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BY the British Church is meant the Christian Church which existed in England and Wales, before the foundation of the English Church by Augustine of Canterbury, and after that event to a limited extent in Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, and Strathclyde.

How, when, where, and by whom was it founded? To these questions no answer is forthcoming. The legends connecting various Apostles, and other scriptural personages, especially Joseph of Arimathaea, with Britain may be dismissed at once. They first appear in very late writings, and have no historical foundations.

We next come to a story which has obtained some considerable credence because it is found in the pages of Bede. It is to the effect that in the year A.D. 156 a British king named Lucius (Lles ap Coel) appealed to Pope Eleutherius to be instructed in the Christian religion, that the application was granted, and that the king and nation were then converted to Christianity. The story first appears in a sixth century recension of the Liber Pontificalis at Rome, whence Bede must have borrowed it. It was unknown to the British historian Gildas, and it has no other support. Bede's version of it involves chronological errors, and Professor Harnack has recently driven the last nail into its coffin by his brilliant suggestion or discovery that Lucius was not a British king at all, but king of Birtha (confused with Britannia) in Edessa, a Mesopotamian realm whose sovereign was Lucius Aelius Septimus Megas Abgarus IX.

But there is indirect and outside evidence that Christianity had penetrated Britain at the end of the second century. The evidence is patristic in its source, and general in its character. Tertullian writing c. 208 speaks of places in Britain inaccessible to the Romans, yet subject to Christ; and Origen writing about thirty years later refers in two passages to the British people having come under the influence of Christianity. But how did they so come? In the absence of precise information, the most probable supposition is that Christianity came through Gaul, between which country and Britain commercial intercourse was active. There may also have been individual Christians among the Roman soldiers who were then stationed in Britain. In fact the almost universally Latin, or at least non-Keltic names of such British martyrs, bishops, etc., as have been preserved point to a preponderating Roman rather than Keltic element in the British Church; though against this it must also be remembered that, as in the cases of Patricius and Pelagius, the names known to us may be assumed Christian names superseding some earlier Keltic names, of which in most cases no record has come down. Possibly the British Church consisted at first of converts to Christianity among the Roman invaders, and of such natives as came into immediate contact with them, and the native element only gradually gained ground when the Roman troops were withdrawn.

The known facts are too few for a continuous British Church history to be built upon them. The only early British historian, Gildas, c. 540, is the author of a diatribe rather than a history. Nennius writing in the ninth century is uncritical, and too far removed from the events which he records to be relied upon. Geoffrey of Monmouth writing in the twelfth century is notoriously untrustworthy and hardly deserves the name of historian; and all extant Lives of British saints are later than the Norman Conquest and historically almost valueless.

Yet from these and other sources the following persons and facts emerge as historical, with probability if not certainty.

(a) Among martyrs: Alban of Verulamium, martyred, as Gildas asserts, or according to another MS. reading, conjectures, in the persecution of Diocletian. But as this persecution is not known to have reached Britain, it is more probable that the persecution in question was that of Decius in 250-251, or that of Valerian in 259-260. Bede tells the story at greater length, and says that the martyrdom took place at Verulamium, now St Albans. Both Gildas and Bede evidently quote from some early but now lost Passio S. Albani. The details may be unhistorical, as is frequently the case in such Passiones, but it would be unreasonable to doubt the main story, because we have the fifth century evidence of the Gallican presbyter Constantius who writing a life of St Germanus describes a visit of Germanus and Lupus to his sepulchre at St Albans; and the sixth century evidence of a line in the poetry of the Gaulish Venantius Fortunatus.

(b) Aaron and Julius of Caerleon-upon-Usk. These two martyrs are likewise mentioned by Gildas, and though there is no early corroborative evidence as in the case of St Alban they may be regarded as historical personages. Bede's mention, and all later mentions of them, rested upon the original statement of Gildas, who does not say that they were martyred at Caerleon-upon-Usk, though this is not unlikely.

British Bishops and British Saints 

In the Martyrology of Bede, and in many later Martyrologies and Kalendars, 17 Sept. is marked In Britanniis [natale] Socratis et Stephani, and in Baronius' edition of the Roman Martyrology, in 1645, this has grown to Sanctorum Martyrum Socratic et Stephani. So 7 Feb. is marked in Augusta London] natale Augusti or Auguli episcopi et martyris. There is no early authority for the existence of these saints, and nothing is known of their history.

(c) Among bishops: the existence of the following bishops is known to us:

Three British bishops are recorded to have been present at the Council of Arles in 314. They were

1. Eborius, episcopus de civitate Eboracensi provincia Britannica.

2. Restitutus, episcopus de civitate Londinensi provincia supra-scripta.

3. Adelfius, episcopus de civitate Colonia Londinensium.

These British sees were fixed in Roman cities, York, London, and Lincoln, if we may suppose that “Londinensium” is a mistake for “Lindumensium”. Some however would read “Legionensium” and interpret the word of Caerleon-upon-Usk; but this suggestion is negatived by the fact that Caerleon never was a Roman colony.

Eborius” has a suspicious look as the name of a bishop de civitate Eboracensi, but similarity need not here suggest forgery. It is a Latinized form of a common Keltic name. There was a bishop Eburius in Ireland in St Bridget’s time. They were attended by a priest named Sacerdos, and a deacon named Arminius. Sacerdos has been thought to be a suspicious name for a presbyter, but though we have been unable to find any other instance, it may be pointed out that Priest may be found as a proper name in the clergy list of today.

There is no evidence for the suggestion sometimes made that. British bishops were present at the Council of Nicaea in 325. The only difficulty in proving a direct negative is the incomplete and unsatisfactory state of the list of signatories.

Athanasius tells us that British bishops were among the more than three hundred bishops who voted in his favour at the Council of Sardica in 345. But he does not mention the names of any of these bishops, or of their sees.

There were British bishops among the four hundred or more who met at the Council of Ariminum in 359. We know this on the authority of Sulpicius Severus, who unfortunately mentions neither the names nor the numbers of these bishops nor of their sees, yet adds that “there were three bishops from Britain who, because they lacked private means, made use of the public bounty, refusing contributions offered to them by the rest”. The public bounty refers to the provision for their entertainment (annonas et cellaria) which the emperor had ordered to be offered at the public expense.

(d) Another British bishop whose name has come down to us is Riocatus who made two journeys from Britain to Gaul to see Faustus, a Breton and bishop of Ries (died c. 492), and carried certain works of Faustus back to Britain.

(e) There is extant a book addressed by a British bishop named Fastidius to a widow named Fatalis in the first half of the fifth century. He is mentioned by Gennadius, but his see is not named, de Viris illustr. cap. 57. His book De Vita Christiana is printed in Migne, Pat. Lat. 102, 4.

The only other bishops known to us by name before A.D. 600 are the famous Welsh bishops.

(f) There are in existence lists of early British, Welsh, Manx, and Cornish bishops, for the majority of whom no certain evidence can be produced. Some of them, such as St David, first bishop of Menevia; St Dubritius, first bishop of Llandaff, and his immediate successors Teilo and Oudoceus; Kentigern and Asaph, the first two bishops of St Asaph; Daniel, first bishop of Bangor, together with a few less known names on the lists, are historical personages, but these belong to the sixth and seventh century Welsh Church and stand partly outside the period covered by this article.

It must not be forgotten that Patrick and Ninian, bishop of Candida Casa (Whithern), were Britons, but their history belongs rather to Ireland and Scotland than to England. The following facts may be also worth recording as events of the sixth century.

Two bishops of the Britons came from Alba to sanctify St Bridget. Fifty bishops of the Britons of Cell Muine visited St Moedoc of Ferns. These figures indicate that the British episcopate, like that of other parts of the Keltic Church, was monastic and numerous, rather than diocesan and limited in number.

The Keltic saints of Britain like those of Ireland were great travellers. Gildas asserts this. Palladius in his Historia Lausiaca speaks of British pilgrims in Syria, and Theodoret writing c. 440 speaks of their arrival in the Holy Land. These early independent outside testimonies make it possible to believe many otherwise incredible stories in later Vitae Sanctorum, e.g. that David, Teilo, and Padarn went to Jerusalem where David received episcopal consecration, and that the Cornish St Keby (Cuby) made a pilgrimage to the same city. References to British travellers in Rome and Italy cease to excite wonder after this. It does not of course follow that the Jerusalem stories are true, only that they are within the bounds of possibility. The legends are late, and they were probably invented to give independence and prestige to the Keltic episcopate, as compared with the later episcopate of the English Church.

Orthodoxy of the Britons

There is no serious doubt about the orthodoxy of the British Church. Gildas accuses its clergy of immorality, and of venality, not of heresy. On the other hand testimony to its orthodoxy is plentiful. Athanasius stated that the British Churches had signified by letter to him their adhesion to the Nicene faith. Chrysostom said that “even the British Isles have felt the power of the word, for there too churches and altars have been erected. There too, as on the shores of the Euxine or in the South, men may be heard discussing points in Scripture, with differing voices but not with differing belief, with varying tongues but not with varying faith”. Jerome asserted that “Britain in common with Rome, Gaul, Africa, Persia, the East, and India, adores one Christ, observes one rule of faith”. Venantius Fortunatus speaks of Britain cherishing the faith, and Wilfrid himself, though openly hostile to the British Church, asserted before a Council held in Rome in 680 that the true Catholic faith prevailed throughout the British, Irish, and Pictish as well as the English race, thus claiming for the whole Keltic Church in these islands what Columbanus claimed for his own Irish Church, when he told Pope Boniface that it was not schismatical or heretical, but that it held the whole Catholic faith. But in defending the orthodoxy of the British Church we must not be supposed to mean that no heretical opinions ever obtained temporary ground, or attracted individuals.

Victricius, bishop of Rouen, came to Britain c. 396 at the request of the bishops of North Italy. Nothing is known of the purpose of his journey, except that in his own language it had to do with the making of peace, it has been conjectured, in connection with the attempted introduction of Arianism, or of some other form of false doctrine. In 429 Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, were sent by a Gallican synod according to Constantius, but by Pope Celestine according to Prosper, to Britain to stem Pelagianism, and in 447 the same Germanus, and Severus, bishop of Treves, came to Britain for the same purpose. Pelagianism would naturally establish a footing in Britain because Pelagius himself was most probably a Briton by birth, a member of one of those Gaelic families who had crossed from Ireland and settled themselves on the south-western coast of Great Britain. His companion Caelestius, no doubt, was an Irishman, but Faustus of Riez and Fastidius, both semi-Pelagian authors, were the first a Breton, the second British, and the same may be surmised of a certain Agricola, the son of a Pelagian bishop named Severianus, who taught and spread Pelagianism in Britain, as Prosper tells us sub an. 429. Their names have more a Roman than a Keltic sound, but that point cannot be pressed, because Britons frequently assumed a Roman or a Romanized name. But thanks mainly to the Gallican bishops previously referred to all efforts to Plagiaries the British Church were unsuccessful. The last recorded communication between the British Church and Western Christianity took place in 455, in which year, according to an entry in the Annales Cambriae, the British Church changed its ancient mode of calculating Easter, and adopted the cycle of 84 years then in use at Rome. This was shortly afterwards exchanged at Rome for the Victorian cycle of 532 years, and that again was changed there in the next century for the Dionysian cycle of 19 years; but neither the Victorian nor the Dionysian cycle was ever adopted in the British Church, which still retained an older Roman cycle.

The archaeological evidence which is forthcoming as to the character and even as to the existence of Christianity in Britain in Roman times is extremely limited; nor is this to be wondered at when we consider the wave of destruction which swept over Britain through the Saxon invasions.

In only one case has a whole church so far survived that we can trace the outline of the building, and measure its dimensions. This church was recently discovered at Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum). It bears a close resemblance to fourth century churches discovered in Italy, Syria, and Africa. Traces of the foundations of a Roman basilica have likewise been found underneath the churches at Reculver and Lyminge in Kent, and at Brixworth in Northamptonshire; but whether those basilicas were used for secular or ecclesiastical purposes is uncertain. The only claim of the above-named churches, and of a few other churches, such as St Martin’s at Canterbury, to be regarded as Romano-British, lies in the fact that they have a few stones or bricks of Romano-British date used up a second time in their construction.

Apart from churches the Chi-Rho monogram has been found in the mosaics, pavements, or building stones of three villas at Frampton in Dorsetshire, Chedworth in Gloucestershire, and Harpole in Northamptonshire; on a silver cup at Corbridge-on-Tyne; on two silver rings from a villa at Fifehead Neville in Dorsetshire; on some bronze fragments at York; on some masses of pewter found in the Thames, on one of which it is associated with A and w and with the words spes in deo; on the bezel of a bronze ring found at Silchester, though the nature of the ornament in this case has been doubted. There was also found at Silchester a fragment of white glass with a fish and a palm roughly scratched upon it.

