attendant angels, he departed to the joys of Heaven.

It is no wonder that he joyfully beheld the day of his death, or rather
the day of the Lord, the coming whereof he had always been mindful to
await with earnest expectation. For with all his merits of continence,
humility, teaching, prayer, voluntary poverty, and other virtues, he
was so filled with the fear of the Lord, so mindful of his latter end
in all his actions, that, as I was wont to hear from one of the
brothers who instructed me in the Scriptures, and who had been bred in
his monastery, and under his direction, whose name was Trumbert, if it
happened that there blew a sudden strong gust of wind, when he was
reading or doing any other thing, he forthwith called upon the Lord for
mercy, and begged that it might be granted to all mankind. If the wind
grew stronger, he closed his book, and fell on his face, praying still
more earnestly. But, if a violent storm of wind or rain came on, or if
the earth and air were filled with the terror of thunder and lightning,
he would go to the church, and anxiously devote himself with all his
heart to prayers and psalms till the weather became calm. Being asked
by his brethren why he did so, he answered, “Have not you read–The
Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice.
Yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered them; and he shot out
lightnings, and discomfited them.’ For the Lord moves the air, raises
the winds, hurls lightning, and thunders from heaven, to rouse the
inhabitants of the earth to fear him; to put them in mind of judgement
to come; to dispel their pride, and confound their boldness, by
recalling to their thoughts that dread time, when the heavens and the
earth being on fire, He will come in the clouds, with great power and
majesty, to judge the quick and the dead. Wherefore,” said he, “it
behoves us to respond to His heavenly admonition with due fear and
love; that, as often as the air is moved and He puts forth His hand
threatening to strike, but does not yet let it fall, we may immediately
implore His mercy; and searching the recesses of our hearts, and
casting out the dregs of our sins, we may carefully so act that we may
never deserve to be struck down.”

With this revelation and narrative of the aforesaid brother, concerning
the death of this prelate, agrees the account of the most reverend
Father Egbert, above spoken of, who long and zealously led a monastic
life with the same Ceadda, when both were youths, in Ireland, in prayer
and self-denial and meditation on the Holy Scriptures. But whereas
Ceadda afterwards returned into his own country, Egbert continued to
live abroad for the Lord’s sake till the end of his life. A long time
after, Hygbald, a man of great holiness and continence, who was an
abbot in the province of Lindsey, came from Britain to visit him, and
whilst, as became holy men, they were discoursing of the life of the
former fathers, and rejoicing to imitate the same, mention was made of
the most reverend prelate, Ceadda; whereupon Egbert said, “I know a man
in this island, still in the flesh, who, when Ceadda passed away from
this world, saw the soul of his brother Cedd, with a company of angels,
descending from heaven, who, having taken Ceadda’s soul along with
them, returned again to the heavenly kingdom.” Whether he said this of
himself, or some other, we do not certainly know; but because it was
said by so great a man, there can be no doubt of the truth thereof.

Ceadda died on the 2nd of March, and was first buried by St. Mary’s
Church, but afterwards, when the church of the most blessed chief of
the Apostles, Peter, was built in the same place, his bones were
translated into it. In both which places, as a testimony of his virtue,
frequent miracles of healing are wont to be wrought. And of late, a
certain man that had a frenzy, wandering about everywhere, arrived
there in the evening, unperceived or disregarded by the keepers of the
place, and having rested there the whole of the night, came forth in
his right mind the next morning, to the surprise and joy of all, and
told what a cure had been wrought on him through the goodness of God.
The place of the sepulchre is a wooden monument, made like a little
house, covered, having a hole in the wall, through which those that go
thither for devotion are wont to put in their hand and take out some of
the dust. This they put into water and give to sick cattle or men to
drink, whereupon they are presently eased of their infirmity, and
restored to their desired health.

In his place, Theodore ordained Wynfrid, a man of good and sober life,
to preside, like his predecessors, over the bishoprics of the Mercians,
the Midland Angles, and Lindsey, of all which, Wulfhere, who was still
living, was king. Wynfrid was one of the clergy of the prelate he
succeeded, and had for no small time filled the office of deacon under

CHAP. IV. How Bishop Colman, having left Britain, built two monasteries in the
country of the Scots; the one for the Scots, the other for the English whom he
had taken along with him. [667 A. D.]

IN the meantime, Colman, the Scottish bishop, departing from Britain,
took along with him all the Scots whom he had gathered about him in the
isle of Lindisfame, and also about thirty of the English nation, for
both these companies had been trained in duties of the monastic life;
and leaving some brothers in his church, he went first to the isle of
Hii, whence he had been sent to preach the Word of God to the English
nation. Afterwards he retired to a small island, which is to the west
of Ireland, and at some distance from it, called in the language of the
Scots, Inisboufinde, the Island of the White Heifer. Arriving there, he
built a monastery, and placed in it the monks he had brought of both
nations. But they could not agree among themselves, by reason that the
Scots, in the summer season, when the harvest was to be brought in,
leaving the monastery, wandered about through places known to them; but
returned again the next winter, and desired to use in common what the
English had provided. Colman sought to put an end to this dissension,
and travelling about far and near, he found a place in the island of
Ireland fitted to be the site of a monastery, which, in the language of
the Scots, is called Mageo? He bought a small part of it of the chief
to whom it belonged, to build his monastery thereon; upon condition,
that the monks dwelling there should pray to the Lord for him who let
them have the place. Then at once building a monastery, with the
assistance of the chief and all the neighbouring people, he placed the
English there, leaving the Scots in the aforesaid island. This
monastery is to this day occupied by English inhabitants; being the
same that, grown from a small beginning to be very large, is commonly
called Muigeo; and as all have long since been brought to adopt better
customs, it contains a notable society of monks, who are gathered there
from the province of the English, and live by the labour of their own
hands, after the example of the venerable fathers, under a rule and a
canonical abbot, in much continence and singleness of life.

CHAP. V. Of the death of the kings Oswy and Eghert, and of the synod held at
the place Herutford, in which Archbishop Theodore presided. [670-673 A. D.]

IN the year of our Lord 670, being the second year after Theodore
arrived in England, Oswy, king of the Northumbrians, fell sick, and
died, in the fifty-eighth year of his age. He at that time bore so
great affection to the Roman Apostolic usages, that he had designed, if
he recovered from his sickness, to go to Rome, and there to end his
days at the holy places, having asked Bishop Wilfrid, with a promise of
no small gift of money, to conduct him on his journey. He died on the
15th of February, leaving his son Egfrid his successor in the kingdom.
In the third year of his reign, Theodore assembled a council of
bishops, along with many other teachers of the church, who loved and
were acquainted with the canonical statutes of the fathers. When they
were met together, he began, in the spirit which became a bishop, to
enjoin the observance of such things as were in accordance with the
unity and the peace of the Church. The purport of the proceedings of
this synod is as follows:–

“In the name of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who reigns for
ever and governs His Church, it was thought meet that we should
assemble, according to the custom prescribed in the venerable canons,
to treat about the necessary affairs of the Church. We met on the 24th
day of September, the first indiction, at the place which is called
Herutford: I, Theodore, albeit unworthy, appointed by the Apostolic see
bishop of the church of Canterbury; our fellow priest and brother, the
most reverend Bisi, bishop of the East Angles; and with us also our
brother and fellow priest, Wilfrid, bishop of the nation of the
Northumbrians, represented by his proxies. There were present also our
brothers and fellow priests, Putta, bishop of the Kentish castle,
called Rochester; Leutherius, bishop of the West Saxons, and Wynfrid,
bishop of the province of the Mercians. When we were all met together,
and had sat down in order, I said, I beseech you, most dear brothers,
for the fear and love of our Redeemer, that we may all treat in common
on behalf of our faith; to the end that whatsoever has been decreed and
defined by holy and approved fathers, may be inviolably observed by all
of us.’ This and much more I spoke tending to charity and the
preservation of the unity of the Church; and when I had ended my
preface, I asked every one of them in order, whether they consented to
observe the things that had been of old canonically decreed by the
fathers? To which all our fellow priests answered, Most assuredly we
are all resolved to observe willingly and heartily whatsoever is laid
down in the canons of the holy fathers.’ Then forthwith I produced the
said book of canons, and in the presence of them all showed ten
articles in the same, which I had marked in several places, because I
knew them to be of the most importance to us, and entreated that these
might be most particularly received by them all.

“Article I. That we all in common keep the holy day of Easter on the
Sunday after the fourteenth moon of the first month.

“II. That no bishop intrude into the diocese of another, but be
satisfied with the government of the people committed to him.

“III. That it shall not be lawful for any bishop to disturb in any
matter monasteries dedicated to God, nor to take away forcibly any part
of their property.

“IV. That the monks themselves do not move from one place to another,
that is, from monastery to monastery, unless with the consent of their
own abbot; but that they continue in the obedience which they promised
at the time of their conversion.

“V. That no clerk, forsaking his own bishop, shall wander about, or be
anywhere received without commendatory letters from his diocesan. But
if he shall be once received, and will not return when summoned, both
the receiver, and he that is received shall be under excommunication.

“VI. That bishops and clergy, when travelling, shall be content with
the hospitality that is afforded them; and that it be not lawful for
any one of them to exercise any priestly function without leave of the
bishop in whose diocese he is known to be.

“VII. That a synod be assembled twice a year; but on account of divers
hindrances, it was approved by all, that we should meet once a year, on
the 1st of August, at the place called Clofeshoch.

“VIII. That no bishop, through ambition, shall set himself above
another; but that they shall all observe the time and order of their

“IX. The ninth Article was discussed in common, to the effect that more
bishops should be made, as the number of the faithful increased; but
this matter for the present was passed over.

“X. Of marriages; that nothing be allowed but lawful wedlock; that none
commit incest; no man leave his own wife, except it be, as the holy
Gospel teaches, for fornication. And if any man shall put away his own
wife, lawfully joined to him in matrimony, that he take no other, if he
wishes to be a true Christian, but continue as he is, or else be
reconciled to his own wife.

“These articles being thus discussed and defined in common, to the end,
that for the future, no stumbling-block of contention might arise from
any one of us, or that things be falsely set forth, it was thought fit
that every one of us should, by the subscription of his own hand,
confirm all the particulars so defined. Which judgement, as defined by
us, I dictated to be written by Titillus our notary. Given in the month
and indiction aforesaid. Whosoever, therefore, shall attempt in anyway
to oppose or infringe this decision, confirmed by our consent, and by
the subscription of our hands, according to the decree of the canons,
must know, that he is excluded from all sacerdotal functions, and from
our fellowship. May the Grace of God keep us in safety, living in the
unity of His Holy Church.”

This synod was held in the year of our Lord 673. In which year Egbert,
king of Kent, died in the month of July; his brother Hlothere succeeded
him on the throne, which he held eleven years and seven months. Bisi,
the bishop of the East Angles, who is said to have been in the
aforesaid synod, a man of great saintliness and piety, was successor to
Boniface, before spoken of; for when Boniface died, after having been
bishop seventeen years, he was ordained by Theodore and made bishop in
his place. Whilst he was still alive, but hindered by grievous
infirmity from administering his episcopal functions, two bishops,
Aecci and Badwin, were elected and consecrated in his place; from which
time to the present, that province has had two bishops.

CHAP. VI. How Wynfrid being deposed, Sexwulf received his bishopric, and
Earconwald was made bishop of the East Saxons. [675 A.D.]

NOT long after these events, Theodore, the archbishop, taking offence
at some act of disobedience of Wynfrid, bishop of the Mercians, deposed
him from his bishopric when he had held it but a few years, and in his,
place ordained Sexwulf bishop, who was founder and abbot of the
monastery which is called Medeshamstead,’ in the country of the Gyrwas.
Wynfrid, thus deposed, returned to his monastery which is called Ad
Barvae, and there ended his life in holy conversation.

Theodore then also appointed Earconwald bishop of the East Saxons, in
the city of London, over whom at that time reigned Sebbi and Sighere,
of whom mention has been made above. This Earconwald’s life and
conversation, as well when he was bishop as before that time, is said
to have been most holy, as is even now testified by heavenly miracles;
for to this day, his horse-litter, in which he was wont to be carried
when sick, is kept by his disciples, and continues to cure many of
fevers and other ailments; and, not only sick persons who are laid
under that litter, or close by it, are cured; but the very splinters
cut from it, when carried to the sick, are wont immediately to bring
healing to them.

This man, before he was made bishop, had built two famous monasteries,
the one for himself, and the other for his sister Ethelburg, and
established them both in regular discipline of the best kind. That for
himself was in the district of Sudergeona, by the river Thames, at a
place called Cerotaesei, that is, the Island of Cerot; that for his
sister in the province of the East Saxons, at a place called In
Berecingum, wherein she might be a mother and nurse of women devoted to
God. Being put into the government of that monastery, she showed
herself in all respects worthy of her brother the bishop, by her own
holy life and by her regular and pious care of those under her rule, as
was also manifested by heavenly miracles.

CHAP. VII. How it was indicated by a light from heaven where the bodies of the
nuns should be buried in the monastery of Berecingum. [675 A.D.?]

IN this monastery many miracles were wrought, accounts of which have
been committed to writing by those who were acquainted with them, that
their memory might be preserved, and succeeding generations edified,
and these are in the possession of many persons; some of them we also
have taken pains to include in our History of the Church. At the time
of the pestilence, already often mentioned, which ravaged all the
country far and wide, it had also seized on that part of this monastery
where the men abode, and they were daily hurried away to the Lord. The
careful mother of the community began often to inquire of the sisters,
when they were gathered together, in what part of the monastery they
desired to be buried and a cemetery to be made, when the same
affliction should fall upon that part of the monastery in which the
handmaids of the Lord dwelt together apart from the men, and they
should. be snatched away out of this world by the same destruction as
the rest. Receiving no certain answer from the sisters, though she
often questioned them, she and all of them received a most certain
answer from the Divine Providence. For one night, after matins had been
sung, and those handmaids of Christ had gone out of their chapel to the
tombs of the brothers who had departed this life before them, and were
singing the customary songs of praise to the Lord, on a sudden a light
from heaven, like a great sheet, came down upon them all, and struck
them with such amazement, that, in consternation, they even left off
singing their hymn. But that, resplendent light, in comparison
wherewith the sun at noon-day might seem dark, soon after, rising from
that place, removed to the south side of the monastery, that is, to the
westward of the chapel, and having continued there some time, and
rested upon those parts, in the sight of them all withdrew itself again
to heaven, leaving no doubt in the minds of all, but that the same
light, which was to lead or to receive the souls of those handmaids of
Christ into Heaven, also showed the place in which their bodies were to
rest and await the day of the resurrection. The radiance of this light
was so great, that one of the older brethren, who at the same time was
in their chapel with another younger than himself, related in the
morning, that the rays of light which came in at the crannies of the
doors and windows, seemed to exceed the utmost brightness of daylight.

CHAP. VIII. How a little boy, dying in the same monastery, called upon a
virgin that was to follow him; and how another nun, at the point of leaving
her body, saw some small part of the future glory. [675 A. D.?]

THERE was, in the same monastery, a boy, not above three years old,
called Aesica; who, by reason of his tender age, was being brought up
among the virgins dedicated to God; there to learn his lessons. This
child being seized by the aforesaid pestilence, when his last hour was
come, called three times upon one of the virgins consecrated to Christ,
speaking to her by her own name, as if she had been present, Eadgyth!
Eadgyth! Eadgyth! and thus ending his temporal life, entered into that
which is eternal. The virgin, to whom he called, as he was dying, was
immediately seized, where she was, with the same sickness, and
departing this life the same day on which she had been summoned,
followed him that called her into the heavenly kingdom.

Likewise, one of the same handmaids of God, being smitten with the same
disease, and reduced to the last extremity, began on a sudden, about
midnight, to cry out to them that ministered to her, desiring they
would put out the lamp that was lighted there. And, when she had done
this many times, and yet no one did her will, at last she said, “I know
that you think I am raving when I say this, but be assured that it is
not so; for I tell you truly, that I see this house filled with so
great a light, that that lamp of yours seems to me to be altogether
dark.” And when still no one replied to what she said, or did her
bidding, she added, “Burn your lamp, then, as long as you will; but
know, that it is not my light, for my light will come to me at the dawn
of day.” Then she began to tell, that a certain man of God, who had
died that same year, had appeared to her, telling her that at the break
of day she should depart to the eternal light. The truth of which
vision was speedily proved by the maiden’s death as soon as the day

CHAP. IX. Of the signs which were shown from Heaven when the mother of that
community departed this life. [675 A.D.?]

Now when Ethelburg herself, the pious mother of that community devoted
to God, was about to be taken out of this world, a wonderful vision
appeared to one of the sisters, called Tortgyth; who, having lived many
years in that monastery, always endeavoured, in all humility and
sincerity, to serve God herself, and to help the mother to maintain
regular discipline, by instructing and reproving the younger ones. Now,
in order that her virtue might, according to the Apostle, be made
perfect in weakness, she was suddenly seized with a most grievous
bodily disease, under which, through the merciful providence of our
Redeemer, she was sorely tried for the space of nine years; to the end,
that whatever stain of evil remained amidst her virtues, either through
ignorance or neglect, might all be purified in the furnace of long
tribulation. This woman, going out of the chamber where she abode one
night, at dusk, plainly saw as it were a human body, which was brighter
than the sun, wrapped in fine linen, and lifted up on high, being taken
out of the house in which the sisters used to sleep. Then looking
earnestly to see what it was that drew up that appearance of the
glorious body which she beheld, she perceived that it was raised on
high as it were by cords brighter than gold, until, entering into the
open heavens, it could no longer be seen by her. Reflecting on this
vision, she made no doubt that some one of the community would soon
die, and her soul be lifted up to heaven by the good works which she
had wrought, as it were by golden cords. And so in truth it befell; for
a few days after, the beloved of God, Ethelburg, mother of that
community, was delivered out of the prison of the flesh; and her life
is proved to have been such that no one who knew her ought to doubt
that an entrance into the heavenly country was open to her, when she
departed from this life.

There was also, in the same monastery, a certain nun, of noble origin
in this world, and still nobler in the love of the world to come; who
had, for many years, been so disabled in all her body, that she could
not move a single limb. When she heard that the body of the venerable
abbess had been carried into the church, till it should be buried, she
desired to be carried thither, and to be placed bending towards it,
after the manner of one praying; which being done, she spoke to her as
if she had been living, and entreated her that she would obtain of the
mercy of our pitiful Creator, that she might be delivered from such
great and long-continued pains; nor was it long before her prayer was
heard: for being delivered from the flesh twelve days after, she
exchanged her temporal afflictions for an eternal reward.

For three years after the death of her Superior, the aforesaid handmaid
of Christ, Tortgyth, was detained in this life and was so far spent
with the sickness before mentioned, that her bones scarce held
together. At last, when the time of her release was at hand, she not
only lost the use of her other limbs, but also of her tongue; in which
state having continued three days and as many nights, she was, on a
sudden, restored by a spiritual vision, and opened her lips and eyes,
and looking up to heaven, began thus to speak to the vision which she
saw: “Very acceptable to me is thy coming, and thou art welcome!”
Having so said, she was silent awhile, as it were, waiting for the
answer of him whom she saw and to whom she spoke; then, as if somewhat
displeased, she said, “I can in no wise gladly suffer this;” then
pausing awhile, she said again, “If it can by no means be to-day, I beg
that the delay may not be long;” and again holding her peace a short
while, she concluded thus; “If it is certainly so determined, and the
decree cannot be altered, I beg that it may be no longer deferred than
this next night.” Having so said, and being asked by those about her
with whom she talked, she said, “With my most dear mother, Ethelburg;”
by which they understood, that she was come to acquaint her that the
time of her departure was at hand; for, as she had desired, after one
day and night, she was delivered alike from the bonds of the flesh and
of her infirmity and entered into the joys of eternal salvation.

CHAP. X. How a blind woman, praying in the burial-place of that monastery, was
restored to her sight. [675 A.D.?]

HILDILID, a devout handmaid of God, succeeded Ethelburg in the office
of abbess and presided over that monastery with great vigour many
years, till she was of an extreme old age, in the observance of regular
discipline, and carefully providing all things for the common use. The
narrowness of the space where the monastery is built, led her to
determine that the bones of the servants and handmaidens of Christ, who
had been there buried, should be taken up, and should all be translated
into the church of the Blessed Mother of God, and interred in one
place. How often a brightness of heavenly light was seen there, when
this was done, and a fragrancy of wonderful sweetness arose, and what
other signs were revealed, whosoever reads will find in the book from
which we have taken these tales.

But in truth, I think it by no means fit to pass over the miracle of
healing, which the same book informs us was wrought in the cemetery of
that community dedicated to God. There lived in that neighbourhood a
certain thegn, whose wife was seized with a sudden dimness in her eyes,
and as the malady increased daily, it became so burdensome to her, that
she could not see the least glimpse of light. Having continued some
time wrapped in the night of this blindness, on a sudden she bethought
herself that she might recover her lost sight, if she were carried to
the monastery of the nuns, and there prayed at the relics of the
saints. Nor did she lose any time in fulfilling that which she had
conceived in her mind: for being conducted by her maids to the
monastery, which was very near, and professing that she had perfect
faith that she should be there healed, she was led into the cemetery,
and having long prayed there on her knees, she did not fail to be
heard, for as she rose from prayer, before she went out of the place,
she received the gift of sight which she had desired; and whereas she
had been led thither by the hands of her maids, she now returned home
joyfully without help: as if she had lost the light of this world to no
other end than that she might show by her recovery how great a light is
vouchsafed to the saints of Christ in Heaven, and how great a grace of
healing power.

CHAP. XI. How Sebbi, king of the same province, ended his life in a monastery.
[694 A.D.]

AT that time, as the same little book informs us, Sebbi , a very devout
man, of whom mention has been made above, governed the kingdom of the
East Saxons. His mind was set on religious acts, frequent prayer and
pious fruits of almsgiving; he esteemed a private and monastic life
better than all the wealth and honours of his kingdom, and he would
have long before left his kingdom and adopted that life, had not his
wife firmly refused to be divorced from him; for which reason many were
of opinion and often said that a man of such a disposition ought rather
to have been made a bishop than a king. When he had spent thirty years
as a king and a soldier of the heavenly kingdom, he fell into great
bodily infirmity, of which he afterwards died, and he admonished his
wife, that they should then at least together devote themselves to the
service of God, since they could no longer together enjoy, or rather
serve, the world. Having with much difficulty obtained this of her, he
went to Waldhere, bishop of London, who had succeeded Earconwald, and
with his blessing received the religious habit, which he had long
desired. He also carried to him a considerable sum of money, to be
given to the poor, reserving nothing to himself, but rather coveting to
remain poor in spirit for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven.

When the aforesaid sickness increased, and he perceived the day of his
death to be drawing near, being a man of a royal disposition, he began
to apprehend lest, when in great pain, at the approach of death, he
might commit anything unworthy of his character, either by word or
gesture. Wherefore, calling to him the aforesaid bishop of London, in
which city he then was, he entreated him that none might be present at
his death, besides the bishop himself, and two of his own attendants.
The bishop having promised that he would most willingly grant his
request, not long after the man of God composed himself to sleep, and
saw a consoling vision, which took from him all anxiety concerning the
aforesaid uneasiness; and, moreover, showed him on what day he was to
end his life. For, as he afterwards related, he saw three men in
shining garments come to him; one of whom sat down by his bed, whilst
his companions who had come with him stood and inquired about the state
of the sick man they had come to visit, and he said that the king’s
soul should quit his body without any pain, and with a great splendour
of light; and told him that he should die the third day after. Both
these things came to pass, as he had learnt from the vision; for on the
third day after, at the ninth hour, he suddenly fell, as it were, into
a light slumber, and without any sense of pain he gave up the ghost.

A stone coffin had been prepared for his burial, but when they came to
lay him in it, they found his body a span longer than the coffin.
Hereupon they chipped away as much of the stone as they could, and made
the coffin about two inches longer; but not even so would it contain
the body. Wherefore because of this difficulty of entombing him, they
had thoughts either to get another coffin, or else to shorten the body,
by bending it at the knees, if they could, so that the coffin might
contain it. But Heaven interposed and a miracle prevented the execution
of either of those designs; for on a sudden, in the presence of the
bishop and Sighard, who was the son of that same king and monk, and who
reigned after him jointly with his brother Suefred, and of no small
number of men, that coffin was found to fit the length of the body,
insomuch that a pillow might even be put in at the head; and at the
feet the coffin was four inches longer than the body. He was buried in
the church of the blessed teacher of the Gentiles, by whose doctrine he
had learned to hope for heavenly things.

CHAP. XII. How Haedde succeeded Leutherius in the bishopric of the West
Saxons; how Cuichelm succeeded Putta in the bishopric of the church of
Rochester, and was himself succeeded by Gebmund; and who were then bishops of
the Northumbrians. [673-681 A. D.]

LEUTHERIUS was the fourth bishop of the West Saxons; for Birinus was
the first, Agilbert the second, and Wini the third. When Coinwalch, in
whose reign the said Leutherius was made bishop, died, the sub-kings
took upon them the government of the nation, and dividing it among
themselves, held it for about ten years; and during their rule he died,
and Haedde succeeded him in the bishopric, having been consecrated by
Theodore, in the city of London. During his episcopate, Caedwalla,
having subdued and removed the sub-kings, took upon himself the supreme
authority. When he had held it for two years, and whilst the same
bishop still governed the church, at length impelled by love of the
heavenly kingdom, he quitted it and, going away to Rome, ended his days
there, as shall be said more fully hereafter.

In the year of our Lord 676, when Ethelred, king of the Mercians,
ravaged Kent with a hostile army, and profaned churches and
monasteries, without regard to pity, or the fear of God, in the general
destruction he laid waste the city of Rochester; Putta, who was bishop,
was absent at that time, but when he understood that his church was
ravaged, and everything taken away from it, he went to Sexwulf, bishop
of the Mercians and having received of him a certain church, and a
small piece of land, ended his days there in peace; in no way
endeavouring to restore his bishopric, for, as has keen said above, he
was more industrious in ecclesiastical than in worldly affairs; serving
God only in that church, and going wherever he was desired, to teach
Church music. Theodore consecrated Cuichelm bishop of Rochester in his
stead; but he, not long after, departing from his bishopric for want of
necessaries, and withdrawing to other parts, Gebmund was put in his
place by Theodore.

In the year of our Lord 678, which is the eighth of the reign of
Egfrid, in the month of August, appeared a star, called a comet, which
continued for three months, rising in the morning, and sending forth,
as it were, a tall pillar of radiant flame. The same year a dissension
broke out between King Egfrid and the most reverend prelate, Wilfrid,
who was driven from his see, and two bishops substituted for him, to
preside over the nation of the Northumbrians, namely, Bosa, to govern
the province of the Deiri; and Eata that of the Bernicians;. the former
having his episcopal see in the city of York, the latter either in the
church of Hagustald, or of Lindisfame; both of them promoted to the
episcopal dignity from a community of monks. With them also Eadhaed was
ordained bishop for the province of Lindsey, which King Egfrid had but
newly acquired, having defeated Wulfhere and put him to flight;and this
was the first bishop of its own which that province had; the second was
Ethelwin ; the third Edgar; the fourth Cynibert, who is there at
present. Before Eadhaed, Sexwulf was bishop as well of that province as
of the Mercians and Midland Angles; so that, when expelled from
Lindsey, he continued in the government of those provinces. Eadhaed,
Bosa, and Eata, were ordained at York by archbishop Theodore; who also,
three years after the departure of Wilfrid, added two bishops to their
number: Tunbert, appointed to the church of Hagustald, Eata still
continuing in that of Lindisfarne; and Trumwine to the province of the
Picts, which at that time was subject to English rule. Eadhaed
returning from Lindsey, because Ethelred had recovered that province,
was placed by Theodore over the church of Ripon.

