HOW ETHELWALD, SUCCESSOR TO CUTHBERT, LEADING AN EREMITICAL LIFE, CALMED A TEMPEST WHEN
THE BRETHREN WERE IN DANGER AT SEA. [A.D. 687.]
THE venerable Ethelwald, who had received the priesthood in the monastery of Inhrypum,
and had, by actions worthy of the same, sanctified his holy office, succeeded the man of
God, Cuthbert, in the exercise of a solitary life, having practiced the same before he Was
bishop, in the isle of Fame. For the more certain demonstration of the life which he led,
and his merit, I will relate one miracle of his, which was told me by one of these
brothern for and on whom the same was wrought: viz. Guthfrid, the venerable servant and
priest of Christ, who, afterwards, as abbot, presided over the brethren of the same church
of Lindisfarne, in which he had been educated.
"I came," says he, "to the island of Farne, with two others of the
brethren, to speak with the most reverend father, Ethelwald. Having been refreshed with
his discourse, and taken his blessing, as we were returning home, on a sudden, when we
were in the midst of the sea, the fair weather which was wafting us over was checked, and
there ensued so great and dismal a tempest, that neither the 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, we looked behind us to see whether it was practicable at least to
recover the island from whence we came, but we found ourselves on all sides so enveloped
in the storm, that there was no hope of escaping. But looking out as far as we could see,
we observed, on the island of Farne, Father Ethelwald, beloved of God, come out of his
cavern to watch our course; for, hearing the noise of the storm and raging sea, he was
come out 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;
upon which, the swelling sea was calmed, so that the storm eased on all sides, and a fair
wind attended us to the very shore. When we had landed, and had dragged upon the shore the
small vessel that brought us, the storm, which had ceased a short time for our sake,
immediately returned, and raged continually during the whole day; so that it plainly
appeared that the brief cessation of the storm had been granted from Heaven at the request
of the man of God, in order that we might escape."
The man of God remained in the isle of Farne twelve years, and died there; but was
buried in the church of St. Peter and Paul, in the isle of Lindisfarne, beside the bodies
of the aforesaid bishops. These things happened in the days of King Alfred, who ruled the
nation of the Northumbrians eighteen years after his brother Egfrid.
HOW BISHOP JOHN CURED A DUMB MAN BY BLESSING HIM. [A.D. 685.]
IN the beginning of the aforesaid reign, Bishop Eata died, and was succeeded in the
prelacy of the church of Hagulstad by John, a holy man, of whom those that familiarly knew
him are wont to tell many miracles; and more particularly, the reverend Berthun, a man of
undoubted veracity, and once his deacon, now abbot of the monastery called Inderawood,
that is, in the wood of the Deiri: some of which miracles we have thought fit to transmit
to posterity. There is a certain building in a retired situation, and enclosed by a narrow
wood and a trench, about a mile and a half from the church of Hagulstad, and separated
from it by the river Tyne, having a burying-place dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel,
where the man of God used frequently, as occasion offered, and particularly in Lent, to
reside with a few companions. Being come thither once at the beginning of Lent, to stay,
he commanded his followers to find out some poor person laboring under any grievous
infirmity, or want, whom he might keep with him during those days, by way of alms, for so
he was always used to do.
There was in a village not far off, a certain dumb youth, known to the bishop, for he
often used to come into his presence to receive alms, and had never been able to speak one
word. Besides, he had so much scurf and scabs on his head, that no hair ever grew on the
top of it, but only some scattered hairs in a circle round about. The bishop caused this
young man to be brought, and a little cottage to be made for him within the enclosure of
the dwelling, in which he might reside, and receive a daily allowance from him. When one
week of Lent was over, the next Sunday he caused the poor man to come in to him, and
ordered him to put his tongue out of his mouth and show it him; then laying hold of his
chin, he made the sign of the cross on his tongue, directing him to draw it back into his
mouth and to speak. "Pronounce some word," said he; "say yea," which,
in the language of the Angle's is the word of affirming and consenting, that is, yes. The
youth's tongue was immediately loosed, and he said what he was ordered. The bishop, then
pronouncing the names of the letters, directed him to say A; he did so, and afterwards B,
which he also did. When he had named all the letters after the bishop, the latter
proceeded to put syllables and words to him, which being also repeated by him, he
commanded him to 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 talk
something, and to express his private thoughts and will to others, which he could never do
before; after the manner of the cripple, who, being healed by the Apostles Peter and John,
stood up leaping, and that walked, and went with them into the temple, walking, and
skipping, and praising the Lord, rejoicing to have the use of his feet, which he had so
long wanted. The bishop, rejoicing at his recovery of speech, ordered the physician to
take in hand the cure of his scurfed head. He did so, and with the help of the bishop's
blessing and prayers, a good head of hair grew as the flesh was healed. Thus the youth
obtained a good aspect, a ready utterance, and a beautiful head of hair, whereas before he
had been deformed, poor, and dumb. Thus rejoicing at his recovery,' the bishop offered to
keep him in his family, but he rather chose to return home.
THE SAME BISHOP, JOHN, BY HIS PRAYERS, HEALED A SICK MAIDEN. [A.D. 686.]
THE same Berthun told another miracle of the bishop's. When the reverend Wilfrid, after
a long banishment, was admitted to the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad, 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 came, once upon a time, to the monastery of Virgins,
at the place called Wetadun, where the Abbess Hereberga 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 virgins, who was her daughter in the flesh, labored under
a grievous distemper, having been lately bled in the arm, and whilst she was engaged in
study, was seized with a sudden violent pain, which increased so that the wounded arm
became worse, and so much swelled, that it could not be grasped with both hands; and thus
being confined to her bed, through excess of pain, she was expected to die very soon. The
abbess entreated the bishop that he would vouchsafe to go in and give her his blessing;
for that she believed she would be the better for his blessing or touching her. He asked
when the maiden had been bled? and being told it was on the fourth day of the moon, said,
'You did very indiscreetly and unskillfully to bleed her on the fourth day of the moon;
for I remember that Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, said, that bleeding at that
time was very dangerous, when the light of the moon and the tide of the ocean is
increasing; and what can I do to the girl if she is like to die?
"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 to her. He
accordingly went in, taking me with him to the virgin, who lay, as I said, in great
anguish, and her arm swelled so fast that there was no bending of the elbow; the bishop
stood and said a prayer over her, and having given his blessing, went out. Afterwards, as
we were sitting at table, some one came in and called me out, saying, 'Coenberg' (that was
the virgin's name) 'desires you will immediately go back to her.' I did so, and entering
the house, perceived her countenance more cheerful, and like one in perfect health. Having
seated myself down by her, she said, 'Would you like me to call for something to drink?' -
'Yes,' said I, 'and am very glad if you can.' When the cup was brought, and we had both
drunk, she said, 'As soon as the bishop had said the prayer, given me his blessing, and
gone out, I immediately began to mend; and though I have not yet recovered my former
strength, yet all the pain is quite gone from my arm, where it was most intense, and from
all my body, as if the bishop had carried it away with him; though the swelling of the arm
still seems to remain.' When we departed from thence, the cure of the pain in her limbs
was followed by the assuaging of the swelling; and the virgin being thus delivered from
torture and death, returned praise to our Lord and Savior, with his other servants who
THE SAME BISHOP HEALED AN EARL'S WIFE THAT WAS SICK, WITH HOLY WATER. [A.D. 686.]
THE same abbot related another miracle, similar to the former, of the aforesaid bishop.
"Not very far from our monastery, that is, about two miles off, was the country.
house of one Puch, an earl, whose wife had languished near forty days under a very acute
disease, insomuch that for three weeks she could not be carried out of the room where she
lay. It happened that the man of God was, at that time, invited thither by the earl to
consecrate a church; and When that was done, the earl desired him to dine at his house.
The bishop declined, saying, 'He must return to the monastery, which was very near.' The
earl, pressing him more earnestly, vowed he would also give alms to the poor, if the
bishop would break his fast that day in his house. I joined my entreaties to his,
promising in like manner to give alms for the relief of the poor, if he would go and dine
at the earl's house, and give his blessing. Having at length, with much difficulty,
prevailed, we went in to dine. 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 that went along with me, ordering him to give her some to drink, and wash the
place where her greatest pain was, with some of the same. This being done, the woman
immediately got up in health, and perceiving that she had not only been delivered from her
tedious distemper, but at the same time recovered the strength which she had lost, she
presented the cup to the bishop and to us, and continued serving us with drink as she had
begun till dinner was over; following the example of Peter's mother-in-law, who, having
been sick of a fever, arose at the touch of our Lord, and having at once received health
and strength, ministered to them."
THE SAME BISHOP RECOVERED ONE OF THE EARL'S SERVANTS FROM DEATH. [A.D. 686.]
AT another time also, being called to consecrate Earl Addi's church, when he had
performed that duty, he was entreated by the earl to go in to one of his servants, who lay
dangerously ill, and having lost the use of all his limbs, seemed to be just at death's
door; and indeed the coffin had been provided to bury him in. The earl urged his
entreaties with tears, earnestly praying that he would go in and pray for him, because his
life was of great consequence to him; and he believed that if the bishop would lay his
hand upon him and give him his blessing, he would soon mend. The bishop went in, and saw
him in a dying condition, and the coffin by his side, whilst all that were present were in
tears. He said a prayer, blessed him, and on going out, as is the usual expression of
comforters, said, "May you soon recover." Afterwards, when they were sitting at
table, the lad sent to his lord, to desire he would let him have a cup of wine, because he
was thirsty. The earl, rejoicing that he could drink, sent him a cup of wine, blessed by
the bishop; which, as soon as he had drunk, he immediately got up, and, shaking off his
late infirmity, dressed himself, and going in to the bishop, saluted him and the other
guests, saying, "He would also eat and be merry with them." They ordered him to
sit down with them at the entertainment, rejoicing at his recovery. He sat down, ate and
drank merrily, and behaved himself like the rest of the company; and living many years
after, continued in the same state of health. The aforesaid abbot says this miracle was
not wrought in his presence, but that he had it from those who were there.
THE SAME BISHOP, BY HIS PRAYERS AND BLESSING, DELIVERED FROM DEATH ONE OF HIS CLERKS,
WHO HAD BRUISED HIMSELF BY A FALL. [A.D. 686.]
NOR do I think that this further miracle, which Herebald, the servant of Christ, says
was wrought upon himself, is to be passed over in silence. He was then one of that
bishop's clergy, but now presides as abbot in the monastery at the mouth of the river
Tyne. "Being present," said he, "and very well acquainted with his course
of life, I found it to be most worthy of a bishop, as far as it is lawful for men to
judge; but I have known by the experience of others, and more particularly by my own, how
great his merit was before Him who is the judge of the heart; having been by his prayer
and blessing brought back from the gates of death to the way of life. For, when in the
prime of my youth, I lived among his clergy, applying myself to reading and singing, but
not having yet altogether withdrawn my heart from youthful pleasures, it happened one day
that as we were traveling with him, we came into a plain and open road, well adapted for
galloping our horses. The young men that were with him, and particularly those of the
laity, began to entreat the bishop to give them leave to gallop, and make trial of the
goodness of their horses. He at first refused, saying, it was an idle request'; but at
last, being prevailed on by the unanimous desire of so many, 'Do so,' said he, 'if you
will, but let Herebald have no part in the trial.' I earnestly prayed that I might have
leave to ride with the rest, for I relied on an excellent horse, which he had given me,
but I could not obtain my request.
"When they had several times galloped backwards and forwards, the bishop and I
looking on, my wanton humor prevailed, and I could no longer refrain, but though he
forbade me, I struck in among them, and began to ride at full speed; at which I heard him
call after me, 'Alas how much you grieve me by riding after that manner.' Though I heard
him, I went on against his command; but immediately the fiery horse taking a great leap
over a hollow place, I fell, and lost both sense and motion, as if I had been dead; for
there was in that place a stone, level with the ground, covered with only a small turf,
and no other stone to be found in all that plain; and it happened, as a punishment for my
disobedience, either by chance, or by Divine Providence so ordering it, that my head and
hand, which in falling I had clapped to my head, hit upon that stone, so that my thumb was
broken and my skull cracked, and I lay, as I said, like one dead.