There are no distinctively Christian inscriptions of a very early date, but there are several which suggest a Christian origin by the use of the phrase plus minus with reference to the length of a person’s life, a phrase often found on early Christian inscriptions abroad; and there are some pagan altar inscriptions which point to a pagan restoration and a revival after some other influence—possibly the Christian influence—had allowed such altars to fall into neglect or decay.

Archaeological evidence is therefore in itself distinctly weak; and yet it may be considered sufficiently strong to support facts which are known to us on other and independent grounds; while further evidence of this kind may be discovered hereafter.





No exact answer can be given to the question, When was Christianity first introduced into Ireland?

The popular idea is that it was introduced into Ireland for the first time by St Patrick. This is negatived by the following facts—St Patrick's mission work in Ireland commenced in 432. It is quite true that Patrick as a youth, aged 15-21, had spent six years in captivity in Ireland under a heathen master named Miliucc, 405-411, but it is impossible that at that age and under those conditions he can have done any evangelistic work. Indeed he himself nowhere claims to have done any. In the year before the date of St Patrick’s missionary advent to Ireland, that is to say in 431, we find the following distinct statement made in the Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine, “Ad Scotos in Christum credentes ordinatur a Papa Celestino Palladius, et primus episcopus mittitur”.

This statement must be accepted as historical. There may be some difficulty in interpreting it, but there is no ground whatever for doubting it. Prosper has sometimes been accused of bias; but bias is one thing, deliberate invention or forgery is another. Nor is there the slightest ground for suggesting that Prosper may have been misinformed. Though not himself a native of Great Britain or Ireland, Prosper belonged to the neighbouring country of Gaul, which he permanently left when he went to Rome in 440, and became secretary to Leo I as bishop of Rome. Prosper was alive in 463, but the exact date of his death is unknown.

If Prosper’s statement that there were Christians in Ireland before the arrival there of Palladius were unsupported we should feel bound to accept it; and we are much more bound to accept it if we find it corroborated by a series of incidents or facts which, if not conclusive singly, have a combined weight in substantiating it.

Before enumerating these facts reference must be made to a passage written by Prosper about six years later. In his Liber contra Collatorem, written when Sixtus III was Pope, i.e. between 432 and 440, and speaking in praise of that Pope’s predecessor Celestine, he says, et ordinato Scottis episcopo dum Romanam insulam studet servare catholicam fecit etiam barbaram Christianam.

There is no allusion here to the early death of Palladius—the episcopus referred to—nor to the failure of his mission; obviously, writing a panegyric on Celestine, it was not to Prosper’s purpose to refer to them: nor on the other hand is there any reference to the mission of St Patrick; though, as Professor Bury has pointed out, if Celestine had sent Patrick, and still more if he had consecrated him, Prosper would almost certainly have referred to the fact, as enhancing the achievements and the reputation of that Pope. The passage is obviously rhetorical and need not be pressed as superseding or cancelling any part of his statement about the mission of Palladius previously quoted.

Its truth is supported by the following statements and allusions, which may be legendary, because the earliest form in which they have come down to us is several centuries later than the events to which they refer, but which may still be true. It is hardly possible to say more of them than this, that if they are true they imply the existence of a pre-Patrician church in Ireland.

Tirechan records that when St Patrick ordained a certain Ailbe as presbyter he showed him or told him of a wonderful stone altar in the mountain of the children of Ailill, to which the Tripartite Life, calling Ailbe an archpresbyter, adds that this altar was in a cave, and that there were four glass chalices standing at the four angles of it.

In the Additions to Tirechan’s Collections it is recorded that Bishop Colman at Cluain Cain in Achud (Clonkeen) presented his own church to St Patrick for ever. Tirechan tells a story, also told with unimportant variations by Muirchu Maccu-Machtheni, of St Patrick finding a cross (signaculum crucis Christi) which had been, through a mistake, erected over a heathen’s grave.

The Lives of the Irish Saints represent some of them, e.g. Ailbeus Ibar, Declan, Ciaran, etc., as older, or as partly older, partly contemporaneous with St Patrick. But these Lives are too late in their present form to be accepted as historical, and are only or chiefly valuable for Irish words, and for incidental allusions surviving in them.

The general policy of Loigaire, High King of Ireland, 428-463, who without apparently becoming himself a convert to Christianity was not hostile to its promulgation by St Patrick, and the curious policy of the Druids concerning the advent of Patrick, betraying in its language some acquaintance with the ritual of the Christian Church, have been noted as indicating the previous existence of Christianity in Ireland.

Pelagius, who must have been born c. 370 though the exact date of his birth is unascertained, is known on the authority of St Jerome, and on other grounds, to have been an Irishman, and as such the presumption is in favour of his having been born in Ireland, and of Christian parents; but too much stress must not be laid upon this fact, or supposed fact. Though accepted as a fact by Professor Zimmer, it has been rejected by Professor Bury, who thinks that the evidence points to Pelagius having been born in western Britain. His contemporary and chief disciple, Caelestius, was likewise an Irishman, and probably born in Ireland.

An Irish Christian named Fith, better known under his Latin or Latinized name of Iserninus, was with St Patrick at Auxerre, was ordained there, and also went, though somewhat against his will, when St Patrick went, as a missionary to Ireland.

All these facts go to substantiate the statement of Prosper that there were “Scoti in Christum credentes” in Ireland in 431, before the great mission of St Patrick was commenced. But how did they get there? How did Christianity in Ireland originate? To these and such­like questions no certain answer is forthcoming. Although Ireland was never conquered by the Romans, and therefore never became an integral portion of the Roman Empire, as England and the larger part of Great Britain did, yet there are traces of Roman influence in Ireland at a very early date.

Times before St Patrick 

Large and not infrequent discoveries of Roman coins in Ireland, ranging from the first to the fifth century, prove that there must have been considerable intercourse during that time between Ireland and Great Britain and the Continent; and some knowledge, possibly some seeds, of Christianity may have been sown by Roman sailors, or merchants, or commercial travelers.

In the third century an Irish tribe, named the Dessi, were driven out of their home in Meath and migrated partly south into Co. Waterford, and partly across the sea to South Wales, where they were permitted to form a settlement, and there are indications that they penetrated into Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. The Dessi at this time were of course not Christians, but they paved the way, or they formed a highway, by which a century or so later British Christianity may have reached, and probably did reach, Ireland. Irish raids into England and Wales in the course of the fourth century may have brought Christian captives back into Ireland, as one of such raids in the early part of the fifth century brought the captive youth Patrick.

Inhabitants of the south-west of England, whether Brythonic occupiers or Goidelic settlers, establishing and pursuing intercourse with Ireland would naturally land at Muerdea at the mouth of the Vartry near Wicklow, or at some other port on the south-east coast of Ireland, which is the nearest coast of Ireland to that of England; and Christian settlers from Britain would thus influence first of all the south rather than the north of Ireland.

There is an ingenious argument of a philological character which we owe to the keen insight of Professor Zimmer, and which has been explained by him at length in his Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland. We can hardly reproduce all the linguistic details here, but a convenient and concise summary of Zimmer's argument has been printed by Professor Bury. It is to this effect. A number of ecclesiastical loan-words assume forms in Irish, which they could not have assumed if they had been borrowed straight from the Latin, and which can only be explained by intermediate Brythonic forms. The presence of these forms in Ireland can, again, be best explained on the supposition that Christianity was introduced into Ireland in the fourth century by Irish-speaking Britons; and the further conjecture arises that the transformation of Brythonic Latin loan-words into Irish equivalents was made in the Irish settlements in western, and especially south-western, Britain, which are thereby indicated as the channel through which the Christian religion was transmitted originally into Ireland.

There is no authority for the legend that the British Ninian laboured in Ireland about the commencement of the fifth century, other than an Irish life existing in the time of Archbishop Ussher, but now lost. Ussher unfortunately does not give its date, or supposed date, but he quotes from it several facts which, if not impossible, do not seem to be at all credible. Yet the story of Ninian’s connection with Ireland gained some footing there, for his name under the affectionate form of Moenenn or Moinenn or Monenn—"my Nynias or Ninian”— is found at 16 Sept. in the Martyrologies of Tallaght, Gorman, Oengus and Donegal.

Though, then, there is sufficient evidence to prove the existence of some Christianity in Ireland before A.D. 432, yet the majority of the population of Ireland at that date was pagan, and the conversion of Ireland to Christianity was mainly though not entirely the work of St Patrick: he is not, therefore, to be robbed of his title of Apostle of the Irish.

Arrival of St Patrick [432

Pre-Patrician Christianity in Ireland was scanty, sporadic, and apparently unorganized. Exactly when and by whom it was introduced we know not and it is unlikely that we ever shall know. The Roman mission of Palladius in 431 was a failure either through his missionary incapacity, or more probably through his early death, though his death is not recorded; or less probably through his withdrawal from Ireland, according to Scottish legends, to preach the Gospel among the Picts in Scotland, or as is more probable the Pictish population in Dalaradia in the northern part of Ulster, amongst whom he was working, and died before he had spent a whole year in Ireland. Then on learning of the death or departure of Palladius, St Patrick went to Ireland as his successor.

A complete biography of St Patrick cannot be attempted here, but a compressed account of his mission work in Ireland is necessary. It was in the year 432 that Patrick, then in his forty-third year, was consecrated bishop by Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and started from Gaul for Ireland, fired by a love for that country in which many years before he had spent six years as a captive slave (405-411).

His wise policy was to approach the kings of the petty kingdoms which went to make up Ireland in the fifth century, and among them Loigaire, son of Niall, who in the year of Patrick's arrival in Ireland ranked as High King, with certain rights over all other kings. Tribal loyalty was strong, and if the petty king or chieftain was won over (or even if like king Loigaire he sanctioned the mission without being converted himself), the conversion of his tribe was much facilitated, if not certain to follow.

Landing near Wicklow, Patrick coasted northwards, stopping at the little island afterwards called Inis-patrick, eventually passing up the narrow sea-passage into lake Strangford in that southern part of Dalaradia which is now Co. Down. On the southern shore of this lake he landed, and Dichu the proprietor of that part became his first convert, and granted him, after his return from an ineffectual attempt to convert his old master Miliucc, a site for a Christian establishment at Saul; and in its vicinity Bright, Rathcolpa, Downpatrick also have a legendary connection with him. Then in Co. Meath, Trim and Dun­shaughlin, both not far from the royal hill of Tara, Uisnech, and Donagh­patrick where Conall, brother of king Loigaire, was converted, are all places associated with the activities of Patrick. Thence he advanced into Ulster, destroying the idol Crom Cruaich in the plain of Slecht, founding churches at Aghanagh, Shancough, Tannach, and Caissel­ire-all in Co. Sligo. Then turning south he founded the church of Aghagower on the confines of Mayo and Galway, not far from the hill Crochan-Aigli (Croagh Patrick), on the summit of which he was believed to have spent forty days and nights in solitude and contemplation.

Traces survive of a second journey into Connaught full of interesting incidents, and of a third journey (to be dated thirteen years after Patrick’s arrival in Ireland), into the territory of king Amolngaid including the wood of Fochlad, where, according to the most probable interpretation of documents, he had wandered in the days of his early captivity. Here a church was built and a cross set up, in a spot which still bears the local name of Crosspatrick.

The year 444 saw the foundation of Armagh (Ardd Mache) on a small tract of ground assigned to Patrick by Daire, king of Oriel or of one of the tribes of Oriel, at the foot of the hill of Macha, subsequently exchanged for a site on the hill-top.

Traces of Patrick’s work in south Ireland are less distinct, but tradition points to his having been there, and he is said to have baptized the sons of Dunlang king of Leinster, those of Natfraich king of Munster, and Crimthann son and successor of Endoe a sub-king, whose residence and territory were on the banks of the river Slaney in Co. Wexford. But Christianity had an earlier footing in the south than in the north of Ireland. Patrick’s mission work was therefore less needed there, and his glory clusters rather round northern Armagh than round any place in the south of Ireland.

In 461 Patrick died and was buried at Saul near the mouth of the river Slaney in Co. Down, where he had first landed at the commencement of his missionary enterprise in Ireland.

Subject to the necessary limitations of one man’s life and powers, and to the exceptions already described, Patrick was both the converter of Ireland to the Christian religion, and the founder and organizer of the Church in that island. Not that he extinguished heathenism. An ever increasing halo of glory surrounded his memory in later times, until it came to be believed that he converted the whole of Ireland. We are told in a late Life of a saint that “the whole of Hibernia was through him filled with the faith and with the baptism of Christ”. But such a sudden and complete conversion of a whole country is unlikely, unnatural, and practically impossible; and there are proofs that paganism survived in Ireland long after St Patrick's time, though the successive steps of its disappearance, and the date of its final extinction cannot be traced or stated with certainty.