CHAP. XIII. How Bishop Wilfrid converted the province of the South Saxons to
Christ. [681 A.D.]

BUT Wilfrid was expelled from his bishopric, and having long travelled
in many lands, went to Rome, and afterwards returned to Britain. Though
he could not, by reason the enmity of the aforesaid king, be received
into his own country or diocese, yet he could not be restrained from
the ministry of the Gospel; for, taking his way into the province of
the South Saxons, which extends from Kent to the south and west, as far
as the West Saxons, containing land of 7,000 families, and was at that
time still in bondage to pagan rites, he administered to them the Word
of faith, and the Baptism of salvation. Ethelwalch, king of that
nation, had been, not long before, baptized in the province of the
Mercians, at the instance of King Wulf here, who was present, and
received him as his godson when he came forth from the font, and in
token of this adoption gave him two provinces, to wit, the Isle of
Wight, and the province of the Meanware, in the country of the West
Saxons. The bishop, therefore, with the king’s consent, or rather to
his great joy, cleansed in the sacred font the foremost ealdormen and
thegns of that country; and the priests, Eappa and Padda, and Burghelm,
and Oiddi, either then, or afterwards, baptized the rest of the people.
The queen, whose name was Eabae, had been baptized in her own country,
the province of the Hwiccas. She was the daughter of Eanfrid, the
brother of Aenhere, who were both Christians, as were their people; but
all the province of the South Saxons was ignorant of the Name of God
and the faith. But there was among them a certain monk of the Scottish
nation, whose name was Dicul, who had a very small monastery, at the
place called Bosanhamm, (Bosham near Chichester) encompassed by woods
and seas, and in it there were five or six brothers, who served the
Lord in humility and poverty; but none of the natives cared either to
follow their course of life, or hear their preaching.

But Bishop Wilfrid, while preaching the Gospel to the people, not only
delivered them from the misery of eternal damnation, but also from a
terrible calamity of temporal death. For no rain had fallen in that
district for three years before his arrival in the province, whereupon
a grievous famine fell upon the people and pitilessly destroyed them;
insomuch that it is said that often forty or fifty men, wasted with
hunger, would go together to some precipice, or to the sea-shore, and
there, hand in hand, in piteous wise cast them themselves down either
to perish by the fall, or be swallowed up by the waves. But on the very
day on which the nation received the Baptism of the faith, there fell a
soft but plentiful rain; the earth revived, the fields grew green
again, and the season was pleasant and fruitful. Thus the old
superstition was cast away, and idolatry renounced, the heart and flesh
of all rejoiced in the living God, for they perceived that He Who is
the true God had enriched them by His heavenly grace with both inward
and outward blessings. For the bishop, when he came into the province,
and found so great misery from famine there, taught them to get their
food by fishing; for their sea and rivers abounded in fish, but the
people had no skill to take any of them, except eels alone. The
bishop’s men having gathered eel-nets everywhere, cast them into the
sea, and by the blessing of God took three hundred fishes of divers
sorts, which being divided into three parts, they gave a hundred to the
poor, a hundred to those of whom they had the nets, and kept a hundred
for their own use. By this benefit the bishop gained the affections of
them all, and they began more readily at his preaching to hope for
heavenly blessings, seeing that by his help they had received those
which are temporal.

At this time, King Ethelwalch gave to the most reverend prelate,
Wilfrid, land to the extent of eighty-seven families, to maintain his
company who were wandering in exile. The place is called Selaeseu,
(Selsey, south of Chichester) that is, the Island of the Sea-Calf; it
is encompassed by the sea on all sides, except the west, where is an
entrance about the cast of a sling in width; which sort of place is by
the Latins called a peninsula, by the Greeks, a cherronesos. Bishop
Wilfrid, having this place given him, founded therein a monastery,
chiefly of the brethren he had brought with him, and established a rule
of life; and his successors are known to be there to this day. He
himself, both in word and deed performed the duties of a bishop in
those parts during the space of five years, until the death of King
Egfrid, and was justly honoured by all. And forasmuch as the king,
together with the said place, gave him all the goods that were therein,
with the lands and men, he instructed all the people in the faith of
Christ, and cleansed them in the water of Baptism. Among whom were two
hundred and fifty bondsmen and bondswomen, all of whom he saved by
Baptism from slavery to the Devil, and in like manner, by giving them
their liberty, set them free from slavery to man.

CHAP. XIV. How a pestilence ceased through the intercession of King Oswald.
[681-686 A.D.]

IN this monastery, at that time, certain special manifestations of the
heavenly grace are said to have been shown forth; in as much as the
tyranny of the Devil had been recently cast out and Christ had begun to
reign there. Of these I have thought it proper to perpetuate the memory
of one which the most reverend Bishop Acca was wont often to relate to
me, affirming that it had been told him by most creditable brothers of
the same monastery. About the same time that this province had received
the faith of Christ, a grievous pestilence fell upon many provinces of
Britain; which, also, by the Divine dispensation, reached to the
aforesaid monastery, then governed by the most religious priest of
Christ, Eappa;and many, as well of those that had come thither with the
bishop, as of those of the same province of the South Saxons who had
been lately called to the faith, were snatched away out of this world.
The brethren, therefore, thought fit to keep a fast of three days, and
humbly to implore the Divine goodness to vouchsafe to have mercy on
them, either by delivering from instant death those that were in danger
by reason of the disease, or by saving those who were hurried out of
this life from the eternal damnation of their souls.

There was at that time in the monastery, a little boy, of the Saxon
nation, lately called to the faith , who had been attacked by the same
infirmity, and had long kept his bed. On the second day of the
aforesaid fasting and prayer, it happened about the second hour of the
day, that this boy was left alone in the place where he lay sick, when
on a sudden, through the Divine disposition, the most blessed chiefs of
the Apostles vouchsafed to appear to him; for he was a boy of a very
simple and gentle disposition, and with sincere devotion observed the
mysteries of the faith which he had received. The Apostles therefore,
greeting him with loving words, said, “My son, fear not death,
concerning which thou art troubled; for this day we will bring thee to
the kingdom of Heaven; but first thou must needs wait till the Masses
are celebrated, that having received thy voyage provision, the Body and
Blood of our Lord, and so being set free from sickness and death, thou
mayest be taken up to the everlasting joys in Heaven.

“Call therefore to thee the priest, Eappa, and tell him, that the Lord
has heard your prayers, and has favourably looked upon your devotion
and your fast, and not one more shall die of this plague, either in the
monastery or the lands adjacent to it; but all your people who any
where labour under this sickness, shall be raised up from their
weakness, and restored to their former health, saving, thee alone, who
art this day to be delivered from death, and to be carried into Heaven,
to behold our Lord Christ, whom thou hast faithfully served. This
favour the Divine mercy has vouchsafed to grant you, through the
intercession of the godly King Oswald, beloved of God, who formerly
nobly ruled over the nation of the Northumbrians, with the authority of
a temporal kingdom and the devotion of Christian piety which leads to
the eternal kingdom. For this very day that king was killed in body by
the infidels in war, and straightway taken up to Heaven to the
everlasting joys of souls, and brought into fellowship with the number
of the elect. Let them look in their records, wherein the burial of the
dead is set down, and they will find that he was, this day, as we have
said, taken out of this world. Let them, therefore, celebrate Masses in
all the oratories of this monastery, either in thanksgiving because
their prayers are heard, or else in memory of the aforesaid King
Oswald, who once governed their nation, and therefore humbly prayed to
the Lord for them, as for converts of his nation; and let all the
brethren assemble in the church, and all communicate in the heavenly
Sacrifices, and so let them cease to fast, and refresh the body also
with the food that belongs to it.”

The boy called the priest, and repeated all these words to him; and the
priest carefully inquired after the habit and form of the men that had
appeared to him. He answered, “Their habit was altogether noble, and
their countenances most pleasant and beautiful, such as I had never
seen before, nor did I think there could be any men so fair and comely.
One of them indeed was shorn like a clerk, the other had a long beard;
and they said that one of them was called Peter, the other Paul; and
they were the servants of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, sent by
Him from Heaven to protect our monastery.” The priest believed what the
boy said, and going thence immediately, looked in his chronicle, and
found that King Oswald had been killed on that very day. He then called
the brethren, ordered dinner to be provided, Masses to be said, and all
of them to communicate as usual; causing also a part of the same
Sacrifice of the Lord’s Oblation to be carried to the sick boy.

Soon after this, the boy died, on that same day; and by his death
proved that the words which he had heard from the Apostles of Christ
were true. And this moreover bore witness to the truth of his words,
that none besides himself, belonging to the same monastery, was taken
away at that time. And without doubt, by this vision, many that heard
of it were wonderfully excited to implore the Divine mercy in
adversity, and to submit to the wholesome remedy of fasting. From that
time, the day of commemoration of that king and soldier of Christ began
to be yearly honoured with the celebration of Masses, not only in that
monastery, but in many other places.

CHAP. XV. How King Caedwalla, king of the Gewissae, having slain Ethelwalch,
wasted that Province with cruel slaughter and devastation. [685 A.D.]

IN the meantime, Caedwalla, a young man of great vigour, of the royal
race of the Gewissae, an exile from his country, came with an army,
slew Ethelwalch, and wasted that province with cruel slaughter and
devastation; but he was soon expelled by Berthun and Andhun, the king’s
ealdormen, who held in succession the government of the province. The
first of them was afterwards killed by the same Caedwalla, when he was
king of the Gewissae, and the province was reduced to more grievous
slavery: Ini, likewise, who reigned after Caedwalla, oppressed that
country with the like servitude for many years; for which reason,
during all that time, they could have no bishop of their own; but their
first bishop, Wilfrid, having been recalled home, they were subject to
the bishop of the Gewissae, that is, the West Saxons, who were in the
city of Venta. (Winchester)

CHAP. XVI. How the Isle of Wight received Christian inhabitants, and two royal
youths of that island were killed immediately after Baptism. [686 A. D.]

AFTER Caedwalla had obtained possession of the kingdom of the Gewissae,
he took also the Isle of Wight, which till then was entirely given over
to idolatry, and by merciless slaughter endeavoured to destroy all the
inhabitants thereof, and to place in their stead people from his own
province; binding himself by a vow, though it is said that he was not
yet regenerated in Christ, to give the fourth part of the land and of
the spoil to the Lord, if he took the island. He fulfilled this vow by
giving the same for the service of the Lord to Bishop Wilfrid, who
happened at the time to have come thither from his own people. The
measure of that island, according to the computation of the English, is
of twelve hundred families, wherefore an estate of three hundred
families was given to the Bishop. The part which he received, he
committed to one of his clerks called Bernwin, who was his sister’s
son, assigning to him a priest, whose name was Hiddila, to administer
the Word and layer of life to all that would be saved.

Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of
those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys,
brothers to Arwald, king of the island, were crowned with the special
grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out
of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the
Jutes. Coming to the place called At the Stone, they thought to be
concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered
to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest,
whose name was Cynibert, who had a monastery not far from there, at a
place called Hreutford, (Redbridge) that is, the Ford of Reeds, he came
to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of
the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of
Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he
might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the
Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them
the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured
to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner
came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which
they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is
everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain
had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the
same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign
subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before
Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.

The island is situated opposite the borders of the South Saxons and the
Gewissae, being separated from it by a sea, three miles wide, which is
called Solvente. (The Solent) In this sea, the two tides of the ocean,
which break upon Britain all round its coasts from the boundless
northern ocean, daily meet in conflict beyond the mouth of the river
Homelea, (The Hamble)which runs into the aforesaid sea, through the
lands of the Jutes, belonging to the country of the Gewissae; and after
this struggle of the tides, they fall back and return into the ocean
whence they come.

CHAP. XVII. Of the Synod held in the plain of Haethfelth, Archbishop Theodore
being president. [680 A.D.]

ABOUT this time, Theodore being informed that the faith of the Church
at Constantinople was much perplexed by the heresy of Eutyches, and
desiring that the Churches of the English, over which he presided,
should remain free from all such taint, convened an assembly of
venerable bishops and many learned men, and diligently inquired into
the faith of each. He found them all of one mind in the Catholic faith,
and this he caused to be committed to writing by the authority of the
synod as a memorial, and for the instruction of succeeding generations;
the beginning of which document is as follows:

“In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, under the rule of
our most pious lords, Egfrid, king of of the Northumbrians, in the
tenth year of his reign, the seventeenth of September, the eighth
indiction; Ethelred, king of the Mercians, in the sixth year of his
reign; Aldwulf king of the East Angles, in the seventeenth year ofhis
reign; and Hlothere, king of Kent, in the seventh year of his reign,
Theodore, by the grace of God, archbishop of the island of Britain, and
of the city of Canterbury, being president, and the other venerable
bishops of the island of Britain sitting with him, the holy Gospels
being laid before them, at the place which, in the Saxon tongue, is
called Haethfelth, we conferred together, and set forth the right and
orthodox faith, as our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh delivered the
same to His disciples, who beheld His Presence and heard His words, and
as it is delivered by the creed of the holy fathers, and by all holy
and universal synods in general, and by the consent of all approved
doctors of the Catholic Church. We, therefore, following them, in piety
and orthodoxy, and professing accordance with their divinely inspired
doctrine, do believe agreeably to it, and with the holy fathers confess
the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, to be properly and truly a Trinity
consubstantial in Unity, and Unity in Trinity, that is, one God in
three Subsistences or consubstantial persons, of equal glory and

And after much more of the same sort, appertaining to the confession of
the right faith, this holy synod added to its document, “We acknowledge
the five holy and general councils of the blessed fathers acceptable to
God; that is, of the 318 assembled at Nicaea, against the most impious
Anus and his tenets; and at ConstantinopIe, of 150, against the madness
of Macedonius and Eudoxius, and their tenets; and at Ephesus, for the
first time, of 200, against the most wicked Nestorius, and his tenets;
and at Chalcedon, of 630, against Eutyches and Nestorius, and their
tenets; and again, at Constantinople, in a fifth council, in the time
of Justinian the younger, against Theodorus, and the epistles of
Theodoret and Ibas, and their tenets in opposition to Cyril.” And again
a little lower, “the synod held in the city of Rome, in the time of the
blessed Pope Martin, in the eighth indiction, and in the ninth year of
the most pious Emperor Constantine, we also acknowledge. And we glorify
our Lord Jesus Christ, as they glorified Him, neither adding aught nor
taking away; anathematizing with hearts and lips those whom they
anathematized, and receiving those whom they received; glorifying God
the Father, Who is without beginning, and His only-begotten Son,
begotten of the Father before the worlds, and the Holy Ghost proceeding
ineffably from the Father and the Son, even as those holy Apostles,
prophets, and doctors, whom we have above-mentioned, did declare. And
all we, who, with Archbishop Theodore, have thus set forth the Catholic
faith, thereto subscribe.”

CHAP. XVIII. Of John, the precentor of the Apostolic see, who came into
Britain to teach. [680 A. D.]

AMONG those who were present at this synod, and confirmed the decrees
of the Catholic faith, was the venerable John, archchanter of the
church of the holy Apostle Peter, and abbot of the monastery of the
blessed Martin, who had come lately from Rome, by order of Pope Agatho,
together with the most reverend Abbot Biscop, surnamed Benedict, of
whom mention has been made above. For the said Benedict, having built a
monastery in Britain, in honour of the most blessed chief of the
Apostles, at the mouth of the river Wear, went to Rome with Ceolfrid,
his companion and fellow-labourer in that work, who was after him abbot
of the same monastery; he had been several times before at Rome, and
was now honourably received by Pope Agatho of blessed memory; from whom
he also asked and obtained, in order to secure the immunities of the
monastery which he had founded, a letter of privilege confirmed by
apostolic authority, according to what he knew to be the will and grant
of King Egfrid, by whose consent and gift of land he had built that

He was also allowed to take the aforesaid Abbot John with him into
Britain, that he might teach in his monastery the system of singing
throughout the year, as it was practised at St. Peter’s at Rome. The
Abbot John did as he had been commanded by the Pope, teaching the
singers of the said monastery the order and manner of singing and
reading aloud, and committing to writing all that was requisite
throughout the whole course of the year for the celebration of
festivals; and these writings are still preserved in that monastery,
and have been copied by many others elsewhere. The said John not only
taught the brothers of that monastery, but such as had skill in singing
resorted from almost all the monasteries of the same province to hear
him, and many invited him to teach in other places.

Besides his task of singing and reading,, he had also received a
commission from the Apostolic Pope, carefully to inform himself
concerning the faith of the English Church, and to give an account
thereof on his return to Rome. For he also brought with him the
decision of the synod of the blessed Pope Martin, held not long before
at Rome, with the consent of one hundred and five bishops, chiefly to
refute those who taught that there is but one operation and will in
Christ, and he gave it to be transcribed in the aforesaid monastery of
the most religious Abbot Benedict. The men who followed such opinion
greatly perplexed the faith of the Church of Constantinople at that
time; but by the help of God they were then discovered and overcome.
Wherefore, Pope Agatho, being desirous to be informed concerning the
state of the Church in Britain, as well as in other provinces, and to
what extent it was clear from the contagion of heretics, gave this
matter in charge to the most reverend Abbot John, then appointed to go
to Britain. The synod we have spoken of having been called for this
purpose in Britain, the Catholic faith was found untainted in all, and
a report of the proceedings of the same was given him to carry to Rome.

But in his return to his own country, soon after crossing the sea, he
fell sick and died; and his body, for the sake of St. Martin, in whose
monastery he presided, was by his friends carried to Tours, and
honourably buried; for he had been kindly entertained by the Church
there on his way to Britain, and earnestly entreated by the brethren,
that in his return to Rome he would take that road, and visit their
Church, and moreover he was there supplied with men to conduct him on
his way, and assist him in the work enjoined upon him. Though he died
by the way, yet the testimony of the Catholic faith of the English
nation was carried to Rome, and received with great joy by the
Apostolic Pope, and all those, that heard or read it.

CHAP. XIX. How Queen Ethelthryth always preserved her virginity, and her body
suffered no corruption in the grave. [660-696 A.D.]

KING EGFRID took to wife Ethelthryth, the daughter of Anna, king of the
East Angles, of whom mention has been often made; a man of true
religion, and altogether noble in mind and deed. She had before been
given in marriage to another, to wit, Tondbert, ealdormanof the
Southern Gyrwas; but he died soon after he had married her, and she was
given to the aforesaid king. Though she lived with him twelve years,
yet she preserved the glory of perfect virginity, as I was informed by
Bishop Wilfrid, of blessed memory, of whom I inquired, because some
questioned the truth thereof; and he told me that he was an undoubted
witness to her virginity, forasmuch as Egfrid promised to give him many
lands and much money if he could persuade the queen to consent to
fulfil her marriage duty, for he knew the queen loved no man more than
himself. And it is not to be doubted that this might take place in our
age, which true histories tell us happened sometimes in former ages, by
the help of the same Lord who promises to abide with us always, even
unto the end of the world. For the divine miracle whereby her flesh,
being buried, could not suffer corruption, is a token that she had not
been defiled by man.

She had long asked of the king that he would permit her to lay aside
worldly cares, and to serve only Christ, the true King, in a monastery;
and having at length with difficulty prevailed, she entered the
monastery of the Abbess Aebba, who was aunt to King Egfrid, at the
place called the city of Coludi, having received the veil of the
religious habit from the hands of the aforesaid Bishop Wilfrid; but a
year after she was herself made abbess in the district called Elge,
(Ely) where, having built a monastery, she began, by the example of a
heavenly life and by her teaching, to be the virgin mother of many
virgins dedicated to God. It is told of her that from the time of her
entering the monastery, she would never wear any linen but only woollen
garments, and would seldom wash in a hot bath, unless just before the
greater festivals, as Easter, Whitsuntide, and the Epiphany, and then
she did it last of all, when the other handmaids of Christ who were
there had been washed, served by her and her attendants. She seldom ate
more than once a day, excepting on the greater festivals, or some
urgent occasion. Always, except when grievous sickness prevented her,
from the time of matins till day-break, she continued in the church at
prayer. Some also say, that by the spirit of prophecy she not only
foretold the pestilence of which she was to die, but also, in the
presence of all, revealed the number of those that should be then
snatched away from this world out of her monastery. She was taken to
the Lord, in the midst of her flock, seven years after she had been
made abbess; and, as she had ordered, was buried among them in a wooden
coffin in her turn, according to the order in which she had passed

She was succeeded in the office of abbess by her sister Sexburg, who
had been wife to Earconbert, king of Kent. This abbess, when her sister
had been buried sixteen years, thought fit to take up her bones, and,
putting them into a new coffin, to translate them into the church.
Accordingly she ordered some of the brothers to find a stone whereof to
make a coffin for this purpose. They went on board ship, for the
district of Ely is on every side encompassed with water and marshes,
and has no large stones, and came to a small deserted city, not far
from thence, which, in the language of the English, is called
Grantacaestir, (Grantchester, near Cambridge) and presently, near the
city walls, they found a white marble coffin, most beautifully wrought,
and fitly covered with a lid of the same sort of stone. Perceiving,
therefore, that the Lord had prospered their journey, they returned
thanks to Him and carried it to the monastery.

When the grave was opened and the body of the holy virgin and bride of
Christ was brought into the light of day, it was found as free from
corruption as if she had died and been buried on that very day; as the
aforesaid Bishop Wilfrid, and many others that know it, testify. But
the physician, Cynifrid, who was present at her death, and when she was
taken up out of the grave, had more certain knowledge. He was wont to
relate that in her sickness she had a very great tumour under her jaw.
“And I was ordered,” said he, “to lay open that tumour to let out the
noxious matter in it, which I did, and she seemed to be somewhat more
easy for two days, so that many thought she might recover from her
infirmity; but on the third day she was attacked by the former pains,
and being soon snatched out of the world, she exchanged all pain and
death for everlasting life and health. And when, so many years after,
her bones were to be taken out of the grave, a pavilion being spread
over it, and all the congregation, the brothers on the one side, and
the sisters on the other, standing about it singing, while the abbess,
with a few others, had gone within to take up and wash the bones, on a
sudden we heard the abbess within cry out with a loud voice, Glory be
to the name of the Lord.’ Not long after they called me in, opening the
door of the pavilion, and I found the body of the holy virgin taken out
of the grave and laid on a bed, like one asleep; then taking off the
veil from the face, they also showed me that the incision which I had
made was healed up; so that, in marvellous wise, instead of the open
gaping wound with which she had been buried, there then appeared only
the slightest trace of a scar. Besides, all the linen clothes in which
the body had been wrapped, appeared entire and as fresh as if they had
been that very day put about her chaste limbs.”

It is said that when she was sore troubled with the aforesaid tumour
and pain in her jaw and neck, she took great pleasure in that sort of
sickness, and was wont to say, “I know of a surety that I deservedly
bear the weight of my trouble on my neck, for I remember that, when I
was a young maiden, I bore on it the needless weight of necklaces; and
therefore I believe the Divine goodness would have me endure the pain
in my neck, that so I may be absolved from the guilt of my needless
levity, having now, instead of gold and pearls, the fiery heat of a
tumour rising on my neck.” It happened also that by the touch of those
same linen clothes devils were expelled from bodies possessed, and
other diseases were at divers times healed; and the coffin wherein she
was first buried is said to have cured some of infirmities of the eyes,
who, praying with their heads resting upon that coffin, were presently
relieved of the pain or dimness in their eyes. So they washed the
virgin’s body, and having clothed it in new garments, brought it into
the church, and laid it in the sarcophagus that had been brought, where
it is held in great veneration to this day. The sarcophagus was found
in a wonderful manner to fit the virgin’s body as if it had been made
purposely for her, and the place for the head, which was fashioned
separately, appeared exactly shaped to the measurement of her head.

Elge is in the province of the East Angles, a district of about six
hundred families, of the nature of an island, encompassed, as has been
said, with marshes or waters, and therefore it has its name from the
great plenty of eels taken in those marshes; there the aforesaid
handmaid of Christ desired to have a monastery, because, as we have
before mentioned, she came, according to the flesh, of that same
province of the East Angles.

CHAP. XX. A Hymn concerning her.

IT seems fitting to insert in this history a hymn concerning virginity,
which we composed in elegiac verse many years ago, in praise and honour
of the same queen and bride of Christ, and therefore truly a queen,
because the bride of Christ; and to imitate the method of Holy
Scripture, wherein many songs are inserted in the history, and these,
as is well known, are composed in metre and verse.

“Trinity,Gracious, Divine, Who rulest all the ages; favour my task,
Trinity, Gracious, Divine.
“Let Maro sound the trumpet of war, let us sing the gifts of peace; the
gifts of Christ we sing, let Maro sound the trumpet of war.

“Chaste is my song, no rape of guilty Helen; light tales shall be told
by the wanton, chaste is my song.
“I will tell of gifts from Heaven, not wars of hapless Troy; I will
tell of gifts from Heaven, wherein the earth is glad.
“Lo! the high God comes to the womb of a holy virgin, to be the Saviour
of men, lo! the high God comes.
“A hallowed maid gives birth to Him Who gave the world its being; Mary,
the gate of God, a maiden gives Him, birth.
“The company of her fellows rejoices over the Virgin Mother of Him Who
wields the thunder; a shining virgin band, the company of her fellows
“Her honour has made many a blossom to spring from that pure shoot,
virgin blossoms her honour has made to spring.
“Scorched by the fierce flames, the maiden Agatha yielded not; in like
manner Eulalia endures, scorched by the fierce flames.
“The lofty soul of chaste Tecla overcomes the wild beasts; chaste
Euphemia overcomes the accursed wild beasts.
“Agnes joyously laughs at the sword, herself stronger than steel,
Cecilia joyously laughs at the foemen’s sword.
“Many a triumph is mighty throughout the world in temperate hearts;
throughout the world love of the temperate life is mighty.
“Yea, and our day likewise a peerless maiden has blessed; peerless our
Ethelthryth shines.
“Child of a noble sire, and glorious by royal birth, more noble in her
Lord’s sight, the child of a noble sire.
“Thence she receives queenly honour and a sceptre in this world; thence
she receives honour, awaiting higher honour above.
“What need, gracious lady, to seek an earthly lord, even now given to
the Heavenly Bridegroom?
“Christ is at hand, the Bridegroom (why seek an earthly lord?) that
thou mayst follow even now, methinks, in the steps of the Mother of
Heaven’s King, that thou too mayst be a mother in God.
“Twelve years she had reigned, a bride dedicated to God, then in the
cloister dwelt, a bride dedicated to God.
“To Heaven all consecrated she lived, abounding in lofty deeds, then to
Heaven all consecrated she gave up her soul.
“Twice eight Novembers the maid’s fair flesh lay in the tomb, nor did
the maid’s fair flesh see corruption in the tomb.
“This was Thy work, O Christ, that her very garments were bright and
undefiled even in the grave; O Christ, this was Thy work.
“The dark serpentflies before the honour due to the holy raiment;
disease is driven away, and the dark serpent flies.
Rage fills the foe who of old conquered Eve; exultant the maiden
triumphs and rage fills the foe.
“Behold, O bride of God, thy glory upon earth; the glory that awaits
thee in the Heavens behold, O bride of God.
“In gladness thou receivest gifts, bright amidst the festal torches;
behold! the Bridegroom comes, in gladness thou receivest gifts.
“And a new song thou singest to the tuneful harp; a new-made bride,
thou exultest in the tuneful hymn.
“None can part her from them which follow the Lamb enthroned on high,
whom none had severed from the Love enthroned on high.”

