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Here followeth the Life of S. Erkenwold, Bishop.
S. Erkenwold was born of noble lineage. His father was named Offa, and was king of east England, and he had also a sister named Alburgh. Which Erkenwold and Alburgh were of right perfect life, and howbeit that their father was a paynim, yet were these two children christian. And when Erkenwold was in perfect age he went into religion, and was made first abbot of Chertsey where he lived a holy life, and after, he was made bishop of London, and his sister Alburgh was his true follower in good works, and was a woman of religion, and for her holy life she was made abbess of Barking. This holy man, by the information of S. Austin and S. Melitus, was informed in the faith in such wise that he utterly forsook the world, and ordained and builded two monasteries, one for himself at Chertsey, and another for his sister at Barking, which, after her baptism, was named Ethelburga. And S. Erkenwold counselled his sister to flee worldly vanities, and so he did himself, and gave him into divine contemplation, and gave such goods as he had, besides them that he spent in the foundation and building of the said monasteries, to poor people. And he changed his earthly heritage, his worldly dignity and his great patrimony into the heritage and livelihood of holy church for to have his heritage in heaven. And he did all these expenses ere he was called to be bishop of London. And the holy Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, did do consecrate him bishop of London, and his sister was set in Barking with other virgins for to be always occupied in the service of our Lord. And it happed on a time, as the artificers that builded the monastery at Barking were overseen in taking the measure of a principal beam, for it was too short, and would not accord to the place that it was ordained for, wherefore they made much sorrow. Then this holy man, S. Erkenwold, and his sister, seeing this misfortune, took the same beam between their hands and drew it out in such wise that it had sufficient length and accorded unto the proper place that it was ordained to, which miracle was anon known openly to the people. And at that time were no nuns in England, wherefore S. Erkenwold sent over sea for a devout religious woman named Hildelith, to whom he betook his sister for to be informed in the religion, as well in conning as in good manners and virtuous doctrine, in which she profited in such wise that she passed all her fellows in conning, and soon after she was made abbess and chief of all the monastery. And it happed soon after that the bishop of London died, whose name was Cedda, and by consent of the king and all the people, this holy man of God, Erkenwold was bishop of London, and whatsomever he taught in word, he fulfilled it in deed, for he was perfect in wisdom, soft and discreet in word, busy in prayer, chaste of body, and wholly given to God’s lore, and was planted in the root of charity. And afterwards, when he had suffered much tribulation with many ghostly battles, he began to wax right sick; and then he commanded to make ready his chair that he might go and preach in the city the word of God; wherefore it was kept in custom long time after of his disciples, and many others, to touch him and kiss him, and whatsomever sickness that they had, they were anon delivered thereof, and were made perfectly whole.
In a day of summer as this blessed saint Erkenwold rode in his chair for to preach the word of God, it fortuned that the one wheel of the chair fell off from the axletree, and that notwithstanding the chair went forthright without falling, which was against nature and reason, and a fair miracle, for God guided the chair and it was a marvel to all them that saw it. O merciful God and marvellous above all things, to whom all brute beasts be made meek, and wild things be obedient, who vouchsafest to call to thy mercy thy blessed servant, to make him partable of thy excellent joy, give thou us grace by his prayer, which knew by revelation that his soul should be loosed from the body by temporal death, to be preserved from all manner evil and everlasting death.
When this blessed S. Erkenwold, as God would, came to Barking, he fell into a great sickness, in which he ended his temporal life; and forsomuch as he knew it before, he sent for his servants and such as were drawing to him, and gave to them wholesome and sweet lessons, and blessed them with great devotion, and among them he yielded up his spirit to Almighty God, in whose passing was felt a marvellous sweet odour, as the house had been full of sweet balm. And when the high canons of S. Paul’s at London heard this, and the monks of Chertsey, so anon they came to this holy body for to have it. And the nuns said they ought to have the body because he died there, and also because he was their founder, and the monks said they ought rather to have him, because he was both their abbot and founder. Then the chapter of Paul’s and the people said they strove in vain, for he should be brought to London into his own church. thus there was great strife, and at the last they of London took up the holy body, and bare it towards London, and as they went, there fell a great tempest, and so much water that they might not pass, but were constrained to set down the corpse, and in all the storm the tapers that were borne about the body were always bright burning; and then the nuns said that God showed well that they of London ought not to have him because of the tempest. And at the last, after many words, there was a clerk which had been longing to S. Erkenwold, and saw this strife, and stood up and commanded silence, and told to the people a great commendation of the virtuous life of this holy saint, and said it was not honest, ne according, to misentreat the holy body by violent hands, but let us beseech Almighty God, with good devotion and meekness of heart, for to show to us some token by revelation in what place this holy body shall rest. And all the people consented thereto, and kneeled down and prayed devoutly; and whiles they were in prayer they saw that the water divided as it did to Moses in the Red Sea, and the children going through into desert. In like wise God gave a dry path to the people of London for to convey this holy body through the water to the city; and anon they took up the body with great honour and reverence, and by one assent they bare it through the path, the water standing up on every side, and the people not wetting their feet. And so they came to Stratford, and set down the bier in a fair mead full of flowers, and anon after, the weather began to wax fair and clear after the tempest, and the tapers were made to burn without putting to fire of any man’s hand, and thus pleased our Lord for to multiply miracles to the honour and worship of this holy saint, wherefore the people were full of joy and gladness, and gave laud to Almighty God. And then they took up the body and brought it to Paul’s, and as many sick folks as touched his bier were made whole, anon as they touched the bier, of all their sicknesses by the merits of the holy bishop S. Erkenwold. And after they laid and buried the body honorably in S. Paul’s church, whereas our Lord hath showed many a fair miracle, as in the delivering of prisoners out of their irons, sick folk to their health, blind to their sight, and lame men to their bodily strength: and among all others he hath been a special protector to the said church against fire, whereas on a time the church was burnt, and his shrine, which was then but tree, was saved through his bodily merits, in so much that the cloth which lay upon it was not perished. Another time when a great fire had burnt a great part of the city, and should have entered upon the church, S. Erkenwold was seen on the church with a banner fighting against the fire, and so saved and kept his church from burning. Then let us pray unto this holy saint that he be a special advocate for us to Almighty God that we may be preserved from all perils of fire and water, and that he so govern us between wealth and adversity in this present life, that we being assoiled from sin and vices, may be brought unto heavenly joy where laud, honour, and glory be given to the Blessed Trinity world without end. Amen.
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