"And because I could not move, they stretched a canopy for me to lie in. It was
about the seventh hour of the day, and having lain still, and as it were dead from that
time till the evening, I then revived a little, and was carried home by my companions, but
lay speechless all the night, vomiting blood, because something was broken within me by
the fall. The bishop was very much grieved at my misfortune, and expected my death, for he
bore me extraordinary affection. Nor would he stay that night, as he was wont, among his
clergy; but spent it all in watching and prayer alone, imploring the Divine goodness, as I
imagine, for my health. Coming to me in the morning early, and having said a prayer over
me, he called me by my name, and as it were waking me out of a heavy sleep, asked,
'Whether I knew who it was that spoke to me? I opened my eyes and said, 'I do; you are my
beloved bishop.' - 'Can you live?' said he. I answered, 'I may, Through your prayers, if
it shall please our Lord.'
"He then laid his hand on my head, with the words of blessing, and returned to
prayer; when he came again to see me, in a short time, he found me sitting and able to
talk; and, being induced by Divine instinct, as it soon appeared, began to ask me,
'Whether I knew for certain that I had been baptized?' I answered, 'I knew beyond all
doubt that I had been washed in the laver of salvation, to the remission of my sins, and I
named the priest by whom I knew myself to have been baptized.' He replied, 'If you were
baptized by that priest, your baptism is not perfect; for I know him, and that having been
ordained priest, he could not, by reason of the dulness of his understanding, learn the
ministry of catechizing and baptizing; for which reason I commanded him altogether to
desist from his presumptuous exercising of the ministry, which he could not duly perform.'
This said, he took care to catechize me at that very time; and it happened that he blew
upon my face, on which I presently found myself better. He called the surgeon, and ordered
him to close and bind up my skull where it was cracked; and having then received his
blessing, I was so much better that I mounted on horseback the next day, and traveled with
him to another place; and being soon after perfectly recovered, I received the baptism of
He continued in his see thirty-three years, and then ascending to the heavenly kingdom,
was buried in St. Peter's Porch, in his own monastery, called Inderawood, in the year of
our Lord's incarnation 721. For having, by his great age, become unable to govern his
bishopric, he ordained Wilfrid, his priest, bishop of the church of York, and retired to
the aforesaid monastery, and there ended his days in holy conversation.
CÆDWALLA, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS, WENT TO ROME TO BE BAPTIZED; HIS SUCCESSOR INA ALSO
DEVOUTLY REPAIRED TO THE SAME CHURCH OF THE HOLY APOSTLES. [A.D. 688.]
IN the third year of the reign of Alfrid, Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, having
most honorably governed his nation two years, quitted his crown for the sake of our Lord
and his everlasting kingdom, and went to Rome, being desirous to obtain the peculiar honor
of being baptized in the church of the blessed apostles, for he had learned that in
baptism alone, the entrance into heaven is opened to mankind; and he hoped at the same
time, that laying down the flesh, as soon as baptized, he should immediately pass to the
eternal joys of heaven; both which things, by the blessing of our Lord, came to pass
accord. mg 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 departed this life on the
20th of April, and was associated with 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 prince of the apostles, to whose most holy body his pious love
had brought him from the utmost bounds of the earth. He was likewise buried in his church,
and by the pope's command an epitaph written on his tomb, wherein the memory of his
devotion might be preserved for ever, and the readers or hearers might be inflamed with
religious desire by the example of what he had done.
The epitaph was this-
High state and place, kindred, a wealthy crown,
Triumphs, and spoils in glorious battles won,
Nobles, and cities walled, to guard his state,
High palaces, and his familiar seat,
Whatever honors his own virtue won,
Or those his great forefathers handed down,
Caedwal armipotent, from heaven inspir'd,
For love of heaven hath left, and here retir'd;
Peter to see, and Peter's sacred chair,
The royal pilgrim traveled from afar,
Here to imbibe pure draughts from his clear stream,
And share the influence of his heavenly beam;
Here for the glories of a future claim,
Converted, chang'd his first and barbarous name.
And following Peter's rule, he from his Lord
Assumed the name at Father Sergius' word,
At the pure font, and by Christ's grace made clean,
In heaven is free from former taints of sin.
Great was his faith, but greater God's decree,
Whose secret counsels mortal cannot see
Safe came he, e'en from Britain's isle, o'er seas,
And lands, and countries, and through dangerous ways,
Rome to behold, her glorious temple see,
And mystic presents offer'd on his knee-
Now in the grave his fleshly members lie,
His soul, amid Christ's flock, ascends the sky.
Sure wise was he to lay his sceptre down,
And gain in heaven above a lasting crown.
Here was deposited Caedwalla, called also Peter, king of the Saxons, on the twelfth day
of the kalends of May, the second indiction. He lived about thirty years, in the reign of
the most pious emperor, Justinian, in the fourth year of his consulship, in the second
year of our apostolic lord, Pope Sergius.
When Cædwalla went to Rome, Inn succeeded him on the throne, being of the blood royal;
and having reigned thirty-seven years over that nation, he gave up the king. dom in like
manner to younger persons, and went away to Rome, to visit the blessed apostles, at the
time when Gregory was pope, being desirous to spend some time of his pilgrimage upon earth
in the neighborhood of the holy place, that he might be more easily received by the saints
into heaven. The same thing, about the same time, was done through the zeal of many of the
English nation, noble and ignoble, laity and Clergy, men and women.
ARCHBISHOP THEODORE DIES, BERTHWALD SUCCEEDS HIM AS ARCHBISHOP, AND, AMONG MANY OTHERS
WHOM HE ORDAINED, HE MADE TOBIAS, A MOST LEARNED MAN, BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF ROCHESTER.
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, 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 Companions, of the same degree, it may rightly and truly be said, that their bodies
are interred in peace, and their names shall live from generation to generation. For to
say all in few words, the English churches received more advantage during the time of his
pontificate than ever they had done before. His person, life, age, and death, are plainly
described to all that resort thither, by the epitaph on his tomb, consisting of
thirty-four heroic verses. The first whereof are these -
Here rests fam'd Theodore, a Grecian name,
Who had o'er England an archbishop's claim;
Happy and blessed, industriously he wrought,
And wholesome precepts to his scholars taught.
The four last are as follow -
And now it was September's nineteenth day,
When, bursting from its ligaments of clay,
His spirit rose to its eternal rest,
And joined in heaven the chorus of the blest.
Berthwald succeeded Theodore in the archbishopric, being abbot of the monastery of
Raculph, which lies on the north side of the mouth of the river Genlade. He was a man
learned in the Scriptures, and well instructed in ecclesiastical and monastic discipline,
yet not to be compared to his predecessor. He was chosen bishop in the year of our Lord's
incarnation 692, on the first day of July, Withred and Suebhard being kings in Kent; but
he was consecrated the next year, on Sunday the 29th of June, by Godwin, metropolitan
bishop of France, and was enthroned on Sunday the 31st of August. Among the many bishops
whom he ordained was Tobias, a man learned in the Latin, Greek, and Saxon tongues,
otherwise also possessing much erudition, whom he consecrated in the stead of Gebmund,
bishop of that see, deceased.
EGBERT, A HOLY MAN, WOULD HAVE GONE INTO GERMANY TO PREACH, BUT COULD NOT; WICTBERT
WENT, BUY MEETING WITH NO SUCCESS, RETURNED INTO IRELAND, FROM WHENCE HE CAME. [A.D. 689.]
AT that time the venerable servant of Christ, and priest, Eghert, whom I cannot name
but with the greatest respect, and who, as was said before, lived a stranger in Ireland to
obtain hereafter a residence in heaven, proposed to himself to do good to many, by taking
upon him the apostolical work, and preaching the word of God to some of those nations that
had not yet heard it; many of which nations he knew there were in Germany, from whom the
Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain, are known to have derived their origin; for
which reason they are still corruptly called Garmans by the neighboring nation of the
Britons. Such are the Frisons, the Rugins, the Danes, the Huns, the Ancient Saxons, and
the Boructuars (or Bructers). There are also in the same parts many other nations still
following pagan rites, to whom the aforesaid soldier of Christ designed to repair, sailing
round Britain, and to try whether he could deliver any of them from Satan, and bring them
over to Christ; or if this could not be done, to go to Rome, to see and adore the hallowed
thresholds of the holy apostles and martyrs of Christ.
But the Divine oracles and certain events proceeding from heaven obstructed his
performing either of those designs; for when he had made choice of some most courageous
companions, fit to preach the word of God, as being renowned for their learning and
virtue; when all on a certain day in the morning one of the brethren, formerly disciple
and minister in Britain to the beloved priest of God, Boisil, when the said Boisil was
Superior of the monastery of Melrose, under the Abbot Eata, as has been said above. This
brother told him the vision which he had seen that night. "When after the morning
hymns," said he, "I had laid me down in my bed, and was fallen into a slumber,
my former master and loving tutor, Boisil, appeared to me, and asked, 'Whether I knew
him?' I said, 'I do; you are Boisil.' He answered, 'I am come to bring Eghert a message
from our Lord and Savior, which nevertheless must 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 instruct the monasteries of Columba.'" Now Columba was
the first teacher of Christianity to the Picts beyond the mountains northward, and the
founder of the monastery in the island Hii, which was for a long time much honored by many
tribes of the Scots and Picts; wherefore he is now by some called Columbkill, the name
being compounded from Columb and Cell. Egbert, having heard the vision, ordered the
brother that had told it him, not to mention it to any other, lest it should happen to be
an illusion. However, when he considered of it with himself, he apprehended that it was
real; yet would not desist from preparing for his voyage to instruct those nations.
A few days after the aforesaid brother came again to him, saying, "That Boisil had
that night again appeared to him after matins, and said, 'Why did you tell Egbert that
which I enjoined you in so light and cold a manner? However, go now and tell him, that
whether he will or no, he shall go to Columb's monastery, because their ploughs do not go
straight; and he is to bring them into the right way.' " Hearing this, Egbert again
commanded the brother not to reveal the same to any person. Though now assured of the
vision, he nevertheless attempted to undertake 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 a fair wind, there arose one night on a sudden so violent a storm, that the ship was
run aground, and part of what had been put aboard spoiled. However, all that belonged to
Egbert and his companions was saved. Then he, saying, like the prophet, "This tempest
has happened upon my account," laid aside the undertaking and stayed at home.
However, Wictbert, one of his companions, being famous for his contempt of the world
and for his knowledge, for he had lived many years a stranger in Ireland, leading an
eremitical life in great purity, went abroad, and arriving in Frisland, preached the word
of salvation for the space of two years successively to that nation and to its king,
Rathbed; but reaped no fruit of all his great labor among his barbarous auditors.
Returning then to the beloved place of his peregrination, he gave himself up to our Lord
in his wonted repose, and since he could not be profitable to strangers by teaching them
the faith, he took care to be the more useful to his own people by the example of his
WILBRORD, PREACHING IN FRISLAND, CONVERTED MANY TO CHRIST; HIS TWO COMPANIONS, THE
HEWALDS, SUFFERED MARTYRDOM. [A.D. 690.]
WHEN the man of God, Egbert, perceived that neither he himself was permitted to preach
to the Gentiles, being withheld, on account of some other advantage to the church, which
had been foretold him by the Divine oracle; nor that Wictbert, when he went into those
parts, had met with any success; he nevertheless still attempted to send some holy and
industrious men to the work of the word, among whom was Wilbrord, a man eminent for his
merit and rank in the priesthood. They arrived there, twelve in number, and turning aside
to Pepin, duke of the Franks, were graciously received by him; and as he had lately
subdued the Hither Frisland, and expelled King Rathbed, he sent them thither to preach,
supporting them at the same time with his authority, that none might molest them in their
preaching, and bestowing many favors on those who consented to embrace the faith. Thus it
came to pass, that with the assistance of the Divine grace, they in a short time converted
many from idolatry to the faith of Christ.