CHAP. XXI. How Bishop Theodore made peace between the kings Egfrid and
Etheired. [679 A. D.]

IN the ninth year of the reign of King Egfrid, a great battlewas fought
between him and Ethelred, king of the Mercians, near the river Trent,
and Aelfwine, brother to King Egfrid, was slain, a youth about eighteen
years of age, and much beloved by both provinces; for King Ethelred had
married his sister Osthryth. There was now reason to expect a more
bloody war, and more lasting enmity between those kings and their
fierce nations; but Theodore, the bishop, beloved of God, relying on
the Divine aid, by his wholesome admonitions wholly extinguished the
dangerous fire that was breaking out; so that the kings and their
people on both sides were appeased, and no man was put to death, but
only the due mulct4 paid to the king who was the avenger for the death
of his brother; and this peace continued long after between those kings
and between their kingdoms.

CHAP. XXII. How a certain captive’s chains fell off when Masses were sung for
Him. [679 A. D.]

IN the aforesaid battle, wherein King Aelfwine was killed, a memorable
incident is known to have happened, which I think ought by no means to
be passed over in, silence; for the story will be profitable to the
salvation of many. In that battle a youth called Imma, one of the
king’s thegns, was struck down, and having lain as if dead all that day
and the next night among the bodies of the slain, at length he came to
himself and revived, and sitting up, bound his own wounds as best as he
could. Then having rested awhile, he stood up, and went away to see if
he could find any friends to take care of him; but in so doing he was
discovered and taken by some of the enemy’s army, and carried before
their lord, who was one of King Ethelred’s nobles. Being asked by him
who he was, and fearing to own himself a thegn, he answered that he was
a peasant, a poor man and married, and he declared that he had come to
the war with others like himself to bring provisions to the army.” The
noble entertained him, kind ordered his wounds to be dressed, and when
he began to recover, to prevent his escaping, he ordered him to be
bound at night. But he could not be bound, for as soon as they that
bound him were gone, his bonds were loosed.

Now he had a brother called Tunna, who was a priest and abbot of a
monastery in the city which is still called Tunnacaestir after
him.(Towcester) This man, hearing that his brother had been killed in
the battle, went to see if haply he could find his body; and finding
another very like him in all respects, he believed it to be his. So he
carried it to his monastery, and buried it honourably, and took care
often to say Masses for the absolution of his soul; the celebration
whereof occasioned what I have said, that none could bind him but he
was presently loosed again. In the meantime, the noble that had kept
him was amazed, and began to inquire why he could not be bound; whether
perchance he had any spells about him, such as are spoken of in
stories. He answered that he knew nothing of those arts; “but I have,”
said he, “a brother who is a priest in my country, and I know that he,
supposing me to be killed, is saying frequent Masses for me; and if I
were now in the other life, my soul there, through his intercession,
would be delivered from penalty.”

When he had been a prisoner with the noble some time, those who
attentively observed him, by his countenance, habit, and discourse,
took notice, that he was not of the meaner sort, as he had said, but of
some quality. The noble then privately sending for him, straitly
questioned him, whence he came, promising to do him no harm on that
account if he would frankly confess who he was. This he did, declaring
that he had been a thegn of the king’s, and the noble answered, “I
perceived by all your answers that you were no peasant. And now you
deserve to die, because all my brothers and relations were killed in
that fight; yet I will not put you to death, that I may not break my

As soon, therefore, as he was recovered, he sold him to a certain
Frisian at London, but he could not in any wise be bound either by him,
or as he was being led thither. But when his enemies had put all manner
of bonds on him, and the buyer perceived that he could in no way be
bound, he gave him leave to ransom himself if he could. Now it was at
the third hour, when the Masses were wont to be said, that his bonds
were most frequently loosed. He, having taken an oath that he would
either return, or send his owner the money for the ransom, went into
Kent to King Hlothere, who was son to the sister of Queen Ethelthryth,
above spoken of, for he had once been that queen’s thegn. From him he
asked and obtained the price of his freedom, and as he had promised,
sent it to his master for his ransom.

Returning afterwards into his own country, and coming to his brother,
he gave him an exact account of all his misfortunes, and the
consolation afforded to him in them; and from what his brother told him
he understood, that his bonds had been generally loosed at those times
when Masses had been celebrated for him; and he perceived that other
advantages and blessings which had fallen to his lot in his time of
danger, had been conferred on him from Heaven, through the intercession
of his brother, and the Oblation of the saving Sacrifice. Many, on
hearing this account from the aforesaid man, were stirred up in faith
and pious devotion to prayer, or to alms-giving, or to make an offering
to God of the Sacrifice of the holy Oblation, for the deliverance of
their friends who had departed this world; for they knew that such
saving Sacrifice availed for the eternal redemption both of body and
soul. This story was also told me by some of those who had heard it
related by the man himself to whom it happened; therefore, since I had
a clear understanding of it, I have not hesitated to insert it in my
Ecclesiastical History.

CHAP. XXIII. Of the life and death of the Abbess Hilda. [614-680 A.D.]

IN the year after this, that is the year of our Lord 680, the most
religious handmaid of Christ, Hilda, abbess of the monastery that is
called Streanaeshalch, as we mentioned above, after having done many
heavenly deeds on earth, passed thence to receive the rewards of the
heavenly life, on the 17th of November, at the age of sixty-six years.
Her life falls into two equal parts, for the first thirty-three years
of it she spent living most nobly in the secular habit; and still more
nobly dedicated the remaining half to the Lord in the monastic life.
For she was nobly born, being the daughter of Hereric, nephew to King
Edwin, and with that king she also received the faith and mysteries of
Christ, at the preaching of Paulinus, of blessed memory, the first
bishop of the Northumbrians, and preserved the same undefiled till she
attained to the vision of our Lord in Heaven.

When she had resolved to quit the secular habit, and to serve Him
alone, she withdrew into the province of the East Angles, for she was
allied to the king there; being desirous to cross over thence into
Gaul, forsaking her native country and all that she had, and so to live
a stranger for our Lord’s sake in the monastery of Cale, that she might
the better attain to the eternal country in heaven. For her sister
Heresuid, mother to Aldwulf, king of the East Angles, was at that time
living in the same monastery, under regular discipline, waiting for an
everlasting crown; and led by her example, she continued a whole year
in the aforesaid province, with the design of going abroad; but
afterwards, Bishop Aidan recalled her to her home, and she received
land to the extent of one family on the north side of the river Wear;
where likewise for a year she led a monastic life, with very few

After this she was made abbess in the monastery called Heruteu,
(Hartlepool) which monastery had been founded, not long before, by the
pious handmaid of Christ, Heiu, who is said to have been the first
woman in the province of the Northumbrians who took upon her the vows
and habit of a nun, being consecrated by Bishop Aidan; but she, soon
after she had founded that monastery, retired to the city of Calcaria,
which is called Kaelcacaestir (Tadcaster)by the English, and there
fixed her dwelling. Hilda, the handmaid of Christ, being set over that
monastery, began immediately to order it in all things under a rule of
life, according as she had been instructed by learned men; for Bishop
Aidan, and others of the religious that knew her, frequently visited
her and loved her heartily, and diligently instructed her, because of
her innate wisdom and love of the service of God.

When she had for some years governed this monastery, wholly intent upon
establishing a rule of life, it happened that she also undertook either
to build or to set in order a monastery in the place called
Streanaeshalch, and this work which was laid upon her she industriously
performed; for she put this monastery under the same rule of monastic
life as the former; and taught there the strict observance of justice,
piety, chastity, and other virtues, and particularly of peace and
charity; so that, after the example of the primitive Church, no one
there was rich, and none poor, for they had all things common, and none
had any private property. Her prudence was so great, that not only
meaner men in their need, but sometimes even kings and princes, sought
and received her counsel; she obliged those who were under her
direction to give so much time to reading of the Holy Scriptures, and
to exercise themselves so much in works of justice, that many might
readily be found there fit for the priesthood and the service of the

Indeed we have seen five from that monastery who afterwards became
bishops, and all of them men of singular merit and sanctity, whose
names were Bosa,Aetla, Oftfor, John, and Wilfrid. Of the first we have
said above that he was consecrated bishop of York; of the second, it
may be briefly stated that he was appointed bishop of Dorchester. Of
the last two we shall tell hereafter, that the former was ordained
bishop of Hagustald, the other of the church of York; of the third, we
may here mention that, having applied himself to the reading and
observance of the Scriptures in both the monasteries of the Abbess
Hilda, at length being desirous to attain to greater perfection, he
went into Kent, to Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory; where having
spent some time in sacred studies, he resolved to go to Rome also,
which, in those days, was esteemed a very salutary undertaking.
Returning thence into Britain, he took his way into the province of the
Hwiccas, where King Osric then ruled, and continued there a long time,
preaching the Word of faith, and showing an example of good life to all
that saw and heard him. At that time, Bosel, the bishop of that
province, laboured under such weakness of body, that he could not
himself perform episcopal functions; for which reason, Oftfor was, by
universal consent, chosen bishop in his stead, and by order of King
Ethelred, consecrated by Bishop Wilfrid, of blessed memory, who was
then Bishop of the Midland Angles, because Archbishop Theodore was
dead, and no other bishop ordained in his place. A little while before,
that is, before the election of the aforesaid man of God, Bosel,
Tatfrid, a man of great industry and learning, and of excellent
ability, had been chosen bishop for that province, from the monastery
of the same abbess, but had been snatched away by an untimely death,
before he could be ordained.

Thus this handmaid of Christ, the Abbess Hilda, whom all that knew her
called Mother, for her singular piety and grace, was not only an
example of good life, to those that lived in her monastery, but
afforded occasion of amendment and salvation to many who lived at a
distance, to whom the blessed fame was brought of her industry and
virtue. For it was meet that the dream of her mother, Bregusuid, during
her infancy, should be fulfilled. Now Bregusuid, at the time that her
husband, Hereric, lived in banishment, under Cerdic, king of the
Britons, where he was also poisoned, fancied, in a dream, that he was
suddenly taken away from her and she was seeking for him most
carefully, but could find no sign of him anywhere. After an anxious
search for him, all at once she found a most precious necklace under
her garment, and whilst she was looking on it very attentively, it
seemed to shine forth with such a blaze of light that it filled all
Britain with the glory of its brilliance. This dream was doubtless
fulfilled in her daughter that we speak of, whose life was an example
of the works of light, not only blessed to herself, but to many who
desired to live aright.

When she had governed this monastery many years, it pleased Him Who has
made such merciful provision for our salvation, to give her holy soul
the trial of a long infirmity of the flesh, to the end that, according
to the Apostle’s example, her virtue might be made perfect in weakness.
Struck down with a fever, she suffered from a burning heat, and was
afflicted with the same trouble for six years continually; during all
which time she never failed either to return thanks to her Maker, or
publicly and privately to instruct the flock committed to her charge;
for taught by her own experience she admonished all men to serve the
Lord dutifully, when health of body is granted to them, and always to
return thanks faithfully to Him in adversity, or bodily infirmity. In
the seventh year of her sickness, when the disease turned inwards, her
last day came, and about cockcrow, having received the voyage provision
of Holy Housel, and called together the handmaids of Christ that were
within the same monastery, she admonished them to preserve the peace of
the Gospel among themselves, and with all others; and even as she spoke
her words of exhortation, she joyfully saw death come, or, in the words
of our Lord, passed from death unto life.

That same night it pleased Almighty God, by a manifest vision, to make
known her death in another monastery, at a distance from hers, which
she had built that same year, and which is called Hacanos. There was in
that monastery, a certain nun called Begu, who, having dedicated her
virginity to the Lord, had served Him upwards of thirty years in the
monastic life. This nun was resting in the dormitory of the sisters,
when on a sudden she heard in the air the well-known sound of the bell,
which used to awake and call them to prayers, when any one of them was
taken out of this world, and opening her eyes, as she thought, she saw
the roof of the house open, and a light shed from above filling all the
place. Looking earnestly upon that light, she saw the soul of the
aforesaid handmaid of God in that same light, being carried to heaven
attended and guided by angels. Then awaking, and seeing the other
sisters lying round about her, she perceived that what she had seen had
been revealed to her either in a dream or a vision; and rising
immediately in great fear, she ran to the virgin who then presided in
the monastery in the place of the abbess, and whose name was Frigyth,
and, with many tears and lamentations, and heaving deep sighs, told her
that the Abbess Hilda, mother of them all, had departed this life, and
had in her sight ascended to the gates of eternal light, and to the
company of the citizens of heaven, with a great light, and with angels
for her guides. Frigyth having heard it, awoke all the sisters, and
calling them to the church, admonished them to give themselves to
prayer and singing of psalms, for the soul of their mother; which they
did earnestly during the remainder of the night; and at break of day,
the brothers came with news of her death, from the place where she had
died. They answered that they knew it before, and then related in order
how and when they had learnt it, by which it appeared that her death
had been revealed to them in a vision that same hour in which the
brothers said that she had died. Thus by a fair harmony of events
Heaven ordained, that when some saw her departure out of this world,
the others should have knowledge of her entrance into the eternal life
of souls. These monasteries are about thirteen miles distant from each

It is also told, that her death was, in a vision, made known the same
night to one of the virgins dedicated to God, who loved her with a
great love, in the same monastery where the said handmaid of God died.
This nun saw her soul ascend to heaven in the company of angels; and
this she openly declared, in the very same hour that it happened, to
those handmaids of Christ that were with her; and aroused them to pray
for her soul, even before the rest of the community had heard of her
death. The truth of which was known to the whole community in the
morning. This same nun was at that time with some other handmaids of
Christ, in the remotest part of the monastery, where the women who had
lately entered the monastic life were wont to pass their time of
probation, till they were instructed according to rule, and admitted
into the fellowship of the community.


CHAP. XXIV. That there was in her monastery a brother, on whom a gift of song
was bestowed by Heaven. [680 A.D.]

THERE was in the monastery of this abbess a certain brother, marked in
a special manner by the grace of God, for he was wont to make songs of
piety and religion, so that whatever was expounded to him out of
Scripture, he turned ere long into verse expressive of much sweetness
and penitence, in English, which was his native language. By his songs
the minds of many were often fired with contempt of the world, and
desire of the heavenly life. Others of the English nation after him
attempted to compose religious poems, but none could equal him, for he
did not learn the art of poetry from men, neither was he taught by man,
but by God’s grace he received the free gift of song, for which reason
he never could compose any trivial or vain poem, but only those which
concern religion it behoved his religious tongue to utter. For having
lived in the secular habit till he was well advanced in years, he had
never learned anything of versifying; and for this reason sometimes at
a banquet, when it was agreed to make merry by singing in turn, if he
saw the harp come towards him, he would rise up from table and go out
and return home.

Once having done so and gone out of the house where the banquet was, to
the stable, where he had to take care of the cattle that night, he
there composed himself to rest at the proper time. Thereupon one stood
by him in his sleep, and saluting him, and calling him by his name,
said, “Caedmon, sing me something.” But he answered, “I cannot sing,
and for this cause I left the banquet and retired hither, because I
could not sing.” Then he who talked to him replied, “Nevertheless thou
must needs sing to me.” “What must I sing?” he asked. “Sing the
beginning of creation,” said the other. Having received this answer he
straightway began to sing verses to the praise of God the Creator,
which he had never heard, the purport whereof was after this manner:
“Now must we praise the Maker of the heavenly kingdom, the power of the
Creator and His counsel, the deeds of the Father of glory. How He,
being the eternal God, became the Author of all wondrous works, Who
being the Almighty Guardian of the human race, first created heaven for
the sons of men to be the covering of their dwelling place, and next
the earth.” This is the sense but not the order of the words as he sang
them in his sleep; for verses, though never so well composed, cannot be
literally translated out of one language into another without loss of
their beauty and loftiness. Awaking from his sleep, he remembered all
that he had sung in his dream, and soon added more after, t he same
manner, in words which worthily expressed the praise of God.

In the morning he came to the reeve who was over him, and having told
him of the gift he had received, was conducted to the abbess, and
bidden, in the presence of many learned men, to tell his dream, and
repeat the verses, that they might all examine and give their judgement
upon the nature and origin of the gift whereof he spoke. And they all
judged that heavenly grace had been granted to him by the Lord. They
expounded to him a passage of sacred history or doctrine, enjoining
upon him, if he could, to put it into verse. Having undertaken this
task, he went away, and returning the next morning, gave them the
passage he had been bidden to translate, rendered in most excellent
verse. Whereupon the abbess, joyfully recognizing the grace of God in
the man, instructed him to quit the secular habit, and take upon him
monastic vows; and having received him into the monastery, she and all
her people admitted him to the company of the brethren, and ordered
that he should be taught the whole course of sacred history. So he,
giving ear to all that he could learn, and bearing it in mind, and as
it were ruminating, like a clean animal,2 turned it into most
harmonious verse; and sweetly singing it, made his masters in their
turn his hearers. He sang the creation of the world, the origin of man,
and all the history of Genesis, the departure of the children of Israel
out of Egypt, their entrance into the promised land, and many other
histories from Holy Scripture; the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection
of our Lord, and His Ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy
Ghost, and the teaching of the Apostles; likewise he made many songs
concerning the terror of future judgement, the horror of the pains of
hell, and the joys of heaven; besides many more about the blessings and
the judgements of God, by all of which he endeavoured to draw men away
from the love of sin, and to excite in them devotion to well-doing and
perseverance therein. For he was a very religious man, humbly
submissive to the discipline of monastic rule, but inflamed with
fervent zeal against those who chose to do otherwise; for which reason
he made a fair ending of his life.

For when the hour of his departure drew near, it was preceded by a
bodily infirmity under which he laboured for the space of fourteen
days, yet it was of so mild a nature that he could talk and go about
the whole time. In his neighbourhood was the house to which those that
were sick, and like to die, were wont to be carried. He desired the
person that ministered to him, as the evening came on of the night in
which he was to depart this life, to make ready a place there for him
to take his rest. The man, wondering why he should desire it, because
there was as yet no sign of his approaching death, nevertheless did his
bidding. When they had lain down there, and had been conversing happily
and pleasantly for some time with those that were in the house before,
and it was now past midnight, he asked them, whether they had the
Eucharist within?They answered, “What need of the Eucharist? for you
are not yet appointed to die, since you talk so merrily with us, as if
you were in good health.” “Nevertheless,” said he, “bring me the
Eucharist.” Having received It into his hand, he asked, whether they
were all in charity with him, and had no complaint against him, nor any
quarrel or grudge. They answered, that they were all in perfect charity
with him, and free from all anger; and in their turn they asked him to
be of the same mind towards them. He answered at once, “I am in
charity, my children, with all the servants of God.” Then strengthening
himself with the heavenly Viaticum, he prepared for the entrance into
another life, and asked how near the time was when the brothers should
be awakened to sing the nightly praises of the Lord?They answered, “It
is not far off.” Then he said, “It is well, let us await that hour;”
and signing himself with the sign of the Holy Cross, he laid his head
on the pillow, and falling into a slumber for a little while, so ended
his life in silence.

Thus it came to pass, that as he had served the Lord with a simple and
pure mind, and quiet devotion, so he now departed to behold His
Presence, leaving the world by a quiet death; and that tongue, which
had uttered so many wholesome words in praise of the Creator, spake its
last words also in His praise, while he signed himself with the Cross,
and commended his spirit into His hands; and by what has been here
said, he seems to have had foreknowledge of his death.

CHAP. XXV. Of the vision that appeared to a certain man of God before the
monastery of the city Coludi was burned down.

AT this time, the monastery of virgins, called the city of Coludi,
above-mentioned, was burned down, through carelessness; and yet all
that knew it might have been aware that it happened by reason of the
wickedness of those who dwelt in it, and chiefly of those who seemed to
be the greatest. But there wanted not a warning of the approaching
punishment from the Divine mercy whereby they might have been led to
amend their ways, and by fasting and tears and prayers, like the
Ninevites, have averted the anger of the just Judge.

For there was in that monastery a man of the Scottish race, called
Adamnan, leading a life entirely devoted to God in continence and
prayer, insomuch that he never took any food or drink, except only on
Sundays and Thursdays; and often spent whole nights in watching and
prayer. This strictness in austerity of life he had first adopted from
the necessity of correcting the evil that was in him; but in process of
time the necessity became a custom.

For in his youth he had been guilty of some sin for which, when he came
to himself, he conceived a great horror, and dreaded lest he should be
punished for the same by the righteous Judge. Betaking himself,
therefore, to a priest, who, he hoped, might show him the way of
salvation, he confessed his guilt, and desired to be advised how he
might escape the wrath to come. The priest having heard his offence,
said, “A great wound requires greater care in the healing thereof;
wherefore give yourself as far as you are able to fasting and psalms,
and prayer, to the end that thus coming before the presence of the Lord
in confession, you may find Him merciful.” But he, being oppressed with
great grief by reason of his guilty conscience, and desiring to be the
sooner loosed from the inward fetters of sin, which lay heavy upon him,
answered, “I am still young in years and strong of body, and shall,
therefore, easily bear all whatsoever you shall enjoin me to do, if so
be that I may be saved in the day of the Lord, even though you should
bid me spend the whole night standing in prayer, and pass the whole
week in abstinence.” The priest replied, “It is much for you to
continue for a whole week without bodily sustenance; it is enough to
observe a fast for two or three days; do this till I come again to you
in a short time, when I will more fully show you what you ought to do,
and how long to persevere in your penance.” Having so said, and
prescribed the measure of his penance, the priest went away, and upon
some sudden occasion passed over into Ireland, which was his native
country, and returned no more to him, as he had appointed. But the man
remembering this injunction and his own promise, gave himself up
entirely to tears of penitence, holy vigils and continence; so that he
only took food on Thursdays and Sundays, as has been said; and
continued fasting all the other days of the week. When he heard that
his priest had gone to Ireland, and had died there, he ever after
observed this manner of abstinence, which had been appointed for him as
we have said; and as he had begun that course through the fear of God,
in penitence for his guilt, so he still continued the same
unremittingly for the love of God[ ]and through delight in its rewards.

Having practised this carefully for a long time, it happened that he
had gone on a certain day to a distance from the monastery, accompanied
by one the brothers; and as they were returning from this journey, when
they drew near to the monastery, and beheld its lofty build-wigs, the
man of God burst into tears, and his countenance discovered the trouble
of his heart. His companion, perceiving it, asked what was the reason,
to which he answered: “The time is at hand when a devouring fire shall
reduce to ashes all the buildings which you here behold, both public
and private.” The other, hearing these words, when they presently came
into the monastery, told them to Aebba, the mother of the community.
She with good cause being much troubled at that prediction, called the
man to her, and straitly questioned him concerning the matter and how
he came to know it. He answered, “Being engaged one night lately in
watching and singing psalms, on a sudden I saw one standing by me whose
countenance I did not know, and I was startled at his presence, but he
bade me not to fear, and speaking to me like a friend he said, You do
well in that you have chosen rather at this time of rest not to give
yourself up to sleep, but to continue in watching and prayer.’ I
answered, I know I have great need to continue in wholesome watching
and earnest prayer to the Lord to pardon my transgressions.’ He
replied, You speak truly, for you and many more have need to redeem
their sins by good works, and when they cease from temporal labours,
then to labour the more eagerly for desire of eternal blessings; but
this very few do; for I, having now gone through all this monastery in
order, have looked into the huts and beds of all, and found none of
them except yourself busy about the health of his soul; but all of
them, both men and women, are either sunk in slothful sleep, or are
awake in order to commit sin; for even the cells that were built for
prayer or reading, are now converted into places of feasting, drinking,
talking, and other delights; the very virgins dedicated to God, laying
aside the respect due to their profession, whensoever they are at
leisure, apply themselves to weaving fine garments, wherewith to adorn
themselves like brides, to the danger of their state, or to gain the
friendship of strange men; for which reason, as is meet, a heavy
judgement from Heaven with raging fire is ready to fall on this place
and those that dwell therein.'” The abbess said, “Why did you not
sooner reveal to me what you knew?” He answered, “I was afraid to do
it, out of respect to you, lest you should be too much afflicted; yet
you may have this comfort, that the blow will not fall in your days.”
This vision being made known, the inhabitants of that place were for a
few days in some little fear, and leaving off their sins, began to do
penance; but after the death of the abbess they returned to their
former defilement, nay, they committed worse sins; and when they said ”
Peace and safety,” the doom of the aforesaid judgement came suddenly
upon them.

That all this fell out after this manner, was told me by my most
reverend fellow-priest, Aedgils, who then lived in that monastery.
Afterwards, when many of the inhabitants had departed thence, on
account of the destruction, he lived a long time in our monastery, and
died there. We have thought fit to insert this in our History, to
admonish the reader of the works of the Lord, how terrible He is in His
doing toward the children of men, lest haply we should at some time or
other yield to the snares of the flesh, and dreading too little the
judgement of God, fall under His sudden wrath, and either in His
righteous anger be brought low with temporal losses, or else be more
strictly tried and snatched away to eternal perdition.

CHAP. XXVI. Of the death of the Kings Egfrid and Hiothere. [684-685 A. D.]

IN the year of our Lord 684, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, sending
his general, Berct, with an army into Ireland, miserably laid waste
that unoffending nation, which had always been most friendly to the
English; insomuch that the invading force spared not even the churches
or monasteries. But the islanders, while to the utmost of their power
they repelled force with force, implored the assistance of the Divine
mercy, and with constant imprecations invoked the vengeance of Heaven;
and though such as curse cannot inherit the kingdom of God, yet it was
believed, that those who were justly cursed on account of their
impiety, soon suffered the penalty of their guilt at the avenging hand
of God. For the very next year, when that same king had rashly led his
army to ravage the province of the Picts, greatly against the advice of
his friends, and particularly of Cuthbert, of blessed memory, who had
been lately ordained bishop, the enemy made a feigned retreat, and the
king was drawn into a narrow pass among remote mountains, and slain,
with the greater part of the forces he had led thither, on the 20th of
May, in the fortieth year of his age, and the fifteenth of his reign.
His friends, as has been said, advised him not to engage in this war;
but since he had the year before refused to listen to the most reverend
father, Egbert, advising him not to attack the Scots, who were doing
him no harm, it was laid upon him as a punishment for his sin, that he
should now not listen to those who would have prevented his death.

