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§ 13. Conformity to Row Established. Wilfrid, Theodore, Bede.

The dispute between the Anglo-Saxon or Roman, and the British ritual was renewed in the middle of the seventh century, but ended with the triumph of the former in England proper. The spirit of independence had to take refuge in Ireland and Scotland till the time of the Norman conquest, which crushed it out also in Ireland.

Wilfrid, afterwards bishop of York, the first distinguished native prelate who combined clerical habits with haughty magnificence, acquired celebrity by expelling “the quartodeciman heresy and schism,” as it was improperly called, from Northumbria, where the Scots had introduced it through St. Aidan. The controversy was decided in a Synod held at Whitby in 664 in the presence of King Oswy or Oswio and his son Alfrid. Colman, the second success or of Aidan, defended the Scottish observance of Easter by the authority of St. Columba and the apostle John. Wilfrid rested the Roman observance on the authority of Peter, who had introduced it in Rome, and on the universal custom of Christendom. When he mentioned, that to Peter were intrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the king said: “I will not contradict the door-keeper, lest when I come to the gates of the kingdom of heaven, there should be none to open them.” By this irresistible argument the opposition was broken, and conformity to the Roman observance established. The Scottish semi-circular tonsure also, which was ascribed to Simon Magus, gave way to the circular, which was derived from St. Peter. Colman, being worsted, returned with his sympathizers to Scotland, where he built two monasteries. Tuda was made bishop in his place.4040    See a full account of this controversy in Bede, III, c. 25, 26, and in Haddan and Stubbs, III. 100-106.

Soon afterwards, a dreadful pestilence raged through England and Ireland, while Caledonia was saved, as the pious inhabitants believed, by the intercession of St. Columba.

The fusion of English Christians was completed in the age of Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury (669 to 690), and Beda Venerabilis ( b. 673, d. 735), presbyter and monk of Wearmouth. About the same time Anglo-Saxon literature was born, and laid the foundation for the development of the national genius which ultimately broke loose from Rome.

Theodore was a native of Tarsus, where Paul was born, educated in Athens, and, of course, acquainted with Greek and Latin learning. He received his appointment and consecration to the primacy of England from Pope Vitalian. He arrived at Canterbury May 27, 669, visited the whole of England, established the Roman rule of Easter, and settled bishops in all the sees except London. He unjustly deposed bishop Wilfrid of York, who was equally devoted to Rome, but in his later years became involved in sacerdotal jealousies and strifes. He introduced order into the distracted church and some degree of education among the clergy. He was a man of autocratic temper, great executive ability, and, having been directly sent from Rome, he carried with him double authority. “He was the first archbishop,” says Bede, “to whom the whole church of England submitted.” During his administration the first Anglo-Saxon mission to the mother-country of the Saxons and Friesians was attempted by Egbert, Victberet, and Willibrord (689 to 692). His chief work is a “Penitential” with minute directions for a moral and religious life, and punishments for drunkenness, licentiousness, and other prevalent vices.4141    The works of Theodore (Poenitentiale, etc.) in Migne’s Patrol., Tom. 99, p. 902. Comp. also Bede, IV. 2, Bright, p. 223, and especially Haddan and Stubbs, III. 114-227, where his Penitential is given in full. It was probably no direct work of Theodore, but drawn up under his eye and published by his authority. It presupposes a very bad state of morals among the clergy of that age.

The Venerable Bede was the first native English scholar, the father of English theology and church history. He spent his humble and peaceful life in the acquisition and cultivation of ecclesiastical and secular learning, wrote Latin in prose and verse, and translated portions of the Bible into Anglo-Saxon. His chief work is his—the only reliable—Church History of old England. He guides us with a gentle hand and in truly Christian spirit, though colored by Roman views, from court to court, from monastery to monastery, and bishopric to bishopric, through the missionary labyrinth of the miniature kingdoms of his native island. He takes the Roman side in the controversies with the British churches.4242    See Karl Werner (R.C.), Beda und seine Zeit, 1875. Bright, l.c., pp. 326 sqq.

Before Bede cultivated Saxon prose, Caedmon (about 680), first a swine-herd, then a monk at Whitby, sung, as by inspiration, the wonders of creation and redemption, and became the father of Saxon (and Christian German) poetry. His poetry brought the Bible history home to the imagination of the Saxon people, and was a faint prophecy of the “Divina Comedia” and the “Paradise Lost.”4343    Beda, Hist. Eccl. Angl., IV. 24. Caedmonis monachi Paraphrasis poetica Genescos ac praecipuarum sacrae paginae Historiarum, ed. F. Junius, Amst., 1655; modern editions by B. Thorpe, Lond., 1832, and C. W. M. Grein, Götting., 1857. Bouterwek, Caedmon’s des Angelsachen biblische Dichtungen, Elberfeld, 1849-54, 2 Parts. F. Hammerich, AElteste christliche Epik der Angelsachsen, Deutschen und Nordländer. Transl. from the Danish by Michelsen, 1874. Comp. also the literature on the German Heliand, § 27. We have a remarkable parallel to this association of Bede and Caedmon in the association of Wiclif, the first translator of the whole Bible into English (1380), and the contemporary of Chaucer, the father of English poetry, both forerunners of the British Reformation, and sustaining a relation to Protestant England somewhat similar to the relation which Bede and Caedmon sustain to mediaeval Catholic England.

The conversion of England was nominal and ritual, rather than intellectual and moral. Education was confined to the clergy and monks, and consisted in the knowledge of the Decalogue, the Creed and the Pater Noster, a little Latin without any Greek or Hebrew. The Anglo-Saxon clergy were only less ignorant than the British. The ultimate triumph of the Roman church was due chiefly to her superior organization, her direct apostolic descent, and the prestige of the Roman empire. It made the Christianity of England independent of politics and court-intrigues, and kept it in close contact with the Christianity of the Continent. The advantages of this connection were greater than the dangers and evils of insular isolation. Among all the subjects of Teutonic tribes, the English became the most devoted to the Pope. They sent more pilgrims to Rome and more money into the papal treasury than any other nation. They invented the Peter’s Pence. At least thirty of their kings and queens, and an innumerable army of nobles ended their days in cloistral retreats. Nearly all of the public lands were deeded to churches and monasteries. But the exuberance of monasticism weakened the military and physical forces of the nation

Danish and the Norman conquests. The power and riches of the church secularized the clergy, and necessitated in due time a reformation. Wealth always tends to vice, and vice to decay. The Norman conquest did not change the ecclesiastical relations of England, but infused new blood and vigor into the Saxon race, which is all the better for its mixed character.

We add a list of the early archbishops and bishops of the four principal English sees, in the order of their foundation:4444    From Bright, p. 449, compared with the dates in Haddan and Stubbs vol. III.















[Cedd in Essex












Wilfrid, consecrated 665, in possession



























Wilfrid again






Bosa again








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