Survivals of Heathenism

Very little light is thrown on this point by the Irish Annals. They are a continuous and somewhat barren record of storms, eclipses, pestilences, battles, murders, famines, and so forth. But there are occasional allusions to charms of a Druidical or heathen nature, which imply either that heathenism was not extinct or that heathen practices continued to exist under the veil of Christianity.

In A.D. 560 at the famous battle of Culdreimne (Cooledrevny) we are told in the Annals of Ulster that, “Fraechan, son of Temnan, it was that made the Druids' erbe for Diarmait. Tuatan, son of Diman ... it was that threw overhead the Druids' erbe”.

The exact meaning of erbe is not known, but it was evidently some kind of Druidical charm. Another mysterious entry made A.D. 738 points in a similar direction: “Fergus Glutt King of Cobha died from the envenomed spittles of evil men”. Later, from the last few years of the eighth century onwards, there are many records of conflicts with the Gentiles; but the reference is in all these cases to the new wave of heathenism which swept over Ireland through the Danish invasions. Evidence is however forthcoming from other sources.

For example, in the form of baptismal exorcism used in Ireland in the seventh and ninth centuries we find the clause expelle diabolum et gentilitatem, but the last two words have disappeared from the same form as used in Continental and English service-books of the tenth century—in countries where the extinction of paganism had by that time rendered the words obsolete.

The Canon of the Mass in the earliest extant Irish Missal contains a petition that God would accept the offering made “in this church which thy servant hath built to the honour of thy glorious name; and we beseech thee, O Lord, that thou wouldest rescue him and all the people from the worship of idols, and convert them to thee the true God and Father Almighty”. This passage, which has not been found in any other liturgy, tells us of some place in Ireland, probably in Co. Tipperary, where there was still in the ninth century a pagan population among whom some pagan landowner seems to have been at that time sufficiently favourable to Christianity to build a Christian church, although he himself had not yet become a convert.

It is true, as has been already noted, that a fresh inroad of heathenism into Ireland took place through the Danish invasions which began in A.D. 795, and that one of the fleets of their leader Turgesius sailed up the Shannon, which forms the northern boundary of Tipperary; but their paganism was fierce, and it is impossible to think of any Danish settler being sufficiently favourable to Christianity to allow the building of a Christian church at all events within two centuries after the date of their first arrival.





When and by whom and under what circumstances was Christianity first introduced into Scotland? It is not easy to reply to these questions with certainty because of the unsatisfactory character of the later authorities and the scanty character of the earlier authorities on which we have to rely.

Writing c. A.D. 208 Tertullian refers to the fact that Christianity had already reached Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca,—an expression which must include the north of Scotland, and probably also some of its numerous adjacent islands.

Origen, c. 239, speaks of the Christian Church having extended to the boundaries of the world, yet evidently not as all-embracing, for he refers to very many among Britons, Germans, Scythians, and others who had not yet heard the word of the Gospel. No other Father of the first three centuries refers to Britannia or the Britanni. We turn then to Scottish authorities.

Scotland possesses no early historian at all resembling Bede. The earliest formal history of Scotland is the Chronicle of John of Fordun, who died in 1385, and which takes us up to the reign of David I, inclusive. It was afterwards re-edited and continued from 1153 to 1436 by Walter Bower or Bowmaker, abbot of Inchcolm, a small island in the Firth of Forth, and in that form is generally known as the Scotichronicon. After Fordun come such writers as Andrew of Wyntoun, who between 1420-24 wrote the “orygynale Chronykil of Scotland” from the Creation to 1368; Maurice Buchanan, a cleric in the priory of Pluscarden, a cell of the abbey of Dunfermline, who compiled the Liber Pluscardensis in 1461 at the desire of Bothuele, abbot of Dunfermline, which was largely, and especially in the earlier books, a reproduction of the Scotichronicon; Hector Boethius (Boece), 1470-1526, who wrote a history of Scotland in seventeen books (Scotorum Historiae Libri XVII). Later Scottish historians need not be enumerated or referred to here.

Now these writers make a definite statement that the inhabitants of Scotland were first converted to Christianity in A.D. 203, in the time of Pope Victor I in the seventh year of the reign of the Emperor Severus. Fordun (lib. II. cap. 35) gives no further details, and the only authority quoted consists of four lines of anonymous Latin poetry which look very much as if they had been composed by himself. Hector Boece writing later, gives further details of the conversion of Donald I by the missionaries of Pope Victor in 203, the seventh year of Severus. Now there is no authority for this statement earlier than Fordun, and we can hardly avoid the conclusion that it is a deliberate invention on his part; possibly from a desire that Scotland should not be so very far behind Britain, which claimed to have been converted to Christianity in the second century by Pope Eleutherius in the time of a king Lucius. The statement also stands self-condemned through the anachronisms and the inaccuracies which it contains. There were no Scoti in Scotland in 203, Zephyrinus was then Pope, not Victor, and it was the tenth not the seventh year of the Emperor Severus. Still there must have been Christians among the soldiers composing the Roman armies of invasion and occupation during, soon after, and even before the reign of Severus. May not some knowledge of Christianity have entered Scotland through them? Unfortunately the traces of Roman occupation in Scotland are extremely scanty. No decorations, emblems, or relics of any kind have been found suggestive of Christianity, and there is not only no proof but there are not the slightest traces of a Romano-Scotic church in the third century. No reliance can be placed on certain statements made to the contrary in the Lives of the Saints. The hagiological literature of Scotland is for the most part very late, and for historical purposes more than usually worthless. With the exception of the two seventh century Lives of St Columba by Cuminius (Cumine) and Adamnan, there is nothing earlier than the Life of St Ninian by Ailred who died in 1166 and two Lives of St Kentigern belonging to the same century, an anonymous and now fragmentary Life written while Herbert was bishop of Glasgow (1147-64), and a Life by Joceline of Furness written during the episcopate of Joceline, bishop of Glasgow (1174-99). All the traditions and legends assigning extremely early dates to certain Scottish saints are without foundation, such as the story in the Aberdeen Breviary which makes St Serf a Christian of the primitive church of Scotland before the arrival of Palladius, whose suffragan he becomes; and the story representing Regulus as bringing relics of St Andrew to Scotland, c. 360. In addition to its purely fictitious details, this latter story antedates the connection with St Andrew, and the importa­tion of his relics into Scotland, by some four hundred years.

Legends, then, and fiction apart, when was Christianity introduced into Scotland?

In answering this question we have to remember that Scotland as we know it, and as it exists today, was not in existence in the earlier centuries of the Christian era. In the seventh century the country which now makes up Scotland comprised four distinct kingdoms.

(1) The English kingdom of Bernicia, extending from the Tyne to the Firth of Forth, with its capital at Bamborough.

(2) The British kingdom of Cumbria, or Cambria, or Strathclyde, extending from the Firth of Clyde on the north, to the river Derwent in Cumberland, and including the greater part both of that county and of Westmoreland; its capital being the rock of Dumbarton on the Clyde, with the fortress of Alclyde on its summit.

(3) The kingdom of the Picts, north of the Firth of Forth, extending over the northern and eastern districts of that part of Scotland, with its capital near Inverness.

(4) The Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, corresponding very nearly to the modern county of Argyle, with the hill-fort of Dunadd as its capital.

In addition to these four kingdoms there was a central neutral ground corresponding to the modern counties of Stirling and Linlithgow, with a mixed population drawn from all four of the above populations though specially from the first three; and there was a British settlement in Galloway, corresponding to the modern counties of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright, known in Bede's time as the county of the Niduarian Picts. Niduari probably means persons living on the banks or in the neighbourhood of the river Nith, which runs into the Solway Firth between the counties of Kirkcudbright and Dumfries, though the derivation of the word is not certain.

Conversion of Strathclyde 

In discussing the introduction of Christianity into these various parts of Scotland we may at once dismiss (1). The history of Bernicia falls more properly under the history of England than under that of Scotland.

(2) The conversion of Strathclyde has been generally ascribed to St Ninian (Nynias) who was engaged in building a stone church at Whithern (Ad Candidam Casam) in Galloway at the close of the fourth century, in 397, if we may accept the statement of Ailred that he heard of St Martin's death while the church was in building, and that he dedicated it, when finished, to that saint. But we really know nothing with certainty about St Ninian beyond the scanty account of him given by Bede, for which see below under (3). Bede tells us that he was a Briton—de natione Britonum—and it has been generally concluded that he was a Briton of Strathclyde. This seems a very probable inference, though Bede does not say so. If then he was a Cumbrian and not a Welsh or any other Briton, Strathclyde must have been already at least a partially Christian county to have produced this eminent Christian teacher; and the church at Candida Casa was only the first stone church built amongst an already Christian people. But the earlier history of Strathclyde is in any case obscure and, so far as Christianity is concerned, is quite unknown to us. Ailred tells us that Ninian’s father was a Christian king, but whether he was inventing facts, or whether he was perpetuating a tradition, or how he obtained his information we know not. At all events it must be remembered that Ailred was separated from Ninian by a gap of over seven centuries. This is not the place to discuss the traces of Ninian’s influence and work, or supposed work, in Ireland and the Isle of Man. Ninian’s time is usually given as c. 353-432, but there is no good evidence for the year of either his birth or death.

For about a century afterwards the history of Strathclyde is a blank till we come to St Kentigern or Mungo the great Strathclyde saint, whose life extended from 527 to 612. The latter date is given in the Annales Cambriae; the former date rests on the supposition that he was eighty-five years old at his death. For the facts of Kentigern’s life we are even worse off than we are for those of the life of Ninian. Unfortunately there is no mention of Kentigern in Bede, and our earliest biographies of him date from the twelfth century, namely, as stated above, an anonymous Life written in the time of Bishop Herbert of Glasgow, who died in 1164, existing only in one early fifteenth century MS. in the British Museum, and a Life by Joceline, a monk of the abbey of Furness in Lancashire, written c. 1190 in the lifetime of another Joceline, bishop of Glasgow (1174-99). If we may trust Joceline, Kentigern having been consecrated bishop by a single bishop summoned from Ireland for that purpose, and having fixed his see at Glasgow, practically reconverted Strathclyde to Christianity, the vast majority of its inhabitants having apostatised from the faith since the days of Ninian. This reconversion included that of the Pictish inhabitants of Galwiethia or Galloway, who had likewise apostatized. He is also credited by Joceline with missionary work in Albania or Alban, which means the eastern districts of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth, and dedications to Kentigern north of the Firth of Forth seem to corroborate Joceline’s statement, which however is otherwise unsupported, and cannot be accepted as certainly established: his other statements that Kentigern sent missionaries to the Orkneys, Norway, and Ireland are improbable in the extreme; and it is only the general and inherent difficulty of proving a negative which makes it impossible to refute them.

It may be of interest to add that traces of Strathclyde Christianity coeval with Ninian survive in the names of two, possibly three, bishops engraved on fifth century stones at Kirkmadrine on the bay of Luce, Co. Wigtown, and in the remains of a stone chapel of St Medan, an Irish virgin and a disciple of Ninian, at Kirkmaiden on the same bay.

(3) The Picts. Bede tells us that Ninian converted the southern Picts, Australes Picti. It has been thought that these Picts were the Picts of Galloway, the Galwegian or Niduarian Picts, but as Bede describes them as occupying territory within, that is, to the south of, the Mounth, he must refer to the southern portion of the northern Pictish kingdom, which would correspond to the six modern counties of Kincardine, Forfar, Perth, Fife, Kinross, and Clackmannan. Bede also records the conversion of the northern Picts by St Columba. He gives the date of Columba’s arrival in Scotland as 565, but he appears to have landed on and occupied Iona in 563, and in 565 to have crossed the mountain range of Drumalban on his missionary enterprise to the northern Picts. His first arrival in Scotland is dated by other authorities and in the Annals of Ulster, the Annales Cambriae, and the Annals of Tighernac as 562 or 563. Iona was probably assigned to him in the first instance by Conall Mac Comgaill, king of Dalriada, and afterwards confirmed to him by Brude Mac Maelchon, king of the Picts, whom Columba visited at his palace near Inverness, converting both him and his nation to Christianity. Iona was situated between the Pictish and the Dalriadic kingdoms. We know very few details about this mission work among the northern Picts, which extended over nine years. Neither Bede, nor Adamnan in his Life of Columba, which is rather a panegyric than a biography, give us any history of it, but the many churches dedicated to him are a witness to his success, and details of two foundations of Columban churches have been preserved in the Book of Deer, viz. Aberdour in Banffshire, and Deer in the district of Buchan. Columba’s activity extended also to many of the small islands adjacent to Scotland, of which next to Iona itself the most important settlements were at Hinba and Tiree; but other islands, including Skye, bear witness to his presence and work by the dedications of their churches.

(4) The Scottish kingdom of Dalriada was founded by a colony from Dalriada in the extreme north of Ireland at the end of the fifth or early in the sixth century: and there can be no reason to doubt that the Dalriadic Irish or Scoti, as they were then called, were a Christian people, and brought their Christianity with them into Scotland c. A.D 490. Therefore when Columba arrived in Scotland in 563, or 565, he found a Christian people and king in Dalriada, ready to welcome him and to assign Iona to him as his home : and this was the beginning of a new movement which was destined to influence not Scotland only, but England also.



By the Rev. J. P. WHITNEY




WHEN Teutonic tribes of mixed descent invaded Britain they came as heathen unaffected by Roman Christianity against Keltic tribes partly heathen and partly Christian; the old inhabitants had been Romanized and Christianized in different degrees, varying coastwards and inland, in cities and country, to the south-east and to the west: the invaders moreover covered and at first devastated more land than they could hold, and their own settlement was a long process, varying in length in different districts. The separation of the Britons from the government and influence of Rome had been also slow and reluctant. Hence for many reasons it is hard to generalize about the Christianity with which the Teutonic invaders came into touch. Where this Christianity was not strong or long implanted it tended towards weakness and decay: here and there revivals of heathenism took place: here and there in the long years of Teutonic settlement revivals of Keltic Christianity began. Hence, as time passes on, new vigour of a Keltic and not a Romanised type is found as in Wales among the British: elsewhere the influence of Christianity lessens, and the Britons of some parts, so far from being able to convert the newcomers, keep their own religion more as a custom than as a living force. In either case the result is the same: the invaders are for long years wholly unaffected by the Christianity of the land they are conquering.

Little need be said here of the religion the invaders brought with them: in some points of morals they may have been above some other races and hence the moral code of Christianity might appeal to them, but it is idle to speculate as to elements in their religion which possibly made them readier later on to accept Christian doctrines. Their whole outlook, however, upon the unseen world brought it into close touch with their lives and the fortunes of their race: their religion so far as it was effective was a source of joy in life, and of strength in action, not of fear or weakness. Hence, when they received Christianity, it was with the freedom of sons, not the timidity of slaves, with a ready understanding that its discipline was to strengthen their characters for action. English Christianity was thus marked off from Teutonic Christianity elsewhere by moral differences, slight and not to be over­estimated: moreover, because it started afresh, free from the political and social traditions of the Empire, and because its conditions, in spite of much intercourse with the Continent, were locally more uniform and more insular than elsewhere, its growth took a somewhat peculiar turn. Christianity came to the English from the Papacy, and not from the Empire: it came at one great epoch, and when the Conquest was well under way, rather than by the gradual influence of daily life, as it did with the Teutonic races elsewhere. “The wonderful vitality of imperialist traditions ... took no hold here. Escaping this, the English Church was saved from the infection of court-life and corruption ... it escaped the position forced upon the bishops of France as secular officers, defensors and civil magistrates”. And this original impulse as described by Stubbs kept on its way in spite of later Frankish influence and intercourse. But at the same time the mission brought with it a larger life and a broader outlook: it is significant that Aethelberht of Kent, the first to accept the new faith, is also the first in the list of kings who put forth laws. Later kings who did the same were also noted for their interest in the Church.

The part taken by Gregory the Great, and the impulse he gave to the mission, have been spoken of elsewhere. But it should be noted here as a sign of the responsibility for the whole West felt by the Papal See in face of the barbarian inroads; furthermore the letters of commendation given to the missionaries by the Pope to bishops and rulers amongst the Franks opened up more fully lines of connection already laid down for the future English Church. Two of Gregory’s letters would, indeed, suggest that the English had already expressed some wish for missionaries to be sent to them: “it has come to us that the race of the English desires with yearning to be turned to the faith of Christ ... but that the bishops in their neighbourhood”—and this apparently applied to the Franks, not solely at any rate to the Welsh—“are negligent”. And the Pope (at an uncertain date) had formed a plan for buying English youths “to be given to God in the monasteries”. This may be taken along with the beautiful tradition current in Northumbria of Gregory’s pity for the English boys in the Roman slave-market. But at any rate the time was favourable for a mission owing to the marriage of Aethelberht of Kent, the most powerful English ruler of the time, with Berhta, daughter of Chariberht of Paris; and this Christian queen had taken across to her new home the Frankish bishop Liudhard as her chaplain. But from other indications little seems to have been known in the Rome of that day about the heathen invaders, and the English invasion had cut off the British Christians from intercourse with the Continent.

Augustine’s Mission [596-597

The mission left Rome early in 596: during the journey its members wished to return from the perils in front of them, but, encouraged by Gregory’s fatherly firmness and knit together by his giving their leader Augustine the authority of an abbot over them, they went on and landed, most probably at Richborough, 597. Aethelberht received them kindly, and gave them an interview—in the open air for fear of magic. Augustine—taller than his comrades—led the procession of 40 men (possibly including Frankish interpreters), chanting a Litany as they went, carrying a silver cross and a wooden picture of the crucifixion; Aethelberht heard them with sympathy, and yet with an open mind. He gave them a home in Canterbury in the later parish of St Alphege: here they could worship in St Martin's church, and they were also allowed to preach freely to the king’s subjects. By Whitsuntide the king himself was so far won over as to be baptised— n Whitsunday or its eve, probably at St Martin’s church (1 or 2 June 597). The king used no force to lead his subjects after him, but he naturally favoured those who followed him, and soon many were won by the faithful lives of the missionaries, shown so easily by the common life of a brotherhood. Throughout the story of the Conversion it is indeed to the lives rather than to the preaching of the missionaries that Bede assigns their success, and the tolerance of the English kings in Kent and elsewhere gave them a ready opening. If here and there the missionaries met persecution, it never rose to martyrdom.

According to the Pope’s directions, Augustine ought now to be consecrated, and for this purpose he went to Arles, where Vergilius (the usually accurate Bede mistakes the name) consecrated him (16 Nov. 597).

Soon after his return to Kent the new bishop sent off to the Pope by the hands of his presbyter Laurentius and the monk Peter news of his success, along with a number of questions as to the difficulties he foresaw. We find Boniface in his day doing the same, and we may see in it a common and indeed natural custom rather than a sign of weakness.

597-601] Augustine’s Questions and Gregory’s Answers

The questions and the answers to them only concern us here so far as they show the special difficulties of the mission and the character of St Augustine. Their importance for the character of the Pope has been shown elsewhere. But their authenticity has been doubted: some of them are not what might have been expected, e.g. those on liturgic selection, and on recognizing marriages contracted in heathenism but against Church law. The preface printed in the Epistles but omitted by Bede is more doubtful than the reply itself; and seems intended to explain the chronology of Bede. But the documentary history of the reply and its absence from the registry in Rome—where Boniface in 736 failed to have it found—have also caused suspicion. Yet, considering the ways in which the Epistles as a whole have reached us, this is not in itself sufficient to cause rejection. The arguments that Gregory’s answers are not what we should expect, and that the questions concern points all raised afterwards, really cut both ways. The correction (by a later letter sent after the messengers) of a first command (in a letter to Aethelberht) for the destruction of heathen temples would hardly have occurred to a forger, and it therefore carries weight. But the dates and the long interval between the questions (597) and the reply (601) are a little difficult. To heighten the success of Augustine, and to make the mission appear instantaneously successful would come natural to later writers. The later tradition which makes Aethelberht as a second Constantine give up his palace to Augustine as another Sylvester is one indication of such a tendency. If the baptism really took place in 598 the difficulties are less.

The first question relates to the division of the offerings of the faithful between the bishop and his clergy: to this the answer was that the Roman custom was a fourfold division between the bishop, the clergy, the poor and the repair of the churches. But, since Augustine and his companions were monks, they would live in common, so that they would share the offerings in common also. As to the clergy in minor orders they should receive their stipends separately, might live apart and might take wives: but they were bound to obey church rule.

The purely monastic type of mission thus brought incidentally with it a difference between the systems of division first of offerings, then of systematized tithes, in England, where a fourfold division found no place, and on the Continent, if indeed we can generalise as to the custom observed abroad. Later ecclesiastical regulations and orders attempted to bring the Frankish system into England, but the English division remained different from the continental.

The second question was why one custom of saying mass should be observed in the Roman Church, and another in the Church of Gaul. The Pope replied that things were not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things: hence what was good in any local custom might be brought into the Church of the English—advice which has been sometimes held to sanction a liturgic freedom not likely to commend itself to the somewhat correct mind of Augustine, and certainly not used by him. Questions as to punishment for thefts from churches and as to the degrees for marriage were perhaps needful in a rough society, and one case mentioned—that of a marriage of a man with his step-mother — presented itself in the case of Aethelberht’s successor Eadbald, who took to himself his father's second wife. But as the background to some of these questions there is clearly something of the same social condition which produced the Penitentials of later dates, although it is going too far to ascribe the whole to a later day and to Archbishop Theodore as writer.

The sixth and seventh questions dealt with the Episcopate: when asked whether one bishop might consecrate by himself in cases of need, Gregory replied that Augustine, as the only bishop of the Church of England, could do nothing but consecrate alone unless bishops from Gaul chanced to be present. Provision for new sees should, however, be made so that this difficulty should disappear, and then three or four bishops should be present. The seventh question asked how Augustine was to deal with the bishops of Gaul and Britain. Here it may be noted that when elsewhere he spoke of bishops in the neighbourhood of the English Gregory seems to have meant the bishops in Gaul: the British bishops he seems to have ignored. But here he commits them (Brittanniarum omnes episcopos) to the care of Augustine (who is, of course, to exercise no authority in Gaul, although he is to be on terms of fellowship with the bishops there), so that “the unlearned may be taught, the weak made stronger by persuasion, and the perverse corrected by authority”.

These answers were brought to Augustine by a band of new missionaries, Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus and others, who carried with them sacred vessels, vestments and books, as well as a pall for Augustine. He was to consecrate twelve bishops to be under his jurisdiction as bishop of London. For the city of York a bishop was also to be consecrated, who was, as the districts beyond York gradually received the word of God, also to consecrate twelve bishops under himself as metropolitan. During Augustine's lifetime the Bishop of York was to be subject to him, but afterwards the northern metropolitan was to be independent, and the metropolitan first ordained of the two ruling together was to have precedence. All these bishops were to act together in councils and so on. To Augustine, likewise, Gregory committed all the priests of Britain.

To Mellitus, after he had started, the Pope also sent a later letter (22 June), in which he gave directions about the use of heathen temples; the buildings themselves were not to be destroyed, as he had said before to Aethelberht, but the idols were to be broken and the places purified, altars were to be built, and then the temples were to become churches. Thus the people would keep their old holy places; and rejoicings, like those on the old heathen festivals, were to be allowed them on days of dedication or the nativities of holy martyrs. The church of St Martin at Canterbury had already been given to the mission: on another site, that of an old church once used by Roman Christians, Augustine had built Christ Church, which was to become the mother church of England and the centre of a great monastery: another ruined building—which had been used as a temple—was purified and dedicated as St Pancras, a Roman martyr: outside the city walls the king built a church, St Peter and St Paul, also to be the centre of a monastery, afterwards known, when Laurentius had consecrated it, as St Augustine's, of which Peter was the first abbot. Here the kings and the archbishops were to be buried, and between this monastery and Christ Church a long-lived jealousy arose, which had sometimes great effects upon ecclesiastical politics. In this way Augustine made Canterbury a great Christian centre. If the progress outside Kent was for a long time slow, the tenacity of the Christian hold upon Canterbury itself is also to be noted.

The growth of the mission in new fields and its relations with the British are henceforth the main threads of the history. A meeting with the British bishops and teachers was brought about at Augustine’s oak on “the borders of the West Saxons and Hwicce” (either Aust on the Severn, or, less probably, a place near Malmesbury)—a local definition which changed between the days of Augustine and those of Bede. The bishops must have been those of South Wales, and those of Devon and North Wales may have been with them, but the Britons of the West country were now separated from those of Wales by the advance of the West Saxons after Dyrham (577). Augustine urged these bishops to keep catholic unity and join in preaching the Gospel to the English. This task they had not attempted of their own accord: they were still less likely to do it under the new leadership.

There were points of difference between the Roman and British Christians, breaches of uniformity due to a long separation, rather than to original differences, but tending towards difference of spirit, at the very time, moreover, when unity of feeling and of action was most necessary: standing as their observance of Easter showed outside the general trend of European custom, the British held an attitude towards Rome which had marked an earlier day. But these differences, almost accidental to begin with, were exaggerated into matters of Christian liberty on the one side, into matters of heresy upon the other. The difference in the date of Easter had been caused by the separation of Britain from the Empire; the British had kept the old cycle of eighty-four years used generally in the West before the English conquest: since the separation Rome —followed gradually by the West—had twice changed to a better cycle, and the last change, moreover, had brought the West into accord with the East. Furthermore Romans and Britons started from a different vernal equinox: 21 March and 25 March respectively; the Britons also kept Easter on the fourteenth of Nisan if that were a Sunday: but the Romans in that case kept it on the Sunday following. There were thus ample differences which would lead to practical discord: but there was no excuse for the charge of Quartodecimanism against the British, for they did not keep the fourteenth of Nisan if it fell on a week-day. There were other differences also; in the tonsure where the Britons (and the Kelts generally) merely shaved the front of the head, whereas the Romans shaved the crown in a circle, and in baptism where the precise difference is unknown. No decision was reached: even the demonstration by Augustine of his gift of miracles—an account of which had reached Rome and caused the Pope to write to him advising humility and self-examination in face of success—was not decisive. The British representatives went back to consult their fellows, and a second meeting—probably in the same place—followed. It is here that Bede places the British story of the way in which upon the advice of a hermit the British discovered the pride of Augustine. But if there was on his side some pride in the older civilization cherished in the Western capital, there was on the other side the obstinacy of a race long left to itself, and over-jealous of its independence.

At the second conference Augustine — ready to overlook some particulars of British use which were contrary to Western customs laid down three conditions of union: the same date for Easter; the observance of Roman custom in baptism; and fellowship in missions to the English. But to these conditions the British would not agree, nor would they receive him as their archbishop. It is perhaps well to observe that the difference on these three conditions would have interfered with the attraction of converts. In the eyes of Augustine the mission would appear to have ranked above questions of precedence: the British had not yet overcome their national repugnance to the English, and they saw, what became plainer in later years, that the leadership of the Roman missionaries would of necessity result from fellowship in work. The growth of bitterness between the races was quickened by the failure of these negotiations.

604-617] Controversies

A step forward in organisation was taken when (604) Augustine consecrated Justus to be bishop of Durobrivae, or Rochester in West Kent, and Mellitus to be bishop of London for the East Saxons—whose king Saeberht had become a Christian and was now subject to Kent. Shortly afterwards Augustine died (605), and was followed in his see by Laurentius, who had been already consecrated in his leader's lifetime.

The character of the founder of the line of papae alterius orbis has been often sketched in very different colours, and sometimes perhaps with outlines too firm for the material we have at hand. It was long before the enmity between the Britons and English died down, and until it did so the two sides distorted his words and deeds: Britons exaggerated his haughtiness and pride: English exaggerated his firmness in correcting an upstart race. The ordinary view bears marks of both these exaggerations. Disputes between English independence and Papal rule have had a like effect, and incidents in his career have been twisted overmuch to suit a given framework. Our earlier records may not have drawn him exactly as he was: modern writers have certainly taken even greater liberty. He did not rise to the dignity of a Boniface or a Columbanus, but the limits both upwards and downwards of his personality are shown us by what he did. Unsympathetic yet patient, constructive and systematic he had the genius of his race, he had learnt and could teach the discipline which had trained him, and his personality has been overshadowed by his work.

The rule of Laurentius is known principally for an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the Irish. An Irish (Scots) bishop Dagan coming among the English would not even eat in the same house with Laurentius and his followers: accordingly Laurentius wrote to “his dearest brothers, the bishops and abbots through all Scotia”, pressing unity upon them. But nothing came either of this attempt, or from a like letter to the British, although they may have led to the Canterbury tradition of Laurentius' friendly relations with the British.

Even before the death of Aethelberht—after a long reign of 56 years (616)—the power of Kent had been waning. Raedwald of East Anglia, once a vassal of Kent, who had been baptized at Canterbury, had renounced his allegiance and had tried to combine in some strange way the worship of Christ and of the old gods. In 617 this Raedwald was strong enough to beat even the victorious Aethelfrith king of Northumbria, who had himself beaten the Dalriadic Scots in the North and the Britons at Chester (616). This latter victory had separated the Britons of Wales from their northern kinsmen, just as the victory of Dyrham (577) had separated them from the south. The warfare between Raedwald and Aethelfrith had important consequences, both for religion and politics. Edwin, son of Aelle of Deira, was in exile, as his kingdom had been seized on his father's death (588) by Aethelric of Bernicia. Aethelric’s son, Aethelfrith, a great warrior against the British, now ruled over both Northern kingdoms, and, to make his dynasty sure, sought the death of his brother-in-law, Edwin, who as babe and youth found shelter first in Wales and then with Raedwald of East Anglia. The East Anglian king refused to give up the fugitive, and in the war which followed he seized Lindsey and then defeated the Bernicians on the ford of the Idle in North Mercia. Aethelfrith was slain, and Edwin gained not only his father's kingdom but also Bernicia.

Aethelberht in Kent had been succeeded by his son Eadbald, who took to himself his father's second wife, thus separating himself from the Christians. In Essex, too, the Christian Saeberht was succeeded by his two sons Saexred and Saeward, who being pagans at heart in the end drove Mellitus away from London. Laurentius was now left alone, for Mellitus and Justus fled to the Franks, and even he was preparing for flight, when a dream delayed him. But before long Eadbald professed Christianity. Justus returned to Rochester, and, in the end, the deaths of Laurentius (619) and his successor Mellitus (624) placed him on the throne of Canterbury (624-627). Mellitus however was not readmitted to London: Kent alone kept its Christianity, but soon the conversion of Northumbria, when Honorius (627-653) was archbishop, brought about a great change.

On Raedwald’s death his supremacy passed gradually into the hands of Edwin of Northumbria.

625-627] Edwin 

This prince married as his second wife Aethelburga (or Tata), daughter of Aethelberht of Kent, and sister to Eadbald, who was now a Christian. On his marriage he promised his wife liberty for her religion, and even hinted that he might consider the faith for himself. Paulinus, one of the second band of Roman missionaries, went with her to the North, and before he left Canterbury was consecrated bishop by Justus (21 July 625). A year after the marriage Cuichelm king of Wessex sent one Eomer to Edwin to assassinate him, but the devotion of a thegn Lilla, whose name was long remembered, saved Edwin's life; that same night the queen bore him a daughter, Eanfled, the first Northumbrian to be baptized. In double gratitude the king vowed to become a Christian if he defeated his West Saxon foe. When later on he returned home victorious he therefore submitted himself to instruction by Paulinus, and slowly pondered over the new faith. A mysterious vision, which he had seen long before at the East Anglian court, when a stranger promised him safety and future power, giving him a secret sign for remembrance, was now recalled to him by Paulinus along with the secret sign which the messenger in the vision had given him. Edwin was convinced for himself and called his Witan together in eastern Deira to debate with Paulinus over the new faith. Hitherto there had been no sign of life or strength in the English heathenism, and now Coifi, the chief of the king’s priests, showed its weakness by his speech: he is the first of his class we meet with, for too much stress must not be laid on Bede's mention (II chap. 6) of the “idolatrous high priests” (idolatris pontificibus) who hardened the hearts of the Londoners against receiving back Mellitus. Bede gives us an account of the debate, probably from some old tradition, embodying truth but not to be pressed in detail: Coifi gave his view that the religion they professed had absolutely no virtue, and no usefulness: he had been its diligent servant, and had gained no reward. A chieftain spoke next of more spiritual things: the future life of man seemed dark and mysterious as the night outside might seem to a bird flying through the fire-lit space where they sat: perchance this new faith could penetrate the darkness. Coifi thereupon took the lead in profaning and destroying a neighbouring temple at Goodmanham, by Market Weighton. Afterwards Edwin (12 April 627, Easter day) was baptized at York in the little wooden church he had built during his preparation for baptism. But after his baptism he built there—in the middle of the old Roman city, where Severus and Chlorus had died, and whence Constantine had started on his great career—a nobler church of stone, a material which marked the beginnings of a new civilization. This, however, was still left unfinished when he died, but its site is now covered by the present crypt.

Paulinus [627-647

For six years Paulinus preached and taught both in Bernicia and Deira, though he left most mark in the latter: from Catterick southwards as far as Campodunum (possibly Slack, near Huddersfield) he journeyed and sojourned, catechizing and baptizing, and a church afterwards destroyed here by the pagan Mercians marked his work at the latter place. In Lindsey also—the north of Lincolnshire, a district at that time tributary to Northumbria—he taught, and at Lincoln he built a stone church of beautiful workmanship, in which on the death of Justus of Canterbury (10 Nov., probably 627) he consecrated as successor Honorius. In these labours Paulinus was helped by others, especially by James his deacon, who was not only a man of zeal, but very skilful in song. When in later days Paulinus fled southwards, James stayed behind, and around his home near Catterick he taught many to sing in “the Roman or the Canterbury way”.This knowledge of music in Yorkshire, which long afterwards caught the notice of Giraldus Cambrensis, was kept alive and furthered by Eddius under Wilfrid and by John (formerly arch-chanter at St Peter's in Rome) under Benedict Biscop. Outside Northumbria, too, the influence of Paulinus worked change. In East Anglia Eorpwald, son of Raedwald (627), was now king, and, by the persuasion of Edwin, was brought, with his territory, to Christianity.

Before long Eorpwald was, however, assassinated by a pagan, and for three years the kingdom fell into idolatry until the accession of his brother Sigebert (630 or 631), who in a time of exile among the Franks had been baptized and more fully taught religion. In the conversion of his kingdom he was greatly helped by Felix, a Burgundian, who had come to Honorius for missionary work in England, and had been sent by him to Sigebert, and placed in Dunwich as bishop for his kingdom (631-647): here there was not only a church built, but a school “after the manner of Kent”, in which youths were taught. From quite another part came a fellow-labourer: Fursey from Ireland, the founder of a monastery at Cnobheresburg, often but doubtfully taken to be Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth, renowned not only for his saintliness but for his mystic experiences and visions; he wandered, as so many of his race did, from a wish to lead the pilgrim life, and like Aidan (with whom Bede instinctively joins him) he was torn in two by the love of mankind, driving him to active work, and by the love of solitude, driving him to the hermit’s life.

When his East Anglian monastery was well founded, he handed it over to his brother, Fullan (Faelan), who was a bishop, and the priests Gobban and Dicul. Later, when Penda of Mercia was restoring heathenism, he passed to the land of the Franks and there under Clovis II (638-656) he founded the monastery of Lagny on the Marne. When he was on the point of leaving this new home for a visit to his brethren he died (c. 647). His life is significant not only of Keltic restlessness and devotion, but also of the many influences now working on missions: in East Anglia as in the larger field beyond impulses from Rome, Burgundy, Gaul, and Ireland all worked together : national and racial antagonisms were overcome by the solvent of Christianity. A new unity was growing up in the West as formerly in the East. What happened in East Anglia, and has been recorded, almost by accident, must have also happened elsewhere.

The energy of Paulinus, backed by the power of Edwin, had wrought so much that the Pope (now Honorius I) carried out the plan of Gregory the Great by sending to Paulinus a pall with the title of archbishop. But the bearers of the gift reached England only to find that Paulinus had fled from the North. Edwin’s rule had been effective beyond anything known so far among the English: peace for travelers was enforced, and the king’s dignity was shown in a growing pomp: banners were borne before him not only in war but during peace, and the tufa carried before him on his progresses seemed a claim to a power that was either very old or very new. Suddenly this prosperous rule was interrupted by a league between Penda of Mercia, who had gradually grown in power since his accession (626), and Cadwallon of North Wales. In the woodlands of Heathfield, near Doncaster, Edwin was defeated (12 October 633) and slain. York was taken, Deira laid waste: Aethelburga fled with Paulinus, and a time of disorder and paganism “hateful to all good men” began. In Deira Edwin's cousin Osric, in Bernicia Eanfrid, son of Aethelfrith, ruled, and both of them fell from the faith. Within a year Osric was slain in battle against the Welsh who seemed to have been holding the land: Eanfrid too was slain when he came to sue for peace from Cadwallon. Eanfrid's brother, Oswald, succeeded, able in war, glorious in peace, and on the Heavenfield, near Chollerford, just north of Hexham, he defeated Cadwallon as he advanced against him from York and slew him on the Deniseburn (635). For a time the northern lands had peace, and Oswald’s influence soon reached beyond his own borders. His nearest neighbour, Penda of Mercia, however, more than held his own, and even harried Ecgric, who had succeeded Sigebert in East Anglia: but over the West Saxons Oswald held some kind of influence, which he used to further Christianity. Birinus, according to later tradition a Roman, had gone to Pope Honorius offering himself for missionary service, and after consecration by Asterius, archbishop of Milan, he was sent to Wessex (634): he had meant to work in the inland districts, but in the end stayed near the coast, and so became the apostle of Wessex: the king Cynegils became a Christian; Birinus was consecrated as bishop of Dorchester on Thames (Dorcic), but we know little in detail of his work beyond its results.

When Ecgric was attacked by Penda, Sigebert, recalled from a monastery to lead his former subjects, went to battle armed only with a wand: both he and Ecgric were slain, and Anna, nephew of Raedwald, succeeded. This new king’s house was noted for its monastic zeal, and in the number of its saints rivalled the line of Penda. His step-daughter Saethryd and his daughter Aethelburga crossed over to the Franks to the monastery of Brie (Faremoutier-en-Brie): here in a double monastery for both sexes like Whitby (Streoneshalh), favoured by the same dynasty afterwards—both became abbesses. Hither also Erconberht of Kent—the first English king to follow Frankish rulers in destroying idols—sent a daughter. An impulse was thus given by the foreign connection to the growth of monasticism in England: by the middle of the century there were about a dozen houses founded, and through Aethelthryth (Aethelreda, Audrey) the foundress of Ely, and others, the East Anglian line was foremost in the movement.

Paulinus, traces of whose work long remained, had fled southwards in 633 and there he became, through one of the translations so common in that day, the bishop of Rochester. After his departure the Christianity of Northumbria passed into another phase. In his long exile Oswald had been sheltered among the Scots, and had come to know something of the enthusiasm and learning which made them the best teachers of the day. He had been baptized at Iona, and thither he now sent for a bishop. One was sent, whose name the fine reticence of Bede concealed for a Scots writer some centuries later to supply, but he despaired of the task and went home again. Then Aidan (Aedan), the gentle and devoted, was consecrated bishop and sent (635). After the Scots custom he took his seat on an island, Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, near to the Bernician capital Bamborough. Here there grew up a monastery on the Keltic plan like that of Iona: ruled, however, by Aidan himself, as abbot and bishop, it was also a new and effective missionary centre for Bernicia. Through it Irish (or Scots) influence reached north-eastern England, and changed the land much as it had changed western Scotland. It spread far southwards, but its original home was Iona.

Monastic Houses [633-635

Keltic monasticism, and the work of Columba around Iona, have been described in previous chapters of this work. The eremitic tendency of Keltic monasticism never disappeared, and just as the original monasteries in Ireland itself were mission stations for the tribes among which they were placed, so Iona (originally Hii or Ioua, from which by a mistaken reading Iona has arisen) became a mission station not only for the Dalriadic Scots but for the Picts. Irish monasteries, however, underwent some changes outside Ireland: the love of wandering, the restlessness which Columba "the soldier of the island" showed by his inability to be idle even for an hour, drove the monks to travel (pro Christo peregrinari): on the Continent they aimed at living as strangers: but at Iona Columba and his successors strove to learn the Pictish tongue, and mission work seems to have been esteemed even more highly there than the life of quiet devotion. Learning, however, was never forgotten: not only Columba but his successor Baithene (597-600) copied manuscripts. And where Iona led Lindisfarne followed. But more than all other characteristics the enthusiasm and simplicity of the Irish monks appealed to their hearers and neighbours. Above all it was in Aidan, the apostle of the north, that these spiritual gifts were seen, and on his long preaching tours he won the hearts of all. Oswald himself often went with him as interpreter (from which we may infer that Aidan did not gain the same mastery of language that Columba did), and as a king Oswald answered to Aidan's ideal: frequent in prayer, fruitful in alms, the first English king to have, or indeed to need, an almoner.

But once again Penda of Mercia broke in: leagued with Cadwalader, successor to Cadwallon, he defeated Oswald at Maserfield (642). Oswald's severed head was rescued and carried off first to Lindisfarne; thence afterwards in St Cuthbert's coffin to Durham, where it was seen in the present generation.

In Bernicia Oswald was succeeded by his brother Oswy (Oswiu), but in Deira the old dynastic jealousy revived, and Edwin’s kinsman Oswin was chosen king. But Oswy joined the rival houses, for he fetched from Kent Edwin's daughter Eanfled, and made her his queen. Soon afterwards Oswin, who was like Oswald in his goodness and his friendship for Aidan, was betrayed to Oswy at Gilling, and slain (651). Eleven days later Aidan himself died, but his spirit and his work lived on in the school he had made and the disciples he had trained.

642-651] Bede 

In the mere record of events, mainly wars and revolutions, it is easy to overlook the gradual work, the change of character, the growth of civilization, which had been slowly taking place. The missions from the Continent had brought with them a larger outlook, a wider knowledge of a varied world, and a vision of a vaster unity with an ancient background: the Irish missions had brought deep devotion, spiritual intensity, and the traditions of the great Irish schools. In the north of England these two streams of life were joined, and a rich civilization was the outcome. Jarrow and Monkwearmouth reached to Iona on the west and to Canterbury on the south, and both Canterbury and Iona stood for a great past. Historic feeling had led Columba to defend the bards for their services to history: Canterbury, by instinct and tradition as well as by training, held to the past, and Bede, like Alcuin later, inherited something from each. Hence come not only his love for religion and order, but also his love of history and historic truth. It was these which helped him to see the growing unity and drove him to record the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. What he felt in himself answered to the many-sided history with its growing life. We owe him so much for his preservation of details otherwise unknown, for his diligent search after truth, that we are likely to forget his sense of the unity, the common life, which was now growing up out of many elements and from many local beginnings. Bede is the first prophet of English unity, and the first to tell its tale.

The English were now taking their place in civilization and Christianity. They were soon to be the great missionaries of Europe: they were now able to care for themselves. In 644 Ithamar, the first Englishman to be “hallowed” as bishop, took the bishop’s stool at Rochester: in 647 and 652 Englishmen, first Thomas and then Berctgils (Boniface), became bishops of Dunwich. Honorius at Canterbury died (30 September 653), and after a long vacancy was succeeded by a West Saxon, Frithonas, who took the name of Deusdedit. But in spite of local work and impulses, in spite of gradual change, there was little real unity even of effort, there was still less of organisation. The Roman missionaries had a wider background of civilization, and were accustomed to larger states with wider interests. They worked for unity, and against the persistence of little states with many narrow policies: to secure civilization it was necessary to reach larger union. There was already the rich variety of personal character and life: something more was needed now. It was the perception of this lack on the part of the English themselves, and not merely the accident of events, that led to the synod of Whitby and the work of Theodore.

The success of the Scots mission in the north had brought up once more the old differences between the Keltic and Roman Churches: the same difficulty had met Augustine, and the crisis would have come earlier had it not been for the gentle influence of Aidan. When Oswy’s bride went northwards she took with her a chaplain Romanus, who kept Easter by the general and Roman rule, whereas the Scots had naturally brought with them their own use. In southern Ireland the Roman Easter had been already adopted (before 634), but the weight of Iona had been thrown strongly upon the other side, so that northern Ireland, Iona and its offshoots, kept to their older usage. Finan, Aidan’s successor at Lindisfarne (651-661), had come to Lindisfarne fresh from discussions between the two parties in the Irish monasteries: he found James the deacon, and Ronan, a Scot of continental education and sympathies, urging the Roman use which had now the support of a party at court. Finan was himself a controversialist but he was also more. It was in his days that Peada, son of Penda, and under him king of the Middle Angles (Northamptonshire), married Oswy 's daughter, was baptized, and with his father's tacit leave brought Christianity into his sub-kingdom, so influencing Mercia as a whole. The band of missionaries who went to his help from Northumbria was made up of three Northumbrians, including Chad's brother Cedd, and one Scot, Diuma. Diuma became bishop of the Middle Angles and the Mercians after the death of Penda, which took away the last vigorous supporter of heathenism. Under all this turmoil a new generation, with its own point of view, its own work and interests, was growing up. Men who differed from each other were being brought together in peaceful work as well as in controversy. New openings were also being made for work: there was, as Bede tells us, such a scarcity of priests that one bishop—like Diuma—had to be set over two peoples. Diuma was followed by another Scot Ceollach, who left his diocese to return to Iona: then came Trumhere “brought up in the monastic life, English by nation, but ordained bishop by the Scots”. Christianity in England was forming a type of its own, moulded by many forces, and the many-sided life, spiritual and intellectual, of Bede's own monastery enabled him to understand this growth.

655-665] A new generation. The Yellow Pest

In Essex Sigebert II (the Good), although still heathen, was a friend of Oswy’s and a visitor at his court: in the end he and his attendants were baptized by Finan: the place of baptism was Attewall (?Ad Murum, near Newcastle), where Peada was also baptised, and the times of the two baptisms may have been the same.

Cedd recalled from Mercia went as chaplain to this new royal convert and after some success in work went home to Lindisfarne for a visit. Here Finan “calling to himself two other bishops for the ministry of ordination”—a sign that the English Church was now passing into more settled life—consecrated him bishop for Essex. As bishop he went back, ordained priests and deacons, built churches at Tilbury and elsewhere, teaching “also the discipline of a life of rule”. But his love was divided between the work of his diocese, and the monastic life. Aethelwald of Deira, Oswald's son, who held Deira at some time possibly after the murder of Oswin, was deeply attached to Cedd and his three brothers, one of whom, Celin, was his chaplain. As a place of retreat for the bishop and as a burial-place for the king, a site was chosen "in hills steep and remote, rather hiding places for robbers and homes of wild beasts than habitations for men," and here grew up the famous house of Lastingham, where Cedd and after him Chad were abbots. Keltic influence was thus strong. But at the same time we have many signs of a growing unity. Thus we find Oswy of Northumbria and Ecgbert of Kent joining, on the death of Deusdedit of Canterbury (655-664), to choose a successor Wighard, a priest at Canterbury, and send him to Rome for consecration by Vitalian. When part of Essex lapsed into idolatry, Wulfhere of Mercia, who stood over the East Saxon sub-kings Sebbi the Christian and Sighere the heathen, sent his own bishop Iaruman of Mercia to reconvert it (665). Local barriers are thus everywhere overstepped.

The Yellow Pest with all its horrors had caused widespread terror and thrown everything out of gear. The roll of its victims was long. Erconberht king of Kent as well as the archbishop Deusdedit, Tuda bishop at Lindisfarne, the saintly Cedd at Lastingham (where Chad succeeded him): at Melrose the prior Boisil, where also his successor the devoted Cuthbert the missionary of the north all but died. In Essex to the south, and northwards by the Tweed, men turned again to witch­craft and heathen charms. In its mortality and its effects upon society it was somewhat like the later Black Death. Hence the religious and social reconstruction which follows it is all the more significant.

Wilfrid [663-681 

The South Saxons were the last tribe to be brought to Christianity. Wilfrid, whose character was moulded by many forces to be typical of the new age, was chosen, probably through the influence of Alchfrid, Oswy's son, to succeed Tuda. There were few bishops left, and some of those were of Scots consecration. Wilfrid, the eager supporter of continental customs, went to Frankish bishops for consecration. This he received at Compiegne, under ceremonies of unusual pomp, and among the prelates who shared in it was Agilbert (Albert) of Wessex. This bishop, coming originally from the Franks, had worked in Wessex under Coenwalch, until the king grew weary of his “barbarous” speech, and invited Wini (also of apparently Frankish ordination) to take the see. Then Agilbert went (663) to Northumbria for a time, after which he went home. Wini’s story was unhappy: not many years afterwards he too was driven out of his see, whereupon he “bought” from Wulfhere “for a price” the see of London, and there remained. In all this moral disorder thrown by Bede upon a strange background of miracle and portent can be seen some result of the Pest.

Wilfrid tarried too long among the Franks, for when he reached Northumbria he found Chad placed in his seat. He then retired to his old monastery of Ripon. But in his voyage homewards (spring 666) he had been thrown upon the Sussex coast, and narrowly escaped capture by the barbarians: a wizard standing upon a mound sought to help the wreckers with his charms: he was slain “like Goliath” by a sling, and thus only after a fight did Wilfrid and his company escape. But later on he was to return to Sussex. Meanwhile from Ripon he acted at times as bishop both in Mercia, where along with Wulfhere he founded monasteries such as Oundle, and also in Kent during the vacancy at Canterbury, where as his biographer Eddius tells us he studied the Benedictine rule. Thus he gained something for his native north, and to the south he in turn gave gifts of music, and of crafts, through the singers and the masons who travelled in his train. Even before he worked in Sussex Wilfrid a Northerner was in himself a bond of union between North and South. After 681, when Aethelwalch of Sussex had already become a Christian through the persuasion of Wulfhere, and as we may suppose also of his own queen, Ebba, who came from the Christian district of the Hwicce, Wilfrid began effective work in the almost untouched Sussex. A Scot Dicul had already founded a small monastery at Bosham (Bosanham), but the monks probably lived as foreigners apart from the people and at any rate had small success. Wilfrid's foundation of Selsey was to have a wider influence. This work of peace is a relief to the ecclesiastical quarrels of Wilfrid's later years. His work in Sussex completed the conversion of the English.

664-673] The Synod of Whitby

With the Synod of Whitby (664) under Finan’s successor Colman and with the coming of Archbishop Theodore (669-690) a new period begins. The wanderings of bishops from see to see, the mingling of missionary effort with more strictly local work, had been even more marked in England than on the Continent. This was not merely a result of Scots or Irish influence; indeed the type of Keltic bishop, non-territorial and with little power, which we know the best, was probably less an original institution than the work of time. There is reason to think that territorial bishops were found in Ireland to begin with, and that the later type was due to the same social and ecclesiastical causes which later produced like results in Wales, making the Church pre­eminently monastic, and raising the power of abbots. There were not wanting signs that in the early English Church something the same might have taken place had it not been for the Synod of Whitby and Theodore. After them the work of a bishop becomes more fixed, and its area is limited. But the relative importance of the Synod and of Theodore's rule is sometimes wrongly presented. The Synod with its removal of the obstacle to unity — the difference in Easter — was a striking witness to the need of union and the desire for it. It is not, however, until Theodore comes that the type of bishop is changed: with that the danger from monasticism which threatened England as it later on affected Keltic lands was greatly lessened. What might otherwise have been we can see from the words of Bede in his letter to Ecgbert; from the pretended monasteries, really secular in life and under the control of nobles, great danger threatened and even arose. The Synod of Hertford (673) indeed confirmed those monastic immunities which were now growing up (Canon 3). But its reorganization of episcopal power prevented this danger being what it would otherwise have been, and the other canons of Hertford enforced a vigorous discipline. In its lasting impression upon the English Church the primacy of Theodore is unique: it summed up the varied past: it was the birthday of a more vigorous and ordered life.

It has become common to weigh the shares of Roman and Keltic missions in the great work thus summed up. The tendency has been to ascribe too much to the charming characters of the northern saints, and to overlook the quiet persistence of the Roman builders. But in striving after a balanced judgment it is possible to place the two parties too distinctly against each other. The generation which came just before the Synod of Whitby probably made less of the difference than we ourselves do: community of field and community of life was forming a community of type; the English missionaries who later on converted the Teutonic tribes based their work not only upon their own burning zeal but upon the life of monasteries and the care of bishops. These two things were the characteristics of English religious life in the seventh century, and they no less than the new-born religious zeal were due to a long history in which Kelt and Roman bore their part and under which they had grown together.




The conversion of the Franks to Christianity, and that too in its orthodox form, has been already dealt with. According to the most probable view of evidence, not quite consistent, and not easy to weigh, Clovis was baptized on Christmas day 496, probably at Rheims. He had however been friendly to Christianity even before his conquest of Syagrius (486), and became naturally more so afterwards. After his conversion, followed by that of many Franks, he was able as an orthodox king to reckon on the help or at least the sympathy of Catholic bishops everywhere: the wars that spread his power took somewhat the character of crusades and for three centuries this remained true of Frankish campaigns against the heathens. Broadly speaking, with the power of the Frankish kings went the power of the Church, although the fellowship between the two was sometimes closer, sometimes looser. As the Frankish powers spread into districts less thoroughly Romanized new sees had to be founded, and even in the more settled lands this happened also. But a distinction must be made between the new missionary bishops and the type of bishops already found in the Romanized cities. Up to the settlement under Boniface (Winfrid, Bonifatius) or even later we have a time in which both types appear side by side. As a rule the city bishop owed his appointment to the State: the missionary bishop to the Church. It is not a question of differences between Roman and Keltic clergy, but merely between lands in which Roman traditions survived, and those where missions started quite afresh. What Theodore did for England Boniface was to do for the continental Teutons.

Local differences were many and strong: in Austrasia heathenism was more general to begin with and lived on longer. The Frankish conquests drove together heathens and Christians, and in some places heathenism gained strength: on the whole, the leading families and the towns were more thoroughly Christianized than the country, which remained mainly heathen. In some places—like Mainz, Cologne, and Tongres—Christian communities, sometimes chiefly oriental or foreign, may have lived on since Roman times and sometimes bishops were left: in others—like Trier—Christianity was just becoming general when the Frankish conquest brought in new conditions. Everything depended upon the centres already gained for Christianity, and across the Rhine these were few and tended to become fewer. Nearer Italy there were centres to which Christianity had come from the south, such as Augsburg, which until about the year 600 was connected with Aquileia. But where such centres of life were few or Christianity had only begun its growth the Teutonic invaders could be but little affected by it.

The Keltic missions came to give these new centres, and by a monastic framework to guard their power. There are some indications—in the letters of Boniface and elsewhere—that Keltic priests, some of whom caused him trouble, were more widely spread than we might suppose. And as Keltic monasteries became stages in systematic pilgrimages to Rome a steady stream of Christianity was brought to bear upon the Teutons. The Keltic missionaries were for the most part led to travel by the wish to live amid new surroundings: they lived among their new neighbours as strangers, but the evils around them forced them to become missionaries, and, although Keltic monasticism was ascetic and rigorous, Keltic monks never feared to plunge into the world and to play a part there when it seemed good. Frankish Christianity, with its comparative neglect of penance, seemed to the great missionary Columbanus merely superficial: he stood outside the ordinary Frankish Church: his altar at Luxeuil was consecrated by an Irish bishop, and he had no episcopal licence for his foundations. Hence the Keltic monasteries besides being centres of learning strengthened the tendency already shown to exempt monasteries from episcopal control. The difference about Easter did not of necessity lead to lasting strife, and the monastic foundations of Columbanus, his comrades and followers, kept alive upon the Continent the Irish love of learning. As regards the papal power Keltic tradition and habits belonged to an earlier day when the papal control had been less effective; this tradition Columbanus kept and showed in his defence of the Keltic Easter. But it is a mistake to take these differences as implying either hostility to the Papacy or a claim to full independence.

The Keltic monks travelled for the most part in bands of twelve, but there were other single teachers such as Rupert (Rodbert) a Frank who towards the end of the seventh century came to Regensburg, the ducal court of Bavaria, and thence passed into the wild Salzkammergut with its Roman memories and remains; here a monastery, a nunnery, and a church were planted. A like work was also wrought at Regensburg by Emmeran, although his first hope had been to preach to the Avars. These isolated endeavours gave new centres of Christian civilization, but in later years few traces of them were left. Work on a larger and more considered plan was needed. But the life of St Severinus (died 482) in Noricum (Bavaria) shows how far the influence of a hermit could reach and how great it could be.

Frisia [613-647

Frisia, with its unknown coasts and wild heathenism, soon began to attract missionaries. The growth of Christianity here had been due to the Franks and varied with the state of their church: simony and careless appointments of bishops had been somewhat checked: the influence of Columbanus had reached far, not only in the south but even northwards to the Marne: a new and differently trained generation had grown up, and when the union of the kingdoms under Chlotar II (613) gave the land rest, the church thus strengthened broke fresh ground among its neighbours to east and north. Chlotar II had encouraged Amandus, a hermit of Roman descent from Aquitaine, who felt himself called by St Peter to distant missions: pilgrimages to Rome deepened the wish, and after Chlotar had procured his consecration he worked as a missionary bishop from Ghent as a centre. Hitherto Frisian merchants had come to the Franks, and Frankish rule had gained ground upon the borders, but even Maestricht and Noyon, although bishoprics, were yet partly heathen. Quarrels with King Dagobert, and banishment for a time (629) turned him to other fields. But both around Ghent and at Maestricht where he was afterwards bishop (647) he was unhappy in his work: the enforcement of baptism by royal order under Dagobert may have been due to his suggestion, and at any rate it explains his lack of success: spells of work on the Danube, in Carinthia, at the mouth of the Scheldt and among the Basques varied a strange career marked by restless energy and much wandering. After his death a little more ground was gained under the direction of Cunibert of Cologne, a church was built at Utrecht, and under the well-known Eligius (bishop of Noyon, 641, and renowned as a silversmith) a better foundation was laid. But the task was left unfinished until the following century. Frisia was affected by the changes of Frankish politics. Christian missions were both too fitful and too disconnected. A general plan and organisation was needed.

In England, as the letter of Daniel bishop of Winchester to Boniface (Ep. 23) shows, the methods of missions had been carefully thought out, since the local conditions not only aroused enthusiasm to call forth missionaries but gave them a training ground for their work. English­men were learning at this very time what careful organisation and ordered work could do. They had felt the benefit of fellowship with Rome and its traditions while they had still the fresh energy of younger tribes and growing states. This is the reason why in the eighth century English missionaries take the place of the earlier Felts.

678-695] Willibrord 

And the field of labour seemed already fixed for them: they had not forgotten the land from which they had come. Wilfrid landed in Frisia (678) on his way to Rome—in order to avoid the enmity of Ebroin, mayor of the palace—and stayed there a winter because of the friendly welcome by Adelgis the king (who refused to sell his guest) and his people. This was only an episode. Ecgbert, a Northumbrian who was afterwards to go to Iona, who had lived long in Ireland and pledged himself to pilgrimage, was hindered by visions and by storms from a long desired journey to Frisia: in his place he sent a pupil Wicbert who only stayed two years and then went home again. This failure only caused Ecgbert to send another mission of twelve monks. The leader of it, Willibrord, was a Northumbrian whose father Wilgils in old age became a hermit at the Humber's mouth. He had been educated up to the age of twenty at Ripon—Wilfrid’s old monastic home—and afterwards in Ireland (c. 678). He landed and went to Utrecht, now held by Radbod the Frisian king, who must have regained territory, for Utrecht had formerly been a Frankish town. But Frisia beyond it was lost to the Franks as the result of a war which was just ended and had naturally left behind it. The defeated Radbod was little likely to favour the faith of his Frankish enemies, and Willibrord saw a chance of securer work under Frankish protection. He therefore journeyed to Pepin, who promised him help for a work which was of interest to both of them. Willibrord shared the enthusiasm of Wilfrid and Bonif ace for Rome —and indeed others, the Irish Adamnan and Ecgbert for instance, were turning towards Rome and unity. Accordingly Willibrord went to Rome to get consent for his mission, thus beginning the policy which Winfrid afterwards carried out on a larger scale.

Success soon made organisation desirable: the monks elected one Suidbert as their future bishop and he passed across to England to be consecrated there by Wilfrid. But after his return difficulties seem to have arisen and the new bishop left Frisia in order to preach to the Bructeri: a little later we find Pepin, like the earlier kings, taking the organisation into his own hands and sending Willibrord to Rome for consecration (22 Nov. 695) as archbishop of a province to include both Frankish and independent Frisia. Willibrord, who at his consecration took the name of Clement, received the pall at Rome, and from Pepin as his seat Utrecht, where he built a cathedral and a monastery. A native church began, and soon he felt able to devote himself to the Frisians in Radbod's territory since Radbod himself was now friendly to the Franks, and his daughter Theutsind had married Pepin’s son Grimoald. But here Willibrord’s success was small: Radbod was indifferent although not hostile and Willibrord went on further to preach to the Danes. Their country too he left and on his return to Frisia landed on the coast: by venturing to baptize some converts in a holy well he awoke the anger of the heathen and they sought to have him put to death by Radbod. The king however spared his life, but as the hopes of any work among the free Frisians now seemed hopeless he went back to Utrecht. After Pepin’s death (16 Dec. 714) the quarrel between his sons enabled Radbod to regain the part of Frisia held by the Franks. The church had gained no real hold among the natives: Willibrord had left, the priests were put to flight, and the land once more under the sway of a heathen king became heathen too. It was now that Winfrid came.

Winfrid [714-719

Winfrid was born near Crediton (c. 680) of a noble English family: after education first in a monastery at Exeter and then at Nutshall (Nutsall, Netley, or Nursling ?) he was ordained, and employed in important affairs. But above the claims of learning and the chance of a great career at home he felt the missionary's call to the wild. From London he sailed to Frisia (716): here he stayed for part of a year until on the outbreak of a Frankish war he went back to his West-Saxon monastery. On the death of his old master Winbert the monks wished to make him abbot, but his future work lay plain before him and he refused. He sought letters of commendation from Daniel, bishop of Winchester—a man of much learning and experience to whom Bede owed much information—and with these (718) he went abroad again. But this time passing through Frankland he went to Rome, to visit the threshold of the Apostles. Here he saw Gregory II, and from him he received as “Bonifatius the religious priest”—the name by which he was henceforth known—a letter of commendation (15 May 719). The journey was a common one for an Englishman of the day, but Boniface with his strong wish for missionary work reached Rome when the Papacy was turning towards plans of organisation. Furthermore between him and the Pope a friendship and even a fellow­ship began.

722] Boniface 

Taking this new line of organisation under papal guidance Boniface went to Thuringia, where the natives, in new seats, and pressed upon by Franks and Saxons, had partly received and then soon lost Christianity. To win back their leaders was Boniface's new task: the land was disordered in politics and religion alike: heathenism was found side by side with Christianity of strange types. From Thuringia Boniface started for the Frankish court, but on the way he heard of Radbod's death, which might make Frisia a more fruitful field. Already Willibrord, working like Boniface himself under papal sanction, had been consecrated Archbishop of Utrecht, and to his help Boniface now went. When after a three years’ stay Willibrord would have had him as coadjutor he pleaded the papal command: he sought leave to depart and passed to Hesse. This was ground more unworked than Thuringia, for the people had kept their older seats and with them their old customs, but it might link Saxony to the Frankish Church. So great was his success—thousands being baptized—that he could soon think of organizing a bishopric. He sent a report to Rome and in reply was called thither himself. On his way he probably met Charles Martel, and at Rome he was consecrated (St Andrew's day, 722 or less probably 723). At his consecration he took an oath much like that taken by the suburbicarian bishops, and thus pledged himself to work as a bishop under papal direction. But by a significant change the promise of fidelity to the Eastern Emperor was left out and its place taken by a promise to hold no intercourse with bishops who disobeyed the canons, to work against them and to denounce them to the Pope. The new bishop received letters of commendation to all who could help his work in Germany and especially to Charles Martel. Henceforth Boniface could depend even more than before upon papal direction, help, and sympathy: we find him, like St Augustine of Canterbury, sending difficulties to Rome for decision. As he was to build up a church which was suffering from Keltic disorder and Frankish negligence, a collection of canons was a natural papal gift to him.

Boniface now begins a new stage of his work, no longer as a mere missionary pioneer but rather as a missionary statesman in the service of Rome. For his new plans and his new office state support was needed. Backed by a letter from Charles Martel, Boniface went to Hesse to weld together the scattered links of his earlier work. Some twenty years later he wrote to Daniel of Winchester: “Without the patronage of the Prince of the Franks I am able neither to rule the people of the church nor to defend the priests or deacons, the monks or nuns: and I am not powerful enough to hinder the very rites of the pagans and the sacrileges of idols in Germany without his order and the dread of him”. The boldness he showed in felling the sacred oak at Geismar led the heathen to think their gods had lost their power, and from these successes in Hesse Boniface passed to Thuringia. In each district he founded schools of learning and of training for his converts: Amanaburg and Fritzlar in Hesse, Ohrdruff in Thuringia: for women, Tauberbischofsheim, Kitzingen, and Ochsenfurt, three foundations near the Main. These were founded before his organisation of Bavaria, and his favourite house Fulda was specially planned to foster Christian civilization and to be a monastic model. This side of Boniface's work is sometimes overlooked in comparison with his ordering of dioceses, but the two were really complementary: on the monastic side he entered into the heritage of the Keltic monks to whom, when there was no question of disorder or irregularity, he was by no means an enemy. At Fulda Sturm, a Bavarian of his own training, ruled: there and elsewhere helpers from England, some of them bound to Boniface by ties of blood, and all by kinship in devotion, made new homes for themselves: Burchard, Lul, Denehard, Willibald, Wicbert among the men: Lioba and Walpurgis among the women. With England a lively interchange of letters was kept up: some of his English friends came out to him as they gradually lost their kinsfolk by death, and others came because of their love for him. But in either case they helped to strengthen associations which were of political as well as religious power. Boniface himself was strong enough to award praise and blame to English kings; he himself, his comrades, and his work gave England some hold upon continental life.

On the death of Gregory II (11 Feb. 731) Gregory III succeeded, a true successor in his care for Germany. When Boniface declared to him that the burden of his growing work was becoming too heavy, the papal answer was (732) to make him Archbishop, although with no defined province, so that he could the better call fellow-labourers to his help. In the few following years we must probably place much of Boniface’s work in furthering his foundations, and some of his letters of the time show him turned to reading and study of questions raised by his pastoral work. But about 735 we find him in Bavaria where once before the duke Theodo and Gregory II had thought of a church organisation in the interests both of church and duchy. Huebert was now duke under stricter Frankish suzerainty: little had hitherto been done and Passau was the only see. In Bavaria Boniface now travelled and taught. But his third visit to Rome (probably 738), caused possibly by his wish to take up once more his old plans for Frisia, now that the field of Germany was under cultivation, brought a year's break and rest. This time Boniface was a great figure both with the Romans and the pilgrims, so greatly had his renown been spread.

741-742] Pope Zacharias 

In Bavaria after Hucbert’s death (probably 736) Odilo was placed as duke, a ruler of a different type, less ready to submit to Frankish direction and a generous patron of the Church. To Bavaria Boniface went (739), and now he takes a new position, that of legate of Rome: his appearance as legate was followed by the meeting of a Synod and a division of the duchy into four dioceses: Passau (where Vibilo who had been consecrated at Rome remained), Regensburg, Salzburg, and Freising. A little later (741) we find Boniface similarly founding another group of three dioceses for Hesse and Thuringia: Btiraburg, near Fritzlar, for Hesse, Wtirzburg for southern and Erfurt for northern Thuringia. Zacharias who had now (3 Dec. 741) succeeded Gregory III confirmed this division, although like his predecessor advising caution against erecting too may sees and so lowering the episcopal standard. But Boniface’s personal inspiration found him able helpers: at Buraburg an Englishman, Witta, was placed, and at Wtirzburg another, Burchard, entered upon the heritage of the Keltic Kilian. The protection of Charles Martel, even if not too eager, had been of great use: his death (22 Oct. 741) brought about a change in Boniface's work: henceforth it was to be for the whole of eastern Frankish territory.

Carloman invited Boniface to come and hold a Synod in Austrasia: in this way discipline, which had been trampled under foot for some sixty years, could be restored. Boniface was here faced by conditions such as he had known in Bavaria. His work in Hesse had already brought to him opposition from Frankish bishops.

But among the Franks church law was widely disregarded and Boniface found it hard, as he told Daniel of Winchester, to keep the oath he had sworn to the Pope. If he was to refrain altogether from intercourse with offending bishops his work would be impossible. There was no weakening of his allegiance to the Pope, but a new element, the Frankish State, was now coming more fully into his life and his plans. The most striking feature in Boniface's career is the way in which while never waiting for circumstances he was quick to seize each circumstance and use it to the utmost good. He never lost sight of any work he had ever planned and begun: if he turned aside for some pressing need he wove that special work into his general plan, and with each new field his outlook broadened.

The new pope Zacharias was a Greek from Calabria, a man of mildness and yet of diplomatic skill: his tone towards Boniface was somewhat more commanding than that used by previous popes, and the explanation may be found in his policy towards the Franks, against whom he for a time played off the Bavarians and Lombards. Odilo of Bavaria had probably encouraged Girfo in his revolt against Carloman and Pepin, and afterwards he began a movement for independence. A papal envoy is said to have ordered a Frankish army to leave his land, but this did not hinder the defeat of the Bavarian duke. The Nordgau was separated from his duchy and joined to Austrasia. Neuburg on the Danube became—possibly through some adaptation of Odilo’s plans—a new bishopric and remained so for some two generations. Eichstadt, where a monastery had already been founded, was made the seat of another bishopric for a population of mixed descent.

Councils [742-747

The projected Council for Austrasia met in a place unknown (21 April 742),2 and began the work of reorganisation. Bishops were to be consecrated for cities and over them was to be set the archbishop Boniface, legate (misses) of St Peter: councils were to meet yearly: the moral standard of the priesthood was to be raised, and the priests were to be subject to the bishops: bishops or priests who were not known were not to be allowed to minister and heathen customs were to be put away. In the place given to Boniface it is best to see a restoration of the metropolitan system, and that this was made by royal power is significant. Not only the bishops of the older and more settled part of the realm, Cologne and Strassburg, but also those of Würzburg, Eichstadt, Thiraburg, and Erfurt, were invited to the Council. To carry out the reforms laid down was the work of Boniface. In the next two years many new bishops were appointed, and (1 March 743) a second Synod met at Estinnes, and here, by the assembly of bishops and leading laymen, the decrees of 742 were confirmed. In 744 (2 March) a Synod for Neustria met at Soissons, and a new organisation followed for Pepin’s realm also. The archbishoprics of Rheims, Rouen, and Sens were to be restored, and Boniface, who had acted in close friendly if not official touch with Pepin, asked the Pope to send three palls for them. But before Zacharias replied (22 June 744) some change was made in the plans and Grimo of Rouen alone was to have the pall. This change and some freedom in Boniface’s criticism of papal fees and Roman customs made the Pope a little angry, but we find him none the less (1 May 748) commending Boniface his “brother, archbishop, legate of the Holy See, and personal representative” to the bishops—expressly named—of both the eastern and western Franks. And in an earlier letter (5 Nov. 744) Zacharias even extended the right of free preaching in the province of Bavaria which was granted by his predecessor. And not only for Bavaria, but for the whole province of the Gauls he was to use the office of preaching laid upon him by the Pope for reformation and edification.

The original plan was for Boniface to be Archbishop of Cologne, and in this position wield even greater power. To this the Pope had agreed. But when Gewilip was rightly deposed from Mainz, Carloman and Pepin (perhaps led by enemies of Boniface at court) appointed Boniface his successor, and so the see of Mainz (which became an archbishopric in 780) as held by a legate and apostle gained a new renown. Cologne which had probably been an archbishopric in the sixth century became such again in 785, but the jealousy between the two great cities lingered on, and echoes even in the letters of Gregory VII.

In the spring of 747 Boniface held his last Synod: one wish of his was satisfied when the bishops there met decreed their fidelity to Rome. In the way of reform much had already been done: some unworthy priests had been condemned both by the Franks and at Rome (745): this last Synod not only regulated metropolitan rights, but also the discipline over priests. It is clear that the power of the Frankish princes over the Church counted for much, probably for more than is often allowed. Boniface had gained both inspiration and experience not only at Rome but in England before, and he cannot be regarded as a mere emissary of Roman power extending it over a church free until his day. The power of the State was but little affected by the recognition of Rome, yet Boniface had brought about a union between the two: he did it with fidelity towards both, but he was the slave of neither.

The anointing of Pepin, after Carloman had withdrawn to a Roman monastery, is told elsewhere: it took place, 752, under Roman sanction and by the hand of Boniface. But there is no reason to make Boniface the author or inspirer of the deed : he was merely the agent.

The old man, weary with work and longing to rest in the grave at his beloved Fulda, was preparing for death: the consecration of Lul as his coadjutor, and then, by papal leave, to be his successor, was a sign of the coming end. When Fulda, by an act unusual in the Frankish Church, was placed directly under the Pope, it was a sign of the great apostle's withdrawal. He was going back to the dream of his earlier years. He would go to Frisia, which had never been far from his thoughts. But he knew he was going to his death, for he bade the faithful Lul send along with him his shroud packed in his box of books. Lul was to carry out to a perfect end the work in Thuringia, which the Saxons had lately harried, and he was to finish the partly built church at Fulda. In 753 Boniface left, and for two years he worked among the water-bound washes of the Zuiderzee: when (5 June 754) he was at Dockum awaiting converts who were to be confirmed a band of savages attacked him and his followers: they were all slain: the books he had with him were found and taken to Fulda, and thither also, after some time at Utrecht, was carried the body of the saint himself: there in the house of his founding, near the middle of his vast field of toil, the great hero lay at rest. He had done much to bind together a growing world and to direct its ways. His letters, with their eager interest in the past, with their requests for books, the Scriptures, commentaries, parts—even particles — of the many works of Bede, with their Latin verses, traced the outlines of medieval learning, and opened up channels along which medieval scholarship was long to flow. The many activities of his busy life must not hide his great services to learning. Sometimes when “the vineyard he had dug brought forth only wild grapes”, and disappointments from half-heathen converts and wholly unworthy priests came thick upon him, he turned to study for rest and peace. Even when he was “an old man buffeted by the waves of the German sea”, and from dimness of eye could not read the small running hand of the day, he wrote to England for clearly written books. His connection with England meant much, and when he died Archbishop Cuthbert wrote to Lul that an English synod “lovingly placed him among the splendid and glorious doctors of the faith”, and along “with blessed Gregory and Augustine had taken him for their patron saint”.

The greatness of his work was seen even more in its endurance than in its variety or its extent. He had visions of what he was to do, and he also saw the lines upon which alone it could be done. The Frankish Empire, the papal supremacy, monastic foundations, ecclesiastical organisation, were perhaps the four greatest features of the medieval world. Each of these was built up by Boniface into the work of his life. He must have seen what each of them would be and would accomplish. But his far-sightedness, his enthusiasm, and his wisdom cannot fully explain all he did and all he was. For that we must go to his letters: in them we see his power of friendship, his command of detail, and his breadth of view. In them we see how the great man grew with the very greatness of his work, until the young Englishman with the zeal of his nation's new-found faith upon him became the shaper of the mighty German West.