From that time the hopes and strength of the Anglian kingdom began to
ebb and fall away for the Picts recovered their own lands, which had
been held by the English, and so did also the Scots that were in
Britain; and some of the Britonsregained their liberty, which they have
now enjoyed for about forty-six years. Among the many English that then
either fell by the sword, or were made slaves, or escaped by flight out
of the country of the Picts, the most reverend man of God, Trumwine,
who had been made bishop over them, withdrew with his people that were
in the monastery of Aebbercurnig, in the country of the English, but
close by the arm of the sea which is the boundary between the lands of
the English and the Picts. Having commended his followers, wheresoever
he could, to his friends in the monasteries, he chose his own place of
abode in the monastery, which we have so often mentioned, of servants
and handmaids of God, at Streanaeshalch; and there for many years, with
a few of his own brethren, he led a life in all monastic austerity, not
only to his own benefit, but to the benefit of many others, and dying
there, he was buried in the church of the blessed Peter the Apostle,
with the honour due to his life and rank. The royal virgin, Elfled,
with her mother, Eanfled, whom we have mentioned before, then presided
over that monastery; but when the bishop came thither, that devout
teacher found in him the greatest help in governing, and comfort in her
private life. Aldfrid succeeded Egfrid in the throne, being a man most
learned in the Scriptures, said to be brother to Egfrid, and son to
King Oswy; he nobly retrieved the ruined state of the kingdom, though
within narrower bounds.

The same year, being the 685th from the Incarnation of our Lord,
Hlothere, king of Kent, died on the 6th of February, when he had
reigned twelve years after his brother Egbert, who had reigned nine
years: he was wounded in battle with the South Saxons, whom Edric, the
son of Egbert, had raised against him, and died whilst his wound was
being dressed. After him, this same Edric reigned a year and a half. On
his death, kings of doubtful title, or of foreign origin, for some time
wasted the kingdom, till the lawful king, Wictred, the son of Egbert,
being settled in the throne, by his piety and zeal delivered his nation
from foreign invasion.

CHAP. XXVII. How Cuthbert, a man of God, was made bishop; and how he lived and
taught whilst still in the monastic life. [685 A.D.]

IN the same year in which King Egfrid departed this life, he, as has
been said, caused the holy and venerable Cuthbert to be ordained bishop
of the church of Lindisfarne. He had for many years led a solitary
life, in great continence of body and mind, in a very small island,
called Fame, in the ocean about nine miles distant from that same
church. From his earliest childhood he had always been inflamed with
the desire of a religious life; and he adopted the name and habit of a
monk when he was quite a young man: he first entered the monastery of
Mailros, which is on the bank of the river Tweed, and was then governed
by the Abbot Eata, a man of great gentleness and simplicity, who was
afterwards made bishop of the church of Hagustald or Lindisfarne, as
has been said above. The provost of the monastery at that time was
Boisil, a priest of great virtue and of a prophetic spirit. Cuthbert,
humbly submitting himself to this man’s direction, from him received
both a knowledge of the Scriptures, and an example of good works.

After he had departed to the Lord, Cuthbert became provost of that
monastery, where he instructed many in the rule of monastic life, both
by the authority of a master, and the example of his own behaviour. Nor
did he bestow his teaching and his example in the monastic life on his
monastery alone, but laboured far and wide to convert the people
dwelling round about from the life of foolish custom, to the love of
heavenly joys; for many profaned the faith which they held by their
wicked actions; and some also, in the time of a pestilence, neglecting
the mysteries of the faith which they had received, had recourse to the
false remedies of idolatry, as if they could have put a stop to the
plague sent from God, by incantations, amulets, or any other secrets of
the Devil’s art. In order to correct the error of both sorts, he often
went forth from the monastery, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on
foot, and went to the neighbouring townships, where he preached the way
of truth to such as had gone astray; which Boisil also in his time had
been wont to do. It was then the custom of the English people, that
when a clerk or priest came to a township, they all, at his summons,
flocked together to hear the Word; willingly heard what was said, and
still more willingly practised those things that they could hear and
understand. And such was Cuthbert’s skill in speaking, so keen his
desire to persuade men of what he taught, such a light shone in his
angelic face, that no man present dared to conceal from him the secrets
of his heart, but all openly revealed in confession what they had done,
thinking doubtless that their guilt could in nowise be hidden from him;
and having confessed their sins, they wiped them out by fruits worthy
of repentance, as he bade them. He was wont chiefly to resort to those
places and preach in those villages which were situated afar off amid
steep and wild mountains, so that others dreaded to go thither, and
whereof the poverty and barbarity rendered them inaccessible to other
teachers. But he, devoting himself entirely to that pious labour, so
industriously ministered to them with his wise teaching, that when he
went forth from the monastery, he would often stay a whole week,
sometimes two or three, or even sometimes a full month, before he
returned home, continuing among the hill folk to call that simple
people by his preaching and good works to the things of Heaven.

This venerable servant of the Lord, having thus spent many years in the
monastery of Mailros, and there become conspicuous by great tokens of
virtue, his most reverend abbot, Eata, removed him to the isle of
Lindisfarne, that he might there also, by his authority as provost and
by the example of his own practice, instruct the brethren in the
observance of regular discipline; for the same reverend father then
governed that place also as abbot. From ancient times, the bishop was
wont to reside there with his clergy, and the abbot with his monks, who
were likewise under the paternal care of the bishop; because Aidan, who
was the first bishop of the place, being himself a monk, brought monks
thither, and settled the monastic institution there; as the blessed
Father Augustine is known to have done before in Kent, when the most
reverend Pope Gregory wrote to him, as has been said above, to this
effect: “But in that you, my brother, having been instructed in
monastic rules, must not live apart from your clergy in the Church of
the English, which has been lately, by the will of God, converted to
the faith, you must establish the manner of conversation of our fathers
in the primitive Church, among whom, none said that aught of the things
which they possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”

CHAP. XXVIII. How the same St. Cuthbert, living the life of an Anchorite, by
his prayers obtained a spring in a dry soil, and had a crop from seed sown by
the labour of his hands out of season. [676 A.D.]

AFTER this, Cuthbert, as he grew in goodness and intensity of devotion,
attained also to a hermit’s life of contemplation in silence and
solitude, as we have mentioned. But forasmuch as many years ago we
wrote enough concerning his life and virtues, both in heroic verse and
prose, it may suffice at present only to mention this, that when he was
about to go to the island, he declared to the brothers, “If by the
grace of God it shall be granted to me, that I may live in that place
by the labour of my hands, I will willingly abide there; but if not,
God willing, I will very soon return to you.” The place was quite
destitute of water, corn, and trees; and being infested by evil
spirits, was very ill suited for human habitation; but it became in all
respects habitable, at the desire of the man of God; for at his coming
the wicked spirits departed. When, after expelling the enemy, he had,
with the help of the brethren, built himself a narrow dwelling, with a
mound about it, and the necessary cells in it, to wit, an oratory and a
common living room, he ordered the brothers to dig a pit in the floor
of the room, although the ground was hard and stony, and no hopes
appeared of any spring. When they had done this relying upon the faith
and prayers of the servant of God, the next day it was found to be full
of water, and to this day affords abundance of its heavenly bounty to
all that resort thither. He also desired that instruments for husbandry
might be brought him, and some wheat; but having prepared the ground
and sown the wheat at the proper season, no sign of a blade, not to
speak of ears, had sprouted from it by the summer. Hereupon, when the
brethren visited him according to custom, he ordered barley to be
brought him, if haply it were either the nature of the soil, or the
will of God, the Giver of all things, that such grain rather should
grow there. He sowed it in the same field, when it was brought him,
after the proper time of sowing, and therefore without any likelihood
of its bearing fruit; but a plentiful crop immediately sprang up, and
afforded the man of God the means which he had desired of supporting
himself by his own labour.

When he had here served God in solitude many years, the mound which
encompassed his dwelling being so high, that he could see nothing from
it but heaven, which he thirsted to enter, it happened that a great
synod was assembled in the presence of King Egfrid, near the river
Alne, at a place called Adtuifyrdi, which signifies “at the two fords,”
in which Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, presided, and there
Cuthbert was, with one mind and consent of all, chosen bishop of the
church of Lindisfarne. They could not, however, draw him from his
hermitage, though many messengers and letters were sent to him. At last
the aforesaid king himself, with the most holy Bishop and other
religious and powerful men, sailed to the island; many also of the
brothers from the isle of Lindisfarne itself, assembled together for
the same purpose: they all knelt, and conjured him by the Lord, with
tears and entreaties, till they drew him, also in tears, from his
beloved retreat, and forced him to go to the synod. When he arrived
there, he was very reluctantly overcome by the unanimous resolution of
all present, and compelled to take upon himself the duties of the
episcopate; being chiefly prevailed upon by the words of Boisil, the
servant of God, who, when he had prophetically foretold all things that
were to befall him, had also predicted that he should be a bishop.
Nevertheless, the consecration was not appointed immediately; but when
the winter, which was then at hand, was over, it was carried out at
Easter, in the city of York, and in the presence of the aforesaid King
Egfrid; seven bishops coming together for his consecration, among whom,
Theodore, of blessed memory, was Primate. He was first elected bishop
of the church of Hagustald, in the place of Tunbert, who had been
deposed from the episcopate; but because he chose rather to be placed
over the church of Lindisfarne, in which he had lived, it was thought
fit that Eata should return to the see of the church of Hagustald, to
which he had been first ordained, and that Cuthbert should take upon
him the government of the church of Lindisfarne.

Following the example of the blessed Apostles, he adorned the episcopal
dignity by his virtuous deeds; for he both protected the people
committed to his charge by constant prayer, and roused them, by
wholesome admonitions, to thoughts of Heaven. He first showed in his
own life what he taught others to do, a practice which greatly
strengthens all teaching; for he was above all things inflamed with the
fire of Divine charity, of sober mind and patient, most diligently
intent on devout prayers, and kindly to all that came to him for
comfort. He thought it stood in the stead of prayer to afford the weak
brethren the help of his exhortation, knowing that he who said “Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God,” said likewise, “Thou shalt love thy
neighbour.” He was noted for penitential abstinence, and was always
through the grace of compunction, intent upon heavenly things. And when
he offered up to God the Sacrifice of the saving Victim, he commended
his prayer to the Lord, not with uplifted voice, but with tears drawn
from the bottom of his heart.

CHAP. XXIX. How this bishop foretold that his own death was at hand to the
anchorite Herebert. [687 A.D.]

HAVING spent two years in his bishopric, he returned to his island and
hermitage, being warned of God that the day of his death, or rather of
his entrance into that life which alone can be called life, was drawing
near; as he, at that time, with his wonted candour, signified to
certain persons, though in words which were somewhat obscure, but which
were nevertheless afterwards plainly understood; while to others he
declared the same openly.

There was a certain priest, called Herebert, a man of holy life, who
had long been united with the man of God, Cuthbert, in the bonds of
spiritual friendship. This man leading a solitary life in the island of
that great lake from which the river Derwent flows at its beginning,
was wont to visit him every year, and to receive from him the teaching
of everlasting salvation. Hearing that Bishop Cuthbert was come to the
city of Lugubalia, he went thither to him, according to his custom,
seeking to be more and more inflamed in heavenly desires through his
wholesome admonitions. Whilst they alternately entertained one another
with draughts of the celestial life, the bishop, among other things,
said, “Brother Herebert, remember at this time to ask me and speak to
me concerning all whereof you have need to ask and speak; for, when we
part, we shall never again see one another with bodily eyesight in this
world. For I know of a surety that the time of my departure is at hand,
and that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle.” Hearing these
words, Herebert fell down at his feet, with tears and lamentations, and
said, “I beseech you, by the Lord, not to forsake me; but to remember
your most faithful companion, and entreat the mercy of God that, as we
have served Him together upon earth, so we may depart together to
behold His grace in Heaven. For you know that I have always endeavoured
to live according to the words of your lips, and likewise whatsoever
faults I have committed, either through ignorance or frailty, I, have
instantly sought to amend according to the judgement of your will.” The
bishop applied himself to prayer, and having presently had intimation
in the spirit that he had obtained what he asked of the Lord, he said,
“Rise, brother, and do not weep, but rejoice greatly because the mercy
of Heaven has granted what we desired.”

The event established the truth of this promise and prophecy, for after
their parting, they never again saw one another in the flesh; but their
spirits quitting their bodies on one and the same day, to wit, the 20th
of March, were immediately united in fellowship in the blessed vision,
and together translated to the heavenly kingdom by the ministry of
angels. But Herebert was first wasted by a long-continued infirmity,
through the dispensation of the Lord’s mercy, as may be believed, to
the end that if he was in any wise inferior in merit to the blessed
Cuthbert, that which was lacking might be supplied by the chastening
pain of a long sickness, that being thus made equal in grace to his
intercessor, as he departed out of the body at one and the same time
with him, so he might be accounted worthy to be received into the like
abode of eternal bliss.

The most reverend father died in the isle of Fame, earnestly entreating
the brothers that he might also be buried there, where he had served no
small time under the Lord’s banner. But at length yielding to their
entreaties, he consented to be carried back to the isle of Lindisfarne,
and there buried in the church. This being done, the venerable Bishop
Wilfrid held the episcopal see of that church one year, till such time
as a bishop should be chosen to be ordained in the room of Cuthbert.
Afterwards Eadbertwas ordained, a man renowned for his knowledge of the
Holy Scriptures, as also for his observance of the heavenly precepts,
and chiefly for almsgiving, so that, according to the law, he gave
every year the tenth part, not only of four-footed beasts, but also of
all corn and fruit, as also of his garments, to the poor.

CHAP. XXX. How his body was found altogether uncorrupted after it had been
buried eleven years, and how his successor in the bishopric departed this
world not long after. [698 A.D.]

IN order to show forth the great glory of the life after death of the
man of God, Cuthbert, whereas the loftiness of his life before his
death had been revealed by the testimony of many miracles, when he had
been buried eleven years, Divine Providence put it into the minds of
the brethren to take up his bones. They thought to find them dry and
all the rest of the body consumed and turned to dust, after the manner
of the dead, and they desired to put them into a new coffin, and to lay
them in the same place, but above the pavement, for the honour due to
him. They made known their resolve to Bishop Eadbert, and he consented
to it, and bade them to be mindful to do it on the anniversary of his
burial. They did so, and opening the grave, found all the body whole,
as if he were still alive, and the joints of the limbs pliable, like
one asleep rather than dead; besides, all the vestments in which he was
clothed were not only undefiled, but marvellous to behold, being fresh
and bright as at the first. The brothers seeing this, were struck with
a great dread, and hastened to tell the bishop what they had found; he
being then alone in a place remote from the church, and encompassed on
all sides by the shifting waves of the sea. There he always used to
spend the time of- Lent, and was wont to pass the forty days before the
Nativity of our Lord, in great devotion with abstinence. and prayer and
tears. There also his venerable predecessor, Cuthbert, had for some
time served as the soldier of the Lord in solitude before he went to
the isle of Fame.

They brought him also some part of the garments that, had covered the
holy body; which presents he thankfully accepted, and gladly heard of
the miracles, and he kissed the garments even, with great affection, as
if they had been still upon his father’s body, and said, “Let new
garments be put upon the body, in place of these you have brought, and
so lay it in the coffin which you have prepared; for I know of a surety
that the place will not long remain empty, which has been hallowed with
so great grace of heavenly miracles; and how happy is he to whom the
Lord, the Author and Giver of all bliss, shall vouchsafe to grant the
privilege of resting therein.” When the bishop had made an end of
saying this and more in like manner, with many tears and great
compunction and with faltering tongue, the brothers did as he had
commanded them, and when they had wrapped the body in new garments, and
laid it in a new coffin, they placed it above the pavement of the
sanctuary. Soon after, Bishop Eadbert, beloved of God, fell grievously
sick, and his fever daily increasing in severity, ere long, that is, on
the 6th of May, he also departed to the Lord, and they laid his body in
the grave of the blessed father Cuthbert, placing over it the coffin,
with the uncorrupted remains of that father. The miracles of healing,
sometimes wrought in that place testify to the merits of them both; of
some of these we have before preserved the memory in the book of his
life. But in this History we have thought fit to add some others which
have lately come to our knowledge.

CHAP. XXXI. Of one that was cured of a palsy at his tomb.

THERE was in that same monastery a brother whose name was Badudegn, who
had for no small time ministered to the guests of the house, and is
still living, having the testimony of all the brothers and strangers
resorting thither, of being a man of much piety and religion, and
serving the office put upon him only for the sake of the heavenly
reward. This man, having one day washed in the sea the coverings or
blankets which he used in the guest chamber, was returning home, when
on the way, he was seized with a sudden infirmity, insomuch that he
fell to the ground, and lay there a long time and could scarce at last
rise again. When he got up, he felt one half of his body, from the head
to the foot, struck with palsy, and with great trouble made his way
home by the help of a staff. The disease increased by degrees, and as
night approached, became still worse, so that when day returned, he
could scarcely rise or walk alone. Suffering from this trouble, he
conceived the wise resolve to go to the church, as best he could, and
approach the tomb of the reverend father Cuthbert, and there, on his
knees, humbly beseech the mercy of God that he might either be
delivered from that disease, if it were well for him, or if by the
grace of God it was ordained for him to be chastened longer by this
affliction, that he might bear the pain which was laid upon him with
patience and a quiet mind.

He did accordingly as he had determined, and supporting his weak limbs
with a staff, entered the church. There prostrating himself before the
body of the man of God, he prayed with pious earnestness, that, through
his intercession, the Lord might be propitious to him. As he prayed, he
seemed to fall into a deep sleep, and, as he was afterwards wont to
relate, felt a large and broad hand touch his head, where the pain lay,
and likewise pass over all that part of his body which had been
benumbed by the disease, down to his feet. Gradually the pain departed
and health returned. Then he awoke, and rose up in perfect health, and
returning thanks to the Lord for his recovery, told the brothers what
had been done for him; and to the joy of them all, returned the more
zealously, as if chastened by the trial of his affliction, to the
service which he was wont before to perform with care.

Moreover, the very garments which had been on Cuthbert’s body,
dedicated to God, either while he was alive, or after his death, were
not without the virtue of healing, as may be seen in the book of his
life and miracles, by such as shall read it.

CHAP. XXXII. Of one who was lately cured of a disease in his eye at the relics
of St. Cuthbert.

NOR is that cure to be passed over in silence, which was performed by
his relics three years ago, and was told me lately by the brother
himself, on whom it was wrought. It happened in the monastery, which,
being built near the river Dacore, has taken its name from the same,
over which, at that time, the religious Suidbert presided as abbot. In
that monastery was a youth whose eyelid was disfigured by an unsightly
tumour, which growing daily greater, threatened the loss of the eye.
The physicians endeavoured to mitigate it by applying ointments, but in
vain. Some said it ought to be cut off; others opposed this course, for
fear of greater danger. The brother having long laboured under this
malady, when no human means availed to save his eye, but rather, it
grew daily worse, on a sudden, through the grace of the mercy of God,
it came to pass that he was cured by the relics of the holy father,
Cuthbert. For when the brethren found his body uncorrupted, after
having been many years buried, they took some part of the hair, to
give, as relics, to friends who asked for them, or to show, in
testimony of the miracle.

One of the priests of the monastery, named Thruidred, who is now abbot
there, had a small part of these relics by him at that time. One day he
went into the church and opened the box of relics, to give some part of
them to a friend who asked for it, and it happened that the youth who
had the diseased eye was then in the church. The priest, having given
his friend as much as he thought fit, gave the rest to the youth to put
back into its place. But he having received the hairs of the holy head,
prompted by some salutary impulse, applied them to the diseased eyelid,
and endeavoured for some time, by the application of them, to abate and
mitigate the tumour. Having done this, he again laid the relics in the
box, as he had been bidden, believing that his eye would soon be cured
by the hairs of the man of God, which had touched it; nor did his faith
disappoint him. It was then, as he is wont to relate, about the second
hour of the day; but while he was occupied with other thoughts and
business of the day, on a sudden, about the sixth hour of the same,
touching his eye, he found it and the eyelid as sound as if there never
had been any disfigurement or tumour on it.



CHAP. I. How Ethelwald, successor to Cuthbert, leading a hermit’s life, calmed
a tempest by his prayers when the brethren were in danger at sea. [687-699

THE venerable Ethewald succeeded the man of God, Cuthbert, in the
exercise of a solitary life, which he spent in the isle of Fame before
he became a bishop. After he had received the priesthood, he
consecrated his office by deeds worthy of that degree for many years in
the monastery which is called Inhrypum. To the end that his merit and
manner of life may be the more certainly made known, I will relate one
miracle of his, which was told me by one of the brothers for and on
whom the same was wrought; to wit, Guthfrid, the venerable servant and
priest of Christ, who also, afterwards, as abbot, presided over the
brethren of the same church of Lindisfarne, in which he was educated.

“I came,” says he, “to the island of Fame, with two others of the
brethren, desiring to speak with the most reverend father, Ethelwald.
Having been refreshed with his discourse, and asked for his blessing,
as we were returning home, behold on a sudden, when we were in the
midst of the sea, the fair weather in which we were sailing, was
broken, and there arose so great and terrible a tempest, that neither
sails nor oars were of any use to us, nor had we anything to expect but
death. After long struggling with the wind and waves to no effect, at
last we looked back to see whether it was possible by any means at
least to return to the island whence we came, but we found that we were
on all sides alike cut off by the storm, and that there was no hope of
escape by our own efforts. But looking further, we perceived, on the
island of Fame, our father Ethelwald, beloved of God, come out of his
retreat to watch our course; for, hearing the noise of the tempest and
raging sea, he had come forth to see what would become of us. When he
beheld us in distress and despair, he bowed his knees to the Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, in prayer for our life and safety; and as he
finished his prayer, he calmed the swelling water, in such sort that
the fierceness of the storm ceased on all sides, and fair winds
attended us over a smooth sea to the very shore. When we had landed,
and had pulled up our small vessel from the waves, the storm, which had
ceased a short time for our sake, presently returned, and raged
furiously during the whole day; so that it plainly appeared that the
brief interval of calm had been granted by Heaven in answer to the
prayers of the man of God, to the end that we might escape.”

The man of God remained in the isle of Fame twelve years, and died
there; but was buried in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter, in
the isle of Lindisfarne, beside the bodies of the aforesaid bishops.’
These things happened in the days of King Aldfrid, who, after his
brother Egfrid, ruled the nation of the Northumbrians for nineteen

CHAP. II. How Bishop John cured a dumb man by his blessing. [687 A.D.]

IN the beginning of Aldfrid’s reign, Bishop Eata died, and was
succeeded in the bishopric of the church of Hagustald by the holy man
John, of whom those that knew him well are wont to tell many miracles,
and more particularly Berthun, a man worthy of all reverence and of
undoubted truthfulness, and once his deacon, now abbot of the monastery
called Inderauuda, that is, “In the wood of the Deiri”: some of which
miracles we have thought fit to hand on to posterity. There is a
certain remote dwelling enclosed by a mound, among scattered trees, not
far from the church of Hagustald, being about a mile and a half distant
and separated from it by the river Tyne, having an oratory dedicated to
St. Michael the Archangel, where the man of God used frequently, as
occasion offered, and specially in Lent, to abide with a few companions
and in quiet give himself to prayer and study. Having come hither once
at the beginning of Lent to stay, he bade his followers find out some
poor man labouring under any grievous infirmity, or want, whom they
might keep with them during those days, to receive alms, for so he was
always used to do.

There was in a township not far off, a certain youth who was dumb,
known to the bishop, for he often used to come into his presence to
receive alms. He had never been able to speak one word; besides, he had
so much scurf and scab on his head, that no hair could ever grow on the
top of it, but only some rough hairs stood on end round about it. The
bishop caused this young man to be brought, and a little hut to be made
for him within the enclosure of the dwelling, in which he might abide,
and receive alms from him every day. When one week of Lent was over,
the next Sunday he bade the poor man come to him, and when he had come,
he bade him put his tongue out of his mouth and show it him; then
taking him by the chin, he made the sign of the Holy Cross on his
tongue, directing him to draw it back so signed into his mouth and to
speak. “Pronounce some word,” said he; “say gae,’ ” which, in the
language of the English, is the word of affirming and consenting, that
is, yes. The youth’s tongue was immediately loosed, and he spoke as he
was bidden. The bishop then added the names of the letters: “Say A.” He
said A. “Say B;” he said B also. When he had repeated all the letters
after the bishop, the latter proceeded to put syllables and words to
him, and when he had repeated them all rightly he bade him utter whole
sentences, and he did it. Nor did he cease all that day and the next
night, as long as he could keep awake, as those who were present
relate, to say something, and to express his private thoughts and
wishes to others, which he could never do before; after the manner of
the man long lame, who, when he was healed by the Apostles Peter and
John, leaping up, stood and walked, and entered with them into the
temple, walking, and leaping, and praising the Lord, rejoicing to have
the use of his feet, which he had so long lacked. The bishop, rejoicing
with him at his cure, caused the physician to take in hand the healing
of the sores of his head. He did as he was bidden, and with the help of
the bishop’s blessing and prayers, a goodly head of hair grew as the
skin was healed. Thus the youth became fair of countenance, ready of
speech, with hair curling in comely fashion, whereas before he had been
ill-favoured, miserable, and dumb. Thus filled with joy at his
recovered health, notwithstanding that the bishop offered to keep him
in his own household, he chose rather to return home.

CHAP. III. How he healed a sick maiden by his prayers. [705 A.D.]

THE same Berthun told another miracle concerning the said bishop. When
the most reverend Wilfrid, after a long banishment, was admitted to the
bishopric of the church of Hagustald, and the aforesaid John, upon the
death of Bosa, a man of great sanctity and humility, was, in his place,
appointed bishop of York, he himself came, once upon a time, to the
monastery of nuns, at the place called Wetadun, where the Abbess
Heriburg then presided. “When we were come thither,” said he, “and had
been received with great and universal joy, the abbess told us, that
one of the nuns, who was her own daughter after the flesh, laboured
under a grievous sickness, for she had been lately let blood in the
arm, and whilst she was under treatment, was seized with an attack of
sudden pain, which speedily increased, while the wounded arm became
worse, and so much swollen, that it could scarce be compassed with both
hands; and she lay in bed like to die through excess of pain. Wherefore
the abbess entreated the bishop that he would vouchsafe to go in and
give her his blessing; for she believed that she would soon be better
if he blessed her or laid his hands upon her. He asked when the maiden
had been let blood, and being told that it was on the fourth day of the
moon, said, You did very indiscreetly and unskilfully to let blood on
the fourth day of the moon; for I remember that Archbishop Theodore, of
blessed memory, said, that blood-letting at that time was very
dangerous, when the light of the moon is waxing and the tide of the
ocean is rising. And what can I do for the maiden if she is like to

“But the abbess still earnestly entreated for her daughter, whom she
dearly loved, and designed to make abbess in her stead, and at last
prevailed with him to go in and visit the sick maiden. Wherefore he
went in, taking me with him to the maid, who lay, as I said, in sore
anguish, and her arm swelling so greatly that it could not be bent at
all at the elbow; and he stood and said a prayer over her, and having
given his blessing, went out. Afterwards, as we were sitting at table,
at the usual hour, some one came in and called me out, saying,
Quoenburg’ (that was the maid’s name) desires that you should
immediately go back to her.’ This I did, and entering the chamber, I
found her of more cheerful countenance, and like one in good health.
And while I was sitting beside her, she said, “Shall we call for
something to drink? — Yes,’ said I, and right glad am I, if you can.’
When the cup was brought, and we had both drunk, she said, As soon as
the bishop had said the prayer for me and given me his blessing and had
gone out, I immediately began to mend; and though I have not yet
recovered my former strength, yet all the pain is quite gone both from
my arm, where it was most burning, and from all my body, as if the
bishop had carried it away with him; notwithstanding the swelling of
the arm still seems to remain.’ But when we departed thence, the cure
of the pain in her limbs was followed by the assuaging of the grievous
swelling; and the maiden being thus delivered from pains and death,
returned praise to our Lord and Saviour, in company with His other
servants who were there.