Two other priests of the English nation, who had long lived strangers in Ireland, for
the sake of the eternal kingdom, following the example of the former, went into the
province of the Ancient Saxons, to try whether they could there gain any to Christ by
preaching. They both bore the same name, as they were the same in devotion, Hewald being
the name of both, with this distinction, that, on account of the difference of their hair,
the one was called Black Hewald and the other White Hewald. They were both piously
religious, but Black Hewald was the more learned of the two in Scripture. On entering that
province, these men took up their lodging in a certain steward's house, and requested that
he would conduct them to his lord, for that they had a message, and something to his
advantage, to communicate to him; for those Ancient Saxons have no king, but several lords
that rule their nation; and when any war happens, they cast lots indifferently, and on
whomsoever the lot falls, him they follow and obey during the war; but as soon as the war
is ended, all those lords are again equal in power. The steward received and entertained
them in his house some days, promising to send them to his lord, as they desired.
But the barbarians finding them to be of another religion, by their continual prayer
and singing of psalms and hymns, and by their daily offering the sacrifice of the saving
oblation, - for they had with them sacred vessels and a consecrated table for an altar, -
they began to grow jealous of them, lest if they should come into the presence of their
chief, 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
change its old worship for a new. Hereupon they, on a sudden, laid hold of them and put
them to death; the White Hewald they slew immediately with the sword; but the Black they
put to tedious torture and tore limb from limb, throwing them into the Rhine. The Chief,
whom they had desired to see, hearing of it, was highly incensed, that the strangers who
desired to come to him had not been allowed; and therefore he sent and put to death all
those peasants and burnt their village. The aforesaid priests and servants of Christ
suffered on the 3rd of October.
Nor did their martyrdom want the honor of miracles; 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, shined every night over the place where they
arrived, 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
illustrious and of noble birth, who from a soldier was become a monk, acquainting him that
he might find their bodies in that place, where he should see rays of light reaching from
heaven to the earth; which turned out accordingly; and their bodies being found, were
interred with the honor due to martyrs; and the day of their passion or of their bodies
being found, is celebrated in those parts with proper veneration. At length, Pepin, the
most glorious general of the Franks, understanding these things, caused the bodies to be
brought to him, and buried them with much honor in the church of the city of Cologne, on
the Rhine. It is reported, that a spring gushed out in the place where they were killed,
which to this day affords a plentiful stream.
HOW THE VENERABLE SWIDBERT IN BRITAIN, AND WILBRORD AT ROME, WERE ORDAINED BISHOPS FOR
FRISLAND. [A.D. 692.]
AT their first Coming into Frisland, as soon as Wilbrord found he had leave given him
by the prince to preach, he made haste to Rome, where Pope Sergius then presided over the
apostolical see, that he might undertake the desired work of preaching the Gospel to the
Gentiles, 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 those
places to the honor of each of the saints whose relics they were. He was also desirous
there to learn or to receive from thence many other things which so great a work required.
Having obtained all that he wanted, he returned to preach.
At which time, the brothers who were in Frisland, attending the ministry of the word,
chose out of their own number a man, modest of behavior, and meek of heart, called
Swidbert, to be ordained bishop for them. He, being sent into Britain, was consecrated by
the most reverend Bishop Wilfrid, who, happening to be then driven out of his country,
lived in banishment among the Mercians; for Kent had no bishop at that time, Theodore
being dead, and Berthwald, his successor, who was gone beyond the sea, to be ordained, not
The said Swidbert, being made bishop, returned from Britain not long after, and went
among the Boructuarians; and by his preaching brought many of them into the way of truth;
but the Boructuarians being not long after subdued by the Ancient Saxons, those who had
received the word were dispersed abroad; and the bishop himself repaired to Pepin, who, at
the request of his wife, Blithryda, gave him a place of residence in a certain island on
the Rhine, which, in their tongue, is called Inlitore; where he built a monastery, which
his heirs still possess, and for a time led a most continent life, and there ended his
When they who went over had spent some years teaching in Frisland, Pepin, 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 Frisons; which was
accordingly done, in the year of our Lord's incarnation 696. He was consecrated in the
church of the Holy Martyr Cecilia, on her feastday; the pope gave him the name of Clement,
and sent him back to his bishopric, fourteen days after his arrival at Rome.
Pepin gave him a place for his episcopal see, in his famous castle, which in the
ancient language of those people is called Wiltaburg, that is, the town of the Wilts; but,
in the French tongue, Utrecht. The most reverend prelate having built a church there, and
preaching the word of faith far and near, drew many from their errors, and erected several
churches and monasteries. For not long after he constituted other bishops in those parts,
from among the brethren that either came with him or after him to preach there; some of
which are now departed in our Lord; but Wilbrord himself, surnamed Clement, is still
living, venerable for old age, having been thirty-six years a bishop, and sighing after
the rewards of the heavenly life, after the many spiritual conflicts which he has waged.
OF ONE AMONG THE NORTHUMBRIANS, WHO ROSE FROM THE DEAD, AND RELATED THE THINGS WHICH HE
HAD SEEN, SOME EXCITING TERROR AND OTHERS DELIGHT. [A.D. 696.]
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 saved from the death of the soul, a
certain person, who had been some time dead, rose again to life, and related many
remarkable things he had seen; some of which I have thought fit here briefly to take
notice of. There was a master of a family in that district of the Northumbrians which is
called Cuningham, who led a religious life, as did also all that belonged to him. This man
fell sick, and his distemper daily increasing, being brought to extremity, he died in the
beginning of the night; but in the morning early, he suddenly came to life again, and sat
up, upon which all those that sat about the body weeping, fled away in a great fright,
only his wife, who loved him best, though in a great consternation and trembling, remained
with him. He, comforting her, said, "Fear not, for I am now truly risen from death,
and permitted again to live among men; however, I am not to live hereafter as I was wont,
but from henceforward after a very different manner." Then rising immediately, be
repaired to the oratory of the little town, and continuing in prayer till day, immediately
divided all his substance into three parts; one whereof he gave to his wife, another to
his children, and the third, belonging to himself, he instantly distributed among the
poor. Not long after, he repaired to the monastery of Melrose, which is almost enclosed by
the winding of the river Tweed, and having been shaven, went into a private dwelling,
which the abbot had provided, where he continued till the day of his death, in such
extraordinary contrition of mind and body, that though his tongue had been silent, his
life declared that he had seen many things either to be dreaded or coveted, which others
knew nothing of.
Thus he related what he had seen. "He that led me had a shining countenance and a
bright garment, and we went on silently, as I thought, towards the north-east. Walking on,
we came to a vale of great breadth and depth, but of infinite length; on the left it
appeared full of dreadful flames, the other side was no less horrid for violent hail and
cold snow flying in all directions; both places were full of men's souls, which seemed by
turns to be tossed from one side to the other, as it were by a violent storm; for when the
wretches could no longer endure the excess of heat, they leaped into the middle of the
cutting cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again into the middle of the
unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of deformed spirits were thus
alternately tormented far and near, as far as could be seen, without any intermission, I
began to think that this perhaps might be hell, of whose intolerable flames I had often
heard talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, 'Do not believe
so, for this is not the hell you imagine.'
"When he had conducted me, much frightened with that horrid spectacle, by degrees,
to the farther end, on a sudden I saw the place begin to grow dusk and filled with
darkness. When I came into it, the darkness, by degrees, grew so thick, that I could see
nothing besides it and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on through the
shades of night, on a sudden there appeared before us frequent globes of black flames,
rising as it were out of a great pit, and falling back again into the same. When I had
been conducted thither, my leader suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of
darkness and this horrid vision, whilst those same globes of fire, without intermission,
at one time flew up and at another fell back into the bottom of the abyss; and I observed
that all the flames, as they ascended, were full of human souls, which, like sparks flying
up with smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and again, when the vapor of the fire
ceased, dropped down into the depth below. Moreover, an insufferable stench came forth
with the vapors, 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 I might expect, on a sudden I heard behind me the noise of a most
hideous and wretched lamentation, and at the same time a loud laughing, as of a rude
multitude insulting captured enemies. When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I
observed a gang of evil spirits dragging the howling and lamenting souls of men into the
midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves laughed and rejoiced. Among those men, as I
could discern, there was one shorn like a clergyman, a layman, and a woman. The evil
spirits that dragged them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and 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 much perplexed me with their glaring eyes and the stinking fire which proceeded
from their mouths and nostrils; and threatened to lay hold on me with burning tongs, which
they had in their hands, yet they durst not touch me, though they frightened me. Being
thus on all sides enclosed with enemies and darkness, and looking about on every side for
assistance, there appeared behind me, on the way that I came, as it were, the brightness
of a star shining amidst the darkness; which increased by degrees, and came rapidly
towards me: when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that sought to carry me away with
their tongs, dispersed and fled.
"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 south-east, and having
soon brought me out of the darkness, conducted me into an atmosphere of clear light. While
he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the length and height of which,
in every direction, seemed to be altogether boundless. I began to wonder why we went to
the wall, seeing no door, window, or path through it. When we came to the wall, we were
presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and within it was a vast and
delightful field, so full of fragrant flowers that the odor of its delightful sweetness
immediately dispelled the stink of the dark furnace, which had pierced me through and
through. So great was the light in this place, that it seemed to exceed the brightness of
the day, or the sun in its meridian height. In this field were innumerable assemblies of
men in white, and many companies seated together rejoicing. As he led me through the midst
of those happy inhabitants, I began to think that this might, perhaps, be the kingdom of
heaven, of which I had often heard so much. He answered to my thought, saying, This is not
the kingdom of heaven, as you imagine.'
"When we had passed those mansions of blessed souls and gone farther on, I
discovered before me a much more beautiful light, and therein heard sweet voices of
persons singing, and so wonderful a fragrancy proceeded from the place, that the other
which I had before thought most delicious, then seemed to me but very indifferent; even as
that extraordinary brightness of the flowery field, compared with this, appeared mean and
inconsiderable. When I began to hope we should enter that delightful place, my guide on a
sudden stood still; and then turning back, led me back by the way we came.
"When we returned to those joyful mansions of the souls in white, he said to me,
'Do you know what all these things are which you have seen?' I answered. I did not; and
then he replied, 'That vale you saw so dreadful for consuming flames and cutting 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
depart this life; 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 judgment;
but many are relieved before the day of judgment, by the prayers, alms, and fasting, of
the living, and more especially by masses. That fiery and stinking 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 these most beautiful young people, so bright and
merry, is that into which the souls of those are received who depart the body in 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 judgment, see Christ, and partake of
the joys of his kingdom; For whoever are perfect in thought, word and deed, as soon is
they depart the body, immediately enter into the kingdom of heaven; in the neighborhood,
whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet singing, with the fragrant odor
and bright light. As for you, who are now to return to your body, and live among men
again, if you will endeavor nicely to examine your actions, and direct your speech and
behavior in righteousness and simplicity, you shall, after death, have a place or
residence among these joyful troops of blessed souls; for when I left you for a while, it
was to know how you were to be disposed of.' When he had said this to me, I much abhorred
returning to my body, being delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place I beheld,
and with the company of those I saw in it. However, I durst not ask him any questions; but
in the meantime, on a sudden, I found myself alive among men."
Now these and other things which this man of God saw, he would not relate to slothful
persons and such as lived negligently; but only to those who, being terrified with the
dread of torments, or delighted with the hopes of heavenly joys, would make use of his
words to advance in piety. In the neighborhood of his cell lived one Hemgils, a monk,
eminent in the priesthood, which he honored by his good works: 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 asking several questions, heard of him all the
particulars of what he had seen when separated from his body; by whose relation we also
came to the knowledge of those few particulars which we have briefly set down. He also
related his visions to King Alfrid, 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 monastic tonsure; and the said king, when he happened to
be in those parts, very often went to hear him. At that time the religious and humble
abbot and priest, Ethelwald, presided over the monastery, and now with worthy conduct
possesses the episcopal see of the church of Lindisfarne.