CHAP. IV. How he healed a thegn’s wife that was sick, with holy water.

THE same abbot related another miracle, not unlike the former, of the
aforesaid bishop. “Not very far from our monastery,” he said, “to wit,
about two miles off, was the township of one Puch, a thegn, whose wife
had lain sick of a very grievous disease for nearly forty days,
insomuch that for three weeks she could not be carried out of the
chamber where she lay. It happened that the man of God was, at that
time, called thither by the thegn to consecrate a church; and when that
was done, the thegn desired him to come into his house and dine. The
bishop declined, saying that he must return to the monastery, which was
very near. The thegn, entreating him more earnestly, vowed he would
also give alms to the poor, if so be that the bishop would vouchsafe to
enter his house that day and break his fast. I joined my entreaties to
his, promising in like manner to give alms for the relief of the poor,
if he would but go and dine at the thegn’s house, and give his
blessing. Having at length, with much difficulty, prevailed, we went in
to refresh ourselves. The bishop had sent to the woman that lay sick
some of the holy water, which he had blessed for the consecration of
the church, by one of the brothers who had come with me, ordering him
to give her some to drink, and wash that part of her where he found
that her pain was greatest, with some of the same water. This being
done, the woman immediately got up whole and sound, and perceiving that
she had not only been delivered from her long sickness, but at the same
time had recovered the strength which she had lost for so great a time,
she presented the cup to the bishop and to us, and continued serving us
with meat and drink as she had begun, till dinner was over; following
the example of the blessed Peter’s wife’s mother, who, having been sick
of a fever, arose at the touch of our Lord’s hand, and having forthwith
received health and strength, ministered to them.”

CHAP. V. How he likewise recalled by his prayers a thegn’s servant from death.

AT another time also, being called to consecrate the church of a thegn
named Addi, when he had performed the required duty, he was entreated
by the thegn to go in to one of his servants, who lay dangerously ill,
insomuch that having lost all use of his limbs, he seemed to be at the
point of death; and moreover the coffin had been made ready wherein to
bury him after his death. The thegn urged his entreaties with tears,
earnestly beseeching him that he would go in and pray for the servant,
because his life was of great moment to him; and he believed that if
the bishop would lay his hand upon him and give him his blessing, he
would soon mend. So the bishop went in, and saw him very near death,
and by his side the coffin in which he was to be laid for his burial,
whilst all mourned. He said a prayer and blessed him, and going out,
spake the wonted words of comfort, “Good health be yours and that
speedily.” Afterwards, when they were sitting at table, the servant
sent to his lord, desiring that he would let him have a cup of wine,
because he was thirsty. The thegn, rejoicing greatly that he could
drink, sent him a cup of wine, blessed by the bishop; and, as soon as
he had drunk it, he immediately got up, and, shaking off the heaviness
of his infirmity, dressed himself and went forth, and going in to the
bishop, saluted him and the other guests, saying that he also would
gladly eat and drink with them. They bade him sit down with them at
table, greatly rejoicing at his recovery. He sat down, ate and drank
and made merry, and behaved himself like the rest of the company; and
living many years after, continued in the same health which he had
gained. The aforesaid abbot says this miracle was not wrought in his
presence, but that he had it from those who were present.

CHAP. VII. How Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, went to Rome to be
baptised; and his successor Ini, also devoutly journeyed to the same threshold
of the holy Apostles. [688 A.D.]

In the third year of the reign of Aldfrid, Caedwalla, king of the West
Saxons, having most vigorously governed his nation for two years,
quitted his crown for the sake of the Lord and an everlasting kingdom,
and went to Rome, being desirous to obtain the peculiar honour of being
cleansed in the baptismal font at the threshold of the blessed
Apostles, for he had learned that in Baptism alone the entrance into
the heavenly life is opened to mankind; and he hoped at the same time,
that being made clean by Baptism, he should soon be freed from the
bonds of the flesh and pass to the eternal joys of Heaven; both which
things, by the help of the Lord, came to pass according as he had
conceived in his mind. For coming to Rome, at the time that Sergius was
pope, he was baptized on the Holy Saturday before Easter Day, in the
year of our Lord 689, and being still in his white garments, he fell
sick, and was set free from the bonds of the flesh on the 20th of
April, and obtained an entrance into the kingdom of the blessed in
Heaven. At his baptism, the aforesaid pope had given him the name of
Peter, to the end, that he might be also united in name to the most
blessed chief of the Apostles, to whose most holy body his pious love
had led him from the utmost bounds of the earth. He was likewise buried
in his church, and by the pope’s command an epitaph was written on his
tomb, wherein the memory of his devotion might be preserved for ever,
and the readers or hearers thereof might be stirred up to give
themselves to religion by the example of what he had done.

The epitaph was this :– “High estate, wealth, offspring, a mighty
kingdom, triumphs, spoils, chieftains, strongholds, the camp, a home;
whatsoever the valour of his sires, whatsoever himself had won,
Caedwal, mighty in war, left for the love of God, that, a pilgrim king,
he might behold, Peter and Peter’s seat, receive at his font pure
waters of life, and in bright draughts drink of the shining radiance
whence a quickening glory streams through all the world. And even as he
gained with eager soul the prize of the new life, he laid aside
barbaric rage, and, changed in heart, he changed his name with joy.
Sergius the Pope bade him be called Peter, himself his father, when he
rose born anew from the font, and the grace of Christ, cleansing him,
bore him forthwith clothed in white raiment to the heights of Heaven.
wondrous faith of the king, but greatest of all the mercy of Christ,
into whose counsels none may enter! For he came in safety from the ends
of the earth, even from Britain, through many a nation, over many a
sea, by many a path, and saw the city of Romulus and looked upon
Peter’s sanctuary revered, bearing mystic gifts. He shall walk in white
among the sheep of Christ in fellowship with them; for his body is in
the tomb, but his soul on high. Thou mightest deem he did but change an
earthly for a heavenly sceptre, whom thou seest attain to the kingdom
of Christ.”

“Here was buried Caedwalla, called also Peter, king of the Saxons, on
the twentieth day of April, in the second indiction, aged about thirty
years, in the reign of our most pious lord, the Emperor Justinian, in
the fourth year of his consulship, in the second year of the
pontificate of our Apostolic lord, Pope Sergius.”

When Caedwalla went to Rome, Ini succeeded to the kingdom, being of the
blood royal; and having reigned thirty-seven years over that nation, he
in like manner left his kingdom and committed it to younger men, and
went away to the threshold of the blessed Apostles, at the time when
Gregory was pope, being desirous to spend some part of his pilgrimage
upon earth in the neighbourhood of the holy places, that he might
obtain to be more readily received into the fellowship of the saints in
heaven. This same thing, about that time, was wont to be done most
zealously by many of the English nation, nobles and commons, laity and
clergy, men and women,

CHAP. VIII. How, when Archbishop Theodore died, Bertwald succeeded him as
archbishop, and, among many others whom he ordained, he made the learned
Tobias bishop of the church of Rochester. [690 A. D.]

THE year after that in which Caedwalla died at Rome, that is, 690 after
the Incarnation of our Lord, Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory,
departed this life, being old and full of days, for he was eighty-eight
years of age; which number of years he had been wont long before to
foretell to his friends that he should live, the same having been
revealed to him in a dream. He held the bishopric twenty-two years, and
was buried in St. Peter’s church, where all the bodies of the bishops
of Canterbury are buried. Of whom, as well as of his fellows of the
same degree, it may rightly and truly be said, that their bodies are
buried in peace, and their names shall live to all generations. For to
say all in few words, the English Churches gained more spiritual
increase while he was archbishop, than ever before. His character,
life, age, and death, are plainly and manifestly described to all that
resort thither, by the epitaph on his tomb, in thirty-four heroic
verses. The first whereof are these:

“Here in the tomb rests the body of the holy prelate, called now in the
Greek tongue Theodore. Chief pontiff, blest high priest, pure doctrine
he set forth to his disciples.”

The last are as follows:

“For September had reached its nineteenth day, when his spirit went
forth from the prison-bars of the flesh. Mounting in bliss to the
gracious fellowship of the new life, he was united to the angelic
citizens in the heights of Heaven.”

Bertwald succeeded Theodore in the archbishopric, being abbot of the
monastery called Racuulfe, which stands at the northern mouth of the
river Genlade. He was a man learned in the Scriptures, and perfectly
instructed in ecclesiastical and monastic teaching, yet in no wise to
be compared to his predecessor. He was chosen bishop in the year of our
Lord 692, on the first day of July, when Wictred and Suaebhard were
kings in Kent; but he was ordained the next year, on Sunday the 29th of
June, by Godwin, metropolitan bishop of Gaul, and was enthroned on
Sunday the 31st of August. Among the many bishops whom he ordained was
Tobias, a man instructed in the Latin, Greek, and Saxon tongues, and
otherwise of manifold learning, whom he consecrated in the stead of
Gedmund, bishop of the Church of Rochester, who had died.

CHAP. IX. How the holy man, Egbert, would have gone into Germany to preach,
but could not; and how Wictbert went, but because he availed nothing, returned
into Ireland, whence he came. [Circ. 688 A.D.]

AT that time the venerable servant of Christ, and priest, Egbert, who
is to be named with all honour, and who, as was said before, lived as a
stranger and pilgrim in Ireland to obtain hereafter a country in
heaven, purposed in his mind to profit many, taking upon him the work
of an apostle, and, by preaching the Gospel, to bring the Word of God
to some of those nations that had not yet heard it; many of which
tribes he knew to be in Germany, from whom the Angles or Saxons, who
now inhabit Britain, are known to have derived their race and origin;
for which reason they are still corruptly called “Garmans” by the
neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisians, the Rugini,
the Danes, the Huns, the Old Saxons, and the Boructuari. There are also
in the same parts many other peoples still enslaved to pagan rites, to
whom the aforesaid soldier of Christ determined to go, sailing round
Britain, if haply he could deliver any of them from Satan, and bring
them to Christ; or if this might not be, he was minded to go to Rome,
to see and adore the thresholds of the holy Apostles and martyrs of

But a revelation from Heaven and the working of God prevented him from
achieving either of these enterprises; for when he had made choice of
most courageous companions, fit to preach the Word, inasmuch as they
were renowned for their good deeds and their learning, and when all
things necessary were provided for the voyage, there came to him on a
certain day early in the morning one of the brethren, who had been a
disciple of the priest, Boisil, beloved of God, and had ministered to
him in Britain, when the said Boisil was provost of the monastery of
Mailros, under the Abbot Eata, as has been said above. This brother
told him a vision which he had seen that night. “When after matins,”
said he, “I had laid me down in my bed, and was fallen into a light
slumber, Boisil, that was sometime my master and brought me up in all
love, appeared to me, and asked, whether I knew him? I said, Yes, you
are Boisil.’ He answered, I am come to bring Egbert a message from our
Lord and Saviour, which must nevertheless be delivered to him by you.
Tell him, therefore, that he cannot perform the journey he has
undertaken; for it is the will of God that he should rather go to teach
the monasteries of Columba.’ Now Columba was the first teacher of the
Christian faith to the Picts beyond the mountains northward, and the
first founder of the monastery in the island of Hii, which was for a
long time much honoured by many tribes of the Scots and Picts. The said
Columba is now by some called Columcille, the name being compounded
from “Columba” and “Cella.” Egbert, having heard the words of the
vision, charged the brother that had told it him, not to tell it to any
other, lest haply it should be a lying vision. But when he considered
the matter secretly with himself, he apprehended that it was true, yet
would not desist from preparing for his voyage which he purposed to
make to teach those nations.

A few days after the aforesaid brother came again to him, saying that
Boisil had that night again appeared to him in a vision after matins,
and said, “Why did you tell Egbert so negligently and after so lukewarm
a manner that which I enjoined upon you to say? Yet, go now and tell
him, that whether he will or no, he must go to Columba’s monasteries,
because their ploughs are not driven straight; and he must bring them
back into the right way.” Hearing this, Egbert again charged the
brother not to reveal the same to any man. Though now assured of the
vision, he nevertheless attempted to set forth upon his intended voyage
with the brethren. When they had put aboard all that was requisite for
so long a voyage, and had waited some days for fair winds, there arose
one night so violent a storm, that part of what was on board was lost,
and the ship itself was left lying on its side in the sea.
Nevertheless, all that belonged to Egbert and his companions was saved.
Then he, saying, in the words of the prophet, “For my sake this great
tempest is upon you,”‘ withdrew himself from that undertaking and was
content to remain at home.

But one of his companions, called Wictbert,^ notable for his contempt
of the world and for his learning and knowledge, for he had lived many
years as a stranger and pilgrim in Ireland, leading a hermit’s life in
great perfection, took ship, and arriving in Frisland, preached the
Word of salvation for the space of two whole years to that nation and
to its king, Rathbed; but reaped no fruit of all his great labour among
his barbarous hearers. Returning then to the chosen place of his
pilgrimage, he gave himself up to the Lord in his wonted life of
silence, and since he could not be profitable to strangers by teaching
them the faith, he took care to be the more profitable to his own
people by the example of his virtue.

CHAP. X. How Wilbrord, preaching in Frisand, converted many to Christ; and how
his two companions, the Hewalds, suffered martyrdom. [690 A.D.]

WHEN the man of God, Egbert, perceived that neither he himself was
permitted to go and preach to the nations, being withheld for the sake
of some other advantage to the holy Church, whereof he had been
forewarned by a revelation; nor that Wictbert, when he went into those
parts, had availed to do anything; he nevertheless still attempted to
send holy and industrious men to the work of the Word, among whom the
most notable was Wilbrord, a man eminent for his merit and rank as
priest. They arrived there, twelve in number, and turning aside to
Pippin, duke of the Franks, were gladly received by him; and as he had
lately subdued the nearer part of Frisland, and expelled King Rathbed,
he sent them thither to preach, supporting them at the same time with
his sovereign authority, that none might molest them in their
preaching, and bestowing many favours on those who consented to receive
the faith. Thus it came to pass, that with the help of the Divine
grace, in a short time they converted many from idolatry to the faith
of Christ.

Following their example, two other priests of the English nation, who
had long lived as strangers in Ireland, for the sake of the eternal
country, went into the province of the Old Saxons, if haply they could
there win any to Christ by their preaching. They were alike in name as
in devotion, Hewald being the name of both, with this distinction,
that, on account of the different colour of their hair, the one was
called Black Hewald and the other White Hewald. They were both full of
religious piety, but Black Hewald was the more learned of the two in
Scripture. When they came into the province, these men took up their
lodging in the guesthouse of a certain township-reeve, and asked of him
that he would conduct them to the ealdorman who was over him, for that
they had a message concerning matters of importance to communicate to
him. For those Old Saxons have no king, but many ealdormen set over
their nation; and when any war is on the point of breaking out, they
cast lots indifferently, and on whomsoever the lot falls, him they all
follow and obey during the time of war; but as soon as the war is
ended, all those ealdormen are again equal in power. So the reeve
received and entertained them in his house some days, promising to send
them to the ealdorman who was over him, as they desired.

But when the barbarians perceived that they were of another
religion,–for they continually gave themselves to singing of psalms
and prayer, and daily offered up to God the Sacrifice of the saving
Victim, having with them sacred vessels and a consecrated table for an
altar,– they began to grow suspicious of them, lest if they should
come into the presence of their ealdorman, and converse with him, they
should turn his heart from their gods, and convert him to the new
religion of the Christian faith; and thus by degrees all their province
should be forced to change its old worship for a new. Wherefore on a
sudden they laid hold of them and put them to death; and White Hewald
they slew outright with the sword; but they put Black Hewald to
lingering torture and tore him limb from limb in horrible fashion, and
they threw their bodies into the Rhine. The ealdorman, whom they had
desired to see, hearing of it, was very angry that strangers who
desired to come to him had not been suffered to come; and therefore he
sent and put to death all those villagers and burned their village. The
aforesaid priests and servants of Christ suffered on the 3rd of

Miracles from Heaven were not lacking at their martyrdom. For their
dead bodies, having been cast into the river by the pagans, as has been
said, were carried against the stream for the space of almost forty
miles, to the place where their companions were. Moreover, a long ray
of light, reaching up to heaven, shone every night above them
wheresoever they chanced to be, and that too in the sight of the very
pagans that had slain them. Moreover, one of them appeared in a vision
by night to one of his companions, whose name was Tilmon, a man of
renown and of noble birth in this world, who having been a thegn had
become a monk, telling him that he might find their bodies in that
place, where he should see rays of light reaching from heaven to the
earth. And so it befell; and their bodies being found, were buried with
the honour due to martyrs; and the day of their passion or of the
finding of their bodies, is celebrated in those parts with fitting
veneration. Finally, Pippin, the most glorious duke of the Franks,
learning these things, caused the bodies to be brought to him, and
buried them with much honour in the church of the city of Cologne, on
the Rhine. And it is said that a spring burst forth in the place where
they were killed, which to this day affords a plentiful stream in that
same place.

CHAP. XI. How the venerable Suidbert in Britain, and Wilbrord at Rome, were
ordained bishops for Frisland. [692 A.D.]

AT their first coming into Frisland, as soon as Wilbrord found that he
had leave given him by the prince to preach there, he made haste to go
to Rome, where Pope Sergius then presided over the Apostolic see, that
he might undertake the desired work of preaching the Gospel to the
nations, with his licence and blessing; and hoping to receive of him
some relics of the blessed Apostles and martyrs of Christ; to the end,
that when he destroyed the idols, and erected churches in the nation to
which he preached, he might have the relics of saints at hand to put
into them, and having deposited them there, might accordingly dedicate
each of those places to the honour of the saint whose relics they were.
He desired also there to learn or to receive many other things needful
for so great a work. Having obtained his desire in all these matters,
he returned to preach.

At which time, the brothers who were in Frisland, attending on the
ministry of the Word, chose out of their own number a man of sober
life, and meek of heart, called Suidbert, to be ordained bishop for
them. He, being sent into Britain, was consecrated, at their request,
by the most reverend Bishop Wilfrid, who, having been driven out of his
country, chanced then to be living in banishment among the Mercians;
for Kent had no bishop at that time, Theodore being dead, and Bertwald,
his successor, who had gone beyond the sea to be ordained, having not
yet returned to his episcopal see.

The said Suidbert, being made bishop, returned from Britain, and not
long after departed to the Boructuari; and by his preaching brought
many of them into the way of truth; but the Boructuari being not long
after subdued by the Old Saxons, those who had received the Word were
dispersed abroad; and the bishop himself with certain others went to
Pippin, who, at the request of his wife, Blithryda, gave him a place of
abode in a certain island on the Rhine, called in their tongue,
Inlitore; there he built a monastery, which his successors still
possess, and for a time dwelt in it, leading a most continent life, and
there ended his days.

When they who had gone thither had spent some years teaching in
Frisland, Pippin, with the consent of them all, sent the venerable
Wilbrord to Rome, where Sergius was still pope, desiring that he might
be consecrated archbishop over the nation of the Frisians; which was
accordingly done, as he had made request, in the year of our Lord 696.
He was consecrated in the church of the Holy Martyr Cecilia, on her
festival; and the said pope gave him the name of Clement, and forthwith
sent him back to his bishopric, to wit, fourteen days after his arrival
in the city.

Pippin gave him a place for his episcopal see, in his famous fort,
which in the ancient language of those people is called Wiltaburg, that
is, the town of the Wilts; but, in the Gallic tongue, Trajectum. The
most reverend prelate having built a church there, and preaching the
Word of faith far and near, drew many from their errors, and built many
churches and not a few monasteries. For not long after he himself
constituted other bishops in those parts from the number of the
brethren that either came with him or after him to preach there; of
whom some are now fallen asleep in the Lord; but Wilbrord himself,
surnamed Clement, is still living, venerable for his great age, having
been thirty-six years a bishop, and now, after manifold conflicts of
the heavenly warfare, he longs with all his heart for the recompense of
the reward in Heaven.’

CHAP. XII. How one in the province of the Northumbrians, rose from the dead,
and related many things which he had seen, some to be greatly dreaded and some
to be desired. [Circ. 696 A.D.]

AT this time a memorable miracle, and like to those of former days, was
wrought in Britain; for, to the end that the living might be roused
from the death of the soul, a certain man, who had been some time dead,
rose again to the life of the body, and related many memorable things
that he had seen; some of which I have thought fit here briefly to
describe. There was a certain householder in that district of the
Northumbrians which is called Incuneningum, who led a godly life, with
all his house. This man fell sick, and his sickness daily increasing,
he was brought to extremity, and died in the beginning of the night;
but at dawn he came to life again, and suddenly sat up, whereat all
those that sat about the body weeping fled away in great terror, only
his wife, who loved him better, though trembling and greatly afraid,
remained with him. And he comforting her, said, “Fear not, for I am now
in very deed risen from death whereof I was holden, and permitted again
to live among men; nevertheless, hereafter I must not live as I was
wont, but after a very different manner.” Then rising immediately, he
went to the oratory of the little town, and continuing in prayer till
day, forthwith divided all his substance into three parts; one whereof
he gave to his wife, another to his children, and the third, which he
kept himself, he straightway distributed among the poor. Not long
after, being set free from the cares of this world, he came to the
monastery of Mailros, which is almost enclosed by the winding of the
river Tweed, and having received the tonsure, went apart into a place
of abode which the abbot had provided, and there he continued till the
day of his death, in so great contrition of mind and mortifying of the
body, that even if his tongue had been silent, his life would have
declared that he had seen many things either to be dreaded or coveted,
which were hidden from other men.

Thus he related what he had seen. “He that led me had a countenance
full of light, and shining raiment, and we went in silence, as it
seemed to me, towards the rising of the summer sun. And as we walked we
came to a broad and deep valley of infinite length; it lay on our left,
and one side of it was exceeding terrible with raging flames, the other
no less intolerable for violent hail and cold snows drifting and
sweeping through all the place. Both sides were full of the souls of
men which seemed to be tossed from one side to the other as it were by
a violent storm; for when they could no longer endure the fervent heat,
the hapless souls leaped into the midst of the deadly cold; and finding
no rest there, they leaped back again to be burnt in the midst of the
unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of misshapen
spirits were thus tormented far and near with this interchange of
misery, as far as I could see, without any interval of rest, I began to
think that peradventure this might be Hell, of whose intolerable
torments I had often heard men talk. My guide, who went before me,
answered to my thought, saying, Think not so, for this is not the Hell
you believe it to be.’

“When he had led me farther by degrees, sore dismayed by that dread
sight, on a sudden I saw the place before us begin to grow dark and
filled with shadows. When we entered into them, the shadows by degrees
grew so thick, that I could see nothing else, save only the darkness
and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on through the
shades in the lone night,’ lo! on a sudden there appeared before us
masses of foul flame constantly rising as it were out of a great pit,
and falling back again into the same. When I had been led thither, my
guide suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of darkness and
these fearful sights. As those same masses of fire, without
intermission, at one time flew up and at another fell back into the
bottom of the abyss, I perceived that the summits of all the flames, as
they ascended were full of the spirits of men, which, like sparks
flying upwards with the smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and
again, when the vapours of the fire fell, dropped down into the depths
below. Moreover, a stench, foul beyond compare, burst forth with the
vapours, and filled all those dark places.

“Having stood there a long time in much dread, not knowing what to do,
which way to turn, or what end awaited me, on a sudden I heard behind
me the sound of a mighty and miserable lamentation, and at the same
time noisy laughter, as of a rude multitude insulting captured enemies.
When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I beheld a crowd of
evil spirits dragging five souls of men, wailing and shrieking, into
the midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves exulted and laughed.
Among those human souls, as I could discern, there was one shorn like a
clerk, one a layman, and one a woman. The evil spirits that dragged
them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and it came to pass
that as they went down deeper, I could no longer distinguish between
the lamentation of the men and the laughing of the devils, yet I still
had a confused sound in my ears. In the meantime, some of the dark
spirits ascended from that flaming abyss, and running forward, beset me
on all sides, and with their flaming eyes and the noisome fire which
they breathed forth from their mouths and nostrils, tried to choke me;
and threatened to lay hold on me with fiery tongs, which they had in
their hands, yet they durst in no wise touch me, though they assayed to
terrify me. Being thus on all sides encompassed with enemies and shades
of darkness, and casting my eyes hither and thither if haply anywhere
help might be found whereby I might be saved, there appeared behind me,
on the way by which I had come, as it were, the brightness of a star
shining amidst the darkness; which waxing greater by degrees, came
rapidly towards me: and when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that
sought to carry me away with their tongs, dispersed and fled.

“Now he, whose approach put them to flight, was the same that led me
before; who, then turning towards the right, began to lead me, as it
were, towards the rising of the winter sun, and having soon brought me
out of the darkness, led me forth into an atmosphere of clear light.
While he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the
length on either side, and the height whereof, seemed to be altogether
boundless. I began to wonder why we went up to the wall, seeing no door
in it, nor window, nor any way of ascent. But when we came to the wall,
we were presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and lo!
there was a wide and pleasant plain full of such fragrance of blooming
flowers th4t the marvellous sweetness of the scents immediately
dispelled the foul stench of the dark furnace which had filled my
nostrils. So great was the light shed over all this place that it
seemed to exceed the brightness of the day, or the rays of the noontide
sun. In this field were innumerable companies of men clothed in white,
and many seats of rejoicing multitudes. As he led me through the midst
of bands of happy inhabitants, I began to think that this perchance
might be the kingdom of Heaven, of which I had often heard tell. He
answered to my thought, saying, Nay, this is not the kingdom of Heaven,
as you think.’

“When we had also passed those mansions of blessed spirits, and gone
farther on, I saw before me a much more beautiful light than before,
and therein heard sweet sounds of singing, and so wonderful a fragrance
was shed abroad from the place, that the other which I had perceived
before and thought so great, then seemed to me but a small thing; even
as that wondrous brightness of the flowery field, compared with this
which I now beheld, appeared mean and feeble. When I began to hope that
we should enter that delightful place, my guide, on a sudden stood
still; and straightway turning, led me back by the way we came.

“In our return, when we came to those joyous mansions of the
white-robed spirits, he said to me, Do you know what all these things
are which you have seen?’ I answered, No,’ and then he said, That
valley which you beheld terrible with flaming fire and freezing cold,
is the place in which the souls of those are tried and punished, who,
delaying to confess and amend their crimes, at length have recourse to
repentance at the point of death, and so go forth from the body; but
nevertheless because they, even at their death, confessed and repented,
they shall all be received into the kingdom of Heaven at the day of
judgement; but many are succoured before the day of judgement, by the
prayers of the living and their alms and fasting, and more especially
by the celebration of Masses. Moreover that foul flaming pit which you
saw, is the mouth of Hell, into which whosoever falls shall never be
delivered to all eternity.

This flowery place, in which you see this fair and youthful company,
all bright and joyous, is that into which the souls of those are
received who, indeed, when they leave the body have done good works,
but who are not so perfect as to deserve to be immediately admitted
into the kingdom of Heaven; yet they shall all, at the day of
judgement, behold Christ, and enter into the joys of His kingdom; for
such as are perfect in every word and deed and thought, as soon as they
quit the body, forthwith enter into the kingdom of Heaven; in the
neighbourhood whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet
singing amidst the savour of a sweet fragrance and brightness of light.
As for you, who must now return to the body, and again live among men,
if you will seek diligently to examine your actions, and preserve your
manner of living and your words in righteousness and simplicity, you
shall, after death, have a place of abode among these joyful troops of
blessed souls which you behold. For when I left you for awhile, it was
for this purpose, that I might learn what should become of you.’ When
he had said this to me, I much abhorred returning to the body, being
delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place which I beheld,
and with the company of those I saw in it. Nevertheless, I durst not
ask my guide anything; but thereupon, on a sudden, I found myself, I
know not how, alive among men.”

Now these and other things which this man of God had seen, he would not
relate to slothful men, and such as lived negligently; but only to
those who, being terrified with the dread of torments, or ravished with
the hope of everlasting joys, would draw from his words the means to
advance in piety. In the neighbourhood of his cell lived one Haemgils,
a monk, and eminent in the priesthood, whose good works were worthy of
his office: he is still living, and leading a solitary life in Ireland,
supporting his declining age with coarse bread and cold water. He often
went to that man, and by repeated questioning, heard of him what manner
of things he had seen when out of the body; by whose account those few
particulars which we have briefly set down came also to our knowledge.
And he related his visions to king Aldfrid, a man most learned in all
respects, and was by him so willingly and attentively heard, that at
his request he was admitted into the monastery above-mentioned, and
received the crown of the monastic tonsure; and the said king,
whensoever he came into those parts, very often went to hear him. At
that time the abbot and priest Ethelwald, a man of godly and sober
life, presided over that monastery. He now occupies the episcopal see
of the church of Lindisfarne, leading a life worthy of his degree.

He had a place of abode assigned him apart in that monastery, where he
might give himself more freely to the service of his Creator in
continual prayer. And inasmuch as that place was on the banks of the
river, he was wont often to go into the same for the great desire he
had to do penance in his body, and oftentimes to plunge in it, and to
continue saying psalms or prayers in the same as long as he could
endure it, standing still, while the waves flowed over him, sometimes
up to the middle, and sometimes even to the neck in water; and when he
went ashore, he never took off his cold, wet garments till they grew
warm and dry on his body. And when in the winter the cracking pieces of
ice were floating about him, which he had himself sometimes broken, to
make room to stand or plunge in the river, and those who beheld it
would say, “We marvel, brother Drythelm (for so he was called), that
you are able to endure such severe cold;” he answered simply, for he
was a simple and sober-spirited man, “I have seen greater cold.” And
when they said, “We marvel that you choose to observe so hard a rule of
continence,” he replied, “I have seen harder things.” And so, until the
day of his calling hence, in his unwearied desire of heavenly bliss, he
subdued his aged body with daily fasting, and forwarded the salvation
of many by his words and life.

CHAP. XIII. How another contrarywise before his death saw a book containing
his sins, which was shown him by devils. [704-709 A.D.]

BUT contrarywise there was a man in the province of the Mercians, whose
visions and words, but not his manner of life, were of profit to
others, though not to himself. In the reign of Coenred, who succeeded
Ethelred, there was a layman who was a king’s thegn, no less acceptable
to the king for his outward industry, than displeasing to him for his
neglect of his own soul. The king diligently admonished him to confess
and amend, and to forsake his evil ways, lest he should lose all time
for repentance and amendment by a sudden death. But though frequently
warned, he despised the words of salvation, and promised that he would
do penance at some future time. In the meantime, falling sick he betook
himself to his bed, and was tormented with grievous pains. The king
coming to him (for he loved the man much) exhorted him, even then,
before death, to repent of his offences. But he answered that he would
not then confess his sins, but would do it when he was recovered of his
sickness, lest his companions should upbraid him with having done that
for fear of death, which he had refused to do in health. He thought he
spoke very bravely, but it afterwards appeared that he had been
miserably deceived by the wiles of the Devil.

The disease increasing, when the king came again to visit and instruct
him, he cried out straightway with a lamentable voice, “What will you
now? What are you come for? for you can no longer do aught for my
profit or salvation.” The king answered, “Say not so; take heed and be
of sound mind.” “I am not mad,” replied he, “but I now know the worst
and have it for certain before my eyes.” “What is that?” said the king.
“Not long since,” said he, “there came into this room two fair youths,
and sat down by me, the one at my head, and the other at my feet. One
of them drew forth a book most beautiful, but very small, and gave it
me to read; looking into it, I there found all the good actions I had
ever done in my life written down, and they were very few and
inconsiderable. They took back the book and said nothing to me. Then,
on a sudden, appeared an army of evil spirits of hideous countenance,
and they beset this house without, and sitting down filled the greater
part of it within. Then he, who by the blackness of his gloomy face,
and his sitting above the rest, seemed to be the chief of them, taking
out a book terrible to behold, of a monstrous size, and of almost
insupportable weight, commanded one of his followers to bring it to me
to read. Having read it, I found therein most plainly written in
hideous characters, all the crimes I ever committed, not only in word
and deed, but even in the least thought; and he said to those glorious
men in white raiment who sat by me, Why sit ye here, since ye know of a
surety that this man is ours?’ They answered, Ye speak truly; take him
and lead him away to fill up the measure of your damnation.’ This said,
they forthwith vanished, and two wicked spirits arose, having in their
hands ploughshares, and one of them struck me on the head, and the
other on the foot. And these ploughshares are now with great torment
creeping into the inward parts of my body, and as soon as they meet I
shall die, and the devils being ready to snatch me away, I shall be
dragged into the dungeons of hell.”

Thus spoke that wretch in his despair, and soon after died, and now in
vain suffers in eternal torments that penance which he failed to suffer
for a short time with the fruits of forgiveness. Of whom it is
manifest, that (as the blessed Pope Gregory writes of certain, persons)
he did not see these things for his own sake, since they did not avail
him, but for the sake of others, who, knowing of his end, should be
afraid to put off the time of repentance, whilst they have leisure,
lest, being prevented by sudden death, they should perish impenitent.
And whereas he saw diverse books laid before him by the good and evil
spirits, this was done by Divine dispensation, that we may keep in mind
that our deeds and thoughts are not scattered to the winds, but are all
kept to be examined by the Supreme Judge, and will in the end be shown
us either by friendly angels or by the enemy. And whereas the angels
first drew forth a white book, and then the devils a black one; the
former a very small one, the latter one very great; it is to be
observed, that in his first years he did some good actions, all which
he nevertheless obscured by the evil actions of his youth. If,
contrarywise, he had taken care in his youth to correct the errors of
his boyhood, and by well-doing to put them away from the sight of God,
he might have been admitted to the fellowship of those of whom the
Psalm says, “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose
sins are covered.” This story, as I learned it of the venerable Bishop
Pechthelm, I have thought good to set forth plainly, for the salvation
of such as shall read or hear it.

CHAP. XIV. How another in like manner, being at the point of death, saw the
place of punishment appointed for him in Hell.

I MYSELF knew a brother, would to God I had not known him, whose name I
could mention if it were of any avail, dwelling in a famous monastery,
but himself living infamously. He was oftentimes rebuked by the
brethren and elders of the place, and admonished to be converted to a
more chastened life; and though he would not give ear to them, they
bore with him long and patiently, on account of their need of his
outward service, for he was a cunning artificer. But he was much given
to drunkenness, and other pleasures of a careless life, and more used
to stop in his workshop day and night, than to go to church to sing and
pray and hear the Word of life with the brethren. For which reason it
befell him according to the saying, that he who will not willingly
humble himself and enter the gate of the church must needs be led
against his will into the gate of Hell, being damned. For he falling
sick, and being brought to extremity, called the brethren, and with
much lamentation, like one damned, began to tell them, that he saw Hell
opened, and Satan sunk in the depths thereof; and Caiaphas, with the
others that slew our Lord, hard by him, delivered up to avenging
flames. “In whose neighbourhood,” said he, “I see a place of eternal
perdition prepared for me, miserable wretch that I am.” The brothers,
hearing these words, began diligently to exhort him, that he should
repent even then, whilst he was still in the flesh. He answered in
despair, “There is no time for me now to change my course of life, when
I have myself seen my judgement passed.”

Whilst uttering these words, he died without having received the saving
Viaticum, and his body was buried in the farthest parts of the
monastery, nor did any one dare either to say Masses or sing psalms, or
even to pray for him. Oh how far asunder hath God put light from
darkness! The blessed Stephen, the first martyr, being about to suffer
death for the truth, saw the heavens opened, and the glory of God, and
Jesus standing on the right hand of God; and where he was to be after
death, there he fixed the eyes of his mind, that he might die the more
joyfully. But this workman, of darkened mind and life, when death was
at hand, saw Hell opened, and witnessed the damnation of the Devil and
his followers; he saw also, unhappy wretch! his own prison among them,
to the end that, despairing of salvation, he might himself die the more
miserably, but might by his perdition afford cause of salvation to the
living, who should hear of it. This befell of late in the province of
the Bernicians, and being noised abroad far and near, inclined many to
do penance for their sins without delay. Would to God that this also
might come to pass through the reading of our words!

CHAP. XV. How divers churches of the Scots, at the instance of Adamnan,
adopted the Catholic Easter; and how the same wrote a book about the holy
places. [703 A.D.]

AT this time a great part of the Scots in Ireland, and some also of the
Britons in Britain, by the grace of God, adopted the reasonable and
ecclesiastical time of keeping Easter. For when Adamnan, priest and
abbot of the monks that were in the island of Hii, was sent by his
nation on a mission to Aldfrid, king of the English, he abode some time
in that province, and saw the canonical rites of the Church. Moreover,
he was earnestly admonished by many of the more learned sort, not to
presume to live contrary to the universal custom of the Church, either
in regard to the observance of Easter, or any other ordinances
whatsoever, with those few followers of his dwelling in the farthest
corner of the world.

Wherefore he so changed his mind, that he readily preferred those
things which he had seen and heard in the English churches, to the
customs which he and his people had hitherto followed. For he was a
good and wise man, and excellently instructed in knowledge of the
Scriptures. Returning home, he endeavoured to bring his own people that
were in Hii, or that were subject to that monastery, into the way of
truth, which he had embraced with all his heart; but he could not
prevail. He sailed over into Ireland, and preaching to those people,
and with sober words of exhortation making known to them the lawful
time of Easter, he brought back many of them, and almost all that were
free from the dominion of those of Hii, from the error of their fathers
to the Catholic unity, and taught them to keep the lawful time of

Returning to his island, after having celebrated the canonical Easter
in Ireland, he was instant in preaching the Catholic observance of the
season of Easter in his monastery, yet without being able to achieve
his end; and it so happened that he departed this life before the next
year came round, the Divine goodness so ordaining it, that as he was a
great lover of peace and unity, he should be taken away to everlasting
life before he should be obliged, on the return of the season of
Easter, to be at greater variance with those that would not follow him
into the truth.

This same man wrote a book concerning the holy places, of great profit
to many readers; his authority was the teaching and dictation of
Arculf, a bishop of Gaul, who had gone to Jerusalem for the sake of the
holy places; and having wandered over all the Promised Land, travelled
also to Damascus, Constantinople, Alexandria, and many islands in the
sea, and returning home by ship, was cast upon the western coast of
Britain by a great tempest. After many adventures he came to the
aforesaid servant of Christ, Adamnan, and being found to be learned in
the Scriptures, and acquainted with the holy places, was most gladly
received by him and gladly heard, insomuch that whatsoever he said that
he had seen worthy of remembrance in the holy places, Adamnan
straightway set himself to commit to writing. Thus he composed a work,
as I have said, profitable to many, and chiefly to those who, being far
removed from those places where the patriarchs and Apostles lived, know
no more of them than what they have learnt by reading. Adamnan
presented this book to King Aldfrid, and through his bounty it came to
be read by lesser persons. The writer thereof was also rewarded by him
with many gifts and sent back into his country. I believe it will be of
advantage to our readers if we collect some passages from his writings,
and insert them in this our History.

CHAP. XVI. The account given in the aforesaid book of the place of our Lord’s
Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection.

HE wrote concerning the place of the Nativity of our Lord, after this
manner: “Bethlehem, the city of David, is situated on a narrow ridge,
encompassed on all sides with valleys, being a mile in length from west
to east, and having a low wall without towers, built along the edge of
the level summit. In the eastern corner thereof is a sort of natural
half cave, the outward part whereof is said to have been the place
where our Lord was born; the inner is called the manger of our Lord.
This cave within is all covered with rich marble, and over the
particular spot where our Lord is said to have been born, stands the
great church of St. Mary.” He likewise wrote about the place of His
Passion and Resurrection in this manner: “Entering the city of
Jerusalem on the north side, the first place to be visited, according
to the disposition of the streets, is the church of Constantine, called
the Martyrium. It was built by the Emperor Constantine, in a royal and
magnificent manner, because the Cross of our Lord was said to have been
found there by his mother Helena. Thence, to the westward, is seen the
church of Golgotha, in which is also to be found the rock which once
bore the Cross to which the Lord’s body was nailed, and now it upholds
a large silver cross, having a great brazen wheel with lamps hanging
over it. Under the place of our Lord’s Cross, a crypt is hewn out of
the rock, in which the Sacrifice is offered on an altar for the dead
that are held in honour, their bodies remaining meanwhile in the
street. To the westward of this church is the round church of the
Anastasis or Resurrection of our Lord, encompassed with three walls,
and supported by twelve columns. Between each of the walls is a broad
passage, which contains three altars at three different points of the
middle wall; to the south, the north, and the west. It has eight doors
or entrances in a straight line through the three walls; four whereof
face the south-east, and four the east.’ In the midst of it is the
round tomb of our Lord cut out of the rock, the top of which a man
standing within can touch with his hand; on the east is the entrance,
against which that great stone was set. To this day the tomb bears the
marks of the iron tools within, but on the outside it is all covered
with marble to the very top of the roof, which is adorned with gold,
and bears a large golden cross. In the north part of the tomb the
sepulchre of our Lord is hewn out of the same rock, seven feet in
length, and three handbreadths above the floor; the entrance being on
the south side, where twelve lamps burn day and night, four within the
sepulchre, and eight above on the edge of the right side. The stone
that was set at the entrance to the tomb is now cleft in two;
nevertheless, the lesser part of it stands as an altar of hewn stone
before the door of the tomb; the greater part is set up as another
altar, four-cornered, at the east end of the same church, and is
covered with linen cloths. The colour of the said tomb and sepulchre is
white and red mingled together.”

CHAP. XVII. What he likewise wrote of the place of our Lord’s Ascension, and
the tombs of the patriarchs.

CONCERNING the place of our Lord’s Ascension, the aforesaid author
writes thus. “The Mount of Olives is equal in height to Mount Sion, but
exceeds it in breadth and length; it bears few trees besides vines and
olives, and is fruitful in wheat and barley, for the nature of that
soil is not such as to yield thickets, but grass and flowers. On the
very top of it, where our Lord ascended into heaven, is a large round
church, having round about it three chapels with vaulted roofs. For the
inner building could not be vaulted and roofed, by reason of the
passage of our Lord’s Body; but it has an altar on the east side,
sheltered by a narrow roof. In the midst of it are to be seen the last
Footprints of our Lord, the place where He ascended being open to the
sky; and though the earth is daily carried away by believers, yet still
it remains, and retains the same appearance, being marked by the
impression of the Feet. Round about these lies a brazen wheel, as high
as a man’s neck, having an entrance from the west, with a great lamp
hanging above it on a pulley and burning night and day. In the western
part of the same church are eight windows; and as many lamps, hanging
opposite to them by cords, shine through the glass as far as Jerusalem;
and the light thereof is said to thrill the hearts of the beholders
with a certain zeal and compunction. Every year, on the day of the
Ascension of our Lord, when Mass is ended, a strong blast of wind is
wont to come down, and to cast to the ground all that are in the

Of the situation of Hebron, and the tombs of the fathers, he writes
thus. “Hebron, once a habitation and the chief city of David’s kingdom,
now only showing by its ruins what it then was, has, one furlong to the
east of it, a double cave in the valley, where the sepulchres of the
patriarchs are encompassed with a wall foursquare, their heads lying to
the north. Each of the tombs is covered with a single stone, hewn like
the stones of a church, and of a white colour, for the three
patriarchs. Adam’s is of meaner and poorer workmanship, and he lies not
far from them at the farthest end of the northern part of that wall.
There are also some poorer and

smaller monuments of the three women. The hill Mamre is a mile from
these tombs, and is covered with grass and flowers, having a level
plain on the top. In the northern part of it, the trunk of Abraham’s
oak, being twice as high as a man, is enclosed in a church.”

Thus much, gathered from the works of the aforesaid writer, according
to the sense of his words, but more briefly and in fewer words, we have
thought fit to insert in our History for the profit of readers.
Whosoever desires to know more of the contents of that book, may seek
it either in the book itself, or in that abridgement which we have
lately made from it;

CHAP. XVIII. How the South Saxons received Eadbert and Eolla, and the West
Saxons, Daniel and Aldhelm, for their bishops; and of the writings of the same
Aldhelm. [705 A.D.]

IN the year of our Lord 705, Aldfrid, king of the Northumbrians, died
before the end of the twentieth year of his reign. His son Osred, a boy
about eight years of age, succeeding him in the throne, reigned eleven
years. In the beginning of his reign, Haedde, bishop of the West
Saxons, departed to the heavenly life; for he was a good man and a
just, and his life and doctrine as a bishop were guided rather by his
innate love of virtue, than by what he had gained from books. The most
reverend bishop, Pechthelm, of whom we shall speak hereafter in the
proper place, and who while still deacon or monk was for a long time
with his successor Aldhelm, was wont to relate that many miracles of
healing have been wrought in the place where he died, through the merit
of his sanctity; and that the men of that province used to carry the
dust thence for the sick, and put it into water, and the drinking
thereof, or sprinkling with it, brought health to many sick men and
beasts; so that the holy dust being frequently carried away, a great
hole was made there.

Upon his death, the bishopric of that province was divided into two
dioceses. One of them was given to Daniel, which he governs to this
day; the other to Aldhelm, wherein he presided most vigorously four
years; both of them were fully instructed, as well in matters touching
the Church as in the knowledge of the Scriptures. Aldhelm, when he was
as yet only a priest and abbot of the monastery which is called the
city of Maildufus, by order of a synod of his own nation, wrote a
notable book against the error of the Britons, in not celebrating
Easter at the due time, and in doing divers other things contrary to
the purity of doctrine and the peace of the church; and through the
reading of this book many of the Britons, who were subject to the West
Saxons, were led by him to adopt the Catholic celebration of our Lord’s
Paschal Feast. He likewise wrote a famous book on Virginity, which,
after the example of Sedulius, he composed in twofold form, in
hexameters and in prose. He wrote some other books, being a man most
instructed in all respects, for he had a polished style, and was, as I
have said, of marvellous learning both in liberal and ecclesiastical
studies. On his death, Forthere was made bishop in his stead, and is
living at this time, being likewise a man very learned in the Holy

Whilst they administered the bishopric, it was determined by a synodal
decree, that the province of the South Saxons, which till that time
belonged to the diocese of the city of Winchester, where Daniel then
presided, should itself have an episcopal see, and a bishop of its own.
Eadbert, at that time abbot of the monastery of Bishop Wilfrid, of
blessed memory, called Selaeseu, was consecrated their first bishop. On
his death, Eolla succeeded to the office of bishop. He also died some
years ago, and the bishopric has been vacant to this day.

CHAP. XIX. How Coinred, king of the Mercians, and Offa, king of the East
Saxons, ended their days at Rome, in the monastic habit; and of the life and
death of Bishop Wilfrid. [709 A. D.]

IN the fourth year of the reign of Osred, Coenred, who had for some
time nobly governed the kingdom of the Mercians, much more nobly
quitted the sceptre of his kingdom. For he went to Rome, and there
receiving the tonsure and becoming a monk, when Constantine was pope,
he continued to his last hour in prayer and fasting and alms-deeds at
the threshold of the Apostles.

He was succeeded in the throne by Ceolred, the son of Ethelred, who had
governed the kingdom before Coenred. With him went the son of Sighere,
the king of the East Saxons whom we mentioned before, by name Offa, a
youth of a most pleasing age and comeliness, and greatly desired by all
his nation to have and to hold the sceptre of the kingdom. He, with
like devotion, quitted wife, and lands, and kindred and country, for
Christ and for the Gospel, that he might “receive an hundred-fold in
this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.” He also, when
they came to the holy places at Rome, received the tonsure, and ending
his life in the monastic habit, attained to the vision of the blessed
Apostles in Heaven, as he had long desired.

The same year that they departed from Britain, the great bishop,
Wilfrid, ended his days in the province called Inundalum, after he had
been bishop forty-five years. His body, being laid in a coffin, was
carried to his monastery, which is called Inhrypum, and buried in the
church of the blessed Apostle Peter, with the honour due to so great a
prelate. Concerning whose manner of life, let us now turn back, and
briefly make mention of the things which were done. Being a boy of a
good disposition, and virtuous beyond his years, he conducted himself
so modestly and discreetly in all points, that he was deservedly
beloved, respected, and cherished by his elders as one of themselves.
At fourteen years of age he chose rather the monastic than the secular
life; which, when he had signified to his father, for his mother was
dead, he readily consented to his godly wishes and desires, and advised
him to persist in that wholesome purpose. Wherefore he came to the isle
of Lindisfarne, and there giving himself to the service of the monks,
he strove diligently to learn and to practise those things which belong
to monastic purity and piety; and being of a ready wit, he speedily
learned the psalms and some other books, having not yet received the
tonsure, but being in no small measure marked by those virtues of
humility and obedience which are more important than the tonsure; for
which reason he was justly loved by his elders and his equals. Having
served God some years in that monastery, and being a youth of a good
understanding, he perceived that the way of virtue delivered by the
Scots was in no wise perfect, and he resolved to go to Rome, to see
what ecclesiastical or monastic rites were in use at the Apostolic see.
When he told the brethren, they commended his design, and advised him
to carry out that which he purposed. He forthwith went to Queen
Eanfled, for he was known to her, and it was by her counsel and support
that he had been admitted into the aforesaid monastery, and he told her
of his desire to visit the threshold of the blessed Apostles. She,
being pleased with the youth’s good purpose, sent him into Kent, to
King Earconbert, who was her uncle’s son, requesting that he would send
him to Rome in an honourable manner. At that time, one of the disciples
of the blessed Pope Gregory, a man very highly instructed in
ecclesiastical learning, was archbishop there. When he had tarried
there for a space, and, being a youth of an active spirit, was
diligently applying himself to learn those things which came under his
notice, another youth, called Biscop, surnamed Benedict, of the English
nobility, arrived there, being likewise desirous to go to Rome, of whom
we have before made mention.

The king gave him Wilfrid for a companion, and bade Wilfrid conduct him
to Rome. When they came to Lyons, Wilfrid was detained there by
Dalfinus, the bishop of that city; but Benedict hastened on to Rome.
For the bishop was delighted with the youth’s prudent discourse, the
grace of his comely countenance, his eager activity, and the
consistency and maturity of his thoughts; for which reason he
plentifully supplied him and his companions with all necessaries, as
long as they stayed with him; and further offered, if he would have it,
to commit to him the government of no small part of Gaul, to give him a
maiden daughter of his own brother to wife, and to regard him always as
his adopted son. But Wilfrid thanked him for the loving-kindness which
he was pleased to show to a stranger, and answered, that he had
resolved upon another course of life, and for that reason had left his
country and set out for Rome.

Hereupon the bishop sent him to Rome, furnishing him with a guide and
supplying plenty of all things requisite for his journey, earnestly
requesting that he would come that way, when he returned into his own
country. Wilfrid arriving at Rome, and daily giving himself with all
earnestness to prayer and the study of ecclesiastical matters, as he
had purposed in his mind, gained the friendship of the most holy and
learned Boniface, the archdeacon, who was also counsellor to the
Apostolic Pope, by whose instruction he learned, in their order the
four Gospels, and the true computation of Easter; and many other things
appertaining to ecclesiastical discipline, which he could not learn in
his own country, he acquired from the teaching of that same master.
When he had spent some months there, in successful study, he returned
into Gaul, to Dalfinus; and having stayed with him three years,
received from him the tonsure, and Dalfinus esteemed him so highly in
love that he had thoughts of making him his heir; but this was
prevented by the bishop’s cruel death, and Wilfrid was reserved to be a
bishop of his own, that is, the English, nation. For Queen Baldhild
sent soldiers with orders to put the bishop to death; whom Wilfrid, as
his clerk, attended to the place where he was to be beheaded, being
very desirous, though the bishop strongly opposed it, to die with him;
but the executioners, understanding that he was a stranger, and of the
English nation, spared him, and would not put him to death with his

Returning to Britain, he won the friendship of King Alchfrid, who had
learnt to follow always and love the catholic rules of the Church; and
therefore finding him to be a Catholic, he gave him presently land of
ten families at the place called Stanford; and not long after, the
monastery, with land of thirty families, at the place called Inhrypum;
which place he had formerly given to those that followed the doctrine
of the Scots, to build a monastery there. But, forasmuch as they
afterwards, being given the choice, had rather quit the place than
adopt the Catholic Easter and other canonical rites, according to the
custom of the Roman Apostolic Church, he gave the same to him whom he
found to be instructed in better discipline and better customs.

At the same time, by the said king’s command, he was ordained priest in
the same monastery, by Agilbert, bishop of the Gewissae
above-mentioned, the king being desirous that a man of so much learning
and piety should attend him constantly as his special priest and
teacher; and not long after, when the Scottish sect had been exposed
and banished, as was said above, he, with the advice and consent of his
father Oswy, sent him into Gaul, to be consecrated as his bishop, when
he was about thirty years of age, the same Agilbert being then bishop
of the city of Paris. Eleven other bishops met at the consecration of
the new bishop, and that function was most honourably performed. Whilst
he yet tarried beyond the sea, the holy man, Ceadda, was consecrated
bishop of by command of King Oswy, as has been said above; and having
nobly ruled that church three years, he retired to take charge of his
monastery of Laestingaeu, and Wilfrid was made bishop of all the
province of the Northumbrians.