He had a more private place of residence assigned him in that monastery, where he might
apply himself to the service of his Creator in continual prayer. And as that place lay on
the bank of the river, he was wont often to go into the same to do penance in his body,
and many times to dip quite under the water, and to continue saying psalms or prayers in
the same as long as he could endure it, standing still sometimes up to the middle, and
sometimes to the neck in water; and when he went out from thence ashore, he never took off
his cold and frozen garments till they grew warm and dry on his body. And when in the
winter the half-broken pieces of ice were swimming about him, which he had himself broken,
to make room to stand or dip himself in the river, those who beheld it would say, "It
is wonderful, brother Dritheim (for so he was called), that you are able to endure such
violent cold; " he simply answered, for he was a man of much simplicity and in
different wit, "I have seen greater cold." And when they said, "It is
strange that you will endure such austerity;" he replied, "I have seen more
austerity." Thus he continued, through an indefatigable desire of heavenly bliss, to
subdue his aged body with daily fasting, till the day of his being called away; and thus
he forwarded the salvation of many by his words and example.
OF ANOTHER, WHO BEFORE HIS DEATH SAW A BOOK CONTAINING ALL HIS SINS, WHICH WAS SHOWED
HIM BY DEVILS. [A.D. 704-709.]
IT happened quite the contrary with one in the province of the Mercians, whose visions
and words, and also his behavior, were neither advantageous to others nor to himself. In
the reign of Coenred, who succeeded Ethelred, there was a layman in a military employment,
no less acceptable to the king for his worldly industry, than displeasing to him for his
private neglect of himself. The king often admonished him to confess and amend, and to
forsake his wicked courses, before he should lose all time for repentance and amendment by
a sudden death. Though frequently warned, he despised the words of salvation, and promised
he would do penance at some future time. In the meantime, falling sick he was confined to
his bed, and began to feel very severe pains. The king coming to him (for he loved the
man), earnestly exhorted him, even then, before death, to repent of his offences. He
answered, "He would not then confess his sins, but would do it when he was recovered
of his sickness, lest his companions should upbraid him of having done that for fear of
death, which he had refused to do in health." He thought he then spoke very bravely,
but it afterwards appeared that he had been miserable deluded by the wiles of the Devil.
The distemper still increasing, when the king came again to visit and instruct him, he
cried out with a lamentable voice, "What will you have now? What are ye come for? for
you can no longer do me any good." The king answered, "Do not talk so; behave
yourself like a man in his right mind." "I am not mad," replied he,
"but I have now all the guilt of my wicked conscience before my eyes." -
"What is the meaning of that? " rejoined the king. "Not long since,"
said he, "there came into this room two most beautiful youths, and sat down by me,
the one at my head and the other at my feet. One of them produced a very small and most
curious book, 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 wicked
and deformed spirits, encompassing this house without, and filling it within. Then he,
who, by the blackness of his dismal face, and his sitting above the rest, seemed to be the
chief of them, taking out a book horrid to behold, of a prodigious 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 black characters, all the crimes I ever
committed, not only in word and deed, but even in the least thought; and he said to those
men in white, who sat by me, 'Why do you sit here, since you most certainly know that this
man is ours?' They answered, 'You are in the right; take and add him to the number of the
damned.' This said, they immediately vanished, and two most wicked spirits rising, with
forks In their hands, one of them struck me on the head, and the other on the foot. These
strokes are now with great torture penetrating through my bowels to 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 hell."
Thus talked that wretch in despair, and dying soon after, he is now in vain suffering
in eternal torments that penance which he refused to suffer during a short time, that he
might obtain forgiveness. Of whom it is manifest, that (as the holy Pope Gregory writes of
certain persons) he did not see these things for his own sake, since they availed him only
for the instruction of others, who, knowing of his death, should be afraid to put off the
time of repentance, whilst they have leisure, lest, being prevented by sudden death, they
should depart impenitent. His having books laid before him by the good or evil spirits,
was done by Divine dispensation, that we may keep in mind that our actions and thoughts
are not lost in the wind, but are all kept to be examined by the Supreme Judge, and will
in the end be shown us either by friendly or hostile angels. As to the angels first
producing a white book, and then the devils a black one; the former a very small one, the
latter one very large; 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, on the
contrary, he had taken care in his youth to correct the errors of his more tender years,
and to cancel them in God's sight by doing well, he might have been associated to the
number of those of whom the Psalm says, "Blessed are those whose iniquities are
forgiven, and whose sins are hid." This story, as I learned it of the venerable
Bishop Pechthelm, I have thought proper to relate in a plain manner, for the salvation of
OF ANOTHER, WHO BEING AT THE POINT OF DEATH, SAW THE PLACE OF PUNISHMENT APPOINTED FOR
HIM IN HELL. [A.D. 704.]
I KNEW a brother myself, would to God I had not known him, whose name I could mention
if it were necessary, and who resided in a noble monastery, but lived himself ignobly. He
was frequently reproved by the brethren and elders of the place, and admonished to adopt a
more regular life; and though he would not give ear to them, he was long patiently borne
with by them, on account of his usefulness in temporal works, for he was an excellent
carpenter; he was much addicted to drunkenness, and other pleasures of a lawless life, and
more used to stop in his workhouse 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 happened to him according
to the saying, that he who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the church,
will certainly be damned, and enter the gate of hell whether he will or no. For he falling
sick, and being reduced to extremity, called the brethren, and with much lamentation, and
like one damned, began to tell them, that he saw hell open, and Satan at the bottom
thereof; as also Caiaphas, with the others that slew our Lord, by him delivered up to
avenging flames. "In whose neighborhood," said he, "I see a place of
eternal perdition provided for me, miserable wretch." The brothers, hearing these
words, began seriously to exhort him, that he should repent even then whilst he was in the
flesh. He answered in despair, "I have no time now to change my course of life, when
I have myself seen my judgment passed."
Whilst uttering these words, he died without having received the saving viaticum, and
his body was buried in the remotest parts of the monastery, nor did any one dare either to
say masses or sing psalms, or even to pray for him. How far has our Lord divided the light
from darkness! The blessed martyr, Stephen, being about to suffer death for the truth, saw
the heavens open, the glory of God revealed, 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
with the more satisfaction. On the contrary, this carpenter, of a dark mind and actions,
when death was at hand, saw hell open and witnessed the damnation of the Devil and his
followers; the unhappy wretch also saw his own prison among them, to the end that,
despairing of his salvation, he might die the more miserably; but might by his perdition
afford cause of salvation to the living who should hear of it. This happened lately in the
province of the Bernicians, and being reported abroad far and near, inclined many to do
penance for their sins without delay, which we hope may also be the result of this our
SEVERAL CHURCHES OF THE SCOTS, AT THE INSTANCE OF ADAMNAN, CONFORMED TO THE CATHOLIC
EASTER; THE SAME PERSON WROTE A BOOK ABOUT THE HOLY PLACES. [A.D. 703.]
AT this time a great part of the Scots in Ireland, and some also of the Britons in
Britain, through the goodness of God, conformed to the proper and ecclesiastical time of
keeping Easter. Adamnan, priest and abbot of the monks that were in the isle of Hii, was
sent ambassador by his nation to Alfrid, king of the English, where he made some stay,
observing the canonical rites of the church, and was earnestly admonished by many, who
were more learned than himself, not to presume to live contrary to the universal custom of
the Church, either in relation to the observance of Easter, or any other decrees
whatsoever, considering the small number of his followers, seated in so distant a corner
of the world; inconsequence of this he changed his mind, and 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 remarkably learned
in Holy Scripture. Returning home, he endeavored to bring his own people that were in the
isle of Hii, or that were subject to that monastery, into the way of truth, which he had
learned and embraced with all his heart; but in this he could not prevail. He then sailed
over into Ireland, to preach to those people, and by modestly declaring the legal time of
Easter, he reduced many of them, and almost all that were not under the dominion of those
of Hii, to the Catholic unity, and taught them to keep the legal time of Easter.
Returning to his island, after having celebrated the canonical Easter in Ireland, he
most earnestly inculcated the observance of the Catholic time of Easter in his monastery,
yet without being able to prevail; 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 time of Easter, to quarrel still more seriously with those
that would not follow him in the truth.
This same person wrote a book about the holy places, most useful to many readers; his
authority, from whom he procured his information, was Arculf, a French bishop, who had
gone to Jerusalem for the sake of the holy places; and having seen all the Land of
Promise, traveled to Damascus, Constantinople, Alexandria, and many islands, and returning
home by sea, was by a violent storm forced upon the western coast of Britain. After many
other accidents, he came to the aforesaid servant of Christ, Adamnan, who, finding him to
be learned in the Scriptures, and acquainted with the holy places, entertained him
zealously, and attentively gave ear to him, insomuch that he presently committed to
writing all that Arculf said he had seen remarkable in the holy places. Thus he composed a
work beneficial to many, and particularly to those who, being far removed from those
places where the patriarchs and apostles lived, know no more of them than what they learn
by reading. Adamnan presented this book to King Alfrid, and through his bounty it came to
be read by lesser persons. The writer thereof was also well rewarded by him, and sent back
into his country. I believe it will be acceptable to our readers if we collect some
particulars from the same, and insert them in our History.
THE ACCOUNT GIVEN BY THE AFORESAID BOOK OF THE PLACE OF OUR LORD'S NATIVITY, PASSION,
AND RESURRECTION. [A.D. 704.]
HE wrote concerning the place of the nativity of our Lord to this effect.
"Bethlehem, the city of David, is seated on a narrow ridge, encompassed on all sides
with valleys, being a thousand paces in length from east to west, the wall low without
towers, built along the edge of the plain on the summit. In the east angle 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 our Lord's Manger. This cave within is all covered
with rich marble, over the place where our Lord is said particularly to have been born,
and over it is 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 Martyrdom. It was built by the Emperor Constantine,
in a royal and magnificent manner, on account of the cross of our Lord having been found
there by his mother Helen. From thence, to the westward, appears the church of Golgotha,
in which is also to be seen the rock which once bore the cross with our Saviour's body
fixed on it, and now it bears a large silver cross, with a great brazen wheel hanging over
it surrounded with lamps. Under the place of our Lord's cross, a vault is hewn out of the
rock, in which sacrifice is offered on an altar for honourable persons deceased, their
bodies remaining meanwhile in the street. To the westward of this is the Anastasis, that
is, the round church of our Saviours resurrection, encompassed with three walls, and
supported by twelve columns. Between each of the walls is a broad space, containing three
altars at three different points of the middle wall; to the north, the south, and the
west, it has eight doors or entrances through the three opposite walls; four whereof front
to the north-east, and four to the south-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; the entrance
is on the east; against it is still laid that great stone. To this day it 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 monument, the tomb of our Lord is hewed out of the same rock, seven feet in length,
and three palms 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 right hand side. The
stone that was laid at the entrance to the monument is now cleft in two; nevertheless, the
lesser part of it stands as a square altar before the door of the monument; the greater
part makes another square altar at the east end of the same church, and is covered with
linen cloths. The colour of the said monument and supulchre appears to be white and
OF THE PLACE OF OUR LORD'S ASCENSION, AND THE TOMBS OF THE PATRIARCHS. [A.D. 704.]
CONCERNING the place of our Lord's ascension, the aforesaid author writes thus.
"Mount Olivet is equal in height to Mount Sion, but exceeds it in breadth and length;
bearing few trees besides vines and olive trees, and is fruitful in wheat and barley, for
the nature of that soil is not calculated for bearing things of large or heavy growth, but
grass and flowers. On the very top of it, where our Lord ascended into heaven, is a large
round church, having about it three vaulted porches. For the inner house could not be
vaulted and covered, because of the passage of our Lord's body; but it has an altar on the
east side, covered with a narrow roof. In the midst of it are to be seen the last prints
of our Lord's feet, the sky appearing open above where he ascended; and though the earth
is daily carried away by believers, yet still it remains as before, and retains the same
Impression of the feet. Near this lies an iron wheel, as high as a man's neck, having an
entrance towards 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 eight lamps,
hanging opposite to them by cords, cast their light through the glass as far as Jerusalem;
this light is said to strike the hearts of the beholders with a sort of joy and humility.
Every year, on the day of the Ascension, when mass is ended, a strong blast of wind is
said to come down, and to cast to the ground all that are in the church."
Of the situation of Hebron, and the tombs of the fathers he writes thus. "Hebron,
once the city and metropolis of David's kingdom, now only showing what it was by its
ruins, has, one furlong to the east of it, a double cave in the valley, where the tombs of
the patriarchs are enclosed with a square wall, their heads lying to the north, Each of
the tombs is covered with a single stone, worked like the stones of a Church, and of a
white color, for three patriarchs. Adam's is of more mean and common workmanship, and lies
not far from them at the farthest northern extremity. There are also some poorer and
smaller monuments of three women. The hill Mamre is a thousand paces from the monuments,
and is full of grass and flowers, having a flat plain on the top. In the northern part of
it, Abraham's oak, being a stump about twice as high as a man, is enclosed in a
Thus much have we collected from the works of the aforesaid writer, keeping to the
sense of his words, but more briefly delivered, and have thought fit to insert in our
History. Whosoever desires to see more of the contents of that book, may see it either in
the same, or in that which we have lately epitomised from it.
THE SOUTH SAXONS RECEIVED EADBERT AND EOLLA, AND THE WEST SAXONS, DANIEL AND ALDHELM,
FOR THEIR BISHOPS OF THE WRITINGS OF ThE SAME ALDHELM. [A.D. 705.]
IN the year of the incarnation of our Lord 705, Alfrid king of the Northumbrians, died
just 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, Hedda, bishop of the West Saxons, departed to the heavenly kingdom; for he was a
good and just man, and exercised his episcopal duties rather by his innate love of virtue,
than by what he had gained from learning. The most reverend prelate, Pechthelm, of whom we
shall speak in the proper place, and who was a long time either deacon or monk with his
successor Aldhelm, is wont to relate that many miraculous cures have been wrought in the
place where he died, through the merit of his sanctity; and that the man of that province
used to carry the dust from thence for the sick, which, when they had put into water, the
sprinkling or drinking thereof restored health to many sick men and beasts; so that the
holy earth being frequently carried away, there was a considerable hole left.
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
most worthily presided four years; both of them were well instructed, as well in
ecclesiastical affairs as in the knowledge of the Scriptures. Aldhelm, when he was only a
priest and abbat of the monastery of Malmesbury, 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
proper time, and in doing several other things not consonant to the purity and the peace
of the church; and by the reading of this book he persuaded many of them, who were subject
to the West Saxons, to adopt the Catholic celebration of our Lord's resurrection. He
likewise wrote a notable book on Virginity, which, in imitation of Sedulius, he composed
double, that is, in hexameter verse and prose. He wrote some other books, as being a man
most learned in all respects, for he had a clean style, and was, as I have said, wonderful
for ecclesiastical and liberal erudition. On his death, Forthere was made bishop in his
stead, and is living at this time, being likewise a man very learned in Holy Writ.
Whilst they were bishops, it was decreed in a synod, that the province of the South
Saxons, which till then belonged to the diocese of the city of Winchester, where Daniel
then presided, should also 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 Selsey, was
consecrated their first bishop. On his death, Eolla succeeded in the bishopric. He also
died some years since, and the bishopric has been discontinued to this day.
COINRED, KING OF THE MERCIANS, AND OFFA, OF THE EAST SAXONS, ENDED THEIR DAYS AT ROME,
IN THE MONASTIC HABIT. OF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BISHOP WILFRID. [A.D. 709.]
IN the fourth year of the reign of Osred, Coinred, who had for some time nobly governed
the kingdom of the Mercians, did a much more noble act, by quitting the throne of his
kingdom, and going to Rome, where being shorn, when Constantine was pope, and made a monk
at the relics of the apostles, he continued to his last hour Hi prayers, fasting and
alms-deeds. He was succeeded in the throne by Coelred, the son of Etheired, who had been
king before Coinred. With him went the son of Sighere king of the East Saxons
above-mentioned, whose name was Offa, a youth of most lovely age and beauty, and most
earnestly desired by all his nation to be their king. He, with like devotion, quitted his
wife, lands, kindred and country, for Christ and for the Gospel, that he might receive an
hundredfold in this life, and in the world to Come life everlasting." He also, when
they came to the holy places at Rome, receiving the tonsure, and adopting a monastic life,
attained the long wished-for sight of the blessed apostles in heaven.
The same year that they departed from Britain, the celebrated prelate, Wilfrid, died in
the province of Undalum, after he had been bishop forty-five years. His body being laid in
a coffin, was carried to his monastery, called Ripon, and there buried in the church of
the blessed Apostle Peter, with the honour due to so great a prelate. We will now turn
back, and briefly mention some particulars of his life. Being a boy of a good disposition,
and behaving himself worthily at that age, he conducted himself so modestly and discreetly
in all respects, that he was deservedly beloved, respected, and cherished by his elders as
one of themselves. At fourteen years of age he preferred the monastic to the secular life;
which, when he had signified to his father, for his mother was dead, he readily consented
to his heavenly wishes, and advised him to persist in his holy resolution. Accordingly he
came to the isle of Lindisfarne, and there giving himself up to the service of the monks,
he took care diligently to learn and to perform those things which belong to monastic
purity and piety; and being of an acute understanding, he in a very short time learned the
psalms and some books, before he was shorn, but when he was already become very remarkable
for the greater virtues of humility and obedience: for which he was deservedly beloved and
respected by his equals and elders. Having served God some years in that monastery, and
being a clear sighted youth, he observed that the way to virtue taught by the Scots was
not perfect, and he resolved to go to Rome, to see what ecclesiastical or monastic rites
were in use there. The brethren being made acquainted therewith, commended his design, and
advised him to put it into execution. He then repaired to Queen Eanfled, to whom he was
well known, and who had got him into that monastery by her advice and assistance, and
acquainted her that he was desirous to visit the churches of the apostles. She, being
pleased with the youth's resolution, sent him into Kent, to King Earconbert, who was her
uncle's son, requesting that he would send him to Rome in an honorable manner. At that
time, Honorius, one of the disciples of the holy Pope Gregory, and well instructed in
ecclesiastical institutes, was archbishop there. Whilst he made some stay there, and,
being a youth of an active spirit, diligently applied himself to learn those things which
he undertook, another youth, called Biscop, or otherwise Benedict, of the English
nobility, arrived there, being likewise desirous to go to Rome, of which we have before
The king gave him Wilfrid for a companion, with orders to conduct him to Rome. When
they came to Lyons, Wilfrid was detained there by Dalfin, the bishop of that city; but
Benedict hastened on to Rome. That prelate was delighted with the youth's prudent
discourse, the gracefulness of his aspect, the alacrity of his behavior, and the
sedateness and gravity 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
to commit to him the government of a considerable part of France, to give him a maiden
daughter of his own brother to wife, and to receive him as his adopted son. He returned
thanks for the favor, 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 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, by constantly applying himself to
prayer and the study of ecclesiastical affairs, as he had before proposed to himself,
gained the friendship of the most holy and learned Boniface, the archdeacon, who was also
counselor to the pope, by whose instructions he regularly learned the four Gospels, the
true calculation of Easter, and many other things appertaining to ecclesiastical
discipline, which he could not attain in his own country. When he had spent some months
there, in successful study, he returned into France, to Dalfin; and having stayed with him
three years, received from him the tonsure, and was so much beloved that he had thoughts
of making him his heir; but this was prevented by the bishop's untimely death, and Wilfrid
was reserved to be bishop of his own, that is, the English, nation; for Queen Baldhilda
sent soldiers with orders to put the bishop to death; whom Wilfrid, his clerk, attended to
the place where he was to be beheaded, being very desirous, though the bishop 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 bishop.
Returning to England, he was admitted to the friendship of King Aifrid, who had always
followed the catholic rules of the Church; and therefore finding him to be a Catholic, he
gave him land of ten families at the place called Stanford; and not long after, the
monastery, of thirty families, at the place called Ripon; which place he had lately given
to those that followed the doctrine of the Scots, to build a monastery upon. But,
forasmuch as they afterwards, being left to their choice, would 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 follow better discipline and
At the same time, by the said king's command, he was ordained priest in the same
monastery, by Agilbert, bishop of the West Saxons, above-mentioned, the king being
desirous that a man of so much piety and learning should continue with him as priest and
teacher; and not long after, having discovered and banished the Scottish sect, as was said
above, he, with the advice and consent of his father Oswy, sent him into Frdnce, to be
consecrated bishop, at about thirty years of age, the same Agilbert being then bishop of
Paris, and eleven other bishops meeting at the consecration of the new bishop, that
function was most honourably performed. Whilst he was yet beyond the sea, Chad, a holy
man, was consecrated bishop of York, by command of King Oswy, as has been said above; and
having ably ruled that church three years, he retired to govern his monastery of
Lestingau, and Wilfrid was made bishop of all the province of the Northumbrians.
Afterwards, in the reign of Egfrid, he was expelled his bishopric, and others were
consecrated bishops in his stead, of whom mention has been made above. Designing to go to
Rome, to answer for himself before the pope, when he was aboard the ship, the wind blew
hard west, and he was driven into Frisland, and honorably received by that barbarous
people and their King Aldgist, to whom he preached Christ, and instructed many thousands
of them in the word of truth, washing them from their abominations in the laver of
salvation. Thus he there began the work of the Gospel which was afterwards finished by
Wilbrord, a most reverend bishop of Jesus Christ. Having spent the winter there with his
new converts, he set out again on his way to Rome, where his cause being tried before Pope
Agatho and several bishops, he was by their universal consent, acquitted of what had been
laid to his charge, 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 that taught there was only one will and operation in
our Lord and Savior, ordered Wilfrid also to be summoned, and, when seated among the
bishops, to declare his own faith and the faith of the province or island from whence he
came; and they 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, having referred to the Apostolic See, and being by that
authority acquitted of every thing, whether specified against him or not, and having taken
his seat in judgment, with one hundred and twenty-five other bishops in the synod, made
confession of the true and catholic faith, and subscribed the same in the name of the
northern part of Britain and Ireland, inhabited by the English and Britons, as also by the
Scots and Picts."
After this, returning to Britain, he converted the province of the South Saxons from
their idolatrous worship. He also sent ministers to the Isle of Wight; and in the second
year of Alfrid, who reigned after Egfrid, was restored to his see and bishopric by that
king's invitation. However, five years after, being again accused by that same king and
several bishops, he was again expelled his diocese. coming to Rome, together with his
accusers and being allowed to make his defense before a number of bishops and the
apostolic Pope John, it was declared by the unanimous judgment of them all, that his
accusers had in part laid false accusations to his charge; and the aforesaid pope
undertook to write to the kings of the English, Etheired and Alfrid, to cause him to be
restored to his bishopric, because he had been falsely accused.
His acquittal was much forwarded by the reading of the synod of Pope Agatho, of blessed
memory, which had been formally held when Wilfrid was in Rome, and sat in council among
the bishops, as has been said before. For that synod being, on account of the trial, by
order of the apostolic pope, read 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, having referred his cause to the Apostolic See, and being by
that power cleared," etc., as above stated. This being read, the hearers were amazed,
and the reader stopping, they began to ask of one another, who that Bishop Wilfrid was?
Then Boniface, the pope's counselor, and many others, who had seen him there in the days
of Pope Agatho, said, 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 been
here upon such like accusation, the cause and controversy between both parties being heard
and discussed, was proved by Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, to have been wrongfully
expelled from his bishopric, and so much honored 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 such great
authority, who had exercised the episcopal function near forty years, ought not to be
condemned, but being cleared of all the crimes laid to his charge, to return home with
Passing through France, on his way back to Britain, on a sudden he fell sick, and the
distemper increasing, was so ill, that he could not ride, but was carried in his bed.
Being thus come to the city of Meaux, in France, be 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 so four days, without meat or drink, speaking or hearing, he, at length, on the
fifth day, in the morning, as it were awakening out of a dead sleep, sat up in bed, and
opening his eyes, saw numbers of brethren singing and weeping about him, and fetching a
sigh, asked where Acca, the priest, was? This man, being called, immediately came in, and
seeing him thus recovered and able to speak, knelt down, and returned thanks to God, with
all the brethren there present. When they had sat awhile, and begun to discourse, with
much reverence, on the heavenly judgments, the bishop ordered the rest to go out for an
hour, and spoke to the priest, Acca, in this manner -
"A dreadful vision has now appeared to me, which I wish you to hear and keep
secret, till I know how God will please to dispose of me. There stood by me a certain
person, remarkable for his white garments, telling me he was Michael, the Archangel, and
said, 'I am sent to save you from death: for the Lord has granted you life, through the
prayers and tears of your disciples, 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 to visit you at the end of four years. But when you come
into your country, you shall recover most of the possessions that have been taken from
you, and shall end your days in perfect peace." The bishop accordingly recovered, at
which all persons rejoiced, and gave thanks to God, and setting forward on his journey,
arrived in Britain.
Having read the letters which he brought from the apostolic pope, Bertwald, the
archbishop, and Ethelred, who had been formerly king, but was then an abbot, readily took
his part; for the said Ethelred, calling to him Coinred, whom he had made king in his own
stead, he requested of him to be friends with Wilfrid, in which request he prevailed; but
Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians. refused to admit him. However he died soon after, and
his son Osred obtained the crown, when a synod was assembled, near the river Nidd, and
after some contesting on both sides, at length, by the consent of all, he was admitted to
preside over his church; and thus he lived in peace four years, till the day of his death.
He died on the 12th of October, in his monastery, which he had in the province of Undalum,
under the government of the Abbot Cutbbald; and by the ministry of the brethren, he was
carried to his first monastery of Ripon, and buried in the church of Saint Peter the
apostle, close by the south end of the altar, as has been mentioned above, with this
epitaph over him -
Here the great prelate Wufrid lies entomb'd,
Who, led by piety, this temple rear'd
To God, and hallow'd with blest Peter's name
To whom our Lord the keys of heaven consign'd.
Moreover gold and purple vestments gave,
And plac'd a cross, - a trophy shining bright
With richest ore - four books o'erwrought with gold,
Sacred evangelists in order plac'd,
And (suited well to these) a desk he rear'd,
(Highly conspicuous) cas'd with ruddy gold.
He likewise brought the time of Easter right,
To the just standard of the canon law
Which our forefathers fixed and well observ'd,
But long by error chang'd, he justly plac'd.
Into these parts a numerous swarm of monks
He brought, and strictly taught their founder's rules.
In lapse of years, by many dangers tossed;
At home by discords, and in foreign realms,
Having sat bishop five and forty years,
He died, and joyful sought the realms above;
That, blessed by Christ, and favour'd with his aid,
The flock may follow in their pastor's path.
ALBINUS SUCCEEDED TO THE RELIGIOUS ABBOT HADRIAN, AND ACCA TO BISHOP WILFRID. [A.D.
THE next year after the death of the aforesaid father (Wilfrid), that is, in the first
year of King Osred, the most reverend father, Abbot Hadrian, fellow laborer in the word of
God with Theodore the archbishop 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 from his
being sent by Pope Vitalian with Theodore, and the thirty-ninth after his arrival in
England. Of whose learning, as well as that of Theodore, one testimony among others is,
that Albinus, his disciple, who succeeded him in the government of his monastery, was so
well instructed in the study of the Scriptures, that he knew the Greek tongue to no small
perfection, and the Latin as thoroughly as the English, which was his native language.
Acca, his priest, succeeded Wilfrid in the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad; being
himself a most active man, and great in the sight of God and man, he much adorned and
added to the structure of his church, which is dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew. For he
made it his business, and does so still, to procure relics of the blessed apostles and
martyrs of Christ from all parts, to place them on altars, dividing the same by arches in
the walls of the church. Besides which, he diligently gathered the histories of their
sufferings, together with other ecclesiastical writings, and erected there a most numerous
and noble library. He likewise industriously provided holy vessels, lights, and such like
things as appertain to the adorning of the house of God. He in like manner invited to him
a celebrated singer, called Maban, who had been taught to sing by the successors of the
disciples of the blessed Gregory in Kent, for him to instruct himself and his clergy, and
kept him twelve years, to teach such ecclesiastical songs as were not known, and to
restore those to their former state which were corrupted either by want of use, or through
neglect. For Bishop Acca himself was a most expert singer, as well as most learned in Holy
Writ, most pure in the confession of the catholic faith, and most observant in the rules
of ecclesiastical institution; nor did he ever cease to be so till he received the rewards
of his pious devotion, having been bred up and instructed among the clergy of the most
holy and beloved of God, Bosa, bishop of York. Afterwards, coming to Bishop Wilfrid in
hopes of improving himself, he spent the rest of his life under him till that bishop's
death, and going with him to Rome, learned there many profitable things concerning the
government of the holy church, which he could not have learned in his own country.
ABBOT CEOLFRID SENT THE KING OF THE PICTS ARCHITECTS TO BUILD A CHURCH, AND WITH THEM
AN EPISTLE CONCERNING THE CATHOLIC EASTER AND TONSURE. [A.D. 710.]
AT that time, Naitan, king of the Picts, inhabiting the northern parts of Britain,
taught by frequent meditation on the ecclesiastical writings, renounced the error which he
and his nation had till then been under, in relation to the observance of Easter, and
submitted, together with his people, to celebrate the catholic time of our Lord's
resurrection. For performing this with the more ease and greater authority, be sought
assistance from the English, whom he knew to have long since formed 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
Jarrow, which he gloriously governed after Benedict, of whom we have before spoken;
desiring, that he would write him a letter containing arguments, 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 for distinguishing the clergy; not to mention
that he himself possessed much information in these particulars. He also prayed to have
architects sent him to build a church in his nation after the Roman manner, promising to
dedicate the same in honor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and that he and all
his people would always follow the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic Church, as far as
their remoteness from the Roman language and nation would allow. The reverend Abbot
Ceolfrid, complying with his desires and request, sent the architects he desired, and the
following letter -
"To the most excellent lord, and most glorious King Naitan, Abbot Ceolirid,
greeting in the Lord. We most readily and willingly endeavor, according to your
desire, to explain to you the catholic observance of holy Easter, according to what we
have learned of the Apostolic See, as you, devout king, with a religious intention, have
requested; for we know, that whenever the Church applies itself to learn, to teach, and to
assert the truth, which are the affairs of our Lord, the same is given to it from heaven.
For a certain worldly writer most truly said, that the world would be most happy if either
kings were philosophers, or philosophers were kings. For if a worldly man could judge
truly of the philosophy of this world, and form a correct choice concerning the state of
this world, how much more is it to be wished, and most earnestly to be prayed for by the
citizens of the heavenly country, who are traveling through this world, that the more
powerful any persons are in this world, the more they may labor to be acquainted with the
commands of Him who is the Supreme Judge, and by their example and authority may induce
those that are committed to their charge, as well as themselves, to keep the same.
"There are three rules in the Sacred Writings, on account of which it is not
lawful for any human authority to change the time of keeping Easter, which has been
prescribed to us; two whereof are divinely established in the law of Moses; the third is
added in the Gospel by means 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, in the Gospel, that we are to wait for our Lord's day in that
third week, and to keep the beginning of the Paschal time 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 said to Moses and Aaron, '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 lower, 'And he shall keep it 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 thus in the Paschal observance mention is
made of the fourteenth day, not that the Passover is commanded to be kept on that day: but
the lamb is commanded to be killed on the evening of the fourteenth day; that is, on the
fifteenth day of the moon, which is the beginning of the third week, when the moon appears
in the sky. And because it was on the night of the fifteenth moon, when, by the slaughter
of the Egyptians, Israel was redeemed from a long captivity, therefore it is said, 'Seven
days shall ye eat unleavened bread.' By which words all the third week of the same month
is decreed to be kept solemn. But lest we should think that those same seven days were to
be reckoned from the fourteenth to the twentieth, God immediately 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 Egypt.'
"Thus lie calls that the first day of unleavened bread, in which he was to bring
their army out of Egypt. But 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. 'Departing therefore from Ramesse on the fifteenth day of the first month, the
next day the Israelites kept the Passover with a high hand.' Thus the seven days of
unleavened bread on the first whereof the people of God were brought out of Egypt, are to
be reckoned from the beginning of the third week, as has been said, that is, from the
fourteenth day of the first month, till the one-and- twentieth of the same month, that day
included. But the fourteenth day is noted down separately from this number, by the name of
the Passover, as is plainly made out by what follows in Exodus: where when it is said,
'For in this same day I will bring your army out of the land of Egypt;' it is presently
added, 'You shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the
fourteenth day of the month at even, 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 by diligent study of Scriptures appears to be the
truth, we reckon from the evening of the fourteenth day to the evening of the one-
and-twentieth, we shall certainly find, that the same fourteenth day gives its evening for
the beginning of the Paschal feast; so that the sacred solemnity contains no more than
only seven nights and as many days. By which our definition is proved to be true, wherein
we said, that the Paschal time is to be celebrated in the first month of the year, and the
third week of the same. For it is really 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 Paschal Lamb is slain, and has made the Lord's day, which
among the ancients was called the first after the Sabbath, a solemn day to us for the joy
of his resurrection, the apostolic tradition has so inserted it into the Paschal festivals
as to decree, that nothing in the least be anticipated, or detracted from the time of the
legal Passover; but rather ordains, that the same first month should be waited for,
pursuant to the precept of the law, and accordingly the fourteenth day of the same, and
the evening thereof. And when this day should happen to fall on the Sabbath, every one in
his family should take a lamb, and kill it in the evening, that is, that all the churches
throughout the world, composing one catholic church, should provide bread and wine for the
mystery of the flesh and blood of the unspotted Lamb 'that took away the sins of the
world;' and after the solemnity of reading the lessons and prayers of the Paschal
ceremonies, they should offer up these things to the Lord, in hopes of future redemption.
For that same night in which the people of Israel were delivered out of Egypt by the blood
of the Lamb, is the very same in which all the people of God were, by Christ's
resurrection, delivered from eternal death. Then, on the morning of the Lord's day, they
should celebrate the first day of the Paschal festival; for that is the day on which our
Lord, with much joy of pious revelation, made known the glory of his resurrection. The
same is the first day of unleavened bread, concerning which it is distinctly 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; the first day shall be most solemn and 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 Easter at the very 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 in regard that
the day of the week does not keep pace exactly with the moon, the apostolical tradition,
which was preached at Rome by St. 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, which falls between
the fifteenth and the one-and-twentieth days of the same month. For on whichever of those
days it shall fall, Easter will be properly kept on the same; as It is one of those seven
days on which the unleavened bread is ordered to be kept. Thus it comes to pass that our
Easter never deviates from the third week of the first month, but either observes the
whole, or at least some of the seven legal days of unleavened bread. For though it takes
in but one of them, that is, the seventh, which the Scripture so highly commends, saying,
But the seventh day shall be more solemn and holy, ye shall do no servile work therein,'
none can lay it to our charge, that we do not rightly keep our Lord's Paschal day, 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 prescribed in the Law, is manifest. For they that
think the Lord's day of Easter 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 Law; and when they refuse to celebrate our
Lord's Easter on the one-and-twentieth day of the month, they wholly exclude that day from
their solemnity, which the Law often recommends as memorable for the greater festival; and
thus, perverting the proper order, they place Easter day in the second week, and sometimes
keep it entirely in the same, and never bring it to the seventh day of the third week. And
again, because they rather think that Easter is to be kept on the sixteenth day of the
said month, and so to the two-and-twentieth, they no less erroneously, though the contrary
way, deviate from the right way of truth, and as it were avoiding to be shipwrecked on
Scylla, they run on and are drowned in the whirlpool of Charybdis. 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 manifest that they altogether exclude
from their solemnity the fourteenth day of the same month, which the Law firstly and
chiefly recommends; so that they scarcely touch upon the evening of the fifteenth day, on
which the people of God were delivered from the Egyptian servitude, 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 hopes of a blessed repose after death.
"And the same persons, taking upon themselves the penalty of their error, when
they place the Lord's day of Easter on the twenty-second day of the month, openly
transgress and exceed the legal term of Easter, as beginning the Easter on the evening of
that day in which the law appointed it to be finished and completed; and appoint that to
be the first day of Easter, whereof no mention is anywhere found in the Law, viz. the
first of the fourth week. And they are sometimes mistaken, not only in defining and
computing the moon's age, but also in finding the first month; but this controversy is
longer than can 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 is
the first month of the year, according to the lunar calculation, and which the last. But
the equinox, according to the opinion of all the Eastern nations, and particularly of the
Egyptians who exceed all other learned men in that calculation, usually happens on the
twelfth day before the kalends of April, as we also prove by horological inspection.
Whatever 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 proper for the celebration of Easter; but that moon which is full after the
equinox, or on the very equinox, belongs to the first month, and in it, without a doubt,
the ancients were wont to celebrate the Passover; and we also ought to keep Easter when
the Sunday comes. And that this must be so, there is this cogent reason, because it is
written in Genesis, that 'God made two lights; a greater light to rule the day, and a
lesser light to rule the night.' Or, as another edition has it, 'A greater light to begin
the day, and a lesser to begin the night.' The sun, therefore, proceeding from the midst
of the east, fixed the vernal equinox by his rising, and afterwards the moon, when the sun
set in the evening, followed full from the midst of the east; thus every year the same
first month of the moon must be observed in the like order, so that the full moon must be
either on the very day of the equinox, as was done from the beginning, or after it is gone
by. But if the full of the 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 proper for the celebration of the Paschal festival.
"Now if it will 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 the new fruit, because we are to celebrate the mysteries of our Lord's
resurrection and our deliverance, with 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, who had
been promised before the Law, and under the Law, came with grace, in the third age of the
world, to be slain as our Passover; and 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 festival of
his resurrection to be yearly celebrated on the same. For we also, in this manner only,
can truly celebrate his solemnity, if we take care with Him to keep the Passover, that is,
the passage out of 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 afford the
world her full orb of light; inasmuch as first 'the sun of righteousness, in whose wings
is salvation,' 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 plan of 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, deviates from the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, in the celebration of the
greatest mysteries, and agrees with those who confide that they may be saved without the
grace of Christ forerunning them; and who presume to teach that they might have attained
to perfect righteousness, though the true light had never vanquished the darkness of the
world, by dying and rising again. Thus, after the equinoctial rising of the sun, and after
the subsequent full moon of the first month, that is, after the end of the fourteenth day
of the same month, all which, according to the law, ought to be observed, we still, by the
instruction of the Gospel, wait in the third week for the Lord's day; and thus, at length,
we celebrate our due Easter solemnity, to show that we do not, with the ancients, honor
the shaking off of the Egyptian yoke; but that, with devout faith and affection, we
worship the redemption of the whole world; which having been prefigured in the deliverance
of God's ancient people, was completed in Christ's resurrection, to make it appear that we
rejoice in the sure and certain hope of the day of our own resurrection, which we believe
will happen on the same Lord's day.
"Now this calculation of Easter, which we show you is to be followed, is contained
in a circle or revolution of nineteen years, which began long since, that is, in the very
times 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 sent about to all the
several churches by the patriarch of Alexandria, might, from that time forward, be most
easily known by all men, the course of the fourteenth day of the moon being regularly
ordered. This Paschal calculation, Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, composed for the
Emperor Theodosius, for a hundred years to come. Cyril also, his successor, comprised a
series of ninety-five years in five revolutions of nineteen years. After whom, Dionysius
Exiguus added as many more, in the same manner, reaching down to our own time. The
expiration of these is now drawing near, but there is 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 those revolutions of the
Paschal times for any distant number of years, even to five hundred and thirty-two years,
if they will; after the expiration of which, all that belongs to the question of the sun
and moon, of month and week, returns in the same order as before. We therefore forbear to
send you those revolutions of the times to come, because you only desired to be instructed
respect mg the Paschal time, and declared you had enough of those catholic tables
"But having said thus much briefly and succinctly, as you required concerning
Easter, I also exhort you to take care to promote the tonsure, as ecclesiastical and
agreeable to the Christian faith, for concerning that also you desired me to write to you;
and we know indeed that the apostles were not all shorn after the same manner, nor does
the Catholic Church, though it agrees in the same Divine faith, hope, and charity, agree
in the same form of tonsure throughout the world: in fine, to look back to remote times,
that is, the times of the patriarchs, Job, the example of patience, when, on the approach
of tribulation, he shaved his head, made it appear that he had used, in time of
prosperity, to let his hair grow; and Joseph, the great practicer and teacher of chastity,
humility, piety, and other virtues, is found to have been shorn when he was to be
delivered from servitude; by which it appears, that during the time of servitude, he was
in prison without cutting his hair. Now you may observe how each of these men of God
differed in the manner of their appearance abroad, though their inward consciences were
alike influenced by the 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 neighbor, especially since we do not read that there ever
was any controversy among the Catholic fathers about the difference of tonsure, as there
has been about the difference in keeping Easter, or in matters of faith; however, among
all the tonsures that are to be found in the Church, or among mankind at large, I think
none more worthy of being followed than that which that disciple had on his head, to whom,
on his confession, 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 to thee I will give the
keys of the kingdom of heaven.' Nor do I think any more worthy to be abhorred and
detested, by all the faithful, than that which that man used, to whom Peter, when he would
have bought the grace of the Holy Ghost, said, 'Thy money be with thee to perdition,
because thou thoughtest the gift of God to be purchased for money; there is no part or lot
for thee in this speech.' 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 sign, be defended from the assaults of evil spirits, and by the
frequent admonition of the same be instructed, in like manner, to crucify its flesh with
its vices and concupiscences; so also it behooves those, who have either taken the vows of
monks, or have any degree among the clergy, to curb themselves the more strictly by
"Every one of them is likewise to bear on his head, by means of the tonsure, the
form of the crown which Christ in his passion bore of thorns, in order that Christ may
bear the thorns and briars of our sins; and also that they may at once show that they,
willingly and with a ready mind, endure scoffs and reproaches for his sake; to make it
appear, that they always expect 'the crown of eternal life, which God has promised to
those that love Him,' and that for the gaining thereof they despise both the adversities
and the prosperities of this world. But as for the tonsure which Simon Magnus is said to
have used, what Christian will not immediately detest and cast it off together with his
magic? Upon the top of the forehead, it does seem indeed to resemble a crown; but when you
come to the neck, you will find the crown you thought you had seen so perfect cut short;
so that you may be satisfied such a distinction properly belongs not to Christians but to
Simoniacs, such as were indeed in this life thought worthy of a perpetual crown of glory
by erring men; but in that life which is to follow this, are not only deprived of all
hopes of a crown, but are moreover condemned to eternal punishment.
"But do not think that I have said this much, as judging those who use this
tonsure, are to be damned, in case they favor the catholic unity in faith and actions; on
the contrary, I confidently declare, that many of them have been holy and worthy of God.
Of which number is Adamnan, the abbot and renowned priest of Columba, who, when sent
ambassador by his nation to King Alfrid, came to see our monastery, and discovering
wonderful wisdom, humility, and religion in his words and behavior, among other things, I
said to him in discourse, 'I beseech you, holy brother, who think you are advancing to the
crown of life, which knows no period, why do you, contrary to the habit of your faith,
wear on your head a crown that is terminated, or bounded? And if you aim at the society of
St. Peter, why do you imitate the tonsure of him whom St. Peter anathematized? And why do
you not rather even now show that you imitate to your utmost the habit of him with whom
you desire to live happy for ever.' He answered, 'Be assured, my dear brother, that though
I have Simon's tonsure, according to the custom of my country, yet I utterly detest and
abhor the Simoniacal wickedness; and I desire, as far as my littleness is capable of doing
it, to follow the footsteps of the most blessed prince of the apostles.' I replied, 'I
verily believe it as you say; but let it appear by showing outwardly such things as you
know to be his, that you in your hearts embrace whatever is from Peter the Apostle. For I
believe your wisdom does easily judge, that it is much more proper to estrange your
countenance, already dedicated to God, from resemblance to him whom in your heart you
abhor, and of whose hideous face you would shun the sight; and, on the other hand, that it
becomes you to imitate the outward resemblance of him, whom you seek to have for your
advocate with God, as you desire to follow his actions and instructions.'
"This I then said to Adamnan, who indeed showed how much he had improved upon
seeing the statutes of our churches, when, returning to Scotland, he afterwards by his
preaching brought great numbers of that nation over to the catholic observance of the
Paschal time; though he was not yet able to gain the consent of the monks that lived in
the island of Hii, over whom he presided. He would also have been mindful to amend the
tonsure, if his authority had extended so far.
"But I also admonish your wisdom, O king, that you endeavor to make the nation,
over which the King of kings, and Lord of lords, has placed you, observe in all points
those things which appertain to the unity of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; for thus
it will come to pass, that after your temporal kingdom has passed away, the blessed prince
of the apostles will lay open to you and yours the entrance into the heavenly kingdom,
where you will rest for ever with the elect. The grace of the eternal King preserve thee
in safely, long reigning, for the peace of us all, my most beloved son in Christ."
This letter having been read in the presence of King Naitan, and many more of the most
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; inasmuch that, rising from among
his great men that sat about him, he knelt on the ground, giving thanks to God that he had
been found worthy to receive such a present from the land of the English; and, said he,
"I knew indeed before, that this was the true celebration of Easter, but now I so
fully know the reason for observing of this time, that I seem convinced that I knew little
of it before. Therefore I publicly declare and protest to you that are here present, that
I will for ever continually observe this time of Easter, with all my nation; and I do
decree that this tonsure, which we have heard is most reasonable, shall be received by all
the clergy in my kingdom." Accordingly he immediately performed by his regal
authority what he had said. For the circles or revolutions of nineteen years were
presently, by public command, sent throughout all the provinces of the Picts to be
transcribed, learned and observed, the erroneous revolutions of eighty- four years being
everywhere suppressed. All the ministers of the altar and monks had the crown shorn, and
the nation thus reformed, rejoiced, as being newly put under the direction of Peter, the
most blessed prince of the apostles, and secure under his protection.
THE MONKS OF HII, AND THE MONASTERIES SUBJECT TO THEM, BEGIN TO CELEBRATE THE CANONICAL
EASTER AT THE PREACHING OF EGBERT. [A.D. 716.]
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 assistance of our Lord
brought to the canonical observation of Easter, and the right mode of tonsure. For in the
year after the incarnation of our Lord 716, when Osred was slain, and Coenred took upon
him the government of the kingdom of the Northumbrians, the holy father and priest,
Egbert, beloved of God, and worthy to be named with all honor, whom we have often
mentioned before, coming among them, was joyfully and honorably received. Being a most
agreeable teacher, and devout in practicing those things which he taught, and being
willingly heard by all, he, by his pious and frequent exhortations, converted them from
that inveterate tradition of their ancestors, of whom may be said those words of the
apostle, "That they had the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." He
taught them to perform the principal solemnity after the catholic and apostolic manner, as
has been said, under the figure of a perpetual circle; which appears to have been
accomplished by a wonderful dispensation of the Divine goodness; to the end, that the same
nation which had willingly, and without envy, communicated to the English people the
knowledge of the true Deity, should afterwards, by means of the English nation, be brought
where they were defective to the true rule of life. Even as, on the contrary, the Britons,
who would not acquaint the English with the knowledge of the Christian faith, now, when
the English people enjoy the true faith, and are thoroughly instructed in its rules,
continue inveterate in their errors, expose their heads without a crown, and keep the
solemnity of Christ without the society of the Church.
The monks of Hii, by the instruction of Egbert, adopted the catholic rites, under Abbot
Dunchad, about eighty years after they had sent Aidan to preach to the English nation.
This man of God, Egbert, remained thirteen years in the aforesaid island, which he had
thus consecrated again to Christ, by kindling in it a new ray of Divine grace, and
restoring it to the unity of ecclesiastical discipline. In the year of our Lord's
incarnation 729, in which the Easter of our Lord was celebrated on the 24th of April, he
performed the solemnity of the mass, in memory of the same resurrection of our Lord, and
dying that same day, thus finished, or rather never ceases to celebrate, with our Lord,
the apostles, and the other citizens of heaven, that greatest festival, which he had begun
with the brethren, whom he had converted to the unity of grace. But it was a wonderful
dispensation of the Divine Providence, that the venerable man not only passed out of this
world to the Father, in Easter, but also when Easter was celebrated on that day, on which
it had never been wont to be kept in those parts. The brethren rejoiced in the certain and
catholic knowledge of the time of Easter, and rejoiced in the protection of their father,
departed to our Lord, by whom they had been converted. He also congratulated his being so
long continued in the flesh till he saw his followers admit, and celebrate with him, that
as Easter day which they had ever before avoided. Thus the most reverend father being
assured of their standing corrected, rejoiced to see the day of our Lord, and he saw it
and was glad.
OF THE PRESENT STATE OF THE ENGLISH NATION, OR OF ALL BRITAIN. [A.D. 725-731.]
IN the year of our Lord's incarnation 725, being the seventh year of Osric, king of the
Northumbrians, who 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 died Tobias,
bishop of the church of Rochester, a most learned man, as has been said before; for he was
disciple to those teachers of blessed memory, Theodore, the archbishop, and Abbot Hadrian,
by which means, as we have before observed, besides his erudition in ecclesiastical and
general literature, 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
porch of St. Paul the Apostle, which he had built within the church of St. Andrew for his
own place of burial. After him Aldwuif took upon him the office of bishop, having been
consecrated by Archbishop Bertwald.
In the year of our Lord's incarnation 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the
great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the rising sun in the morning, the
other followed him when he set at night, as it were presaging much destruction to the east
and west; 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 tail
towards the north, as it were ready to set the world on fire. They appeared in January,
and continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged
France with miserable slaughter; but they not long after in that country received the
punishment due to their wickedness. In which year the holy man of God, Egbert, departed to
our 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 were so filled with commotions, 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's incarnation 731, Archbishop Bertwald died of old age, on the
9th 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 religion and wisdom, and notably learned in Sacred Writ.
Thus at present, the bishops Tatwine and Aldwulf preside in the churches of Kent;
Ingwald in the province of tile East Saxons. In the province of the East Angles, Aldbert
and Hadulac are bishops; in the province of the West Saxons, Daniel and Forthere are
bishops; in the province of the Mercians, Aldwin. Among those people who live beyond the
river Severn to the westward, Walstod is bishop; in the province of the Wiccians, Wilfrid;
in the province of the Lindisfarnes, Cynebert presides: the bishopric of the Isle of Wight
belongs to Daniel, bishop of Winchester. The province of the South Saxons, having now
continued some years without a bishop, receives the episcopal ministry from the prelate of
the West Saxons. All these provinces, and the others southward to the bank of the river
Humber, with their 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
Hagulstad, Pechthelm in that which is called the White House, which, from the increased
number of believers, has lately become an episcopal see, and has him for its first
prelate. The Picts also at this time are at peace with the English nation, and rejoice in
being united in peace and truth with the whole Catholic Church. The Scots that inhabit
Britain, satisfied with their own territories, meditate no hostilities against the nation
of the English. The Britons, though they, for the most part, through innate hatred, are
adverse to the English nation, and wrongfully, and from wicked custom, oppose the
appointed Easter of the whole Catholic Church; yet, from both the Divine and human power
withstanding them, can in no way prevail as they desire; for though in part they are their
own masters yet elsewhere they are also brought under subjection to the English. Such
being the peaceable and calm disposition of the times, many of the Northumbrians, as well
of the nobility as private persons, laying aside their weapons, rather incline to dedicate
both themselves and their children to the tonsure and monastic vows, than to study martial
discipline. What will be the end hereof, the next age will show. This is for the present
the state of all Britain; in the year since the coming of the English into Britain about
285, but in the 731st year of the incarnation of our Lord, in whose reign may the earth
ever rejoice; may Britain exult in the profession of his faith; and may many islands be
glad, and sing praises in honor of his holiness!
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 more at
large, according to the distinction of times, for the better preserving them 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 gain the kingdom.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 46, Claudius, second of the Romans,
invading Britain, had a great part of the island surrendered to him, and added the Orkney
islands to the Roman empire.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 167, Eleutherius, being made bishop at
Rome, governed the Church most gloriously fifteen years. Lucius, king of Britain, writing
to him, requested to be made a Christian, and succeeded in obtaining his request.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 189, Severus, being made emperor, reigned
seventeen years; he enclosed Britain with a trench from sea to sea.
In the year 381, Maximus, being made emperor ln Britain, sailed over into Gaul, and
In the year 409, Rome was crushed by the Goths, from which time Roman emperors began to
reign in Britain.
In the year 430, Palladius was sent to be the first bishop of the Scots that believed
in Christ, by Pope Celestine.
In the year 449, Martian being made emperor with Valentinian, reigned seven years; in
whose time the English, being called by the Britons, came into Britain.
In the year 538, there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the 16th of February, from
the first to the third hour.
In the year 540, an eclipse of the sun happened 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; from him the royal family of the Northumbrians
derives its original; he reigned twelve years.
In the year 565, the priest, Columba, came out of Scotland, into Britain, to instruct
the Picts, and he built a monastery in the isle of Hii.
In the year 596, Pope Gregory sent Augustine with monks into Britain, to preach the
word of God to the English nation.
In the year 597, the aforesaid teachers arrived in Britain; being about the 150th year
from the coming of the English into Britain.
In the year 6o1, 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.
In the year 603, a battle was fought at Degsastane.
In the year 604, the East Saxons received the faith of Christ, under King Sabert, and
In the year 605, Gregory died.
In the year 616, Ethelbert, king of Kent, died.
In the year 625, the venerable Paulinus was, by Archbishop Justus, ordained bishop of
In the year 626, Eanfleda, daughter to King Edwin, was baptized with twelve others, on
In the year 627, King Edwin was baptized, with his nation, at Easter.
In the year 633, King Edwin being killed, Paulinus returned to Kent.
In the year 640, Eadbald, king of Kent, died.
In the year 642, King Oswald was slain.
In the year 644, Paulinus, first bishop of York, but now of the city of Rochester,
departed to our Lord.
In the year 651, King Oswin was killed, and Bishop Aidan died.
In the year 653, the Midland Angles, under their prince, Penda, received the mysteries
of the faith.
In the year 655, Penda was slain, and the Mercians became Christians.
In the year 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun Earconbert, king of Kent, died;
and Colman returned to the Scots; a pestilence arose; Ceadda and Wilfrid were ordained
bishops of the Northumbrians.
In the year 668, Theodore was ordained bishop.
In the year 670, Oswy, king of the Northumbrians, died.
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 did much good, and its
decrees are contained in ten chapters.
In the year 675, Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, dying, when he had reigned seventeen
years, left the crown to his brother Ethelred.
In the year 676, Ethelred ravaged Kent.
In the year 678, a comet appeared; Bishop Wilfrid was driven from his see by King
Fgfrid; and Bosa, Eata, and Eadhed were consecrated bishops in his stead.
In the year 679, Elfwine was killed.
In the year 680, a synod was held in the field called Hethfeld, concerning the
Christian faith, Archbishop Theodore presiding; John, the Roman abbot, was also present.
The same year also the Abbess Hilda died at Streaneshalch.
In the year 685, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, was slain.
The same year, Lothere, king of Kent, died.
In the year 688, Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, went to Rome from Britain.
In the year 690, Archbishop Theodore died.
In the year 697, Queen Ostritha was murdered by her own people, that is, the nobility
of the Mercians.
In the year 698, Berthred, the royal commander of the Northumbrians, was slain by the
In the year 704, Etheired became a monk, after he had reigned thirty years over the
nation of the Mercians, and gave up the kingdom to Coenred.
In the year 705, Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians, died.
In the year 709, Coenred, king of the Mercians, having reigned six years, went to Rome.
In the year 711, Earl Bertfrid fought with the Picts.
In the year 716, Osred, king of the Northumbrians, was killed; and Coenred, king of the
Mercians, died; and Egbert, the man of God, brought the monks of Hii to observe the
Catholic Easter and ecclesiastical tonsure.
In the year 725, Withred, king of Kent, died.
In the year 729, comets appeared; the holy Egbert departed; and Osric died.
In the year 731, Archbishop Bertwald died.
The same year Tatwine was consecrated ninth archbishop Canterbury, in the fifteenth
year of Ethelbald, king of Kent.
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 ancestors, or of my own knowledge, has, with the help of God, been digested by me,
Bede, the servant of God, and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and
Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow; who being born in the territory of that same
monastery, was given, 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 in
that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the
observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always
took delight in learning, teaching, and 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 by the order of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From
which time, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use
of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and
explain according to their meaning these following pieces -
On the Beginning of Genesis, to the Nativity of Isaac and the Reprobation of Ismaal,
Of the Tabernacle and its Vessels, and of the Priestly Vestments, three books.
On the first Part of Samuel, to the Death of Saul, four books.
Of the Building of the Temple, of Allegorical Exposition, like the rest, two books.
Item, on the Book of Kings, thirty Questions.
On Solomon's Proverbs, three books.
On the Canticles, seven books.
On Isaiah, Daniel, the twelve Prophets, and part of Jeremiah, Distinctions of Chapters,
collected out of St. Jerome's Treatise.
On Esdras and Nehemiah, three books.
On the Song of Habacuc, one book.
On the Book of the blessed Father Tobias, one Book of Allegorical Exposition concerning
Christ and the Church.
Also, Chapters of Readings on Moses's Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges.
On the Books of Kings and Chronicles.
On the Book of the blessed Father Job.
On the Parables, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles.
On the Prophets Isaiah, Esdras, 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, I have carefully transcribed in order all that I have found in St.
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.
Also, Chapters of Readings on all the New Testament, except the Gospel.
Also a book of Epistles to different Persons, of which one is of the Six ages of the
world; one of the Mansions 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 the Bissextile, or Leap-Year, and of the Equinox, according to
Also, of the Histories of Saints. I translated the Book of the Life and Passion of St.
Felix, Confessor, from Paulinus's Work in metre, into prose.
The Book of the Life and Passion of St. Anastasius, which was ill translated from the
Greek, and worse amended by some unskillful person, I have corrected as to the sense.
I have written the Life of the Holy Father Cuthbert, who was both monk and prelate,
first in heroic verse, and then in prose.
The History of the Abbots of this Monastery, in which I rejoice to serve the Divine
Goodness, viz. Benedict, Ceolfrid, and Huetbert, in two books.
The Ecclesiastical History of our Island and Nation in five books.
The Martyrology of the Birthdays of the Holy Martyrs, in. which I have carefully
endeavored to set down all that could find, and not only on what day, but also by what
sort of combat, or under what judge they overcame the world.
A Book of Hymns in several sorts of metre, or rhyme.
A Book of Epigrams in heroic or elegiac verse.
Of the Nature of Things, and of the Times, one book of each.
Also, of the Times, one larger book.
A book of Orthography digested in Alphabetical Order.
Also a Book of the Art of Poetry, and to it I have added another little Book of Tropes
and Figures; that is, of the Figures and Manners of Speaking in which the Holy Scriptures
And now, I beseech thee, good Jesus, that to whom thou hast graciously granted sweetly
to partake of the words of thy wisdom and knowledge, thou wilt also vouchsafe that he may
some time or other come to thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and always appear before thy
face, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen!
HERE ENDS, BY GOD'S HELP,
THE FIFTH BOOK
OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY
OF THE ENGLISH NATION.