Afterwards, in the reign of Egfrid, he was expelled from his bishopric,
and others were consecrated bishops in his stead, of whom mention has
been made above. Designing to go to Rome, to plead his cause before the
Apostolic Pope, he took ship, and was driven by a west wind into
Frisland, and honourably received by that barbarous people and their
King Aldgils, to whom he preached Christ, and he instructed many
thousands of them in the Word of truth, washing them from the
defilement of their sins in the Saviour’s font. Thus he began there the
work of the Gospel which was afterwards finished with great devotion by
the most reverend bishop of Christ, Wilbrord. Having spent the winter
there successfully among this new people of God, he set out again on
his way to Rome, where his cause being tried before Pope Agatho and
many bishops, he was by the judgement of them all acquitted of all
blame, and declared worthy of his bishopric.

At the same time, the said Pope Agatho assembling a synod at Rome, of
one hundred and twenty-five bishops, against those who asserted that
there was only one will and operation in our Lord and Saviour, ordered
Wilfrid also to be summoned, and, sitting among the bishops, to declare
his own faith and the faith of the province or island whence he came;
and he and his people being found orthodox in their faith, it was
thought fit to record the same among the acts of that synod, which was
done in this manner: “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city
of York, appealing to the Apostolic see, and being by that authority
acquitted of every thing, whether specified against him or not, and
being appointed to sit in judgement with one hundred and twenty-five
other bishops in the synod, made confession of the true and catholic
faith, and confirmed the same with his subscription in the name of all
the northern part of Britain and Ireland, and the islands inhabited by
the nations of the English and Britons, as also by the Scots and

After this, returning into Britain, he converted the province of the
South Saxons from their idolatrous worship to the faith of Christ. He
also sent ministers of the Word to the Isle of Wight; and in the second
year of Aldfrid, who reigned after Egfrid, was restored to his see and
bishopric by that king’s invitation. Nevertheless, five years after,
being again accused, he was deprived of his bishopric by the same king
and certain bishops. Coming to Rome, he was allowed to make his defence
in the presence of his accusers, before a number of bishops and the
Apostolic Pope John. It was shown by the judgement of them all, that
his accusers had in part laid false accusations to his charge; and the
aforesaid Pope wrote to the kings of the English, Ethelred and Aldfrid,
to cause him to be restored to his bishopric, because he had been
unjustly condemned.

His acquittal was much forwarded by the reading of the acts of the
synod of Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, which had been formerly held,
when Wilfrid was in Rome and sat in council among the bishops, as has
been said before. For the acts of that synod being, as the case
required, read, by order of the Apostolic Pope, before the nobility and
a great number of the people for some days, they came to the place
where it was written, “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city
of York, appealing to the Apostolic see, and being by that authority
acquitted of everything, whether specified against him or not,” and the
rest as above stated. This being read, the hearers were amazed, and the
reader ceasing, they began to ask of one another, who that Bishop
Wilfrid was. Then Boniface, the Pope’s counsellor, and many others, who
had seen him there in the days of Pope Agatho, said that he was the
same bishop that lately came to Rome, to be tried by the Apostolic see,
being accused by his people, and “who, said they, having long since
come here upon the like accusation, the cause and contention of both
parties being heard and examined, was proved by Pope Agatho, of blessed
memory, to have been wrongfully expelled from his bishopric, and was
held in such honour by him, that he commanded him to sit in the council
of bishops which he had assembled, as a man, of untainted faith and an
upright mind.” This being heard, the Pope and all the rest said, that a
man of so great authority, who had held the office of a bishop for
nearly forty years, ought by no means to be condemned, but being
altogether cleared of the faults laid to his charge, should return home
with honour.

When he came to Gaul, on his way back to Britain, on a sudden he fell
sick, and the sickness increasing, he was so weighed down by it, that
he could not ride, but was carried in his bed by the hands of his
servants. Being thus come to the city of Maeldum, in Gaul, he lay four
days and nights, as if he had been dead, and only by his faint
breathing showed that he had any life in him. Having continued thus
four days, without meat or drink, without speech or hearing, at length,
on the fifth day, at daybreak, as it were awakening out of a deep
sleep, he raised himself and sat up, and opening his eyes, saw round
about him a company of brethren singing psalms and weeping. Sighing
gently, he asked where Acca, the priest, was. This man, straightway
being called, came in, and seeing him somewhat recovered and able to
speak, knelt down, and gave thanks to God, with all the brethren there
present. When they had sat awhile and begun to discourse, with great
awe, of the judgements of heaven, the bishop bade the rest go out for a
time, and spoke to the priest, Acca, after this manner:

“A dread vision has even now appeared to me, which I would have you
hear and keep secret, till I know what God will please to do with me.
There stood by me a certain one, glorious in white raiment, and he told
me that he was Michael, the Archangel, and said, “I am sent to call you
back from death: for the Lord has granted you life, through the prayers
and tears of your disciples and brethren, and the intercession of His
Blessed Mother Mary, of perpetual virginity; wherefore I tell you, that
you shall now recover from this sickness; but be ready, for I will
return and visit you at the end of four years. And when you come into
your country, you shall recover the greater part of the possessions
that have been taken from you, and shall end your days in peace and
quiet.” The bishop accordingly recovered, whereat all men rejoiced and
gave thanks to God, and setting forward on his journey, he arrived n

Having read the letters which he brought from the Apostolic Pope,
Bertwald, the archbishop, and sometime king, but then abbot, readily
took his part; for the said Ethelred, calling to him Coenred, whom he
had made king in his own stead, begged him to be friends with Wilfrid,
in which request he prevailed; nevertheless Aldfrid, king of the
Northumbrians, disdained to receive him. But he died soon after, and so
it came to pass that, during the reign of his son Osred, when a synod
was assembled before long by the river Nidd, after some contention on
both sides, at length, by the consent of all, he was restored to the
government of his own church; and thus he lived in peace four years,
till the day of his death. He died in his monastery, which he had in
the province of Undalum, under the government of the Abbot Cuthbald;
and by the ministry of the brethren, he was carried to his first
monastery which is called Inhrypum, and buried in the church of the
blessed Apostle Peter, hard by the altar on the south side, as has been
mentioned above, and this epitaph was written over him:

“Here rests the body of the great Bishop Wilfrid, who, for love of
piety, built these courts and consecrated them with the noble name of
Peter, to whom Christ, the Judge of all the earth, gave the keys of
Heaven. And devoutly he clothed them with gold and Tyrian purple; yea,
and he placed here the trophy of the Cross, of shining ore, uplifted
high; moreover he caused the four books of the Gospel to be written in
gold in their order, and he gave a case meet for them of ruddy gold.
And he also brought the holy season of Easter, returning in its course,
to accord with the true teaching of the catholic rule which the Fathers
fixed, and, banishing all doubt and error, gave his nation sure
guidance in their worship. And in this place he gathered a great throng
of monks, and with all diligence safeguarded the precepts which the
Fathers’ rule enjoined. And long time sore vexed by many a peril at
home and abroad, when he had held the office of a bishop forty-five
years, he passed away and with joy departed to the heavenly kingdom.
Grant, Jesus, that the flock may follow in the path of the shepherd.”

CHAP. XX. How Albinus succeeded to the godly Abbot Hadrian, and Acca to Bishop
Wilfrid. [709 A.D.]

THE next year after the death of the aforesaid father, which was the
fifth year of King 0sred, the most reverend father, Abbot Hadrian,
fellow labourer in the Word of God with Bishop Theodore of blessed
memory, died, and was buried in the church of the Blessed Mother of
God, in his own monastery, this being the forty-first year after he was
sent by Pope Vitalian with Theodore, and the thirty-ninth after his
arrival in England. Among other proofs of his learning, as well as
Theodore’s, there is this testimony, that Albinus, his disciple, who
succeeded him in the government of his monastery, was so well
instructed in literary studies, that he had no small knowledge of the
Greek tongue, and knew the Latin as well as the English, which was his
native language.

Acca, his priest, succeeded Wilfrid in the bishopric of the church of
Hagustald, being likewise a man of zeal and great in noble works in the
sight of God and man. He enriched the structure of his church, which is
dedicated in honour of the blessed Apostle Andrew with manifold
adornments and marvellous workmanship. For he gave all diligence, as he
does to this day, to procure relics of the blessed Apostles and martyrs
of Christ from all parts, and to raise altars in their honour in
separate side-chapels built for the purpose within the walls of the
same church. Besides which, he industriously gathered the histories of
their martyrdom, together with other ecclesiastical writings, and
erected there a large and noble library. He likewise carefully provided
holy vessels, lamps, and other such things as appertain to the adorning
of the house of God. He in like manner invited to him a notable singer
called Maban, who had been taught to sing by the successors of the
disciples of the blessed Pope Gregory in Kent, to instruct himself and
his clergy, and kept him twelve years, to the end that he might teach
such Church music as they did not know, and by his teaching restore to
its former state that which was corrupted either by long use, or
through neglect. For Bishop Acca himself was a most skilful singer, as
well as most learned in Holy Writ, sound in the confession of the
catholic faith, and well versed in the rules of ecclesiastical custom;
nor does he cease to walk after this manner, till he receive the
rewards of his pious devotion. For he was brought up from boyhood and
instructed among the clergy of the most holy and beloved of God, Bosa,
bishop of York. Afterwards, coming to Bishop Wilfrid in the hope of a
better plan of life, he spent the rest of his days in attendance on him
till that bishop’s death, and going with him to Rome, learned there
many profitable things concerning the ordinances of the Holy Church,
which he could not have learned in his own country.

CHAP. XXI. How the Abbot Ceolfrid sent master-builders to the King of the
Picts to build a church, and with them an epistle concerning the catholic
Easter and the Tonsure. [710 A.D.]

AT that time, Naiton, King of the Picts, who inhabit the northern parts
of Britain, taught by frequent meditation on the ecclesiastical
writings, renounced the error whereby he and his nation had been holden
till then, touching the observance of Easter, and brought himself and
all his people to celebrate the catholic time of our Lord’s
Resurrection. To the end that he might bring this to pass with the more
ease and greater authority, he sought aid from the English, whom he
knew to have long since framed their religion after the example of the
holy Roman Apostolic Church. Accordingly, he sent messengers to the
venerable Ceolfrid, abbot of the monastery of the blessed Apostles,
Peter and Paul, which stands at the mouth of the river Wear, and near
the river Tyne, at the place called Ingyruum, which he gloriously
governed after Benedict, of whom we have before spoken; desiring, that
he would send him a letter of exhortation, by the help of which he
might the better confute those that presumed to keep Easter out of the
due time; as also concerning the form and manner of tonsure whereby the
clergy should be distinguished, notwithstanding that he himself had no
small knowledge of these things. He also prayed to have master-builders
sent him to build a church of stone in his nation after the Roman
manner, promising to dedicate the same in honour of the blessed chief
of the Apostles. Moreover, he and all his people, he said, would always
follow the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic Church, in so far as men
so distant from the speech and nation of the Romans could learn it. The
most reverend Abbot Ceolfrid favourably receiving his godly desires and
requests, sent the builders he desired, and likewise the following

“To the most excellent lord, and glorious King Naiton, Abbot Ceolfrid,
greeting in the Lord. We most readily and willingly endeavour,
according to your desire, to make known to you the catholic observance
of holy Easter, according to what we have learned of the Apostolic see,
even as you, most devout king, in your godly zeal, have requested of
us. For we know, that whensoever the lords of this world labour to
learn, and to teach and to guard the truth, it is a gift of God to his
Holy Church. For a certain profane writer has most truly said, that the
world would be most happy if either kings were philosophers, or
philosophers were kings. Now if a man of this world could judge truly
of the philosophy of this world, and form a right choice concerning the
state of this world, how much more is it to be desired, and most
earnestly to be prayed for by such as are citizens of the heavenly
country, and strangers and pilgrims in this world, that the more
powerful any are in the world the more they may strive to hearken to
the commands of Him who is the Supreme Judge, and by their example and
authority may teach those that are committed to their charge, to keep
the same, tqgether with themselves.

“There are then three rules given in the Sacred Writings, whereby the
time of keeping Easter has been appointed for us and may in no wise be
changed by any authority of man; two whereof are divinely established
in the law of Moses; the third is added in the Gospel by reason of the
Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. For the law enjoined, that the
Passover should be kept in the first month of the year, and the third
week of that month, that is, from the fifteenth day to the
one-and-twentieth. It is added, by Apostolic institution, from the
Gospel, that we are to wait for the Lord’s day in that third week, and
to keep the beginning of the Paschal season on the same. Which
threefold rule whosoever shall rightly observe, will never err in
fixing the Paschal feast. But if you desire to be more plainly and
fully informed in all these particulars, it is written in Exodus, where
the people of Israel, being about to be delivered out of Egypt, are
commanded to keep the first Passover, that the Lord spake unto Moses
and Aaron, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of
months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto
all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month
they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of
their fathers, a lamb for an house.’ And a little after, And ye shall
keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole
assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.’
By which words it most plainly appears, that in the Paschal observance,
though mention is made of the fourteenth day, yet it is not commanded
that the Passover be kept on that day; but on the evening of the
fourteenth day, that is, when the fifteenth moon, which is the
beginning of the third week, appears in the sky, it is commanded that
the lamb be killed; and that it was the night of the fifteenth moon,
when the Egyptians were smitten and Israel was redeemed from long
captivity. He says, Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread.’ By which
words all the third week of that same first month is appointed to be a
solemn feast. But lest we should think that those same seven days were
to be reckoned from the fourteenth to the twentieth, He forthwith adds,
Even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for
whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh
day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel;’ and so on, till he says,
For in this selfsame day I will bring your army out of the land of

“Thus he calls that the first day of unleavened bread, in which he was
to bring their army out of Egypt. Now it is evident, that they were not
brought out of Egypt on the fourteenth day, in the evening whereof the
lamb was killed, and which is properly called the Passover or Phase,
but on the fifteenth day, as is most plainly written in the book of
Numbers: and they departed from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the
first month, on the morrow after the Passover the Israelites went out
with an high hand.’ Thus the seven days of unleavened bread, on the
first whereof the people of the Lord were brought out of Egypt, are to
be reckoned from the beginning of the third week, as has been said,
that is, from the fifteenth day of the first month, till the end of the
one-and-twentieth of the same month. But the fourteenth day is named
apart from this number, by the title of the Passover, as is plainly
shown by that which follows in Exodus:” where, after it is said, For in
this self-same day I will bring your army out of the land of Egypt;’ it
is forthwith added, And ye shall observe this day in your generations
by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of
the month, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one-and-twentieth
day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven, found in
your houses.’ Now, who is there that does not perceive, that there are
not only seven days, but rather eight, from the fourteenth to the
one-and-twentieth, if the fourteenth be also reckoned in the number?
But if, as appears by diligent study of the truth of the Scriptures, we
reckon from the evening of the fourteenth day to the evening of the
one-and-twentieth, we shall certainly find that, while the Paschal
feast begins on the evening of the fourteenth day, yet the whole sacred
solemnity contains no more than only seven nights and as many days.
Wherefore the rule which we laid down is proved to be true, when we
said that the Paschal season is to be celebrated in the first month of
the year, and the third week of the same. For it is in truth the third
week, because it begins on the evening of the fourteenth day, and ends
on the evening of the one-and-twentieth.

“But since Christ our Passover is sacrificed,’ and has made the Lord’s
day, which among the ancients was called the first day of the week, a
solemn day to us for the joy of His Resurrection, the Apostolic
tradition has included it in the Paschal festival; yet has decreed that
the time of the legal Passover be in no wise anticipated or diminished;
but rather ordains, that according to the precept of the law, that same
first month of the year, and the fourteenth day of the same, and the
evening thereof be awaited. And when this day should chance to fall on
a Saturday, every man should take to him a lamb, according to the house
of his fathers, a lamb for an house, and he should kill it in the
evening, that is, that all the Churches throughout the world, making
one Catholic Church, should provide Bread and Wine for the Mystery of
the Flesh and Blood of the spotless Lamb that hath taken away the sins
of the world; and after a fitting solemn service of lessons and prayers
and Paschal ceremonies, they should offer up these to the Lord, in hope
of redemption to come. For this is that same night in which the people
of Israel were delivered out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb; this is
the same in which all the people of God were, by Christ’s Resurrection,
set free from eternal death. Then, in the morning, when the Lord’s day
dawns, they should celebrate the first day of the Paschal festival; for
that is the day on which our Lord made known the glory of His
Resurrection to His disciples, to their manifold joy at the merciful

The same is the first clay of unleavened bread, concerning which it is
plainly written in Leviticus, In the fourteenth day of the first month,
at even, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same
month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord; seven days ye
must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy

“If therefore it could be that the Lord’s day should always happen on
the fifteenth day of the first month, that is, on the fifteenth moon,
we might always celebrate the Passover at one and the same time with
the ancient people of God, though the nature of the mystery be
different, as we do it with one and the same faith. But inasmuch as the
day of the week does not keep pace exactly with the moon, the Apostolic
tradition, which was preached at Rome by the blessed Peter, and
confirmed at Alexandria by Mark the Evangelist, his interpreter,
appointed that when the first month was come, and in it the evening of
the fourteenth day, we should also wait for the Lord’s day, between the
fifteenth and the one-and-twentieth day of the same month. For on
whichever of those days it shall fall, Easter will be rightly kept on
the same; seeing that it is one of those seven days on which the feast
of unleavened bread is commanded to be kept. Thus it comes to pass that
our Easter never falls either before or after the third week of the
first month, but has for its observance either the whole of it, to wit,
the seven days of unleavened bread appointed by the law, or at least
some of them. For though it comprises but one of them, that is, the
seventh, which the Scripture so highly commends, saying, But the
seventh day shall be a more holy convocation, ye shall do no servile
work therein,’ none can lay it to our charge, that we do not rightly
keep Easter Sunday, which we received from the Gospel, in the third
week of the first month, as the Law prescribes.

“The catholic reason of this observance being thus explained, the
unreasonable error, on the other hand, of those who, without any
necessity, presume either to anticipate, or to go beyond the term
appointed in the Law, is manifest. For they that think Easter Sunday is
to be observed from the fourteenth day of the first month till the
twentieth moon, anticipate the time prescribed in the law, without any
necessary reason; for when they begin to celebrate the vigil of the
holy night from the evening of the thirteenth day, it is plain that
they make that day the beginning of their Easter, whereof they find no
mention in the commandment of the Law; and when they avoid celebrating
our Lord’s Easter on the one-and-twentieth day of the month, it is
surely manifest that they wholly exclude that day from their solemnity,
which the Law many times commends to be observed as a greater festival
than the rest; and thus, perverting the proper order, they sometimes
keep Easter Day entirely in the second week, and never place it on the
seventh day of the third week. And again, they who think that Easter is
to be kept from the sixteenth day of the said month till the
two-and-twentieth no less erroneously, though on the other side,
deviate from the right way of truth, and as it were avoiding shipwreck
on Scylla, they fall into the whirpool of Charybdis to be drowned. For
when they teach that Easter is to be begun at the rising of the
sixteenth moon of the first month, that is, from the evening of the
fifteenth day, it is certain that they altogether exclude from their
solemnity the fourteenth day of the same month, which the Law first and
chiefly commends; so that they scarce touch the evening of the
fifteenth day, on which the people of God were redeemed from Egyptian
bondage, and on which our Lord, by His Blood, rescued the world from
the darkness of sin, and on which being also buried, He gave us the
hope of a blessed rest after death.

“And these men, receiving in themselves the recompense of their error,
when they place Easter Sunday on the twenty-second day of the month,
openly transgress and do violence to the term of Easter appointed by
the Law, seeing that they begin Easter on the evening of that day in
which the Law commanded it to be completed and brought to an end; and
appoint that to be the first day of Easter, whereof no mention is any
where found in the Law, to wit, the first of the fourth week. And both
sorts are mistaken, not only in fixing and computing the moon’s age,
but also sometimes in finding the first month; but this controversy is
longer than can be or ought to be contained in this letter. I will only
say thus much, that by the vernal equinox, it may always be found,
without the chance of an error, which must be the first month of the
year, according to the lunar computation, and which the last. But the
equinox, according to the opinion of all the Eastern nations, and
particularly of the Egyptians, who surpass all other learned men in
calculation, falls on the twenty-first day of March, as we also prove
by horological observation. Whatsoever moon therefore is at the full
before the equinox, being on the fourteenth or fifteenth day, the same
belongs to the last month of the foregoing year, and consequently is
not meet for the celebration of Easter; but that moon which is full
after the equinox, or at the very time of the equinox, belongs to the
first month, and on that day, without a doubt, we must understand that
the ancients were wont to celebrate the Passover; and that we also
ought to keep Easter when the Sunday comes. And that this must be so,
there is this cogent reason. It is written in Genesis, And God made two
great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light
to rule the night.’ Or, as another edition has it, The greater light to
begin the day, and the lesser to begin the night.’ As, therefore, the
sun, coming forth from the midst of the east, fixed the vernal equinox
by his rising, and afterwards the moon at the full, when the sun set in
the evening, followed from the midst of the east; so every year the
same first lunar month must be observed in the like order, so that its
full moon must not be before the equinox.; but either on the very day
of the equinox, as it was in the beginning, or after it is past. But if
the full moon shall happen to be but one day before the time of the
equinox, the aforesaid reason proves that such moon is not to be
assigned to the first month of the new year, but rather to the last of
the preceding, and that it is therefore not meet for the celebration of
the Paschal festival.

“Now if it please you likewise to hear the mystical reason in this
matter, we are commanded to keep Easter in the first month of the year,
which is also called the month of new things, because we ought to
celebrate the mysteries of our Lord’s Resurrection and our deliverance,
with the spirit of our minds renewed to the love of heavenly things. We
are commanded to keep it in the third week of the same month, because
Christ Himself, who had been promised before the Law, and under the
Law, came with grace, in the third age of the world, to be sacrificed
as our Passover ; and because rising from the dead the third day after
the offering of His Passion, He wished this to be called the Lord’s
day, and the Paschal feast of His Resurrection to be yearly celebrated
on the same; because, also, we do then only truly celebrate His solemn
festival, if we endeavour with Him to keep the Passover, that is, the
passing from this world to the Father, by faith, hope, and charity. We
are commanded to observe the full moon of the Paschal month after the
vernal equinox, to the end, that the sun may first make the day longer
than the night, and then the moon may show to the world her full orb of
light; inasmuch as first the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in His
wings,” that is, our Lord Jesus, by the triumph of His Resurrection,
dispelled all the darkness of death, and so ascending into Heaven,
filled His Church, which is often signified by the name of the moon,
with the light of inward grace, by sending down upon her His Spirit.
Which order of our salvation the prophet had in his mind, when he said
The sun was exalted and the moon stood in her order.’

“He, therefore, who shall contend that the full Paschal moon can happen
before the equinox, disagrees with the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures,
in the celebration of the greatest mysteries, and agrees with those who
trust that they may be saved without the grace of Christ preventing
them, and who presume to teach that they might have attained to perfect
righteousness, though the true Light had never by death and
resurrection vanquished the darkness of the world. Thus, after the
rising of the sun at the equinox, and after the full moon of the first
month following in her order, that is, after the end of the fourteenth
day of the same month, all which we have received by the Law to be
observed, we still, as we are taught in the Gospel, wait in the third
week for the Lord’s day; and so, at length, we celebrate the offering
of our Easter solemnity, to show that we are not, with the ancients,
doing honour to the casting off of the yoke of Egyptian bondage; but
that, with devout faith and love, we worship the Redemption of the
whole world, which having been prefigured in the deliverance of the
ancient people of God, was fulfilled in Christ’s Resurrection, and that
we may signify that we rejoice in the sure and certain hope of our own
resurrection, which we believe will likewise happen on the Lord’s day.

“Now this computation of Easter, which we set forth to you to be
followed, is contained in a cycle of nineteen years, which began long
since to be observed in the Church, to wit, even in the time of the
Apostles, especially at Rome and in Egypt, as has been said above. But
by the industry of Eusebius, who took his surname from the blessed
martyr Pamphilus, it was reduced to a plainer system; insomuch that
what till then used to be enjoined every year throughout all the
Churches by the Bishop of Alexandria, might, from that time forward, be
most easily known by all men, the occurrence of the fourteenth moon
being regularly set forth in its course. This Paschal computation,
Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, made for the Emperor Theodosius, for
a hundred years to come. Cyril also, his successor, comprised a series
of ninety-five years in five cycles of nineteen years. After whom,
Dionysius Exiguus added as many more, in order, after the same manner,
reaching down to our own time. The expiration of these is now drawing
near, but there is at the present day so great a number of calculators,
that even in our Churches throughout Britain, there are many who,
having learned the ancient rules of the Egyptians, can with great ease
carry on the Paschal cycles for any length of time, even to five
hundred and thirty-two years, if they will; after the expiration of
which, all that appertains to the succession of sun and moon, month and
week, returns in the same order as before. We therefore forbear to send
you these same cycles of the times to come, because, desiring only to
be instructed respecting the reason for the Paschal time, you show that
you have enough of those catholic cycles concerning Easter.

“But having said thus much briefly and succinctly, as you required,
concerning Easter, I also exhort you to take heed that the tonsure,
concerning which likewise you desired me to write to you, be in
accordance with the use of the Church and the Christian Faith. And we
know indeed that the Apostles were not all shorn after the same manner,
nor does the Catholic Church now, as it agrees in one faith, hope, and
charity towards God, use one and the same form of tonsure throughout
the world. Moreover, to look back to former times, to wit, the times of
the patriarchs, Job, the pattern of patience, when tribulation came
upon him, shaved his head, and thus made it appear that he had used, in
time of prosperity, to let his hair grow. But concerning Joseph, who
more than other men practised and taught chastity, humility, piety, and
the other virtues, we read that he was shorn when he was to be
delivered from bondage, by which it appears, that during the time of
his bondage, he was in the prison with unshorn hair. Behold then how
each of these men of God differed in the manner of their appearance
abroad, though their inward consciences agreed in a like grace of
virtue. But though we may be free to confess, that the difference of
tonsure is not hurtful to those whose faith is pure towards God, and
their charity sincere towards their neighbour, especially since we do
not read that there was ever any controversy among the Catholic fathers
about the difference of tonsure, as there has been a contention about
the diversity in keeping Easter, and in matters of faith; nevertheless,
among all the forms of tonsure that are to be found in the Church, or
among mankind at large, I think none more meet to be followed and
received by us than that which that disciple wore on his head, to whom,
after his confession of Himself, our Lord said,’ Thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not
prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom
of Heaven.’ Nor do I think that any is more rightly to be abhorred and
detested by all the faithful, than that which that man used, to whom
that same Peter, when he would have bought the grace of the Holy Ghost,
said, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the
gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot
in this word.’ Nor do we shave ourselves in the form of a crown only
because Peter was so shorn; but because Peter was so shorn in memory of
the Passion of our Lord, therefore we also, who desire to be saved by
the same Passion, do with him bear the sign of the same Passion on the
top of our head, which is the highest part of our body. For as all the
Church, because it was made a Church by the death of Him that gave it
life, is wont to bear the sign of His Holy Cross on the forehead, to
the end, that it may, by the constant protection of His banner, be
defended from the assaults of evil spirits, and by the frequent
admonition of the same be taught, in like manner, to crucify the flesh
with its affections and lusts ; so also it behoves those, who having
either taken the vows of a monk, or having the degree of a clerk, must
needs curb themselves the more strictly by continence, for the Lord’s
sake, to bear each one of them on his head, by the tonsure, the form of
the crown of thorns which He bore on His head in His Passion, that He
might bear the thorns and thistles of our sins, that is, that he might
bear them away and take them from us; to the end that. they may show on
their foreheads that they also willingly, and readily, endure all
scoffing and reproach for his sake; and that they may signify that they
await always the crown of eternal life, which God hath promised to them
that love him,’ and that for the sake of attaining thereto they despise
both the evil and the good of this world. But as for the tonsure which
Simon Magus is said to have used, who is there of the faithful, I ask
you, who does not straightway detest and reject it at the first sight
of it, together with his magic? Above the forehead it does seem indeed
to resemble a crown; but when you come to look at the neck, you will
find the crown cut short which you thought you saw; so that you may
perceive that such a use properly belongs not to Christians but to
Simoniacs, such as were indeed in this life by erring men thought
worthy of the glory of an everlasting crown; but in that which is to
follow this life are not only deprived of all hope of a crown, but are
moreover condemned to eternal punishment.

“But do not think that I have said thus much, as though I judged them
worthy to be condemned who use this tonsure, if they uphold the
catholic unity by their faith and works; nay, I confidently declare,
that many of them have been holy men and worthy servants of God. Of
which number is Adamnan, the notable abbot and priest of the followers
of Columba, who, when sent on a mission by his nation to King Aldfrid,
desired to see our monastery, and forasmuch as he showed wonderful
wisdom, humility, and piety in his words and behaviour, I said to him
among other things, when I talked with him, I beseech you, holy
brother, how is it that you, who believe that you are advancing to the
crown of life, which knows no end, wear on your head, after a fashion
ill-suited to your belief, the likeness of a crown that has an end? And
if you seek the fellowship of the blessed Peter, why do you imitate the
likeness of the tonsure of him whom St. Peter anathematized? and why do
you not rather even now show that you choose with all your heart the
fashion of him with whom you desire to live in bliss for ever.’ He
answered, Be assured, my dear brother, that though I wear the tonsure
of Simon, according to the custom of my country, yet I detest and abhor
with all my soul the heresy of Simon; and I desire, as far as lies in
my small power, to follow the footsteps of the most blessed chief of
the Apostles.’ I replied, I verily believe it; nevertheless it is a
token that you embrace in your inmost heart whatever is of Peter the
Apostle, if you also observe in outward form that which you know to be
his. For I think your wisdom easily discerns that it is much better to
estrange from your countenance, already dedicated to God, the fashion
of his countenance whom with all your heart you abhor, and of whose
hideous face you would shun the sight; and, on the other hand, that it
beseems you to imitate the manner of his appearance, whom you seek to
have for your advocate before God, even as you desire to follow his
actions and his teaching.’

“This I said at that time to Adamnan, who indeed showed how much he had
profited by seeing the ordinances of our Churches, when, returning into
Scotland, he afterwards by his preaching led great numbers of that
nation to the catholic observance of the Paschal time; though he was
not yet able to bring back to the way of the better ordinance the monks
that lived in the island of Hii over whom he presided with the special
authority of a superior. He would also have been mindful to amend the
tonsure, if his influence had availed so far.

“But I now also admonish your wisdom, O king, that together with the
nation, over which the King of kings, and Lord of lords, has placed
you, you strive to observe in all points those things which are in
accord with the unity of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; for so it
will come to pass, that after you have held sway in a temporal kingdom,
the blessed chief of the Apostles will also willingly open to you and
yours with all the elect the entrance into the heavenly kingdom. The
grace of the eternal King preserve you in safety, long reigning for the
peace of us all, my dearly beloved son in Christ.”

This letter having been read in the presence of King. Naiton and many
learned men, and carefully interpreted into his own language by those
who could understand it, he is said to have much rejoiced at the
exhortation thereof; insomuch that, rising from among his nobles that
sat about him, he knelt on the ground, giving thanks to God that he had
been found worthy to receive such a gift from the land of the English.
“And indeed,” he said, “I knew before, that this was the true
celebration of Easter, but now I so fully learn the reason for
observing this time, that I seem in all points to have known but little
before concerning these matters. Therefore I publicly declare and
protest to you that are here present, that I will for ever observe this
time of Easter, together with all my nation; and I do decree that this
tonsure, which we have heard to be reasonable, shall be received by all
clerks in my kingdom.” Without delay he accomplished by his royal
authority what he had said. For straightway the Paschal cycles of
nineteen years were sent by command of the State throughout all the
provinces of the Picts to be transcribed, learned, and observed, the
erroneous cycles of eighty-four years being everywhere blotted out. All
the ministers of the altar and monks were shorn after the fashion of
the crown; and the nation thus reformed, rejoiced, as being newly put
under the guidance of Peter, the most blessed chief of the Apostles,
and committed to his protection.

CHAP. XXII. How the monks of Hii, and the monasteries subject to them, began
to celebrate the canonical Easter at the preaching of Egbert. [716 A. D.]

NOT long after, those monks also of the Scottish nation, who lived in
the isle of Hii, with the other monasteries that were subject to them,
were by the Lord’s doing brought to the canonical observance with
regard to Easter, and the tonsure. For in the year of our Lord 716,
when Osred^ was slain, and Coenred took upon him the government of the
kingdom of the Northumbrians, the father and priest, Egbert, beloved of
God, and worthy to be named with all honour, whom we have before often
mentioned, came to them from Ireland, and was honourably and joyfully
received. Being a most gracious teacher, and most devout in practising
those things which he taught, and being willingly heard by all, by his
pious and diligent exhortations, he converted them from that
deep-rooted tradition of their fathers, of whom may be said those words
of the Apostle, “That they had a zeal of God, but not according to
knowledge.” He taught them to celebrate the principal solemnity after
the catholic and apostolic manner, as has been said, wearing on their
heads the figure of an unending crown. It is manifest that this came to
pass by a wonderful dispensation of the Divine goodness; to the end,
that the same nation which had willingly, and without grudging, taken
heed to impart to the English people that learning which it had in the
knowledge of God, should afterwards, by means of the English nation, be
brought, in those things which it had not, to a perfect rule of life.
Even as, contrarywise, the Britons, who would not reveal to the English
the knowledge which they had of the Christian faith, now, when the
English people believe, and are in all points instructed in the rule of
the Catholic faith, still persist in their errors, halting and turned
aside from the true path, expose their heads without a crown, and keep
the Feast of Christ apart from the fellowship of the Church of Christ.

The monks of Hii, at the teaching of Egbert, adopted the catholic
manner of conversation, under Abbot Dunchad, about eighty years after
they had sent Bishop Aidan to preach to the English nation. The man of
God, Egbert, remained thirteen years in the aforesaid island, which he
had thus consecrated to Christ, as it were, by a new ray of the grace
of fellowship and peace in the Church; and in the year of our Lord 729,
in which Easter was celebrated on the 24th of April, when he had
celebrated the solemnity of the Mass, in memory of the Resurrection of
our Lord, that same day he departed to the Lord and thus finished, or
rather never ceases endlessly to celebrate, with our Lord, and the
Apostles, and the other citizens of heaven, the joy of that greatest
festival, which he had begun with the brethren, whom he had converted
to the grace of unity. And it was a wonderful dispensation of the
Divine Providence, that the venerable man passed from this world to the
Father, not only at Easter, but also when Easter was celebrated on that
day, on which it had never been wont to be celebrated in those parts.
The brethren rejoiced in the sure and catholic knowledge of the time of
Easter, and were glad in that their father, by whom they had been
brought into the right way, passing hence to the Lord should plead for
them. He also gave thanks that he had so long continued in the flesh,
till he saw his hearers accept and keep with him as Easter that day
which they had ever before avoided. Thus the most reverend father being
assured of their amendment, rejoiced to see the day of the Lord, and he
saw it and was glad.

CHAP. XX III. Of the present state of the English nation, or of all Britain.
[725-731 A.D.]

IN the year of our Lord 725, being the seventh year of Osric, king of
the Northumbrians, who had succeeded Coenred, Wictred, the son of
Egbert, king of Kent, died on the 23rd of April, and left his three
sons, Ethelbert, Eadbert, and Alric, heirs of that kingdom, which he
had governed thirty-four years and a half. The next year Tobias, bishop
of the church of Rochester, died, a most learned man, as has been said
before; for he was disciple to those masters of blessed memory,
Theodore, the archbishop, and Abbot Hadrian, wherefore, as has been
said, besides having a great knowledge of letters both ecclesiastical
and general, he learned both the Greek and Latin tongues to such
perfection, that they were as well known and familiar to him as his
native language. He was buried in the chapel of St. Paul the Apostle,
which he had built within the church of St. Andrew for his own place of
burial. After him Aldwulf took upon him the office of bishop, having
been consecrated by Archbishop Bertwald.

In the year of our Lord 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the
great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the sun in the
morning at his rising, the other followed him when he set in the
evening, as it were presaging dire disaster to both east and west; or
without doubt one was the forerunner of the day, and the other of the
night, to signify that mortals were threatened with calamities at both
times. They carried their flaming brands towards the north, as it were
ready to kindle a conflagration. They appeared in January,, and
continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a grievous blight fell upon
Gaul, in that it was laid waste by the Saracens with cruel bloodshed;
but not long after in that country they received the due reward of
their Unbelief. In that year the holy man of God, Egbert, departed to
the Lord, as has been said above, on Easter day; and immediately after
Easter, that is, on the 9th of May, Osric, king of the Northumbrians,
departed this life, after he had reigned eleven years, and appointed
Ceolwulf, brother to Coenred who had reigned before him, his successor;
the beginning and progress of whose reign have been so filled with many
and great commotions and conflicts, that it cannot yet be known what is
to be said concerning them, or what end they will have.

In the year of our Lord 731, Archbishop Bertwald died of old age, on
the 13th of January, having held his see thirty-seven years, six months
and fourteen days. In his stead, the same year, Tatwine, of the
province of the Mercians, was made archbishop, having been a priest in
the monastery called Briudun. He was consecrated in the city of
Canterbury by the venerable men, Daniel, bishop of Winchester, Ingwald
of London, Aldwin of Lichfield, and Aldwulf of Rochester, on Sunday,
the 10th of June, being a man renowned for piety and wisdom, and of
notable learning in Holy Scripture.

Thus at the present time, the bishops Tatwine and Aldwulf preside in
the churches of Kent; Ingwald is bishop in the province of the East
Saxons. In the province of the East Angles, the bishops are Aldbert and
Hadulac; in the province of the West Saxons, Daniel and Forthere; in
the province of the Mercians, Aldwin. Among those peoples who dwell
beyond the river Severn to the westward, Walhstod is bishop; in the
province of the Hwiccas, Wilfrid; in the province of Lindsey, Bishop
Cynibert presides; the bishopric of the Isle of Wight belongs to
Daniel, bishop of the city of Winchester. The province of the South
Saxons, having now continued some years without a bishop, receives
episcopal ministrations from the prelate of the West Saxons. All these
provinces, and the other southern provinces, as far as the boundary
formed by the river Humber, with their several kings, are subject to
King Ethelbald.

But in the province of the Northumbrians, where King Ceolwulf reigns,
four bishops now preside; Wilfrid in the church of York, Ethelwald in
that of Lindisfarne, Acca in that of Hagustald, Pecthelm in that which
is called the White House, which, as the number of the faithful has
increased, has lately become an episcopal see, and has him for its
first prelate. The Pictish people also at this time are at peace with
the English nation, and rejoice in having their part in Catholic peace
and truth with the universal Church. The Scots that inhabit Britain,
content with their own territories, devise no plots nor hostilities
against the English nation. The Britons, though they, for the most
part, as a nation hate and oppose the English nation, and wrongfully,
and from wicked lewdness, set themselves against the appointed Easter
of the whole Catholic Church; yet, inasmuch as both Divine and human
power withstand them, they can in neither purpose prevail as they
desire; for though in part they are their own masters, yet part of them
are brought under subjection to the English. In these favourable times
of peace and calm, many of the Northumbrians, as well of the nobility
as private persons, laying aside their weapons, and receiving the
tonsure, desire rather both for themselves and their children to take
upon them monastic vows, than to practise the pursuit of war. What will
be the end hereof, the next age will see. This is for the present the
state of all Britain; about two hundred and eighty-live years after the
coming of the English into Britain, and in the 731st year of our Lord,
in Whose kingdom that shall have no end let the earth rejoice; and
Britain being one with them in the joy of His faith, let the multitude
of isles be glad, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.

CHAP. XXIV. Chronological recapitulation of the whole work: also concerning
the author himself.

I HAVE thought fit briefly to sum up those things which have been
related at length under their particular dates, that they may be the
better kept in memory.

In the sixtieth year before the Incarnation of our Lord, Caius Julius
Caesar, first of the Romans invaded Britain, and was victorious, yet
could not maintain the supreme power there. [I, 2.]

In the year of our Lord, 46, Claudius, being the second of the Romans
who came to Britain, received the surrender of a great part of the
island, and added the Orkney islands to the Roman empire. [I, 3.]

In the year of our Lord 167, Eleuther, being made bishop at Rome,
governed the Church most gloriously fifteen years. To whom Lucius, king
of Britain, sent a letter, asking to be made a Christian, and succeeded
in obtaining his request. [I, 4.]

In the year of our Lord 189, Severus, being made emperor, reigned
seventeen years; he fortified Britain with a rampart from sea to sea.
[I, 5.]

In the year 381, Maximus, being made emperor in Britain, crossed over
into Gaul, and slew Gratian. [I, 9.]

In the year 409, Rome was overthrown by the Goths, from which time the
Romans ceased to rule in Britain. [I, 11.]

In the year 430, Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine to the Scots that
believed in Christ to be their first bishop. [I, 13.]

In the year 449, Marcian being made emperor with Valentinian, reigned
seven years; in whose time the English, being called in by the Britons,
came into Britain. [I, 15.]

In the year 538, an eclipse of the sun came to pass on the 16th of
February, from the first hour until the third.

In the year 540, an eclipse of the sun came to pass on the 20th of
June, and the stars appeared during almost half an hour after the third
hour of the day.

In the year 547, Ida began to reign; he was the founder of the royal
family of the Northumbrians, and he reigned twelve years.

In the year 565, the priest, Columba, came out of Scotland, into
Britain, to teach the Picts, and he built a monastery in the isle of
Hii. [III, 4.]

In the year 596, Pope Gregory sent Augustine with monks into Britain,
to preach the good tidings of the Word of God to the English nation.
[I, 23.]

In the year 597, the aforesaid teachers arrived in Britain; being about
the 150th year from the coming of the English into Britain. [I, 25.]

In the year 601, Pope Gregory sent the pall into Britain to Augustine,
who was already made bishop; he sent also several ministers of the
Word, among whom was Paulinus. [I, 29.]

In the year 603, a battle was fought at Degsastan. [I, 34.]

In the year 604, the East Saxons received the faith of Christ, under
King Sabert, Mellitus being bishop. [II, 3.]

In the year 605, Gregory died. [II, 1.]

In the year 616, Ethelbert, king of Kent died. [II, 5.]

In the year 625, Paulinus was ordained bishop of the Northumbrians by
Archbishop Justus. [II, 9.]

In the year 626, Eanfled, daughter of King Edwin, was baptized with
twelve others, on the eve of Whit-Sunday. [lb.]

In the year 627, King Edwin was baptized, with his nation, at Easter.
[II, 14.]

In the year 633, King Edwin being killed, Paulinus returned to Kent.
[II, 20.]

In the year 640, Eadbald, king of Kent, died. [III, 8.]

In the year 642, King Oswald was slain. [III, 9.]

In the year 644, Paulinus, formerly bishop of York, but then of the
city of Rochester, departed to the Lord. [III, 14.]

In the year 651, King Oswin was killed, and Bishop Aidan died. [Ibid.]

In the year 653, the Middle Angles, under their prince, Peada, were
admitted to the mysteries of the faith. [III, 21.]

In the year 655 Penda was slain, and the Mercians became Christians.
[III, 24.]

In the year 664, an eclipse came to pass; Earconbert, king of Kent,
died; and Colman with the Scots returned to his people; a pestilence
arose; Ceadda and Wilfrid were ordained bishops of the Northumbrians.
[III, 26-28, IV, 1.]

In the year 668, Theodore was ordained bishop. [IV, 1.]

In the year 670, Oswy, king of the Northumbrians, died. [IV, 5.]

In the year 673, Egbert, king of Kent, died; and a synod was held at
Hertford, in the presence of King Egfrid, Archbishop Theodore
presiding: the synod was of great profit, and its decrees are contained
in ten articles. [Ibid.]

In the year 675, Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, when he had reigned
seventeen years, died and left the government to his brother Ethelred.

In the year 676, Ethelred ravaged Kent. [IV, 12.]

In the year 678, a comet appeared; Bishop Wilfrid was driven from his
see by King Egfrid; and Bosa, Eata, and Eadhaed were consecrated
bishops in his stead. [ibid. V, 19.]

In the year 679, Aelfwine was killed. [IV, 21.]

In the year 680, a synod was held in the plain of Haethfelth,
concerning the Catholic faith, Archbishop Theodore presiding; John, the
Roman abbot, was also present. The same year also the Abbess Hilda died

Streanaeshalch. [IV, 17, 18, 23.]

In the year 685, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, was slain. The same
year Hlothere, king of Kent, died. [IV, 26.]

In the year 688, Caedwald, king of the West Saxons, went to Rome from
Britain. [V, 7.]

In the year 690, Archbishop Theodore died. [V, 8.]

In the year 697, Queen Osthryth was murdered by her own nobles, to wit,
the nobles of the Mercians. (Not in the narrative)

In the year 698, Berctred, an ealdorman of the king of the
Northumbrians, was slain by the Picts. (Not in the narrative)

In the year 704, Ethelred, after he had reigned thirty-one years over
the nation of the Mercians, became a monk, and gave up the kingdom to
Coenred. [V, 19.]

In the year 705, Aldfrid, king of the Northumbrians, died. [V, 18.]

In the year 709, Coenred, king of the Mercians, having reigned five
years, went to Rome. [V, 19.]

In the year 711, the commander Bertfrid fought with the Picts. (Not in
the narrative)

In the year 716, Osred, king of the Northumbrians, was killed; and
Ceolred, king of the Mercians, died; and the man of God, Egbert,
brought the monks of Hii to observe the Catholic Easter and the
ecclesiastical tonsure. [V, 22.]

In the year 725, Wictred, king of Kent, died. [V, 23.1

In the year 729, comets appeared; the holy Egbert passed away; and
Osric died. [Ibid.]

In the year 731, Archbishop Bertwald died. [Ibid.]

The same year Tatwine was consecrated ninth archbishop of the church of
Canterbury, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Ethelbald, king of
the Mercians. [Ibid.]

THUS much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more
especially of the English nation, as far as I could learn either from
the writings of the ancients, or the tradition of our forefathers, or
of my own knowledge, with the help of the Lord, I, Bede, the servant of
Christ, and priest of the monastery of the blessed Apostles, Peter and
Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow, have set forth. Having been
born in the territory of that same monastery, I was given, by the care
of kinsmen, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend
Abbot Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid, and spending all the
remaining time of my life a dweller in that monastery, I wholly applied
myself to the study of Scripture; and amidst the observance of monastic
rule, and the daily charge of singing in the church, I always took
delight in learning, or teaching, or writing. In the nineteenth year of
my age, I received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the
priesthood, both of them by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop
John, and at the bidding of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time when I
received priest’s orders, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have
made it my business, for my own needs and those of my brethren, to
compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, the following brief
notes on the Holy Scriptures, and also to make some additions after the
manner of the meaning and interpretation given by them:

On the Beginning of Genesis, to the birth of Isaac and the casting out
of Ishmael, four books.

Concerning the Tabernacle and its Vessels, and of the Vestments of the
Priests, three books.

On the first part of Samuel, to the Death of Saul, three books.

Concerning the Building of the Temple, of Allegorical Exposition, and
other matters, two books.

Likewise on the Book of Kings, thirty Questions.

On the Proverb of Solomon, three books.

On the Song of Songs, seven books.

On Isaiah, Daniel, the twelve Prophets, and Part of Jeremiah, Divisions
of Chapters, collected from the Treatise of the blessed Jerome.

On Ezra and Nehemiah, three books.

On the song of Habakkuk, one book.

On the Book of the blessed Father Tobias, one Book of Allegorical
Explanation concerning Christ and the Church.

Also, Chapters of Readings on the Pentateuch of Moses, Joshua, and

On the Books of Kings and Chronicles;

On the Book of the blessed Father Job;

On the Proverbs, Ecciesiastes, and the Song of Songs;

On the Prophets Isaiah, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

On the Gospel of Mark, four books.

On the Gospel of Luke, six books.

Of Homilies on the Gospel, two books.

On the Apostle, (ie Paul) whatsoever I have found in the works of St.
Augustine I have taken heed to transcribe in order.

On the Acts of the Apostles, two books. On the seven Catholic Epistles,
a book on each. On the Revelation of St. John, three books. Likewise,
Chapters of Lessons on all the New Testament, except the Gospel.

Likewise a book of Epistles to divers Persons, of which one is of the
Six Ages of the world; one of the Halting-places of the Children of
Israel; one on the words of Isaiah, “And they shall be shut up in the
prison, and after many days shall they be visited” ; one of the Reason
of Leap-Year, and one of the Equinox, according to Anatolius. (see

Likewise concerning the Histories of Saints: I translated the Book of
the Life and Passion of St. Felix, Confessor, from the metrical work of
Paulinus, into prose; the Book of the Life and Passion of St.
Anastasius, which was ill translated from the Greek, and worse amended
by some ignorant person, I have corrected as to the sense as far as I
could; I have written the Life of the Holy Father Cuthbert, (see IV,
26-32) who was both monk and bishop, first in heroic verse, and
afterwards in prose.

The History of the Abbots of this monastery, in which I rejoice to
serve the Divine Goodness, to wit, Benedict, Ceolfrid, and Huaetbert,
in two books.

The Ecclesiastical History of our Island and Nation, in five books.

The Martyrology of the Festivals of the Holy Martyrs, in which I have
carefully endeavoured to set down all whom I could find, and not only
on what day, but also by what sort of combat, and under what judge they
overcame the world.

A Book of Hymns in divers sorts of metre, or rhythm.

A Book of Epigrams in heroic or elegiac verse.

Of the Nature of Things, and of the Times, one book of each; likewise,
of the Times, one larger book.

A book of Orthography arranged in Alphabetical Order.

Likewise a Book of the Art of Poetry, and to it I have added another
little Book of Figures of Speech or Tropes; that is, of the Figures and
Modes of Speech in which the Holy Scriptures are written.

And I beseech Thee, good Jesus, that to whom Thou hast graciously
granted sweetly to drink in the words of Thy knowledge, Thou wilt also
vouchsafe in Thy loving-kindness that he may one day come to Thee, the
Fountain of all wisdom, and appear for ever before Thy face.

The Continuation of Bede.

(ie a continuation of the annotated history of Bede, written by a later
hand, except, perhaps entries under the years 731, 732, 733 and 734
which Mr Plummer believes were added by Bede himself.)

IN the year 731 King Ceolwulf was taken prisoner, and tonsured, and
sent back to his kingdom; Bishop Acca was driven from his see.

In the year 732, Egbert was made Bishop of York, in the room of
Wilfrid. [Cynibert Bishop of Lindsey died.]

[In the year of our Lord 733, Archbishop Tatwine, having received the
pall by Apostolic authority, ordained Alwic and Sigfrid, bishops.]

In the year 733, there was an eclipse of the sun on the 14th day of
August about the third hour, in such wise that the whole orb of the sun
seemed to be covered with a black and gloomy shield.

In the year 734, the moon, on the 31st of January, about the time of
cock-crowing, was, for about a whole hour, coloured blood-red, after
which a blackness followed, and she regained her wonted light.

the year from the Incarnation of Christ, 734, bishop Tatwine died.

In the year 735, Nothelm was ordained archbishop; and bishop Egbert,
having received the pall from the Apostolic see, was the first to be
established as archbishop after Paulinus, and he ordained Frithbert,^
and Frithwald bishops; and the priest Bede died.

In the year 737, an excessive drought rendered the land unfruitful; and
Ceolwulf, voluntarily receiving the tonsure, left the kingdom to

In the year 739, Edilhart, king of the West-Saxons, died, as did
Archbishop Nothelm.

In the year 740, Cuthbert was consecrated in Nothelm’s stead.
Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, cruelly and wrongfully wasted part of
Northumbria, their king, Eadbert, with his army, being employed against
the Picts. Bishop Ethelwald died also, and Conwulf, was consecrated in
his stead. Arnwin and Eadbert were slain.

In the year 741, a great drought came upon the country. Charles, king
of the Franks, died; and his sons, Caroloman and Pippin, reigned in his

In the year 745, Bishop Wilfrid and Ingwald, Bishop of London, departed
to the Lord.

In the year 747, the man of God, Herefrid, died.

In the year 750, Cuthred, king of the West Saxons, rose up against king
Ethelbald and Oengus; Theudor and Eanred died Eadbert added the plain
of Kyle and other places to his dominions.

In the year 753, in the fifth year of King Eadbert, on the 9th of
January, an eclipse of the sun came to pass; afterwards, in the same
year and month, on the 24th day of January, the moon suffered an
eclipse, being covered with a gloomy, black shield, in like manner as
was the sun a little while before.

In the year 754, Boniface, called also Winfrid, Bishop of the Franks,
received the crown of martyrdom, together with fifty-three others; and
Redger was consecrated archbishop in his stead, by pope Stephen.

In the year 757, Ethelbald, king of the Mercians, was treacherously and
miserably murdered, in the night, by his own guards; Beornred began his
reign; Cyniwulf, king of the West Saxons, died; and the same year,
Offa, having put Beornred to flight, sought to gain the kingdom of the
Mercians by bloodshed.

In the year 758, Eadbert, king of the Northumbrians, receiving St.
Peter’s tonsure for the love of God, and to the end that he might take
the heavenly country by force, left the kingdom to his son Oswulf.

In the year 755, Oswulf was wickedly murdered by his own thegns; and
Ethelwald, being chosen the same year by his people, entered upon the
kingdom; in whose second year there was great tribulation by reason of
pestilence, which continued almost, two years, divers grievous
sicknesses raging, but more especially the disease of dysentery.

In the year 761, Oengus, king of the Picts, died; who, from the
beginning to the end of his reign, continued to be a blood-stained and
tyrannical butcher; Oswin was also slain.

In the year 765, King Aluchred came to the throne.

In the year 766 A.D., Archbishop Egbert, of the royal race, and endued
with divine knowledge, as also Frithbert, both of them truly faithful
bishops, departed to the Lord.

On this day...

(Visited 5 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: