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THE history of the Anglo-Saxon church has exercised the 
industry of several writers, whose researches and discoveries have 
been rewarded with the approbation of the public. It is not my 
wish to encroach upon their labours. With patient and meritc- 
rious accuracy they have discussed and detailed the foundations 
of churches, the succession of bishops, the decrees of councils, 
and the chronological series of events. Mine is a more limited 
attempt, to describe the ecclesiastical polity and religious prac- 
tices of our ancestors, the discipline, revenues, and learning of 
the clerical and monastic orders, and the more important revolu- 
tions, which promoted or impaired the prosperity of the Anglo- 
Saxon church. 

Of these subjects I am not ignorant that some have been fierce- 
ly debated by religious polemics. The great event of the re- 
formation, while it gave a new impulse to the powers, imbittered 
with rancour the writings of the learned. Controversy pervaded 
every department of literature: and history, as well as the sister- 
sciences, was alternately pressed into the service of the contend- 
ing parties. By opposite writers the same facts were painted in 
opposite colours : unfavourable circumstances were carefully 
Concealed, or artfully disguised : and the men, whom the catho- 
lic exhibited as models of virtue and objects of veneration, the 
protestant condemned for their interested zeal, their pride, their 
ignorance, and their superstition. I will not deny, that the hope 

of acquiring additional information has induced me to peruse the 

a 2 


works of these partial advocates. But if I have sometimes listen- 
ed to their suggestions, it has been with jealousy and caution. 
My object is truth : and in the pursuit of truth, I have made it a 
religious duty to consult the original historians. Who would 
draw from the troubled stream, when he may drink at the foun- 
tain head ? 

It may, perhaps, be expected that I should offer an apology 
for the freedom with which I have occasionally noticed the mis- 
takes of preceding historians* It is certainly an ungracious, but, 
1 think, a useful office. On almost every subject the public 
mind is guided by the wisdom or prejudices of a few favourite 
writers : their reputation consecrates their opinions ; and their" 
errors are received by the incautious reader as the' dictates of 
truth. On such occasions to be silent Is criminal, as it servesvto 
perpetuate deception : and to contradict, without attempting to 
prove, may create doubt, but cannot impress conviction. As 
often, therefore, as it has been my lot to dissent from our more 
popular historians, I have been careful to fortify my own opinion 
by frequent references to the sources, from which I have derived 
my information. No writer should expect to obtain credit on 
His bare assertion : and the reader, who wishes to judge for him- 
self, will gratefully peruse the quotations, with which I have 
sometimes loaded the page. To the Anglo-Saxon extracts, when 
their importance seemed to demand it, is subjoined a literal 
translation. The knowledge of that language, though an easy, 
is not a common acquirement. 

If I am not deceived a by natural, but, I trust, venial partiali- 
ty, the subject which I have undertaken to elucidate, is in itself 
highly curious and interesting. The Anglo-Saxons were origi- 
nally hordes of ferocious pirates* By religion they were reclaim- 
f d from savage life, and raised to a degree of civilization, which, 


At one period, excited the wonder of the other nations of Europe. 
The following pages are destined to describe the nature and the 
practices of that religion, the duties and qualifications of its mi- 
nisters, and the events which confirmed its influence over the 
minds of its professors. Such researches, whatever may be the 
nation to which they refer, are pleasing to an inquisitive reader. 
When they relate to our own progenitors, they will be perused 
with additional interest. 

I must however acknowledge, that I am far from being satis- 
fied with the performance. On several subjects my information 
has been necessarily incomplete. After the revolutions of more 
than a thousand years, the records of Anglo-Saxon antiquity caa 
exist only in an imperfect and mutilated state. If much has been 
preserved, much also has been lost. To collect and unite the scat- 
tered fragments, has been my wish and endeavour : but in despite 
of every exertion, many chasms will be discovered, which it was 
impossible to supply. If the deficiency of the materials be not 
admitted as a sufficient apology, the reader must accuse the 
skill of the artist : his industry, he trusts, may defy reproof, and 
on it he rests his only claim to commendation. 



Christianity introduced into Britain conquests of tJie Saxons their conversion 

conduct of the mistionarits controversies respecting Master? 

A. D. PAGE, 

Christianity introduced into Britain 1 
180 Conversion of Lucius - 

305 Dioclesian's persecution of the Christians - 4 

430 Heresy of Pelagius - 5 

The Saxons ------ ib. 

449 Their first arrival under Hengist 7 

Their conquests - ib. 

Zeal of Gregory the great for their conversion - 8 

He purchases Anglo-Saxon slaves 9 

396 Sends Augustine with several other missionaries .- 10 
Augustine's first interview with Ethelbert (vignette, chap. I.) 1 1 

He preaches to the Kentish Saxons - 12 

Moderation of the missionaries 13 

Conversion of the kingdom of Essex - - - 14 

627 . - of Edwin, king of fclorthumbria (vignette, title.) 15 

633 He is killed in battle - 18 

635 Victory and succession of Oswald - - ib. 

Mission of Aidan < r - - 1 9 

631 Conversion of the East- Angles - 20 

.634 of the West-Saxons 22 

653 Conversion of the Mercians 23 

.678 of the South-Saxons * - - 24 

General conduct of the missionaries - - 25 
Their labours and merit 

Barbarism of the Anglo-Saxons before their conversion - 30 

Their improvement after their conversion - 31 

Dispute respecting the time of Easter 35 

the Ecclesiastical tonsure 37 

652 Termination of the disputes - - * 39 



Extensive jurisdiction of St Augustine archbishops of Canterbury York- 
Lichfield number of bishoprics election of bishops episcopal monasteries 
institution of parishes discipline of the clergy celibacy. 

A. D. PAGE. 

598 Augustine's jurisdiction over the Saxons 43 

over the Britons - 45 

603 They reject his authority - 47 

605 He dies 48 

613 Slaughter of the British monks 49 

Archbishops of Canterbury - 50 

735 of York 51 

785 of Lichfield 52 

Multiplication of bishoprics - 54 

Election of bishops - - - 56 

Bishops chosen in synods - - - 57 

nominated by kings - - - 58 

Anglo-Saxon clergy - 6O 

Episcopal monasteries - 62 

Education of the clergy 63 

700 Establishment of parishes 65 

Discipline of the clergy 67 

Celibacy of the clergy * 68 


Revenues of the clergy donations of land voluntary oblations tithes church 
dues right of asylum ~peace of the church Romescot. 

Donations of land - - - *. - 79 

Immunities .......... 80 

Causes of benefactions - - - - 82 

Restraints - 84 

Voluntary oblations - - - - - 86 

Tithes 87 

Plough-alms - - - . - 89 

Kirk-shot - 9Q 

Leot-shot f ib. 
a 4 


A. D. PAGE. 

Soul-shot - 9O 

Right of sanctuary ----- 92 

Extraordinary sanctuaries 94 

Peace of the church - - 95 

Benefactions to foreign churches 96 

854 _ -ofEthelwulf - - 97 

Romescot 98 


Origin of thf Monastic Institute Anglo-Saxon monks of St Gregory of St 
Columba of St Benedict vows of obedience chastity poverty possessions 
of the monks their attention to the mechanic arts' to agriculture their hos- 
pitality their charity. 

Origin of the monastic institute - 102 

Its diffusion - 103 

Monks established by St Gregory - 105 

597 Introduced by St Augustine - ... 107 

565 Monks of St Columba, at Icolmkille - 108 

635 Introduced into Northumbria , 109 

Their discipline - ib. 

529 Monks established by St Benedict - 110 

Their discipline - 111 

661 They are introduced by St Wilfrid - 114 

674 - St Bennet Biscop - 116 

The order is rapidly diffused - - - 117 

640 Anglo-Saxon nuns in France - 119 

650 Convents erected in England - - - 120 

Double monasteries - 121 

Monastic vows - - .- - - 124 

of obedience - - - ib. 

of chastity - 125 

660 History of Edilthryda - 126 

Renunciation of property - - - 129 

Change of the ancient discipline - - ISO 

704 Origin of secular monasteries - 133 

False notions of the monastic institute - 135 

Use of mongst-ic wealth - - - - 188 


A. D. PAGE. 

Improvement of architecture - 139 

Magnificence of the churches - - 142 

Improvement of the mechanic arts - I4S 

of agriculture - - 144 

Charities of the monks - - - - 145 

1000 of Leofric, abbot of St Alban's 147 

1010- of Godric, abbot of Croyland - 14S 


Government of the Anglo-Saxon churchepiscopal synods national councils 
supremacy of the popes they establish metropolitan sees 'Confirm the election of 
archbishops reform abuses and receive Appealt. 

Episcopal synods - - - - - 151 

Provincial and national councils - - - 15$ 

Their decrees enforced by the civil power - - 155 

Supreme jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff - - 157 

He establishes metropolitical sees - - - 160 

Confirms the election of the archbishops 162 

Enforces the observance of the canons 164 

Sends legates into England - 166 

Receives appeals - - - - 168 

History of St Wilfrid - 170 

678 He is deposed - 171 
Appeals to Rome - - ib. 

679 Papal sentence 1 73 
Wilfrid persecuted - -174 

686 He is restored - 176 

691 Banished - 178 

703 His second appeal - - 179 

705 And final restoration . isi 


Religious practices of the Anglo-Saxons their sacraments the liturgy com' 

munion confession penitential canons mitigation of penance absolution. 

Sacraments of the Anglo-Saxons - - . igg, 

Liturgy - . - - . |9 i 

A. D. FACE, 

Communion - - - - - 195 

Breviary or course - - 197 

Latin service - - - 199 

Confession - - 200 

680 Penitential canons ----- 203 

Mitigation of penance - 204 

Absolution - 20 


EucJiological ceremonies Benediction of the Anglo-Saxon knights of marriages 
ordinations of the clergy coronation of kings' dedication of churches. 

Benediction of knights 211 

1050 History of Hereward 212 

Marriages - 214 

Marriage settlements - 216 

. . ' - ceremony - - 217 

Consecration of virgins - - - - 218 

Ordinations ... 222 

of deacons - 226 

of priests - - 227 

of bishops - - 229 

Coronation of kings - 232 

Coronation ceremony - - 234 

Dedication of churches - 237 

798 of Winchelcomb 241 


Origin of prayers for the dead associations for that purpose devotions performed 
for the dead- funeral ceremonies' places of 'sepulture. 

Prayers for the dead - - 243 

Associations for that purpose ... 245 

991 History of Brithnod 248 

993 History of Alwyn - 25O 

Works of charity 252 

Devotions - - 253 

Preparation for death - - 25$ 


A. D. PAGE. 

Manner of burial - 259 

Places of burial 261 

Elevation of dead bodies - - 264 

1 104 Opening of the tomb of St Cuthbert 265 


Veneration and invocation of the saints relics miracles pictures and images 
pilgrimages travels of St Willibald ordeals. 

Invocation of the saints - - - - 271 

Foreign saints _____ 273 

Native saints - - 274 

Festivals of the saints - - - 278 

Relics - - 281 

Miracles - 283 

Pictures and images - 286 

787 Councils of Nice and Frankfort - 290 

Pilgrimages. - 294 

721 Willibald's travels to the holy land 296 

Pilgrimages to Rome . - 302 

Ordeals ....... 30? 


Literature of the Anglo-Saxons learning of Theodore and Adrian libraries 
theology classics logic arithmetic' natural philosophy learned men St 
Aldhelm Bede Alcuin. 

Learning of the Anglo-Saxons 316 

679 Theodore and Adrian - - 317 

Libraries - - 318 

Study of Theology - - 321 

of the classics - - - - - 323 

of poetry .- ib. 

of rhetoric - 326 

of logic - - 328 

of numbers - - 329 

of natural philosophy - 330 

JBede's system of nature - - 331 


A. D. PAGE. 

The planets and fixed stars - 332 

Astrology - - - - - . 336 

The tides - - 338 

Meteorology - 339 

719 Account of StAldhelm 343 

735 Bede ~ 344 

10 Alcuin - 347 


Descents of the Danes destruction of churches and monasteries prevalence of ig- 
norance and immorality efforts to restore the clerical and monastic orders. 

Decline of learning - 359 

Exhortations of Alcuin - ... 350 

The Danes - 361 

793 They destroy the abbey of Lindisfarne - * - 362 

Invasion of Ragnar Lodbrog ... 354 

866 of his sons .... 365 

867 They ravage Northumbria .... ib. 
867 Nuns of Coldingham - 366 
870 Destruction of Croyland - - . <. 359 

of Medeshamstede ... 373 

of Ely - 375 

878 Victories of Alfred - 377 

Ferocity of the people - - - - 378 

Ignorance ...... 379 

Degeneracy of the clergy - 383 

Extinction of the monastic order - 386 

Convents of nuns - - ... 390 


Restoration of ecclesiastical discipline St Dunstanhe is raised to the see of Can- 
terburyreproves Edgar opposes the pontiff restores the mon&s council of 

920 Birth of St Dunstan - - - - 395 

He is introduced to court .... 395 

Becomes a monk - 397 



A. D. PAGE. 

Is made abbot of Glastonbury - - 398 

956 Offends Edwin 399 

956 Is banished - 401 

960 Is recalled - 404 

9G1 Is made archbishop of Canterbury - 405 

Reproves Edgar - - - - - 406 

Opposes the pontiff * 407 

Reforms the clergy - 408 

963 Oswald expels the clergy from Worcester - - 411 

963 Ethelwold expels them from Winchester - 412 

Canons in favour of the monks - - - 417 

Concord of the English monks - - 419 

Restoration of learning - - 421 

./Elfric's translations and homilies ... 422- 

Discipline of the clergy .... 425 

978 Council of Calne - - 429 

1011 Sack of Canterbury 432 

1012 Martyrdom of St Elphege - 434 


Missions of the Anglo-Saxons St WillibrordSt Boniface St WilleliadSi 
Sigifrid in Sweden eonvsrsion of Denmark 

67$ St Wilfrid preaches in Friesland - - 439 

686 Ecgbert plans the foreign missions - - 440 

690 St Willibrord converts the Frisians - . 441 

692 Martyrdom of the two Ewalds . 442 

Associates of St Willibrord . 443 

St Boniface . 444 

719 He preaches in Germany - - 445 

724 Procures associates from England - 449 

744 Reforms the clergy of France - 451 

755 Is martyred . 453 

772 St Willehad preaches to the northern Germans - 454 

1000 St Sigifrid preaches in Sweden - - 455 

1019 Anglo-Saxon missionaries in Denmark - - 455 

Conversion of St Olave, king of Norway - - ib, 

1027 Anglo-Saxon missionaries in Norway - 457 



A. D. PAGE. 

854 Ethelwolf 's donation to the church (A) 458 

Definition of a good Christian (B) . - - 46O 

Anglo-Saxon monies (C) - 462 

Double monasteries (D} - 472 

Miscellaneous remarks on the monks (E) - - 473 

Saxon buildings (F) - 479 

Relaxation of discipline (G) . . ' 482 

Supremacy of St Peter (H) - - - 483 

747 Henry's account of the council of Cloveshoe (I) - 484 

Carte's account of St Wilfrid (K) - - 487 

Monasteries at Lindisfarne (L) - - 490 

Organ at Winchester (M) . . . ib. 

Belief respecting the eucharist (N) - 491 

Imposition of public penance (O) - * 506 

Confirmation - - rf 509 

On the coronation of princes (O) ... 510 

Menologies of the Anglo-Saxons (P) - 511 

On images (Q) - 515 

Latin versions of the Scriptures (R) - 515 

Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of Greek (S) - 518 

Anglo-Saxon poetr}- (T) - - - - 521 

Alcuin's epitaph (U) - - 523 

Account of Elgiva and Ethelgiva (V) 524 

Church at Winchester (X) . - - - 5331- 

As in the map I have adopted the Angld-Saxon names of places, I have 
subjoined, for the convenience of the reader, the modern appellations 
of the same places, in alphabetical order. When the difference is 
small, I have neglected it. 

./Ebbanceaster. Ebchester. 

JEthelinga igge. Ethelingey or Athelney. 

jEtwalle. Welton or Walbottle. 

Amfleot. Ambleteuse. 

Angles ege. Anglesey. 

Bancorn. Bangor. 

Barwe. Barton or Barrow. 

Bebbanburh. Bambrough. 

Beoferlic. Beverley. 

Beornice. Inhabitants to the north of the Teasy 

Bonogia. Boulogne. 

Bradanford. Bradford. 

Byrcing. Barking. 

Cantwaraburh. Canterbury. 

Cissauceaster. Chichester. 

Clofeshoe. Abingdon. 

Coludesburh. Coldingham. 

Conceaster. Chester-le-street. 

Cridiantun. Crediton. 

Cwentowic. Etaples. 

Derawuda. In the neighbourhood of Beverley, 

Dere. The Deiri, between the Humber and the Tees. 

Deomod. Demetia, the south part of Wales. 

Domuc. Dunwich. 

Dunholm. Durham. 

Elig. Ely. 

Eoferwic. York. 

Exanceaster. Exeter. 

Gent. Ghent in Flanders. 

Girwum. Jarrow. 

Gleaweceaster. Glocester. 

Glestyngbyrig. Glastonbury. 

Grantebrige. Cambridge. 

Hagulstad. Hexham. 

Hefenfelth. Heavenfield near Hexham. 


Heortea. Hartlepool. 

Hreopandum. Repton. 

Hripum. Rippon. 

Hrofceaster. Rochester. 

Hweallaege. Whalley. 

Lasstinga-ea. Near Whitby. 

Legerceaster. Leicester. 

Licetfeld. Lichfield. 

Loidis. Leeds. 

Mailras. Melros. 

Maldulfesburh. Malmsbury. 

Manigceaster. Manchester. 

Maserfeld. Generally supposed to be Oswestry. From Bede'g 

words I am inclined to prefer Winwick. 
Medhamstad or Medeshamstede. Peterborough. 
Myrce. The Mercians. 
Northanhymbras. Northumbrian*. 
Oxenford. Oxford. 
Raculf. Reculver. 
Scrobbesbyrig. Shrewsbury. 
Snotingaham. Nottingham. 
Streoneshalh. Whitby. 
Sylesea. Selsey. 
Tenet. Thanet. 
Ubbanford. Norham. 
Waeringwic. Warwick. 
Wealas. The Welch. 
Wielea. Wells. 
Wigraceaster. Worcester. 
Wintanceaster. Winchester. 
The situation of Calcuith is unknown. Perhaps it may be 



Chrtftianity introduced into Britain the conquejls of the Saxons 
their converjion conduft of tie mljfionaries controver/tet re- 
fpetling Eajler. 

AT the commencement of the Christian era, Britain 
was the principal seat of the Druidical superstition. By 
whom, and at what period, the natives were converted 
to Christianity, are subjects of interesting but doubtful 
inquiry (1). If we may believe the testimony of an an- 
cient and respectable historian, they were indebted for 
this invaluable blessing, to the zeal of some among the 

(l) For the time, we are often referred to the words of Gildas, 
(tempore, ut scimus, summo Tiberii Caesaris. Gild, de excid. 
Brit. edit. Bertram, p. 71) but a diligent perusal will shew that the 
writer alludes to the first preaching of the gospel in the Romas 
empire, not to the conversion of Britain. 

first disciples of Christ (2). The names of the missiona- 
ries he thought proper to omit : but the omission has 
been amply supplied by the industry of more modern 
writers. With the aid of legends, traditions, and con- 
jectures, they have discovered that St Peter and St Paul, 
St Simon and St James, severally preached in Britain ; 
and that after their departure, the pious undertaking was 
continued by the labours of Aristobulus, and Joseph of 
Arimathea (3). To notice the evidence which has been 
adduced in support of these fables, would be superfluous. 
In an age of less discernment, they could hardly obtain 
credit : in the present they may be deservedly neglected. 
If it be true that, at this early period, any of the 
Britons embraced the doctrine of the gospel, we may 
safely pronounce their number to have been inconsidera- 
ble, and must look to some later epocha for the more 
general diffusion of religious knowledge. By the native 

(2) See Eusebius, (Dem. Evang. 1. i. c. 7.) who informs us, that 
the apostles not only preached to the nations on the continent, but 
passed the ocean and visited the British isles, (Tr.-j^ rov w^ccvay 
Tz,PzX6tiv tTri rag Kateptvas IS^rT&vtx.&g VVTVS.} Theodoret ap- 
pears to assert the same, though his words may admit a wider in- 
terpretation. O< ^2 j-j^mpo; a,Xiu$ x povov r^ Vvpouzs ctXhx KXI .- 
HeiTTc&vvs ^e|atr^< ry v-ft&v^hvro^ 7^5 vopys CAKTTUGU,''). Theod. 
Tom. iv. p. 610. 

(3) The original testimonies are carefully collected by Usher, 
(De Brit. Eccl. primord. p. 1 30.) The catholic polemics were 
anxious to prove that the British church was founded by St Peter, 
(Parsons, Three conver. vol. i. p. 7. fol. 1688, Broughton, Eccles. 
hist. p. 68. Alford, Annal. Tom. i..p. 26, 39, 49,) and the pro- 
testant objected with equal zeal the rival pretensions of St Paul, 
(Godwin, De prim. Brit, conver. p. 5. Stillingfleet, Orig. Brit. p. 
37.) The former relied on the treacherous authority of Meta- 
phrastes : the latter on the ambiguous and hyperbolical expres- 
sions of a few more ancient writers. 

writers we are referred to the reign of Lucius, a British 
prince, who is conjectured to have been the third in de- 
scent from Caractacus, and to have inherited a portion of 
the authority, which Claudius had formerly bestowed up- 
on that hero (4-). Though educated in the errors of pa- 
ganism, he had imbibed, according to their account, a se- 
cret reverence for the God of the Christians ; and was at 
last encouraged by the favourable edict of the emperor 
Aurelius, to solicit the spiritual aid of Eleutherius the 
Roman pontiff (5). Two clergymen, Fugatius andDami- 
anus, were commissioned to second the pious wishes of 
the prince ; their zealous exertions were rewarded with 
the most rapid success ; and the honourable title of apos- 
tles of Britain was secured to them by the gratitude of 
their disciples (6). 

Of the subsequent history of the British church, but 

(4) He was the great grandson of Arviragus, whose identity 
with Caractacus was formerly suggested by Alford, (Tom. i. p. 
35,) and has since been ably maintained by Dr Milner, (Hist, of 
Winch, vol. i. p. 29.) The objections of Cressy, (Hist. p. 22,) 
and of Stillingfleet, (Orig. p. 29,) may be easily repelled, or eluded. 

(5) The conversion, and even the existence of Lucius, have 
been questioned by the scepticism of some writers. But that the 
Christian faith was publicly professed in Britain, before the close of 
the second century, is clear from incontestible authority, (Tert. 
cont. Jud. p. 189, edit. Rigalt. Orig. horn. vi. in Luc. horn. vi. in 
Ezech.) and that Lucius was the person to whom their ancestors 
owed this advantage, is the general assertion of the British writers. 
I can see no reason why their evidence should be refused, till it be 
opposed by the equal testimony of other historians. 

(6) Nennius, p. 108, edit. Bert. Ang. Sac. vol. ii. p. 667. Were 
not the Triads a very questionable authority, a dangerous compe- 
titor might be produced in Bran, the supposed grandfather of Ca- 
ractacus. See Triad 35. 


few particulars can be gleaned from the works of the an- 
cient writers. The first event which claims our notice 
is the persecution raised against the Christians by the po- 
licy, or the superstition, of Dioclesian. He had commit- 
ted the government of the island to Constantius ; and 
that prince, though he abhorred the cruel policy of en- 
forcing perjury and dissimulation, by the fear of torments, 
dared not, in the subordinate station of Csesar, to refuse 
the publication of the imperial edict, or to prevent the 
inferior magistrates from indulging their private hatred 
against the enemies of the Gods. If the British church 
had to lament on this occasion, the weakness of several 
among her children, who yielded to the impulse of ter- 
ror, she could also boast of the courage of many, who 
braved the fury of their adversaries, and grasped with joy 
the crown of martyrdom. At their head our ancestors 
were accustomed to revere the saints, Alban, the proto- 
martyr of Britain, and Julius and Aaron, citizens of Caer- 
leon (7). But Constantius was not long the silent spec- 
tator of cruelties which he condemned : within two years 
he was vested with the imperial purple ; and, from that 
moment, he placed the Christians under his protection, 
and returned the sword of persecution into its scabbard 


In a remote corner of the west, the Britons had scarce- 
ly heard of the controversies, which agitated the oriental 
churches. But they lent a more willing ear to the doc- 
trines of their countryman Pelagius 5 and his disciples, 
armed with syllogisms and distinctions from the logic of 

(7) Gild. p. 72, 73. Bed. hist. 1. 1, c. vil. 

(8) Euseb. vit. Const. 1. 1, c. xvi. For the date of this persecu- 
an. 305, see Smith, (Bed. hist, appen. p. 659-) 

Aristotle, confounded the simplicity, though they could 
not pervert the faith of their pastors. The rapid pro- 
gress of error alarmed the zeal of the orthodox clergy ; 
and the Roman pontiff, or the bishops of Gaul, or per- 
haps both, commissioned St Germanus of Auxerre, and 
St Lupus of Troyes, to support the declining cause of ca- 
tholicity (9). They met the disciples of Pelagius in the 
synod of Verulam : the day was spent in unavailing de- 
bate ; in the evening a miracle confirmed the arguments 
of Germanus ; and his opponents declared themselves 
proselytes to his doctrine. The missionaries returned in 
triumph to their dioceses ; but they were scarcely de- 
parted, when the exploded opinions were preached with 
renewed activity, and the bishop of Auxerre was com- 
pelled to resume his apostolic functions. His labours, 
however, were repaid with the most complete success. 
The partisans of error disappeared before him ; and Pe- 
lagianism was eradicated from the island' (10). But the 
satisfaction, which the Britons expressed at this event, 
was clouded by subsequent misfortunes : a foreign and 
more formidable enemy arose; and, after a long and 
doubtful struggle, the religion, with the government of 
the natives, sunk beneath the persevering efforts of the 

The Saxons, in the commencement of the second cen- 
tury, were a small and contemptible tribe on the neck of 

(9) An. 429. From whom Germanus received his mission, is 
an unimportant question, which has been warmly but fruitlessly 
discussed. By Constantius (Vit Germ. 1. 1, c. xix.) it is ascribed 
to the Gallic prelates ; by Prosper (Chron. ad. an. 429, lib. ad\\ 
ollat c. xli.) to Pope Celestine. 

(10) Vit. Ger.l. n, c. i. 

A 3 

the Cimbrian Chersonesus ( 1 1 ) : in the fourth, they had 
swelled into a populous and mighty nation, whose terri- 
tories progressively reached the Elbe, the Weser, the 
Ems, and the Rhine (12). Their favourite occupation 
was piracy. A body of Franks, stationed by the empe- 
ror Probus on the coast of Pontus, had seized a Roman 
fleet, and steering unmolested through the Bosphorus 
and the Mediterranean sea, had reached in safety the 
shores of Batavia. Their successful temerity awakened 
the adventurous spirit of the neighbouring nations ; who,. 
though they were ignorant of the art of navigation, 
though they possessed neither the patience nor the skill 
to imitate the construction of the Roman vessels, boldly 
determined" to try their fortune on the ocean. In light 
and narrow skiffs, the intrepid barbarians committed 
themselves to the mercy of the winds and waves (13) ; 
the commerce of the provincials rewarded their audacity, 
and increased their numbers ; and, in the midst of every 
storm, the Saxon squadrons issued from their ports, 
swept the neighbouring seas, and pillaged with impunity 
the unsuspecting coasts of Gaul and Britain. When the 
emperor Honorius recalled the legions from the defence 
of the island, tlie natives, who had often experienced the 
desperate valour of the Saxons, solicited their assistance 

(11) ETTI TOV etvjtfvu TV? Hiife&futJM ^eppovsjc-tf. Ptol. in quar. 
Europ. tab. That Ptolemy wrote before the middle of the second 
century, appears from the latest of his observations, which were 
made in the year 139, (Encycl. method. Physique, Tom. i. p. 305.) 

(12) Amm. Marcel. 1. 37. Ethelwerd. 1. 1, f. 474, edit Savile. 

(13) Cui pelle salum sulcare Britannum 
Ludus, et^assuto glaucum mare findere lembo. 

Sid. JoL carm. 7, &d. Avlt- 

against their ancient enemies the Picls and the Scots. 
Hengist, with a small band of mercenaries, accepted the 
proposal (14) : but the perfidious barbarian turned the 
sword against his employers, and the possession of Kent 
was the fruit of his treachery. The fortune of Hengist 
stimulated the ambition of other chieftains, Shoals of 
new adventurers annually sought the shores of Britain ; 
and the natives, though they defended themselves with 
a courage worthy of a more prosperous issue, were gra- 
dually compelled to retire to the steep and lofty moun- 
tains which cover the western coast. 

By this memorable revolution, the fairer portion of 
the island, from the wall of Antoninus to the British chan- 
nel, was unequally divided among eight independent 
chieftains (15). The other barbarous tribes, that dis- 
membered the Roman empire, exercised the right of 
victory with some degree of moderation 5 and, by incor- 
porating the natives with themselves, insensibly learned 
to imitate their manners, and to adopt their worship. 
But the natural ferocity of the Saxons had been sharpen- 
ed by the stubborn resistance of the Britons. They spared 
neither the lives nor the habitations of their enemies ; 
submission was seldom able to disarm their fury ; and 
the churches, towns, and villages, all the works of art, 
and all the remains of Roman grandeur, were devoured 
by the flames (16). But while they thus indulged their 

(14) Ann. 449. 

(15) Anxious for the honour of his countrymen, Goodall at- 
tempts to prove, that the conquests of the Saxons were bounded 
by the river Tweed. See his introduction to Scottish history 
prefixed to Fordun's Scotichronicon, (Edin. 1759, p. 40.) 

(16) Confovebatur de inari usque ad marc ignis, oriental! sac.ri- 


resentment, they dried up the more obvious sources of 
civil and religious improvement. With the race of the 
ancient inhabitants disappeared the refinements of socie- 
ty, and the knowledge of the gospel : to the worship of 
the true God succeeded the impure rites of Woden; 
and the ignorance and barbarism of the north of Ger- 
many, were transplanted into the most flourishing pro* 
vinees of Britain. 

It was once the boast, or the consolation of the Greeks, 
that, if they had been subdued by the superior fortune 
of Rome, Rome in her turn had yielded to them the em- 
pire of learning and the arts (17). The history of the 
fifth and sixth centuries presents an almost similar revo- 
lution. The fierce valour of the northern barbarians an- 
nihilated the temporal power of Rome , and the religion 
of Rome triumphed over the Gods of the barbarians. 
Scarcely had the Saxons obtained the undisputed posses- 
sions of their conquests, when a private monk conceived 
the bold, but benevolent design, of reducing these savage 
warriors under the obedience of the gospel. Gregory, 
on whom the. veneration of posterity has bestowed the 
epithet of the great y had lately resigned the dignity of Ro- 
man prefect, and buried in the obscurity of the cloister 

legorum manu exaggeratus,. et finitimas quasque civitates agros- 
que populans, qui non quievit accensus, donee cunctam pene ex- 
urens irisulse superficiem rubra occidentalem trucique oceanum 
lingua delamberet. Gild. p. 85. Gildas was an enemy and a 
Briton. He may have exaggerated the cruelties of the invaders ; 
but the substance of his narrative is corroborated by the Saxon 
chronicle, (p. 15,) and by the subsequent tenor of the Saxon 

(17) Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes 
Intulit agresti Latio. 

all his prospers of worldly greatness. While he remain- 
ed in this humble station, he chanced to pass through the 
public market at the moment in which some Saxon slaves 
were exposed to sale. Their beauty caught the eye of the 
fervent monk ; and he exclaimed with a pious zeal, that 
forms so fair ought no longer to be excluded from the in- 
heritance of Christ. Impressed with this idea, he re- 
paired to the pontiff, and extorted from him a reluctant 
permission to quit his monastery, and announce the gos- 
pel to the barbarous conquerors of Britain. But the 
people of Rome were unwilling to be deprived of a man 
whose virtues they adored. Their clamours retarded his 
departure ; and his subsequent elevation to the papal 
throne compelled him to abandon the design (18). 

Gregory, however, still kept his eyes fixed on Britain. 
The absence of his personal exertions he could easily 
supply by those of other missionaries; and from his 
high station in the church, he might direct their opera- 
tions, and second their endeavours. The patrimony of 
St Peter in Gaul, was at this period administered by the 
presbyter Candidus. To him he gave an extraordinary 
commission to purchase a competent number of Saxon 
slaves under the age of eighteen, and to send them with 
sure guides to Rome, where they might be educated un- 
der his eye, and at his expense (19). It was his intention 

(18) Bede 1. ii. p. 78. I see no reason to dispute the truth of 
this anecdote, on the ground that it is not mentioned by foreign 
writers. Bede asserts, that he received it " traditione majorum f 
and no nation could be more interested than the Saxons to pre- 
serve the memory of the accident which led to their conversion. 
See also the Saxon homily in nat. St Greg. p. 11, 18, edit. Elstobi 

(19) Greg. ep. 1. v. ep. 10. 


to raise them, at a convenient time, to the priesthood, 
and to employ them in the conversion of their country- 
men. But their progress was slow , and his zeal was 
impatient. After a short interval he resolved to try the 
courage of his monks, ignorant as they were of the lan- 
guage and manners of the barbarians. Having selected 
the most learned and virtuous of the community, he ex- 
plained to them his views, elevated their hopes with the 
prospect of eternal rewards, and confirmed their consent 
with his apostolical benediction. Animated by the ex- 
hortation of the pontiff, the missionaries traversed with 
speed the north of Italy, and arrived at the foot of the 
Gallic Alps : but the enthusiasm which they had imbibed 
in Rome, insensibly evaporated during their journey ; 
and, from the neighbourhood of Lerins, they dispatched 
Augustine, their superior, to Gregory, to explain their 
reasons for declining so unpromising and so dangerous 
an enterprise. But the pontiff was inflexible. He ex- 
horted, conjured, commanded them to proceed ; he so- 
licited in their favour the protection of the princes and 
prelates of the Franks ; he begged of the Gallic clergy 
to depute some of their body to be their interpreters and 
associates , and at last, after a long and tedious suspense, 
received the welcome news, that they had landed in safe- 
ty on the isle of Thanet. It was the year five hundred 
and ninety-seven. 

Of the Saxon kingdoms, that of Kent was the most' 
ancient, and the best disposed to receive the truths of 
the gospel. The immediate descendants of Hengist 
seem rot to have inherited the martial virtues of that 
conqueror, but by cultivating the arts of peace, they had 
endeavoured to excite a spirit of improvement among 


their subjects. The example of their neighbours the 
Franks, who had embraced the Christian faith, taught 
them to view with less partiality the worship of their an- 
cestors ; and from the prosperity of that apostate people 
they might infer, that victory was not exclusively at- 
tached to the votaries of Woden. Bertha, daughter to 
Charibert king of Paris, was married to their sovereign : 
she practised the rites of the gospel in the heart of their 
metropolis , and the saintly deportment of Liudhard, 
the prelate who attended her, reflected a lustre on the 
faith which he professed. From the epistles of St Gre- 
gory it appears, that these and similar causes had awaken- 
ed a desire of religious knowledge among the inhabitants 
of Kent, and that application for instruction had been 
made to the prelates of the Franks , whose apathy and 
indolence are lashed by the severe but merited animad- 
versions of the pontiff (20). 

It was at this favourable period that Augustine reached 
the isle of Thanet, and dispatched a messenger to inform 
the Saxon king, that he was arrived from a distant coun- 
try, to open to him and his subjects the gates of eternal 
happiness. Probably the mind of Ethelbert had been 
prepared by the diligence of his queen. He consented 
to hear the foreign priests : but fearful of the secret in- 
fluence of magic, determined to give them audience in 
the open air. Elated with this faint gleam of success, 
the missionaries approached the appointed place in the 
slow and solemn pomp of a religious procession : before 
them was borne a silver cross, and a portrait of Christ ; 
and the air resounded with the anthems which they 

(20) Bed. hist. 1. i. p. 61 .Malm, de reg. 1. i. c.i. f. 4, edit. Savile. 
Greg. ep. 1. v. ep. 58, 59. 


chaunted, in alternate choirs, praying for the conversion 
of the pagans. Ethelbert listened with attention to the 
discourse of Augustine : his answer was reserved but hu- 
mane. Though he expressed no inclination to abandon 
the worship of his forefathers, he acknowledged that 
the offers of the missionary were plausible, and praised 
the charity, which had prompted strangers to undertake 
so perilous a journey, for the advantage of an unknown 
people. He concluded with an assurance of his protection 
as long as they chose to remain in his dominions (21). 

Without the walls of Canterbury, the queen had dis- 
covered the ruins of an ancient church, built by the Bri- 
tons in honour of St Martin. By her orders it had been 
repaired, and given to the bishop Liudhard : it was now 
transferred to the use of the missionaries, whose efforts 
she seconded with all her influence. The patronage of 
the sovereign ensured the respect of the subjects ; and 
curiosity led numbers to view the public service, and 
learn the religious tenets of the strangers. They ad- 
mired the solemnity of their worship ; the pure and sub- 
lime morality of their doctrine ; their zeal, their austeri- 
ty, and their virtue. Insensibly the prejudices of the 
idolaters wore away ; and the priests of Woden began to 
lament the solitude of their altars. Ethelbert, who at 
first maintained a decent reserve, ventured to profess 

(21) Bed. 1. i. p. 61. Horn. Sax. in nat. St Greg. p. 33 34. 
Gosceline pretends to give us the very speech of Augustine ; but 
it was probably composed for him by that writer, (Ang. Sac. 
Tom. ii. p. 59.) From the Saxon homily we learn, that on this 
and similar occasions, the French clergymen served as interpreters. 
Ant) he pujih faerva pealj*rot>a muft t5am eynm^e *] hip 
4eo 1 oe Ifotte)" poji'o bobot>e. p. 33. 


himself a Christian ; and so powerful was his example, 
that ten thousand Saxons followed their prince to the 
waters of baptism (22). 

From the natural ferocity of the Saxon character, there 
was reason to fear that the royal convert, in the fervour 
of proselytism, might employ the flames of persecution to 
accelerate the progress of Christianity. But his teachers 
were actuated by motives more congenial to the mild spi- 
rit ef the gospel : and with a moderation which is not al- 
ways the associate of zeal, sedulously inculcated that the 
worship of man, to be grateful to the Deity, must be the 
spontaneous dictate of the heart; and that the obstinacy 
of the idolater was to be overcome, not by the sword of 
the magistrate, but by the labours of the missionary (23). 
These lessons they had imbibed from the mouth of the 
pontiff; and they were frequently inculcated in his let- 
ters. In obedience to his instructions, the weakness and 
prejudices of the converts were respected ; the deserted 
temples of Woden were converted into Christian churches; 
and the national customs gradually adapted to the offices 
of religion. Hitherto the Saxons had been accustomed 
to enliven the solemnity of their worship by the merri- 
ment of the table. The victims which had bled on the 
altars of the Gods, furnished the principal materials of 
the feast ; and the praises of their warriors were mingled 
with the hymns chaimted in honour of the Divinity. 

(22) Bede 1. i. c. 26. The joy of the pontiff prompted him to 
impart his success to Eulogius, the patriarch of Alexandria. In 
solemnitate Dominicas nativitatis plus quam decem millia Angli 
ab eodem nunciati sunt fratre et co-episcopo nostro baptisati. 
{Ep. Greg. 1. vii. ep. 30. Smith's Bed. app. viii.) 

(23) Bed. l.i. c. 26. Horn. Sax. in nat. St Greg. p. 36. 

Totally to have abolished this practice, might have alien- 
ated their minds from a religion, which forbade the most 
favourite of their amusements. .By the direction of Grego- 
ry, similar entertainments were permitted on the festivals 
of the Christian martyrs ; tents were erected in the vici- 
nity of the church ; and as soon as the service was con- 
cluded, the converts were exhorted to indulge with so- 
briety in their accustomed gratifications, and return their 
thanks to that Being, who showers down his blessings on 
the human race (24). 

From Kent the knowledge of the gospel was speedily 
transmitted to the neighbouring and dependent kingdom 
of Essex. Saberct, the reigning prince, received with re- 
spect the Abbot Mellitus, and invited him to reside in his 
metropolis (25). But the prospect of the missionary 
closed with the death of his patron. The three sons of 
Sabercl:, who were still attached to the worship of their 
ancestors, bursting into the church during the time of 
sacrifice, demanded a portion of the consecrated bread, 
which Mellitus was distributing to the people (26), The 
bishop (he had been lately invested with the episcopal 
dignity), dared to refuse ; and banishment was the con- 
sequence of his refusal. He joined his brethren in 

(24) For this condescension, which was copied from the prac- 
tice of the first Christian missionaries, (Mosh. hist. eccl. ssec. ii. p. 
2, c. iv. not.) the pontiff has been chastised by the puritanical zeal 
of Dr Henry, (vol. iii. p. 194.) He asserts, that it introduced the 
grossest corruptions into the Christian worship. But to accuse, 
is easier than to prove : and Henry has prudently forgotten to spe- 
cify the nature of these corruptions. 

(25) An. 604. 

(26) Bed. 1. ii. c. 5. 


Kent : but they were involved in equal difficulties. Af- 
ter the death of Bertha, Ethelbert had married a second 
wife. His son Eadbald was captivated with her youth 
and beauty ; at his accession to the throne he took her to 
his bed ; and when the missionaries ventured to remon- 
strate, abandoned a religion which forbade the gratifica- 
tion of his passion. Disheartened by so many misfor- 
tunes, Mellitus, with Justus of Rochester, retired into 
Gaul (27). Laurentius, the successor of St Augustine, 
had determined to follow their example , but spent the 
night before his intended departure in the church of St 
Peter. At break of day he repaired to the palace; dis- 
covered to the king the marks of stripes on his shoulders ; 
and assured him, that they had been inflicted by the 
hands of the apostle, as the reward of his cowardice. 
Eadbald was astonished and confounded. He expressed 
his willingness to remove the causes of discontent ; dis- 
missed his father's widow from his bed ; and recalled the 
fugitive bishops. His subsequent conduct: proved the 
sincerity of his conversion : and Christianity, supported 
by his influence, soon assumed an ascendancy which it 
ever after maintained (28). 

From the south, the knowledge of the gospel passed to 
the most northern of the Saxon nations. Edwin, the 
powerful king of Northumbria, had asked and obtained 
the hand of Edilberga, the daughter of Ethelbert : but 
the zeal of her brother had stipulated that she should en- 
joy the free exercise of her religion, and had extorted 
from the impatient suitor a promise, that he would im- 

(27) Ann. 625. Both Justus and Mellitus became afterwards 
archbishops of Canterbury. 

(28) Id. 1. ii. c. G. 


partially examine the credibility of the Christian faith. 
With these conditions Edwin complied, and alternately 
consulted the Saxon priests and Paulinus, a bishop who 
had accompanied the queen. Though the arguments of 
the missionary were enforced by the entreaties of Edil- 
berga, the king was slow to resolve ; and two years were 
spent in anxious deliberation. At length, attended by 
Paulinus, he entered the great council of the nation ; re- 
quested the advice of his faithful Witan ; and exposed 
the reasons which induced him to prefer the Christian 
to the pagan worship (29). Coiffi, the high priest of 
Northumbria, was the first to reply. It might have been 
expected, that prejudice and interest would have armed 
him with arguments against the adoption of a foreign 
creed : but his attachment to paganism had been weaken- 
ed by repeated disappointments, and he had learnt to des- 
pise the Gods, who had neglected to reward his services. 
That the religion which he had hitherto taught, was use- 
less, he attempted to prove from his own misfortunes ; 
and avowed his resolution to listen to the reasons, and 
examine the doctrine of Paulinus. He was followed by 
an aged thane, whose discourse offers an interesting pic- 
ture of the simplicity of the age. " When," said he, 
" O king, you and your ministers are seated at table in 
" the depth of winter, and the chearful fire blazes on 
" the hearth in the middle of the hall, a sparrow, per- 
" haps, chased by the wind and snow, enters at one door 
" of the apartment, and escapes by the other. During 
" the moment of its passage, it enjoys the warmth ; 
" when it is once departed, it is seen no more. Such is 
" the nature of man. During a few years his exist- 

(29) An. 627. 


" ence is visible : but what has preceded, or what will 
" follow it, is concealed from the view of mortals. If 
" the new religion offer any information on these inv- 
" portant subjects, it must be worthy of our attention" 
(30). To these reasons the other members assented. 
Paulinus was desired to explain the principal articles of 
the Christian faith , and the king expressed his determi- 
nation to embrace the doctrine of the missionary. When 
it was asked, who would dare to profane the altars of 
Woden, Coiffi accepted the dangerous office. Laying 
aside the emblems of the priestly dignity, he assumed 
the dress of a warrior : and despising the prohibitions of 
the Saxon superstition, mounted the favourite charger of 
Edwin. By those who were ignorant of his motives* 
his conduct was attributed to a temporary insanity. But 
he disregarded their clamours, proceeded to the nearest 
temple, and bidding defiance to the Gods of his fathers, 
hurled his spear into the sacred edifice. It stuck in the 
opposite wall (31) ; and, to the surprise of the trembling 
spectators, the heavens were silent, and the sacrilege was 
unpunished. Insensibly they recovered from their fears, 
and, encouraged by the exhortations of Coiffi, burnt to 
the ground the temple and the surrounding groves (32), 

(30) Bed.l. ii. c. 13. 

(31) This circumstance is not to be found in the latin copies of 
Bede ; but it has been preserved by king Alfred in his version. 
Da j'cear he mro hij* j'pep.e ^ hit ]"ticot>e psej^te on 5am 
heaji^e. Bed. hist. Sax. p. 517. 

(32) Alcuin has celebrated the fame of Coiffi in his poem on 
the church of York : 

O nimium tanti felix audacia facti ! 
Polluit ante alios quas ipse sacraverat aras. 

' -y. 18G. 

From so favourable a beginning, the missionary might 
have ventured to predict the entire conversion of the na- 
tion : but he could not calculate the numerous chances 
of war 5 and all the fruits of his labours were speedily 
blasted by the immature death of the king. Edwin was 
slain as he bravely fought against Penda king of Mercia, 
and Csed walla king of the Britons- During more than 
twelve months, the victors pillaged the kingdom of Nor- 
thumbria without opposition ; Edilberga, her children, 
and Paulinus, were compelled to seek an asylum in Kent ; 
and the converts, deprived of instruction, easily relapsed 
into their former idolatry. 

The history of the Saxon kingdoms is marked with 
the most rapid vicissitudes of fortune. Oswald and Ean- 
frid were the sons of Adelfrid the predecessor of Edwin. 
In the mountains of Scotland they had concealed them- 
selves from the jealousy of that prince ; and had spent 
the time of their exile i.n learning from the monks of 
Hii, the principles of the gospel. After the victory of 
the confederate kings, they returned to Northumbria. 
Eanfrid was treacherously slain in a parley with Credwal- 
la : Oswald determined to avenge the calamities of his 
family and country. With a small, but resolute band 
of followers, he sought the army of the enemy, and dis- 
covered it negligently encamped in the neighourhood of 
Hexham. A cross of wood was hastily erected by his 
order, and the Saxons prostrate before it, earnesly im- 
plored the protection of the God of the Christians. 
From prayer they rose to battle, and to victory. Caed- 
walla was slain , his army was dispersed ; and the con- 
queror ascended without a rival the throne of his ances- 
tors (33). As he piously attributed his success to the 

'L >0 Bed. 1. iii. c. 12, Ann, 635. 


favour of heaven, he immediately bent his attention to 
the concerns of religion, and solicited a supply of mis- 
sionaries from his former instructors. Gorman was sent, 
a monk of a severe and unpliant disposition ; who, dis- 
gusted with the ignorance and barbarism of the Saxons, 
speedily returned in despair to his monastery. As he 
described to the confraternity the difficulty and dangers 
of the mission, " brother," exclaimed a voice, " the fault 
" is yours. You exacted from the barbarians more than 
" their weakness could bear. You should have first 
stoopfcd to their ignorance, and then have raised their 
minds to the sublime maxims of the gospel." This 
sensible rebuke turned every eye upon the speaker, a 
private monk of the name of Aidan : he was selected to 
foe the apostle of the Northumbrians , and the issue of 
his labours justified the wisdom of the choice. As soon 
as he had received the episcopal ordination, he repaired 
to the court of Oswald. His arrival was a subject of ge- 
neral exultation ; and the king condescended to explain 
in Saxon the instructions which the missionary delivered 
in his native language. But the success of Aidan was 
owing no less to his virtues than to his preaching. The 
severe austerity of his life, his profound contempt of 
riches, and his unwearied application to the duties of his 
profession, won the esteem, while his arguments con- 
vinced the understanding of his hearers. Each day the 
number of proselytes encreased ; and, within a few years, 
the church of Northumbria was fixed on a solid and per- 
manent foundation (34?.) 

The East- Angles were indebted for their conversion to 

(34) Bed. 1. iii, c. 35. 

B 2 


the zealous labours of Felix, a Burgundian prelate. In 
the commencement of the seventh century, their monarch 
Redwald had invited to his court the disciples of St Au- 
gustine, and received from them the sacrament of baptism. 
Yet he abjured not the worship of his country j and the 
same temple was sanctified by the celebration of the 
Christian sacrifice, and polluted by the immolation of vic- 
tims to the Gods of paganism (35). His son Eorpwald 
was more sincere in his belief: but the merit of firmly 
establishing the Christian worship was, by his death, 
transferred to his successor Sigebert, who, during a long 
exile in Gaul, had imbibed with the knowledge of the 
gospel a profound veneration for the monastic institute. 
No sooner had he ascended the throne, than Felix, com- 
missioned by Honorius of Canterbury, requested permis- 
sion to instruct his subjects. He was received with wel- 
come, and fixed his residence at Dunwich, the capital of 
the kingdom (36). By the united efforts of the king 
and the missionary, the knowledge of Christianity was 
rapidly diffused ; and, the better to eradicate ignorance 
and idolatry from the higher classes of the people, a pub- 
lic school was instituted after the model of that at Canter- 
bury (37). Having shared for a time the cares and 

(35) Bed. 1. if. c. 15. Hume (hist. p. 32. Millar, 4, 4762.) 
inadvertently ascribes the apostacy of Redwald to his son Eorp- 

(36) Anno 631. 

(37) The situation and design of this school have been the sub- 
ject of much controversy between the champions of the two uni- 
versities. The origin of Cambridge was formerly derived by its 
partisans from Cantaber, a Spanish prince who was supposed to 
have landed in Britain in the reign of Gurguntius, about 400 years 
before the Christian arra (see Cains De Ant, Cant. p. 20 On) : and 


splendour of royalty with Egeric a near relation, Sigebert 
retired to a monastery to prepare himself for death. 
But his repose was disturbed by the invasion of a foreign 
enemy. A formidable body of Mercians had penetrated 
into the heart of the country ; the misfortunes of the 
campaign were ascribed to the want of conduct or of va- 
lour in Egeric ; and the East- Angles clamourously de- 
manded the aged monarch, who had so often led them to 
victory. With reluctance he left his cell to mix in the 
tumult and dangers of the field. On the day of battle, 
when arms were offered him, he refused them as repug- 
nant to the monastic profession, and with a wand directed 
the operations of the army. But the fortune of the Mer- 
cians prevailed : both the kings were slain ; and the 
country was abandoned to the ravages of the conquerors. 
Yet, under the pressure of this calamity, the converts 

the Oxonians, not to yield to their opponents, claimed for their 
first professors, the philosophers whom Brutus had brought with 
him more than a thousand years before that period, (Assertio 
Antiq. Oxon. p. 1. London 1568.) Antiquity so remote, was too 
ridiculous to obtain credit : both contracted their pretensions; 
and Sigebert was selected for the founder of Cambridge, Alfred 
the great for that of Oxford. The war, however, was still con- 
tinued, and the most eminent scholars joined either party, as their 
judgment or partiality directed. Without engaging in the dis- 
pute, I may be allowed to observe, that there appears no reason 
to believe with the advocates for Oxford, that the school of Sige- 
bert was designed only to teach the rudiments of grammar, or 
with their opponents that it was established at Cambridge. Bede 
tells us, that it was formed in imitation of the school at Canter- 
bury, in which all the sciences known at that period were stu- 
died ; and Smith has made it highly probable that it was situated 
either at Seaham or Dunwich. See Smith's Bede, App, p- 721. 

B 3 


persevered in the profession of their religion ; and Fe- 
lix, within the seventeen years of his mission, had the 
merit of reclaiming the whole nation from the errors of 

While Christianity was thus making a rapid progress in 
the kingdoms of the north and east, a new apostle ap- 
peared on the southern coast, and announced the tidings 
of salvation to the fierce and warlike inhabitants of Wes- 
sex (38). His name was Birinus. Animated with a de- 
sire of extending the conquests of the gospel, he had ob- 
tained from Pope Honorius a commission to preach to the 
idolatrous tribes of the Saxons. By a fortunate concur- 
rence of circumstances, he had scarcely opened his mis- 
sion, when Oswald of Northumbria arrived at the court 
of Kinegils, and demanded his daughter in marriage. 
The arguments of the missionary were powerfully se- 
conded by the influence of the suitor. The princess and 
her father embraced with docility the religion of Christ ; 
and the men of Wessex were eager to conform to the 
example of their monarch. Success expanded the views 
of Birinus : from the capital he removed to Dorchester, a 
city on the confines of Mercia ; and flattered himself 
with the expectation of converting that extensive and po- 
pulous kingdom. 

But Mercia was destined to receive the faith from the 
pious industry of the Northumbrian princes ; who were 
eminently instrumental in the dissemination of christiani- 
ty among the numerous tribes of their countrymen. 
Peada, the son of Penda king of Mercia, had offered his 
hand to the daughter of Oswiu, the successor of Oswald : 
but the lady spurned the addresses of a pagan , and the 

(38) An. 634. 


passion of the prince induced him to study the principles 
of her religion. His conversion was rewarded with the 
object of his affections. To those who doubted his sin- 
cerity, he replied that no consideration, not even the .re- 
fusal of Alcfleda, should ever provoke him to return to 
the altars of Woden : but an argument more convincing 
than mere professions was the zeal with which he pro- 
cured four Northumbrian priests to instruct the Middle- 
Angles, whom he governed as king during the life of his 
father. Even Penda himself was induced to grant his 
protection to the missionaries j and though he refused to 
yield to their exhortations, he treated with contempt 
such of his subj ects as had enrolled themselves among the 
Christians, and yet retained the manners of pagans. 
Within a few years the fortune of war annexed the 
crown of Mercia to that of Northumbria, and Diuma, a 
missionary, was raised to the episcopal dignity. The 
converts were true to the faith which they had embraced ; 
and retained it with enthusiasm, after they had thrown 
off the yoke, and replaced the sceptre in the hands of 
their native princes. 

The zeal of Oswiu was not satisfied with one royal 
proselyte ; and his solicitations prevailed on Sigebert, the 
East Saxon monarch, to receive the sacred rite of bap- 
tism (39). The men of Essex supported the character of 
their fathers. Like them they embraced the Christian 
faith, and like them apostatised. A dreadful pestilence, 
which they attributed to the vengeance of Woden, in- 
duced them to rebuild the altars, and restore the worship 
of that deity. Jaruman bishop of Mercia was alarmed : 

(39) An. 653. 

with haste he repaired to the kingdom of Essex ; and by 
his preaching and authority confirmed the faith of the 
wavering, and refuted the errors of the incredulous (40). 
The inhabitants of Sussex were the most barbarous of 
the Saxon nations, and the last that embraced the pro- 
fession of Christianity. Unmoved by the example of 
their neighbours, whom they branded with the infamous 
name of apostates, they long resisted the repeated efforts 
of the missionaries ; but their obstinacy was induced to 
yield to the superior zeal or superior address of St Wil- 
frid, a Northumbrian prelate. Expelled from his diocese 
by the intrigues of his enemies, he wandered an honour- 
able exile among the tribes of ; the south, when Edilwalch 
the king of Sussex, who had been lately baptised, invited 
him to attempt the conversion x>f his subjects. Wilfrid 
had travelled through most of the nations on the conti- 
nent ; to the advantages of study he had joined those of 
observation and experience ; and while his acquirements 
commanded the respect, the improvements which he in- 
troduced, conciliated the esteem of the barbarians. His 
first converts were two hundred and fifty slaves, whom, 
together with the isle of Selsey, he had received as a pre- 
sent from the munificence of Edilwalch (41). On the 
day of their baptism, they were unexpectedly gratified 
with the offer of their liberty from their generous in- 
structor, who declared that they ceased to be his bonds- 
men from the moment in which they became the child- 
ren of Christ. The liberality of Wilfrid was felt and 
applauded : numbers crowded to his sermons ; and those 
who were not convinced by his reasons, were silenced 

(40) Bed. 1. iii. c. 30. 
.(41) An. 678. 


by the authority of the king. Within the space of five 
years he firmly established the Christian worship in Sus- 
sex : and after his departure the wants of the mission 
were supplied by the pastoral care of the bishops of Win- 
chester (42). 

Thus in the space of about eighty years was success- 
fully completed the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons ; an 
enterprise, which originated in the charity of Gregory 
the great, and was unremittingly continued by the in- 
dustry of his disciples, with the assistance of several 
faithful co-operators from Gaul and Italy. Of the con- 
duct which they pursued, and the arguments which they 
employed, a few particulars may be collected from the 
works of the ancient writers (43 ). They were instructed 
most carefully to avoid every offensive and acrimonious 
expression 5 to inform the judgment without alienating 
the affections ; and to display on every occasion the 
most disinterested zeal for the welfare of their disciples 
(44). The great and fundamental truth of the unity of 
God was the first lesson, which they sought to inculcate. 
The statues of the Gods could not, they observed, be 
fit objects of adoration ; since whatever excellence they 
possessed was derived from the nature of the materials, 

(42) Compare Bede (1. iv. c. 13, v. c. 18, 28,) with Eddius (vit. 
Wilf. c. 40), and Huntingdon (1. iii. f. 192, int. scrip, post Bed.) 

(43) Daniel bishop of Winchester, in a letter to St Boniface, 
enumerates the arguments, which were thought the best calcu- 
lated to convince ^the pagans, (Ep. Bonif. p. 78, edit. Serrar.) 
Tfee letters of the pontiffs to the Saxon kings, (Wilk. con. vol. i. 
p. 12, 30, 34,) and some passages of Bede (his. 1. ii. c. 13, 1. iii a, 
22,) may also be consulted. 

(44) Non quasi insultando vel irritando eos, sed placide et 
magna moderatione. Ep. Dan. ibid. 


and the ingenuity of the artist (4*5) : and from the suc- 
cessive generation of the German deities they inferred, 
that none of them could be the first great cause, from 
whose fecundity all other beings received their existence 
(4-6). If they were the dispensers of every blessing, 
why, it was asked, were their votaries confined to the 
barren and frozen climate of the north, while the 
warmer and more fertile regions were divided among 
those who equally despised their promises and their 
threats (47) ? If Woden were the God of war, why did 
victory still adhere to the standards of the tribes, which 
had trampled on his altars and embraced the faith of 
Christ ? To the incoherent tenets of paganism they 
opposed the great truths of revelation , the fall and re- 
demption of man, his future judgment, and endless 
existence during an eternity of happiness or misery. 
For the truth of these doctrines, they adverted to the 
consent of the powerful and polished nations, which 
had preferred them to their ancient worship ; to the 
rapidity with which, in defiance of every obstacle, they 
had spread themselves over the earth ; and to the stu- 
pendous events by which their diffusion was accompanied 
and accelerated (48). Nor did they hesitate to appeal, 

(45) Bed. 1. ii. c. 10, 1. iii. c. 22. 

(46) Quoslibet ab aliis generates concede eos asserere, ut 
saltern modo hominum natos decs et deas potius homines quam 
deos fuisse, et caepisse, qui ante non erant, probes. Ep. Dan. 

(47) Cum Christiani fertiles terras, vini oleique feraces caste- 
risque opibus abundantes possideant provincias, paganis frigore 
semper rigentes terras reliquerunt, Ibid. See a similar argument 
in Bede(l. ii. c. 13.) 

(48) Inferenda quoque saepius eis est orbis auctoritas Christiani- 
Ep. Dan, ibid. 


like the apostles, to the miracles, which deposed in 
favour of their mission ; and the supernatural powers 
with which they believed themselves to be invested, at- 
tracted the notice of Gregory. His zeal rejoiced at the 
triumphs of the gospel : but his virtue was alarmed for 
the humility of his disciples. In a long letter to Augus- 
tine, he earnestly exhorted him to reflect on the no- 
thingness of man in the presence of the Supreme Being ; 
to shut his ears to the subtle suggestions of vanity ; and 
to be convinced that the wonders, which accompanied 
his preaching, were wrought by God, not to reward 
the merits of those who were only humble instruments 
in the hand of Almighty power, but to display his mercy 
to the Saxons, and to attract their minds by sensible 
proofs to the knowledge of salvation (49). 

In one respect the missionaries ventured to deviate 
from the example of those, who had preceded them in 
their sacred functions. Though the first preachers of 
Christianity rapidly extended their conquests through 
every class of Roman subjects, almost three centuries 
elapsed, before they presumed to attempt the conversion 
of the emperors. But at the period of the Anglo-Saxon 
mission, the circumstances were changed. The rulers of 
the barbarous nations had proved themselves not insen- 
sible to the truths of the gospel ; and the influence of 
their example had been recently demonstrated in the 
conversion of the Franks, the Visigoths, and the Suevi. 
Hence the first object of the missionaries, Roman, Gal- 

(49) Quidquid de faciendis signis acceperis vel accepisti, haec 
non tibi sed illis deputes donata pro quorum tibi salute collata 
mint. Ep. Greg, ad Aug. apud Bed. 1. i. c. si. Wilk. con. vol. 
i. p. 10. 


lie, or Scottish, was invariably the same, to obtain the 
patronage of the prince. His favour ensured, his oppo- 
sition prevented their success (50). Yet let not maligni- 
ty judge lightly of their merit. If virtue is to be esti- 
mated by the effort which it requires, they will be en- 
titled to no ordinary degree of praise. They abandoned 
the dearest connections of friends and country ; they ex- 
posed themselves to the caprice and cruelty of unknown 
barbarians : they voluntarily embraced a life of laborious 
and unceasing exertion, without any prospect of tempo- 
ral emolument, and with the sole view of civilising the 
manners, and correcting the vices of a distant and savage 
people. If they neither felt nor provoked the scourge 
of persecution, they may, at least, claim the merit of 
pure, active, and disinterested virtue : and the fortunate 
issue of their labours is sufficient to disprove the opinion 
of those, who imagine, that no church can be firmly esta- 
blished, the foundations of which are not cemented with 
the blood of martyrs (51). 

(50) On this subject see the remarks of Macquer (Abrege chro- 
nologique de 1'histoire ecclesiastique vol. i. p. 512, an. 1768,) who 
unfortunately adduces the conduct of Caedvvalla to prove that the 
converts were Christians only in name, and still retained all the 
vices of paganism. But Casdwalla was neither a Saxon nor a con- 
vert. He was a British prince, whom national animosity urged to 
wreak his vengeance on the vanquished Northumbrians. 

(51)1 shall not pollute these pages with the abuse, which, about 
two centuries ago, religious bigotry so lavishly bestowed on the 
apostles of the Saxons. If the reader's taste lead him to such of- 
fal, he may peruse the works of Bayle, (Cent. 8, c. 85. Cent. 13, 
c. i,) of Parker, (Ant. Brit. p. 33 46,) and of Fox, (Acts anrf 
mon, Tom. i, p. 107.) 


In the judgment of a hasty or a prejudiced observer, 
the faults of the disciple are frequently transferred to 
the master : and the facility with which the natives of 
Essex relapsed into idolatry after the death of Saberdt, 
and those of Northumbria after the fall of Edwin, has 
encouraged a suspicion, that the missionaries were more 
anxious to multiply the number, than to enlighten the 
minds of their proselytes. It should, however, be re- 
membered, that the teachers were few, the pupils many, 
and their ignorance extreme. Under such difficulties, 
the rapid though temporary success of Mellitus and Pau- 
linus bears an honourable testimony to their zeal : nor 
should it excite surprise, if, after their unfortunate ex- 
pulsion, the converts, without the aid of instruction, or 
the support of the civil power, gradually returned to 
their former worship. To these two instances may be 
successfully opposed the conduct of all the other Saxon 
nations, in which Christianity from its first admission 
maintained a decided superiority. To object, that they 
yielded without conviction, is to venture an assertion that 
certainly is not countenanced by the obstinacy with which 
men adhere to their religious prejudices ; and is suffi- 
ciently contradicted by the reserve with which Ethelbert 
listened to the instructions of Augustine, by the long re- 
sistance of Edwin to the arguments of Paulinus, and by 
the tardy but sincere conversions of Peada prince of 
Mercia, and Sigebert king of Essex. But the claim of 
the missionaries to the gratitude, may be best deduced 
from the improvement, of their disciples ; and whoever 
wishes justly to estimate their merit, will carefully com- 
pare the conduct of the Christian with that of the pagan 


By the ancient writers, the Saxons are unanimously 
classed with the most barbarous of the nations, which 
invaded and dismembered the Roman empire (52). 
Their valour was disgraced by its brutality. To the 
services they generally preferred the blood of their cap- 
tives *, and the man, whose life they condescended to 
spare, was taught to consider perpetual servitude as a 
gratuitous favour (53). Among themselves, a rude and 
imperfect system of legislation intrusted to private re- 
venge the punishment of private injuries ; and the fero- 
city of their passions continually multiplied these deadly 
and hereditary feuds. Avarice and the lust of sensual 
enjoyment had extinguished in their breasts some of the 
first feelings of nature. The savages of Africa may 
traffic with Europeans for the negroes whom they have 
seized by treachery, or captured in open war : but the 
more savage conquerors of the Britons sold without 
scruple to the merchants of the continent, their country-* 
men, and even their own children (54-). Their religion 
was accommodated to their manners, and their manners 
were perpetuated by their religion. In their theology 
they acknowledged no sin but cowardice , and revered 
no virtue but courage. Their Gods they appeased with 
the blood of human victims. Of a future life their no- 
tions were faint and wavering : and if the soul were 
fated to survive the body, to quaff ale out of the skulls 

(52) Julian, de laucj. Constan. p. 116. Sidon. 1. viii. ep. 9. 
Zozim. 1. iii. p. 147. 

(53) Altissimae gratis stabat in loco. Gild. p. 87. 

(54) Familiari, says Malmesbury (de reg. 1. i. c. 3,) ac pene in- 
genita consuetudine, adeo ut non dubitarent arctissimas necessi- 
tudines sub prsetextu minimorum eommodorum distrahere. 


of their enemies was to be the great reward of the vir- 
tuous : to lead a life of hunger and inactivity the endless 
punishment of the wicked (55). 

Such were the Pagan Saxons. But their ferocity 
soon yielded to the exertions of the missionaries, and 
the harsher features of their origin were insensibly 
softened under the mild influence of the gospel. In the 
rage of victory they learned to respect the rights of hu- 
manity. Death or slavery was no longer the fate of 
the conquered Britons : by their submission they were 
incorporated with the victors ; and their lives and pro- 
perty were protected by the equity of their Christian 
conquerors (56). The acquisition of religious knowledge 
introduced a new spirit of legislation : the presence of 
the bishops and superior clergy improved the wisdom of 
the national councils ; and laws were framed to punish 
the more flagrant violations of morality, and prevent 
the daily broils which harassed the peace of society. 
The humane idea, that by baptism all men become 
brethren, contributed to meliorate the condition of 
slavery, and scattered the seeds of that liberality, which 
gradually undermined, and at length abolished so odious 
an institution. By the provision of the legislature the 
freedom of the child was secured from the avarice of an 
unnatural parent ; and the heaviest punishment was de- 
nounced against the man, who presumed to sell to a 
foreign master one of his countrymen, though he were 

(55) Two passages in Bede (1. ii. c. 13. 1. ill c. so,) will almost 
justify a doubt whether they believed any future state at all. 

(56) See the laws of Ina, 23, 24, 32, 46, (Wilk. leg. Sax. p. is 

20, 22.) 


a slave or a malefactor (57). But by nothing were the 
converts more distinguished than by their piety. The 
conviction of a future and endless existence beyond the 
grave elevated their minds, and expanded their ideas. 
To prepare their souls for this new state of being, was 
to many the first object of their solicitude : they eagerly 
sought every source of instruction, and with scrupulous 
fidelity practised every duty which they had learnt (58). 
Of the zeal of the more opulent among the laity, the 
numerous churches, hospitals, and monasteries which 
they founded, are a sufficient proof: and the clergy 
could boast with equal truth of the piety displayed by 
the more eminent of their order, and of the nations in- 
structed in the Christian faith, by the labours of St Bo- 
niface and his associates (59). In the clerical and mo- 
nastic establishments, the most sublime of the gospel 
virtues were carefully practised : even kings descended 
from their thrones, and exchanged the sceptre for the 

57) Though this inhuman custom was severely forbidden by 
different legislators, (Wilk. leg. Sax. p. 17, 93, 107, 138,) it was 
clandestinely continued long after the Norman conquest, (Ang, 
Sac. vol. ii. p. 258. Malm, de reg. 1. i. c. 3. Girald. de expug. 
Hiber 1. i.e. 18.) 

(58) See Bede (1. ii. c. 17, 1. iii. c. 26, 1. iv. c. 3. Ep. ad Egb. 
Ant. p. 311,) and the testimony of St Gregory. Gens Anglorum 
prave agere metuit, ac totis desideriis ad aeternitatis gloriam per- 
venire concupiscit, (Moral. 1. xxvii. c. 8. Ep. 1. ix. 58.), 

(59) The Old Saxons, the Francs, the Hessians, and the Thu- 
ringians, were converted by St Boniface ; the inhabitants of West- 
phalia, by St Swibert ; the Frisians and the Hollanders by St 
Wilfrid and St Willibrord ; the nations north of the Elbe by St 
Willehad. See Walker's translation of Spelman's Alfred, (pnef. 

cowl (60). Their conduct was applauded by their con- 
temporaries : and the moderns, whose supercilious wis- 
dom affects to censure it, must at least esteem the mo- 
tives which inspired, and admire the resolution which 
completed the sacrifice. The progress of civilization 
kept equal pace with the progress of religion :. not only 
the useful but the agreeable arts were introduced ; every 
species of knowledge, which could be attained, was 
eagerly studied $ and during the gloom of ignorance, 
which overspread the rest of Europe, learning found, 
for a certain period, an asylum among the Saxons of Bri- 
tain (61). To this picture an ingenious adversary may 
indeed oppose a very different description. He may 
collect the vices which have been stigmatised by the zeal 
of their preachers, and point to the crimes which dis- 
graced the characters of some of their monarchs. But the 
impartial observer will acknowledge the impossibility of 
eradicating at once the fiercer passions of a whole nation ; 
nor be surprised, if he behold several of them relapse 
into their former manners, and on some occasions unite 
the actions of savages with the profession of Christians. 
To judge of the advantage which the Saxons derived 
from their conversion, he will fix his eyes on their vir- 
tues. They were the offspring of the gospel ; their vices 
were the relics of paganism. 

It was fortunate for the converts, that, during the 
seventh century, the peace of the western church was 
seldom disturbed by religious controversy. Though 

(60) According to Walker, (ibid.) three and twenty Saxon 
kings, and sixty queens and children of kings, were revered as 
saints by our ancestors. 

(61) See the chapter on the learning of the Saxons, 


tlieir teachers came from different and far distant coun- 
tries, they were unanimous in preaching the same doc- 
trine ; and it was for several centuries the boast of the 
Saxons, that heresy had never dared to erect its standard 
within the precincts of their church. In points of dis- 
cipline, national partiality would prompt each missionary 
to establish the practice of his own country -, though 
Gregory, with a laudable liberality of sentiment, exhorted 
his disciples to despise the narrow prejudices of educa- 
tion, and carefully to select from the customs of different 
churches, whatever was best calculated to promote the 
general interests of virtue and religion (62). But all 
were not anfmated with the spirit of the pontiff. The 
Scottish monks had been taught to respect as sacred every 
institution, which had been sanctioned by the approba- 
tion of their ancestors ; while the Roman missionaries 
contended, that the customs of an obscure and sequester- 
ed people ought to yield to the consentient practice of 
the principal Christian churches. Each party pertinaci- 
ously adhered to their own opinion -, and the controversy 
was conducted with a violence which threatened to de- 
stroy the fabric, that had been erected with so much la- 
bour and perseverance. Yet the great objects, which 
called forth the zeal, and divided the harmony of these 
holy men, regarded not the essentials of Christianity: 
they were confined to, 1, the proper time for the cele- 

(62) Novit fraternitas tua Romans Ecclesise consuetudinem, in 
qua se meminit nutritam. Sed mihi placet, sive in Romana, sive 
in Galliarum, seu in qualibet ecclesia aliquid invenisti, quod plus 
omnipotent! Deo possit placere, sollicite eligas, et in Anglorum 
ecclesia institutione prascipua, quae de multis ecclesiis cclligere 
potuisti, infundas. Bed. 1, i, c. 27, interrog. 2. 


bration of Easter, and 2, the most approved method of 
wearing the ecclesiastical tonsure. 

1. The festival of Easter, instituted in honour of the 
resurrection of Christ, has always been considered as the 
principal of the Christian solemnities. To reduce the dif- 
ferent churches of the east and west to uniformity in the 
celebration of this great event, was an object which en- 
gaged the attention of the prelates assembled in the 
council of Nice : and as the commencement of the 
Paschal time depended on astronomical calculation, it 
was determined that the patriarch of Alexandria should 
annually consult the philosophers of Egypt, and commu- 
nicate the result of their researches to the Roman pon- 
tiff; whose duty it was to notify the day of the festival 
to the more distant churches. Unfortunately, the Ro- 
man agreed not with the Alexandrian method of compu- 
tation ; a different cycle of years was employed ; and the 
limits of the equinoctial lunation were affixed to different 
days. Hence arose an insuperable obstacle to the uni- 
formity required by the council ; and it not unfrequently 
happened, that while the western Christians were cele- 
brating the joyous event of the resurrection, those of the 
east had but just commenced the penitential austerities of 
Lent (63). Weary of the disputes occasioned by this 

(63) The cycle of the Alexandrians contained nineteen years, 
that of the Romans eighty-four: according to the former the 
equinoctial new moon could not occur sooner than the eighth of 
of March, nor later than the 5th of April, while the latter affixed 
these limits to the fifth of March and the third of 4gril. Hence 
it happened in the year 417, that Easter was celebrated at Rome 
on the 25th of March, and at Alexandria on the 22d of April. 
Smith's Bed. ap. n 9. p. 697, 698. 

c 2 


difference of computation, the Roman church about the 
middle of the sixth century adopted a new cycle, which 
had been lately composed by Dionysius Exiguus, and 
which, in every important point, agreed with the Egyp- 
tian mode of calculation (64). But the British churches, 
harassed at that period by the Saxons, and almost pre- 
cluded from communicating with Italy, on account of 
the convulsed situation of the continent, were unac- 
quainted with this improvement (65), and continued ta 
use the ancient cycle, though their ignorance of its appli- 
cation caused them to deviate widely from the former 
practice of the Roman church (66). Hence it happened 

(64) It contained 95 years, or five Egyptian cycles* 

(65) This is the reason which Bede assigns for their adhesion 
to the old method. Utpote quibus longe extra orbem positis 
nemo synodalia Paschalis observantice decreta porrexerat. L. iii. 
c* 4. 

(66) On this circumstance the prejudice of party has endea- 
voured to build a wild and extravagant system. Because the 
British Christians of the seventh century differed from the Roman 
church in the time of celebrating Easter, it has been gratuitously 
assumed that they were Quartodecimans : that of consequence 
their fathers were of the same persuasion ; and ultimately that 
the faith was planted in Britain by missionaries, who were sent 
not from Rome, but from some of the Asiatic churches. The 
truth Or falsehood of the latter hypothesis is of little consequence ; 
yet it is certain that the Britons in the time of St Augustine were 
not Quartodecimans, as they observed Easter on the 14th day of 
the moon, only when that day happened to be a Sunday (Bed. 
I. iii. c. 4, 17 :) and that their ancestors were not Quartodecimans 
is no less certain, if any credit be due to Eusebius (hist. 1. v. 
C. 2S,) to Socrates (1. v. c. 21,) to Constantine in his letter to the 
bishops (Eus. 1. iii. c. 14,) and to the subscriptions of the British 
prelates to the council of Aries (Spel. cone, p, 40, 42.) I should 


that, during the sixth and seventh centuries the British 
Christians scattered along the western coasts of the island, 
observed in the computation of Easter a rule peculiar to 
themselves : and when it was asked how they y buried in 
an obscure corner of the earth, dared to oppose their 
customs to the unanimous voice of the Greek and Latin 
churches, they boldly but ignorantly replied, that they 
had received them from their forefathers, whose sanctity 
had been proved by a multitude of miracles, and whose 
doctrine they considered as their most valuable inheri 
tance. i 

2. When once the spirit of controversy has taken pos- 
session of the mind, the most trifling objects swell into 
considerable magnitude, and are pursued with an ardour 
and interest, which cannot fail to excite the surprise, 
perhaps the smile, of the indifferent spectator. Of this 
description was the dispute respecting the proper form 
of the ecclesiastical tonsure, which contributed to widen 
the separation between the Roman and Scottish mission- 
aries. The former shaved the crown of the head, which 
was surrounded by a circle of hair supposed to represent 
the wreath of thorns, forced by the cruelty of his perse- 
cutors on the temples of the Messiah : the latter per- 
mitted the hair to grow on the back, and shaved in the 
form of a crescent the front of the head. Each party was 

not omit that Goodall (ad hist. Scot, introd. p. 66. Keith's catal. 
of Scot, bishops, pref. p. vii.) asserts that the Scots employed 
the same cycle, and observed Easter on the same day as was 
customary in the Roman church previous to the council of Nice. 
He founds his opinion on the ancient paschal table published by 
Bucher, in which the festival is fixed on the fourteenth day of the 
moon for the years 31G and 320. 



surprised and shocked at the uncanonical appearance of 
the other. The Romans asserted that their tonsure had 
descended to them from the prince of the apostles, 
while that of their adversaries was the distinguishing 
mark of Simon Magus and his disciples (67). The 
Scots, unable to refute the confident assertions of their 
adversaries, maintained, that their method of shaving 
the head, however impious in its origin, had been after- 
wards sanctified by the virtues of those who had adopted 
it (68). The arguments of the contending parties serve 
only to prove their ignorance of ecclesiastical antiquity. 
During the first four hundred years of the Christian era, 
the clergy were not distinguished from the laity by any 
peculiar method of clipping the hair : and the severity 
of the canons proceeded no farther than the prohibi- 
tion of those modes, which were the offspring of vanity 
and effeminacy (69). The tonsure originated from the 
piety of the first professors of the monastic institute. 
To shave the head was deemed by the natives of the 
east a ceremony expressive of the deepest affliction : and 
was adopted by the monks as a distinctive token of that 
seclusion from worldly pleasure, to which they had 
voluntarily condemned themselves. When in the fifth 
century the most illustrious of the order Were drawn 
from their cells, and raised to the highest dignities in 

(67) Bed. 1. iii. c. 25. v. c. 21. 

(68) Numquid, says Colman, patrem nostrum Columbam, et 
successores ejus divinis paginis contraria sapuisse vel egisse cre- 
dendum est ? quos ego sanctos esse non dubitans, semper eorum 
vitam, mores, et disciplinam sequi non desisto. Bed. 1. iii. c. 25. 

(69) Deflua csesaries compescitur ad breves capillos. Pruden. 
Kii <fti$> aw;, 13. 


the church, they retained this mark of their former pro- 
fession j the new costume was gradually embraced by 
the clergy; and the tonsure began to be considered, 
both in the Greek and the Latin church, as necessary 
for admission into the number of ecclesiastics. It was 
at this period that the circular and semi-circular modes 
of shaving the head were introduced. The names of 
their authors were soon lost in oblivion ; and succeeding 
generations, ignorant of their real origin, credulously at- 
tributed them to the first age of Christianity (70). 

Such were the mighty objects, which scattered the 
seeds of dissension in the breasts of these holy men. 
The merit of restoring concord was reserved for the zeal 
and authority of Oswiu, king of Northumbria. As that 
province had received the doctrine of the gospel from 
the Scottish missionaries, their influence was predomi- 
nant with the prince and the majority of the people : 
but his que^en, Eanfled, who had been educated in Kent, 
and his son Alchfrid, who attended the lessons of St 
Wilfrid, eagerly adhered to the practice of the Roman 
church. Thus Oswiu saw his own family divided into 
opposite factions, and the same solemnities celebrated at 
different times within his own palace. Desirous to pro- 
cure uniformity, he summoned the champions of each 
party, to meet him at Whitby, the monastery of the Ab- 
bess Hilda, and to argue the merits of .their respective 
customs in his presence. The conference was conducted 
with freedom and decency. To Wilfrid was intrusted 
the defence of the Roman, to Colman, bishop of Lindis- 

(70) See Smith's Bed. app. n ix. According to an ancient 
book of canons quoted by Usher, the semicircular tonsure was 
first adopted in Ireland. (Ush. Ant. Brit. c. 17, p. 924.) 


fame, that of the Scottish missionaries. Each rested his 
cause on the authority of those from whom the discipline 
of his church was supposed to be derived : and the king 
concluded the discussion by declaring his conviction, that 
the institutions of St Peter were to be preferred before 
those of St Columba. This decision was applauded by 
the courtiers : and of the Scottish monks many ranged 
themselves under the banners of their adversaries ; the 
remainder retired in silent discontent to their parent 
monastery in the isle of Hii (71). 

The termination of this controversy has subjected the 
successful party to the severe but unmerited censures of 
several late historians. They affect to consider the 
Scottish monks as an injured and persecuted cast : and 
declaim with suspicious vehemence against the haughty 
and intolerant spirit of the Roman clergy (72). But, if 
uniformity was desirable, it could only be obtained by 
the submission or retreat of one of the contending par- 
ties : and certainly it was unreasonable to expect that 
those, who observed the discipline which universally 
prevailed among the Christians of the continent, should 
tamely yield to the pretensions of a few obscure churches 
on the remotest coast of Britain (73). The charge of 
persecution is not warranted by the expressions of the 
original writers, who give the praise of moderation al- 

(71) Bed. 1. iii. c. 25, 26. An. 64. 

(72) Henry, hist, of Brit. vol. iii. p. 204. Rapin, vol. i. p. 71. 

(73) Numquid universal!, quae per orbem est, ecclesiae Christi, 
eomm est paucitas uno de angulo extremae insulae prseferenda. 
"Wilf. apud Bed. 1. iii. c. 25. Also 1. ii. c. 19. 


most exclusively to the Romans. Bede has recorded 
the high esteem in which Aidan and his associates were 
held by the bishops of Canterbury and Dunwich ; and 
observes that through respecl: to his merit, they were 
unwilling to condemn his departure from the universal 
discipline of the catholic church (74). The letters which 
the Roman missionaries wrote on occasion of this con- 
troversy, uniformly breathe a spirit of meekness and 
conciliation j and prove that the writers rather pitied 
the ignorance, than resented the obstinacy of their op - 
ponents (75). But historic truth will not permit equal 
praise to be given to the conduct of the Scottish and 
British prelates. When Daganus, a Caledonian bishop, 
arrived at Canterbury in the days of Lawrence, the suc- 
cessor of St Augustine, he pertinaciously refused to eat 
at the same table, or even in the same house with those, 
who observed the Roman Easter (76) j and St Aldhelrn 
assures us that the clergy of Demetia carried their ab- 
horrence of the catholic discipline to suAi an extreme, 
that they punished the most trivial conformity with a 
long course of penance, and purified with fanatic scru- 
pulosity every utensil, which had been contaminated by 
the touch of a Roman or a Saxon priest (77). We may 
wonder and lament that for objects of such inferior con- 

(74) Bed. ibid. 

(75) Bed. 1. ii. c. 4, 19. Wilk. cone. torn. i. p. 36, 40. Ep. 
Bonif. 44, p. 59. 

(76) Bed. 1. ii.c. 4. 

(77). Apist. Aldhel. ad Geron. Regem, inter Bonifac. ep. 44, p. 
59. See also Bede, 1. ii. c. 20. Mat. West, ad an. 586. 


sequence men could suspend their more important la- 
bours, and engage in acrimonious controvery : but can- 
dour must admit that of the two parties, the Romans 
had the better cause, and by their moderation deserved 
that victory which they ultimately obtained (78). 

(78) Smith's Bed. app. viii. IK. 


Exten/tve jurifdiftlon of St Augujline drchbi/hops of Canterbury 
York Lichfield number of bi/hoprics election of bifiop.i 
eplfcopal monafteries injlitution of parities difcipllne of iht 
clergy celibacy. 

EPISCOPAL authority is coeval with Christianity. The 
plenitude of the priesthood, which its divine founder 
had communicated to the apostles, was by them trans- 
mitted to the more learned and fervent of their disciples. 
Under the appropriate title of bishops, these ministers 
presided in the assembly of the faithful, delegated to 
the inferior clergy a discretionary portion of their autho- 
rity, and watched with jealous solicitude over the, in- 
terests of religion (1). Wherever Christianity pene- 
trated, it was accompanied with the episcopal institution : 
and the anomalous existence of a church without a 
bishop was a phenomenon reserved for the admiration 
of later ages. Faithful to the practice of his predeces- 
sors in the conversion of nations, Augustine was careful 
to receive, within the first year of his mission, the epis- 
copal consecration from the hands of the Gallican pre- 
lates. At the same time he consulted his patron re- 
specting the future economy of the rising church. Gre- 
gory, whose zeal already predicted the entire conversion 

(1) Hip nama, fays ^Ifric, i]~ gecpe'oen Episcopus. ^ 
if o_pep;p ceapigent). ^ he ojzejrf ceapi^e j~ ymle hif un- 
fejTfeo 1 o'oan. Ep. JElf. apud Wilk. leg. Sax. p. 167. 


of the oftarchy (2), commanded it to be equally divided 
into two ecclesiastical provinces, in each of which twelve 
suffragan bishops should obey the superior jurisdiction 
of their metropolitan. London and York, which under 
the Romans had possessed a high pre-eminence over 
the other cities of the island, were selected for the 
archiepiscopal sees , and the precedency of their prelates 
was ordered to be regulated by the priority of their con- 
secration. But a flattering distinction was granted to 
the superior merit of Augustine. The general govern- 
ment of the mission was still intrusted to his hands ; and 
the northern metropolitan with his suffragans was di- 
rected to listen to his instructions, and to obey his 
orders (3). 

From the Saxons the pontiff extended his pastoral 
solicitude to the Britons. The long and unsuccessful 
wars which they had waged against their fierce invaders, 
had relaxed the sinews of ecclesiastical discipline ; and 
the profligate manners of their clergy were become, if 
we may credit the vehement assertions of Gildas, an in- 
sult to the sanlity of their profession. More anxious to 
enjoy the emoluments, than to discharge the duties of 
their station, they purchased the dignities of the church 
with presents, or seized them by force ; and the fortu- 
nate candidate was more frequently indebted for his suc- 
cess to the arms of his kindred, thanlo the justice of his 

(2) At this time the Saxon conquests were divided between 
eight chieftains or kings : but as Bernicia and Deira were soon 
united to form the kingdom of Northumbria, there appears no 
reason why the word heptarchy should be rejected, as applied 
to a later period. 

(s) Bede 1. i. c. 29. 


pretensions. Indolence had induced a passion for ebrie- 
ty and excess ; the patrimony of the poor was sacrificed 
to the acquisition of sensual gratifications ; the most 
solemn oaths were sworn and violated with equal facility ; 
and the son, from the example of his father, readily im- 
bibed a contempt for clerical chastity (4). So general 
and unfavourable a character may, possibly, excite the 
scepticism of the reader ; but the picture is drawn by 
the pencil of a countryman and contemporary; and, 
though the colouring may occasionally betray the exag- 
geration of zeal, there is no reason to doubt that the 
outline is faithful and correct. Gregory lamented, and 
sought to remedy these disorders ; and treading in the 
footsteps of his predecessor Celestine, who two centuries 
before had appointed the monk Palladius to the govern- 
ment of the Scottish church (5), invested Augustine 
with an extensive jurisdiction over all the bishops of the 

(4) Ep. Gild. edit. Gale, p. 23, 24, 38. 

(5) Ad Scotos in Christum credentes ordinatur a Papa Celestino 
Palladius et primus episcopus mittitur. Prcsp. in Chron. an. 431. 
What is the meaning of primus episcopus? Was Palladius the 
first, who appeared among the Scottish Christians with the epis- 
copal character, as Fordun supposes after Higden, (hist. 1. iii* 
c. 8, p. 113, edit. Flaminio) or was he the first in authority 
among the Scottish prelates, as seems to have been the opinion 
of the continuator of Fordun, and of the ancient bishops of St 
Andrews; who, though they exercised the authority, assumed 
not the title of metropolitans, but stiled themselves primi episcopi 
Scotorum ? (See Keith's catalogue of Scottish bishops, pref. p. iu\ 
Goodall ad hist. Scot, introduc. p. 65.) In either sense Celestine 
appears to have conceived himself authorised to invest his mis- 
sionary with authority over a foreign church. 


Britons (6). To these degenerate ecclesiastics the super- 
intendance of a foreign prelate, distinguished by the 
severe regularity of his conduct, offered no very pleasing 
prospect : and when they reflected, that to acknowledge 
his authority was to subject their church to the controul 
of the Saxon hierarchy, their pride was alarmed, and 
they determined to refuse all connexion with him (7). 

(6) Bed. 1. i. c. 27. This has been considered as a wanton in- 
vasion of the rights ofthe British churches. That it was warrant- 
ed by precedent is clear from the last note ; nor would it be a 
difficult task to prove that the Britons were always subject to the 
jurisdiction of the Roman see. While they formed a part of the 
\vestern empire, they must have been on the same footing with 
the other provinces ; and from the language of Gildas we may 
infer, that after their separation, they still continued to acknow- 
ledge the superior authority of the pontiff. He informs us that 
the British ecclesiastics, who had not sufficient interest at home 
to obtain the richest benefices, -crossed the seas and traversed dis- 
tant provinces with costly presents, in order to obtain the object of 
their ambition ; and then returned in triumph to their native coun- 
try. Pramissis ante nsolicite untiis, transnavigare maria terrasque 
spatiosas transmeare non tampiget quam delectat, ut tails species 
cornparetur. Deinde cum magno apparatu repedantes sese pa- 
trias mgerunt, violenter manus sacrosanctis Christi sacrificiis ex- 
tensuri (Ep. Gild. p. 24.) As the power of the emperors was 
then exstinet, this passage must mean that the British clergymen 
carried their disputes before the tribunal of some foreign prelate ; 
who, undoubtedly, was the bishop of Rome. For who else 
possessed either the right or the power to controul competitors, 
who either declined the jurisdiction, or appealed from the decision 
of their 'own metropolitan? To this argument Stillingfleet has 
opposed an angry but evasive answer. (Orig. Brit. p. 363.) 

(7) See the verses of a Saxon poet transcribed by Whelock 
(p. 114 :) but see them in the original ; for the latin version has 
been enriched with the prejudices of the translator. 


The difficulty of the attempt did not, however, damp the 
ardour of Augustine. He a&ed with a vigour propor- 
tionate to the confidence which Gregory had reposed in 
his zeal ; and, by the influence of Ethelbert, prevailed 
on some of the British prelates to meet him near the 
confines of their country. From the morning till night 
he laboured to efFeft an accommodation ; his exhorta- 
tions, entreaties, and menaces were ineffectual ; but a 
miracle is said to have subdued their obstinacy, and a 
promise was extorted that they would renew the con- 
ference on a future day. The promise was observed ; 
but not till they had consulted a neighbouring hermit 
famed for sanftity 2nd wisdom. His answer betrays 
their secret apprehensions, and shews that the indepen- 
dence of their church was the chief object of their solici- 
tude. He advised them to watch with jealousy the con- 
duct of the missionary : if he rose to meet them, they 
might consider him as a man of a meek and unassuming 
temper, and securely listen to his demands : but if he 
kept his seat, they should condemn him of pride, and re- 
turn the insult with equal pride (8). On the appointed 
day seven bishops, accompanied by Dinoth abbot of 
Bangor, repaired to the conference (9). Augustine had 

(8) Bed. 1. ii.c. 2, p. 80. 

(9) Whether Dinoth possessed the gift of tongues may with 
reason be doubted : that he could not mistake the title of the 
British metropolitan is evident. His supposed answer to Augus- 
tine, which Spelman and Wilkins have honoured with a place in 
their editions of the English councils, is said to betray its origin 
by the modernism of its language, and the anachronism respecting 
the see of Caerleon. The forgery was detected by Turbervillc 
(Manual p. 460,) and defended by Stillingfleet and Bingham (Stil. 
orig. Brit. p. 36O. Bing. vol. i. p. 348.) 


arrived before them : he did not rise at their approach j 
and the advice of the hermit was religiously obeyed. To 
facilitate their compliance the missionary had reduced 
his demands to three ; that they should observe the or- 
thodox computation of Easter ; should conform to the 
Roman rite in the administration of baptism ; and join 
with him in preaching the gospel to the Saxons. Each 
request was refused, and his metropolitical authority 
contemptuously rejected. " Know then," exclaimed 
the archbishop in the anguish of disappointed zeal, 
C know, that if you will not assist me in pointing out to 
" the Saxons the ways of life, they, by the just judg- 
" ment of God, will prove to you the ministers of death." 
They heard the prophetic menace, and departed (10). 

Augustine did not long survive this unsuccessful at- 
tempt, and his prediction was supposed to have been ve- 
rified within eight years after his death (11). Edilfrid 
the warlike and pagan king of Northumbria had entered 

(10) AsBede, when he enumerates the demands of Augustine, 
omits the recognition of his authority, some catholic writers have 
maintained that it was not mentioned, and of consequence was 
not rejected. Their opinion is, however, expressly refuted by 
Bede himself, (neque se ilium pro Archiepiscopa habituros. p. 80.) 
But are we thence to conclude with other writers, that the Britons 
also disavowed the supremacy of the pontiff? The inference will 
not convince the incredulity of those who know how frequently 
prelates in communion with the see of Rome, have objected to the 
papal mandates in points of local discipline. Asa recent instance 
may be mentioned, the conduct of the French bishops with respect 
to the concordat between Pius VII. and Bonaparte. 

(11) There can be little doubt that the death of Augustine 
should be fixed to the year 605, and the battle of Chester to 613. 
See Langhorn, p. 145, 149. Smith's Bed. p. 81, not. 29. 


the British territories, and discovered the army of his op- 
ponents near the city of Chester. Diffident of their own 
courage, they had recourse to spiritual weapons : and a 
detachment of more than twelve hundred monks from 
the monastery of Bangor occupied a neighbouring emi- 
nence, whence, like the Jewish legislator, they were ex- 
pected to regulate by their prayers the fate of the con- 
tending armies. As soon as they were descried, " if 
they pray," exclaimed the king, " they also fight against 
us ; and led his troops to the foot of the hill." Brocmail, 
who had been intrusted with its defence, fled at the 
approach of the Saxons ; the monks were slaughtered 
without mercy ; and of the whole number no more than 
fifty were able to regain their monastery (12). 

(12) Bed- p. 81. About five hundred years after this event, the 
fabulous Geoffry of Monmouth, anxious to exalt the character of 
his forefathers at the expense of their conquerors, attributed the 
massacre of the monks to the intrigues of St Augustine, and king 
Ethelbert ; and his account was adopted by the incautious credu- 
lity of two obscure historians, Grey and Trivet, (Langhorn p. 
159.) But religious are more powerful than national prejudices. 
The story was improved by the reformed writers, and the arch- 
bishop was represented as departing in sullen discontent from the 
conference, and exhorting the Saxon princes to efface with the 
blood of his adversaries the insult which had been offered to his au- 
thority. (See Bale, cent, is, c. 1. Parker p. 48, God. p. 33, and a 
crowd of more modern writers, whose zeal has ire-echoed the calum- 
ny.) But this heavy accusation is supported by no proof, and is fully 
refuted by the testimony of Bede, who refers the massacre of the 
monks to its true cause, their appearance in the field of battle ; 
and expressly declares that it occurred long after the death of 
Augustine, (ipso Augustino jam multo ante tempore ad coelestia 
regna sublato. Bed. p. 81.) To elude the force of this passage, 
Bishop Godwin has boldly asserted that it was added to the ori- 



The system of ecclesiastical polity, -which Gregory 
had dictated to the missionaries, was never effectually 
carried into execution. Paulinus had indeed been con- 
secrated for the see of York : but he was compelled to 
retire before he had completed the conversion of the 
nation ; and the Northumbrian prelates for more than a 
century aspired to no higher rank than that of bishops. 
Augustine himself preferred Canterbury to London ; 
and the metropolitical dignity was secured to the former 
by the rescripts of succeeding pontiffs. Its jurisdiction 
at first extended no farther than the churches founded 

ginal text of Bede by the officious solicitude of some admirer of 
the missionary. He does not, indeed, desire us to believe him 
** without aiming at any proof," as Mr Reeves inadvertently as- 
serts (Hist, of the Christ. Church, vol. i. p. 354 :) but rests his 
opinion principally on the absence of the passage from the Saxon 
version by king Alfred (God. p. 33.) He should, however, have 
observed that the royal translator frequently abridged the original, 
and omitted entire lines, when they were not necessary to com- 
plete the sense. Thus, for example, in the sentence preceding the 
controverted passage, he has not translated the account of Broc- 
mail's flight, nor in the sentence which follows it, the date of the 
ordination of Justus and Mellitus. (See Smith's edition of Al- 
fred's version, p. 504.) Whelock is another writer, who has at- 
tempted to prop up this baseless calumny, (Hist. Eccl. p. 114.) 
It were easy to expose the inaccuracies into which his zeal has 
hurried him : but every candid reader will admit, that if there be 
any reason to doubt the true meaning of Alfred's version, it will 
be more prudent to consult the original of Bede, than the com- 
mentaries of controvert! sts. As to the latin MSS, they uniformly 
attest the authenticity of the suspected passage. It even occurs 
in that of More, written within two years from the death of Bede, 
and probably transcribed from the original copy of the venerable 
historian. Smith's Bede, pref. and p. 81, not- 6. 


by the Roman missionaries (13). But at the death of 
Deusdedit, the sixth archbishop, the presbyter Wighard 
was chosen to succeed him, and sent to Rome by the 
kings of Kent and Northumbria, to receive the epis- 
copal consecration from the hands of the pontiff, and to 
consult him respecting the controversies which divided 
the Saxon bishops. During his residence in that city he 
fell a victim to the plague ; and Vitalian, who then en- 
joyed the papal dignity, seized the favourable moment 
to place in the see of Canterbury a prelate of vigour and 
capacity. The object of his choice was Theodore of 
Cilicia, an aged monk, who to the severest morals added 
a perfect knowledge of ecclesiastical discipline. Him he 
invested with an extensive jurisdiction, similar to that 
which Gregory had conferred on St Augustine. At his 
arrival the new metropolitan assumed the title of arch- 
bishop of Britain, and was acknowledged as their imme- 
diate superior by all the Saxon prelates. The authority 
which he claimed was almost unlimited ; but the mur- 
murs of opposition were silenced by the veneration that 
his character inspired, and by a new decree of Pope 
Agatho in favour of the see of Canterbury. After his 
death different bishops attempted to assert their inde- 
pendence -, and the successors of St Augustine had more 
than once to contend with the ambition of their suffra- 
gans. The first who dared to refuse obedience, was 
Egbert, bishop of York, and brother to the king of 
Northumbria. % Depending on the ancient regulation of 
St. Gregory, and supported by the influence of his bro- 
ther, he appealed to the pontiff; and a papal decree se- 

(13) Bede 1. iv. c. 2. 

D 2 


vered from the immediate jurisdiction of the Kentish 
metropolitan, all the bishoprics situated to the north of 
the Humber (14). His success roused the hopes of a 
more dangerous antagonist. The great prerogatives of 
Canterbury were an object of jealousy to Offa, the haugh- 
ty and powerful king of Mercia. He thought it a dis- 
grace that his prelates should profess obedience to the 
bishop of a tributary state ; and resolved to invest the 
ancient see of Lichfield with the archiepiscopal dignity. 
Janbyrht of Canterbury was not wanting to himself in 
this controversy. He entreated and threatened : he 
employed the influence of friends and of presents : he 
adduced the decrees of former popes, and pleaded the 
prescription of two centuries in favour of his church. 
But the power of Offa was irresistible. His design was 
approved by the prelates of an English council, and their 
approbation was confirmed by a rescript of the Roman 
pontiff. The bishops of Mercia and East-Anglia acknow- 
ledged the authority of the new metropolitan ; and the 
archbishop of Canterbury, condemned to lament in si- 
lence the diminution of his revenue and authority, reluc- 
tantly contented himself with the obedience of the 
bishops of Rochester, London, Selsey, Winchester, and 
Sherburne. But the triumph of the Mercian was not of 
long continuance. Within nine years Kenulf ascended 
the throne, and, actuated either by motives of justice, 
or by the desire of reconciling to his government the in- 
habitants of Kent, expressed his willingness to restore to 
the church of Canterbury that pre-eminence which it 
originally enjoyed. The most formidable obstacle arose 

(14) Chron. Sax. An. 735. Malm c de Pont, 1. iii. f. 153. 


from a quarter, where it had been least expected. Leo, 
who was then invested with the papal dignity, refused to 
alter a regulation, which, at the general petition, of the 
Saxon nobility and clergy, had been established by his 
predecessor. To overcome the opposition of the pontiff, 
it required an embassy from the king, and a journey to 
Rome by the archbishop Ethelward. Bat his consent 
was no sooner obtained, than it was joyfully received by 
the Saxon prelates, and the metropolitan of Lichfield de- 
scended to the subordinate station of a suffragan (15). 
The event of this contest proved honourable and useful 
to the see of Canterbury ; and so firmly established its 
precedency, that it has since borne, without suffering any 
considerable injury, the revolutions of more than ten cen- 
turies (16). 

(15) For this controversy consult Wharton (Ang. Sac. vol. i. pt 
429, 430, 460,) the Saxon chronicle, (an. 785,) and Wilkins, (p* 
152, 160, 164 7.) 

(16) From the original grants it is evident that the great autho- 
rity confered on St Augustine and Theodore was meant to expire 
at their death. (Bed. p. 70, 160. Wilk. p. 41.) Yet their suc- 
cessors often claimed, and sometimes exercised a superiority over 
all the neighbouring churches. From numerous records it appears 
that the bishops of Scotland, and even of Ireland, frequently re- 
paired to Canterbury for the sacred rite of consecration, (Wilk. 
p. 373, 374. Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 80, 81 :) and though the majo- 
rity of the Welch prelates continued to profess obedience to the 
bishop of St David's, yet those of Landaff, who disputed the 
archiepiscopal dignity with the possessors of that see, rather than 
submit to their adversaries, acknowledged the authority of the 
English metropolitan. Their celebrated bishop Oudoceus, with 
the approbation of Mouric king of Glamorgan, had been ordained 
by St Augustine } and his successors were careful to observe a 

D 3 


The first Saxon dioceses were of enormous extent, 
and generally commensurate to the kingdoms in which 
they were established. The jurisdiction of the see of 
Winchester stretched from the frontiers of Kent to those 
of the Cornwall Britons : a single bishopric comprised 
the populous and extensive province of Mercia ; and the 
prelate who resided sometimes at York, sometimes in 
Lindisfarne, watched over the spiritual interests of all 
the tribes of Saxons and Picts, who dwelt between the 
Humber and the friths of Forth and Clyde. No powers 
of any individual were adequate to the government of 
dioceses so extensive ; and Theodore, from the moment 
of his arrival in England, had formed the design of 
breaking them into smaller and more proportionate dis- 
tricts. But few men can behold with pleasure the dimi- 
nution of their authority or profit : and the duty of 
transmitting unimpaired to future ages the dignity which 
they enjoyed, would furnish the relu&ant prelates with a 
specious objection against the measures of the primate. 
Theodore, however, secure of the protection of the 
holy see, pursued his design with prudence and with 
firmness. The contumacy of Winfrid the Mercian 
bishop, he chastised by deposing him from his dignity, 
and successively consecrated five other prelates for the 
administration of his extensive diocese (17) : and when 
Wilfrid of York had incurred the resentment of his 
sovereign, the king of Northumbria, he improved the 
opportunity, and divided into four bishoprics the pro- 
vinces of that kingdom. The conduct of Theodore was 

praftice, which had been sanctioned by his example. Langhorn, 
p. 137. Usher, de prim. p. 85. Ang. Sac. vol. ii. p. 673. 

(17) Bed. 1. iv. c. 6. Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 423, not. 


imitated by his immediate successor, and within ar few- 
years after his death, the number of Saxon bishops was 
increased from seven to seventeen (18). This augmen- 
tation was not, however, sufficient to satisfy the spiritual 
wants of the people ; and the venerable Bede zealously 
laments that, in the great and populous diocese of York, 
there were many districts which had never been visited 
by their bishop, and thousands of Christians, whose soul 5 
had not received the holy spirit by the imposition of 
his hands (19). To remove so alarming an evil, this 
enlightened monk earnestly but ineffectually proposed 
that the original plan of Gregory the Great should be 
completed , that the church of Northumbria should be 
intrusted to the separate administration of twelve pre- 
lates j and that the new episcopal sees should be fixed 
in some of the rich but nominal monasteries, which 
covered and impoverished that kingdom (20). 

The election of bishops has frequently been the sub- 
jecl of controversy between the civil and ecclesiastical 

(18) They were, in Kent, Canterbury and Rochester; in Es- 
sex, London ; in East-Anglia, Dunwich and Helmham ; in Sus- 
sex, Selsey ; in Wessex, Winchester and Sherburne ; in Mercia, 
Lichfield, Leicester, Hereford, Worcester, and Sydnacester ; in 
Northumbria, York, Hexham, Lindisfarne, and Whithern. 

(19) Bed. ep. ad Egb. p. 307. 

(20) Habito majore concilio et consensu pontifical! simul et 
regali, prospiciatur locus aliquis monasteriorum ubi sedes eptsco- 
palis fiat .... Quod entm turpe est dicere, tot sub monasterio- 
rum nomine hi, qui monachicas vitae prorsus sunt immunes, in 
suam ditionem acceperunt, ut omnino desit locus ubi filii nobilium 
aut emeritorum militum possessionem accipere possint. Bed, 
ibid. p. 309. The nature of these nominal or lay monasteries 
will be explained in one of the following chapters. 



authorities. As long as the professors of the gospel 
formed a proscribed but increasing party in the heart of 
the Roman empire, each private church observed with- 
out interruption the method established by its founder. 
But after the conversion of Constantine, when riches 
and influence were generally attached to the episcopal 
dignity, the freedom of canonical election alarmed the 
jealousy of the imperial court : the prince often assumed 
the right of nominating to the vacant sees ; and the 
clergy were compelled to submit to a less, rather than 
provoke by resistance a more dangerous evil. However, 
the occasional exercise of the imperial claim was chiefly 
confined to the four great patriarchal churches of An- 
tioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome : and of 
the eighteen hundred dioceses which the empire com- 
prised, the greater part enjoyed, till the irruption of the 
barbarians, the undisturbed possession of their religious 
liberties. But the Saxon church in its infancy was 
divided among seven independent sovereigns, ignorant 
of ecclesiastical discipline, and impatient of controul. 
Their impetuosity was not easily induced to bend to the 
authority of the canons ; and their caprice frequently dis- 
played itself in the choice and expulsion of their bishops. 
Of this a remarkable instance is furnished by the con- 
duct of Coinwalch king of Wessex. Agilbert, a Gallic 
prelate, whom his industry and talents had recommend- 
ed to the notice of the king, was appointed by him to 
succeed Birinus the apostle of that nation. But the in- 
fluence of the stranger was secretly undermined by the 
intrigues of Wini a Saxon ecclesiastic of engaging ad- 
dress and more polished accent ; and after a decent de- 
lay, the foreign bishop received from Coinwalch an 


order to surrender to the favourite one half of his ex- 
tensive province. Opposition was fruitless : and Agil- 
bert, rather than subscribe to his own disgrace by re- 
taining a mutilated diocese, retired from the kingdom 
of Wessex, and left his more fortunate antagonist 
in possession of the whole (21). But Wini in his 
turn experienced the caprice of his patron. On some 
motive of disgust he also was compelled to abdicate his 
see, and an honourable but fruitless embassy was sent to 
Agilbert to solicit him to return. Similar instances 
which occur during the first eighty years of the Saxon 
church, shew the inconstant humour and despotic rule 
of these petty sovereigns : and the submission of the 
prelates proves, that they were either too irresolute to 
despise the orders, or too prudent to provoke the ven- 
geance of princes, whose power might easily have crush- 
ed the fabric, which they had reared with so much 
difficulty and danger. 

By Theodore the discipline of the Saxon church was re- 
duced to a more perfect form. The choice of bishops was 
served to the national synods, in which the primate pre- 
sided, and regulated the process of the election (22). 
Gradually it devolved to the clergy of each church, 
whose choice was corroborated by the presence and accla- 
mations of the more respectable among the laity (23), 

(21) Unde offensus graviter Agilbertus, quod hoc ipso incon- 
sulto ageret Rex, rediit Galliam. Bede 1. iii. c. 7. 

(22) Compare Wilkins (p. 46,) Bede (1. iv. c. 28, v. c. 8, is,) 
and the letter of Waldhar, bishop of London, (Smith's Bede p. 

(23) Eleftio praesulum et abbatum tempore Anglorum penes 
clericos et monachos erat. Malm, de pont. 1. iii. f. 157. Plegmund 


But the notions of the feudal jurisprudence insensibly 
undermined the freedom of these elections. As it was 
dangerous to intrust the episcopal power to the hands of 
his enemy, the king forbade the consecration of the 
bishop elect, till the royal consent had been obtained : 
and as the revenues of the church were originally the do- 
nation of the crown, he claimed the right of investing 
the new prelate with the temporalities of his bishopric. 
As soon as any church became vacant, the ring and cro- 
sier, the emblems of episcopal jurisdiction, were carried 
to the king by a deputation of the chapter, and returned 
by him to the person whom they had chosen, with a let- 
ter by which the civil officers were ordered to maintain 
him in the possession of the lands belonging to his church 
(24). The claims of the crown were progressive. By 
degrees the royal will was notified to the clergy of the 
vacant bishopric under the modest veil of a recommenda- 
tion in favour of a particular candidate : at last the rights 
of the chapter were openly invaded ; and before the fall 
of the Anglo-Saxon dynasty we meet with instances of 
bishops appointed by the sovereign, without waiting for 
the choice, or soliciting the consent of the clergy (25). 

of Canterbury was chosen op Irot>e ant) op eallen hiy halle- 
chen (Chron. Sax. p. 90 :) JEdnoth of Dorchester, tarn cleri 
quam populi votis (Hist. Rames. p. 343, 44?,) Adulph of York 
omnium consensu et voluntate regis et episcoporum, cleri et po- 
pulorum (Ccen. Burgen. hist. p. si.) The archbishop of Canter- 
bury is said to have retained the right of nominating to the see of 
Rochester. Sqlden not. ad Eadmer. p. 144. 

(24) Ingulf, p. 32, 39, 63. A letter written by Edward the 
confessor on one of these occasions is preserved in the history of 
Ely p. 512. 

(25) A multis itaque annis retroactis nulla electio prxlatorun* 


The ministers of the public worship in the infancy of 
the Saxon church were divided into two classes, the 
clergy and the monks ; who, as they were at first united 
by their common desire to convert the barbarians, were 
afterwards rendered antagonists by the jealousy of oppo- 
site interests. The companions of St Augustine, when 
he departed from Rome, were Italian monks : but during 
his journey he was joined by several of the Gallic clergy, 
to whose labours and preaching, as they alone spoke the 
Saxon language, he was greatly indebted for the success 
of his mission (26). The economy of the rising church 
soon demanded his attention : and, desirous to imitate 

crat mere libera ct canonica : sed omnes dignitates tarn episcopo- 
rum quam abbatum per annulum et baculum Regis curia pro sua 
complacentia conferebat. Ing. p. 63. The royal nomination, 
however, was not always successful. Egelric, appointed by 
Edward to the archbishopric of York, was refused by the canons, 
and compelled to retire to the church of Durham. (Caen. Burg, 
hist. p. 45. Simeon says he was opposed by the clergy of Dur- 
ham, p. 167.) That the right assumed by the crown was often 
exercised to the disadvantage of religion 5 became the subject of 
frequent complaint under the Saxon princes. (Chron. Sax. p. 157, 
162, Ingulf, p. 63. Sim. Dun. p, 166;) but after the Norman 
conquest the abuse grew intolerable ; and the first ecclesiastical 
dignities were prostituted by William Rufus to the highest bidder. 
At last the pontiffs interfered, and reclaimed the ancient freedom 
of canonical election. This gave birth to the celebrated dispute 
concerning investitures, which has furnished many writers with a 
favourite theme, the ambition of the Roman bishops. In treating 
it, they whimsically declaim against the ignorance of the higher 
clergy at that period, t and yet condemn the only measure which 
could remedy that evil. 

(26) Compare the S8th and 59th epistles of St Gregory, (ep. 1. 
v.) with Bede's history (1. i. c. 27, inter. 1, 2.) See also Alford, 
ann. 59S, and Stillingfleet's. answer to Cressy, p. 271. 


the discipline of other Christian countries, he placed his 
monks in a convent without the walls of Canterbury ; 
and intrusted the duty of his cathedral to the clergy who 
had accompanied him from Gaul (27). Scarcely, how- 
ever, was the archbishop dead, when (if we may give cre- 
dit to a suspicious charter,) the partiality of Ethelbert 
attempted to disturb the order established by his teacher, 
and permission was obtained from the pontiff to intro- 
duce a colony of monks, who might either supersede, 
or assist the former canons (28). But if this plan were 
in contemplation, there is reason to believe it was not 
executed. Long after the death of Ethelbert we dis- 
cover the clergy in possession of Christchurch , nor were 
they compelled to yield their benefices to the superior 
power of the monks before the commencement of the 
eleventh century (29). 

The motives which actuated Augustine, probably in- 
duced many of the other prelates to establish communi- 
ties of clergy for the service of their cathedrals. St 
Aidan indeed, seems to form an exception. Lindisfarne, 
which he had chosen for his residence, was regulated 
after the model of the parent monastery in^the isle of Hii 5 

(27) See Spelman, (cone. vol. i. p. 116,) the bull of Eugenius 
IV. to the canons of the Lateran, (Pennot. de canon. 1. ii. c. 14,) 
and Smith (Flores hist. p. 363.) 

(28) Quod postulasti concedimus, ut vestra benignitas in Mon- 
asterio Sancti Salvatoris monachorum regulariter viventium habi- 
tationem statuat. Ep. Bon. iv. ad Ethel, apud Spel. vol. i. p. 130. 

(29) See the charter of Ethelred to the monks after he had ex- 
pelled the canons. (Wilk. con. p. 282, 284.) Stillingfleet shews 
that, notwithstanding the introduction of the monks, the clergy 
still possessed several prebends in that church as late as the reign 
of Henry the second, (Ans. to Cressy, p. 290.) 


and both the bishop and his clergy practised as far as 
their functions would permit, the same religious obser- 
vances as the abbot and his monks. But the apology 
which Bede offers for the singularity of the institution, 
is a sufficient proof, that it had been adopted by few 
of the other prelates (30) ; and the many regulations, 
which occur in the acts of the Saxon councils, respecting 
the conduct and the dress oflhe canons, shew that order 
of men to have been widely diffused through the diffe- 
rent dioceses of the heptarchy (31). 

Under the general appellation of canons our ancestors 
comprised the ecclesiastics, who professed to regulate 
their conduct by the decrees of the councils, and the 
statutes of the ancient fathers (32). In almost every 

(so) Neque aliquis miretur . . . revera enim ita est . . . . Ab 
Aidano omnes loci ipsius antistites usque hodie sic episcopalc 
exercent officium, ut regente monasterium Abbate, quern ipsi 
cum concilio fratrum clegerint, omnes presbyteri, diaconi, can. 
tores, lectores, caeterique gradus ecclesiastici, monachicam per 
omnia cum ipso episcopo regulam servant. Bed. vit. Cuth. c. xvi. 

(31) Wilk.Tom. i. p. 101, 147, 286. Tom. iv. app. p. 754. 
See also the letter of St Boniface addressed to the Saxon bishops, 
priests, deacons, canons^ clerks, abbots, monks, &c. (Ep. Bonif. 
6, edit. Ser.) Eugenius IV. ascribes the introduction of canons to 
the order of St Gregory. Beatissimus Gregorius Augustino 
Anglorum episcopo, velut plantationem sacram in commisso sibi 
populo praecepit institui. Bulla Eug. IV. apud Pennot. cit. Smith 
Flores, p. 363. 

(32) Canones dicimus regulas, quas sartcti patres constituerunt, 
in quibus scriptum est, quomodo canonici, id est, clerici regulares 
vivere debent. Excerp. Egb. Archiep. p. 101. As Northumbria 
was principally converted by the Scottish missionaries, the ckrgy 
xvere there known by the Scottish name of Culdees, (Colidei or 
Keledci from Keile servus, and Dia Deus, Goodall, introd. ad hist. 


episcopal see, contiguous to the cathedral, was erected a 
spacious building, which was distinguished by the name 
of the episcopal monastery, and was designed for the 
residence of the bishop and his clergy (33). The origi- 
nal destination of the latter was the celebration of the 
divine service, and the education of youth : and, that 
they might with less impediment attend to these impor- 
tant duties, they were obliged to observe a particular 
distribution of their time, to eat at the same table, to 
sleep in the same dormitories, and to live constantly 
under the eye of the bishop, or, in his absence, of the 
superior whom he had appointed (34). But they re- 
Scot, p. 68.) In the cathedral church of York they retained this 
appellation as late as the eleventh century. (Monast. Ang. vol. ii. 
p. 368.) This circumstance alone is sufficient to refute the strange 
notion of some modern Scottish writers, that the Culdees were a 
kind of presbyterian ministers, who rejected the authority of 
bishops, and differed in religious principles from the monks. 
Goodall has demonstrated from original records, that they were 
the clergy of the cathedral churches who chose the bishop, and 
that all their disputes with the monks regarded contested proper- 
ty, not religious opinions. See preface to Keith's catalogue of 
bishops, p. viii. 

(33) Alford, the learned annalist, has incautiously sanctioned 
the vulgar error that a monastery necessarily implies a habitation 
of monks, (Alf. Tom iii. p. 182.) The distinction of clerical and 
monastic monasteries is repeatedly inculcated in our Saxon 
writers, (Wilk, p. 86, 100, 160. Gale, p. 481.) It was equally 
known in other nations. See the epistle of St Ambrose to the 
church of Vercelli (1. iii.) the life of St Augustine by Possidius 
(c. xi.) the sermons of St Augustine (de diversis 49, 50,) the coun- 
cil of Mentz (c. 20,) and historia de los seminaries clericales (en 
Salamanca, 1778, p. 6 14.) 

(34) Bed. 1. i. c. 27. Wilk. p. 147, 293. 


tained the power of disposing of their own property, 
and in this respect the canonical differed essentially 
from the monastic profession (35). Their numbers 
were constantly supplied from the children who were 
educated under their care, and the proselytes, who, dis- 
gusted with the pleasures or the troubles of the world, 
requested to be admitted into their society. Among 
them were to be found the descendants of the r.oblest 
families, and Thanes, who had governed provinces, and 
commanded armies (36). A severe probation preceded 
their admittance into the order : nor did they receive 
the tonsure from the hands of the bishop, till Their con- 
duct had been nicely investigated, and the stability of 
their vocation satisfactorily proved (37). 

These communities were the principal seminaries for 
the education of the clergy. Though each parish- priest 
was constantly attended by a certain number of inferior 
clerks, who were ordered to listen to his instructions, 
and were occasionally raised to the priesthood ; yet it 
was from the episcopal monastery that the bishop select- 
ed the most learned and valuable portion of his clergy. 
With the assistance of the best masters, the young eccle- 
siastics were initiated in the different sciences which 
were studied at that period : while the restraint of a 
wise and vigilant discipline withheld them from the se- 
ductions of vice, and inured them to the labours and 
the duties of their profession. According to their years 
and merit they were admitted to the lower orders of the 

(35) Cone. Aquisgran. I. can. 115. 

(36) Hoved. an. 794, 796. Wilk. p. 226, xiii. 

(37) Wilk. p. 98. 


hierarchy : and might, with the approbation of their 
superior, aspire at the age of five and twenty to the 
rank of deacon, at thirty, to that of priest (38). But it 
was incumbent on the candidate to prove, that no cano- 
nical impediment forbade his promotion; that he, was 
not of spurious or servile birth ; that he had not been 
guilty of any public and infamous crime j and, if he had 
formerly lived in the state of wedlock, that neither he 
nor his wife had been married more than once (39). 
From the moment of his ordination he was bound to 
obey the commands of his bishop*, to reside within the 
diocese , to limit the exercise of his functions according 
to the directions of his superior ; and to serve with fide- 
lity the church in which he might be placed (40). But 
though he was thus rendered dependant on the nod of 
his diocesan, that prelate was admonished to temper the 
exercise of his authority with mildness and discretion, 
and to recollect, that if in the discharge of the episcopal 
duties he was the superior, on other occasions he was 
the colleague of his priests (41). 

In the infancy of the Saxon church, the scanty supply 
of missionaries was unequal to the multiplied demands 
of the people intrusted to their care. The bishop either 
followed the court and preached according to his leisure 
and opportunity ; or fixed his residence in some parti- 
cular spot, whence, attended by his clergy, he visited 

(38) Wilk. p. 106, 107. 

(39) Id. p. 85. It was necessary, as will be proved hereafter, 
that his wife should be dead, or have consented to a perpetual 

(40) Id. p. 43, 83, 102, 105, 127, 171. 

(41) Id. p. 103. 


ihe remoter parts of the diocese. Churches were not 
erected except in monasteries, and the more populous 
towns ; and the inhabitants of the country depended for 
instruction on the casual arrival of priests, whom charity 
or the orders of their superiors induced to undertake 
these obscure and laborious journies. Bede has drawn 
an interesting picture of the avidity with which the 
simple natives of the most neglected cantons were accus- 
tomed to hasten, on the first appearance of a missionary, 
to beg his benediction, and listen to his instructions 
(42) : and the celebrated St Cuthbert frequently spent 
whole weeks and months in performing the priestly 
functions, amid the most mountainous and uncultivated 
parts of Northumbria (43). The inconvenience of this 
desultory method of instruction was soon discovered : 
and Honorius of Canterbury is said to have first formed 
the plan of distributing each diocese into a proportionate 
number of parishes, and of allotting each to the care of a 
resident clergyman (44). But the authority is doubtful ; 
and the attempt, if it were made, was probably confined 
to the territories of the Kentish Saxons. To archbishop 
Theodore belongs the merit of extending it to the neigh- 
bouring churches, from which it was gradually diffused 
over the remaining dioceses. That prelate exhorted the 
Thanes to erect and endow, with the permission of the 
sovereign, a competent number of churches within the 
precincts of their estates ; and, to stimulate their indus- 
- try, secured to them and their heirs the right qf pa- 

(42) Bed. 1. iii. c. 26. 

(43) Bed. vit. Cuth. c. 9, IS. 

(44) Godwin de prsesul. p. 40. 



tronage (45). Thus the ecclesiastical distribution of 
each diocese into parishes, was conformable to the civil 
division of the province into manors : but as many of 
these were of great extent, tp accommodate the more dis- 
tant inhabitants, oratories were erected, which, though 
at first subordinate to the mother church, were frequent- 
ly, with the concurrence of the bishop, emancipated 
from their dependence, and honoured with the parochial 
privileges (46). 

Theodore, however, was careful not to deprive the 
bishop of that authority which was necessary for the go- 
vernment of his clergy. Though the right of advowson 
was vested in the patron, the powers of institution and 
deprivation were reserved unimpaired to the diocesan 
(47). Besides the regulations which that prelate might 
think proper to publish in his annual visitation, twice in 
the year the parish priests were compelled to attend the 
episcopal synod, to give an account of their conduct, and 
to receive the orders of their superior (48). They were 

(45) Smith's Bede, p. 189, not. Whelock's Bed. p. 399, not. 
Spelman's councils, p. 152. The bishops appear to have ceded 
the right of advowson to the lay proprietor on these conditions ; 
that he should build a church and habitation for the clergyman, 
should assigns certain portion of glebe land towards his support, 
and should grant him the tithes of his estate. If the thane after- 
wards built anothtr church, and the bishop permitted it to have a 
burial ground, ihe incumbent-might claim one third of the tithes ; 
otherwise h. was to be supported at the expense of the patron. 
This I conceive to be the meaning of the many regulation'; MI 
Wilkins, p. 103, 245, 300/302. 

(46) Ibid. 

(47) Wilk.p. 103, xxiii. 105, Ivii, 

(48) Id. p. 14>, i. ili. 


admonished that to preach the pure doctrine of the gos- 
pel, and to eradicate the lurking remains of idolatry, 
were among the most important of their obligations (4-9). 
Each Sunday they were to explain in English that por- 
tion of the scripture which was read during the mass, 
and to devote a part of their time to the instruction of 
their parishioners in the truths and duties of Christianity 
(50). Through veneration to the holy husel, the victim 
of salvation whom they believed to be immolated on 
their altars (51), the church, the vestments, and the sa- 
cred vessels were ordered to be kept clean, and to be 
treated with respect (52). The sick were particularly re- 
commended to their care. They were frequently to vi- 
sit them, to hear their confessions, to carry them the 
eucharist, and to anoint them with the last unction (53). 
In the tribunal of penance, an institution which formed 
the most difficult of their functions, they were advised to 
weigh with discretion every circumstance, that they might 
apportion the punishment to the crime ; and, in or- 
der to assist their judgment, were frequently to consult, 
and scrupulously to observe the directions of the peni- 
tentiary (54). They were exhorted to be satisfied with 
the revenue of their churches ; and the severest censures 
awaited the priest, who presumed to demand a retribu- 

(49) Id. p. 96, vili xii. 150, xix. 

(50) Id. p. 102, iii. vi. 134, xiii. 135, xv. 

(51) S^crificium victimse salutaris. Bed. 1. iv. c. 28, 

(52) Wilk. p. 107, c. 219. xxvi. 

(53) Id. p. 60, vii. 102, xx. 103, xxi. xxii. 127, xv. 

(54) Id. 115, i. 125, i. 236, ix. 

E 2 


tion for the Discharge of his functions (55). Every dis. 
sipating amusement and indecorous employment was 
forbidden. They could neither accept of civil offices, 
nor engage in the speculations of commerce. The tu- 
multuous pleasures of the chace and of public diversions 
they were exhorted to despise as derogatory from their 
character, and to employ their leisure hours in the study 
of theology, and the exercise of manual labour. Their 
dress was to be plain but decent : free from the orna- 
ments of fashionable vanity ; and conformable to the se- 
verity of the canons (56). To bear arms was strictly 
forbidden : but arms were always worn by the Saxon as 
a token of his freedom, and the number of statutes by 
which they were prohibited, is a proof of the diffusion 
and obstinacy of this national prejudice (57). 

The obvious tendency of these laws was to enforce the 
duties, and to uphold the sanctity of the priestly charac- 
ter. But there was another regulation, the general ex- 
pediency of which will not be so^ universally admitted. 
From the gospel and the epistles of St Paul, the first 
Christians had learnt to form an exalted notion of the 
merit of chastity and continency (58). In all, they 
were revered : from ecclesiastics, they were expected* 
To the latter were supposed more particularly to belong 
that voluntary renunciation of sensual pleasure, and that 
readiness to forsake parents, wife, and children, for the 

(55) Id. p. 102, xij. 104, xl. 146, iii. Burials were exceptec! 
from this law. See chapter iii. 

(56) Id. p. 99, xxviii. 102, xiv. xvi. xviii. 1 12, clix. l?H, vii. viii- 
138, 139. 

(57) Id. p. 1O2, xvii. 112, civ. clxi. 

(58) Mat. xix. 10. 1 Cor. vii. 


love of Christ, which the saviour of mankind required 
in the more perfect of his disciples (59) : and this idea 
was strengthened by the reasoning of the apostle, who 
had observed, that while the married man was necessari- 
ly solicitous for the concerns of this world, the unmar- 
ried was at liberty to turn his whole attention to the 
service of God (60). Hence it was inferred that the 
embarrassments of wedlock were hostile to the profession 
of a clergyman. His parishioners, it was said, were his 
family : and to watch over their spiritual welfare, to in- 
struct their ignorance, to console them in their afflictions, 
and to relieve them in their indigence, were expected to 
be his constant and favourite occupations (61). But 
though the first teachers of Christianity were accustom- 
ed to extol the advantages, they do not appear to have 
imposed the obligation of clerical celibacy. Of those 
who had embraced the doctrine of the gospel, the ma- 
jority were married previously to their conversion. 
Had they been excluded from the priesthood, 4:he clergy 
would have lost many of its brightest ornaments : had 
they been compelled to separate from their wives, they 
might justly have accused the severity and impolicy of 
the measure (62). They were, however, taught, to con- 
sider a life of continency, even in the married state, as 

(59) Luk. xiv. 26. 

(60) 1 Cor. vii. 32, 33. 

(61) The validity of this inference is maintained in the very act 
of parliament which licenses the marriages of the clergy. 2 Ed. 
vi. c. 21. 

(62) Hawarden, Church of Christ, vol. ;i. p. 405, 410. Ed. 




demanded by the sacredness of their functions (63) ' 
and no sooner had the succession of Christian princes 
secured the peace of the church, than laws were made 
to enforce that discipline, which fervour had formerly 
introduced and upheld (64). The regulations of the 
canons were supported by the authority of the emperors : 
by Theodosius, the priest who presumed to marry, was 
deprived of the clerical privileges ; by Justinian, his 
children were declared illegitimate (65). Insensibly, 
however, the Greek and Latin churches adopted a diver- 
sity of discipline, which was finally estublished by the 
council in Trullo. Both of them indulged the inferior 
clerks with the permission to marry : though that mar- 
riage, until it was dissolved by the natural death of the 
wife, or interrupted by her voluntary retreat into a con- 
vent, was an effectual bar to their future promotion. 
But by the Greeks they were only forbidden to aspire 
to the episcopal dignity ; by the severity of the Latins 
they were excluded from the inferior orders of sub- 
deacon, deacon, and priest. 

The reader who is more conversant with modern than 
with ancient historians may riot, perhaps, be disposed to 
believe that the discipline cf the Latins was ever intro- 
duced into the Saxon church. He has, probably, been 
taught, that "the celibacy of the clergy was first en- 

(63) Orig. Horn. 23 in lib. Num. Euseb. Dem. evan. 1. i. c. 9 

(64) See the councils of Elvira (can. 33,) of Neocassarea (can. l,) 
of Ancyra (can. 10,) of Carthage (con. 2, can. 2,) and of Toledo 
(con. i, can. i.) 

(G5) Ne legitimos quidem et proprios esse eos, qui ex hujus- 
modi inordinata constupratione nascuntur, aut nati sunt. Leg. 
43, cap. de epis. et cler. 


" joined by the popes in the tenth century, and not 
" adopted by our ancestors till five hundred years after 
their conversion : that the Saxon bishops and paro- 
" chial clergy, like those of the present church of Eng- 
" land, added to the care of their flocks that of their 
" wives and children : and that even the monasteries of 
" monks were in reality colleges of secular priests, who 
retained the choice, without quitting the convent, 
" either of a married or a single life (66)." But after a 
patient, and, I think, impartial investigation, I hesitate 
not to say that the marriages of the ancient Saxon cler- 
gy must be classed with those imaginary beings, which 
are the offspring of credulity, or prejudice. Had they 
been permitted, they would certainly have claimed the 
notice of contemporary writers, and have been the object 
of synodical regulations : but to search for a single trace 
of their existence in the writings of contemporaries, or 
the regulatipns of synods, will prove an ungrateful and 
a fruitless labour (67). Every monument of the first 

(66) See Tindall's Rapin (Tom. i. p. so,) Burton's Monasticon 
Eboracense (p. 30,) Hume (hist. c. ii. p. 28,) and Henry (hist. vol. 
iii. p. 215.) 

(67) Among the writers, who contend that the S.ixon clergy 
were permitted to marry, I am acquainted with no one besides 
Inett, who has ventured to appeal to any contemporary autho- 
rity. He refers his reader to Theodore's penitentiary, which was 
published by Petit with so many interpolations that it is impossi- 
ble to distinguish the original from the spurious matter, (Inett, 
vol. i. p. 124.) The words in the penitentiary are these: Non 
licet .viris fceminas habere monachas, neque fceminis viros : 
tamen non destruamus illud quod consuetude est in hac terra. 
(Pcen. p. 7.) But this passage, if genuine, speaks not of the 
clergy nor of marriage ; and probably alludes to the secular or 



ages of the Saxon church which has descended to us, 
bears the strongest testimony that the celibacy of the 
clergy was constantly and severely enforced. Of the 
discipline established by the Roman missionaries, every 
doubt must be removed by the answer of St Gregory to 
St Augustine, according to which, only the clerks who 
had not been raised to the highest orders, and who pro- 
fessed themselves unable to lead a life of continency, 
were permitted to marry (68) ; and the consentient 
practice of the northern Saxons is forcibly expressed by 
Ceolfrid the learned abbot of Weremouth (69), by Bede 
in different passages of his writings (70), and by Egbert 
the celebrated archbishop of York in his excerpta (71). 
In many of the canons which are acknowledged to have 
been observed by their successors, it is either evidently 

double monasteries, which will be afterwards described, and in 
which it sometimes happened that communities of monks or nuns 
\vere subjected to the government of persons of a different sex. 
This custom the canon disapproves, though it dares not abolish it. 

(68) Si qu 1 " sint clerici extra sacros ordines constituti, qui se 
continere non possunt, sortiri uxores debent. Bed. hist. 1. i. c. 27. 

(69) Carnem suam cum vitiis et concupiscentiis crucifigere 
oportet eos, qui ... gradum clericatus habentes arcfioribus se 
necesse hsbent pro domino continentiae fraenis astiingere. Ep, 
Ceoli ad Naiton reg. apud Bed- .1 v. c. 21. 

(70) Sine ilia castimoniae portione, quae ab appetitu copulae 
conjugalis cohibet, nemo vel sacerdotium suscipere vel ad altaris 
potest ministerium consecrari ; id est, si non aut virgo permane- 
nt, aut contra uxoriae conjunclionis fcedera solvent. Bed. de 
taber. 1. iii. c. 9. See also his commentary on St Luke c. i. 

(71) Clerici extra sacros ordines constituti, id est, nee presby- 
teri nee diaconi sortiri uxores debent ; sacerdotes autem nequa- 
<]iiam uxores ducant. Exc. Egb. apud Wilk. p. 115, can. clx. 


supposed (72) or openly commanded (73). The sen- 
tence of degradation is pronounced against the priest or 
deacon who shall presume to marry (74) : and the eccle- 
siastic who had separated from* his wife to receive the 
sacred rite of ordination, and had returned to her again, 
was condemned to a penitential course of ten or 5.eyen 
years (75). An improvement was made on the severity 
of the fathers assembled in the great council of Nice, 
and even female relations were forbidden to dwell in the 

(72) Wilk. p. 103, xxxi. 

(73) Do'oep raceway*. -3 "oiaconap. ^ opjre not>ep Seopap $e on 
lio'oep remple Hotse fcemjan pcylon. -j haliT>om. -3 hahj bee 
hantihjan. =8a pcylon pymble hypa claennyppe healt>an. " God's 
" priests and deacons, and God's other servants, that should 
" serve in God's temple, and touch the sacrament and the holy 
" books, they shall always observe their chastity." Pcenit Eg. p. 
133, iv. 

(74) Dip masppe pjreopr oppe t>mcon pipige. fcol'jon hyrta 
'* If priest or deacon marry, let them lose their orders." Ibid. 
i. and p. 134, v. But deposition was the only punishment: the 
marriage was not annulled. It was only in the twelfth century 
that holy orders _were declared to incapacitate a person for mar- 
riage. Pothier, traite du contrat de marr.'p. 135. 

(75) El]? hpylc 5ehat>ot> man. biyceop oppe msefye pjieo-pt: oppe 
immuc oppe -oiacon hir* jemaeccan hasp-oe ajji he geha-oo-o paejie. -j 
"Sa poji rrotjer* lujron luj pojaler. "j ro hat>e penj. ^ hij ^onne 
epr py])pan ro^aetoejae hpyription ^uyih haemet) ^Sinj. pspte aelc be 
hip eivoe'byriDnyppe. ppa hie bupan apjuren yp be manphre 
" If any man in orders, bishop, priest, monk, or deacon, had his 
" wife, ere he were ordained, and forsook her for God's sake, and 
" received ordination, and they afterwards return together again 
" through lust, let each fast according to his order, as is written 
" above with respeft to murder." Ibid. p. 13C. 


same house with a priest (76). During more than two 
hundred and fifty years from the death of Augustine, 
these laws respecting clerical celibacy, so galling to the 
natural propensities of man, but so cajculated to impart 
an elevated idea of the sanctity which becomes the 
priesthood, were enforced with the strictest rigour : but 
during part of the ninth, and most of the tenth century, 
when the repeated and sanguinary devastations of the 
Danes threatened the destruction of the hierarchy no less 
than of the government, the ancient canons opposed but 
a feeble barrier to the impulse of the passions : and of 
the clergy who escaped the swords of the invaders, seve- 
ral scrupled not to violate the chastity which at their 
ordination they had vowed to observe. Yet even then 
the marriage of priests was never approved, perhaps 
never expressly tolerated, by the Saxon prelates (77) : 
and as often as a transient gleam of tranquillity invited 
them to turn to their attention to the restoration of dis- 

(76) . . . ^ffilcon Dotoef $eope fce era claennyrre Dot>e 

fcyle. yf jrojTbot>en j5 he najjoji ne hir magan ne o]>enne pipnan pop. 
nanej- peojrcej* Smjon inne mit> him nasbbe. fcilaer' he fcujih toeoplej* 
cornunjge fcaejx on 56^5156. Ibid. p. 134, vi. 

(77) The only semblance of a proof that these marriages were 
tolerated, occurs in the legulations for the clergy of Northumbri,!, 
published about the year 950, and designed, as I conceive, to 
direct the officers in the bishop's court. Cij? pjieort; cpenan 
j:ojilsete. } ojjjxe nime. anaj>ema pr. If a priest forsake his 
" concubine and take another, let him be accursed." (Wilk 
p. 219, xxxv.) This by some is explained to imply a permission 
to keep one concubine, provided she be put on the same footing 
as a wife : but others, with greater probability, conceive the curse 
to be directed against him, who having put away one concubine 
at the requisition of the bishop, had afterwards taken another. 

cipline, the prohibitions of former synods were revived, 
and the celibacy of the clergy was recommended by pa- 
ternal exhortations, and enforced by the severest penal- 
ties (78). 

To calculate the probable influence of this institution 
on the population of nations has frequently amused the 
ingenuity and leisure of arithmetical politicians ; of 
whom many have not hesitated to arraign the wisdom 
of those by whom it was originally devised, and of 
those by whom it is still observed. Yet in defiance of 
their speculations, several catholic countries continue to 
be crowded with inhabitants ; and to account for the 
scanty population of others we need only advert to the 
defects of their constitution, the insalubrity of the cli- 
mate, the establishment of foreign colonies, and the 
barrenness of a parched and effete soil (79). Neither is 
it certain that to increase the number of inhabitants is, 
in all circumstances, to increase the resources of the 
state ; but it is evident that the man, who spends his 
life in promoting the interests of morality, and correct- 
ing the vicious propensities of his fellow creatures, adds 
more to the sum of public virtue and of public happiness 
than he whose principal merit is the number of his chil- 
dren. If it be granted that the clerical functions are of 

(78) See Wilkins, p. 214, i. 225, viii. 229, lx. 233, xxxi. 250, 
v. vi. 268, xii. 286, i. 293, 301, vi. From the severity of the 
thirty-first canon, published in the reign of Edgar, Johnson is 
convinced that it must have been composed by St Dunstan. The 
learned translator had probably forgotten that it was composed 
two centuries before, and published by Archbishop Egbert. 
Compare Wilk. p. 136, with p. 233, xxxi. 

(79) See on the last cause a curious Dissertation by the Abbe 
Mann. Transactions of Acad. of Sciences at Manheim, vol. vi. 


high importance to the welfare of the state, it must also 
be acknowledged that in the discharge of these functions, 
the unmarried possesses great and numerous advantages 
over the married clergyman. Unincumbered with the 
cares of a family, he may dedicate his whole attention to 
the spiritual improvement of his parishioners : free from 
all anxiety respecting the future establishment of his chil- 
dren, he may expend without scruple the superfluity of 
his revenue, in relieving the distresses of the sick, the 
aged, and the unfortunate. Had Augustine and his as- 
sociates been involved in the embarrassments of marriage, 
they would never have torn themselves from their homes 
and country, and have devoted the best portion of their 
lives to the conversion of distant and unknown barbarians. 
Had their successors seen themselves surrounded with 
numerous families, they would never have founded those 
charitable establishments, nor have erected those religi- 
ous edifices, that testify the use to which they devoted 
their riches, and still exist to reproach the parsimony of 
succeeding generations (80). But it was not from the 

(80) " He that hath wife and children," saith Lord Bacon, 
" hath given hostages to fortune : for they are impediments to 
" great enterprises either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the 
" best works, and of the greatest merit for the public, have pro- 
" ceeded from the unmarried or the childless man, which both 
" in affection and means have married and endowed the public. 
" . . . Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best ser- 
" vants. ... A single life doth well with churchmen : for 
" charity will hardly water the ground, where it must first fill a 
" pool." Bacon's essays, p. 17, London 1696. A Roman phi- 
losopher was of the same opinion. Vita conjugalis altos et gene- 
rosos spiritus frangit, et a magnis cogitationibus ad humillimas 
detrahit. Seneca. 


impolicy of the institution, that the reformers attempted 
to justify the eagerness with which/ they emancipated 
themselves from its yoke (81). They contended that 
the law of clerical celibacy was unjust, because it deprived 
man of his natural rights, and exacted privations incom- 
patible with his natural propensities. To this objection 
a rational answer was returned : that to accept the priest- 
ly character was a matter of election, not of necessity : 
and that he, who freely made it the object of his choice, 
chose at the same time the obligations annexed to it. 
The insinuation that a life of continency was above the 
power of man, was treated with the contempt which it 
deserved. To those, indeed, whom habit had rendered 
the obsequious slaves of their passions, it might appear 
with reason too arduous an attempt : but the thinking 
part of mankind would hesitate before they sanctioned 
an opinion which was a libel on the character of thou- 
sands, who in every department of society, are confined 
by their circumstances to a state of temporary or perpe- 
tual celibacy. 

(81) It is amusing to hear the reasons assigned by Bale for his 
union with the faithful Dorothy. Scelestissimi antichrist! charac- 
terem illico abrasi, et ne deinceps in aliquo essem tarn detestabilis 
bestise creatura, uxorem accepi Dorotheam fidelem, divinae huic 
voci auscultans ; qui se non continet, nubat. Baleus de seip. 
Cent. viii. c. ult. 



Revenues of the clergy donations of land voluntary oblations 
tithes church dues right of asylum peace of the church 

IT is a maxim of natural equity, consecrated by the 
uniform practice of the wisest as well as the most illite- 
rate nations, that the man, whose life is devoted to the 
service, should be supported at the expense of the pub- 
lic. As the ministers of religion are engaged in the ex- 
ercise of functions the most beneficial to society, they 
may with justice claim a provision, which shall be suffi- 
cient to remove the terrors of poverty, and permit a 
close attention to the discharge of their duties : but the 
manner in which this provision should be secured, is a 
subject of political discussion, and has always varied ac- 
cording to the exigence of circumstances, the manners 
of the people, and the method of public instruction. 
The present chapter will attempt to investigate the prin- 
cipal sources, from which the support of the Anglo-Saxon 
clergy was originally derived. The civil and religious 
revolutions of more than ten centuries have occasioned 
many important alterations : yet the more lucrative of 
the ancient institutions are still permitted to exist. 
Though the zeal of the first reformers execrated the 
doctrines, it was not hostile to the emoluments of pope- 
ry : and their successors are still willing to owe their 
bread to the liberality of their catholic ancestors. 

I. As donations of land were the usual reward with 
which the Saxon princes repaid the services of their fol- 


lowers, they naturally adopted the same method of pro- 
viding for the wants of their teachers : and in every 
kingdom of the heptarchy some of the choicest manors 
belonging to the crown were separated from its domain, 
and irrevocably allotted to the church. Ethelbert of 
Kent, as he was the first of royal proselytes, stands the 
foremost in the catalogue of royal benefactors. He 
withdrew his court from Canterbury to Reculver, and 
bestowed on the missionaries the former city and its de- 
pendencies ; with proportionate munificence he founded 
the episcopal see of Rochester ; and as soon as Saberct, 
king of Essex, had received the sacred rite of baptism, 
assigned in conjunction with that prince an ample terri- 
tory for the support of the bishop Mellitus and his 
clergy (1). The other Saxon monarchs were emulous 
to equal the merit of Ethelbert ; and the fame of their 
liberality has been transmitted to posterity by the grati- 
tude of the ecclesiastical historians. Kinegils of Wessex 
gave the city of Dorchester to his teacher Birinus ; and 
from his son and successor Coinwalch the church of 
Winchester received a grant of all the lands within the 
distance of seven miles from the walls of that capital (2). 
The isle of Selsey, containing eighty seven hides, toge- 
ther with two hundred and fifty slaves, was bestowed by 
Edilwalch of Sussex, on the missionary St Wilfrid (3) ; 
and the wealth of the ancient Northumbrian prelates 
sufficiently attests the munificence of Oswald and his 
successors. Nor were the episcopal churches the sole 

(1) Bed. 1. i. c. 33, 1. ii. c. 3. Monast. vol.i. p. 18. Ang, Sac. 
vol. i. p. 333. 

(2) Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 190, 288. 

(3) Bed. 1. iv. c. 13. 


objects of their liberality. In proportion to the diffusion 
of Christianity, parishes were established, and monasteries 
erected. In every parish a certain portion of glebe land 
was assigned towards the maintenance of the incumbent ; 
and each monastery possessed estates proportionate to the 
number of its inhabitants. As landed property was the 
great source of civil distinction among our ancestors, the 
principal of the clergy were thus raised to an equality 
with the temporal thanes, admitted into the great coun^ 
cil of the nation, and vested with an authority, which 
rendered them respectable even in the eyes of those who 
still adhered to the religion of their forefathers. 

The piety of the converts was seldom content with the 
mere donation of their property : and the value of the 
present was generally enhanced by the immunities which 
they annexed to it. The tenure of lands among the 
Anglo-Saxons had been established on nearly the same 
principles as in the other northern nations : and each 
estate subjected ks proprietor to the performance of se- 
veral duties to his superior lord. But most of the cle- 
rical and monastic possessions were soon discharged from 
every servile and unnecessary obligation (4). By a tran- 
sition easy to the human mind, they were considered as 
the property not of man but of God -, and to burthen 
them with the services which vassals were compelled to 
render to their superiors, was deemed a profanation and 
a sacrilege. A just distinction, however, was drawn be- 
tween the claims of individuals and those of the public : 
and while the former were cheerfully abandoned, the 
latter were strictly exacted from the ecclesiastical no less 
than the lay proprietor. To repair the roads and 

(4) Wilk. p. 57, 60. 


bridges, to contribute towards the maintenance of the 
fortifications, and to furnish an equitable proportion of 
troops in the time of war, were services so essential to the 
national prosperity, that from them no exemption could 
be granted. Such was the solemn declaration of Ethel- 


bald, king of Mercia (5) : but other princes were not al- 
ways guided by the same policy, and, unless some char- 
ters of ancient date have been fabricated in more mo- 
dern times, we must believe that several monasteries 
were emancipated from every species of secular service, 
and permitted to enjoy the protection, without contribut- 
ing to the exigencies of the state (6). 

In addition to these immunities, others equally honour- 
able in themselves, and more beneficial to the public, 
were enjoyed by the principal of the clerical and monas- 
tic bodies. The king, who erected a church or monas- 
tery, was urged by devotion, sometimes perhaps by vani- 
ty, to display his munificence : and the distinctions, which 
he lavished on its inhabitants, seemed to reflect a lustre 
on the reputation of their founder. The superior was 
frequently invested by the partiality of his benefactor, 
with the civil and criminal jurisdiction : and throughout 
the domain annexed to his church, he exercised the right 
of raising tolls on the transport of merchandize, of levy- 
ing fines for breaches of the peace, of deciding civil suits, 
and of trying offenders within his courts (7). These 
important privileges at the same time improved his fi- 

(5) Wilk. p. 100. Spel. p. 527. Lei. Collect, vol. ii. p. 54. 

(6) See the charters of Ina, (Wilk. p. 80,) of Witlaff, (ibid. p. 
177,) of Bertulf, (ibid. p. 183,) and of Edward the confessor, 
(ibid. p. 318.) 

(7) Gale, p. 318, 320, 323, 490, 512. Wilk. p. SO, 177, 256. 



nances, and peopled his estates. The authority of the 
clerical was exercised with more moderation than that of 
the secular thanes : men quickly learned to prefer the 
equity of their judgments to the hasty decisions of war- 
like and ignorant nobles ; and the prospect of tranquillity 
and justice encouraged artificers and merchants to settle 
under their protection* Thus, while the lay proprietors 
reigned in solitary grandeur over their wide but unfruitful 
domains, the lands of the clergy were cultivated and im- 
proved ; their villages were crowded with inhabitants ; 
and the foundations were laid of several among the prin- 
cipal cities in England. 

That spirit of liberality which distinguished the first 
converts, was inherited by many of their descendants. 
In every age of the Saxon dynasty we may observe nu- 
merous additions made to the original donations: -and 
the records of different churches have carefully preserved 
the names and motives of their benefactors. Of many 
the great object was to support the ministers of religion, 
and by supporting them to contribute to the service of 
the Almighty. Others were desirous to relieve the dis- 
tresses of their indigent brethren ; and with this view 
they confided their charities to the distribution of the 
clergy, the legitimate guardians of the patrimony of 
the poor (8). A numerous class was composed of 
thanes, who had acquired opulence by a course of suc- 
cessful crimes, and had deferred the duty of restitu- 
tion, till the victims of their injustice had disappeared. 
These were frequently induced, towards the decline of 
life, to confer, as a tardy atonement, some part of their 

(8) Wilk. p. 19. 102, v. 228,-lv.lvi. 


property on the church : and when they had 1 neglected 
it, their neglect- was generally compensated by the pious 
diligence of their children and descendants (9). To these 
motives may be added, the want of heirs, the hope of ob- 
taining spiritual aid from the prayers of the clergy, grati- 
tude for the* protection whith the church always offered 
to the unfortunate^ and a wish to defeat the rapacity of a 
powerful adversary ; alt of which contributed in a greater 
or less degree to augment the possessions of the ecclesi- 
astics. Had the revenue arising from these different 
sources been abandoned to the judgment or caprice of the 
incumbents, it might frequently have been abused ; and 
the abuse would probably have relaxed the zeal of their 
benefactors. But this evil had ? been foreseen, and in 
some measure, prevented by the wisdom of Gregory the 
great. According to a constitution, which that pontiff sent 
to* the missionaries, the general stock was divided into 
four equal portions (10). Of these, one was allotted to 
the bishop for the support of his dignity j another was 
reserved for the maintenance of the clergy ; a third fur- 
nished the repairs of the church and the ornaments of 
religious worship ; and the last was devoted to the duties 
of chanty and hospitality. It formed a sacred fund, to 
which every man who suffered under the pressure of 
want or infirmky was exhorted to apply, without the fear 
of infamy or the danger of a repulse. 

In estimating the riches of the Saxon clergy, a hasty 
observer may adopt the most exaggerated calculations. 

(9) This is the meaning of the terms which so frequently occur 
in the ancient charters-, " pro remedio, salute, redemptione animae 
" meae et priorum, antecessorum meorum." 

(10) Bed. 1. i. c. 27. 

F 2 


But if there were many circumstances which favoured, 
there were also many which retarded their aggrandize- 
ment : and each list of benefactions may be nearly ba- 
lanced by an opposite catalogue of losses and depreda- 
tions. I . The liberality of their friends was shackled by 
the restraints of the law. As the ecclesiastical estates 
were emancipated from the services, with which secular 
tenures were encumbered, and belonged to a body whose 
existence was perpetual, every donation of land to the 
church proved a loss to the crown, and was considered 
as invalid, until a charter of confirmation had been obtain- 
ed from the piety, or purchased from the avarice of the 
prince (11). 2* The easy concessions of former kings 
frequently appeared unreasonable to their successors, 
whose necessities were more pressing, or whose venera- 
tion for the church was less indulgent. Sometimes with, 
often without the pretext of justice, they seized the most 
valuable manors belonging to the clergy, and sensible of 
their power in this world, destpised the threats of future 
vengeance which their predecessors had denounced against 
the violators of their charters. The first, who thus in- 
vaded the patrimony of the church, were Ceolred of 
Mercia, and Osred of Northumbria. The former perish- 
ed suddenly ; the latter fell by the hands of his enemies : 
and though their fate was ascribed to the anger of heaven, 
It did not always deter succeeding princes from copying 
their example (12). 3. The rapacity of the monarch of- 
ten stimulated that of the nobles, who viewed with a 
jealous eye the wealth of the clergy, and considered the- 
donations of their ancestors as so many injuries offered t<? 

(11) See Gale, p. 322, 326, 327. 
(13) See Wilkins, torn. i. p. 89, 96;. 


their families. Whenever the favour of the sovereign, 
or the anarchy in which the Saxon governments were 
frequently plunged, afforded a prospect of impunity, they 
seldom failed to extort by threats, or seize by violence, 
the lands, which were the objects of their avarice (13). 
4-. The prelates themselves often contributed to the spo- 
liation of their sees. They assumed a right of granting 
to their friends and retainers a portion of lands, to be 
holden by them and their heirs during a certain number 
of years, and after that period to revert to the church : 
but their successors always found it difficult to recover 
what had thus been alienated, and were generally com- 
pelled either to relinquish their claims, or to continue 
the original grant in the same family (14). 5. War was 
another source of misfortune to the church. Its property 
was indeed guarded by the most terrific excommunica- 
tions : but in the tumult of arms, spiritual menaces were 
despised ; and if some princes respected the lands of the 
clergy, others ravaged them without mercy, and reduced 
the defenceless incumbents to a, state of absolute poverty. 
So exhausted was the see of Rochester by the devastations 
of Edilred, king of Mercia, that two successive bishops 
resigned their dignity, and sought from the charity of 
strangers that support, which they could not obtain in 
their own diocese (15). From the whole history of the 
Saxon kingdoms it is evident that the temporal prosperi- 
ty of the church depended on the character of the prince, 

(13) Ibid. p. 100, 144. 

(14) Several curious charters of this description are printed in 
Smith's Bede, (app. xxi.) and a catalogue of them is preserved by 
Wanley, (Ant. litt. Septen. p.^555.) 

(15) Bed. hist. I. iv. c. 2. 

F 3 


who swayed the sceptre. If he declared himself its pa- 
tron, the stream of wealth flowed constantly into its cof- 
fers : if he were needy and rapacious, it presented the 
most easy and .expeditious means to satisfy his avarice. 
During the revolutions of each century, it alternately ex- 
perienced the fluctuations of fortune : and the clergy of 
the same monastery at one time possessed property more 
ample than the richest of their neighbours -, at another 
were deprived of the conveniences, perhaps even of the 
necessaries of life (16). 

II. Besides the produce of their lands, the clergy de- 
rived a considerable revenue from the voluntary oblations 
of the people. D.uring the three first centuries of the 
Christian era, the church could not boast of the extent of 
her possessions : but the fervour of her more wealthy 
children supplied the absence of riches, and by their 
claily liberality she was enabled to support her ministers, 
maintain the decency of religious worship, and relieve 
the necessities of the indigent;. However adequate this 
resource might prove during the time of persecution, the 
clergy naturally wished for a provision of a less precarious 
tenure, which should remain, when the fervour of their 
disciples .had .subsided : and their wishes were speedily 
realised by the numerous estates which they received 
from the bounty of the Christian emperors. This im- 
portant alteration might diminish, but it did not abolish 
the oblations. of the people j they still continued to offer 
at -the altar the bread and wine for sacrifice ; and the 
treasury of each church was frequently enriched by va- 
luable presents of, every description (17). The liberality 

(16) See a remarkable instance in Ingulf, (p. 11.) 
(17) Bingham, vol. i. p. 185. 


of the Saxon converts did not yield to that of their bre- 
thren in other countries. The custom of voluntary ob- 
lations was adopted in the southern provinces, at the re- 
commendation of the Roman missionaries ; in the 
northern it was introduced by the Scottish monks. 
Though it does not appear to have been commanded by 
any legislative authority, it was preserved in its ancient 
vigour as late as the close, f the tenth century. At that 
period the pious Christian (so we learn from Archbishop 
JElfric) was accustomed a to repair on each Sunday with 
" his offering to the church, and to implore by his prayers 
" and alms .the blessing of heaven on all the people of 
God (18)." It must be evident that a revenue, which 
thus depended on the means and the disposition of the 
people, was of a very fluctuating nature : but while the 
offerings of the poor could only have been considerable by 
their number, those of the rich were frequently of the 
highest value. In the inventories of different churches, 
we constantly meet with gold and silver vases, the richest 
silks, vestments, gems, and paintings ; and the display of 
these ornaments on the more solemn festivals, gratified 
the piety, and awakened the emulation of the spectators. 
III. But the principal resource of the parochial clergy 
was the institution of tithes. Under the Mosaic dispen- 
sation, the faithful Israelite had been commanded to dis- 
tribute the tenth of his annual profits among the minis- 
ters of the altar; his example was spontaneously imitated 
by the more devout of the Christian laity ; and when a 

(18) OOit) heojiaxjpjiungum cuman ro fcaepe maeyran rymble- 
n )Tre PP ^ Homer pole fcinjien resJ>ep e mit> heojia jebet*' 
urn je mit> heopa xlmerran. Wilk. torn. i. p. 273. 



legal provision was called for by the rapid increase of the 
clergy, the establishment of tithes was adopted as the 
least oppressive mode by which it could be raised. In 
the sixth and seventh centuries, this offering, which in 
its origin had been voluntary, began to be exacted as a 
debt in almost every Christian country : and the practice 
of the more fervent during the preceding ages was con- 
ceived to justify the claim". If we may believe a royal 
legislator, the payment of tithes among the Saxons, was 
-as ancient as their knowledge of the gospel, and intro- 
duced by St Augustine, together with the other practices 
common to the Christians of that period (19). ' But men 
are not often prompted to make pecuniary sacrifices from 
the sole motive of duty : and, as the number of the clergy 
was small, and their wants were liberally supplied by the 
munificence of the converted princes, it is probable that 
for several years, their pretensions were generally waved, 
or feebly enforced (20). The institution, however, of 
parochial churches, imperiously required an augmenta- 
tion of the number of pastors ; and to provide for their 
support the payment of tithes was, before the close of the 
eighth century, severely commanded by civil and eccle- 

(19) See the ninth law of Edward the Confessor, (Wilk. p. 31 1.) 
I am sensible that this alone is not sufficient to make the establish- 
ment of tithes coeval with the profession of Christianity in this 
country : but it is strengthened by the testimony of St Boniface 
of Mentz, and Egbert of York, who in the course of the eighth 
century speak of them as of an old regulation. See Wilkins, p. 
92, 102, 107, and note (A) at the end of the volume. 

(20) -Thus Alcuin dissuaded a missionary in Germany, placed 
in similar circumstances, from enforcing the payment of tithes. 
Ale. ep. apud Mabil. vet. analec. p, 400. 


siastical authority in the council of Calcuith (21). The 
regulations which were then adopted at the recommenda- 
tion of the papal legates, received many improvements 
from the piety or the policy of succeeding legislators. 
The obligation was declared to extend to every species of 
annual produce, even to the profits of merchandize and 
of military service (22) ; and, that avarice might not 
shelter itself under the pretext of ignorance, the times of 
payment were carefully ascertained, the festival of Pente- 
cost for the tithe of cattle, and that of Michaelmas or 
all-saints for the tithe of corn. Censures and penalties 
were denounced against the man, who presumed to with- 
hold the property of the church. His produce of the 
year was divided into ten equal parts, of which one was 
given to the minister, four were forfeited to the proprietor 
of the land, and four to the bishop : and the execution of 
this severe law was entrusted to the vigilance of those 
who were to profit by it, the curate, the lord of the ma- 
nor, the bishop's reeve, and the king's reeve (23). 

IV. Whether it was that this resource proved inade- 
quate, or that the clergy were unwilling to surrender the 
advantages which they derived from the piety of the 
people, several other charities were converted into obli- 
gations, and enforced by the canons of the church and 
the laws of the prince. 1 . Within fifteen days after the 
festival of Easter, a donation, probably of one silver pen- 
ny for every hide of arable land, was exacted under the 
appellation of plough-alms^ as an acknowledgement that 
the distribution of the seasons was in the hands of the 

(21) Wilk. p. 149. 

(22) Id. p. 107, 278. 
(2:3) Id. p. 245, 288, 3Q2. 


Almighty, and to implore his blessing on the future har- 
vest (24). 2. At the feast of St Martin, a certain quan- 
tity of wheat, sometimes of other grain, was offered on 
the altar as a substitute for the oblations of bread and 
wine which were formerly made by the faithful, as often 
as they assisted at the sacred mysteries. It was distin- 
guished by the name of kirk-shot, and was assessed ac- 
cording to the rate of the house inhabited by each indi- 
vidual at the preceding Christmas. By the laws of Ina, 
whoever refused to pay it, was amerced forty shillings to 
the king, and twelve times the value of the tax to the 
church : and during the next three centuries, though the 
latter of these penalties remained stationary, that which 
was paid into the royal treasury, progressively increased, 
till it amounted to three times the original sum (25). 3. 
Thrice in the year, at Candlemas, the vigil of Easter, 
and All-Saints, was paid the leot-shot, or a certain quantity 
of wax, of the value of one silver penny for each hide of 
land. The object of this institution was to supply the 
altar with lights during the celebration of the divine 
service (26). 4. The only fee, which the parochial 
clergy were permitted to demand for the exercise of 
their functions, was the soul-shot, a retribution in money 
for the prayers said in behalf of the dead. By different 
laws it was ordered to be paid while the grave remained 
open, and to the clergy of that church to which the cie- 

(24) Id. p. 203, 288, 295, 302. 

(25) Id. p. 59, 302. It was sometimes paid in fowls at Christ- 
mas. Spel. glos. p. 135. 

(26) Wil. p. 203, 288, 302. The wax-shot, which according to 
Inett, (vol. i. p. 121,) is still paid in some parts of England, is 
probably a relic of this ancient custom. 


ceased had formerly belonged (27). The aggregate 
amount of all these perquisites composed in each parish 
a fund, whkh was called the patrimony of the minster, 
and whkh was devoted to nearly the same purposes as 
the revenues of the cathedral churches. After two 
thirds had been deducted for the support of the clergy 
and the repairs of the building, the remainder was as- 
signed for the relief of the poor and of strangers. In a 
country which offered no convenience for the accommo- 
dation of travellers, frequent recourse was had to the 
hospitality of the curate : and in the vicinity of his resi- 
dence a house was always open for their reception, in 
which during three days they were provided with board 
and lodging at the expence of the church (28). 

(27) Id. 288, 302. 

(28) Id. 102, 103, 253. We are frequently told that at this pe- 
riod the clergy were so intent on their own interest, that they 
seemed to have " comprised all the practical parts of Christianity 
" in the exact and faithful payment of tithes," and the other dues 
of the church. Hume hist. c. 2. p. 57. Mosheim hist. sac. vii. 
par. 2, c. iii. To misrepresent is often a more easy task than to 
collect information. The Saxon clergy appear both to have known 
and taught the pure morality of the gospel. Their preachers se- 
dulously inculcated that the first of duties was the love of God, 
the second the love of our neighbour. Ecmrpellice bebotm uf 
laejiap. -3 mynjap. pxr pe eallum mot>e *] eallum maejene. senert; 
Hot) lupian -3 pupfcian. -y ry^an ujte nexran lupan -3 heal-oan ypa 
rpa ur rylpe. Reg. Can. apud Wanl. p. 49. It were too long to 
transcribe the original passages, but whoever is conversant with 
the works of fiede, Boniface, and Alcuin, with the Saxon homilies, 
and the liber legum ecclesiasticarum, (Wilk. p. 270,) must ac- 
knowledge, that the ingenuity of the most learned professor of 
the present day would find it difficult to improve the moral doc- 
trines which were taught to our forefathers. See note B. 


The Saxon princes, as they endowed tire church with 
a plentiful revenue, were also careful to dignify it with 
the privileges which it enjoyed in all other Christian 
countries. Of these the principal was the right of sanc- 
tuary ; an institution, which however prejudicial it may 
prove under a more perfect system of legislation, was 
highly useful in the ages of anarchy and barbarism. Its 
origin is lost in the gloom of the most remote antiquity. 
The man who fled from the resentment of a more power- 
ful adversary, was taught by his fears to seek protection 
at the altars of the Gods , and the Jewish legislator se- 
lected by the divine appointment six cities of refuge, in 
which the involuntary homicide might screen himself 
from the vengeance of his pursuers. As soon as Con- 
stantine the Great had enrolled himself among the pro- 
fessors of the gospel, the right of asylum was transferred 
by the practice of the people from the pagan to the Chris- 
tian temples : the silence of the emperors gradually sanc- 
tioned the innovation ; and by the Theodosian code, the 
privilege was extended to every building designed for the 
habitation, or the use of the clergy (29). To this deci- 
sion of the imperial law the Saxon converts listened with 
respect, and their obedience was rewarded by the nume- 
rous advantages which it procured. Though religion had 
softened, it had not extirpated the ancient ferocity of 
their character. They continued to cherish that barba- 
rous prejudice, which places the sword of justice in the 

(29) The motive of this extension was the indecency of per- 
mitting the* fugitive to remain for several days and nights in the 
church. Hanc autem spatii latitudinem ideo indulgemus, ne in 
ipso Dei templo et sacrosanctis altaribus confugientium quen- 
quam mane vel vespere cubare vel pernoctare liceat. Cod. ^Theod. 
1. ix. tit. 45. 


hand of each individual, and exhorts him to punish his 
enemy without waiting for the more tardy vengeance of 
the law (30). As their passions frequently urged them 
to deeds of violence, this system of retaliation was pro- 
ductive of the most fatal consequences. The friends of 
each party associated in his defence ; family was leagued 
against family ; and in the prosecution of these bitter and 
hereditary feuds, innocence too often suffered the fate 
which was due to guilt. On such occasions, the church 
offered her protection to the weak and the unfortunate. 
Within her precincts they were secure from the resent- 
ment of their enemies, till their friends had assembled, 
and either proved their innocence, or paid the legal com- 
pensation for their offence (31). It should however be 
observed, that the right of asylum, though it retarded, 
did not prevent the punishment of the guilty (32). Af- 
ter a certain time the privilege expired. The three days 
allotted by the laws of Alfred were successively extended 
to a week, to nine days, and lastly to an indefinite period, 
which might be shortened or protracted at the discretion 
of the sovereign : but when it was elapsed, the fugitive, 
unless he had previously satisfied the legal demands of 
his adversaries, was delivered to the officers of justice 
(33). Neither were the churches open to criminals of 

(30) This prejudice was so inveterate among some of the north- 
ern nations, that by the Salic law, every member of a family 
who refused to join his brethren in the pursuit of vengeance, was 
deprived of his right of inheritance. Henault, Abreg. Chron. vol. 
i. p. 118. 

(31) Wiik. leg. Sax. p. 15, v. 35, ii. iii. 

(32) Templorum cautela, says Justinian, non nocentibus sed 
liesis datur a lege. Novel. 17, c. 7. 

(S3) Wilk. leg. Sax. p. 35, ii. 36, v. 110. 


every description. The chance of protection was wisely 
diminished in proportion to the enormity of the offence. 
The thief who had repeatedly abused, at last forfeited 
the benefit of the sanctuary : and the man who had 
endangered the safety of the state, or violated the sanc- 
tity of religion, might legally be dragged from the foot 
of the altar to receive the punishment of his crime (34-). 
There were, however, a few churches which claimed a 
proud pre-eminence above the others. To them their 
benefactors had accorded the extraordinary privilege of 
securing the life of every fugitive, how enormous soever 
might be his guilt, and of compelling his prosecutor to 
accept in lieu of his head a pecuniary compensation. 
Among these may be numbered the churches of York, 
Beverley, Ramsey, and Westminster (35) ; but none 
could boast of equal immunities with the abbey of Croy- 
land. The monastery, the island, and the waters which 
surrounded it, enjoyed the right of sanctuary ; and a line 
of demarcation, drawn at the distance of twenty feet 
from the opposite margin of the lake, arrested the pursuit 
of the officers, and ensured the safety of the fugitive. 
Immediately he took the oath of fealty to the abbot, and 
the man of St Guthlake might laugh in security at the 
impotent rage of his enemies. But if, without a written 
permission, he presumed to wander beyond the magic 
boundary, the charm was dissolved ; justice resumed her 
rights ; and his life was forfeited to the severity of the 
laws. When the monastery was rebuilt, after its de- 
struction by the Danes, Edred offered to revive the an- 

(34) Ibid. p. 198, vi. 

(35) Spelman's gloss, voce Fridstol. Monast. Ang. vol. i. p. 

60, 23fi. 


eient privilege in favour of his Chancellor Turketul , but 
it was declined by the hoary statesman,, who considered 
the ordinary right of asylum, as equally beneficial to the 
public, and less liable to abuse (36). 

^hQ peace of the church was an institution of a similar 
nature, and adopted by the clergy, in order to mitigate 
the ferocity of their countrymen. To devote to the 
work of vengeance the days which religion had conse- 
crated to the worship of the Almighty, they taught to be 
a profanation of the blackest die. At their solicitation, 
peace was proclaimed on each Sunday and holiday, and 
during the penitential times of lent and advent : every 
feud was instantly suspended ; and the bitterest enemies 
might meet and converse without danger under the pro>- 
te&ion of the church. The same indulgence was ex- 
tended to the man who quitted his home to assist at the 
public worship, to obey the summons of his bishop, or 
to attend the episcopal synod or national council. Co- 
vered by this invisible segis, he might pursue his journey 
in security ; or if his enemy dared to molest him, the 
presumption of the aggressor was severely chastised by 
the resentment of the laws (37). Sensible of the bene- 
fits which they derived from these institutions, the weak 
and defenceless naturally looked for protection to the 
church : its ministers were caressed and revered ; and 
the gratitude of their clients was frequently testified by 
numerous and valuable donations (38). 

(36) Wilk. con. p. 176, 181. Ingulf, p. 40v 

(37) Leg. Sax. 109, 110, 197. 

(38) This circumstance has encouraged some writers to attri- 
bute these institutions to the avarice of the clergy. But the real 
cause of their adoption was their utility. Not only the churches, 


But England was not the only theatre on which the 
Saxon kings and nobles displayed their regard for the 
ministers of religion. In their frequent pilgrimages to 
the tombs of the apostles, they were careful to visit the 
most celebrated churches on the continent, and to leave 
behind them numerous evidences of their liberality. Be- 
fore the close of the eighth century, the monastery of St 
Denis, in the neighbourhood of Paris, was possessed of 
extensive estates on the coast of Sussex (39) : to the pre- 
sents of the Saxon princes several of the churches, origi- 
nally established in Armorica by the fugitive Britons, 
were indebted for their support (40) : and the munifi- 
cence of Alfred has been gratefully recorded by the arch- 
bishop of Rheims ; that of Canute by the canons and 
monks belonging to the two great monasteries in St 
Omer's (41). But Rome was the principal object of 
their liberality. The imperial city was no longer the 
mistress of the world. More than once she had been 
sacked by the barbarians : the provinces from which she 
formerly drew Jier subsistence, haji submitted to their 
arms ; her walls were insulted by the frequent inroads 
of the Saracens ; and the popes with the numerous peo- 
ple dependent on their paternal authority, were frequent- 
ly reduced to the lowest distress. By the Saxon princes 

but also the palaces of kings, and the houses of their officers pos- 
sessed the privilege of sanctuary. The king's peace, like that of 
the church, was granted to all who were engaged in his service, or 
travelling on the four great roads, or employed on the navigable 
rivers. Leg. Sax. p. 199. 

(39) Dublet, Ant. St Dion, apud Alf. Tom. ii. p. 650, 656. 

(40) Malm, de pont. 1. v. p. 363. 

(41) Wise's Asser.p. 126. Encom. Emmse p. 173. 


the affection, which St Gregory had testified for their 
fathers, was gratefully remembered. They esteemed it 
a disgrace that the head of their religion should suffer 
the inconveniences of want, and each succeeding king 
was careful by valuable donations, to demonstrate his ve- 
neration for the successor of St Peter, and to contribute a 
portion of his wealth to support the government of the 
universal church. The munificence of Ethelwulf is par- 
ticularly described by Anastasius, an eye-witness. During 
the year of his residence in Rome, he spread around him 
with profusion the treasures which he had brought from 
England. To the pontiff, Benedict III. he gave a crown 
of pure gold, weighing four pounds, two cups and two 
images of the same precious metal, a sword tied with 
pure gold, four Saxon dishes of silver -gilt, a rochet of 
silk with a clasp of gold, several albs of white silk with 
gold lace and clasps, and two large curtains of silk, em- 
broidered with gold. In the basilic of St Peter he dis- 
tributed presents of gold to the clergy and nobility of 
Rome ; ^nd gratified the people with a handsome dona- 
tive in pieces of silver (4-2). But these were occasional 
charities ; the Romescot was perpetual. During a long 
period anterior to the Norman conquest, a silver penny 
was annually paid by every family possessed of land or 
cattle to the yearly value of thirty pence, and the general 

(42) Anast. Biblioth. de vitis Pontif. v. i. p. 403. For the names 
and destinaticA of these and similar presents seeDomenico Georgi, 
de liturgia Roman! Pontificis, vol. i. The crown and images were 
probably suspended over the tomb of St Peter, (id. p. 243) : the 
dishes (Gabathse) were used to receive the offerings at mass, (id. 
p. 91) : the curtains of silk embroidered with gold, (vela de fun- 
datOj id. p. 372), were employed in the church on great festivals. 



amount was carefully transmitted to the Roman pontiff. 
The origin of this tax is involved in considerable obscuri- 
ty. If we may credit the narration of later historians, it 
was first -established by Ina, king of Wessex, about the 
commencement of the eighth century ; was afterwards 
extended by OfFa of Mercia, to all the shires of that po- 
pulous nation ; and 3t last, by the command of Ethel- 
wulf, was levied in all the provinces of the Saxons. But 
this fair and well-conne&ed system will \ r anish at the ap- 
proach of criticism. If Ina was the original author of 
the Romescot, it will be difficult to account for the obsti- 
nate silence both of Bede, who particularly relates his de- 
votion towards the Roman see, and of every other histo- 
rian that wrote during the five following centuries. The 
claims of OfFa and Etheiwulf are more plausible. OfFa, 
whoVas accustomed to ascribe the success of his arms to 
the intercession of St Peter, had promised from himself 
and his successors a yearly pension of three hundred and 
sixty mancuses to the church of the apostle ; and this 
promise was confirmed by a solemn oath in presence of 
the papal legates (43). That he faithfully performed his 
engagement, we know from the best authority : that it was 
gradually neglected by the princes who succeeded him, is 
highly probable. Under Kenulf, to whom he left the 
sceptre of Mercia, the original sum appears to have 

(43) See the letter of Leo III. in Anglia sacra, (vol. i. p. 461.) 
The money was to be expended in relieving the poor, and fur- 
nishing lights for the church. The want of oil for this purpose 
Avas often lamented by the popes. Cum neque oleum sit nobis 
pro luminaribus ecclesias juxta debitum Dei honorem. Ep. Steph. 
VI. Basil. Jmper. apud Walker, p. 7. A mancus contained thirty 
-pence, or six Saxon shillings. See note (C)= 


dwindled to one third of its former amount (44) ; and 
after his death no vestige of its payment can be discover- 
ed before the pilgrimage of Ethelwulf. That prince, 
during his residence in Rome, revived, with a few varia- 
tions, the charitable donation of Offa ; and a perpetual 
annuity of three hundred mancuses was granted to the 
pontiff, to be appropriated in equal portions to the church 
of St Peter, that of St Paul, and the papal treasury (45). 
During the conquests of the Danes it was probably for- 
gotten , but Alfred had no sooner subdued these formi- 
dable enemies, than he was careful to execute the will of 
Jiis father : the royal alms (such is the expression of the 
Saxon chronicle,) were each year conveyed to Rome ; 
and soon after, in the reign of Edward, we meet with the 
first mention of the Romescot as an existing regulation 
(4-6). From these premises it were not, perhaps, rash to 
infer, that the Peter-pence should be ascribed to the po- 
licy of Ethelwulf or his immediate successors, who by 
this expedient sought to raise the money which they had 
engaged to remit to the holy see. By later legislators it 
is frequently mentioned, and severely enforced. The 
time of payment is limited to the five weeks which in- 
tervene between the feast of St Peter and the first of 
August , and the avarice of the man, who may attempt 
to elude the law, is ordered to be punished by a fine of 
thirty pence to the bishop, and of one hundred and 
twenty shillings to the king (47). From a curious sche- 

(44) Wilk. con. p. 164, 165. 

(45) Asser. p. 4. 

(46) Leg. Sax. p. 52. 

(47) Ibid. p. 114. 



dule extracted from the register of the Lateran, by the 
order of Gregory VII. it appears that the collection of 
the tax was intrusted to the care of the bishops of each 
diocese, and that the entire sum amounted at that period 
to something more than two hundred pounds of Saxon 
money (48). 

(48) Apud Selden, Analect. p. 73. 

10 L 


Origin of the monastic Institute Anglo-Saxon monls of St 
Gregory of St Golumba of St Benedict voius of obedience 
chastity poverty possessions of the monks attention to the 
mechanic arts to agriculture their hospitality their charities, 

IN the conflict of rival parties, men are seldom just to 
the merit of their adversaries. When the reformers of 
the sixteenth century rose in opposition to the church of 
Rome, they selected the monastic order for the favourite 
object of their attack,, and directed the keenest shafts of 
satire against the real or imaginary vices of its professors. 
For near three hundred years the lessons of these apostles 
have been re-echoed by the zeal of their disciples : with 
the name of monk, education usually associates the ideas 
of fraud, ignorance, and superstition : and the distorted 
portrait which was originally drawn by the pencil of ani- 
mosity and fanaticism, is still admired as a correct and 
faithful likeness. If, in the following pages, monachism 
appear dressed in more favourable colours, let not the 
writer be hastily c ndemned. Truth is the first duty of 
the historian ; and the virtues of men deserve to be re- 
corded no less than their vices. The object of the pre- 
sent chapter is, ta investigate the origin of the monastic 
profession j to distinguish the different tribes of the 
Anglo-Saxon monks ; and to delineate the leading prin- 
ciples of their religious discipline. The subject is curi- 
ous , and the important part, which the order formerly 

G 3 


bore on the theatre of the world, will confer an interest 
on the inquiry (1). 

During the three first centuries of the Christian era, 
the more fervent among the followers of the gospel were 
distinguished by the name of Ascetes. They renounced 
all distracting employments ; divided their time between 
the public worship and their private devotions ; and en- 
deavoured by the assiduous practice of every virtue,, to at- 
tain that sublime perfection, which is delineated in the 
sacred writings. As long as the imperial throne was oc- 
cupied by pagan princes, the fear of persecution concur- 
red with the sense of duty to invigorate their efforts 
but when the sceptre had been transferred to the hands 
of Constantine and his successors, the austerity of the 
Christian character was insensibly relaxed ; the influence 
of prosperity and dissipation prevailed over the severer 
maxims of the gospel ; and many, under the assumed 
mask of Christianity, continued to cherish the notions 
and vices of paganism. The alarming change was ob- 
served and lamented by the most fervent of the faithful, 
who determined to retire from a scene so hateful to their 
zeal, and so dangerous to their virtue ; and the vast and 
barren deserts of Thebais were soon covered with crowds 
of anachorets, who under the guidance of the Saints An- 

(l) The latest writer on this subject is Mr Fosbrooke, who com- 
piled his two volumes on the manners and customs of the monks 
and nuns of England, " to check that spirit of monacbism and 
" popery whkh has lately been revived." Perhaps with many the 
benevolence of the intention may atone for the asperity of the exe- 
cution : bftt it can scarcely apologize for the republication of ca- 
lumnies, \vhich have been often refuted by the more candid of th' 
protestant historian. See Brown Willis on mitred abbeys, wit k 
tbe preface by Hfearne. in Iceland's collectanea, vol. vi. p. 51. 


thony and Pachomius, earned their scanty meals witli 
the sweat of their brows, and by a constant repetition of 
prayers, and fasts, and vigils, edified and astonished their 
less fervent brethren. Such was the origin of the mo- 
nastic institute. Its first professors were laymen, who 
condemned the lax morality of their contemporaries, and 
aspired to practise in the solitude of the desert, the severe 
and arduous virtues of their forefathers. They lived in 
small communities, of which a proportionate number 
obeyed the paternal authority of a common superior. 
To obtain admission, no other qualifications were requir- 
ed in the postulant, than a spirit of penitence, and a de- 
sire of perfection. As long as these continued to animate 
his conduct, he was carefully exercised in the different 
duties of the monastic profession : if he repented of his 
choice, the gates were open, and he was at liberty to de- 
part. But the number of the apostates was small : the 
virtue of the greater part secured their perseverance ; 
and it was not till after the decline of their original fer- 
vour, that irrevocable vows were added by the policy of 
succeeding legislators (2). 

From Egypt the monastic institute rapidly diffused it- 
self over the neighbouring provinces, and the west was- 
eager to imitate the example of the east. At the com- 

(2) Bingham, vol. i. p. 24$. Fleury, hist. 1. vi. c. 20. Droit 
eccles. c. xxi. By his brethren and countrymen, the clergy of 
France, Fleury has, for almost a century, been numbered among 
the most eminent of the catholic writers : by an English critic, in 
a late publication, he has been pronounced little better than a dis- 
guised infidel. Which are we most to admire, their blindness, or 
his sagacity ! Compare vol. i. of the history of the christiau 
church, p. xiv, xvi, with vol. iii. p. 317, 


mencement of the fifth century, colonies of monks were 
planted in every corner of the empire ; and the conver- 
sion of the northern barbarians prodigiously increased 
their numbers. The proselytes admired the austere vir- 
tues of the institute ; and considered its professors as a 
class of superior beings, the friends and favourites of the 
Deity. No sooner was a monastery erected, than it was 
filled with crowds, who either wished to preserve, within 
the shelter of its walls, their innocence from seduction ; 
or sought to efface, by tears of repentance, the excesses 
of a profligate life. The opulent and powerful fancied 
that, by promoting the interests, they participated in the 
merits of the order : and the most vicious flattered them- 
selves, that they might make some atonement for their 
past offences, by contributing to support a race of men, 
whose lives were devoted solely to the service of their 
creator. In proportion as the order increased, it was di- 
vided and subdivided without end. Every abbot, who 
had founded a monastery, assumed the liberty of select- 
ing or forming for his monks, such regulations as his 
judgment preferred ; the simplicity of the Egyptian mo- 
del was improved or disfigured by the additions of poste- 
rior and independent legislators ; and though the more 
prominent features of each family bore a striking resem- 
blance, a thousand different tints nicely discriminated 
them from each other. That this freedom of choice, 
which was exercised by the cenobites of the continent, 
had been refused by the Saxon monks, and that they 
universally belonged to the Benedict ine institute, has 
been warmly maintained by learned and respectable anti- 
quaries (3). But their opinion is not supported by suffi- 

(3) Rcyner, in his Apo&tobtus Benedictinorum in Anglia, is 


cient authority : and the Benedictine institute has justly 
acquired too high a reputation, to be reduced to the ne- 
cessity of pirating the eminent characters of other orders. 
I shall therefore confine myself to our ancient writers. 
With the light which they afford, we may still pierce 
through the gloom of eleven intervening centuries ; and 
discover among our ancestors three grand divisions of the 
monastic profession, in the disciples of 1, St Gregory, 2, 
St Columba, and 3, St Benedict. 

1. Among the patrons of monachism, a distinguished 
place is due to Gregory the great, whose piety prompted 
him to exchange the dignity of Roman prefect for the 
cowl of a private monk, and whose merit drew him from 
the obscurity of his cell to seat him on the throne of St 
Peter. In Sicily his ample patrimony supported six sepa- 
rate families of monks : and the remainder of his fortune 
was devoted to the endowment of the great monastery 
of St Andrew's in Rome. After such important services, 

like other genealogists, often fanciful, and sometimes extravagant. 
In the Saxon church he can discover nothing but Benedictine 
monks. The Italian missionaries were Benedictine monks ; the 
Gallic missionaries were Benedictine monks ; the Scottish mis- 
sionaries were, or immediately became Benedictine monks. Each 
writer of eminence, and each prelate of distinguished sanctity, the 
religious of every convent, and the clergy of every cathedral, were 
all Benedictine monks. (Apost. Bened. p. 1 203.) The merit 
of patient reading and extensive erudition, Reyner might justly 
claim : but a natural partiality urged him to display the ancient 
honours of his order, and his judgment was the slave of his par- 
tiality. He was succeeded by Mabillon, an antiquary of equal 
learning, and superior discernment, who selected the principal ar- 
guments of Reyner, and endeavoured to strengthen them by the 
addition of several passages from ancient and unpublished manu- 
scripts. See Mabil. praef. Ssec. 1, Bened. Vet. Analec. p. 499. 


he might with propriety assume the office of legislating 
for those who owed their bread to his liberality : and 
from the scattered hints of ancient writers we may safely 
collect, that the regulations which he imposed on his 
monks, were widely different from the statutes of most 
other religious orders (4-). The time which they dedi- 
cated to manual labour, he commanded to be employed 
in study ; and while they claimed the merit of conducting 
their lay disciples through the narrow path of monastic 
perfection, he aspired to the higher praise of forming 
men, who by their abilities might defend the doctrines, 
and by their zeal extend the conquests of the church (5). 
Of these the most eminent were honoured with his 
friendship, and enjoyed a distinguished place near his 
person. They attended him in his embassy to the capi- 
tal of the east : they were admitted into his council at his 
elevation to the pontificate ; and they supplied him with 
missionaries, when he meditated the conversion of the 
Saxons. Augustine was proud to copy the example of 
his father and instructor. To the clergy who officiated 

(4) See Broughton, mejnorial, p. 231. But have not the Bene- 
dictine writers strenuously claimed this pontiff as a member of 
their institute ? I-shall only answer that I have patiently perused 
the dissertations of Reyner (Apost. p. 167,) and Mabillon (Anal, 
vet. p. 499) : and am still compelled to think with Baronius, (An. 
581, viii.) Broughton, (Mem. p. 244,) Smith, (Flores hist. p. 81,) 
Henschenius and Papebroche, (Act. San. torn. 2 Mart. p. 123,) 
Thomassin, (De vet. et nov. discip. 1. iii. c. 24,) Basnage, (Annal. 
anno 581,) and Gibbon, (vol. iv. p. 457,) that their claim is un- 
founded. See also Sandini, Vit. Pontif. vol. i. p. 203. 

(5) The institute of St Gregory seems to have been an attempt 
to unite, as much as possible, the clerical with the monastic pro- 
fession. Bergier, Diction. Theol. art. communaute. 


in his cathedral, he associated several of his former 
brethren, as his advisers and companions : and for the 
remainder he erected a spacious monastery, which, as far 
as circumstances would permit, was an exact copy of its 
prototype in Rome. Of the spiritual progeny of this 
establishment we have no accurate history. That the 
neighbouring convents received their first inhabitants 
from Canterbury, and carefully observed the regulations 
of the parent monastery, is highly probable : whether at 
any later period, previously to the reform of St Dunstan, 
they abandoned their ancient rule, and adopted the Bene- 
dictine institute, is a subject of more doubtful, but unim- 
portant controversy (6). 

2. Eight and forty years after the arrival of Augustine 
on the coast of Kent, Oswald, king of Northumbria, re- 
quested a supply of missionaries from the Scottish monks. 

(6) The rule of St Gregory was observed at Canterbury till the 
year 630, according to the testimony of Pope Honorius, (ves- 
tram dilectionem sectantem magistri et capitis sui St Gregorii re- 
gulam. Bed. 11, 18.) The privilege of chusing their own abbots, 
a claim which distinguished the Benedictines, is said to have been 
granted to the monks by Adcodatus, in 673, (Wilk. p. 43.) But 
this charter may be reasonably suspected, as the archbishop con- 
tinued after that period to nominate the superiors of all the monas- 
teries in the kingdom of Kent, (Ibid* p. 57.) At the distance of 
four hundred years, king Ethelred introduced Benedictine monks 
into the cathedral, and in the Saxon copy of the charter, which he 
gave on that occasion, is made to say that they were of the same 
. description as the companions of St Augustine, (op baeyxe byr-ne 3e 
f cj* Xusuyrinur- hir>en to bnohte. Wilk. p. 282. Mores Com- 
ment, de JElf. p. 88.) It is however observable, that in the latin, 
which, from the signatures, appears to have been the authentic 
copy, this passage is not to be found, (Wilk. p. 284. Mores, p. 


Columba, of the royal race of the Neils in Ireland, by 
his preaching and miracles had converted the barbarous 
inhabitants of Caledonia ; and the gratitude of his pro- 
selytes recompensed his labours with the donation of the 
isle of Icolmkille, one of the smallest of the Hebrides 
(7). His memory was long cherished with every testi- 
mony of veneration by the northern nations. The cus- 
toms which his approbation had sanctified in their eyes, 
were, with pious obstinacy, perpetuated by liis disciples : 
his monastery was selected for the sepulchres of the 
kings of Ireland, Scotland, and Norway (8) ; and the 
provincial bishops, though in their episcopal functions 
they preserved the superiority of their order, in other 
points submitted to the mandates of the abbot, as the le- 
gitimate successor of Columba : a singular institution, of 
which no other example is recorded in the ecclesiastical 
annals (9). 

From this monastery came Aidan, the successful apos- 
tle of Northumbria. During the course of his labours 
tlv missionary kept his eyes fixed on his patron Colum- 
4 j and after his example, requested permission to retire 
f;om the court, and fix his residence in some lonely 
island, where his devotions might not be interrupted by 
the follies and vices of men. His petition was granted. 
Lindisfarne, at a small distance from the Northumbrian 

(7) Bed. 1. in. c. 3. Chron. Sax. p. 21. An. 560. 

(8) See Buchanan, (Rerum Scotic. 1. i. p. 28.) A chart of the 
island is given in the title page of Pinkerton's Vit. antiq. Sancto- 
rum in Scotia. 

(9) Bed. 1. iii. c. 4. That Columba acknowledged himself in- 
ferior to bishops, is evident from his life by Adomnan, (1. i. c. 45 ? 
ed : Pinkerton, p. 93.) 


coast, was peopled with a colony of Scottish monks ; and 
in their company the bishop spent the hours, which were 
not devoted to the exercise of the episcopal functions. 
His immediate successors were the zealous imitators of 
his conduct ; and from the m: nastery of Aidan, the in- 
stitute was rapidly diffused thro, -gh the kingdoms of Ber- 
nicia and Deira, Mercia and East-Anglia. 

The rule which was followed by these disciples of Co- 
lumba, has not been transmitted to us by any latin writer : 
and the Irish copies which have boen preserved, are 
written in a language, that has hitherf) eluded the skill 
of the most patient antiquary (10). But Bede, in differ- 
ent parts of his works, has borne the most honourable 
testimony to their virtue. With a glowing pencil he 
displays their patience, their chastity, their frequent me- 
ditation on the sacred writings, and their indefatigable 
efforts to attain the summit of Christian perfection. They 
chose for their habitation the most dreary situations : no 
motives but those of charity could draw them from their 
cells -, and, if they appeared in public, their object was 
to reconcile enemies, to instruct the ignorant, to discou 
rage vice, and to plead the cause of the unfortunate. The 
little property which they enjoyed was common to all. 
Poverty they esteemed as the surest guardian of virtue : 
and the benefactions of the opulent they respectfully de- 
clined, or instantly employed in relieving the necessities 
of the indigent. One only stain did he discover in their 
character, an immoderate esteem for their forefathers, 
which prompted them to prefer their own customs to the 
consent of all other Christian churches : but this he pi- 

(10) Usher, Brit. eccl. antiq. p. 919. 


ously trusted would disappear in the bright effulgence of 
their virtues (11). 

3. While the disciples of Gregory in the south, and 
those of Columba in the north, were labouring to diffuse 
their respective institutes, the attention of the continental 
Christians was called to another order of monks, who 
gradually supplanted all their competitors, and still exist 
in catholic countries, distinguished by their learning, 
their riches, and their numbers. For their origin they 
were indebted to the zeal of Benedict, a native of Norcia, 
who, in the commencement of the sixth century, to 
avoid the contagious example of the Roman youth, 
buried himself at the age of fourteen in a deep and lonely 
cavern, amid the mountains of Subiaco. Six and thirty 
months the young hermit passed in this voluntary prison, 
unknown to any except his spiritual director, a monk of 
an adjacent monastery : but a miracle betrayed him to 
the notice of the public ; his example diffused a similar 
ardour around him ; and his desert was quickly inhabited 
by twelve confraternities of monks, who acknowledged 
and revered him as their parent and legislator. But the 
fame of Benedict awakened the jealousy of his neighbours. 
Their calumnies compelled him to quit his solitude, and 
he retired to the summit of mount Cassino, in the ancient 
territory of the Volsci. There he spent the remainder 
of his years in the practice of every monastic virtue, and 
the possession of those honours which that age was ac- 
customed to confer on superior sanctity. To his care 
the patricians of Rome intrusted the education of their 
children ; his cell was visited by the most distinguished 
personages, who solicited his benediction ; and Totila, 

(11) Bed. hist. 1. iii. c. 17, 26. 


the haughty conqueror of Italy, condescended to ask the 
advice, and trembled at the stern reproof of he holy ab- 

During the two centuries which had elapsed since the 
retreat of St Anthony into the desert, the monks had 
gradually degenerated from the austere virtue of their 
founders : and Benedict composed his rule, not so much 
to restore the vigour, as to prevent the total extinction of 
the ancient discipline " The precepts of monastic per- 
" feHon," says the humble and fervent legislator, " are 
** contained in the inspired writings : the examples 
" abound in the works of the holy fathers. But mine 
" is a more lowly attempt to teach the rudiments of a 
" Christian life, that, when we are acquainted with them, 
we may aspire to the practice of the sublimer virtues 
" (12)." But the admirers of monachism were not slow 
to appreciate the merit of his labours. From Gregory 
the great his rule obtained the praise of superior wisdom 
(13); and the opinion of the pontiff was afterwards 
adopted or confirmed by the general consent of the latin 

In distributing the various duties of the day, Be- 
nedict was careful that every moment should be di- 
ligently employed. Six hours were allotted to sleep. 
Soon after midnight the monks arose to chaunt the 
nocturnal service ; during the day they were summon- 
ed seven times to the church, to perform the other 
parts of the canonical office : seven hours were em- 
ployed in manual labour ; two in study , and the 

(12) Reg. St Ben. c. 73. 

(13) St Greg. dial. 1. ii. c. 3. 


small remainder was devoted to the necessary refc&ion 
of the body (14?). Their diet was simple but sufficient : 
twelve, perhaps eighteen, ounces of bread, a hemina of 
wine (15), and two dishes of vegetables composed their 
daily allowance. The flesh of quadrupeds was strictly 
prohibited : but the rigour of the law was relaxed in fa- 
vour of the children, the aged, and the infirm. To the 
colour, the form, and the quality of their dress, he was 
wisely indifferent ; and only recommended that it should 
be adapted to the climate, and similar to that of the la- 
bouring poor. Each monk slept in a separate bed ; but 
all lay in their habits, that they might be ready to repair, 
at the first summons, to the church. Every thing was 
possessed in common : not only articles of convenience, 
but even of necessity, were received and resigned at the 
discretion of the abbot. No brother was allowed to cross 
the threshold of the monastery without the permission of 
his superior : at his departure he requested the prayers 
of the community : at his return he lay prostrate In the 
church, to atone for the dissipation of his thoughts during 
his absence. Whatever he might have seen or heard 
without the walls of the convent, he was commanded to 
bury in eternal silence (16). 

The favour of admission was purchased with a severe 
probation. On his knees, at the gate, the postulant re- 
quested to be received among the servants of God : but 

(14) Reg. St Ben. c. 8, 16, 48. 

(15) The exact measure of the hemina is unknown, It has been 
the subject of many learned dissertations by the Benedictine 
writers. See Nat. Alex. Tom. v. p. 462. Mabil. S?ec. Bened. iv. 
Tom. i. p. cxvi. 

(16) Reg. 39, 40, 22, S3, 67. 


his desires were treated with contempt, and his pride was 
humbled by reproaches. After four days his perseve- 
rance subdued the apparent reluctance of the monks : he 
was successively transferred to the apartments of the 
strangers and of the novices ; and an aged brother was 
commissioned to observe his conduct, and instruct him 
in the duties of his profession. Before the expiration of 
the year, the rule was read thrice in his presence ; and 
each reading was accompanied with the admonition, that 
he was 'still at liberty to depart. At last, on the anni- 
versary of his admission, he entered the church, and 
avowed before God and the community, his determina- 
tion to spend his days in the monastic profession, to re- 
form his conduct, and to obey his superiors. The solemn 
engagement he subscribed with his name, and deposited 
on the altar (17). 

The legislator who wishes to enforce the observance, 
must punish the transgression of his laws. But in appor- 
tioning the degree of punishment, Be'nedict advised the 
superior to weigh not only the nature of the offence, 
but the contumacy of the offender. There were minds, 
he observed, which might be guided by a gentle repri- 
mand, while others refused to bend to the severest chas- 
tisement. In his penal code he gradually proceeded 
from more lenient to coercive measures. The inefficacy 
of private admonition was succeeded by the disgrace of 
public reproof: if the delinquent proved insensible to 
shame, he was separated from the society of his brethren 
(18) ; and the continuance of his obstinacy was rewarded 

(17) Ibid. c. 58. 

(18) This was termed excommunication ; but the culprit dur- 
ing his confinement was of ten visited and consoled by the senipetas, 



with the infliction of corporal punishment. As a last re- 
source, the confraternity assembled in the church by or- 
der of the superior, and recommended, with fervent 
prayer, their rebellious brother to the mercy and grace 
of the Almighty. He was then expelled ; but the gates 
of the convent were not shut to repentance. Thrice the 
returning sinner might expect to be received with kind- 
ness in the arms of an indulgent father : but the fourth 
relapse filled up his measure of iniquity, and he was 
ejected for ever (19). 

From mount Cassino and the desert of Subiaco, the 
Benedictine order gradually diffused itself to the utmost 
boundaries of the Latin church. The merit of introduc- 
ing it to the knowledge of the Saxons, was claimed by 
St Wilfrid (20). That prelate, in his pilgrimage to the 
tombs of the apostles, had conversed with the disciples of 
St Benedict , and though he had been educated in the 
Scottish discipline at Lindisfarne, he bore a willing testi- 
mony to the superior excellence of their institute. Having 
afterwards obtained a copy of the Benedictine rule, he 
established it in the monasteries which were immediately 
dependent on him, and propagated it with all his influ- 
ence through the kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia. 
Of the success of his labours we may form an estimate 
from the thousands of monks, who, at the time of his 

id est, seniores sapientes, (Ben. reg. c. 27.) Does not this passage 
unfold the mystery which antiquaries have discovered in the Sem- 
pectse of Croyland ? 

(19) St Ben. reg. c. 23 29. 

(20) Nonne ego curavi, quomodo vitam monachorum secundum 
.regulam S. Benedicti patris, quam nullus ibi prior invexit, consti- 
tuerem ? Wilfrid apud Edd. c. 45. 


disgrace, lamented the loss of their guide and benefac- 
tor (21). Yet the zeal of Wilfrid was tempered with 
prudence. If he preferred the foreign institute, he was 
not blind to the merit of the discipline previously adopted 
by his countrymen : many customs which experience had 
shewn to be useful, and antiquity had rendered venera- 
ble, he carefully retained ; and by amalgamating them 
with the rule of St Benedict, greatly improved the state 
of monastic discipline (22). 

Contemporary with Wilfrid, and the companion of 
his youth, was Bennet Biscop, the celebrated abbot of 
Weremouth. At the age of five and twenty he quitted 
the court of his friend and patron Oswiu, king of Nor- 
thumbria, and directed his steps to the capital of the 
Christian world- His intention was to embrace the mo- 
nastic profession : but he wished previously to visit the 
places, in which it was practised in the highest perfec- 
tion. With pious curiosity he perused the rules, and 
observed the manners of seventeen among the most cele- 
brated foreign monasteries , thrice he venerated the sa- 
cred remains of the apostles at Rome ; and two years he 
spent among the cloistered inhabitants of the small isle of 
Lerins, who gave him the religious habit, and admitted him 

(21) Multa millia. Edd. c. 21. 

(22) Revertens cum regula Benedict! instituta ecclesiaruin Dei 
melioravit. Edd. c. 14. In the regulations drawn up by St Dun- 
stan, (Apost. Bened. app. par. 3, p. 80), and the letter of St Ethel- 
wold to the monks of Egnesham, (Wanley's MSS. p. 110,) may be 
seen several of the customs peculiar to the ancient Saxon monks. 
St Wilfrid, instead of leaving to his disciples the choice of .their 
future abbot, as was ordered by the Benedictine rule, chose him 
himself, and ordered them to obey him. Edd. Vit. Wilf. c. 60, 
61. See also Butler's SS. lives, March 12. 

H 2 


to his vows. At the command of Pope Vitalian, he ac- 
companied Archbishop Theodore to England, as his 
guide and interpreter ; and was intrusted by him with 
the government of the monks of Canterbury. But this 
office he soon resigned : his devotion led him again to 
the Vatican ; and the labour of his pilgrimage was amply 
repaid with what he considered a valuable collection of 
books, paintings, and relics. At his return, he was re- 
ceived with joy and veneration by Egfrid, king of North- 
nimbria, and obtained from the munificence of that prince, 
a spacious domain near the mouth of the river Were, on 
which he built his first monastery, dedicated in honour of 
St Peter. The reputation of Bennet quickly multiplied the 
number of his disciples ; another donation from the king 
enabled him to erect a second convent at Jarrow, on the 
southern bank of the Tyne ; and so prolific were these 
two establishments, that, within a few years after the 
death of the founder, they contained no less than six 
hundred monks (23). Of the discipline to which he 
Subjected his disciples, the rule of St Benedict probably 
formed the ground work : the improvements which he 
added were the fruit of his own observation during his 
travels, and of his constant attention to the welfare of his 
monasteries (24). From his labours, the most valuable 

(23) Bed. Vit. abbat. Wirem. p. 293. 

(24) That he adopted the regulation of St Benedict with re- 
spect to the election of the abbot, is certain from Bede, (Ibid. p. 
.298,) and in the next century, Alcuin recommended to the monks, 
the frequent study of the rule St Benedict, (Ale. ep. 49.) Hence 
Mabillon contends, that the monks of Weremouth were Benedic- 
tines. (Anal. vet. p. 506.) But the adoption of one regulation is 
not a sufficient proof : and the homily of Bede, on the founder of 
his monastery, will justify a suspicion, that the Benedict, whose 


benefits were derived to his countrymen. By the work- 
men, whom he procured from Gaul, they were taught 
the arts of making glass, and of building with stone : the 
foreign paintings with which he decorated his churches, 
excited attempts at imitation: and the many volumes, 
which he deposited in the library of his monastery, in- 
vited the industry, and nourished the improvement of 
his monks. Bennet contributed more to the civilization 
of his countrymen, than any person since the preaching 
of the Roman missionaries : and his memory has been 
with gratitude transmitted to posterity by the venerable 
Bede, in the most pleasing of his works, the lives of the 
abbots of Weremouth. 

While the Benedictine order was thus partially esta- 
blished in the kingdom of Northumbria, its interests were 
espoused with equal or greater zeal in the more southern 
provinces, by Aldhelm, bishop of Sherburn, and Egwin, 
bishop of Worcester. The former introduced it into his 
three monasteries of Malmesbury, Frome, and Bradan- 
ford (25) : the latter erected a magnificent abbey at 
Evesham, in which, by the order of Pope Constantine, 

rule was recommended, was not the Italian, but the Saxon abbot* 
Bennet himself seems to ascribe the discipline which he establish- 
ed, to his own observations. Ex decem quippe et septem monas- 
teriis, quse inter longos meae crebrse peregrinationis discursus op- 
tima comperi, hsec universa didici, et vobis salubriter observandax 
contradidi, (Bed. ibid. p. 297.) 

(25) Anno 675. Malm, de pont. 1. v. p. 344, 353, 356. Ald- 
helm says of St Benedict, 

Primo qui statuit nostrse certamina vitse 
Qualiter optatam teneant ccenobia formam. 

De Laud* v'trg. In Biblioth* Pat. *voL itiii. 
H 3 


he placed Benedictine monks, whose institute was scarce- 
ly known in that province (26). Their example was imi- 
tated by many of their brethren, who, according to their 
fancy or their judgment, adopted in a greater or less pro- 
portion the foreign discipline. The different gradations 
of the monastic hierarchy, as it exists at present, its pro- 
vincials, generals, and congregations, were then un- 
known : and each abbot legislated for his own subjects, 
uncontrouled by the opinion, or the commands of supe- 
riors. But the rule of St Benedict, besides other claims 
to their esteem, contained one regulation, which united 
the suffrages of the whole monastic body. Formerly the 
right of nominating to the vacant abbeys had been vested 
in the bishops of each diocese (27) : but the legislator of 
Subiaco saw, or thought he saw, in this practice, the 
source of the most grievous abuses ; and made it essential 
to his rule, that the superior of each monastery should be 
chosen by the suffrages of its inhabitants (28). This re- 
gulation, so flattering to their independence, was eagerly 
accepted by the monks of every institute, and was op- 
posed with equal warmth by several of the bishops, who 

(26) Quas minus in illis partibus habetur. Bulla Cons, apud 
Wilk. p. 71, an 709. 

(27) Thus St Aldhelm was appointed by the bishop of Win- 
chester, pro jure tune episcoporum. Malm, de reg. 1. i. c. 2, f. 
6. Gale 344. Apost. Ben. p. 20. Wilk. p. 57, 86. 

(28) Ben. reg. c. 64. This, and the other monastic exemptions, 
were successively granted by the pontiffs, to- secure the monks 
from the oppressive conduct of certain bishops. Yet there were 
many, who considered the remedy as more pernicious than the 
disease. See St Bernard, (De consid. 1. iii. c. 4), and Richard, 
archbishop of Canterbury, (Ep. Pet. Blesen. ep. 68} : also Fleurjr, 
(Discours viii. c. is). 


considered it as an infringement of their ancient rights. 
But the episcopal order contained within its bosom the 
avowed protectors of the monastic state ; and the con- 
tested privilege was soon confirmed by the decrees of 
popes, and the charters of princes (29). 
But monasteries were not inhabited exclusively by 
men : the retirement of the cloister appears to have pos- 
sessed peculiar attractions in the eyes of the Saxon ladies. 
The weaker frame, and more volatile disposition of the 
sex, seemed, indeed, less adapted to the rigour of perpe- 
tual confinement, and the ever recurring circle of vigils, 
fasts, and prayers : but the difficulty of the enterprise in- 
creased the ardour of their zeal : they refused to await 
the erection of convents in their native country : crowds 
of females resorted to the foreign establishments of Fare- 
moutier, Chelles, and Andeli ; and the former of these 
houses was successively governed by abbesses of the royal 
race of Hengist (30). But before the close of the seventh 
century, the southern Saxons could boast of several fer- 
vent communities of nuns under the guidance of Eans- 
wide, Mildrede, and Ethelburge, princesses no less illus- 
trious for their piety, than for their birth. In Northum- 
bria, at the same period, the abbess Heiu, the first lady 
among the northern tribes, who put on the monastic veil, 
governed, under the patronage of the bishop Aidan, a 
small and obscure convent at Hereteu, or the isle of the 
hart (31). She was succeeded by Hilda, whose family,, 
virtue, and abilities reflected a brighter lustre on the in* 

(29) Wilk. con. p. 44, 49, 71, 74. Gale, 311, 345, 353.. 

(30) Anno 640. Bed. 1. iii. c. 8. 

(31) Hartlepool, id. 1. iv. c. 23. 

H 4; 


stitute. Hilda was allied to the East- Anglian and North- 
umbrian princes ; her advice was respectfully asked and 
followed by kings .and prelates j and to her care Oswiu 
commended his infant daughter ^Elfleda, with a dower of 
one hundred hides of land (32). Enriched by the dona- 
tions of her friends, she built at Whitby a double monas- 
tery, in one part of which a sisterhood of nuns, in the 
other a confraternity of monks, obeyed her maternal au- 
thority. Among her disciples she established that com- 
munity of goods, which distinguished the first Christians 
at Jerusalem ; and whatever they possessed, was consi- 
dered as the common property of all. Their virtue has 
been attested by the venerable Bede : and no less than 
five of the monks of Whitby were raised to the episcopal 
dignity 5 during the life of their foundress (33). From 
Northumbria the institute was rapidly diffused over the 
kingdom of Mercia. 

The reader will perhaps have been surprised, that a so- 
ciety of men should be subject to the spiritual govern- 
ment of a woman. Yet this scheme of monastic polity, 
singular as it may now appear, was once adopted in most 
Christian countries. Its origin may be ascribed to the se- 
verity, with which the founders of religious orders have 
always prohibited every species of unnecessary intercourse, 
between their female disciples and persons of the other 
sex. To prevent it entirely was impracticable* The 

(32) Oswiu had vowed to consecrate his daughter to the ser- 
vice of God, if he were successful in his war against Penda. Bed. 
1. iii. e. 24. The Terras centum et vig-inti familiarum, are trans- 
lated by Alfred, hunt) rpelprij hma. (JElf. vers. p. 556.) The 
hide contained 120 acres. Hist. Elien. p. 472, 481. 

(33) Bed. 1. iii. c. 24. 1. iv. c. 2:3. 


functions of the sacred ministry had always been the ex- 
clusive privilege of the men : and they alone were able 
to support the fatigues of husbandry, and conduct the ex- 
tensive estates, which many convents had received from 
the piety of their benefactors. But it was conceived that 
the difficulty might be diminished, if it could not be re- 
moved : and with this view, some monastic legislators 
devised the plan of establishing double monasteries. In 
the vicinity of the edifice, destined to receive the virgins 
who had dedicated their chastity to God, was erected a 
building for the residence of a society of monks or ca- 
nons, whose duty it was to officiate at the altar, and su- 
perintend the external economy of the community. The 
mortified and religious life, to which they had bound 
themselves by the most solemn engagements, was sup- 
posed to render them superior to temptation : and to re- 
move even the suspicion of evil, they were strictly for- 
bidden to enter the enclosure of the women, except on 
particular occasions, with the permission of the superior, 
and in the presence of witnesses. But the abbess retain- 
ed the supreme controul over the monks, as well as the 
nuns : their prior depended on her choice, and was bound 
to regulate his conduct by her instructions (34). To St 
Columban this institute was indebted for its propagation 
in France ; and from the houses of his order, which were 
long the favourite resort of the Saxon ladies, it was pro- 

(34) As I am not acquainted with any writer, who has profess- 
edly treated this subject, I have been compelled to glean a few 
hints from the works of the ancient historians. An establishment 
of nearly a similar nature existed at Remiremont, in Lorrain, till 
it was swept away by the torrent of the French revolution. See 
note (D). 


bably introduced into England. During the two first 
centuries after the conversion of our ancestors, the prin- 
cipal nunneries were established on this plan : nor are we 
certain that there existed any others of a different de- 
scription (35). They were held in the highest estima- 
tion : the most distinguished of the Saxon female 
saints, and many of the most eminent prelates, were edu- 
cated in them : and so edifying was the deportment of 
the greatest part of these communities, that the breath of 
slander never presumed to tarnish their character. The 
monastery of Coldingham alone forms an exception. 
The virtue of some among its inhabitants, was more am- 
biguous : and an accidental fire, which was ascribed to the 
vengeance of heaven, confirmed the suspicions of their 
contemporaries, and has transmitted to posterity the 
knowledge of their dishonour (36). The account was 
received with the deepest sorrow by St Cuthbert, the 
pious bishop of Lindisfarne : and in the anguish of his 
zeal, he commanded his disciples to exclude every female 
from the threshold of his cathedral. His will was religi- 
ously obeyed - 9 and for several centuries no woman en- 

(35) That the monasteries of Faremoutier, Chelles, and Andefi, 
were double, appears from Bede, (1. iii. c. 8,) and is proved by 
Broughton, (Mem. p. 343.) Among the Saxons, the principal at 
least were of the same institute: Whitby, (Bed. 1. iv. c. 23, Vit. 
Cuth. c. 24,) Berking, (Id. c, 7,) Coldingham, (Id. c. 25,) Ely, 
(Id. c. 19 ? ) Wenlock, (Bonif. ep. 21, p. 29,) Repandun, (Gale, r>. 
243. Wigor, p. 568,) and Winburn, (Mab. Saec. 3, Vit. St Liob, 
p. 246.) See also Bed. 1. iii. c. xi. and Leland's collectanea, (voh 
iii. p. 117.) At Beverley, a monastery of monks, a college of ca- 
nons, and a convent of nuns, obeyed the same abbot. Mong. Ang* 
vol. i. p. 170. Lei. Coll, vol. iii. p. 100. 

'36) Bed. 1. iv, c. 25. 


tered with impunity any of the churches, in which the 
body of the saint had reposed (37). But notwithstand- 
ing the misfortune at Coldingham, and the disapproba- 
tion of Cuthbert, the institute continued to flourish, till 
the ravages of the pagan Danes levelled with the ground 
the double monasteries, together with every other sacred 
edifice, which existed within the range of their devasta- 
tions (38). 

(37) Sim. Dunel. hist. ecc. Dun. p. 102. For the accommoda- 
tion of the women, a new church was built, and called the green 
kirk. Ibid. A similar regulation was observed in several of the 
monasteries of St Columban, in France. See Butler's SS. lives, 
Sept. 5. Mab. prasf. l, SaeOS, cxxxvii. 

(38) Another order of religious women, whose existence, it 
seems, had long been forgotten, was descried by one of our most 
learned antiquaries. Spelman had observed that the Saxons al- 
ways made a distinction between Nonna and Monialis in Latin, 
and Nunna and Mynekin in their own language : whence he in- 
ferred, that the latter must have been the wives of married clergy- 
men, by whose enemies they had been branded with the name of 
mynekin from minne, a Gothic word of no very decent significa- 
tion, (Spel. con. p. 529. Wilk. con. p. 294.) It were difficult to 
err more egregiously. From the excerpta of Egbert of York we 
learn, that the mynekins were women, " who had consecrated 
" themselves to God, who had vowed their virginity to God, and 
" who were the spouses of Christ." fa Ifo-oe rylpum be J> S^hal- 
jotte. ] hyrta gehar Uo'De jehatan habbaj>. Wilk. p. 134, xi. fa 
Dot>e rylpum bepet>t>o'o bi]> ro bjiyt>e. Ibid. p. 186. fa Dotyey bjiyt> 
bi}> sehacen. Ibid. p. 131, xviii. The truth is, that the myne- 
kins were so called from the Saxon munuc/ because they ob- 
served the rule of the monks, while the nuns observed the rule of 
the canons. This distinction is clearly marked in the Codex con- 
stitutionum in the Bodleian library, in which the mynekins are 
classed with the monks, and ordered to practise the -same duties : 
and the nuns are classed with the priests, and commanded like 


Such were the different religious orders which, as far 
as I can discover, were introduced among the Anglo- 
Saxons. In the distribution of time, the arrangement of 
fasts and prayers, and the subordinate parts of interior 
discipline, they were distinguished from each other: but 
all equally adopted the three engagements, which are 
still considered as essential to the monastic institute : 1, 
an unlimited submission to the lawful commands of their 
superiors, 2, a life of perpetual celibacy, and 3, a volun- 
tary renunciation of private property. 

1. In the language of monastic discipline, the most 
important of the virtues, which are not absolutely im- 
posed on every Christian, is obedience (39). The natu- 
ral perversity of the human will is considered as the 
source of every moral disorder ; and to prevent it from 
seeking forbidden gratifications, it should resign the right 
of deciding for itself, and be taught to submit on all oc- 
casions to the determination of another. He, who as- 
pires to the praise of a true religious, ought, according 
to the patriarch of the western monks, to place at the 
disposal of his superior, all the faculties of his mind, and 
all the powers of his body (40). In the rule which St 
Dunstan promulgated for the observance of the Anglo- 
Saxon monasteries, may be seen the extent to which this 

them to observe chastity, and live according to their rule. 
Rihr \y jj mynecena mynj-reyxhce macian. ejme j'pa pe cpsefcon sejioji 
be munecan. Rihr ij* j5 pjieo^tajr ^ epen pel nunnan jiejolhce lib- 
ban T claeanyrre healt>an. Cod. Jun. 121. 

(39) Tota monachorum vita in simplicitate consistit obedientiae. 
Alcuin. ep. 59. 

(40) Quibus nee corpora sua nee voluntates licet habere in pro- 
pria potentate. Reg. $. Bened. c. 33. 


maxim was carried. It regulates not only the more im- 
portant points, but descends to the minutest particulars ; 
requires the permission of the superior for the most or- 
dinary actions of life j and severely condemns the bro- 
ther, who on any occasion shall presume to deter- 
mine for himself, without having asked and obbtained 
the advice, or rather the command of his abbot (4-1). 
The obedience which is required, must be prompt 
and cheerful j it comprises the decisions of the judg- 
ment no less than the resolves of the will (42) : but it 
admits of one exception. When the commands of the 
superior are contrary to the law of God, the monk is 
exhorted to throw off the shackles of obedience, and 
boldly to hazard the frowns and vengeance of his abbot, 
rather than incur the displeasure of the Almighty (4-3). 

2. To obedience was added the strictest attention to 
chastity. The high commendations with which this 
virtue is mentioned in the inspired writings, had given it 
a distinguished place in the esteem of the first Christians. 
As early as the commencement of the second century, 
we discover numbers of both sexes, who had devoted 
themselves to a life of perpetual celibacy (44) ; and their 

(41) Nullus quippiam quamvis parum sua et quasi propria ad- 
inventione agere praesumat. Apost. Bened. app. par. 3, p. 92. 

(42) Reg. StCoIumb. c. 1. Reg. St Bened. c. 5. Ibid. c. 5, 7. 

(43) Admonendi sunt subditi, ne plus quam expedit, sint sub- 
jecti. St Greg, apud Grat. 2, q. 7, can. 57. 

(44) St Just. Apol. 1, c. 10. Athenag. leg. c. 3. Yet the sa- 
gacity of Mosheim has discovered, that this practice owed its 
origin not to the doctrine of the gospel, but to the influence of the 
climate of Egypt. (Mos. Ssec. ii. p. 2, c. 3, xl. Ssc. in. p. 2, c. 
3.) If this be true, \ve must admire the heroism of its present 


example was eagerly followed by the founders of the 
monastic institute, whose successors, to the present day, 
bind themselves in the most solemn manner to observe 
it with scrupulous exactitude. To the Saxons, in whom, 
during the tide of conquest, the opportunity of gratifi- 
cation had strengthened the impulse of the passions, a 
life of chastity appeared the most arduous effort of hu- 
man virtue : they revered its professors as beings of a 
nature in this respect superior to their own ; and learned 
to esteem a religion, which could elevate man so much 
above the influence of his inclinations. As they became 
acquainted with the maxims of the gospel, their venera- 
tion for this virtue increased : and whoever compares the 
dissolute manners of the pagan Saxons, with the severe 
celibacy of the monastic orders, will be astonished at the 
immense number of male and female recluses, who, with- 
in a century after the arrival of St Augustine, had volun- 
tarily embraced a life of perpetual continency. Nor 
was the pious enthusiasm confined within the walls of 
convents : there were many, who in the midst of courts, 
and in the bonds of marriage, emulated the strictest 
chastity of the cloister. Of these, Edilthryda may be 
cited as a remarkable example. She was the daughter 
of Anna, the king of the East- Angles, and at an early 
period of life, had bound herself by a vow of virginity. 
But her secret wish was opposed by the policy of her 
friends, and she was compelled to marry Tondberct, 
Ealdorman of the Girvii. Her entreaties, however, 
moved the breast of her husband ; and compassion, per- 

inhabitants, who in their harems have subdued the influence of 
the climate, and introduced the difficult practice of polygamy, in 
lieu of the easy virtue of chastity. 


haps religion, prompted him to respect her chastity. At 
his death she retired to a solitary mansion in the unfre- 
quented isle of Ely : but her relations invaded the tran- 
quillity of her retreat, and offered her in marriage to 
Egfrid, the son of the king of Northumbria, a prince 
who had scarcely reached his fourteenth year. Not- 
withstanding her tears, she was delivered to the care of 
his messengers, and conducted a reluctant victim to the 
Northumbrian court. Her constancy, however, triumph- 
ed over his passion : and after preserving her virginity 
during the space of twelve years, amid the pleasures of 
the palace, and the solicitations of her husband, she ob- 
tained his permission to take the veil in the monastery 
of Coldingham (4?5). Absence revived the affection of 
Egfrid : he repented of his consent -, and was preparing 
to take her by force from her convent, when slie escaped 
to her former residence in Ely. Af er a certain period, 
her reputation attracted round her a sisterhood of nuns, 
among whom she spent the remainder of her days in the 
practice of every monastic duty, and distinguished by her 
superior fervour and superior humility (46). 

(45) Notwithstanding the prohibition of Hutchinson, (Hist, and 
Ant. of Durham, p. 17,) I have ventured on the authority of 
Bede,(Hist. 1. iv. c. 19, 25,) to place Edilthryda at Coldingham. 

(46) Ibid. Hist. Eliensis, p. 597. Hume observes, (Hist. c. i, p. 
,31,) that Egfrid died without children, because his wife refused 
to violate her vow of chastity. He should, however, have added, 
that the king, at thetimeof their separation, was only twenty-six 
years of age, that he married a second wife, and that he lived with 
her fourteen years. Egfrid came to the throne in 670, separated 
from Edilthryda in 671, and was killed in battle in 685. Com- 
pare Bede, (1. iv. c. 19, 26.) with the Saxon Chronicle, an. 670, 
73, 679. 


To secure the chastity of their disciples, the legislators 
of the monks had adopted the most effectual precautions, 
which human ingenuity could devise. The necessity of 
mortifying every irregular inclination was inculcated 
both by precept and example. The sobriety of their 
meals, and the meanness of their dress, perpetually re- 
called to their minds, that they had renounced the world 
and its concupiscence, and had dedicated their souls and 
bodies to the service of the Deity. They were command- 
ed to sleep in the same room : and a lamp, which was 
kept burning during the darkness of the night, exposed 
the conduft of each individual to the eye of the superior. 
The gates of the convent were shut against the intrusion 
of strangers : visits of pleasure and even of business were 
forbidden : and the monk, whom the necessities of the 
community forced from his cell, was constantly attended, 
during his absence, by two companions (4<7). To the 
precautions of prudence, were added the motives of reli- 
gion. The praises of chastity were sung by the poets, 
and extolled by the preachers : its votaries were taught 
to consider themselves as the immaculate " spouses of 
" the lamb ," and to them was promised the transcendent 
reward, which the book of the Apocalypse describes as 
reserved for those, " who have not been defiled with 
" women." But where thousands unite in the same 
pursuit, it is impossible that all should be animated with 
the same spirit, or persevere with equal resolution. Of 
these recluses there undoubtedly must have been some, 
whom passion or seduction prompted to violate their so- 
lemn engagement : but the unsullied reputation of an 

(47) Wilk. cone, p. 97, 100. Apost. Bened. app. par. 3, p. 78, 


immense majority contributed to cast a veil over the 
shame of their weaker brethren, and bore an honourable 
testimony to the constancy of their own virtue, and the 
vigilance of their superiors. 

3. A voluntary renunciation of property was the third 
condition, required from the proselyte to the monastic 
state. The saviour of mankind had denounced the se- 
verest woes against the worldly rich : and to his appro- 
bation of a life of poverty was originally owing the esta- 
blishment of monachism. Anthony, a young Egyptian, 
who had lately succeeded to an extensive estate, was 
prompted by curiosity or devotion, to enter a church 
during the celebration of the divine worship. " Go, 
" sell that thou bast, and give to the poor, and thou 
(( shalt have treasure in heaven," were the first words 
which met his ear. He considered them as the voice of 
heaven directed to himself; sold all his property ; distri- 
buted the price to the poor , and retired into the desert 
of Thebais. His reputation soon attracted a considerable 
number of disciples j and the profession of poverty was 
sanctified in their eyes by the conduct of their teacher. 
With the monastic institute this spirit was diffused 
through the western empire : and the same contempt of 
riches, which distinguished the anachorets of Egypt, was 
displayed by the first monks of Britain. Wealth they 
considered as the bane of a religious life : the donations 
of their friends, and the patrimony of their members, 
were equally refused : and the labours of husbandry 
formed their daily occupation, and provided for their 
support (48). The same discipline was anxiously incul- 

(48) Ang, Sac. Tom. ii. p. 645, 646. 



cated by each succeeding legislator. St Benedict inform- 
ed his followers, that u they would then be truly monks, 
" when, like their fathers, they lived by the work of 
" their hands :'[ and St Columban exhorted his disciples 
<( to fix their eyes on the treasure reserved for them in 
" heaven, and to believe it a crime not only to have, 
" but even to desire, more than was absolutely necessary 
upon earth (49.)" 

The ancient discipline was long observed in the east : 
but the western monks gradually departed from its seve- 
rity, and the departure was justified by the prospect of 
greater advantage. The numerous irruptions of the bar- 

(49) Tune vere Monachi simt, si labore manuum vivunt sicut 
patres nostri. St Ben. reg. c. 48. Non solum superflua eos ha- 
bere damnabile est, sed etiam velle. Dum in coelis multum sint 
habituri, parvo extremas necessitatis censu in terris debent esse 
contenti. St Cohim. reg. c. 4. He also composed verses in 
praise of poverty, some of which I shall transcribe, as a specimen 
of his poetic abilities. 

O nimitim felix parcus, cui sufficit usus, 
Corporis ut curam moderamine temperet sequo. 
Non misera capitur caecaque cupidine rerum ; 
Non majora cupit quam quae natura reposcit ; 
Non lucri cupidus nummis marsupia replet ; 
Nee molles cumulat tinearum ad pabula vestee. 
Pascere non pingui procurat fruge cabatios ; 
Nee trepido doluit tales sub pectore curas ; 
Ne subitis pereat collecta pecunia flammis, 
Aut fracta nummos rapiat fur improbus area. 
Vivitur argento sine, jam sine vivitur auro. 
Nudi nascuntur, nudos quos terra receptat. 
Divitibus nigri reserantur limina ditls : 
Pauperibusque piis coelestia regna patescunt. 

Ep, Hunaldo discip, afud Jbfassig/iam t f>. 411. 


barians had in several provinces swept away the principal 
part of the clergy, and the duty of public instruction de- 
volved on the monks, whose good fortune had preserved 
them from the general devastation (50). As to perform 
their new functions with decency and advantage, a cer- 
tain fund of knowledge was necessary, the pursuit of 
learning began to be numbered among the duties of the 
cloister; and the drudgery of manual labour was ex- 
changed for the more honourable and more useful occu- 
pation of study. Monasteries were now endowed with 
extensive estates, adequate to the support of their inha- 
bitants : and their revenues were constantly augmented 
by the liberality of their admirers. Yet the profession 
of poverty was not resigned. By the aid of an ingenious 
though not unfounded distinction, it was discovered, that 
it might still subsist in the bosom of riches ; and that 
each individual might be destitute of property, though 
the wealth of the community was equal to that of its most 
opulent neighbours. Monastic poverty was defined to 
consist in the abdication of private property : whatever 
the convent possessed, was common to all its members i 

(50) The first who admitted the monks to holy orders, was St 
Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, (Sandini Vit. Pont. p. us, 
not. 7). Siricius shortly after decreed that such monks should be 
aggregated to the clergy, as were fitted by their morals and edu- 
cation for the clerical functions. (Quos tamen morum gravitas, 
et vitas ac fidei institutio sancta commendat. Siricii epist. ad 
Himer. Terrac. c. 1 3.) The devastations of the barbarians caused 
them to be more frequently employed in the public ministry : and 
when the propriety of this innovation was questioned in the com- 
mencement of the seventh century, Boniface IV. called a council 
at Rome, and defended the interests of the monks. See the acts 
in Smith's appendix to Bede,p. 717. 

I 2 


no individual could advance a claim in preference to his 
brethren : and every article both of convenience and ne- 
cessity, was received from the hands, and surrendered at 
the command of the abbot (51). These notions the 
Saxon monks received from their instructors. To re- 
fuse the donations of their friends, would have been to 
injure the prosperity of the brotherhood : and each year 
conducted new streams of wealth to the more celebrated 
^monasteries. Many indeed were left to languish in want 
and obscurity, but there were also many, whose superior 
riches excited the nvy of the covetous, and the rapacity 
of the powerful. The extensive domains which Oswiu 
gave to the Abbess Hilda, have been already noticed. 
Egfrid, one of his successors, displayed an equal munifi- 
cence in favour of the Abbot Bennet Biscop (52). When 
the property of the rich abbey of Glastenbury was ascer- 
tained by order of the king of Mercia, it was found to 
comprise no less than eight hundred hides (53) : and in 
the enumeration of the different estates belonging to the 
monks of Ely, are mentioned more than eighty places, 

(51) It appears, however, from many instances in the Saxon 
records, that though the private monks were destitute of proper- 
ty, the abbot, if he were the founder, considered the monastery 
and its dependencies as his own, and disposed of them by his ' 
testament. If the heir was a monk, he became the abbot ; if a 
layman, he received the revenue, and was bound to maintain the 
monks. See Eddius, (Vit. Wilf. c. 60, 61,) Wilkins, (Cone. p. 
84, 144, 172, 175,) Leland, (Collect, vol. i. p. 298,) and the 
charters in the appendix to Smith's edition of Bede, (p. 764.) 

(52) Bed. 1. iii. c. 24. Hist. Abbat. Wirern. p. 294, 295. 

(53) Malm. Antiq. Glast. p. 314, 315. 


situated in the neighbouring counties of Cambridge, Suf- 
folk, Norfolk, Essex, Hereford, and Huntingdon (54). 

The estates of the monks, like those of the clergy, 
were liberated from all secular services : and the hope of 
participating in so valuable a privilege, gave occasion to 
a singular species of fraud, which cast a temporary but 
unmerited stain on the reputation of the order. We 
learn from Bede, that in the reign of Aldfrid, king of 
Northumbria, certain noblemen had expressed- an ardent 
desire to consecrate their property to the service of reli- 
gion. By the influence of friends and presents, the con- 
sent of the sovereign was obtained ; and the ecclesiastical 
privileges were confirmed to them by ample charters, 
subscribed with the signatures of the king, the bishops, 
and the principal thanes (55). But their secret motives 
were betrayed by the sequel of their conduct : and the 
advantages, nt the virtues of the profession, proved to 
be the object of their pursuit. They quitted not the ha- 
bits nor the pleasures of a secular life : but were content 
to assume the title of abbots, and to collect on some part 
of their domain a society of profligate and apostate 
monks. The wife also was proud to copy the example 
of her husband ; and her vanity was flattered with the 
power of legislating for a sisterhood of females, as igno- 
rant and dissipated as herself. The success of the first 
adventurers stimulated the industry of others. Each suc- 
ceeding favourite was careful to procure a similar charter 
for his family : and so universal was the abuse, that the 
venerable Bede ventured to express a doubt, whether in 

(54) Hist. Elien. p. 510. For the motives of these donations, 
see the preceding chapter, p. 1 1 7. 

(55 Anno 704. 

I 3 


v, few years there would remain a soldier to draw the 
sword against an invading enemy (56). That respectable 
priest, in the close of his ecclesiastical history dedicated 
to king Ceolwulf, hints in respectful terms his opinion of 
these nominal monks , but in his letter to Archbishop 
Egbert, he assumes a bolder tone, and in the language of 
zeal and detestation, insists on the necessity of putting a 
speedy period to so infamous a practice (57). But the 
secular abbots were numerous and powerful, and existed 
in the other kingdoms no less than in that of Northum- 
bria. It was in vain that Bede denounced them to his 
metropolitan, and that the synod of Cloveshoe attributed 
their origin to avarice and tyranny (58) : they survived 
the censures of the monk, and the condemnation of the 
synod ; their monasteries were inherited by their descen- 
dants ; and for their extirpation the Saxon church was in- 
debted to the devastions of the pagan Danes in the suc- 
ceeding century (59). 

(56) Decet prospicere ne, raresccnte copla militiae secularis, 
absint qui fines nostros a barbarica incursione tueantur ..... 
omnino deest locus, ubi filii nobilium aut cmeritorum militum 
possessionem accipere possint. Bed. ep. ad Egb. p. 309. 

(57) Bed. hist. 1. v. c. 24. Ep. ad Egb. Ant. p. 309, 312. 
(38-) Wilkins p. 95. 

(59) Most of the modern writers, who attempt to describe the 
Saxon monks, are careful to consult the invective of Bede against 
the secular monasteries. But unfortunately, they are unable 
to distinguish the real from the pretended monks ; and scru- 
pulously ascribe to the former every vice with which be re- 
proaches the latter. (See Inett, Orig. Sax. vol. i. p. I-JT. 
Biog. Britan. art. Bede. Henry hist. vol. iii. p. 239.) Inctt has 
even discovered, from Bede's letter to Archbishop Egbert, that 
on account of the general depravity of the monks, those 

It is against the wealth and immunities of the monks,, 
that their enemies have directed the fiercest of their at- 
tacks. Wit and malignity have combined to expose the 
riches which sprung from the profession of poverty, and 
the distinctions which rewarded the vow of obedience. 
From the discipline ef the cloister, its votaries are sup- 
posed to have acquired the science of fraud and super- 
stition ; the art of assuming the garb of sanctity, to 
amuse the credulity of the people, and of prostituting 
to private advantage the most sacred institutions. In in- 
vestigating the manners of a class of men, who lived in 
a remote period, it is always difficult to restrain the ex- 
cursions of the fancy : but if passion be permitted to 
guide the enquiry, possible are frequently substituted 
for real occurrences ; and what might have been the 
guilt of a few individuals, is confidently ascribed to the 
whole body. If, in the theology of the monks, to pa- 
tronise the order was esteemed the first of virtues," if 
they taught that " the foundation of a monastery was the 
" secure road to heaven, and that a bountiful donation 
" would, without repentance, efface the guilt of the. 

were desirous to have their children educated virtuously^ were 
obliged to send them abroad, (Inett, ibid.) After a diligent peru- 
sal of the same letter, I may venture to assert, that it does not 
contain the most remote allusion to such a circumstance. In 
reality, the true monasteries were at this period filled with men 
of the strictest virtue : and Bede's complaints were directed only 
against the noblemen, who made themselves abbots, in order to 
obtain the monastic privileges, and against their followers, who, 
without practising the duties,, assumed the name and the dreas. 
of the monks* 


" most deadly sins" (60), they were undoubtedly the cor- 
f upters of morality, and the enemies of mankind. But 
of these doclrines no vestige remains in their writings, 
and we have yet to learn from what source their modern 
adversaries derive the important information. If they 
had consulted the venerable Bede, he would have taught 
them, that " no offering, though made to a monastery, 
could be pleasing to the Almighty, if it proceeded from 
" an impure conscience" (61); from the council of Cal- 
cuith, they might have learnt, that " repentance was then 
" only of avail, when it impelled the sinner to lament his 
" past offences, and restrained him from committing 
" them again" (62); and in the acts of the synod of 
Cloveshoe they might have seen, how repugnant such in- 
terested morality was to the genuine doctrine of the 
Saxon church. " The man," say the prelates, " who in- 
dulges his passions, in the confidence that his charities 
<e will procure his salvation, instead of making an accep- 
table offering to God, throws himself into the arms of 
" Satan" (63). Alms, indeed, were enumerated by the 
monks among the most efficacious means of disarming 
the justice of the Almighty : and in this opinion they 

(60) Hume, hist. p. 42, 77. Sturges, reflect, on popery, p. 
31. Hen. vol. iv. p. 299. 

(61) Bed. ep. ad Egb. p. si 2. 

(62) Admissa deflere, et fleta in postmodum non admittere. 
Wilk. con. p. 181. 

(63) Sua Deo dare videntur, (sed) seipsos diabolo per flagitia 
dare non dubitantur. Id. p. 98, xxvi. Cloveshoe was probably 
Abingdon, (Stevens's Translation of Bed. p. 292, not.) It VMS 
originally called Seusham, or Seukesham, (Lei. Itine'r. vol. ii. p. 
42, ix. p. 33.) 


were supported by the clearest testimonies of the inspir- 
ed \vritings (64?). But they did not point out their own 
body as the sole, or the principal object of charity. To 
the penitent, who was anxious to make his peace with 
heaven, they proposed works of public utility. They 
exhorted him to repair the roads and erect bridges , to 
purchase the freedom of slaves ; to exercise the duties of 
hospitality ; and to clothe and support the distressed pea- 
sants, whom the broils of their petty tyrants often re- 
duced to the lowest state of wretchedness (65). If, 
among these different objects, frequent donations were 
made to the religious houses, the impartial reader will 
consider them as proofs rather of their merit than their 
avarice. For men, however vicious they may be, are 
seldom blind to the vices of their teachers. The malig- 
nity of the human heart is gratified with discovering the 
defects of those, who claim the reputation of superior 
virtue. Had the monks been, as they are so frequently 
described, an indolent, avaricious, and luxurious race, 
they would never have commanded the confidence, nor 
have been enriched by the benefactions of their country- 
men. , 

It is at the commencement of religious societies, that 
their fervour is generally the most active. The Anglo- 
Saxon monks of the seventh century, were men, who 
had abandoned the world through the purest motives ; 
and whose great solicitude was to practise the duties of 
their profession. They had embraced a life, in appear- 
ance at least, irksome and uninviting. Their devotions 
were long , their fasts frequent ; their diet coarse and 

(64) Dan. iv. 24. Matt. xxiv. 35. Luc. xi. 14. 

(65) Wilk. p. 140. 236. 


scanty. For more than a century wine and beer were> 
in the monastery of Lindisfarne, excluded from the 
beverage of the monks ; and the first mitigation of this 
severity was introduced in favour of Ceolwulf, a royal 
novice (66). The discipline, which St Boniface pre- 
scribed to his disciples at Fulda, he had learnt in Eng- 
land ; and from it we may infer, that the Saxon Bene- 
dictines, whose institute was less austere than that of the 
Scottish coenobites, were men of the strictest abstinence. 
They refrained from the use of flesh, wine, and beer, 
refused the assistance of slaves, and with their own 
hands cultivated the deserts which surrounded them (67). 
The voluntary professors of a life so severe and mortifi- 
ed, ought certainly to be acquitted of the more sordid 
vices ; and if they consented to accept the donations of 
their friends, we may safely ascribe that acceptance to 
lawful and honourable motives. The truth of this obser- 
vation will be exemplified in the conduct of the first al> 
bots of Weremouth. They were descended from the 
noblest families in Northumbria ; and their monastery 
was endowed with the most ample revenues. Yet they 
despised the vain distinctions of rank and wealth ; asso- 
ciated with their monks in the duties of the cloister, 
and the labours of husbandry , and in their diet, their 
dress, and their accommodations, descended to a level 
with the lowest of their disciples. Their riches were 
not devoted to the encouragement of idleness, or the 

(66) Hoved. anno 742. 

(67) Viros strictae abstinentias ; absque carne et vino, absque 
sicera et servis, proprio manuum suarum labore contentos. Ep. 
Bonif. p. 211. In these points they seem to have improved OH 
the original rule of St Benedict. See note (E>. 


gratification of sensuality : but by their liberality, foreign 
artists were invited to instruct the ignorance of their 
countrymen; paintings and statues were purchased for 
the decoration of their churches ; and their library was 
enriched with the choicest volumes of profane and sa- 
cred literature. The last care of Bennet, their founder, 
was directed to these objects. He had a brother, whose 
avarice would have grasped at the government, and whose 
prodigality would have quickly exhausted the treasury of 
the abbey. Him he conjured the monks to banish from 
their thoughts ; to permit neither authority nor affection 
to influence their suffrages 5 and to elect for his successor 
the worthiest, though he might be the youngest and most 
ignoble brother in the monastery (68). 

The conduct of the abbots of Weremouth, was the 
conduct of almost all the superiors of religious societies 
at this period. To erect edifices worthy of the God 
whom they adored, to imitate thexsolemnity of the Ro- 
man worship, and to arrest by external splendour the at- 
tention of their untutored brethren, were the principal 
objects of their ambition : and in the prosecution of these 
objects, they necessarily accelerated the progress of civil 
as well, as religious improvement. 1 . The architecture of 
the Saxons, at the time of their conversion, was rude and 
barbarous. They lived amid ruins, which attested the 
taste of a more civilised people : but their ignorance be- 
held them with indifference, and their indolence was 
satisfied with the wretched hovels of their ancestors. 
The first impulse was communicated by the missionaries, 
who constructed churches for the accommodation of their 

(68) Bede, Vitas Abbatum Wirem. passim. Homilia in natal. 
Divi. Benedict!, op. torn. vii. col. 464. 


converts. Those built by the Scots were of oaken 
planks, those by the Romans, of unwrought stone. Both 
were covered with reeds or straw. But when the Saxons, 
in their visits to the tombs of the apostles, had seen the 
public buildings of other countries, they blushed at the 
inferiority of their own, and resolved to imitate, what 
they had learnt to admire. The considerations of labour 
and expense were despised , and every art, which that 
age connected with the practice of architecture, was in- 
troduced or improved. Walls of polished masonry suc- 
ceeded to the rough erections of their ancestors ; the 
roofs of their churches were protected with sheets of 
lead ; lofty towers added to the size and appearance of 
the building : and, to the astonishment of the untravelled 
multitude, windows of glass admitted the light, at the 
same time that they excluded the wind and rain (69). 
The names of those, to whom the more southern nations 
were indebted for these improvements, are unknown 
(70) : but in the north, the labours of St Bennet and St 
Wilfrid have been gratefully recorded by contemporary 
historians. . The neighbouring churches of Weremouth 
and Jarrow established the reputation of the former, and 
were long the admiration of his countrymen (71). The 
efforts of the latter were more numerous, and more wide- 
ly diffused. His first attempt was to repair and beautify 
the cathedral church of York, which had been originally 

(69) Edd. Vit. Wilf. c. 14. 

(70) St Aldhelm was probably active in this pursuit. Malmes- 
bury tells us, that one of the churches built by him was superior 
to any other in England. Gale, p. 349, 

(71) Bede, p. 295. 


built by Edwin of Northumbria; and now, after the 
short interval of forty years, was rapidly hastening to 
decay. By his instructions the walls were strengthened, 
the timber of the roof was renewed, and a covering of 
lead opposed to the violence of the weather. From the 
windows he removed the lattices of wood, and curtains 
of linen, the rude contrivances of an unskilful age ; and 
substituted in their place the more elegant and useful in- 
vention of glass. The interior of the church he cleansed 
from its impurities, and washed the walls with lime, till 
they became, according to the expression of his biogra- 
pher, whiter than the snow (72). His success at York 
was a fresh stimulus to his industry, and at Rippon he 
raised a new church, which was built from the founda- 
tions according to his design. We are told that the ma- 
sonary was nicely polished, that rows of columns support- 
ed the roof, and that porticoes adorned each of the prin- 
cipal entrances (73). The monastery at Hexham was the 
last and the most admired of his works. The height and 
length of the walls, the beautiful polish of the stones, 
the number of the columns and porticoes, and the spiral 
windings, which led to the top of each tower,*have exer- 
cised the descriptive powers of Eddius, who, after two 
journeys to the apostolic see, boldly pronounced that 
there existed not, on this side of the Alps, a church to be 
compared with that of Hexham (74). It is, indeed, pro- 
bable that these buildings, which once excited raptures 

(72) Super nivem dealbavit. Edd. Vit. Wilf. c. 16. See also 
Malm. de. Pont. 1. iii. 

(73) Edd.c. 17. 

(74) Id. c. 22. 

in the breasts of their beholders, would, at the present 
day, displease by the absence of symmetry and taste. 
But we should recollect, that they were the first essays 
of a people emerging from barbarism, the rudiments of 
an art, which has been perfected by the labours of suc- 
ceeding generations. The men, by whose genius, and 
under whose patronage they were constructed, were the 
benefactors of mankind, and might justly claim the gra- 
titude not only of their contemporaries, but also of their 
posterity (75.) 

2. The interior of these edifices exhibited an equal 
spirit of improvement, and a superior display of magnifi- 
cence. Of the spoils which their barbarous ancestors 
had xvrested from a more polished people, a considerable 
portion was now dedicated to the service of the Deity , 
and the plate and jewels, which their piety poured into the 
treasuries of the principal churches, are represented of 
such immense value, that it is with reluctance we assent 
to the testimony of contemporary and faithful historians. 
From them we learn that, on the more solemn festivals, 
every vessel employed in the sacred ministry was of gold 
or silver; that the altars sparkled with jewels and orna- 
ments of the precious metals ; that the vestments of the 
priest and his assistants were made of silk, embroidered 
in the most gorgeous manner ; and that the walls were 
hung with foreign paintings, and the richest tapestries 
(76). In the church of York stood two altars, entirely 
covered with plates of gold and silver. One of them was 

(75) See note F. 

(76) Bed. p. 295, 297, 299, 300. Edd. Vit. Wilf. c. 17. Ale. 
de pont. V. 1224, 1266, 1488. 


also ornamented with a profusion of gems, and supported 
a lofty crucifix of equal value. Above were suspended 
three ranges of lamps, in a pharus of the largest dimen- 
sions (77). Even the books employed in the offices of 
religion were decorated with similar magnificence. St 
Wilfrid ordered the four gospels to be written with let- 
ters of gold, on a purple ground, and presented them to 
the church of Rippon in a casket of gold, in which were 
enchased a number of precious stones (78). Of these 
ornaments some had been purchased from foreign coun- 
tries ; many were executed by the industry of native ar- 
tists. In their convents the nuns were employed in the 
elegant works of embroidery : in the monasteries the 
monks practised the different mechanical arts. The 
ironsmith, the joiner, and the goldsmith, were raised by 
their utility, to a high degree of consequence among their 
brethren ; their professions were ennobled by the abbots 
and bishops, who occasionally exercised them ; and these 
distinctions contributed to excite emulation, and accele- 
rate improvement (79). 

(77) Ale. ibid. v. 1488. The pharus was a contrivance for sus- 
pending lights in the church. Georgi, de liturg. Rom. pont. vol. 
i. p. Ixxix. 

(78) Edd. c. 17. Bed. 1. v. c. 19. If the reader wish to see 
other accounts of the magnificent furniture of their churches, he 
may consult the Monasticon, vol. i. p. 40, 104, 165, 222. 

(79) Bede, p. 296. St Dunstan worked in all the metals, (Ang. 
Sac. vol. ii. p. 94:) he made organs, (Gale, p. 324,) and bells, 
(Monast. vol. i. p. 104.) St Ethelwold practised the same trades 
as his instructor. Ibid. By a law published in the reign of Ed- 
gar, but probably transcribed from a more ancient regulation, 
every priest was commanded " to learn some handicraft, in order 
** to increase knowledge, to eacan bejie." Wilk. p. 225. 

3. While the mechanic trades thus flourished under 
the patronage of the richer ecclesiastics, the more im- 
portant profession of agriculture acquired a due share o 
their attention. The estates of the lay proprietors were 
cultivated by the compulsory labours of their theowas or 
slaves : but in every monastery numbers of the brother- 
hood were devoted to the occupation of husbandry ; and 
the superior cultivation of their farms quickly demon- 
strated the difference between the industry of those, who 
worked through motives of duty, and of those whose on- 
ly object was to escape the lash of the surveyor (SO). Of 
the lands bestowed on the monks, a considerable portion 
was originally wild and uncultivated, surrounded by 
marshes, or covered with forests. They preferred such 
situations for the advantage of retirement and contempla- 
tion j and as they were of less value, they were more 
freely bestowed by their benefactors (81). But every 
obstacle of nature and soil was subdued by the unwearied 
industry of the monks. The forests were cleared, the 
waters drained, roads opened, bridges erected, and the 
waste lands reclaimed. Plentiful harvests waved on the 
coast of Northumbria, and luxuriant meadows started 
from the fens of the Girvii (82). The superior cultiva- 

(80) From the Domesday survey, Mr Turner observes, that 
the church lands were in a higher state' of cultivation than those of 
any other order of society. Vol. iv. J>. 205. 

(81) Bede, p. 128, 144, 156, 164. Several monasteries took 
their names from their situation, as Atbearwe, in the forest, (Bed. 
p. 144) ; Ondyrawuda, in the wood of the Deiri, (Bed. p. 183) ; 
Croyland, boggy land, (Ing. p. i.) ; Thorney, the island of 
thorns, (Hug. Cand. p. 3) ; Jarrow or Gyrvum, a fen, (Id. p. 2.) 

(82) The coast of Northumbria was cultivated by the monks of 

tion of several counties in England, is originally owing 
to the labours of the monks, who, at this early period, 
were the parents of agriculture as well as of the arts. 

If the monastic bodies thus acquired opulence for 
themselves, they were not insensible to the wants of the 
unfortunate. The constant exercise of charity and hos- 
pitality had been indispensibly enjoined by all their legis- 
lators. Within the precincts of each monastery stood 
an edifice, distinguished by the Greek name of Xenodo- 
chium, in which a certain number of paupers received 
their daily support, and which was gratuitously opened 
to every traveller, who solicited relief. The monks 
were divided into classes, of which each in rotation suc- 
ceeded to the service of the hospital. The abbot alone 
was exempted. To confine his attendance to particular 
days was repugnant to his other and more important oc- 
cupations : but he was exhorted frequently to join his 
brethren, in the performance of this humble and edifying 
duty. To the assistant monks it was recommended to 

Coldingham, Lindisfarne, Bambrough, Tinmouth, Jarrow, Were- 
mouth, Hartlepool, and Whitby : the marshes of the Girvii were 
drained and improved by the monks of Croyland, Thorney, Ely, 
Ramsey, and Medhamsted. This fenny region, the theatre of mo- 
nastic industry, extended the space of 68 miles, from the borders 
of Suffolk to Wainfleet in Lincolnshire, (Camden's Cambridge- 
shire.) After the lapse of so many centuries, there is reason to 
fear, that a very considerable part of it will be again lost to culti- 
vation, by repeated inundations. In the years 1795, 1799, and 
1800, about 140,000 acres were under water. " Two or three 
" more floods," says Mr Young, " will complete the ruin : and 
" 300,000 acres of the richest land in Great Britain will revert to 
" their ancient proprietors, the frogs, the coots, and the wild 
** ducks of the region. 5 ' Annals of Agriculture, 1804. 


shut their ears to the suggestions of pride and indolence ; 
to revere the saviour of mankind in the persons of the 
poor, and to recollect that every good office rendered to 
them, he would reward as done to himself (83). Seve- 
rity and impatience were strictly forbidden : they were 
to speak with kindness, and to serve witl. cheerfulness : 
to instruct the ignorance, console the sorrows, and alle- 
viate the pains, of their guests : to attach the highest im- 
portance to their employment ; and to prefer the service 
of the indigent brethren of Christ, before that of the 
wealthy children of the world (84-). The legislator, who 
framed these regulations, must have been inspired by 
the true spirit of the gospel ; to execute them with fide- 
lity, required men actuated by motives superior to those 
of mercenary attendants ; and humanity will gratefully 
cherish the memory of these asylums, erected for the 
support of indigence and misfortune (85). 

But it was in the time of public distress, that the cha- 
rity of the monks was displayed in all its lustre. In 

(83) St Matt. c. xxv. v. 40. 

(84) Nee pauperibus aeterni Christi vicarius tardus ac tepidus 
ministrare differendo desistat, quicelerac fervidus divitibus cadu- 
cis ministrando occurrere desiderat. Apost. Bened. app. par. 3, 
p. 92. 

(85) When the humanity of Louis XVI. induced him to im- 
prove the state of the public hospitals in France, a member of the 
academy of sciences was sent to inquire into the manner in which 
similar establishments were conducted in this country. At his 
return he gave to the English hospitals that praise which they so 
justly merit : but observed, that to render them perfect, two things 
were wanting, the zeal of the French curates, and the charity of the 
hospital nuns. " Mais il y manque deux choses, nos cures et nos 
hospitalieres." Bergier, Art. Hopitaux. 


their mutual wars the Saxon princes ravaged each others 
territories without mercy ; and, after the establishment 
of the monarchy, the devastations of the Danes frequent- 
ly reduced the natives to the extremity of want. Agri- 
culture was yet, except among the monastic bodies, in its 
infancy. The most plentiful years could scarcely supply 
the general consumption, and as often as an unfavourable 
season stinted the growth, or a hostile invasion swept 
away the produce of the harvest, famine, with its inse- 
parable attendant pestilence, was the necessary result. 
On such occasions the monks were eager to relieve the 
wants of their countrymen ; and whoever is conversant 
with their writers, must have remarked the satisfaction, 
with which they recount the charitable exertions of their 
most celebrated abbots. Among these, a distinguished 
place is due to Leofric, the tenth abbot of St Albans (86). 
To erect a church, which in magnificence might equal 
the dignity of the abbey, had been the favourite project 
of his two immediate predecessors. The ruins of the an- 
cient Verulam had been explored , the necessary mate- 
rials had been prepared ; the treasury was filled with 
the donations of their friends 5 and a profusion of gold 
and silver vases proved the extent of their resources. 
Leofric, in the vigour of manhood, succeeded to their 
riches and their projects : and his hopes were gratified 
with the prospect of erecting an edifice, which would 
transmit his name with honour to posterity. But the 
public calamity soon dissipated the flattering illusion. 
The horrors of famine depopulated the country, and his 
heart melted at the distress of his brethren. He cheer- 

(86) An. 1000. 



fully resolved to sacrifice the object of his ambition; -the 
granaries of the monastery were opened to the sufferers; 
the riches of the treasury were expended for their relief ; 
the plate reserved for his table was melted down ; and, 
as a last resource, he ventured to sell the precious orna- 
ments destined for the use and decoration of the church 
(87). Of his monks there were several, who murmured 
at the liberality of their abbot ; but they were careful to 
conceal their avarice beneath the mask of piety. What- 
ever had been once consecrated to the service of -God, 
could not, they observed, without impiety, be alienated 
to profane purposes. Leofric meekly, but truly replied, 
that the living were to be preferred to the inanimate 
temples of God : and that to support the former was a 
work of superior obligation to the decoration of the lat- 
ter. His conduct was applauded : and his opponents 
were condemned to silence by the voice of the public (88). 
In the same rank with Leofric, we may place Godric, 
the abbot of .Croyland. His monastery, situated in the 
midst of deep and extensive marshes, offered a secure 
asylum to the crowds that fled .from the exterminating 
swords of the Danes. Though his treasury had been 
lately pillaged by the officers of the crown ; though 
Swein, the chieftain of the barbarians, threatened him 
with his resentment ; Godric listened not to the sug- 
gestions of terror or of prudence, but received the fugi- 
tives with open arms, consoled them in their losses, and 
associated them to his own fortunes. During several 
months Croyland swarmed with strangers, who were ac- 

(87) Some jewels and cameos were excepted, for which he could 
find no purchaser. Mat, Paris, p. 995. 

(88) Ibid. 


commodated and supported at his expence. The cloisters 
and the choir were reserved for his own monks, and those 
of the neighbouring monasteries: the fugitive clergy 
chose for their residence the body of the church : the 
men were lodged in the other apartments of the abbey ; 
and the women and children were placed fn temporary 
buildings creeled in the cemetery But the most vigilant 
economy was soon compelled to sink under the accumu- 
lated expenses. The anxiety of the benevolent abbot 
was daily increased by the suspicions of Ethelred, and the 
menaces of Swein ; and in his anguish he was heard to 
envy the fate of those whom he had followed to the 
grave. A last expedient remained, to solicit the friend- 
ship of Norman, a powerful retainer of Duke Edric ; and 
the grant of a valuable manor for the term of one hun- 
dred years, secured the protection of that nobleman. 
While he lived, Croyland enjoyed tranquillity ; but the 
estate was unjustly retained by his descendants, and never 
recovered by the abbey (89). 

(89) Ingulf, f. 507. An. 1010. See note (G). 




Government of the Anglo-Saxon church epifcopal fynods nation- 
al councils Jupremapy of the popes they ejlablijh metropolitan 
fees confirm the election of the archltfhops reform abufes 
and receive appeals. 

THE origin and nature of ecclesiastical government 
have, in modern ages, been the subjefls of numerous and 
discordant theories. But in the sixth and seventh cen- 
turies, when the Anglo-Saxons embraced the docTrine of 
the gospel, the churches of the east and west obeyed one 
common constitution ; and, in every Christian country, a 
regular gradation of honour and authority cemented to- 
gether the great body of the clergy, from the lowest 
clerk to the pontiff who sat in the chair of St Peter. To 
reject, or to improve this plan of government, were pro- 
jects, which never engaged the attention of our ancestors. 
The ignorance of the converts reposed with confidence 
on the knowledge of the missionaries : and the know- 
ledge of the missionaries taught them to revere as sa- 
cred those institutions, which had been sanctioned by 
the approbation of antiquity. Hence the ecclesiastical 
polity of the Anglo Saxons, as soon as circumstances 
permitted it to assume a consistent form, appeared to 
have been cast in the same mould as that of the other 
Christian nations. I. The concerns of each diocese were 
regulated by the bishop in his annual synods : II. a more 
extensive power of legislation was exercised by the pro- 
vincial and national councils ; III. and these, in their 
turn, acknowledged the superior controul of the Roman 


I. The Anglo-Saxon bishops, in their respective dio- 
ceses, exercised the episcopal jurisdiction according to- 
the direction of the canons : and few instances are pre- 
served in history, of either clerk or layman, who dared to 
refuse obedience to their legitimate authority. Twice 
in the year, on the calends of May and November, they 
summoned their clergy to meet them in the episcopal 
synod. Every priest, whether secular or regular, to 
whose administration a portion of the diocese had been 
intrusted, was commanded to attend: and his disobedience 
was punished by a pecuniary fine, or by suspension from 
his functions during a determinate period (1). As the 
subjects of their future discussion involved the interests 
of religion, and the welfare of the clergy, each member 
was exhorted to implore by his prayers, and deserve by 
his conduct the assistance of the holy spirit With this 
view, they were commanded to meet together, and travel 
in company to the episcopal residence v to be attended 
by the most discreet of their clerks ; and carefully to ex- . 
elude from their retinue every person of a light or dise- 
difying deportment (2). Three days were allotted for 
the duration of the synod ; and on each day, the general 
fast was only terminated by the conclusion of the session. 
At the appointed hour, they entered the church in order 
and silence ; the priests were ranged according to their 
seniority ; below them sat the principal among the dea- 
cons ; and behind was placed a select number of lay- 
men, distinguished by their superior piety and wisdom* 
The bishop opened the synod with an appropriate speech^ 

(1) Wilk. con. vol. i. p. 220, xliv. vol. iv. p. 784.. 

(2) Id. vol. i. p. 225, iv. 266, iv. 

K 4 


m which he promulgated the decrees of the last national 
council (3) ; explained the regulations which he deemed 
expedient for the reformation of his diocese ; and ex- 
horted the members to receive with reverence the man- 
dates of their father and instructor. He did not, how- 
ever, prohibit the freedom of debate (4). Each indivi- 
dual was requested to speak his sentiments without re- 
straint ; to offer the objections or amendments which his 
prudence and experience might suggest ; to expose the 
difficulties, against which he had to struggle in the go- 
vernment of his parish ; and to denounce the names and 
crimes of the public sinners, whose contumacy refused to 
yield to the zeal of their pastor, and defied the censures 
of the church (-'?). 

It had been the wish of St Paul, that his converts 
should prefer, for the decision of their disputes, the as- 
sembly of the saints to the tribunal of a pagan magistrate : 
the ancient fathers, the inheritors of his spirit, had com- 
manded, that the controversies of the clergy should be 
withdrawn from the cognizance of the secular judges, 
and committed to the wisdom and authority of their ec- 

(3) Id. p. 98, xxv. Of the discourses spoken by the bishops on 
these occasions, two are still preserved ; one of which is supposed 
to have been composed by JElfric, the author of the Saxon homi- 
lies, the other by JElfric, afterwards archbishop of York, (Wilk. 
Leg. Sax. p. 153, 161.) Wilkins imagines they were collected 
from the rule of St Benedict : but a diligent comparison will shew, 
that they were formed after the admonitio synodalis of the Roman 
pontifical, which has been accurately published by Georgi. DC- 
liturg. Rom. Pont. vol. iii. p. 425. 

(4) Wilk. vol. iv. p. 785. 

(5) Id. vol. i. p. 225, v. vi. 



clesiastical superiors (6). The synod, as soon as the plan 
of reform had been adjusted, resolved itself into a court of 
judicature , every clerk, who conceived himself aggriev- 
ed by any of his brethren, was admitted to prefer his 
complaint, and justice was administered according to the 
decisions of the canons, and the notions of natural equity. 
But the testimony and recriminations of the contending 
parties might have scandalized their weaker brethren; 
and, during these trials, every stranger was prudently ex- 
cluded from the debates. On their re-admission, they 
were publicly invited to accuse, before the assembly of 
his peers, the clergyman who had notoriously neglected 
the duties of his profession, or dared to violate the rights 
of his fellow citizens : and, if a prosecutor 'appeared, the 
parties were heard with patience, and judgment was pro- 
nounced. The business of the meeting was then termi- 
nated : the bishop arose, made a short exhortation, gave 
his benediction, and dissolved the assembly (7). 

II. The many and important advantages, which must 
have arisen from synods thus organized and conducted, 
were felt, and duly appreciated by the Anglo-Saxon pre- 
lates : but the superior dignity and superior authority of 
the national councils have chiefly claimed the notice, and 
exercised the diligence of historians. The right of con- 
voking these assemblies was v ested in the archbishop of 
Canterbury ; but in the exercise of this privilege he was 
directed, not only by the dictates of his own prudence, 
but sometimes by the commands of the pope, more fre- 
quently by the decrees of the preceding council (8). At 

(6) Id. vol. iv. p. 785, 786. 

(7) Ibid. 

(8) After York became an archbishopric, each of the nietropo. 


his summons the bishops repaired to the- appointed place, 
accompanied by the abbots, and the principal ecclesiastics 
of their dioceses ; who, though they pretended to no ju- 
dicial authority, assisted at the deliberations, and sub- 
scribed to the decrees (9). Of these assemblies the great 
objects were, to watch over the purity of faith, and the 
severity of discipline ; to point out to the prelates and 
the parochial clergy the duties of their respective sta- 
tions ; to reform the abuses, which the weakness of hu- 
man nature insensibly introduces into the most edifying 
communities j and to regulate whatever concerned the 
propriety and splendour of the public worship. The se- 
lection of the subjects of discussion appears to have been 
intrusted to the wisdom of the metropolitan, who com- 
posed a competent number of canons, and submitted 
them to the judgment of his brethren (10). Their ap* 

litans convoked, on certain occasions, the bishops of their respec- 
tive provinces. 

(9) See Wilkins, con. p. 51, 94, 167, 169. Respecting the coun- 
cil of Calcuith, Henry informs us, (and he affects to consider the 
information as highly important, Hen. vol. iii. p. 241,) that in the 
preamble to the canons, it is said to have been *' called in the 
" name, and by the authority of Jesus Christ, the supreme head 
" of the church.'* Were the assertion true I know not what in- 
ference he could justly deduce from it : but unfortunately it is one 
of the pious frauds, into which his zeal sometimes betrayed him. 
The passage is not to be found in any edition of the acts of the 
council. See Spelman, (p. 327), and Wilkins, (p. 169.) 

(10) Among the constitutions of the Anglo-Saxon metropolitans, 
is preserved a code of laws, which St Odo appears to have selected 
from the canons of preceding synods, (Wilk. p. 212.) It has been 
particularly noticed by Henry, as characteristic of the haughty 
spirit which he is pleased to ascribe to that prelate, (Hen. hist. 
vol. iii, p. 264.) But from what lexicographer had the historian 


probation imparted to them the sanction of laws, which 
bound the whole Saxon church, and were enforced with 
the accustomed threat of excommunication against the 
transgressors. But it was soon discovered, that the dread 
of spiritual punishment operates most powerfully on 
those, who from previous habits of virtue are less dispos- 
ed to rebel ; and that it is necessary, among men of 
strong passions and untutored minds, to oppose to the 
impulse of present desire, the restraint of present and 
sensible chastisement. With this view the bishops fre- 
quently solicited and obtained the aid of the civil power. 
Whenever the witena-gemot, the council of the sages, 
was assembled, they were careful to improve the favour- 
able opportunity ; to call the public attention to the more 
flagrant violations of ecclesiastical discipline ; and to de- 
mand, that future transgressors might be amenable to the 
secular tribunals. To the success of these applications 
the statutes of the Saxon councils bear ample testimony 
(11). So early as the reign of Ethelbert, the laws of 
Kent had guarded the property of the church with the 
heaviest penalties (12); and the zeal of his grandson 
Earconbert prompted him to enforce with similar severi- 
ty the observance of the canonical fast of Lent (13). 
Persuaded of the necessity of baptism by the instructions 

learnt that, ammonemus regem et principes, means, " I command 
" the king and the princes !" It is a singular fact that Henry's 
short version of ten lines is disgraced by four blunders, each of 
which is calcuated to enforce the charge of arrogance against the 

(11) Wilk. con. p. 56, 58, 60. Leges Sax. passim. 

(12) Wilk. con. p. 29. An. 605. 

(13) Bed. 1. iii. c. 8. An. 640. 


of his teachers, the legislator of Wessex placed the new 
born infant under the protection of the law, and by the 
fear of punishment stimulated the diligence of the parents. 
The delay of a month subjected them to the penalty of 
thirty shillings : and if, after that period, the child died 
without having received the sacred rite, nothing less than 
the forfeiture of their property could expiate the offence 
(14). To relapse into the errors of paganism, provoked 
a still more rigorous punishment. The sincerity of the 
convert was watched with a suspicious eye ; and the man, 
that presumed to offer sacrifice to the gods, whom he had 
previously abjured, besides the loss of his estate, was 
condemned to the disgrace of the pillory, unless he was 
redeemed by the contributions of his friends (15). By 
degrees, these penal statutes were multiplied, till there 
scarcely remained a precept of the decalogue, the overt 
transgression of which was not punishable by the civil 
law. But of nothing were the Saxons more jealous than 
of the honour of their women. Every species of insult, 
which could be offered to female chastity, was carefully 
enumerated ; the degrees of guilt were discriminated with 
accuracy ; and the chastisement was proportioned to the 
nature of the offence, and the dignity of the injured per- 
son (16). The fines arising from these ecclesiastical 

(14) Leges Sax. p. 14. Ann. 693. 

(15) Ibid. p. 11. Healrpange sometimes means the pillory, 
sometimes a legal compensation instead of the punishment. 

(16) Ibid. p. 2, 3, 4, 6, et passim. If the clergy were assisted 
by the power of the civil magistrate, the civil magistrate in return 
was much indebted to the superior knowledge of the clergy. It 
was by the persuasion, and with the assistance of the missionaries, 
that the first code of Saxon laws was published by Ethelbert, 


crimes were paid into the treasury of the bishop, and to 
his prudence was instrusted the administration of the mo- 
ney : but he was strictly commanded to devote it to the 
relief of the poor, the repairs of decayed churches, and 
the education of those, who had destined themselves to 
the ministry of the altar (17). 

III. From the history of the evangelists we learn, that 
among the companions of Jesus, Peter was particularly 
distinguished by his heavenly master (IS). That pre- 

" juxta morem Romanorum." Bed. 1. ii. c. v. From the time of 
their conversion, the study of the Roman jurisprudence appears 
to have been a favourite pursuit with the clergy. St Aldhelm vi- 
sited the school at Canterbury, that he might learn, " legum Ro- 
" manorumjura, et cuncta jurisconsultorum secreta" (Ep. Ald- 
hel. apud Gale, p. 341 :) andBede speaks of the code of Justinian, 
as of a work well known to his countrymen, (Bed. Chron. p. 28, 
anno 567.) To this study was necessarily added that of the ec- 
clesiastical canons ; and the knowledge of each must have given 
the clergy a great superiority, both as legislators in the witena- 
gemot, and as magistrates in the different courts, at which it was 
their duty to attend. Alfred the great, in his laws, seems to 
ascribe the substitution of pecuniary compensations in the place 
of corporal punishment, to the advice of the clergy, who taught 
that mercy rather than revenge should distinguish the penal code 
of a Christian people, (Leg. Sax. p. 33.) It is, however, difficult 
to reconcile this assertion with the testimony of Tacitus, who ob- 
served, several centuries before, that such compensations were 
common among the nations of Germany. Levioribus delictis, 
pro modo, pcena : equorum pecorumque nmmero convicti multan- 
tur : pars multae regi, vel civitati, pars ipsi qui vindicatur, vel pro- 
pinquis ejus exsolvitur Luitur enim etiam homicidium certo ar- 
mentorum ac pecorum numero, recipitque satisfactionem universa 
domus. Tac. German, c. 12, 21. 


(17) Leges Sax. p. 124. 

(18) Malt. x. 2, xvi. 18, 19, xvii. 26. Mark iii. 16. Luc. v. 
JO, vi. 4, xxii. 32. John i. 42, xxi. 15 19. 

158 , 

cedency of honour and jurisdiction, which has been de- 
nied to him by the scepticism of modern polemics, was 
readily conceded by the more docile piety of our ances- 
tors : whose sentiments are plainly and forcibly recorded 
in the works of their most celebrated writers. " The 
" prince of the apostles, the shepherd of all believing 
" nations, the head of the chosen flock, and the first 
" pastor of the church," are the titles by which they 
commonly describe him (19) : and to him they are 
careful to attribute as " a peculiar privilege, the power 
" to bind, and the monarchy to loose in heaven and on 
" earth" (20). Nor did they conceive the dignity which 
he enjoyed, to have expired at his death. The same mo- 
tives, to which was owing its original establishment, 
pleaded for its continuance ; and the high prerogatives of 
Peter were believed to descend to the most remote of his 
successors. The bishop of Rome was pronounced to be 
(< the first of Christian bishops ; the church of Rome, 
the head of all Christian churches" (21). 

(19) Primi pastoris ecclesiae, principis apostolorum. Bed. I. 
ii. c. 4. Horn, in vig. St And. torn. vii. col. 409. Eallum 
jeleajnillum leotmm lajieop ] hyjfoe. Horn, apud Whelock, p. 
395. Quern dominus Jesus Christus caput electi sibi gregis sta- 
tuit. Ep. Alcuini Eanbaldo Archiep. apud Canis. Ant. lect. torn. 
ii. p. 455. Pastor gregis dominici. St Aid. de vir. p. 361. 

(20) Ipse potestatem ligandi et monarchiam solvendi in coelo et 
in terra felici sorte et peculiar! privilegio accipere promeruit. Ep. 
St Aldhelmi Gerontio Regi inter Bonif. ep. 44, p. 61. These 
quotations would not have loaded the page, had not several emi- 
nent writers asserted, that the Anglo-Saxons were ignorant of the 
primacy of St Peter. See note (H) at the end of the volume. 

(21) Cum primum in toto orbe pontificatum gereret. Bed. hist. 
1. ii. c. 1. Totius ecclesise caput eminet eximium. Bed. horn. 


Impressed with these notions, the Anglo-Saxons look> 
ed up to the pontiff with awe and reverence j consulted 
him respecting the administration of their church ; and 
bowed in respectful silence to his decisions. His bene- 
diction they courted as the choicest of blessings (22) : 
and to obtain it, was one of the principal motives, which 
drew so many pilgrims to the threshold of the Vatican. 
No less than eight Saxon kings (23), besides crowds of 
noblemen and prelates, are recorded to have paid their 
homage in person to the representative of St Peter : and 
those who were deterred by reasons of policy, or the dan- 
gers of the journey, were yet careful to solicit by their 
ambassadors, and to deserve by their presents, the papal 
benediction (24), Highly as they prized his friendship, 
so they feared his enmity. The dread of his resentment 
struck terror into the breasts of the most impious : and 
the threat of his malediction was the last and strongest 
rampart, which weakness could oppose to the rapacity of 
power. The clergy of each church, the monks of each 
convent, sought to shelter themselves under his protec- 
tion : and the most potent monarchs, sensible that their 
authority was confined within the narrow limits of their 

in. nat. D. Bened. vol. vii. p. 464. Caput ecclesiarum Christi, 
Alcuin. apud Canis. torn. ii. p. 455. 

(22) See the epistles of Alcuin to the popes Adrian and Leo. 
Canis. torn. ii. p. 418, 419. 

(23) Caeadwalla, Ina, Offa, Kenred, Offa, Siric, Ethelwulph, 
and Canute. 

(24) Hanc benedictionem omnes, qui ante me sceptro praefuere 
Merciorum, meruerunt ab antecessoribus tuis adipisci. Hanc ipse 
humilis pcto, et a vobis, o beatissime, impetrare cupio. Ep. Ke- 
nulphi Reg. Leoni pap. apud Wilk. p. 164. See also p. 40, 165, 
Ghron. Sax. p. 86, 89, 90. 


own lives, solicited, in favour of their religious founda- 
tions, the interference of a power, whose influence was 
believed to extend to the most distant ages. Of the 
bulls issued at their request by different popes, several 
have descended to posterity (25), and are conceived in 
terms the best calculated to strike with religious awe the 
minds of those, who are predisposed to receive such im- 
pressions. In them the pontiff usually asserts the autho- 
rity, which he exercises as successor to the prince of the 
apostles , separates from the communion of the faithful 
the violators of his charters ; and threatens their contu- 
macy with the punishments that befel Dathan, and Abi- 
ron, and Judas, the betrayer of the Lord. 

But the confirmation of royal grants and monastic pri- 
vileges was the least important part in the exercise of the 
papal prerogative. By his authority the pontiff 1, esta- 
blished, extended, or restricted the jurisdiction of the 
archiepiscopal sees ; 2, confirmed the election of the me- 
tropolitans ; 3, enforced the observance of canonical dis- 
cipline ; 4, and revised the decisions of the national 

1. In relating the changes, which affected the juris- 
diction of the Anglo-Saxon metropolitans, it will be ne- 
cessary to recapitulate what has been already noticed in 
a preceding chapter. The first ecclesiastical division of 

(25) They may be read in the collections of the Anglo-Saxon 
councils by Spelman and Wilkins. Several of them have not 
escaped the suspicion of antiquaries. But, if it could even be 
proved that none extant are genuine, there is sufficient evidence 
that it was customary to obtain such charters, from the very com- 
mencement of the Saxon church. See Eddius, (Vit. Wilf. c. 49,) 
Bede, (Vit. Abbat. Wirem. p. 295, 300,) and the council of Cal- 
cuith, (Wilk. p. 147, viii.) 


the Octarchy was made, not by the missionaries, but 
by Gregory the great, who, in the plenitude of his 
authority, fixed with precision the number of the 
metropolitans, and of their suffragans. When sub- 
sequent events had prevented the execution of his 
plan, the apostolic see was again consulted, and by Vita- 
Han all the Saxon prelates were subjected to the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury ; by Agatho their number was li- 
mited to eleven (26). At the distance, however, of sixty 
years, Gregory III. restored the metropolitical jurisdic- 
tion to the church of York ; and Adrian, not long after, 
at the solicitation of the king of Mercia, raised the see of 
Lichfield to the same dignity. Though the superiority 
of the new primate was borne with reluctance by his for- 
mer equals, none of them dared to refuse him the respect 
due to his rank j but submitted in silence to the papal 
mandate, till Leo III. at the urgent request of Kenulf, 
the successor of Offa, rescinded the decree of his prede- 
cessor (27). These instances may suffice to shew,, that 

(26) Wilk. p. 46. 

(27) Anno 803. It will require some share of ingenuity in 
those, who affect to assert the independence of the Anglo-Saxon 
church, to elude the strong language, in which the bishops of the 
council of Cloveshoe relate the conclusion of this business. <* Ipse 
" apostolicus Papa, ut audivit et intellexit quod injuste fuissef 
* factum, statim sui privilegii auctoritatis prseceptum posuit, et in 
" Britanniam misit, et praecepit, ut honor St Augustini sedis inte- 
" gerrime redintegraretur." The conduct of pope Adrian they 
ascribe to misinformation* " Insuper cartam a Romana sede 
" missam per Hadrianum papam de pallio et archiepiscopali sede 
" in Licedfeldensi monasterio, cum consensu et licentia domni 
" apostolici Leonis papse prasscribimus aliquid valere, quia per 
4 subreptionem et male blandam suggestionem adipiscebatur/' 


the powers of the Anglo-Saxon metropolitans were re- 
gulated by the superior authority of the pontiff; and 
that every alteration in their jurisdiction was introduced 
by his order, or confirmed by his approbation. 

2, The pallium was an ecclesiastical ornament, the use 
of which was exclusively reserved to the metropolitans. 
Its origin is involved in considerable obscurity ; but at 
the period in which our ancestors were converted, no 
archbishop was permitted to perform the most important 
of his functions, till he had obtained it from the hands of 
the pontiff. As soon as Augustine had received the 
episcopal consecration, he was careful to solicit this orna- 
ment from his patron Gregory the great ; his example 
was religiously imitated by all succeeding metropolitans 
both at Canterbury and York*, and with the pallium 
they received a confirmation of the archiepiscopal digni- 
ty (28) : whence in the language of the court of Rome, 
they were usually stiled the envoys of the holy see (29). 
Before the primate elecl: could obtain this badge of his 

V/ilk.p. 167. In Spelman's councils these passages are omitted : 
but they have been restored by Smith, (Bed. app. p. 7S7,) and 
Wilkins (Con. p. 167). On this subject may also be consulted 
the letter of Kenulf, king of Mercia, and the two answers of pope 
Leo. Id. p. 164. Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 460. 

(28) Idcirco ammonemus Brithwaldum prsesulem sanctse Can- 
tuariorum ecclesise, quern auctoritate principis apostolorum 
Archiepiscopum ibidem confirmavimus. Ep. Joan. Pap. apud 
Edd. c. 52. 

(29) This title is given to Archbishop Brithwald by his own 
messengers. Sancti Brithwaldi Cantuariorum ecclesise et totius 
Britanniae archiepiscopi, ab hac apostolica sede emissi. Edd. c. 
51. Yet Brithwald was a Saxon, and owed his election to the 
clergy of Canterbury. 


dignity, he was required to appear at Rome, and to 
answer the interrogations of the pontiff: but Gregory 
and his immediate successors excused the Saxon metro- 
politans from so laborious a journey, and generally sent 
the pallium by the messengers, who carried the news of 
their election (30). Later pontiffs were, however, less 
indulgent. To prevent the highest ecclesiastical prefer- 
ments from being occupied by men of noble birth, but 
disedifying morals, it was resolved to recal the former 
exemptions, and to subject every candidate to an exami- 
nation in presence of the pope, before he could obtain 
the confirmation of his election. To this regulation the 
Saxon archbishops relundtantly submitted ; and a second 
grievance was the consequence of their submission. Ac- 
cording to the received notions of the northern nations, 
they blushed to approach the throne of their superior, 
without a present (31) : but the sums, which at first had 
been received as gratuitous donations, were gradually ex- 
acted as a debt ; and the increasing demand was followed 
-by loud and repeated complaints. During the pontificate 
of Leo. III. the Saxon prelates, in a firm, but respectful 
memorial, urged the indults of former popes to- theis pre- 
decessors , and requested that the pallium might be 
granted to their primates, without the fatigue of a jpur- 

(30) Wilk. con. p. 32, 35. CKron. Sax. p. 61, 69, 72. 

(31) During the middle ages, men had scarcely any notions of 
government, which were not derived from the feudal jurisprudence. 
Its principles not only formed the basis of civil polity, but were 
also gradually introduced into the ancient system of ecclesiastical 
discipline. To this source it were easy to trace most of the new 
customs, which were adopted during that period. 

L 2 


neyi or the expense of a present (32). The petition 
was unsuccessful ; repeated precedents gave a sanction to 
the obnoxious custom ; and the bishops at last desisted 
from a fruitless opposition (33). After the lapse of two 
centuries, the hopes of their successors were awa-kened 
by the pilgrimage of Canute the great, to the tombs of 
the apostles. The king pleaded with warmth the cause 
of his prelates ; the reluctance of the Romans yielded to 
the arguments of a royal advocate ; and the pontiff con- 
tracted his claims to the personal attendance of future 
metropolitans (34). 

3. To preserve the purity of the Christian worship, and 
to enforce the observation of canonical discipline, were 
always considered by the popes as the most important of 
their duties. With this view they frequently demanded 
from the Saxon prelates an exposition of their belief, and 
admonished them to reform the abuses, which disfigu- 
red the beauty of their church. As early as the year six 
hundred and eighty, when the rapid progress of Mono- 
thelitism alarmed the zeal of the orthodox pastors, Aga- 
tho had summoned the archbishop of Canterbury and 
his suffragans to attend a council at Rome (35) : but the 

(32) Wilk. con. p. 166. Ann. 801. 

(33) Chrxm. Sax. p. 126, 129, 152. 
(,34) Wilk. con. p. 258. Ann. 1031. 

(35) Sperabamus de Britannia Theodorum confamulum et coe- 
piscopum nostrum, magnae insulae Britannia? archiepiscopum et 
philosophum, cum aliis qui ibidem hactenus demorantur: et hac de 
causa cencilium hue usque distulimus. Ep. Agath. ad Imp. apud 
Bar. ann. 680. Malm, de pont. 1. i. f. 112. Spelman conjectures 
this council to have been that of Constantinople, but his mistake 
is corrected by the accuracy of Alford. Tom. ii. p. 368. 


length of the journey, and the necessities of their dio- 
ceses, were admitted as a legitimate excuse ; and in lieu 
of their presence in the synod, the pontiff consented to 
accept a public profession of their faith. John, abbot of 
St Martin's, was selected as papal legate on this occasion : 
and shortly after his arrival, Theodore and his suffragans 
assembled at Hethfield, and declared their adhesion to 
the decrees of the five first general councils, and to 
the condemnation of Monothelitism by Martin the first. 
The legate subscribed with the bishops, and received a 
copy of the acts, which he forwarded to Rome (36). 

From the faith, the enquiries of the popes were soon 
directed to the manners of the Saxons. While Theodore 
lived, the vigilance of his administration supported the 
vigour of ecclesiastical discipline : but under his more 
indulgent, or less active successors, it was insensibly re- 
laxed, till the loud report of Saxon immorality aroused 
the patriotism of St Boniface, and provoked the animad- 
versions of Zachary, the Roman pontiff. The mission- 
ary, from the heart of Germany, the theatre of his zeal, 
wrote in terms of the most earnest expostulation to the 
principal of the Saxon kings and prelates : the pontiff 
commanded archbishop Cuthbert and his suffragans, un- 
der the penalty of excommunication, to oppose the seve- 
rity of the canons, to the corrupt practices of the k times. 

(36) Intererat huic synodo, pariterque Catholicx fidei decreta 
firmabat vir venerabilis Joannes .... Volens Agatho Papa, sicut 
in aliis provinciis, ita etiam in Britannia, qualis esset status eccle- 
sias ediscere, hoc negotium reverentissimo Abbati Joanni injunxit. 
Quamobrem collecta ob hoc synodo, inventa est in omnibus fides 
inviolata Calholica, datumque illi exemplar ejus Romam perferen- 
dum. Bed. 1. iv. c. 18. 

L 3 


His injunctions were cheerfully obeyed ; the fathers of 
fhe council of Cloveshoe professed their readiness to se- 
cond the zeal of the supreme pastor , and thirty canons 
of discipline were published for the general reformation 
of the bishops, clergy, monks, and laity (37). 

The successors of Zachary inherited the vigilance of 
their predecessor. Forty years had not elapsed, when 
Adrian deemed it expedient to send the bishops of Ostia 
and Tudertum to Britain, with a code of laws for the use 
of the Anglo-Saxon church. The legates were received 
"with respect by the clergy and laity. At their request 
two synods were assembled, one in Mercia, the other in 
Northumbria 5 twenty canons were published , and a so- 
lemn promise was received from each bishop, that he 
would cause them to be faithfully observed in his diocese 
(38). But during the invasions of the Northmen, the 

(37) The letter of Zaehary is thus described in the procemium 
to the acts of the couneil. Scripta toto orbe venerandi pontificis, 
Domni Apostolici papae Zacharise, in duabus chartis in medium 
prolata sunt, et cum magna diligentia, juxta quod ipse apostolica 
sua auctoritate pnecepit, et manifeste recitata, et in nostraquoque 
lingua apertius interpretata sunt. Quibus namque scriptis Bri- 
tanniae hujus insulae nostri generis accolas familiariter prasmone- 
bat, et veraciter conveniebat, et postremo amabiliter exorabat, et 
hasc omnia contemnentibus, et in sua pertinaci malitia permanen- 
tibus anathematis sententiam proculdubio proferendam insinua* 
bat. Wilk. con. p. 94. Language so forcible might have ap- 
palled a less sturdy polemic : but the sagacity or temerity of Dr 
Henry has selected this very council to prove, that the Saxon 
church rejected the papal supremacy. The curious reader may 
turn to note (I) at the end of the volume. 

(38) The mission of these legates, as well as of the abbot John, 
has escaped the philosopic eye of Hume, who assures us that Er- 
manfroi, bishop of Sion, three centuries afterwards, was the first 


feeble restraint of the law could not arrest the rapid de- 
cline of discipline, and, for almost a century, the voice of 
religion was drowned in the louder din of war. The re- 
turn of tranquillity called forth the zeal of pope For- 
mosus. He had determined to sever the Saxon bishops 
from the communion of the holy see : but his- anger was 
appeased by the representations of archbishop Plegmund 5 
and he contented himself with an exhortatory epistle, in 
which he complained, that, by the negligence of the pre- 
lates, the superstitions of paganism had been permitted 
to revive, and several dioceses been left, for a considera- 
ble period, * destitute of pastors. After the lapse of four- 
teen years, both the bishops of Wessex died ; and Pleg- 
mund seized the favourable opportunity to content the 
desires of the pope. Reconvened his suffragans, and 
divided the kingdom into five smaller districts. His 
conduct was approved at Rome -, and he consecrated, on 
the same day, no less than seven bishops, five for the sees 
lately erected, and two for the vacant churches of JSelsey 
-and Dorchester (39). 

legate who ever appeared in the British isles, (Hume, hist. c. iv.p. 
1 82.) Carte indeed observed them, but at the same time discover- 
ed, from a vague expression in the Saxon chronicle, that instead 
of being invested with any authority, their only object was to re- 
new the ancient correspondence between the two churches, 
(Carte, hist. vol. i. p. 70.) This idea is satisfactorily refuted 'by 
their dispatches to the-pontiff. Scripsimus capitulare de singulis 
rebus, et per ordinem cuncta disserentes auribus illorum pertuli- 
mus, qui cum omni humilitatis subjectione, clara voluntate tarn ad- 
monitionem vestram quam parvitatem nostram amplexantes, spo- 
ponderunt se in omnibus obedire. Wilk. con. p. 146. 

(39) The reader, who is no stranger to the chronological diffi- 
culties, with- which this event has tortured the ingenuity of anti- 


4-. In every rational system of legislation, the errors, 
which may arise from the ignorance or corruption of the 
inferior officers of justice, should be corrected by the 
greater wisdom, and superior authority of the higher 
courts of judicature. In the Christian church the Roman 
pontiffs were considered as the principal guardians of the 
canons ; and from the earliest antiquity they have claim- 
ed and exercised the right of reviewing the causes of 
those bishops, who appealed to their equity from the par- 
tial decisions of provincial or national synods (4-0). The 
first of the Saxon prelates, who invoked in his favour the 
protection of the holy see, was Wilfrid, the celebrated 
bishop of York (41). The history of his appeals has 

quaries, will have observed that, while I admit the epistle of For- 
mosus to be genuine, I reject as fabulous a part of the narrative 
contained in Malmsbury, and the register of Canterbury. (Wilk. 
con, p. 199, 200.) I ascribe the epistle to Formosus, not merely 
on their authority, but principally on that of Eadmer, who, during 
the dispute respecting the precedency of Canterbury, in the com- 
mencement of the twelfth century, appears to have consulted the 
ancient records of that church, and to have discovered this letter 
and some others among a greater number, which age had render- 
ed illegible. Eadrn. nov. 1. v, p. 128, 129. The consecration of 
the seven bishops could not have occurred before the year 910, 
when Fridestan, one of their number, is recorded in the Saxon 
chronicle to have taken possession of the see of Winchester. 
(Chron. Sax. p. 102.) As Asser, bishop of Sherburne, died only 
that year, and Denulf, of Winchester, in the preceding, (Ibid. 
Wigorn. ann. 909), it follows that the story of the kingdom of 
Wessex having been without a bishop during seven years, is a fic- 
tion, which was probably invented to explain the origin of the 
complaint contained in the letter of Formosus. 

(4O) Natalis Alex. hist. eccl. saec. iv. diss. xxviii. prop. 3. 
{41) Anrio 678. 


been related by two classes of writers, as opposite in sen- 
timent, as distant in time : by contemporary historians, 
who lament the causes which rendered them necessary, 
and hail the success with which they were attended : and 
by modern polemics, who condemn them as the unwar- 
rantable attempts of an ambitious prelate to preserve his 
own power, by sacrificing the religious liberties of his 
countrymen. The clamorous warmth of the latter op- 
poses a curious contrast to the silent apathy of the for- 
mer : and a diligent comparison will justify the conclu- 
sion, that the present champions of the independence of 
the Anglo Saxon church are actuated by motives, which 
never guided the pens of the more ancient writers. In 
the remainder of this chapter, I shall attempt to clear the 
history of Wilfrid from the fictions, with which modern 
controversy has loaded it (42) : my vouchers will be Ed- 

(42) Among the historians, who have disputed with each other 
the merit of defaming this prelate, the pre-eminence is justly due 
to Carte, whose laborious volumes have furnished a plentiful source 
of misrepresentation to the prejudice or negligence of succeeding 
writers. With the aid of a few scattered hints, in the works of 
three obscure authors, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, 
(Gervase, Stubbs, and Richard of Hexham,) and of many gratui- 
tous suppositions created by his own fancy, he has succeeded in 
forming a narrative most unfavourable to the character of Wilfrid. 
He had other, and more authentic documents before him, in the 
writings of Bede and Eddius. But of these he asserts, that the 
first has shewn his disapprobation of Wilfrid by his silence : and 
that to Eddius no credit can be given, because he was chaplain 
to the injured prelate. It may, however, be observed, that Bede 
has made more frequent mention of Wilfrid, than, perhaps, of any 
other person, (Bed.U iii. c. 13, 25, 28 ; 1. iv. c. 2, 3, 5, 12, 13, 15, 
i, 19, 23, 29 ; 1. v. c. ll, if)) ; and that Eddius wrote at a time, 


<lius, the individual companion of his fortunes, and Bede, 
liis contemporary and acquaintance : and the importance 
of the subject will, I trust, form a satisfactory apology for 
the length of the narration. 

Egfrid, king of Northumbria, had married ^Edilthryda, 
a princess, whose invincible attachment to the cloister has 
been noticed in the preceding chapter. Wearied with 
the constant solicitations of his wife, he referred her to 
Wilfrid, whom he had honoured with a distinguished 
place in his friendship, and endeavoured by the most se- 
ducing promises to allure to his interest. But his hopes 
were disappointed. After mature deliberation, the bishop 
approved the choice of the queen ; and the king's dis- 
pleasure was the reward of his approbation. From the 
court jEdilthryda retired to a convent ; and Egfrid called 
to his throne another princess, named Ermenburga. The 
levity of the new queen was not calculated to efface the 
memory of her predecessor ; her haughtiness, extortion, 
and prodigality, excited discontent ; and the zeal of Wil- 
frid induced him to expostulate with her on the impro- 
priety of her conduct. He had done no more than his 
duty required : but the pride of Ermenburga was wound- 
ed ; she vowed to be revenged ; and Egfrid, whose mind 
was already alienated, consented to be the minister of 
her resentment (43). 

when thousands were alive to convict him of falsehood, had he 
been guilty of it. If Bede was silent, and Eddius concealed the 
truth, where did Carte discover it ? 

(43) For the origin of the dissention between Egfrid and Wil- 
frid, compare Bede, (hist. 1. iv. c. 19,) Eddius, (Vit. Wilf. c. 24,) 
Eadmer, (Vit. Wilf. apud. Mabil. c. 34,) and the monk of Ely, 
(Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 598.) 


The see of Canterbury was, at this period, filled by 
Theodore, a prelate, whose ardour for the improvement 
of the Saxon church, sometimes hurried him beyond the 
limits, which the canons had prescribed to the exercise 
of the metropolitan authority. At the invitation of Eg- 
frid, he visited the court of Northumbria. What secret 
proposals he might receive from the king, we can only 
eonjefture (44-) : but he had always avowed a desire to 
multiply the number of the Saxon bishoprics, and the 
present was a moment the most propitious to his design. 
By his own authority, without the concurrence, without 
even the knowledge of Wilfrid, he divided the extensive 
diocese of York into three portions, and immediately 
conferred them on three bishops, whom he consecrated 
for the occasion (45). The Dejected prelate received the 
news with astonishment. He hastened to the court, ex- 
posed the injustice of the partition, and reclaimed in his 
favour the aid of the canons. But his remonstrances 
were heard with contempt ; the flattery of the courtiers 
applauded his disgrace ; and, as a last resource, he ap- 
pealed, by the advice of some of the bishops, to the justice 
and authority of the apostolic see (46). 

(44) Eddius insinuates, (Vit. c. 24,) and Malmsbury asserts, 
(De pont. 1. iii. f. 149,) that Theodore was bribed by the presents 
of Egfrid. But it is not probable that the charge could be proved, 
as Wilfrid thought proper to abandon it in his petition to the 
pontiff. Edd. vit. c. 29. 

(45) It has been said that Lindisfarne, the ancient residence of 
the Scottish bishops, was left open for the acceptance of Wilfrid, 
(Wharton, Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 693. Carte, hist. vol. i. p. 248 :) 
but this opinion is positively contradicted by Eddius, (Vit. c. 24,) 
and by Bede, (hist. 1. iv. c. 12.) 

'46) Cum consilio coepiscoporum suorum. Ed. vit. c. 24. In 


Had Theodore been educated in the same school with 
our modern writers, he would have laughed at the sim- 
plicity of Wilfrid, and the impotence of his appeal. But 
he was acquainted with the decisions of the canons ; and 
his anxiety to preoccupy the ear of the pontiff, was more 
expeditious than the diligence of the deposed bishop, 
who by the inclemency of the season, was detained in 
Friesland, and spent the winter in preaching to the pa- 
gans the truths of the gospel. With the return of spring 
he resumed his journey ; and at his arrival in Rome, was 
informed that his pretensions had been already notified 
and opposed by the monk Coenwald, the envoy and ad- 
vocate of the archbishop. Agatho summoned a council 
to his assistance ; and the bishops of the suburbicane 
churches, with the priests and deacons of Rome, to the 
number of fifty, assembled to judge the cause of the An- 
glo-Saxon prelates. Before this court Wilfrid appeared 
with the dignity of conscious innocence. He called on 
the members to do justice to an injured and persecuted 

Carte's romance, the whole blame of this transaction is laid on 
the ambition of Wilfrid, who is accused of opposing the execu- 
tion of the ninth canon of the council of Herutford, concerning 
the division of the larger dioceses. But as it might be objected, 
on the authority of Bede, that this canon was not approved ; he 
eludes the difficulty, by affirming with Wharton, that the passage 
in the ecclesiastical historian is a forgery, probably of the monks, 
who hoped, by this expedient, to purify the character of Wilfrid, 
(Carte, hist. vol. i. p. 246, note.) If on a mere conjecture we are 
bound to credit so malicious an accusation, at least we may be 
allowed to admire the ingenuity of the man, who could so artful- 
ly interpolate every manuscript, that the spurious passage cannot 
be distinguished from the text in any, not even in that which was 
written before, or immediately after the death of Bede himself. 
See Smith's Bede, prsef. and p. 149. 


bishop, who, from the extremities of the earth, had been 
compelled to invoke the equity of the successor of St 
Peter. Could his adversaries impeach his moral con- 
duct ? Could they point out in his administration a single 
instance, in which he had violated the holy canons ? Yet 
had he been expelled from his diocese, and had seen it 
parcelled out, and bestowed on three intruded prelates. 
Of the motives, which had induced the metropolitan to 
treat him with such harshness, it was not for him to judge. 
Theodore was the envoy of the holy see : he respected 
his character , and did not presume to condemn his con- 
duct. As for himself, his great anxiety had been to se- 
cure the peace of the Anglo-Saxon church : he had not 
raised a clamorous opposition, but had withdrawn in si- 
lence from the violence of his enemies, and thrown him- 
self with confidence on the justice of the holy see. The 
judgment of that see he now implored : and in its deci- 
sion, favourable or unfavourable, he should willingly and 
respectfully acquiesce (4-7). 

"With the answer and recriminations of Ccenwald we 
are not acquainted. The cause was patiently and im- 
partially dicussed : and the judgment of the synod 
condemned the irregularity of his expulsion, though it 
seemed to approve the policy of the partition. It was or- 
dered that Wilfrid should be restored to the diocese of 
which he had been unjustly deprived : but that he should, 
in conjunction with the other bishops, select from his 
own clergy a certain number of prelates, to assist him in 
the government of so extensive a diocese. To this deci- 
sion was annexed the sentence of suspension against the 

(47) Ed. C. 2P, 


clergyman, of excommunication against the laic, that 
should presume to oppose its execution (4-8). A copy 
was- delivered to Wilfrid, who remained some months in 
Rome, assisted with one hundred and twenty-five bishops 
at a second council, subscribed to the decrees, and bore 
testimony to the catholic belief of the Britons, Saxons, 
Picts, and Scots, who inhabited the northern provinces of 
the two British islands (49-), 

But the enmity of Egfrid and Ermenburga was too vk> 
lent to listen to the dictates of justice, or to be subdued 
by the terrors of a papal mandate. In his journey to 
Rome, Wilfrid had with difficulty escaped the many 
snares, which by their direction had been laid for his 
life : at his return, he was apprehended by their order, 
and committed to prison. During a confinement of 
nine months, the influence of threats and promises was 
alternately employed to extort a confession, that the de- 
cision of the pontiff had been forged by his friends, or 
purchased by presents (50). But his constancy defeated 
every artifice ; and his liberation was 'at last granted to 
the earnest prayer of the abbess Ebba, provided he 
would promise never more to set his foot within the ter- 
ritories of Egfrid. With a sigh Wilfrid subscribed the 
harsh condition 5 and retiring from Northumbria, soli 

(48) Ibid. c. si. The success of Wilfrid is attributed by Inett, 
(history p. 101,) to the absence of his accusers. Yet it appears 
from undeniable authority, that not only Coenwald, but several 
others were present. Prsesentibus ejus contrariis, qui a Theodo- 
re et Hilda^bbatissa ad eum accusandum hue prius convenerant. 
Epist. Joan. pap. apud Eddium c. 52. 

(49) Ed. c. 51. Bed. 1. v. c. 19. 

(50) Edd. c. 33, 35.. 


cited the protection of Brithwald, nephew to the king- 
of Mercia. That generous nobleman granted him a 
small estate, on which he built a monastery for himself 
and the faithful companions of his exile. But the emis- 
saries of Egfrid discovered his retreat ; and Wilfrid, 
rather than endanger the safety of his friend, fled into 
the kingdom of Wessex. At this distance he might 
have hoped to elude the notice of his enemies : but Ir- 
menigild, the queen of Wessex, and the sister of Er- 
menburga, had imbibed the sentiments of the North- 
umbrian princess ; and the fugitive bishop, after having 
sought in vain an asylum among his Christian country- 
men was compelled to intrust his safety to the honour 
and compassion of a pagan people. Edilwakh, king of 
Sussex, received him with welcome ; pitied his misfor- 
tunes ; and swore to protect him against the open violence, 
or the secret intrigues of the court of Northumbria (51). 
Wilfrid soon repaid the hospitality of his royal patron. 
By his preaching he converted numbers of the idolaters 
to the faith of Christ : by his superior knowledge he in- 
structed them in the arts of civilized life. A continued 
drought for three years had exhausted the sources of ve- 
getation , and the horrors of famine frequently urged the 
barbarians to put an end to their miserable existence. 
From venerable Bede we learn, that in bodies of forty or 
fifty persons, they frequently proceeded to the nearest 
cliff, and there, linked in each others arms, precipitated 
themselves into the waves. 

Their distress excited the compassion of their guest, 
who, observing that the sea and the rivers abounded 

(51) Edd. C. 39, 40. 


with fish, taught them the art of making nets, and of 
drawing from the waters a plentiful supply of food (52). 
For these services Edilwalch bestowed on him the isle of 
Selsey : where he was often visited by Cedwalla, an 
exile of the royal race of Cerdic. The similarity of 
their fortunes endeared him to the prince : who, when 
he had ascended the throne of his fathers, invited Wil- 
frid to his court, granted him a fourth part of the isle 
of Wight, and raised him to a distinguished place in his 
councils (53). But the banishment of Wilfrid was now 
hastening to its conclusion. Theodore, as he had been 
the first to inflict, was also the first to repair the injury. 
Before his death he condemned the injustice of his 
former conduct, solicited a reconciliation, and wrote in 
favour of the exiled bishop to the kings of Mercia and 
Northumbria. Of these letters, one is still extant. In 
it the primate urges the obedience due to the pontiff; 
bears testimony to the merit of Wilfrid, his innocence, 
his patience, and his zeal; and entreats the king to 
grant this last request to his friend and father, ready to 
sink into the grave (54-). 

Theodore did not live to witness the effect of his ex- 
hortations, and his death was speedily followed by that 
of Egfrid. The Northumbrian prince fell in battle, and 
witli him expired the influence of Ermenburga. Aldfrid, 
the new king, (55) cheerfully consented to receive the 

(52) Ibid. c. 40. Bed. 1. iv. c. 13. 

(53) Edd. c. 41. Bed. 1. iv. c. 16. 

(54) Edd. c. 42. 

(55) By most writers Aldfrid is considered as the same person 
with Alchfrid, the former friend of Wilfrid. But this opinion 
rannot I think be reconciled with the testimony of Bede. That 


exile under his protection, gave him immediate possession 
of the church of Hexham, and shortly after restored to 
him the sees of Lindisfarne and York (56). During five 
years he again possessed the administration of his exten- 
sive diocese : but they were years of anxiety and distress. 
His opponents still formed a powerful party ; and though 
they yielded for the present, they eagerly watched a more 
favourable moment. Their secret wishes were soon gra- 
tified by the attachment of Wilfrid to his monastery of 
Rippon. During his exile, many of its manors had been 
seized by his enemies ; and when he reclaimed them, 
the palace resounded with complaints against his restless 
temper and insatiable ambition. Aldfrid lent a willing 

historian uniformly names the one Alchfrid, and the other Aldfrid. 
Of the former he asserts that he was the son of Oswiu, and bro- 
ther of Egfrid ; of the latter that he was illegitimate, but thought 
to be the son of Oswiu. (Bed. 1. iv.,.c. 22. ,Vit. St uth. c. 26.) 
Alchfrid died before Egfrid, as the latter left neither children nor 
brother behind him (ibid.) Aldfrid was at that time studying 
amorfg the Scottish monks, (ibid). Neither can it be said that 
Alchfrid had been expelled from his territories by his brother, 
and compelled to conceal himself till his death. For Bede asserts 
that the exile of Aldfrid was voluntary, and occasioned by his 
love of knowledge. Ob amorem sapientiae spontaneum passus 
exilium. (Vit. St Cuth. c. 24. See also Bede, 1. iii. c. 24. iv. 26. 
v. 19.) 

(56) See Eddius, (c. 44), whose account is corroborated by 
the testimony of Bede, (Sedem suam et episcopatum, ipso rege 
invitante, recepit. Hist. 1. v. c. 19.) Cuthbert of Lindisfarne re- 
signed, (Bed. Vit. Cuthb. c. 36.) If Bosa of York, and John of 
Hexham, did not follow his example, they were deposed, (Smith's 
Bede, App. xix.) Richard of Hexham, Stubb and some later 
writers, have supposed that York was never rtfirlored to Wilfrid, 
See Smith, ibid. 



ear to these suggestions ; and a plan was readily formed 
to precipitate the fall of the bishop. Wilfrid unexpect- 
edly received a royal summons to surrender the monastery 
into the hands of his sovereign, that it might be converted 
into an episcopal see, and bestowed on another prelate. 
His enemies had, probably, reckoned on his disobedience. 
He had always discovered a marked predilection for this 
abbey. It had been given to him by Alchfrid, the friend 
and patron of his youth : its revenues had been increased 
by his industry ; the magnificence of the buildings was 
the fruit of his liberality and genius ; and the monks, the 
first in the north who had professed the rule of St Bene- 
dict, revered him as their father and benefactor. Urged 
by these motives, he ventured to refuse ; and Aldfrid 
punished his refusal by reviving the obsolete regulations 
of Theodore, which had first disturbed the tranquillity 
of the Northumbrian church. Wilfrid saw with terror 
the ascendancy of his enemies ; and retiring from the 
unequal contest, sought an asylum in the kingdom of 
Mercia. His flight stimulated the exertions of his ene- 
mies. Brithwald, the successor of Theodore, was induced 
to join the victorious party, and to summon a council in 
Northumbria. But experience had taught them to fear a 
second appeal to the judgment of the pontiff j and to 
wrest this powerful weapon from the hands of Wilfrid, 
became the great objeft of their politics. He was invit- 
ed to the synod. " Justice," said the messenger, " shall 
be done to all your claims, provided you promise to 
" abide by the decision of your metropolitan." " It is 
w my duty and my wish," replied the wary prelate, " to 
" abide by the decision of my metropolitan, if that de- 
" cision be not contrary to the holy canons, and the pre- 


" vious declarations of the apostolic see." The assem- 
bly presented a scene of noise and confusion. The voice 
of Wilfrid was drowned in the clamours of his adversa- 
ries ; his contumacy was pronounced worthy of the seve- 
rest punishment ; and as a last and unmerited favour, he 
was offered the monastery of Rippon, provided he would 
engage to confine himself within its precincts, and to re- 
sign, from that day, the exercise of the episcopal authori- 
ty. This harsh resolve roused the spirit of the injured 
prelate. " What !" he indignantly exclaimed, " shall I, 
" who have spent my whole life in the service of reli- 
" gion-, I, to whom my country is indebted for the 
" knowledge and practice of the canonical observances, 
" tamely subscribe my own degradation, and, though 
" unconscious of guilt, confess myself a criminal ? No, 
" if justice be denied me here, I appeal to a higher tri- 
" bunal ; and let the man, who presumes to depose me 
" from the episcopal dignity, accompany me to Rome, 
" and prove his charge before the sovereign pontiff." 
This bold reply exasperated Aldfrid, who threatened to 
commit him to the custody of his guard : but the bishops 
interposed, observing, that to violate the safe conduct 
which had been granted, would fix an indelible stigma 
on their proceedings (57). 

The scene of the controversy was now transferred 
from Northumbria, to the court of John, the Roman 
pontiff. Wilfrid appeared in person ; the cause of his 
opponents was intrusted to a deputation of monks, se- 
lected by the care of the metropolitan. If we may judge 
from the number and duration of the pleadings, both 
the accusation and defence were conducted with spirit 

(57) Edd.C. 44,45. 



and perseverance. Seventy times the contending parties 
repeated or enforced their respective arguments, in the 
presence of the pontiff ; and four months elapsed before 
their eagerness would permit him to pronounce his sen- 
tence (58). That sentence was most honourable to the 
innocence of Wilfrid. But the infirmities of age, (he 
had now reached his seventieth year,) admonished him 

(58) Ingenious writers sometimes amuse themselves with filling 
up the chasms of history, and incautiously deceive the credulity 
of their readers with the fictions of their own imagination. Of 
the charges exhibited against Wilfrid, Eddius has preserved no 
more than one ; that he had refused to submit to the judgment 
of his metropolitan. (Edd. c. 51.) But Henry 'has supplied the 
deficiency, on the authority, as he pretends, of Eddius himself. 
From him we learn, that the bishop was also accused of " re- 
" fusing to subscribe to .the synods of Hertford and Hatfield, and 
" of appealing to a foreign judge, which by the laws of England 
" was a capital crime." He has also thought proper to compose 
an answer for Wilfrid to the first of these charges ; " that he was 
" willing to subscribe to these synods as far as they were agree- 
" able to the canons of the church of Rome, and the will of the 
4t pope:" but to the second he appears to have been unable or 
im willing to form any reply. (Henry, vol. iii. p. 219). Such 
fables can claim no other merit than that of injuring the character 
of Wilfrid, and of supporting the favourite hypothesis of the in- 
dependence of the Anglo-Saxon church. To truth or probability 
they have small pretensions. That Wilfrid should refuse to sub- 
scribe to the synod of Hertford, to which he had already sub- 
scribed by his legates (Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 5), or to that of Hatfield, 
which only published a profession of faith (Id. 1. iv. c. 1 7), will 
not be readily believed ; but that Aldfrid and his bishops should 
send deputies to Rome, to accuse a prelate of the capital crime 
of appealing to Rome, is an idea which outrages probability. 
Ficta sint proxima veris, 

Nee quodcumque volet, poscat sibi fabula credi. 


to terminate the tedious contest : two journies to Rome, 
and twenty years of exile, had taught him to value and 
desire the enjoyment of tranquillity ; and he proposed a 
compromise, which, while it resigned to his competitors 
the larger portion of his diocese, secured to himself the 
possession of his two favourite monasteries of Rippon 
and Hexham. The moderation of these terms obtained 
the approbation of the pope, who recommended them to 
the notice and endeavours of the primate. Brithwald 
received the papal mandate with respect, and professed a 
ready obedience to its contents : but Aldfrid was inflexi- 
ble. " My brothers," he replied to Wilfrid's messen- 
gers, whose friendship he had formerly prized, and whose 
character he still respected, " ask for yourselves, and you 
" shall not be refused. But ask not for Wilfrid. His 
(( cause has been judged by myself, and the archbishop, 
" the envoy of the apostolic see : nor will I change that 
(( judgment for the writings, as you call them, of that 
< c see." But the death of the king soon revived the 
hopes of the bishop, and deprived his rivals of their most 
powerful protector. Osred, an infant, was placed on the 
vacant throne : and the reins of government were intrust- 
ed to the hands of the eal dor man Berectfrid. Encouraged 
by the change, the primate invited the Northumbrian 
chieftains to meet him at Nid. The synod was opened 
by the lecture of the papal mandate, which, for the satisfac- 
tion of the secular thanes, was translated into the Anglo- 
Saxon tongue : the abbess ^Elfleda, the depositary of the 
secrets of her brother, declared, that the restoration of 
Wilfrid had been the last request of the dying monarch : 
and the thanes, by the mouth of Berectfrid, testified their 
hearty concurrence. John and Bosa, the opponents of the 

it 3 


bishop, were confounded by this unexpected declaration. 
After a feeble resistance, they prudently yielded to the 
torrent, and the ratification of the compromise restored 
tranquillity to the church of Northumbria (59). 

Such was the conclusion of this long and tedious con- 
troversy. The cause of Wilfrid was the cause of justice : 
and the triumph which his perseverance obtained, added 
to the reputation, and proved the utility, of the supreme 
jurisdiction of the pontiff (60). 

(5 4 9) Ed. c. 52 58. See also note (K). About the same time* 
Egwin, bishop of Worcester, appealed to Rome with equal suc- 
cess. Wilk. con. p. 72. From this period, the use of appeals 
\vas established in the Anglo-Saxon church : and among the laws 
collected by the industry of Archbishop Egbert, for the clergy of 
York, is preserved a canon, in which their legality is formally re- 
cognised. Ibid. p. 104, xlix. 

(60) At the conclusion of this chapter, it may perhaps be ask- 
ed, why I have omitted to notice the spiritual jurisdiction, which 
modern writers have sometimes bestowed on the Anglo-Saxon 
kings. ,My answer must be, that I did not chuse to assert that, 
of which no solid proof can be adduced. Whatever could be 
said in its favour, has been said long since by Sir Edward Coke 
(fifth part of reports) : but neither the authority nor the argu- 
ments of that great lawyer have subdued my incredulity. The 
whole tenor of the Anglo-Saxon history shews, that the spiritual 
jurisdiction was considered as the exclusive privilege of the 
bishops, and that their kings were proud to uphold and enforce 
it with their temporal authority. < It is the right of the king," 
says Wihtred, king of Kent, (anno 692), " to appoint earls, eal- 
' dormen, shire-reeves, and doom&men ; but it is the right of 
" the arehbishop to rule and provide for the church of God." 
Gynjar fceolan yercan eojilaj*. ] ea1t>jiaf-men. rcip'-penan. -] 
Tiomer-menn. "] ajicebircop rceal Do-oej* jelajjunje pirf ian } ]aa2t>an. 
Wilk. con. p. 57. See also p. 91, 148, 212. Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 5, 
1 7, ep. ad Egb. Ant. p. 310. Ale. ep. ad Athelhard, apud Wilk. 


p. 160. Leg. Sax. p. 146, 147, i. ii. Sim. Dunel. inter X. Scrip, 
p. 78. The king, indeed, is sometimes called the vicar of Christ : 
but the old homilist informs us, that this title was given to him, 
because it was his duty to defend with his army the people of 
Christ, from the evil designs of their enemies. Bast he hi heah>an 
yceoroe mit> ftx? polcey* pulcume pi$ ypele menn. -3 on p eohrentte 
hejie. Whelock, p. 151. In the book of constitutions it is said, 
that the king ought to be as a father to his people, and in watch- 
fulness and care, the vicar of Christ, as he is called, 
eymnje jebynaft ypifce juhte. f he j-y on pe-oep j"cs.\e 
j)eot>e. -3 on pasjie -3 on pea^tje ejmr-rer- jefpeli^a. eal rpa he 
if. Leg-. Sax, p. 147. 


Religious praSices of the Anglo-Saxons their facramenis the 
liturgy communion confejjton penitential canons mitigation 
of penance abfolution. 

THE ecclesiastical history of the northern, forms a re* 
inarkable contrast with that of the oriental Christians. 
In the east, the zeal of the orthodox pastors was, during 
several centuries, employed in opposing the attempts of 
numerous and often successful, innovators : in the north, 
the voice of religious discord was but seldom heard, and 
as speedily silenced (1). Of this difference the cause 
may be traced to the opposition of their national charac- 
ters. The eastern Christians were a polished people, 
whose natural penetration had been sharpened by the 
disputes of philosophers, and the logic of Aristotle. Not 
content to believe the truths, they attempted to explore 
the mysteries of the gospel : they summoned to their aid 
the faint light of reason, and the doubtful lessons of the 
ancient sages ; and from the- monstrous union of the doc- 
trines of philosophy with the tenets of Christianity, en- 
gendered those errors, which so long disfigured the beauty 
of the ancient ehurch. But the converts among the 
northern nations were more simple, and less inquisitive : 
without suspicion they acquiesced in the doctrines taught 

-(i) The disputes between the Roman and the Scottish mission- 
aries in England prove, that though they differed in some points 
of discipline, they agreed in all the articles of their belief.. Sec 
chapter l. 


by their missionaries 5 and carefully transmitted them as 
a sacred deposit to the veneration of their descendants. 
When Athelhard, archbishop of Canterbury, demanded 
from the prelates in the council of Cloveshoe, an exposi- 
sition of their belief, they unanimously answered : 
" Know, that the faith, which we profess, is the same as 
" was taught by the holy and apostolic see, when Gre- 
gory the great sent missionaries to our fathers" (2). I 
shall not, therefore, fatigue the reader with a theological 
investigation of the doctrines, which formed the creed 
of the Anglo-Saxons. The description of their religious 

(2) Notum sit paternitati tuae, quod sicut primitus a sancta 
Romana, et apostolica sede, beatissimo papa Gregorio dirigente, 
exarata est, ita credimus. Wilk. p. 162. Anno 800. The pro- 
fession of faith, which St Swithin, bishop of Winchester, made to 
Archbishop Ceolnoth, is drawn up in the same manner. Illam 
rectam et orthodoxam fidem, quam priores patres nostri devote 
servaverunt, cum omni humilitate et sincera devotione, sicut prae- 
decessores mei ipsi sanctae sedi Dorobernensis ecclesiae subjuncti 
sunt, semper servare velle humiliter per omnia profiteer. Textus 
Roffen. p. 2<J9. Anno 852. In the monk of Winchester, this 
profession begins thus. Ego Swithunus tnonacbits, servulus ser- 
vorum Dei, confiteor tibi, reverendissime pater Celnode Archie- 
piscope, continentiam meam, quam prius in professions monachili 
expressi, et dileftionem, &c. Hence he infers that St Swithin was 
a monk (Ang, Sac. vol. i. p. 203 :) the inference is admitted by 
the Bollandists (Jul. torn. i. p. 325 ;) and by Mabillon he is boldly 
ranked among the saints of the Benedictine order (Act. S. S. Be- 
ned, Saec. 4, torn. ii. p. 69.) It is a matter of little consequence. 
But there is reason to believe that the words in italics were art- 
fully added to the original. In the more ancient copy in the Tex- 
tus Roffensis, the profession begins thus : Ego Swithunus, humilis 
vernaculus servorum Dei, confiteor tibi Celnothe Archiepiscope, 
continentiam meam, et dilectionem, &c. Tex. Rof p. 269, 


practices is better calculated to arrest attention, and gra- 
tify curiosity : and from them their belief may be de- 
duced with less trouble, and with equal accuracy (3). 

I. The religion of the Anglo-Saxons was not a dry 
and lifeless code of morality. A spiritual worship, un- 
incumbered with ritual observances, has been recommend- 
ed by philosophers, as the most worthy of man, and the 
least unworthy of God : but experience has shewn, that 

(s) Yet how shall I pursue this enquiry, without entangling 
myself in the webs of controversy ? It was once the belief of 
protestant writers, that the Anglo-Saxon church, from its infancy, 
was polluted with the damnable errors of popery. (Augustinus 
ad Anglo-Saxones papisticis traditionibus initiandos apostolus 
primus mittebatur : introduxit altaria, vestes, missas, imagines, 
&c. &c. Bale cent. 13, c. i. Prater pontificum traditiones et 
humana stercora (a very delicate expression !) nihil attulit. Id, 
cent. 8, c. 85. Caeremoniarum proftcto hie fuit, Romanorumque 
rituum non Christianas; fidei aut divini verbi apostolus Anglis, eos- 
quc Romanes ac pontificios potius quam christianos airt evange- 
licos agere docuit. (Parker Ant. Brit. p. 35.) But this opinion 
has been shaken by the efforts of several eminent Saxon scholars, 
who have ascribed to their favourite study the important disco- 
very, that our forefathers were true and orthodox protestants. 
(See Whelock's Bede, passim. Hick's letters to a Roman priest, 
c. iii. Elstob, Saxon homily, pref.) It must be acknowledged, 
that to their industry Saxon literature is much indebted : but the 
ardour of discovery seems to have improved their fancy at the 
expense of their judgment : and a reader must be credulous in- 
deed, to believe with them, that a translation of the Pater noster, 
and of a few books of scripture, an exposition of the apostle's 
creed without any mention of purgatory, an observation that God 
alone is to be adored, and that the body of Christ, though it be 
really present in the Eucharist, is there after a spiritual and not a 
corporal manner, are proofs sufficient to establish the existence of 
a protestant church more than ten centuries ago. 


no system of belief can long maintain its influence over 
the mind, unless it be aided by external ceremonies, 
which may seize the attention, elevate the hopes, and 
console the sorrows of its professors. Among our ances- 
tors, religion constantly interested herself in the welfare 
of her children : she took them by the hand at the open- 
ing, she conducted them with the care of a parent, to the 
close of life. 1 . The infant, within thirty days from his 
birth, was regenerated in the waters of baptism. As a 
descendant of Adam, he had inherited that malediction, 
which the parent of the human race had entailed on all 
his posterity. To cleanse him from this stain, he was 
carried to the sacred font, and interrogated by the minis- 
ter of religion, whether he would renounce the devil, his 
works, and his pomps, and would profess the true faith 
of Christ. The answer was returned by the mouth of 
his sponsor ; he was plunged into the water ; the myste- 
rious words were pronounced ; and he emerged, a mem- 
ber of the church, a child of God, and heir to the bliss 
of heaven (4). 2. As he advanced in age, the neophyte 

(4) Before baptism, the child was ymjrull Sujxh A'camcr- 
;$etmerre : after baptism he became Dotiey man -j notjer beajin. 
Horn. Sax. apud Whelock, p. 64. For the renunciation of Satan, 
and the obligations of the sponsor, (one only seems to have been 
admitted,) see the council of Calcuith, (Wilk. p. 146,) and the 
Anglo-Saxon sermon on the Epiphany, (Whelock, p. 180.) From 
an omission in this sermon, Whelock has rashly inferred, that the 
ceremonies of the Roman ritual were unknown to our ancestors. 
But there is sufficient evidence of the contrary. The insufflation 
is mentioned by Bede, (1. v. c. 6,) the salt by the Saxon pontifical 
(Martene, vol. i. p. 38,) the unctions with oil on the breast and 
between the shoulders, and with chrism on the crown of the head, 
are noticed by Archbishop JElfric, (Leg. Sax. p. 172,) and the 


was admitted to participate of the celestial sacrifice. In 
the eucharist he received the body and blood of his Re- 
deemer : and the mystic union bound him to his duty by 
stronger ties, and gave him a new pledge of future hap- 
piness (5). 3.. Should, however, his passions seduce him 
from the fidelity, which he had solemnly vowed ta ob- 
serve, penance still offered an asylum, where he might 
shelter himself from the anger, and regain the favour of 
his creator. These were stiled the three great sacra- 
ments, by which the souls of men were purified from the 
guilt of sin (6) : there remained four others, which, 

whole process is described by Alcuin, in his treatise to Adrian, on 
the ceremonies of baptism. Duchesne, oper. Ale. par. n. Im- 
mediately after baptism the child was ordered to receive the eu- 
charist ; the crown of his head was bound with a fillet, which was 
not removed for the seven following days ; and during the same 
time he was constantly clothed in white. (In albis, Bed. 1. v. c. 7, 
unt>ej\ cjxif man. JElfred, ibid.) On each of these days he was 
carried to the mass, and received the communion. Ant> hyj man 
bejie to mserran ]>aer hyj beon jehurlotse ealle J>a vn ^ajar J>a hpile 
hij un^jrojene beoj>. .^Elfrici ep. inter Leg. Sax. p. 172. The true 
meaning of this passage has escaped the penetration of Wilkins, 
whose translation should be corrected from the writings of the 
ancient ritualists. 

(5) Eucharistia corpus et sanguis est Domini nostri Jesu Christi. 
Synod. Calcuth. apud Wilk. p. 169, ii. Sacritkium ccelestc. 
Bed. 1. iv. c. 14. 

(6) Bjieo heahce fcmj jerette Eot) mannum to claenrunjj. An ty 
pullhut. OJjeji ir hurel haljunge. Dj\it>t>e if 'oas'obot; mid jefpi- 
cennyf ye ypelpa -ox-Da, -j mm bijencje sot)jia peojica. " Three 
" holy things God has appointed for the purification of man. 
" The first is baptism ; the second, the holy communion ; the 
" third, penance, with a cessation from evil deeds, and the prac* 
" tice of good works." Sermo Cath. apud Whel.p. 180, 


though of inferior necessity, were considered as highly 
useful to the Christian, amid the dangers, to which he 
was exposed in his pilgrimage through life. 4. At an 
early period he was presented to the bishop, and, by the 
imposition of his hands, received the spirit of wisdom 
and fortitude, to direct and support him in the combat 
with his ghostly enemies (7). 5. If his inclination led 
him to the ecclesiastical state, the sacred rite of ordina- 
tion imparted the graces, which were necessary for the 
faithful discharge of the clerical functions (8). 6. If he 
preferred the bond of marriage, his marriage was sancti- 
fied by the prayers of the church, and the nuptial bene- 
diction (9). 7. But the bed of death was the scene, in 
which the religion of the Anglo-Saxons appeared in her 
fairest form, attended with all her consolations, the friend 
and the guardian of man. At that moment, when every 
temporal blessing slips from the grasp of its possessor, the 
minister of Christ approached the expiring sinner ; 
awakened his hopes by displaying the infinite mercy of 
the Reedemer ; listened with an ear of pity to the history 
of his transgressions ; taught him to bewail his past mis- 
conduct ; and, in the name of the Almighty, absolved 
him from his sins. As the fatal moment drew nigh, the 

(7) Bed. vit. Cuth. c. 29, p. 251, c. 32, p. 253. Horn, in psal, 
xxvi. Tom. viii. col. 558. Eddius, vit. Wilf. c. xviii. p. 60. 
Wilk. con. p. 252, xvii. Leg. Sax. p. 167. xxxv. Theod. pcenit. 
par. i. c. 4. 

(8) Ed. vit. Wilf. c. xii. p. 57. Wilk. con. p. 95, vi. 265, i. 

(9) Ibid. p. 106, xc. 217, viii. The bond of marriage was 
deemed indissoluble. Not even adultery could justify a second 
marriage before the death of one of the parties. See the tenth 
canon of the council of Herutford. Bed. 1. iv. c. 5. Anno 683. 


extreme un&ion prepared his soul to wrestle for the last 
time with the enemies of his salvation. The directions 
of St James were religiously observed : the prayer of 
faith was read over the dying man ; and his body was 
anointed with consecrated oil (10). To conclude the 
solemn ceremony, the eucharist was administered, as a 
viaticum, or provision for his journey to a better world 
(11). Thus consoled and animated, he was taught to 

(10) Wilk. con. p. 127, xv. 229, Ixv. Ixvi. 

(11) Id. ibid. Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 14, 23. Vit. Cuth. c. 39. He 
thus describes the death of St Cuthbert : 

Ecce sacer residens antistes ad altar, 

Pocula degiistat vitse, Christique supinum 

Sanguine munit iter, vultusque ad sidera et almas 

Sustollit gaudens palmas, animamque supernis 

Laudibus intentam lastantibus indidit astris. 

Bed. >vit. Cutb.p. 286. 

Felix, who wrote very soon after Bede, describes the death of St 
Guthlake in almost the same words. Extendens manus ad altare, 
munivit se communione corporis et sanguinis Christi, atque eleva- 
tis oculis ad ccelum, extensisque manibus, animam ad gaudia 
perpetuae exultationis emisit. Felix, vit. St Guth. in Act. SS. 
April, torn. iii. p. 48. For the viaticum they were accustomed 
to preserve the eucharist, and renew it every fortnight. (Bed. 1. 
iv. c. 24, and JElfric's charge to the clergy. Leg. Sax. p. 159.) 
Though the sick communicated under the form of bread alone, 
(Ibid, and p. 172,) yet it was still called the viaticum of the body 
and blood of Christ, (compare two passages in Bed. ibid. p. 157, 
158.) The place in which the eucharist was preserved, was a 
box or tabernacle, (JElfric, ibid.) which appears to have been 
fixed on an altar in the church, and occasionally adorned with 
green leaves or flowers. 

Quam fronde coronant, 
Dum buxis claudunt pretiosse munera vitae. 

Ethelwold, de SS. Lindis. c. xiv. p. 314. Note (I). 


resign himself to the will of his creator, and to await with 
patience the stroke of dissolution. 

II. Among the various forms of Christian worship, the 
precedency is justly claimed by the eucharistic sacrifice. 
By every religious society, which dates its origin from 
the more early ages, its superior dignity and efficacy has 
always been acknowledged : and in the liturgies of the 
most distant nations we constantly discover it the same, 
if not in appearance, at least in substance. In the ar- 
rangement of the ceremonies, and the composition of 
the prayers, different models were followed by different 
churches : but amid these accidental variations, the more 
important parts, the invocation, the consecration, the 
fraction of the host, and the communion, were preserved 
with religious fidelity (12). By Augnstine and his asso- 
ciates, the mass was celebrated at Canterbury, after the 
Roman method. But in their journey to Britain, they 
had observed the different rites of the Gauls ; and were 
careful to consult their patron respecting the cause of this 
diversity. The answer of the pontiff evinces a liberal 
mind. Though the reformation of the Roman liturgy 
had obtained a considerable share of his attention, he 
neither urged the superior excellence of his own labours, 
nor condemned the rituals of other churches : but advised 
his disciples to consult the usuages of different nations, 

(12) The numerous mistakes of former writers on this im- 
portant subject, have been corrected by Renaudot, in his collec- 
tion of the oriental liturgies. The principal differences are in the 
preparatory part of the sacrifice : but in the canon, besides the 
particulars' mentioned in the text, they all contain the preface or 
thanksgiving, the commemoration of the living and the dead, and 
the Lord's prayer. Rtnaud. vol. i. disser. p. xx. 


and to select from each whatever was most conducive to 
the honour of the Deity. But the judgment of Augus- 
tine naturally preferred the discipline to which he had 
been accustomed : the Roman liturgy was established in 
the churches founded by his labours ; and was spontane- 
ously adopted by the converts of the Scottish missiona- 
ries (13). 

From the works of the Anglo-Saxon writers we may 
learn the profound veneration, with which they had 
been taught to view this sacred institution. Whenever 
they mention it, the most lofty epithets, the most splen- 
did descriptions display their sentiments. It is " the ce- 
" lebration of the most sacred mysteries, the celestial 
ic sacrifice, the oblation of the saving victim, the reno- 
vation of the passion and death of Christ" (14). To 

(13) With the Gregorian chaunt, the whole of the Roman 
liturgy appears to have been adopted by the churches of the 
north. Bed. 1. iv. c. 18. Tf the liturgies of the Italian and Scot- 
tish missionaries were net exactly similar, the difference must 
have been unimportant, as it does not appear to have been men- 
tioned in the disputes, which divided the two parties. Cuminms 
(anno 657) and Adanraan (anno 680) were abbots of the monas- 
tery, from which the Scottish missionaries were sent, and speak 
of the mass in the same terms as the Roman writers. Cuminius 
calls it, sacrificale mysterium, sacra sancti sacrificii mysteria, 
(Cumin, edit. Pinkerton, p. 29, 32 :) and in the language of Adam- 
nan, to celebrate the mass, is sacra consecrare mysteria, Christi 
corpus ex more conficere, (Adam. edit. Pink. p. 93, 172.) The 
general conformity of the ancient Roman, Gallic, Gothic, and 
other western canons, with the present Roman canen, is shewn 
by Georgi, de litur. Rom. pont. vol. iii. p. xli. 

(14) Bed. 1. ii. c. v. 1. iv. c. 14, 22, 28. Vit. Cuth. p. 242. Vit. 
Abbat. Wirem. p. 302. Ep. Bug. ad Bonif. p. 45. Sermo de sac. 
apud. Whel. p. 474. 


assist at it daily, they consider as a pra&ice of laudable 
piety ; to be present on every Sunday and holiday, they 
pronounce a duty of the strictest obligation (15). Of 
all the resources which religion offers to appease the 
anger of God, it is declared to be the most efficacious : 
its influence is not confined to the living ; it releases 
from their bonds the souls of the dead (16). Impressed 
with these sentiments, all were eager to join in the ob- 
lation of the sacrifice, and no cost was spared to testify, 
by external magnificence, their inward veneration. The 
decorations of the church, the voices of a numerous choir, 
the harmony of musical instruments (17), the blaze of the 

(15) Sunnan t>ze;i; ip rpipe heahce ro peojipian . . . Bucan phain 
jebyju^e $ he nyt>e jpajian rcyle. ftonne mor he rpa ru'oan r-pa jioparr 
.... on ^a jejiat) -J5 he hiy mserran S^yJ 16 - '" Sunday is most 
" holily to be kept .... but if it happen that a man must of ne- 
cessity travel, he may ride or sail, but on condition that he 
" hear mass." Wilk. con. p. 273. 

(16) Bed. 1. iv. c. 22. Sermo de efficacia sanctas missse, apud 
Whelock, p. 319. Sermo de sacrif. p. 475. 

(17) The Anglo-Saxons were passionately fond of music, and, 
after their conversion, the national taste displayed itself in the 
public worship. To attain an accurate knowledge of the Grego- 
rian chaunt, was deemed an object of high importance : masters 
were eagerly selected from the disciples of the Roman missiona- 
ries ; and John, praecentor of St Peter's in Rome, was long de- 
tained in England for the same purpose, (Bed. hist. 1. ii. c. 20, iv. 
c. 2, 18, v. 20.) Of the proficiency of the Saxons, we are not 
informed. That they entertained a high opinion of themselves is 
certain : but so did the Gallic singers of this period, though they 
were objects of ridicule to those of Italy ; quia bibuli gutturis 
barbara feritas, dum inflexionibus et repercussionibus mitem 
nititur edere cantilenam, natural! quodam fragore, quasi plaustra 
jser graclus confuse sonantia, rigidas voces jactat, sicque audien- 



lamps and tapers, the vestments of the officiating minis- 
ter and his attendants, all concurred to elevate the soul, 
and inspire the most lively sentiments of devotion. At 

tium animos, quos mulcere debuerat, exasperando magis ac ob- 
strependo conturbat. Joan. diac. vit. Greg. 1. ii. c. 7. Organs 
were admitted into the Saxon churches at an early period. The 
first person in the west by whom they were employed, is said by 
Platina, though with some hesitation, to have been Vitalian, the 
Roman pontiff, (Plat, in Vital.) If we credit his account, we 
may suppose that they were introduced into England by Theo- 
dore and Adrian, whom that pope sent to instruct our ancestors. 
At least it is certain, that they were known by St Aldhelm as 
early as the close of the seventh century. In his poem de laudi- 
bus-vir'ginitatis, he tells the admirer of music, who despises the 
more humble sounds of the harp, to listen to the thousand voices 
of the organ. 

Maxima milienis auscultans organa fiabris 
Mulceat auditum ventosis follibus iste, 
Quamvis auratis fulgescant castera capsis. 

Eib. Pat. torn. viii.^. 3. 

(This passage was first discovered by Mr Turner, vol. iv. p. 447.) 
About sixty years afterwards, Constantine, the Byzantine emperor, 
sent to Pepin an organ of excellent workmanship, which has er- 
roneously been supposed to be the first among the Latins. It is 
thus described : Quod doliis ex asre confiatis, follibusque taurinis 
per fistulas ssreas mire perflantibus, rugitu quidem tonitrui boa- 
turn, garrulitatem vero lyrae vel cymbali dulcedine cosequabat, 
(Monac. Gallen. vit. Caroli mag. c. 10.) The French artists were 
eager to equal thiss pecimen of Grecian ingenuity : and so success- 
ful were their efforts, that in the ninth century the best organs were 
made iri France and Germany. Their superiority was acknow- 
ledged by John VIII. in a letter to Anno, bishop of Freisingcn, 
from whom he requested an organ, and a master for the instruc- 
tion of the Roman musicians. Precamur ut optimum organ urn 
cum artifice, qui hoc moderari, et facere ad omnern modnlationis 
efficaciam possit, ad instructionem musicse discipline, nobis aut 


the prayer of consecration it was believed, that the saviour 
of manjdnd descended on the altar, the angels stood 
around in respectful silence (18), the spotless lamb was 
immolated to the eternal father, and the mystery of 
man's redemption was renewed (19). At length the sa- 
crifice was consummated : a part of the consecrated ele- 
ments was received by the priest ; the remainder was dis- 
tributed among those, whose piety prompted them to ap- 
proach to the holy table. 

The discipline of the church has often been compelled: 
to bend to the weakness of her children. To communi- 
cate, as often as they assisted at the sacred mysteries, 
was a practice introduced by the fervour of the first chris- 
tians : and, during several centuries, each omission was 
chastised by a temporary exclusion from the society of 

deferas aut mittas. Cit. Sandini in vit. Pont. vol. i.p. 241. Soon 
after this period they were common in England, and constructed 
by English artists. They appear to have been of large dimen- 
sions : the pipes were made of copper, and fixed in frames, that 
frequently were gilt. (Aldh. ibid. Gale, p. 266, 420.) In the 
poems of Wolstan, a monk of Winchester, occurs a minute de- 
scription of the great orgaa in that cathedral. Of its accuracy 
there is little reason to doubt, as the poem is dedicated to St El- 
phege, the person by whom the organ was erected. It will be 
found in note (M). 

(18) Halija englaj* Saeji abutan hpeajipap. Leg. eccl. Wilk. p. 300. 

(19) Dxgpamhce bip hiy* fcjtopunje ^eetmipet) fcujih gejimu fcae)- 
halgan hurley aetr Saejie haJjan maeyran. " Daily is his passion re- 
" newed by the mystery of the holy husel at the holy mass," 
Sermo de Sac. apud Wh'el. p. 474. Missarum solemnia cele- 
bantes, corpus sacrosanctum, et pretiosmn agni sanguinem, quo 
a peccatis redempti sumus, denuo Deo in profectum nostrae sa- 
lutis immolamus. Bed. horn, in vig. Pas. torn. vii. col. 6. Vit., 
St Cuth. p. 242. 



the faithful (20). But with the severity of their morals, 
their devotion to the eucharist insensibly declined , fre- 
quency of communion was left to the choice of each in- 
dividual; and the precept was confined to the three 
great festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide 
(21). Still, however, in many churches the spontaneous 
devotion of the fervent preserved some vestiges of the 
ancient discipline : but their example made no great im- 
pression on the majority of the Anglo-Saxons, whose 
piety Was satisfied with an exact observance of the more 
recent regulation. In justification of their reserve, they 
urged the sublime dignity of the sacrament. To them 
the modern doctrine, that the eucharist is the mere man- 
ducation of the material elements, in commemoration of 
the passion of the Messiah, was entirely unknown. 
They had been taught to despise the doubtful testimony 
of the senses, and to listen to the more certain assurance 
of the inspired writings : according to their belief, the 
bread and wine, after the consecration, had ceased to be 
what their external appearance suggested ; they were 
become, by an invisible operation, the victim of redemp- 
tion, the true body and blood of Christ (22). But how, 



(20) Can. Apost. 10. Con. Ant. can. 2 V Bona, rcrum liturg. 
1. i..c. 13. 

(21) Synod. Agath. can. 18. 

(22) pipuran hi beo]> gepepene hlap ~\ pin aejpeji je on hipe je on 
f pjecce. ac hi beoj> yophce aepren paejie haljunje Gjiirter hchama -j 
hip blot?. Suph gay thce gejiinu. " Without (externally) they seem 
w bread and wine both' in appearance and in taste ; yet they be 
M truly, after the consecration, Christ's body and his blood, 
w through a ghostly mystery." Sermo in die Pas. apud Whel. p. 
470. See note (N). 


they asked, could sinful man presume, of his own choice,, 
to introduce his redeemer within his breast ? Was it 
not less hazardous, and more respectful, to remain, on 
other occasions, at an awful distance, and to communi- 
cate on those festivals only, when his temerity might be 
excused by his obedience ? This reasoning, however, did 
not satisfy the zeal of the venerable Bede : who con- 
demned an humility which deprived the soul of the 
choicest blessings, and asserted his conviction, that many 
among his countrymen, in every department of life, were 
by their superior virtue entitled to partake of the sacred 
mysteries, on every Sunday and festival in the year (23). 
The sentiments of the pious monk, inspired the bishops 
at the synod of Cloveshoe j and each pastor was com- 
manded to animate the devotion of his parishioners, and 
to display in the strongest light the advantages of frequent 
communion (24). 

In addition to the Roman liturgy, the Anglo-Saxon 
cliurch had adopted the Roman course or breviary (25). 

(2S) Cum sint innumeri innocentes .... qui absque ullo 
scrupulo controversial, omni die dominica, sive etiatn in natalitiis 
sanctorum apostolorum sive martyrum, quomodo ipse in sancta 
Romana et Apostolica ecclesia fieri vidisti, mysteriis ccelestibus 
*ommunicare valeant. Bed. epis. ad Egbert, p. 311. ' t 

(24) Syn. Clov. apud Wilk. p. 98, xxiii. Anno 747. 

(25) The Roman course had been greatly improved by the care 
of St Gregory. It was introduced into England by the mission- 
ries ; and was ordered to be used in all churches by the synod of 
Cloveshoe. (Wilk. con. p. 96, xiii. 97, xv. xvi.) But the decree 
of this synod seems not to have been observed in the kingdom of 
Northumbria. At least the monks of Lindisfarne, on some occa- 
sion, adopted the office composed by St Benedict, and it was re- 
iained by the clergy who succeeded them. (Sim. Ounel. edit. 

N 3 


Of this compilation the principal part had been se!eled 
from the psalms of David, and the writings of the pro- 
phets, which abound with the sublimest effusions of reli- 
gious sentiment. But the fatigue of uniformity was re- 
lieved by a competent number of lessons, extracted from 
the books of the holy scriptures, the works of the ancient 
fathers, and the afts of the most celebrated martyrs : and 
the different portions of the office were terminated by 
prayers, of which the noble and affecting simplicity has 
been deservedly admired. The service of each day was 
divided into seven hours : and at each of these the clergy 
were summoned to the church, to sing, in imitation of 
the royal prophet, the praise of the creator (26). The 
layman was exhorted, but the ecclesiastic was commanded 
to assist. Of this difference the reason is obvious. The 
clergy were the representatives of the great body of chris- 
tians : they had been liberated from all secular employ- 
ments, that they might attend, with fewer impediments, 

Bedford, p. 4. He seems to attribute it to St Aidan, which is evi- 
dently a mistake.) When St Dunstan restored the monastic or- 
der, after the devastations of the Danes, he introduced the Bene- 
dictine office with a few additions ; but allotted a particular ex- 
ception to the festival of Easter and its octave ; during which he 
ordered the monks to adopt the same service as the clergy, in 
honour of St Gregory. Septem horse canonicae a monachis in 
ecclesia Dei more canonicorum, propter auctoritatem beati Gre- 
gorii celebrandae sunt. Concor. Monach. apud Reyner, app. par. 
iii. p. 89, 90. The custom continued till the conquest, when the 
Norman Lanfranc, who probably felt less veneration for the apostle 
of the Saxons, ordered it to be abolished. Constit. Lanfran. apud 
Wilk. torn. i. p. 339. 

(26) They were called the uht or morning-song, prime-song, 
under-song, midday-song, none-song, even-song, and night-song. 
Wilk. p. 97, 252. 


to their spiritual functions : it was therefore expected 
that, by their assiduity, they would compensate for the 
deficiencies of their less fervent brethren ; and by their 
daily supplications avert the anger, and call down the 
blessings of the Almighty. 

Both the mass and the canonical service were perform- 
ed in Latin. For the instruction of the people, the 
epistle and gospel were read, and the sermon was de- 
livered in their native tongue : but God was always ad- 
dressed by the ministers of religion in the language of 
Rome. The missionaries, who, from whatever country 
they came, had been accustomed to this rite from their 
infancy, would have deemed it a degradation of the sa- 
crifice, to subject it to the caprice and variations of a 
barbarous idiom ; and their disciples, who felt not the 
thirst of innovation, were proud to tread in the foot- 
steps of their teachers. The practice has been severely 
reprobated by the reformed theologians : but it was for- 
tunate for mankind, that the apostles of the northern 
nations were less wise than their modern critics. Had 
they adopted in the liturgy the language of their pro- 
selytes, the literature would probably have perished with 
the empire, of Rome. By preserving the use of the 
Latin tongue, they imposed on the clergy the necessity 
of study, kept alive the spirit of improvement, .and trans- 
mitted to future generations the writings of the classics, 
and the monuments of profane and ecclesiastical history. 
III. In every system of worship, the means of atone- 
ment for sin must form an essential part. The first pro- 
fessors of the gospel believed, that the Messiah by his 
voluntary sufferings had paid to the divine justice the 
debt contracted by human guilt : but at the same time 


they taught, that the application of his merits to the soul 
of man was intrusted to the ministry of those, to whom 
he had imparted the power of binding and of loosing, of 
forgiving and retaining sin (27). To exercise with dis- 
cretion this twofold jurisdiction, it was necessary to 
learn the prevarications and disposition of the penitent : 
and from the earliest ages we behold the faithful chris- 
tian at the feet of his confessor, acknowledging in pub- 
lic, or in private, the nature and number of his trans- 
gressions (28). With the doctrine of the gospel, the 
practice of confession was introduced among the Saxons 
by the Roman and Scottish missionaries (29). They 

(27) John xx. 22, 23. 

(28) Denis de St Marthe, traite de la confession. Daille made 
thirty feeble attempts to disprove the antiquity of this practice. 
They may be seen in Bingham, vol. ii. p. 219. 

(29) But was not auricular confession unknown to the Scottish 
monks, and their proselytes ? Henry (vol. iii. p. 208,) has boldly- 
asserted the affirmative : but he was misled by the authority of 
Inett, to copy whose mistakes he often found a more easy task, 
than to consult the original writers. The words of Inett are 
these : " Theodore endeavoured to introduce auricular confession, 
" an usuage which, according to the account that Egbert, arch- 
" bishop of York, giyes of it in the beginning of the next cent- 
** ry, was unknown to the English, converted by the Scots and 
" Britons." Inett, hist, of the English church, vol. i. p. 85. 
Reader, if you consult the work of Egbert for thrs account, you 
will consult in vain. On the introduction of confession, and the 
manners of the English converted by the Scots and Britons, he is 
silent : but he observes that, from the time of Theodore, the 
faithful had been accustomed, during the twelve dsys before 
Christmas, to prepare themselves for communion by fasting, con- 
fession, and alms (Egb. de instit. eccl. Wilk. p. 86) : and this ob- 
servation has been converted, by the imagination of Inett, into 


were taught to consider it not merely as a pious observ- 
ance, which depended on the devotion of each individual, 
but as an indispensible obligation, from which nothing 
could release the sinner but the impossibility of the per- 
formance. The law by which it was enforced, was con- 
strued to extend to every class of Christians : to bind the 
highest ecclesiastic no less than the meanest layman 
(30). The sinner, who was desirous to regain the favour 
of his offended God, was directed to approach the feet 
of his confessor with humility and compunction, and after 
professing his belief in the principal truths of christiani- 
ty, to unfold all the crimes, with which he had contami- 
nated his conscience, by deed, by word, and by thought 
(31). To conclude this humiliating ceremony, he declar- 

an assertion, that before the time of Theodore they were igno- 
rant of the practice of confession. That, however, it was taught 
by the Scottish monks to their converts, is evident from the zeal 
of St Cuthbert, who, long before the arrival of Theodore, spent 
whole months in preaching, and receiving the confessions of the 
people (Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 27. Vit. Cuth. c. 9, 16) : and that they 
adopted it in their own country, may be proved from the con- 
duct of St Columba, the founder of the Abbey of Hii (Adomnan 
vit. Colum. p. 71, SO, 89,) from the penitentiary of Cuminius, the 
fifth of his successors, (Mab. vet. anal. p. 17,) and the confession 
of the Scottish monk related' by Bede, (1. iv. c. 25.) 

(30) Beoprip cymp ymbe rpelp monap. -J5 celc man ycexl hir 
j- cjiijrr jeyprtecan. -j I}ote *] hiy ycrupre hir gylray antserran fta 
3e he jeporire. The time of duty comes every twelve months, 
" when every man shall speak to his confessor, and avow to God 
" and his confessor all the sins which he has committed." Egb, 
peniten. apud WiUV. p. 141. 

(31) JElce rynne mon j^ceal hiy ycrtipre aivoerran. Sajia $a he 
geprtemede. o]>J>e on pojit>e oppe on peojxce. oppe on jepohre. 

Every sin man shall to his confessor declare, tfcat he ever com* 


^d his determination to amend his life, and adjured his 
confessor to bear testimony in the day of judgment, to 
the sincerity of his repentance (32). 

In the language of catholic theology, the priest is said 
to preside in the tribunal of penance, as a judge, whose 
duty it is to pronounce sentence on the accused according 
to his demerits. But so numerous and so nicely discri- 
minated are the gradations of human guilt, so complicated 
the circumstances which aggravate or lighten its enormi- 
ty, that to apportion with accuracy the punishment to the 
offence, will frequently confound the skill of the most 

u mitted either in word, or in work, or in thought." Liber leg. 
eccl. apud Wilk. p. 276. 

(32) Wilk. p. 231. Whelock is positive that the practice of 
the Saxons was the same as that of the present established church. 
They advised, but did not command confession. (Whel. hist, 
eccl. p. 215, 216, index, art. confessio.) The very homilies 
which he published, might have taught him the contrary. I shall 
transcribe two "passages. Helome ur lajjiap f halije sepjiir $ pe 
pleon ro pam lacet>ome popjte antjsetnyrx u J* e rynna. Fojipan pe 
eller- ne majon beon hale buron pe ant>eri5an hjieojnende J5 pe to 
unjuhre 'oy'oan fcujxh gymelyrre. JElc pojijipenyjfre hyhre ij* on 
pajjie arroecnyrre. *J peo airoetnyrxe ij* fce engla lacet>ome ujia 
j*ynna. mvo Sasjae ropan 'oa^ < obore. " The holy scripture frequent- 
" ly teaches us to flee to the medicine of true confession of our 
" sins : because we cannot otherwise be healed, except we confess 
" with sorrow what we have unrighteously done through negli- 
" gence. All hope, of forgiveness is in confession. Confession 
" with true repentance is the angelic remedy of our sins." Whel. 
p. 341, 343. piro'olice ne bejyr nan man hiy pynna pojisipenyjT 6 
x-c Dot>e buron he hi yumum Do'oej' men jeanwtre -3 be hijr toome 
gebere. " Truly no man will obtain forgiveness of his sins from 
God, unless he confess to some of God's ministers, and do 
" penance according to his judgment." Sermo de pcenit. apud 
Whel. p. 423. 


jible and impartial casuist. Theodore, however, whether 
he confided in his superior abilities, or yielded to the ne- 
cessity of directing his less enlightened brethren, attempt- 
ed the difficult task, and published a penitentiary, or code 
of laws, for the imposition of sacramental penance. In 
it he ventured to deviate from the letter of the ancient 
canons, whose severity bears testimony to the fervour of 
the age, in which they were framed, and adopted the 
milder discipline of the Greek church, in which he had 
imbibed the rudiments of theological science. The suc- 
cess of his endeavours stimulated the timidity of his bre- 
thren: and the penitentiaries of Egbert, archbishop of 
York, and of several other prelates, claim a distinguished 
place among the ecclesiastical records of Saxon antiquity 
(33). Fasting was the principal species of punishment 
which they enjoined : but its nature and duration were 
determined by the malignity of the offence. The more 
pardonable sins of frailty and surprise might be expiated 
by a less rigorous fast of ten, twenty, or thirty days : but 
when the crime was of a blacker die, when it argued deep 
and premeditated malice, a longer course of mortification 
was required, and one, five, seven years, or even a whole 
life of penance, was deemed a cheap and easy compensa- 
tion. So dreary a prospect might have plunged the pe- 
nitent into despair or indifference : but his fervour was 
daily animated by the hopes and fears of religion , his 
past fidelity was rewarded by subsequent indulgences ; 
and the yoke was prudently lightened the longer it was 
worn. After a certain period, to the severe regimen of 

(33) They may be seen in Wilkins, vol. i. p. 115, 225; vol. iv. 
p. 751, an<l the Codex canonum et constitutionum MSS. Jun. 


bread and water, succeeded a more nutritious diet, which 
excluded only the flesh of quadrupeds and fowls : and 
the fasts that originally had comprised six, were gradual- 
ly contracted to three or fewer days in the week (34). 

To these regulations., when they were first enjoined, 
the sanctity of their authors, and the fervour of the pro- 
selytes ensured a ready obedience. But nature soon 
learned to rebel ; necessity introduced several mitiga- 
tions , and the ingenuity of the penitents discovered 
expedients to elude or mitigate their severity. When 
the sinner had delayed his conversion, till he was alarmed 
by the near approach of death, it was idle to enjoin him 
many years of penance : and he was rather advised, ac- 
cording to the command of the holy scriptures, to redeem 
his sins with works of mercy, and to commute the fasts 
of the canons for donations to the church, and to the 
poor. An idea so consonant to the maxims of Saxon ju- 
risprudence, was eagerly adopted, and insensibly improv- 
ed into a perfect system, which regulated with precision, 
according to the rank and wealth of the penitent, the 
price at which the fast of a day, a month, or a year, might 
be lawfully redeemed. This indulgence, which had ori- 
ginally been confined to the dying, was claimed with an 
equal appearance of justice by the sick and the infirm ; 
and was at last extended to all, whose constitutions or 
employments were incompatible with the rigour of a long 
and severe fast (35). By the rich it was accepted with 
gratitude : but to the poor it offered an illusory boon, 

(34) Ibid, passim. 

(35) See the chapter, hu y eocman mot hir ser~an alyran. Wilk. 
?on. vol. i. p. 237. ' 


which only aggravated the hardships of their condition. 
To remove the invidious distinction, a new species of com- 
mutation was adopted. Archbishop Egbert, founding 
his decision on the authority of Theodore, intrusted it to 
the prudence of the confessor, to enjoin, when the peni- 
tent pleaded infirmity or inability, a real equivalent in 
prayers or money. Thus a new sytem of canonical arith- 
metic was established ; and the fast of a day was taxed at 
the rate of a silver penny for' the rich, or of fifty pater- 
nosters for the illiterate, and fifty psalms for the learned 
(36). That these compensations would accelerate the 
decline of the primitive fervour, was foreseen and lament- 
ed by the bishops : and the fathers of the council of 
Cloveshoe made a vigorous but fruitless attempt to up- 
hold the ancient discipline. It is necessary," they ob- 
serve to the Saxon clergy, " that the enjoyment of for- 
" bidden pleasures should be punished by the subtrac- 
(t tion of lawful gratifications. Alms and prayers are 
" undoubtedly useful, but they are designed to be the 
" auxiliaries, not the substitutes of fasting" (37). The 
torrent, however, was irresistible ; and the condemned 
indulgencies v/ere gradually sanctioned, first by the si- 
lence, afterwards by the approbation of their successors. 

There was another, and a more singular innovation, 
which equally provoked, and equally survived their cen- 
sure. Among a powerful and turbulent nobility, it was 
not difficult to discover men, whose offences were so nu- 
merous, that to expiate them according to the letter of 
the canons, would require a greater number of years* 

(36) Wilk. p. 115, 140, 237. 
r) Id. p. 98. Anno 747. 


than could probably fall to the lot of any individual. Sin- 
ners of this description were admonished to distrust so 
precarious a resource , to solicit the assistance of their 
friends, and to relieve their own insolvency by the vica- 
rious payments of others. In obedience to this advice, 
they recommended themselves to the prayers of those, 
who were distinguished by the austerity and sanctity of 
their lives ; endeavoured by numerous benefits to pur- 
chase the gratitude of the monks and clergy ; and by 
procuring their names to be enrolled among the members 
of the most celebrated monasteries, indulged the hope of 
partaking in the merit of the good works performed by 
those societies. But it was not long before a system, 
which offered so much accommodation to human weak- 
ness, received considerable improvements j and men were 
willing to persuade themselves that they might atone for 
their crimes by substituting in the place of their own, the 
austerities of mercenary penitents (38). It was in vain 
that the council of Cloveshoe thundered its anathemas 
against their disobedience : the new doctrine was sup- 
ported by the wishes and the practice of the opulent; 
and its toleration was at length extorted, on the condi- 
tion, that the sinner should undergo, in person, a part at 
least of his penance. The thane, who determined to 

(38) Nuper, say the bishops assembled at CJoveshoe, quidam 
dives petens reconciliationem pro magno quodam facinore suo 
citius sibi dari, affirmavit idem nefas juxta aliorum promissa in 
tantum esse expiatum, ut si deinceps vivere posset trecentoruin 
annorum numerum, pro eo plane his satisfactionum modis, per 
aliorum scilicet psalmodiam, et jejunium, et cleemosynam per- 
solutum esset, excepto illius jejunio, et quamvis ipse utcumque 
vel parum jejuiwet. Ibid. p. 99. 


embrace this expedient, was commanded to lay aside his 
arms, to clothe himself in woollen or sackcloth, to walk 
barefoot, to carry in his hand the staff of a pilgrim, to 
maintain a certain number of poor, to watch during 
the night in the church, and, when he slept, to repose 
on the ground. At his summons, his friends and depen- 
dants assembled at his castle : they also assumed the garb 
of penitence : their food was confined to bread, herbs, 
and water : and these austerities were continued, till the 
aggregate amount of their fasts equalled the number spe- 
cified by the canons. Thus, with the assistance of one 
hundred and twenty associates, an opulen^ sinner might, 
in the short space of three days, discharge the penance 
of a whole year. But he was admonished that it was a 
doubtful and dangerous experiment : and that, if he 
hoped to appease the anger of the Almighty, he must 
sanctify his repentance by true contrition of heart, by fre- 
quent donations to the poor, and by fervent prayer (39). 
How long this practice was tolerated, I am ignorant : but 
I have met with no instance of it, posterior to the reign 
of Edgar. 

"While the penitent thus endeavoured to expiate his 
guilt, he looked forward with anxiety to the day, which 
was to terminate his labours, and restore him to the com- 
mon privileges of the faithful. At the expiration, often 
before the expiration of his penance, he sought again the 
feet of his confessor, and solicited the benefit of absolu- 
tion. But he was previously interrogated respecting his 
present dispositions, and the fidelity, with which he had 
observed the injunctions of the canons. If his reply 
proved satisfactory, if the amendment of his conduct 

(39) See the chapter, Be imhtium mannura : Wilk. p. 238. 


evinced the sincerity of his professions, the priest ap- 
plauded his obedience, exhorted him to persevere, and 
extending his hand, pronounced over him the prayer of 
absolution. " The Almighty God, who created the 
" heavens, the earth, and every creature, have mercy on 
" thee, and forgive thee all the sins, which thou hast 
" committed from the time of thy baptism, till this hour, 
" through Jesus Christ our Lord" (40). The joy of the 

(40) Se selmihrija Cot) be gerceop heopiay -3 eojiban -3 ealle ge- 
pceapta gemilry a be. -3 'oo be pojigypnyrre ealna bmjia rynna J>e bu 
*p]ie gepophtej-r pjxam pjremBe pinner ejiirt;ent>oaier ob bir Titie. 
MSS. Cott. Tib. A. 3. Did the Saxon Christians attach much im- 
portance to this rite of absolution ? If we may believe Carte, 
(hist. vol. i. p. 241,) and Henry, (hist. vol. iii. p. 208,) they did 
not : but when they submitted to the ceremony of confession, 
their object was to learn the decision of the penitentiary, not to 
obtain absolution. Alcuin, however, who may be supposed to 
have known the doctrine of his countrymen as accurately as any 
modern historian, was of a different opinion. He informs us, that 
confession was necessary, because without it, absolution could 
not be obtained. Si peccata sacerdotibus non sunt prodenda, quare 
in sacramentario reconciliations orationes scriptas sunt ? Quomo- 
do sacerdos reconciliat, quern peccare non n&vit ? Sacerdotes a 
Deo Christo cum sanctis apostolis ligandi solvendique potestatem 
accepisse credimus. Ale. ep. 71, edit. Duchesne. Ant. lect. 
Canisii, vol. ii. p. 415. " The sinner," says the Saxon homilist, 
" who conceals his sins, lies dead in the grave : but if with sor- 
" row he confess his sins, then he rises from the grave like Laza- 
" rus, at the command of Christ, and then shall his teacher un- 
" bind him from eternal punishment, as the apostles unbound the 
" body of Lazarus. JElc yynpull man 3e hiy yynna betDiglab. he- 
lift 'oea'o on byjigene. ac gip he hij* j*ynna geamjer-e Sufih onbjiy ji- 
t5ny)^e. Bonne jrej? he op B^jae byjigene. ppa ppa Lazajiuj* "oytoe 
fca Ba Gjiipc lane ajuyan her. Bonne y ceal re lajaeop hme unbin-oan ' 
Bam ecan pire rpa fpa Ba apop roh lichamhce Lazapunj 


penitent was complete. Confident that he was now re- 
stored to the favour of heaven, he arose, assisted at the 
sacrifice of the mass, and sealed his reconciliation by re- 
ceiving the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of 
salvation, and the pledge of a glorious immortality. 

alypjon. Whel. p. 40S. Also Wilk. p. 125, 127, 229, 238. See 
note (O.) 

1 2 1 


Euchologlcal ceremonies lenediftion of the Anglo-Saxon knights 
of marriages -ordinations of the clergy coronation of kings 
dedication of churches. 

I. THE superstition of paganism had peopled the earth 
with gods ; and the sea and the air, every stream, grove, 
and fountain, possessed its peculiar and tutelary deity. The 
folly of the gnostics embraced the opposite extreme. In 
their eyes, the visible creation was the work of the power 
of darkness : and the saint was frequently compelled, by 
the unhappy condition of his existence, to an involuntary 
co-operation with that malevolent being, whom he pro- 
fessed to abhor. To combat these contradictory but po- 
pular errors, to teach her children that all things were 
created by the wisdom, and might be directed to the ser- 
vice of the Almighty, the Christian church was accustom- 
ed from the .earliest ages, to invoke, by set forms of 
prayer, the blessing of heaven on whatever was adapted 
to the divine worship, or the support and convenience of 
man. In this respect her conduct was an exact copy of 
that, which God had recommended to the Jewish legisla- 
tor ; and was justified by the doctrine of the apostle, that 
" every creature of God is good, being sanctified by the 
word of God, and by prayer" (1). From the sacra- 
mentary of Gelasius, these forms of benediction had pass- 
ed to the sacramentary of St Gregory ; and from that 
work they were transcribed into the rituals of the Anglo- 

(1) 1 Tim. c. iv. v. 4, 5. 


Saxon church. The greater part of them would, per- 
haps, rather fatigue the patience, than interest the curio- 
sity of the reader : these I shall therefore omit, and prin- 
cipally confine myself to the description of such, as had 
for their object to implore the divine blessing on the dif- 
ferent states of society. 

1. That there existed among our ancestors from the 
earliest times, a species of knighthood or military dis- 
tinction, which was afterwards commuted for the more 
splendid and romantic chivalry of later ages, has been 
satisfactorily proved by a recent historian (2). But at 
first it was a mere civil institution, unknown among the 
rites of ecclesiastical worship (3). Religion was the 
daughter of peace : she abhorred the deeds of war ; and 
refused to bless the arms, which were destined to be 
stained with human blood. But in the revolution of a 
few centuries, the sentiments of men were altered. To 
unsheath the sword against the enemies of the nation j 
to protect by force of arms the church, the widow, and 
the infant, were actions which humanity approved : the 
warrior, who hazarded his life in such laudable pursuits, 
deserved the blessing of heaven j and before the extinc- 
tion of the Saxon dynasty, we behold the order of knight- 
hood conferred with all the pomp of a religious ceremo- 
ny* The youth, who aspired to this honour, was taught 

(2) Mr Turner, hist, of the Angl. Sax. vol. iv. p. 171. 

(3) It seems originally to have been conferred by the sovereign, 
and perhaps the more distinguished among the thanes. Alfred 
the great is said by Malmsbury to have knighted his grandson 
Athelstan, while he was yet a child. Quern etiam premature mi- 
litem fecerat, donatum chlamyde coccinea, gemmato balteo, ense 
Saxonico, cum vagina aurea. Malm, de reg. p. 49. 



to repair on the preceding day to a priest, to confess his 
sins with compunction of heart, and to obtain the benefit 
of absolution. The succeeding night he spent in the 
church j and by watching, devotion, and abstinence, 
prepared himself for the approaching ceremony. In the 
morning, at the commencement of the mass, his sword 
was laid on the altar. After the gospel, the priest read 
over it the prayer of benediction, carried it to the knight, 
and laid it on his shoulder. The mass was then conti- 
nued j he received the eucharist, and from that moment 
was entitled to the rank and privileges of a legitimate 
miles (4). 

For this account we are indebted to the pen of In- 
gulph, where he relates the exploits of an Anglo-Saxon 
soldier, whose valour deserved and obtained the honour 
of knighthood. His name was Hereward. In his youth, 
the turbulence of his temper had alienated the affections 
of his family ; and by Edward the confessor he was ba- 
nished, at the request of his father, from his native 
country. In Northumberland, Cornwall, Ireland, and 
Flanders, the bravery of the fugitive was exerted and 
admired ; his fame soon reached the ears of his country- 
men ; the martial deeds of Hereward formed the subjeft 
of the most popular ballads j and his family were proud 

(4) Ingulf, p. 70. I have not met with any Anglo Saxon ritual, 
which mentions the prayer used on this occasion. In a MS. copy 
of the Sarum missal written long after the conquest, it is as fol- 
lows: Deus concede huic famulotuo, qui sincere corde 

gladio se primo nititur cingere militari, ut in omnibus galea tux 
virtutis sit protectus : et sicut David et Judith contra gentis suas 
hostes fortitudinis potentiam et victorram tribuisti : ita tuo auxilio 
munitus contra hostium suorum sasvitiam victor ubique existat, 
ct ad sanctas ecclesias tutelam proficiat. AMEN. 


of the man, whom they had formerly persecuted. When 
William the conqueror landed in England, he returned 
to the defence of his country ; and at the head of his 
followers avenged the injuries, which his mother had 
received from the invaders. It was at this period that 
he repaired to Peterborough, to obtain from the abbot 
Brand, his uncle, the belt of knighthood (5). But the 
sequel proves, that Hereward was little better than a 
barbarian. His hatred to the Normans was incapable of 
distinguishing between friend and foe. His uncle died : 
Turold, a Norman, was appointed to succeed him ; and 
though Hereward had sworn fealty to the abbey, though 
the monks were his countrymen, and had been his be- 
nefactors, he determined to enrich himself by the plun. 
der of their church. As the gate could not easily be 
forced, his impatience set fire to the nearest houses ; he 
burst through the flames, despised the tears and suppli- 
cations of the brotherhood, and carried off the riches of 
the monastery. The spoils, which he thus sacrilegiously 
acquired, and the conflagration of the town and abbey, 
of which only the church and one apartment remained 
standing, are described with lamentations by the histo- 
rians of Peterborough (6). Courage appears to have 
supplied the place of every other virtue in the estimation 
of this Anglo-Saxon knight : and he is, unfortunately, 
the only one, who has been transmitted to posterity fa 
that character* 

(5) Ing. ibid. In the council of London, held by St Anselm, m 
1102, this Anglo-Saxon custom was abolished, and the abbots 
were forbidden to confer the dignity of Knighthood. Wilk. con,, 
torn. i. p. 382. 

) Hug. Cand. p. 48. Chron. Sax. p. 176. 
o 3 

II. The importance of conjugal fidelity was under- 
stood, and enforced by the ancient Saxons, even before 
their conversion to Christianity. The jealousy of the 
husband guarded with severity the honour of his bed ; 
and the offending wife was frequently compelled to be 
herself the executioner of his vengeance. With her 
own hands she fastened the halter to her neck ; her 
strangled body was thrown into the flames ; and over 
her ashes was suspended the partner of her guilt. On 
other occasions he delivered her to the women of the 
neighbourhood, who were eager to avenge on their un- 
fortunate victim, the honour of the female character. 
They stripped her to the girdle, and scourged her from 
village to village, till she sunk under the severity of the 
punishment (7). But if the justice of the Saxons was 
inexorable to the disturbers of connubial happiness, they 
indulged themselves in a greater latitude of choice, than 
was conceded to the more polished nations, whom the 
wisdom of civil and religious legislators had restrained 
from marrying within certain degrees of kindred. The 
son hesitated not to take to his bed the relict of his de- 
ceased father : nor was the widow of the dead, ashamed to 
accept the hand of the surviving brother (8). These illi- 
cit unions shocked the piety of the first missionaries ; and 
to their anxious inquiries, Gregory the great returned a 
a moderate and prudent answer. He considered the igno- 
rance of the Saxons as deserving of pity rather than seve- 
rity ; commanded the prohibition of marriage, which was 
regularly extended to the seventh, to be restricted to the 

(7) Ep. St Bonif. ad Ethelbald. apud Wilk. p. 8* 

(8) Bed. apud Wilk. p. 20. 


first and second generations ; and advised the mission- 
aries to separate the converts, who were contracted with- 
in these degrees, and exhort them to marry again, ac- 
cording to the ecclesiastical canons (9). The indulgence 
of the pontiff alarmed the zealots of Italy ; and in a let- 
ter to Felix, bishop of Messina, he condescended to 
justify his conduct, on the ground, that every possible 
concession ought to be made to the former habits of the 
proselytes ; and that it was his intention to restore the 
ancient discipline, in proportion as the necessity for its 
suspension decreased (10). By the Saxon prelates, the 
will of the pontiff was understood, and gradually obeyed. 
In the eighth century, marriages within the fourth de- 
gree were strictly forbidden : and by the commencement 
of the eleventh, the prohibition was extended to the sixth 
(11). At this point it remained stationary till the Nor- 
man conquest. 

The age, at which marriage might be lawfully con- 
tracted, was fifteen years in males, and fourteen in fe- 
males (12). As the pecuniary compensations, with 
which the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence abounded, were 
frequently levied on the relatives of the delinquent, the 
suitor was compelled to obtain the consent not only of 
the lady, but also of her family, and to give security by 
his friends, that " he desired to keep her according to 
" the law of God, and as a man should keep his wife." 
The pecuniary arrangements next engaged their atten- 

(9) Bed. ibicl. 

(10) Ep. Greg. ad. Fel. apud Smith, app. p. 685. 

(11) Wilk. con. p. 121,301. 

(12) Pcenit. Egb. p. 120, xxvi!. 

o 4> 


tion. That the parents bestowed any part of their pro- 
perty on their daughter at her marriage, is not, I believe, 
hinted by any ancient writer ; but there can be no doubt 
that, at their death, she was equally entitled with the 
other children to a share in the succession. At first, 
however, the whole burden was laid on the shoulders of 
the husband ; and in the language of the Anglo-Saxon 
laws, he is said to buy, and her parents are said to sell to 
him, his wife. In a meeting with her for -speaker , he fixed 
the morgan-gift, or present which he intended to make 
her for having accepted his offer ; assigned a sufficient 
provision for the maintenance of the children ; and de- 
termined the value of her dower, if she were to survive 
him. That dower, adds the law, if they have issue, 
should be the whole, if they have not, the half of his 
property (13). The matrimonial purchase was now con- 
cluded. The bridegroom gave securities for the per- 
formance of the several articles ; and the family of the 
bride engaged to deliver her to him, whenever they 
should be required. 

Three days before the day appointed for the consum- 
mation of the marriage, the bride and bridegroom, at- 
tended by their nearest relatives, presented themselves at 
the porch of the church, that the " priest might confirm 
" their union by the blessing of God, in the fulness of 
" prosperity" (14). In his presence they mutually 
pledged their faith to each other (15) ; a ring was bless- 

(13) Leges Eadmundi, inter leg. Sax. p. 75. 

(14) Ibid. 

(15) I have not been able to discover the form of words, in which 
the marriage contract was expressed by the Anglo-Saxons. The 
most ancient formula, with which I am acquainted, occurs in the 


ed and put on her finger , and the priest invoked the 
Almighty " to look down from heaven on the holy con- 
" tract, and pour his benediction on the parties : to bless 
* them, as he blessed Tobias and Sarah ; to protect them 
" from all evil, grant them peace, and enrich them with 
" every blessing, to the remission of sin, and acquisition 
of eternal life" (16). He then led them into the 
church to the chancel. The nuptial mass was celebrated : 
before the canon they prostrated themselves at the lowest 
step of the altar ; and a purple veil was suspended over 
their heads. As soon as the pater noster had been re- 
cited, the priest turned towards them, and repeated the 
prayer of benediction. " O God, who by thy power 
didst create all things out of nothing, and having made 
" man to thy own likeness, didst form woman from the 
" side of man, to shew that no separation should divide 
" those who were made of one flesh ; O God, who by 
" so excellent a mystery didst consecrate the nuptial con- 
" tract, making it a figure of the sacrament of Christ and 
" thy church ; O God, by whom woman is joined to 
" man, and a blessing has been granted to marriage, 
" which was not taken away either by the punishment 

constitutions of Richard de Marisco, bishop of Durham, in the 
beginning of the thirteenth century. At that period the bride- 
groom was accustomed to say : < I take thee, N. for my wife." 
To which the bride rejoined. " I take thee, N. for my husband." 
Const. Rich, de Maris. apud Wilk. torn. i. p. 582. 

(16) Ritual. Dunel. MS. A. iv. 19, p. 53. This ritual is very- 
ancient, and contains an interlineary version, which appears to be 
written by the same person who wrote the interlineary version in 
the Durham book of the Gospels, (British Mus. Nev. D. 4.) If 
this be true, the ritual must have been in use before the close of the 
seventh century. 


of original sin, or the waters of the deluge ; look down 
" we beseech thee on this thy servant, who begs to be 
" surrounded with thy protection. May the yoke of 
" marriage be to her a yoke of peace and love : may she 
" marry faithful and chaste in Christ : may she imitate 
the holy women who have gone before her. Let her 
" be lovely as Rachel in the eyes of her husband ; wise 
" as Rebecca ; long lived and faithful as Sarah. May 
" she remain true, obedient, and bound to one bed. 
" May she flee all unlawful engagements, and by the 
" power of discipline, strengthen her weakness. Make 
" her fruitful in her offspring, reputable and virtuous in 
" life. Grant that she may arrive at the rest of the 
" saints, and the kingdom of heaven ; that she may 
" live to a good old age, and see the children of her chil- 
" dren to the third and fourth generation, through Christ, 
" our Lord. AMEN." (17). At the conclusion of the 
prayer they arose, gave each other the kiss of peace, and 
received the eucharist. On the third day they returned 
to the church, assisted, without communicating, at the 
mass, and from that hour lived together as husband and 
wife (18). 

III. " He that giveth his virgin in marriage, doeth 
" well ; but he that giveth her not in marriage, doeth 
" better," was the inspired decision of an apostle (19), 
If the Anglo-Saxon church was careful to invoke the 
graces of heaven on the matrimonial union, she was not 
less liberal of her benedictions to the virgins, who had 

(17) Ibid. p. 52. 

(18) Wilk. p. 131, xxi. 

(19) 1 Cor. vii. 38. 


preferred an immortal spouse, and resolved to dedicate 
their chastity to God. The consummation of their sa- 
crifice was conducted with the most impressive solemnity. 
Monks and nuns might profess their obedience to a par- 
ticular monastic rule in the hands of the abbot or abbess : 
but the consecration of a virgin was considered of greater 
importance ; it was exclusively re'served to the ministry 
of the bishop (20), and attached to the principal festivals 
of the year ; and at Easter, the Epiphany, and on the 
feasts of the apostles, in the presence of the people, be- 
fore the altar, and at the feet of the chief pastor, the vo- 
luntary victim renounced the pleasures of the world, that 
she might obtain a future but immortal crown (21). The 
eagerness of youth was, however, repressed by the wis- 
dom of the church ; the votary was commanded to wait 
till the stability of her determination had been proved by 
experience , and, that she might not afterwards accuse 
her caprice or temerity, her solemn vow was retarded till 
she had reached her twenty-fifth year (22). On the ap- 
pointed day, the habit appropriated to her profession was 
blessed by the bishop. When he commenced the office 
of the mass, she dressed herself in a private room ; and, 
at some period before the offertory, was introduced into 
the church, and led to the foot of the altar. Turning 
towards her, in a short address he explained the nature 
of the sacrifice, which it was her intention to make, and 
admonished her of the obligations, which it imposed. If 
she still persisted, he enquired whether her determina- 
tion had been sanctioned by the consent of her parents , 

(20) Mart. 1. ii. c. vi. p. 1 1 1. Spicil. torn. ix. p. 54. 

(21) Excerp. Egb. apud Wilk. p. 106, xcii. 

(22) Id. ibid, xciii. 


and having received a satisfactory answer, placed his hands 
upon her head, and pronounced the prayer of consecra- 
tion (23). " Be thou blessed by the Creator of heaven 
" and earth, the Father, God omnipotent, who has chosen 
" thee like the holy Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus 
" Christ, to preserve pure and immaculate the virginity, 
" which thou hast promised before God, and his holy 
" angels. Persevere therefore in thy resolution ; pre- 
" serve thy chastity with patience ; and keep thyself 
" worthy to receive the crown of virginity." 

" Be thou blessed with every spiritual blessing by 
" God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that 
'* thou may remain pure, chaste, and immaculate. May 
" the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of 
" counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and 
u piety, the spirit of the fear of the Lord, rest upon 
" thee. May he strengthen thy weakness, and confirm 
" thy strength. May he govern all thy actions, purify 
" thy thoughts, and enrich thee with every virtue. 
<c Have always before thy eyes him, whom one day 
" thou wilt have for thy judge. Make it thy care, that 
" when thou shalt enter the chamber of thy spouse, he 
" may meet thee with joy and kindness ; that when the 
" dreadful day shall come, which is to reward the just 
" and punish the wicked, the avenging flame may find 
" nothing in thee to burn, but the divine mercy may 
u find much to reward. Serve thy God with a pure 
" heart, that thou may hereafter be associated to the 
" one hundred and forty thousand virgins, who follow 
<c the lamb, and sing a new canticle : and may he bless 
" thee from heaven, who vouchsafed to descend upon 

(23) Martene de Hit. 1. ii. c. 6. p. 112. 


* c earth and redeem mankind by dying on a cross, Christ 
** Jesus, our Lord." 

The bishop then placed the consecrated veil on her 
head with these words : " receive, daughter, this cover- 
" ing, which thou mayest carry without stain before the 
tribunal of Christ, to whom bows every knee of things 
" in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." As he 
finished, the church rang with the acclamations of the 
people, who cried, amen. The mass was continued, 
she received the holy communion, and at the conclusion 
the bishop once more gave her his benediction. " Pour 
" forth, O Lord, thy heavenly blessing on this thy ser- 
" vant, our sister, who has humbled herself under thy 
" hand. AMEN. Cover her with thy protection. A- 
MEN. May she avoid all sin, know the good things 
" prepared for her, and seek the reward of thy heavenly 
" kingdom. AMEN. May she obey thy commandments, 
" by thy grace resist the impulse of passion, and bear 
" in her hand the lamp of holiness. AMEN. May she 
* c deserve to enter the gates of the heavenly kingdom, 
" in the company of the wise and chaste. AMEN. May 
<{ he grant this, whose empire remains for eternity. A- 
" MEN. The blessing of God, the Father, Son, and 
" Holy Ghost, remain with thee here, and for ever. A- 

" MEN." (24). 

(24) This account is taken from the pontifical of archbishop Eg- 
bert, transcribed by Martene, ibid. p. 116. The original MS. is 
now in the library of St Genevieve at Paris. It is described in 
nearly the same manner in Rit. Dunel. MS. p. 50 : and in the 
Anglo-Saxon pontifical which was preserved at Jumiege, Mart. p. 
120. The consecration of a widow was performed with less ce- 
remony. The veil was placed on her head privately by a priest, 
with the same words as above, ibid, and Martene, p. 14. 


By this ceremony she was said, in the language of the 
time, to have been wedded to Christ (25). She was 
called the bride of Christ (26), and as her spouse could 
not die, the engagement, which she had contracted, was 
deemed irrevocable by the laws both of the church and 
the state. Each violation of chastity subjected her to a 
course of penance during seven years (27) : and if she 
presumed to marry, the marriage was declared invalid j 
and the parties were excommunicated, ordered to sepa- 
rate, and to do penance during the remainder of their 
lives (28). Should they elude the execution of this re- 
gulation, another law deprived her of her dower after the 
death of her reputed husband, pronounced her children 
illegitimate, and rendered them incapable of inheriting 
the property of their father (29). 

IV. Under the Mosaic dispensation, God himself had 
condescended to describe the various rites, by which 
Aaron and his sons should be consecrated to his service : 
in the infancy of the Christian church, a more simple ce- 
remony appears to have been taught by Christ to his 
apostles, and the dignity and graces of the priesthood 
were conferred by prayer and the imposition of hands 
(30). While the number of the converts was small, a 
single minister was, in many places, sufficient to perform 
all the duties of religious worship : but with the increase 

(25) Gotoe yylpim bepe < ot>ot>. Pcenit. Egb. p. 136. 

(26) Mynecene $e Doioer bjiyt) bi]> geharen. Id. ibid. p. 131. 

(27) Id. p. 118, xiii. 

(28) Id. p. 131, xviii, Cone. Calcuith. p. 149. xvi. 

(29) Leg. eccles. JElfred. p. 192, vi. 

(30) 1 Tim. iii. 14. 


of the faithful, and the influx of wealth, a more nume- 
rous and splendid establishment was adopted ; and a re- 
gular gradation of office conducted the young ecclesiastic, 
from the humble station of porter, to the more honoura- 
ble rank of deacon, priest, or bishop. In each order his 
fidelity underwent a long probation : but his perseverance 
was rewarded with promotion ; and at each step a new 
ordination reminded him of his additional obligations, 
and invoked in his favour the benediction of heaven. In 
the Anglo-Saxon church the clergy was constituted af- 
ter the Roman model : and the hierarchy consisted of 
porters, lectors, exorcists, acolythists, subdeacons, dea- 
cons, and priests. The seventh order (that of the priest- 
hood) was subdivided into two classes, of bishops who pos- 
sessed it in all its plenitude, and of priests, whose ministry 
was restricted to the exercise of those functions, which, 
from their importance and frequent recurrence, demanded 
the assistance of numerous co-operators. cc The bishop 
and the priest," says JElfric in his charge to the clergy, 
" both belong to the same order : but one is superior to 
" the other. Besides the functions which are common 
" to both, it is the office of the bishop to ordain, to con- 
" firm, to bless the holy oils, and to dedicate churches : 
" for it would be too much if these powers had been 
" communicated to all priests" (31). 

(31) JElfric. ep. ad Wulfsin. inter Leg. Sax. p. 155. Ep. ad 
Wolstan. p. 167. The distinction between bishops and priests h 
thus drawn in the pontificals : Presbyterum oportet benedicere, 
offerre, et bene praeesse/praedicare, et baptizare, atque communi- 
care. Episcopum oportet judicare, et interpretari, consecrare et 
consummare, quin et ordinare, offerre, et baptizare : omnia debet 
prospicere et ordinare. Pont. Egb. p. 346. Pont. Gemet, p. 356, 


In the choice and promotion of the inferior ministers, 
the judgment of the' bishops was guided by the wisdom 
of preceding ages. Whatever regarded the time and 
rite of ordination, the age, personal merit, and mental 
endowments of the candidates, had been foreseen and 
determined by the decrees of councils, and the usage of 
antiquity. The time was fixed to the four ember weeks, 
which regularly returned with the four seasons of the 
year ; and on the evening of the Saturday, the bishop 
commenced the sacred ceremony, the length of which 
frequently encroached on the following morning (32). 
The lower orders, which imposed no irrevocable obliga- 
tion, might be lawfully conferred even on children : for 
the others a greater maturity of age and judgment was 
required ; and the deacon was expected to have reached 
his twenty-fifth, the priest his thirtieth year, the time of 
life at which Jesus was believed to have commenced his 
evangelical labours (33). But this regulation was not 
strictly enforced : and a proper latitude was granted to 
the discretion of the bishop, who might lawfully dispense 
in favour of superior merit, or the wants of a. numerous 
people (34.) A severe scrutiny preceded admission to 
the higher degrees of the hierarchy (35). A competency 

(32) Pont. Egb. p. 344. Wilk. con. p. 107, xcix. 

(S3) Wilk. p. 106, xciii. ; 107, xcvii. Fifty years was the age, 
which the canons required for a bishop, according to St Boni- 
face : but this regulation was seldom observed. Vit. St Bonif. 
apud Serrar. p. 267. 

(34) Ep. Zach. ad Bonif. p. 214. Thus Bede was ordained 
deacon at nineteen (1. v. c. 24.): the Abbot Esterwin received 
priest's orders at twenty-nine, Ceolfrid at twenty-seven. Bed. 
hist, abbat. p. 296, 302. 

[55 Wilk. p. 95, 147. 


of learning, and the reputation of virtue, were necessary 
qualifications. Idolatry, witchcraft, murder, fornica- 
tion, perjury, and theft, though time and repentance 
might be supposed to have obliterated the former scandal, 
opposed insuperable impediments to the pretensions of 
the candidate : and if he succeeded in concealing these 
crimes at the time of his ordination, yet the moment 
they were known, he was deposed from his rank, and 
condemned to fast and pray in the number of public pe- 
nitents (36). It was also required, that he were free 
from every stain, which might depreciate him in the esti- 
mation of the public, deformity of body, illegitimacy of 
birth, and servile descent : and if he had been married, 
he was compelled to prove that his wife was already dead, 
or had voluntarily embraced a life of perpetual continen- 
cy (37). To these was added 'a third requisite, which 
shewed the high importance attached to clerical chastity. 
A second marriage was deemed to imply a weakness of 
mind, and a secret propensity to pleasure, incompatible 
with the austerity of the levitical or sacerdotal character : 
and the bigamist, though he were a widower, and possess- 
ed of every other qualification, was excluded, without the 
hope of indulgence, from the rank of bishop, priest, or 
deacon (38). 

In the Anglo-Saxon pontificals are accurately described 
the various rites, by which the ministers of the church 
were invested with their respective dignities. The colla- 
tion of the inferior orders I shall neglect, as of inferior 

(36) Ibid. p. 85. Ep. Zach. ad Bonif. p. 215. 

(37) Id. ibid. 

(38) Id. ibid. p. 103, xxxii. . Pontif.Egb. p. 25O. 



importance (39) : that of the higher may be compressed 
within the compass of a few pages, and will not, perhaps, 
appear uninteresting to the pious, or the curious reader. 

1. Previously to the ordination, the candidates were 
intrusted to the custody of the archdeacon, who inquired 
into their respective qualifications, and instructed them 
in the nature and exercise of the offices, to which they 
aspired. At the appointed hour, he introduced them in- 
to the church, and in answer to a question from the bishop 
replied, that he bore, as far as" human frailty might pre- 
sume, a willing testimony to their merit and capacity. 
The bishop then addressed the congregation. He re- 
quested the assistance of their prayers for the important 
function, which it was his duty to perform : exhorted 
them not to permit the sanctity of the hierarchy to be 
polluted by the adoption of improper characters ; and 
commanded them, if they were acquainted with a cano- 
nical impediment in any of the candidates, to step for- 
ward, and declare it with modesty and freedom. If no 
accusation was preferred, he lay, while the litany was 
chaunted, prostrate at the foot of the altar ; and the 
clerks, who were to be ordained, ranged themselves ia 
the same posture behind him. Rising, he first conferred 
the degree of deacon, with the following ceremonies. 
Having placed the stole across the left shoulder of each, 
as they successively knelt before him, he put in. his hand 
the book of the gospels, saying, " Receive this volume 
" of the gospel ; read and understand it ; teach it to 
" others, and fulfil it thyself." Then holding his hands 
over their heads, he thus continued. " O Lord God 

(39) It differed very little from the form in the present Roman 
pontifical, and may be seen in Mart en e, p. 346, 


* Almighty, the giver of honours, distributer of orders, 
and disposer of functions, look with complacency on 
" these thy servants, whom we humbly ordain to the of- 
" fice of deacons, that they may always minister 'in thy 
" service. We, though ignorant of thy judgment, have 
" examined their lives, as far as we are able. But thou, 
O Lord, knowest all things ; the most hidden things 
" are not concealed from thy eyes. Thou art acquainted 
" with all secrets, thou art the searcher of hearts. But 
" as thou canst examine their condul by thy celestial 
" light, so canst thou also purify their souls, and grant 
" them the graces necessary for their functions-. Send, 
* therefore, on them, O Lord, thy holy spirit, that, 
" in the execution of their ministry, they may be 
" strengthened by the seven-fold gift of thy grace. May 
" thy precepts shine in their conduct ; may thy people 
(( learn to imitate the chastity of their lives ; and may 
" their fidelity in their present station raise them to a 
" higher dignity in thy church." He then completed 
the ordination by anointing their hands with oil and 
chrism, praying, " that through the merits of Christ, 
" whatever they should bless, might be blessed, and 
" whatever they should hallow, might be hallowed" (40). 
2. After the ordination of the deacons, followed that 
of the priests. The preparatory ceremonies were the 
same ; but the stole, which before had been placed on 
the left shoulder, was now hung over the neck, and per- 
mitted to fall down before the breast^ The bishop then 
pronounced aloud the name of the church, for which each 
candidate was to be ordained, and holding his hands over 
their heads, in which he was imitated by the assistant 

(10) Martene, Pontif. Egb. p. 351. Pont. Gemet. p. 362. 
P 2 


priests, read or chaunted the prayer of consecration. He 
began by observing, that as Moses in the desert had 
chosen seventy rulers to assist him in governing the peo- 
ple ; as Eleazer and Ithamar were selected to participate 
with their father Aaron in the functions of the sacred 
ministry ; as the apostles had employed the zeal of their 
most virtuous disciples in the conversion of nations $ so 
he, their unworthy successor, required the aid of nume- 
rous and faithful co-operators. " Give, therefore," he 
continued, " we beseech thee, Almighty Father, to these 
" thy servants, the dignity of the priesthood j renew in 
" their bowels the spirit of holiness : make them the 
" zealous assistants of our order,, and grant them the 
" form of all justice." Here he interrupted his prayer, 
and requested the congregation to join with him in soli- 
citing the blessing of heaven on those, who had been 
chosen to labour for their salvation. He then resumed 
the consecration in the following words : " O God, the 
" author of all sanctity, impose the hand of thy benedic- 
" tion on these thy servants, whom we ordain to the 
" honour of the priesthood. Instructed by the lessons, 
" which Paul gave to Timothy and Titus, may they me- 
" ditate day and night on thy law : may they believe 
" what they read, teach what they believe, and practise 
" what they teach. May their conduct be an example 
" of all virtue, that they may preserve pure and unsullied 
" the gift of thy ministry, transform by an immaculate 
" benediction the body and blood of thy Son, and grow- 
" ing to the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ, 
" appear at the day of judgment, with a pure conscience, 
" a perfect faith, and the plenitude of the holy spirit." 
He then clothed them with the chasuble, the garment 


appropriated to the priests, blessed their hands " that 
** they might consecrate the sacrifices which were offered 
w for the sins of the people ;" and anointed their heads, 
praying that " they might be consecrated with the celes- 
" tial blessing in the order of priesthood, in the name of 
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" (41). The 
latter ceremony seems, originally, to have been peculiar 
to the Anglo-Saxons : from them it passed to a few 
churches in Gaul ; but was at last abolished by the op- 
position of the bishops, who were unwilling that the 
priests should be honoured with a rite, which the Roman 
church had exclusively attached to the episcopal conse- 
cration (42), 

3. In a preceding chapter has been described the gradual 
transition of the privilege of nominating bishops, from the 
provincial bishops, and the suffrage of the clergy and peo- 
ple, to the more venal and interested choice of the prince. 
Still a shadow of the ancient discipline was respectfully pre- 
served : from the pulpit of the cathedral the name of the 
clergyman, who had been nominated to the vacant see, 
was announced to the congregation (43) : and their ac- 
clamations of " many years may he live, may he be 
" pleasing to God, may he be dear to men," were as- 

(41) Mart. ibid. p. 352, 3G4. 

(42) The delivery of the gospel to the deacons, and the unction 
of their hands, were also ceremonies peculiar to the Anglo-Saxons, 
though both the pontificals profess to derive the rites of ordination 
from the customs of Rome. Mart. p. 3 1 4, 3 1 5. The first of these 
is now found in the Roman pontifical. 

(43) Angl. Sac. vol. ii. p. 107, 198. 


p 3 


sumed as sufficient evidence of their assent (44'). A 
public instrument of his election was composed, and con- 
fided to a deputation of the chapter, who presented it to 
the metropolitan, and solicited him to consecrate the ob- 
ject of their choice (45). He appointed the day for the 
performance of the ceremony. But previously the bishop 
elect appeared before him, answered his interrogations, 
and subscribed a declaration of his faith, and profession 
of obedience (46). He then retired to the church, and 
passed the night before the altar, sometimes employed in 
private prayer, at others reciting or chaunting the office 
with his chaplains. 

A single bishop, attended by his prjests, might ordain 
the inferior ministers : the presence of at least three pre- 
lates was required at the consecration of a bishop. From 
this obligation Gregory the great had exempted St Au- 
gustine, and permitted him to perform the ceremony 
without any assistants : but he added, that this indulgence 
was to expire with the circumstances, which rendered it 
necessary, and that the ancient discipline was then to be 

(44) Vivat, clamitant, episcopusanms innumeris, vivat Deo gra- 
tus, vivat hominibus charus. Vit. StElpheg. Ang. Sac. p. 127. 

(45) Ang. Sac. vol. ii. p. 107. A copy of this instrument may 
be seen in the game work, vol. i. p. 82. Harpsfield has published 
that which was presented for the ordination of TElfric (hist. p. 1 9 8.) 
It is expressed in the same words as the former. 

(46) The profession of St Swithin has already been mentioned: 
that of St Boniface may be read in Sen-anus, (Ep. St Bonif. p. 16.1.) 
It was written with his own hand, and placed by him on the tomb 
of St Peter. Ibid. Several other professions are printed 'in Ang. 
Sac. vol. i. p. 78. The first has an erroneous title. Eadulf was 
bishop, not of York, but of Sydnacester, as appears from the next 
profession, p. 79. 


stri&ly observed (4-7). The consecration was performed 
in the church, and during the mass. At the appointed 
time the bishop elect placed himself on his knees before 
the prelates, who had assembled for the occassion. Two 
of them held the book of the gospels on the crown of his 
head : the others touched it with their hands, and the 
metropolitan pronounced the form of consecration. 
Having observed, that the consecration of Aaron was a 
type of that of the bishops in the new law, he prayed that 
God would grant to his servant, the virtues prefigured 
by the habit appropriated to the high priest in the Jewish 
temple (48) : that he would impart to him the plenitude 
of the holy ministry, and give him the keys of the king- 
dom of heaven : that whatever hfc should bind or loose 
on earth, might be bound or loosed in heaven : that whose 
sins he should retain, they might be retained ; and whose 
sins he should forgive, they should be forgiven : that he 
might never give to evil the appellation of good, or to 
good the appellation of evil : that he might receive an 
episcopal chair to rule the church, that God would be 
his strength and authority, and that his prayer might be 
heard, as often as he implored the mercy of the Almighty 
(4'9). His hands and head were then anointed with oil ; 

(47) Bed. hist. 1. i. c. 27. 

(48) In this part of the prayer, the following passage, according 
to the Anglo-Saxon pontificals, was inserted at the ordination of 
the Roman pontiff. Idcirco hunc famulum tuum, ill. quern apos- 
tolicas sedis pnesulem et primatem omnium, qui in orbe sunt, sa- 
cerdotum, ac universalis ecclesiae tuce doctorem dedisti, et ad 
3ummi sacerdotii ministerium elegisti, &c. Pont. Egb. p. 342. 
Pont. Gemet. p. 368. 

(49) As the book of the gospels was now raised from his head, 

P 4 


the crosier was delivered into his hand, and the ring put 
on his finger. Each ceremony was accompanied with a 
prayer expressive of its meaning ; and at the conclusion 
he was placed on the episcopal throne, with these words : 
" O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst chuse thy apostles to 
" be our masters, vouchsafe to teach, instruct, and bless 
" this thy bishop, that he may lead a holy and immacu- 
" late life. AMEN" (50). 

V. The inauguration of princes was originally a civil 
rite. The emperors of the Romans, and the kings of 
the barbarians, were alike elevated on a shield, and sa- 
luted by the acclamations of the army. But when they 
had embraced the knowledge of the gospel, they deemed 
the examples recorded- in the Jewish scriptures, worthy 
of their imitation ; even the splendour of royalty might 
receive addition from the ceremonies of religion ; and 
an anointed king would appear with still greater majesty 
^n the eyes of his subjects. Theodosius the younger was 
the first, who is recorded to have solicited the royal in- 
signia from the ministers of the church : but his succes- 
sors appreciated the policy of his conduct, and were care- 
ful to receive, with the imperial crown, the benediction 
of the Byzantine patriarch. In Britain this ceremony 
was imitated at an early period. No sooner had the em- 
peror Honorius recalled the legions from the island, than 
the descendants of the ancient kings assumed the sceptre ; 

it was customary for the metropolitan to open it, and read the 
first passage, which presented itself. It was considered as a pro- 
phecy respecting the future conduct of the new bishop. Nume- 
rous examples occur after the conquest ; I recollect but one be- 
fore it, in the life of St Wulstan. Ang. Sac. vol. ii. p. 252. 

(50) Pont. Egb. p. 340. 


and their inauguration, 'as we learn from a native writer, 
was performed with the regal unction (51). From Bri- 
tain it seems to have been transmitted to, the Christian 
princes of Ireland : the book of the ordination of kings 
was in the library of the abbot St Columba : and accord- 
ing to its directions he blessed and ordained Aidan king 
of the Scots (52). It has been said that the Anglo-Saxons 
were indebted for this rite to the policy of an usurper, 
Eardulf, of Northumbria (53) : but the ceremony of the 
coronation occupied a distinguished place in the pontifi- 
cal of Archbishop Egbert, which was written many years 
before the reign of that prince (54). 

(51) Ungebantur reges, says Gildas,et paulo post ab unctoribus 
trucidabantur. Gild. p. 82, edit. Bertram. 

(52) From Cuminius, who wrote in 307, we learn that St Co- 
lumba took with him ordinationis regum librum, et Aidanutn in 
regem ordinavit. Cum. vit. Colum. p. 30, edit. Pinkerton. 
^domnan, who wrote thirty years later, adds, imponens manum 
buper caput ejus. Adorn, vit. Colum. p. I6lr 

(53) Carte, hist. vol. i. p. 293. See note (O). 

(54) This is the most ancient ordo ad benedicendum regem, 
which is known. From a MS. in the Cotton library, Mr Turner 
has translated the description of the ceremony, as it was perform- 
ed at the coronation of Ethelred, in 978 (Turner, vol. iv. p. 250). 
It is different from that contained in the pontifical of Egbert, but 
the same as was published by Marten e, under the title of ordo ad 
benedicendum regem Francorum, from a MS. written by order of 
Ratold, abbot of Corbie in 980. Was this Anglo-Saxon ordo bor- 
rowed from the French, or the French from the Anglo-Saxon ? 
The latter seems to be the truth. In the French ordo, England 
is several times mentioned : and the transcriber, who appears to 
have carefully preserved every word of the original, adds, that by 
England must be understood France. Thus the king is said (o be 
chosen in regnum N. Albionis totius (videlicet Francorum). Mart. 
J. iL p. 192. 


The ceremony began with the coronation oath. Its 
origin may be traced to Anthemius, the patriarch of 
Constantinople, whose zeal refused to place the crown on 
the head of Anastasius, a prince of suspicious orthodoxy, 
till he had sworn to make no innovation in the establish- 
ed religion (55). But the oath of the Anglo-Saxons was 
more comprehensive : it was a species of compadl be- 
tween the monarch and th^ people, which the bishop, as 
the representative of heaven, ratified with his benedic- 
tion. " I promise," said the king, in the name of the 
" most Holy Trinity, first, that the church of God, and 
" all Christian people, shall enjoy true peace under my 
" government. Secondly, that I will prohibit every kind 
(( of rapine and injustice, in men of every condition. 
" Thirdly, that in all judgments I will command equity 
" to be united with mercy, that the most gracious and 
(t clement God may, through his eternal mercy, forgive 
" us all. AMEN" (56). A portion of the gospel wa$ 
then read : three prayers were recited to implore the 
blessing of God ; and the consecrated oil was poured on 

(55) Evagrius, 1. iii. c. 32. 

(56) This oath is translated from that which St Dunstan exact- 
ed from Ethelred at his coronation. Hicks. Gram, praef. But it 
is much more ancient, and is thus expressed in Egbert's pontifical. 
" Rectitudo est regis noviter ordinati, et in solium sublevati, hasc 
" tria prascepta populo christiano sibi subdito prsecipere : in pri- 
" mis ut ecclesia Dei, et omnis populus christianus veram pacem 
" servent in omni tempore. AMEN. Aliud est, ut rapacitates et 
" omnes iniquitates omnibus gradibus interdicat. AMEN. Ter- 
" tium est, ut in omnibus judiciis aecuitatem et misericordiam 
" prascipiat, ut per hoc nobis indulgeat misericordiam suam cle- 
" mens et misericors Deus. AMEN." Mart. 1. ii. p. 188. The 
same oath occurs in the ancient French pontificals. Ibid. p. 197, 

M.S, 211. 


the head of the king. While the other prelates anoint- 
ed him, the archbishop read the prayer : " O God, the 
strength of the elect, and the exaltation of the humble, 
" who by the unction of oil, didst sanctify thy servant 
" Aaron, and by the same didst prepare priests, kings, 
" and prophets, to rule thy people Israel ; sanctify, Al- 
c mighty God, in like manner this thy servant, that like 
" them he may be able to govern the people committed 
" to his charge." 

At the conclusion of the prayer, the principal thanes 
approached, and in conjunction with the bishops, placed 
the sceptre in his hand. The archbishop continued : 
" Bless, O Lord, this prince, thou who rulest the king- 
" doms of all kings. AMEN." 

" May he always be subject to thee with fear : may he 
<c serve thee : may his reign be peaceful : may he with 
" his chieftains be protected by thy shield : may he be 
<c victorious without bloodshed. AMEN." 

" May he live magnanimous among the assemblies of 
" the nations : may he be distinguished by the equity of 
his judgments. AMEN." 

" Grant him length of life for years : and may justice 
" arise in his days. AMEN." 

" Grant that the nations may be faithful to him : and 
** his nobles may enjoy peace, and love charity. AMEN." 

" Be thou his honour, his joy, and his pleasure ; his 
" solace in grief, his counsel in difficulty, his consoler in 
labour. AMEN." 

" May he seek advice from thee, and by thee may he 
" learn to hold the reins of empire ; that his life maybe 
" a life cf happiness, and he may hereafter enjoy eternal 
" bliss. AMEN." 


The rod was now put into his hand, with a prayer, 
that the benedictions of the ancient patriarchs, of Abra- 
ham, Isaac, and Jacob, might rest upon him. He was 
then crowned, and the archbishop said, " Bless, O Lord, 
" the strength of the king our prince, and receive the 
" work of his hands. Blessed by thee be his land, with 
" the precious dew of the heavens, and the springs of 
" the low-lying deep ; with the fruits brought forth by 
" the sun, and the fruits brought forth by the moon ; 
" with the precious things of the aged mountains, 
CT and the precious things of the eternal hills, with 
" the fruits of the earth, and the fulness thereof. May 
" the blessing of him, who appeared in the bush, rest on 
<c the head of the king. May he be blessed in his child- 
<c ren, and dip his foot in oil. May the horns of the 
" rhinoceros be his horns ; with them may he push the 
" nations to the extremities of the earth. And be he, 
" who rideth on the heavens, his helper for ever" (57). 
Here the people exclaimed thrice, " live the king for 
" ever. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN." They were then 
admitted to kiss him on his throne. The ceremony con- 
cluded with this prayer. " O God, the author of eter- 
" nity, leader of the heavenly host, and conqueror of all 
" enemies, bless this thy servant, who humbly bends his 
" head before thee. Pour thy grace upon him : pre- 
" serve him with health and happiness in the service, to 
" which he is appointed, and wherever and for.whom- 
" soever he shall implore thy assistance, do thou, O 
" God, be present, protect and defend him, through 
Christ our Lord. AMEN" (58). 

(37) These benedictions are selected from Deuteronomy, c. 

(58) Pontif. Egb. p. 186. 


VI. Of the manner, in which the first Christian orato- 
ries were consecrated to the service of God, we are igno- 
rant. The offices of religion were carefully concealed 
from the notice of the profane ; and the converts were 
too prudent to alarm the jealousy or provoke the avarice 
of the infidels, by an unnecessary splendour. But as soon 
as the sceptre had been placed in the hands of Constan- 
tine, religious edifices of considerable magnificence arose 
in every province, and the Christian emperor aspired to 
equal the fame of David and Solomon. The dedication 
of the temple of Jerusalem, served as a model for the de- 
dication of the Christian churches : the bishops eagerly 
assembled to perform the sacred ceremony ; and their 
ministry was joyfully attended by the presence of the 
great, and the acclamations of the people. Succeeding 
generations preserved with fidelity the practice of their 
predecessors ; and among the Anglo-Saxons, no solemni- 
ty was celebrated with greater pomp than the dedication 
of a church. Egfrid, king of Northumbria, his brother 
^Elwin, their ealdormen and abbots, attended St Wilfrid, 
when he consecrated the basilic^ which he had erected at 
Rippon (59) : to the dedication of the church at Ramsey, 
all the thanes of the six neighbouring counties were in- 
vited by St Oswald (60) : and when the same ceremony 
was performed in the cathedral of Winchester, after its 
restoration by St Ethelwold, it was honoured with the 
presence of king Ethelred and his court, and of the me- 
tropolitan and eight other bishops (61). 

(59) Edd. Vit. StWilf. c.xvii. 

(so) Hist. Ram. p. 422. 

(]) Wolst. carmen in Act. SS. Bened. Saic. v. p. C29. 


The night preceding the ceremony was spent in watch- 
ing and prayer. On the morning the prelates, dressed 
in their pontificals, repaired to the porch of the church ; 
and the principal consecrater struck the door thrice with 
his crosier, repeating the verse ; " Hft up your gates, O 
" ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and 
" the king of glory shall enter in." At the third stroke 
it was opened : the choir sung the twenty-fourth psalm ; 
and the bishops entered, crying : peace to this house, 
" and all who dwell in it : peace to those who enter, 
" peace to those who go out" (62). They proceeded to 
the foot of the principal altar, and lay prostrate before it, 
while the litany was sung (63). At its conclusion they 
arose, and one of the bishops, with the end of his crosier, 
wrote two Roman alphabets on the floor, in the form of 
a cross. He then sprinkled the altar, the walls, and the 

(62} Wolstan in his poom on the dedication of the cathedral of 
Winchester, has contrived to shape these words, into the form or 
latin verse, and hitch them into rhyme. 

Incipiunt omnes modulata voce canentes, 
Pax sit huic domui, pax sit et hie fidei. 
Pax fiat intrant!, pax et fiat egredienti ; 

Semper in hocque loco, laus sit honorque Deo. 

Wolst. ibid. p. 632. 

(63} The litany was very short. After the usual beginning, fol- 
lowed the invocations of the saints. Three apostles, three martyrs, 
three confessors, and three virgins, were called on by name : and 
the following petitions were added. " Ab inimicis nostris defen- 
" de nos, Christe. Dolorem cordis nostri benignus vide. Afflic- 
" tionem nostram respice clemens. Peccata populi tui plus in- 
" clulge. Orationes nostras exaudi, Christe. Hie et in perpe- 
" tuum nos custodire digneris, Christe. Fili Dei vivi, miserere 
" nobis. Agnus Dei, &c." Pont. Egb. apud Martene, c. xiii. p- 


pavement with holy water, and standing in the middle 
of the church, chaunted the following prayer. " O 
" blessed and holy Trinity, who purifiest, cleansest, and 
" adornest all things ; O blessed majesty of God, who 
" fillest, governest, and disposest all things -, O blessed 
" and holy hand of God, who sanctifiest, blessest, and 
" enrichest all things ; O God, the holy of holies, we 
" humbly implore thy clemency, that by our ministry 
" thou wouldst purify, bless and consecrate this church 
" to the honour of the holy and victorious cross, and the 
" memory of thy blessed servant N. (64?). Here may 
" thy priests offer to thee sacrifices of praise ; here may 
" thy faithful people perform their vows : here may the 
" burden of sins be lightened, and those, who have fallen, 
" be restored to grace. Grant that all, who shall enter 
" this temple to pray, may obtain the effect of their pe- 
" tition, and rejoice for ever in the bounty of thy mercy 
" AMEN" (65). The bishops then separated to conse- 
crate the different altars, and other ornaments of the 
church ; mass was celebrated with every demonstration 
of joy ; and the more distinguished visiters retired to the 

(64) From this pa-sage may be collected, in what sense churches 
were said to be dedicated to saints. The prayer which was then 
made to the patron of the church, sufficiently indicates the doc- 
trine of the time. Tibi commendamus hanc curam templi hujus, 
quod consecravimus Domino Deo nostro, ut hie intercessor exist- 
as ; preces et vota ofFerentium hie Domino Deo offeras ; odora- 
menta orationum plebis christianae in libatorio vasis aurei ad patris 
thronum conferas, precerisque, quatenus jugi Dominus Deus nos- 
ter intuitu hie ingredientes et orantes tueri et gubemare dignetur. 
Pont if. Anglo-Sax. Gemet. apud Mart. p. 271. 

i''-'a) Pont. Egb. p. 253. Pont. Gemet. p. 262. 

episcopal palace, where they partook of a plentiful and 
splendid banquet (66). 

These ceremonies, attended by such numbers of dis- 
tinguished personages, afforded the clergy favourable op- 
portunities of obtaining the confirmation of their proper- 
ty, and privileges. At the dedication of the church of 
Rippon, St Wilfrid read from the altar a schedule of the 
lands belonging to the abbey, and called on the assem- 
bly to bear witness to the legality of the titles (67). At 
Ramsey, the ealdorman Alwin, the founder of the mo- 
nastery, assembled at an early hour, the thanes of the 
neighbouring counties, read to them the charters of king 
Edgar and the other benefactors, and invited those, who 
conceived themselves intitled to any of the lands possess- 
ed by the monks, to come forward and advance their 
claim. As no one appeared, " I call then on you all," 
continued the ealdorman, " to bear witness before God 

(66) The reader may perhaps be amused with the account of 
the dinner which St Ethelwold had on one of these occasions pre- 
pared for his guests. 

Fercula sunt admixta epulis, cibus omnis abundat, 

Nullus adest tristis, omnis adest hilaris. 
Nulla fames, ubi sunt cunctis obsonia plenis, 

Et remanet vario mensa referta cibo. 
Pincernaeque vagi cellaria saspe frequentant, 

Convivasque rogant, ut bibere incipiant. 
Crateras magnos statuunt, et vina coronant, 

Miscentes potus potibus innumeris. 
Fcecundi calices, ubi rusticus impiger hausit 

Spumantem pateram gurgite mellifluam, 
Et tandem pleno se totum proluit auro, 

Setigerum menturn concutiendo suum. 

Woktan, p. 629. 
(7) Ed. vit. St Wilf. c. xvii. 


and his saints, that on this day we have offered justice 
<e to every adversary, and that no man has dared to dis- 
" pute our right. Will you after this permit any new 
" claim to be preferred against us ?" Several members 
delivered their sentiments, and the assembly decided 
unanimously in favour of Alwin. A volume of the gos- 
pels was immediately placed in the middle : and the eal- 
dorman putting his right hand on the book, swore that 
he would maintain, till his death, the monks of Ramsey 
in the rightful possession of their property. He was fol- 
lowed by his sons j and their example was imitated by 
every other person in the assembly (68). 

At the dedication of the church of Winchelcomb, a 
more splendid scene was exhibited. Kenulf, king of 
Mercia, the founder of the abbey, had invited to the ce- 
remony all the thanes of the kingdom, ten ealdormen, 
thirteen bishops, the captive king of Kent, and the tribu- 
tary king of Essex. At the conclusion, Kenulf mounted 
the steps of the principal altar, and calling for his royal 
prisoner, liberated him without ransom, in the presence 
of the assembly. He then displayed his magnificence in 
distributing presents to those, who had obeyed his invita- 
tion. To the bishops and the nobility he gave, in pro- 
portion to their rank, vessels of gold or silver, and the 
fleetest horses ; to those, who possessed no land, a pound 
of silver ; to each priest, a marc of the purest gold ; to 
every monk and clergyman, a shilling ; and a smaller sum 
to each of the people. All these particulars he enume- 
rates in the charter, which he gave on the occasion, and 
declares that he has selected the church of Winchelcomb 

(68) Hi&t. Ram. p. 422, 423. 

for the sepulture of himself and his posterity for ever 
But the revolutions of a few years defeated the projefts of 
his vanity. In the next generation his family was ex- 
tinguished : and within less than a century, the church 
of Winchelcomb was reduced to a heap of ruins. 

(69) Monast. Ang. torn. i. p. UQ. 



Origin of prayers for the dead ajjociations for that purpofe de- 
votions performed for the dead -funeral ceremonies places of 

BY the philosophers of antiquity, the immortality of 
the human soul was but faintly descried : revelation has 
withdrawn the veil, and unfolded that system of retribu- 
tion, which reserves to a future life the rewards of virtue, 
and the chastisement of vice. But in the scale of merit 
and demerit, there are numerous degrees : and, if every 
stain be excluded from the celestial paradise, if the flames 
of vengeance be kindled for none but deadly offences, 
what fate, the inquisitive mind will anxiously demand, is 
allotted to him, who, though he presume not to claim the 
meed of unsullied virtue, has not deserved the severest 
punishment of vice ? To this interesting question our 
ancestors unequivocally replied, that such imperfect 
Christians neither enjoyed the bliss of heaven, nor suffer- 
ed the misery of hell : that, during a limited period, they 
were detained in an intermediate state of purgation : and 
that their deliverance might be accelerated by the pious 
solicitude, and devotion of their friends. This was an 
opinion, which interested in its favour, no less the feel- 
ings, than the judgment of men. The religion, which 
teaches that death removes the soul beyond the influence 
of human exertion, teaches, at the best, a cold and cheer- 
less doclrine. The mind quits with reluctance the object 
of its affections ; it follows the spirit of its departed friend 
into the regions of futurity j and embraces with real con- 

solatiion the means, which religion may offer, of melio- 
rating its lot (1). The practice of praying for the dead 
remounts to the origin of Christianity. That it had been 
universally adopted before the fourth century is not de- 
nied by the most violent, that it was in general use during 
the second, is admitted by the more candid of its adver- 
saries (2). To the Anglo-Saxons it was taught with the 

(1) Here I cannot refuse to transcribe a part of the beautiful 
prayer, which St Augustine- composed after the death of his mo- 
ther. " Ego itaque laus mea, et vita mea, Deus cordis mei, sepo- 
" sitis paulisper bonis ejus actibus, pro quibus tibi gaudens gra- 
u tias ago, mine pro peccatis matris meae deprecor te : exaudi 
" me, per medicinam vulnerum nostropum, quse pependit m lig- 
< no. Scio misericorditer operatam, et ex corde dimisisse debi- 
'* toribus suis : dimitte illi et tu debita sua, si qua etiam cbntraxit 
" per tot annos post aquam salutis. Namqueilla, imminentedie 

M resolutionis suse, non cogitavit sumptuose contegi 

*' Non ista mandavit nobis, sec! tantummodo memoriam sui ad 
" altare tuum fieri desideravit, imde sciret dispensari victimam 
" salutis .... Sit igitur in pace cum viro, ante quern nulli, et 
" post quern nulli nupta est. Et inspira, Domine Deus meus, 
" inspira servis tuis fratribus meis, ut quotquot haec legerint, me- 
* minerint ad altare tuum Monicas famulse tux, cum Patricio 
" quondam ejus conjuge." Confes. 1. ix. 

(2) The catholic may smile, the protestant may sigh, -at the 
miserable evasions, to which the spirit of system has degraded such 
writers as Mosheim and Bingham. The former derives the custom 
of praying for the dead from the impure source of the Platonic 
philosophy (Hist. p. 144, 300, 393) : the latter has expended much 
learning to establish the incredible hypothesis, that when the an- 
cient Christians besought the mercy of God to -pardon the sins of 
the dead, they believed them to be already in a state of rest and 
happiness (Antiq. of the Christ. Church, vol. i. p. 758, vol. K, p. 
110). The fact was, indeed, too evident to be denied; but the 
theological Proteus could assume every shape to elude the grasp 


other practices of religion, by the Roman and Scottish 
missionaries : and the docility of the converts cherished 
it as an institution acceptable to God, and profitable to 
man. Its influence on their manners was powerful and 
extensive : and this chapter will describe I. their anxi- 
ous endeavours to secure the prayers of the faithful after 
their decease ; IL the religious practices which they 
adopted for the consolation of the dying, and the inter- 
ment of the dead. 

I. From the severity of the penitential canons, they 
had learnt to form the most exalted notion of the justice 
of God, and of his hatred for sin : compensation they 
considered as necessary to atone for the transgression of 
the divine, as well as of human laws ; and, while they 
trembled, lest, at the hour of death, their satisfaction 
should be deemed incomplete, they indulged a consoling 
hope, that the residue of the debt might be discharged^ 
by the charity of those, who survived them. To secure 
the future exertions of his friends, was, in the eyes of 
the devout Saxon, an object of high importance : and 
with this view numerous associations were formed, in 
which each individual bound himself to pray for the souls 
of the deceased members (3). Nor were these engage- 
ments confined to the communities of the monks and 

of an adversary. The learned translator of the Saxon councils 
has been more candid, or less cautious. See Johnson, pref. p. 
xix. xlvi. 

(3) See Hicks, Dissert, epis. p. 18. Wanley, MSS. p. 280. 
With the history of St Cuthbert, which he had composed, Bede 
sent the following petition to the monks of Lindisfarne. Sed 
" et me defuncto, pro redemptione animse meas quasi familiaris 
" et vernaculi vestri orare, et missas facere, et nomen meum intei 
" vestra scribere jdignemini." Bed. Vit. St Cuth. p. 228. 


clergy : they comprehended persons of every rank in so- 
ciety, and extended to the most distant countries. Gilds 
were an institution of great antiquity among the Anglo- 
Saxons ; and in every populous district they existed in 
numerous ramifications. They were of different descrip- 
tions. Some were restricted to the performance of reli- 
gious duties ; of others the professed object was the pro- 
secution of thieves, and the preservation of property: 
but all were equally solicitous to provide for the spiritual 
welfare of the departed brethren. As a specimen of 
their engagements, I may be allowed to translate a part 
of the laws established in the gild at Abbotsbury. " If," 
says the legislator, any one belonging to our association 
" chance to die, each member shall pay one penny for 
" the good of the soul, before the body be laid in the 
" grave. If he neglect it, he shall be fined in a triple 
sum. If any of us fall sick within sixty miles, we en- 
" gage to find fifteen men, who may bring him home : 
'* but if he die first, we will send thirty to convey him 
(( to the place, in which he desired to be buried. If he 
<c die in the neighbourhood, the steward shall enquire, 
where he is to be interred, and shall summon as many 
" members as he can, to assemble, attend the corpse in 
*' an honourable manner, carry it to the minster, and 
" pray devoutly for the soul. Let us act in this manner, 
" and we shall truly perform the duty of our confraternity. 
" This will be honourable to us both before God and 
" man. For we know not, who among us may die first : 
" but we believe that, with the assistance of God, this 
" agreement will profit us all, if it be rightly observed" 
(4). The same sentiments are frequently expressed in 

(4) Monas. Ang. torn. i. p. 278. 


the numerous letters addressed to St Boniface, the apostle 
of Germany, and to Lullus, his successor in the see of 
Mentz, by abbots, prelates, thanes, and princes. Of 
many the sole object is to renew their former engage- 
ments, and to transmit the names of their departed asso- 
ciates. " It is our earnest wish," say the king of Kent 
and the bishop of Rochester, in their common letter to 
Lullus, " to recommend ourselves and our dearest rela- 
" tives to your piety, that by your prayers we may be 
'* protected till we come to that life, which knows no 
S end. For what have we to do on earth, but faithfully 
" to exercise charity towards each other ? Let us then 
" agree, that when any among us enters the path which 
" leads to another life, (may it be a life of happiness ! ) 
" the survivors shall, by their alms and sacrifices, endea- 
" vour to assist him in his journey. We have sent you 
" the names of our deceased relations, Irmige, North- 
" thry, and Dulicha, virgins dedicated to God : and beg 
u that you will remember them in your prayers and ob- 
" lations. On a similar occasion we will prove our gra- 
<{ titude by imitating your charity (5). 

2. With the same view, the Anglo-Saxons were anxi- 
ous to obtain a place of sepulture in the most frequented 
and celebrated churches. The monuments raised over 
their ashes would, they fondly expected, recal them to 
the memory, and solicit in their behalf the charity of the 
faithful (6). The earnestness with which they solicited 

(5) Ep. St Bonif. 77. p. 108. See also ep. 74, 95, 103, 109. 

(6) That such was their expectation is clearly expressed by 
Bede. " Postulavit eum ppssessionem terrae aliquam a se ad con- 
4t struendum monasterium accipere, in quo ipse rex defunctus se- 

peliri deberet : nam et seipsum fideliter credidit niultum juvari 


this favour, and the numerous benefactions, with which 
they endeavoured to secure it, from the gratitude of the 
clergy, testify the importance in which it was held. 
Among the many instances which crowd the Saxon an- 
nals, I shall select one from the history of Ely. Brith- 
nod, a warrior whose reputation had been earned in many 
a well-fought battle, was ealdorman of Essex, perhaps of 
Northumbria (7). In a great victory at Maiden he had 
taught the Danes to respect his valour. The vanquished 
invaders sailed back to Denmark, recruited their num- 
bers, and returned in search of revenge. They again 
advanced to Maiden, that the place which had witnessed 
their defeat, might be the theatre of their future triumph. 
A challenge was sent to Brithnod, which found him un- 
prepared, and attended by few of his retainers. But the 
high spirited ealdorman preferred the probability of an 
honourable death to the disgrace of a refusal. As he 
passed by Ramsey, Wulsig, the abbot, a prelate as parsi- 
monious as he was rich, invited him to dinner with seven 
of his officers. Go, tell thy master," replied the chief 
to the messenger, " that as I cannot fight, so neither will 
<c I dine, without my brave, companions." From Ram- 
sey he proceeded to Ely, where his little army was hos- 
pitably received, and banished, over a plenteous repast, 
their recollection of past fatigue, and the thought of fu- 
ture danger. In the morning he entered the chapter- 
house, returned thanks to the monks for their liberality, 
and offered them several valuable manors, on condition 

" eorum orationibus, qui illo in loco Domino servirent." Bed. 
hist. 1. iii. c. 23, iv. c. 5. 

(?) He is stiled ealdorman of Essex by most of the chroniclers, 
of Northumbria by the monk of Ely, p. 493. 


that, if it were his lot to fall in battle, they should bury 
his body .within their church. The condition was ac- 
cepted, and he marched towards the enemy. Within 
the short space of a fortnight, fourteen battles were fought 
with the most obstinate valour. In the last the men of 
Essex rushed with impetuosity into the midst of the bar- 
barians : but it was the combat of despair against over- 
powering numbers. Brithnod was slain : his head was 
conveyed by the invaders to Denmark as the trophy of 
their victory : the trunk was discovered among the dead 
by the monks, and solemnly interred, according to their 
promise, in the church of the abbey. To honour the 
memory of her husband, his widow Ethelfleda embroi- 
dered in silk the history of his exploits, and gave it, with 
several other presents, to the monastery, which contained 
his ashes (8). 

The number of those, who were thus interred in the 
churches, multiplied so fast, as at length to provoke the 
severity of the bishops. Churches, they observed, were 
erected to accommodate the living, not to become the re- 
positories of the dead j the privilege of burial within the 
consecrated walls was reserved for the bodies of the 
saints ; and the public service was ordered to be discon- 
tinued in the churches which had been polluted by the 
promiscuous interment of all who had requested it (9). 

(s) Hist. Elien. p. 494. 

(9) Wilk con. p. 267, ix. The prohibition of burials in churches 
was very severe in Italy. When the pope granted a written per- 
mission for the dedication of such places, it was customary to in- 
sert the following clause : "si nullum corpus ibi constat huma- 
" turn." See many examples in the liber diurnus Romanorum 
pontificum, written in the eighth century, and published by Gar- 
ner, p. 93, 97, 99. 


This prohibition might repress, but it did not abolish the 
the custom. 

3. But the more opulent were not content to rest their 
hopes of future assistance on the casual benevolence of 
others. They were careful to erect or endow monaste- 
ries, with the express obligation, that their inhabitants 
should pray for their benefactors. Of these an exact ca- 
talogue was preserved in the library of each church ; the 
days on which they died were carefully noticed ; and, 
on their anniversaries, prayers and masses were perform- 
ed for the welfare of their souls (10). To men of timid 
and penitent minds this custom afforded much consola- 
tion. However great might be their deficiencies, yet 
they hoped their good works would survive them : they 
had provided for the service of the Almighty a race of 
men, whose virtues they might in some respects call their 
own, and who were bound, by the strongest ties, to be 
their daily advocates at the throne of divine mercy (11). 
Such were the sentiments of Alwyn, the ealdorman of 
East-Anglia, and one of the founders of Ramsey. Warn- 

(10) In the Cotton library (Dom. A. 7) is a manuscript of the 
reign of Athelstan, in which the names of the principal benefac- 
tors of the church of Lindisfarne are inscribed in letters of gold 
and silver. The list was afterwards continued, but with less ele- 
gance, till the reformation. Wanl. p. 249. In every monastery 
they also preserved the names of their deceased members, and 
were careful to pray for them on the anniversaries of their death. 
Bed. 1. iv. c. 14. 

(11) Thus Leofric established canons at Exeter, and made them 
several valuable presents, on condition that, in their prayers and 
masses, they should always remember his soul, " that it might be 
" the more pleasing to God : J5 hir raple beo gose ]>e anp enjjie." 
Monas. AngAom. i. p. 222. 

ed by frequent infirmities of his approaching death, he 
repaired, attended by his sons Edwin and Ethelward, to 
the abbey. The monks were speedily assembled. " My 
" beloved," said he, " you will soon lose your friend and 
" protector. My strength is gone : I am stolen from 
" myself. But I am not afraid to die. When life grows 
" tedious, death is welcome. To-day I shall confess be- 
" fore you the many errors of my life. Think not that 
" I wish you to solicit a prolongation of my existence. 
" My request is, that you protect my departure by your 
<( prayers, and place your merits in the balance against 
" my defects. When my soul shall have quitted my 
" body, honour your father's corpse with a decent fune- 
" ral, grant him a constant share in your prayers, and 
" recommend his memory to the charity and gratitude of 
" your successors." At the conclusion of this address, 
the aged thane threw himself on the pavement before the 
altar, and, with a voice interrupted by frequent sighs, 
publicly confessed the sins of his past years, and earnestly 
implored the mercies of his Redeemer. The monks 
were dissolved in tears. As soon as their sensibility 
permitted them to begin, they chaunted over him the 
seven psalms of penitence, and the prior Germanus read 
the prayer of absolution. With the assistance of Edwin 
and Ethelward he arose ; and supporting himself against 
a column, exhorted the brotherhood to a punctual obser- 
vance of their rule, and forbade his sons, under their fa- 
ther's malediction, to molest them in the possession of 
the lands, which he had bestowed on the abbey. Then 
Having embraced each monk, and asked his blessing, he 
returned to his residence in the neighbourhood. This 
was his last visit. Within a few weeks he expired : his 

body was interred \vitli proper soleiu^.-y in the church j 
and his memory was long cherished with gratitude by 
the monks of Ramsey (12). 

4. The assistance, which was usually given to the dead, 
consisted in works of charity and exercises of devotion, 
To the money which the deceased had bequeathed for 
the relief of the indigent (13), his friends were accustom- 
ed to add their voluntary donations, with a liberal present 
to the church, in which the obsequies were performed. 
Freedom was granted to a certain number of slaves ; and 
to render the benefit more valuable, their poverty was 
relieved by a handsome sum of money. In the council 

(12) Hist. Rames. p. 427. 

(13) In the gild at London, when any of the members died, 
each of the survivors gave to the poor a loaf for the good of his 
soul. (Leg. Sax. p. 68.) This was the origin of doles, of which 
some instances still remain. Before the distribution, the following 
prayer was pronounced. " Precamur te, Domine, clementissime 
** pater, ut eleemosyna ista fiat in misericordia tua, ut acceptus 
" sit cibus iste pro anima famuli tui, ill. et ut sit benedictio tua 
" super omnia dona ista." Wanley, MSS. p. 83. Alfred the 
great, in his testament, bequeathed two hundred pounds to one 
of his officers to be distributed to the poor ; to the archbishop of 
Canterbury, the bishops of Sherburne, London, and Worcester, 
four hundred marks for the same purpose : two hundred pounds 
to be divided among fifty priests ; fifty shillings to every clergy- 
man in his dominions ; fifty shillings to the church in which his 
body should be buried, and fifty shillings to the poor of the neigh- 
bourhood. Test. ^Ifredi, apud Walker, p. 195. Wilfrid, arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, by his will, left funds for the perpetual sup- 
port and cloathing of twenty-one paupers, and ordered a loaf, 
some cheese or bacon, and one penny to be given to twelve hun- 
dred poor persons on the anniversary of his death. Evidential ecc. 
Cant. p. 2017. Also Brihtric's will, apud Stevens, p. 121. 


of Calcuith, the prelates unanimously agreed, that at their 
deaths the tenth part of their property should be distri- 
buted to the poor j that all the English bondsmen whom 
the church had acquired during their administration, 
should be set at liberty (14) ; and that each of the sur- 
vivors, and every abbot in their dioceses, should manu- 
mit three slaves, and divide among them nine shillings 
of silver (15). 

The devotions performed in behalf of the dead, consist- 
ed in the frequent repetition of the Lord's prayer, which 
was generally termed a belt of pater-nosters (16) : in the 
chaunting of a certain number of psalms, at the close of 
which the congregation fell on their knees, and intoned 
the anthem, " O Lord, according to thy great mercy 
" give rest to his soul, and, in consideration of thy infi- 
" nite goodness, grant that he may enjoy eternal light in 
<( the company of thy saints" (17) ; and in the sacrifice 

(14) With this regulation Archbishop .ZElfric faithfully com- 
plied in his testament. Ant) he pyle j> man pjieo ge aspren hij* 
ozege zelcne man. ]?e on hir rimen pongylr paejxe. Testam. JElfric, 
'apud Mores p. 63. Similar directions are given in the will of 

Athelstan, published at the end of Lye's Saxon dictionary. 

(15) Wiik. con. 171, x. 

(16) Id. ibid. Hence Mabillon (Act. Bened. Sasc. v. prsef. p. 
Ixxx.) has kindly informed us, that the English word beads is a 
corruption of belt. But a foreigner might be allowed to be igno- 
rant that bead is the Anglo-Saxon for prayer, a word, for which we 
are indebted to the Normans. The verb to bid is still used in the 
sense of to fray, among the inhabitants of -the northern counties. 

(17) Id. p. 99, xxvii. Anno 747. When St Guthlake died, his 
sister Pega recommended his soul to God, and sung psalms for 
that purpose during three days. Trium dierum spatiis fraternum 
spiritum divinis laudibus Deo commendavit. Vit. St Gutlu in act* 
SS. April. Toni. iii. p. 49. 


of the mass, which was always offered on the third day 
after the decease, and afterwards repeated in proportion 
to the solicitude of the friends of the dead ( 18). As soon 
as St Wilfrid had expired, Tatbert, to whom he had in- 
trusted the government of his monastery at Rippon, or- 
dered a mass to be said, and a certain quantity of alms 
to be distributed every day, for the soul of his benefac- 
tor. To celebrate his anniversary, the abbots of all the 
monasteries which he had founded, were summoned to 
attend. The preceding night was spent in watching and 
prayer ; on the following day a solemn mass was perform- 
ed ; and the tenth part of the cattle belonging to the ab- 
bey, was divided among the poor of the neighbourhood 

During the controversial war, which sprung from the 
great event of the reformation, when the prejudice of 
party eagerly accepted every accusation against the cleri- 
cal and monastic orders, writers were strongly tempted 
to sacrifice the interests of truth at the shrine of popula- 
rity. They then discovered, or pretended to discover, 
that the practice of praying for the dead originated in 
the interested views of the clergy, who, while they ap- 
plauded in public, ridiculed in private, the easy faith of 

(18) Poenit. Egb. apud. Wilk. p. 122. 

(19) Edd. vit. Wilf. c 62. We have been told that the object 
of these prayers and alms, was to return thanks to God for the 
happiness enjoyed by the souls of the dead (Whelock, p. 297. 
Inett, hist. vol. i. p. 227.) The prelates in the council of Calcuith 
appear to have been of a different opinion. They command pray- 
ers to be said for them after their deaths, ut communis interces- 
sionis gratia, commune cum sanctis omnibus regnum perciperr 
mereantur seternum. Wilk. con. p. 171. 


their disciples (20). The idea may be philosophic, but 
it is pregnant with difficulties. The man who first de- 
tected the imposture, should have condescended to un- 
fold the mysteries, by which it had been previously con- 
cealed. He should have explained by what extraordina- 
ry art it was effected, that of the thousands, who, during 
so many ages practised the deception, no individual in an 
unguarded moment, no false brother in the peevishness of 
discontent, revealed the dangerous secret to the ears of a 
misguided and impoverished people (21). He should 
have shewn, why the conspirators preserved, even among 
themselves, the language of hypocrisy ; why, in their 
private correspondence, they anxiously requested from 
each other the prayers which they mutually despised ; 
and why they consented to make so many pecuniary sa- 

(20) See Whelock's preface to the Archaionomia, post Bedam, 
and in Wilkins, Leges Saxon, praef. Whel. p. xxi. ; Tillotson's 
sermon on 1 Cor. iii. 15. Mosheim, SGEC. I0,par.ii. c. 3. 

(21) The Anglo-Saxon homilists teach in different passages, that 
after the general judgment, the wicked will suffer everlasting pu- 
nishment, and the virtuous be rewarde.d with everlasting happiness. 
This doctrine has been willingly received by controversial writers, 
and ingeniously converted into a positive denial of any place of 
purgation after death. Whelock, praef. Archaion. Wanley, MSS. 
p. 138. How far this inference would have been admitted by the 
homilists themselves, we may judge from the following passage in 
the sermon on the dedication of a church. " There are also 
f( many places of punishment, in which souls suffer in proportion 
f to their guilt, before the general judgment, and in which some 
" are so far purified, as not to be hurt by the fire of the last day." 
Fela pins eac pitmen'ohce r ropa $e manna f aple poji heopa gymleaj^re 
on Sjiopiap. be heojxa jilta maepe. asp. Sam jemaenehcum r>ome, ppa $ 
hi j*ume beop pullice jeclasnf o-oe. -j ne ^uppou nahr pjiopian on pam 

Apud Whel. p. S8. 


orifices during life, merely to obtain, what they deemed 
an illusory assistance after death. Till these difficulties 
can be removed, we may safely acquit the Anglo-Saxon 
clergy of the charges of imposture and hypocrisy. The 
whole tenor of their history deposes, that they believed 
the doctrine which they taught : and if they erred, they 
erred with every Christian church which then existed, 
and with every Christian church which had existed since 
the first publication of the gospel. 

II. Of the customs observed by our Anglo-Saxon an- 
cestors at the death and interment of their friends, many 
have disappeared with the general exercise of their reli- 
gion : the existence of others, after the lapse of almost 
eight centuries, may still be traced in those districts, in 
which the practices of antiquity have not been entirely 
eradicated by the refinement of modern times. At the 
first appearance of danger, recourse was had to the mini- 
try of the parish priest, or of some distinguished clergy- 
man in the neighbourhood. He was bound to obey the 
summons ; and no plea but that of inability could justify 
his negligence. Attended by his inferior clergy, arrayed 
in the habits of their respective orders, he repaired to the 
chamber of the sick man, offered him the sacred rights 
of religion, and exhorted him to prepare his soul to ap- 
pear before the tribunal of his Creator. The first duty, 
which he was bound to require from his dying disciple, 
was the arrangement of his temporal concerns. Till pro- 
vision had been made for the payment of his debts, and 
the indemnification of those whom he had injured, it was 
In vain to solicit the succours of religion : but, as soon as 
these obligations had been fulfilled, the priest was ordered 
to receive his confession, to teach him to form sentiments 


of compunction and resignation, to exact a declaration 
that he died in peace with all mankind, and to pronounce 
over him the prayer of reconciliation (22). Thus pre- 
pared, he might with confidence demand the sacrament 
of the extreme unction. With consecrated oil the prin- 
cipal parts of the body were successively anointed in the 
form of a cross ; each unction was accompanied with an 
appropriate prayer ; and the promise of St James was re- 
newed, " that the prayer of faith should save the sfck 
" man, and if he were in sins, they should be forgiven 
him" (23). The administration of the eucharist con- 
cluded these religious rites : at the termination of which 
the friends of the sick man ranged themselves round his 
bed ; received the presents which he distributed among 
them as memorials of his affection ; gave him the kiss of 
peace, and bade him a last and melancholy farewel (24>). 

(22) Pontif. Angl. Gemet. apud Martene, p. 1 1 7. 

(23) St Jam. c. v. v. 14. The different unctions were made on 
the eye-lids, ears, nostrils, lips, neck, shoulders, breast, hands, 
feet, and the part principally affected with pain. After each unc- 
tion a psalm was sung. Pontif. Ang. ibid. The prelates frequent- 
ly admonished the parish priests to be diligent in the administra- 
tion of this rite (Wilk. con. p. 127, 229, 254.) They considered 
it as a sacrament, to which were attached the most valuable graces. 
JElc fcaejia manna fce Say jejaihro hjepfc. hiy j*apl bi]> jehce clzene- 
aepreji hif pojvSrpiSe. eal rpa f cilt> bi]> $e aejrren hij- pulluhte rona 
jepit;. Poenit. Egb. p. 127, xv. It appears, however, to have 
been sometimes received with reluctance by the illiterate, from 
an idea that it was a kind of ordination, which induced the obliga- 
tion of continency and abstinence from flesh on those who after- 
wards recovered. The clergy were ordered to preach against this 
erroneous notion. Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 170. 

(24) In Cuthbert's letter may be read the account of the pre- 
sents, which Bede made before his death to the priests of his mo- 



The infidel may deride the solicitude, which thus de- 
dicates the last moments of life to the exercises of devo- 
tion : but to the faithful Christian, who trusts in the pro- 
mises of his Redeemer, they afford the truest consolation 
at an hour when every earthly resource deserts him. It 
was then that the minister of religion was commanded to 
exert all his zeal and charity in behalf of his dying bro- 
ther ; to soothe his sufferings by the motives of revela- 
tion, and to elevate his hopes with the prospect of eternal 
happiness. The care of the sick was numbered among 
the most important of the priestly functions : and when 
the personal attendance of the pastor was prevented by 
his other duties, his absence was supplied by the presence 
of some of the inferior clergy (25). At the bedside they 
recited the service of the day ; watched each favourable 
opportunity of inspiring sentiments of devotion, and re- 
commended with fervent prayer the object of their soli- 
citude to the protection of heaven. As the fatal mo- 
ment advanced, they read the gospel of St John, and 
chaunted the office of the dying (26). As soon as he 
expired, the bell was tolled. Its solemn voice announced 
his departure to the neighbourhood, and exhorted his 
Christian brethren to deprecate in his favour the justice 
of the Almighty. Some were content to perform in pri- 

nastery, with a request that they would remember him in their 
prayers and masses. Smith's Bed. p. 793. 

(25) Martene, de ant. rit. 1. iii. p. 543. 

(26) Bed. vit. abbat. p. 299. In the monasteries the monks as- 
sembled in the church, and spent sometimes both the day and 
night, in recommending the soul of their expiring brother to the 
mercy of God. Bed. ibid.^et vit. St Cuth. c. xxxvii. Edd. vit. St 
Wilt c. Ixiu 


vate this charitable office : others repaired to the church, 
and joined in the public service (27). 

In the mean time the friends of the deceased were 
busily employed in preparing the body for burial. The 
Greek and Ronian Christian's had not scrupled to retain 
many of the customs of their ancestors ; and from them 
they had descended to the Anglo-Saxon converts. The 
corpse was first carefully washed ; and then clothed in de- 
cent garments (28). Many were solicitous to prepare during 
their health, the linen in which they wished to be buried : 
by others, the richest presents which they had received 
from the affection of their friends, were destined for the 

(27) The bell on these occasions appears to have been tolled in 
a particular manner. " Audivit," says Bede, " subito in acre 
" notum campanas sonum, quo ad orationes excitari vel convo- 
" cari solebant, cum quis eorum de sasculo fuisset evocatus." 
Hist. 1. iv. c. 23. This has been considered as the most ancient 
passage (anno 674,) in which the word camparia occurs : but it is 
used by Cuminius, abbot of Icolmkille, who wrote before Bede. 
Vit. S. Columbx, c. 22, 25. Alfred translates it clujja, a clock 
(p. 595) : and the same term with the latin terminations is frequent- 
ly used by the Anglo-Saxon missionaries in Germany (Ep. St Bo- 
nif. 9,89). It is also to be found in the French and German 
writers of these ages. See the lives of* St Liudger, and St Angil- 
bertus. Act. SS. Bened. Saec. iv. torn. i. p. S3, 57, 116. Also in 
Adomnan, 1. i. c. 8. 1. iii. c. 23. Ethelwold, an Anglo-Saxon 
poet, mentions the materials of which the bells were made : 
Nee minus ex cipro sonitant ad gaudia fratrum 
jEnea vasa, cavis crepitant quis (quae) pendula sistris* 

Ethel, c. xiv./. 314. 

(28) Bed. Vit. St Cuth. c. xliv. Edd. Vit. St Wilf. c. xliii. The 
body was dressed honorifice, in linteis. Ibid. Wilk.con. p. 229, 
Ixv. They even put shoes on the feet. Bed. Vit. St Cuth. c. xlv. 
Anon. Vit. St Cuth. apud Bollan. 20 Matt. 

R 2 


performance of this last office (29) ; and it frequently 
happened that the magnificence of the dead surpassed 
that of the living. The distinctions of society were pre- 
served on the bier and in the grave : and the remains of 
kings and eaklormen, of bishops, abbots, priests, and 
deacons, were interred in the ornaments of their respec- 
tive dignities (30). To satisfy affection or curiosity, the 
face and neck remained uncovered ; and till the hour of 
burial, the corpse was constantly surrounded by its at- 
tendants. In the monasteries the monks divided them- 
selves into different bodies, which in rotation entered the 
chamber of the deceased, and either watched in silent 
prayer, or chaunted the service of the dead : but in the 
houses of the laity, this solemn ceremony degenerated 
into a scene of riot and debauchery, which provoked and 
defied the severity of the bishops. By ^Elfric, in his 
charge to the clergy, the disedifying custom is described 
as a remnant of the superstition of their pagan forefathers. 
< ( Ye shall not," says he, " make merry over the dead, 
<f nor resort to a corpse, unless invited. Then shall ye 
" forbid the heathenish songs of the laymen, and their 
" loud shouts : and neither eat, nor drink, where the 
" body lies : lest you partake in the superstitions, which 
" are practised on such occasions" (31). 

(29) Bed. Vit. St Cuth. c. xxxvii. 

(30) Anon. Vit. St Cuth. apud Bollan. 20 Martii. Edd. Vit. St 
Wilf. c. xliii. When the tomb of Archbishop Theodore was 
opened in 1091, the body appeared to have been dressed in the 
pontifical ornaments, with the pallium, and the cowl of a monk. 
Gotselin, cit. Smith, p. 189. 

(si) Wilk. con. p. 255. The custom of watching over the 
dead is still retained in several places, and in the north of England, 
is called lakewake, from the Saxon, hcepsecce, or corpse-watch. 


When the necessary preparations were completed, the 
body of the deceased was placed on abler, or in a hearse. 
On it lay the book of the gospels, the code of his belief, 
and the cross, the signal of his hope. A pall of silk or 
linen was thrown over it, till it reached the place of inter- 
ment (32). His friends were summoned, strangers deem- 
ed it a duty to join the funeral procession. The clergy 
walked before, or on each side, bearing lighted tapers in 
their hands, and chaunting a portion of the psalter (33). 
They entered the church. If it were in the evening, 
the night was passed in exercises of devotion. In the 
morning, the sacrifice of the mass was offered for the de- 
parted soul : the body was deposited with solemnity in 
the grave, the sawlshot paid, and a liberal donation dis- 
tributed to the poor (34). 

(32) Feretrum sacrosanctis evangeliis et crucibus armatum. 
Wolstan, Vit. St Ethel, in act. Bened. Sasc. v. p. 623. Palliorum 
velamentis ornatum. Ibid. 

(33) Accensis luminaribus, et hymnis ccelestibus, atque psalmo- 
rum concentibus. Ibid. Mention is also made of the singing, 
but not of the lights, at the burials of St Cuthbert, (Vit. c. xl.), of 
Ceolfrid, (Vit. abbat. p. 302.) and of St Wilfrid, (Vit. c. Ixiii.). 
The attendants sometimes beat their faces in token of their grief. 
Facies suas dissecantes, sese ferientes, et amaris vocibus claman- 
tes. Ang. Sac. vol.. ii. p. 119. 

(34) Some of their coffins were of lead (Sarcophagum plumbe- 
um. Felix, Vit. S. Guthl. Lei. Itiner. vol. iv. app. p. ill.). They 
were more frequently made of a large stone, in which was hol- 
lowed a space sufficient to contain a* human body. A cushion 
was placed under the head. Bed. 1. iv. c. 11, 19. Vit. St Cuth. 
c. xl. By Alfred, in his version, these are always called troughs, 
fcjiuh. p. 580, 588. When stone coffins could not be procured, 
they were content to make them of wood. Bed. 1. iii. c. 11. iv. 

R 3 


The good sense of the Roman missionaries had induced 
them to prohibit the interment of the dead among the 
habitations of the living (35) : and several generations 
passed before any attempt was made to violate their pro- 
hibition. Augustine and his five immediate successors, 
were buried without the walls of Canterbury , but, as a 
mark of particular respect, their remains were deposited 
in the northern portico of the church, dedicated to the 
apostles St Peter and JPaul : around which lay the bodies 
of the monks, the clergy, and the inhabitants of the city 
(36). The first exemption was granted in favour of 
Archbishop Theodore. At his death the portico was full : 
to inter him in the cemetery, among the promiscuous 
multitude, appeared indecorous ; and -it was determined 
to honour his merit with a place of sepulture within the 
church (37). What had been conceded to him, could 
not with propriety be refused to his successors j and the 
innovation proved most advantageous to the temporal in- 
terests of the monastery. The Anglo-Saxons were eager 

c. 30. In the Anglo-Saxon language they were called chests, 
cyrtre. Alfred, vers. p. 535, 608. 

(35) Dicebant Roman! primi in Angliam missi, c-ivitatem non 
esse mortuorum scd vivorum, Gervase, p. 1641. The ancient 
fgrm of consecrating burial grounds is described in the pontifical 
of Archbishop Egbert. The bishop, attended by his clergy, 
walked in procession round the cemetery, repeating the psalm 
Miserere, and then read five prayers, one in each of the four cor- 
ners, and one in the middle. The purport of all was nearly the 
same : that God would preserve the bodies of those buried in that 
place from ^dolation, and raise them up at the last day, to enjoy 
everlasting glory. Martene, torn. iii. p. 361. 

(36) Bed. 1. ii. c. 3. 

,(37) Id. ibid. 


to offer up their devotions near the ashes of their for- 
mer metropolitans : and numerous donations were made 
to the monks, for the sake of those, whose bodies they 
possessed. Cuthbert, the tenth archbishop, saw with 
jealousy the superior reputation of his neighbours, and 
complained that a private monastery in the suburbs had 
usurped the pre eminence, which belonged to his church, 
the first in dignity among the churches of Britain. Ead- 
byrht, king of Kent, gave a willing ear to his sugges- 
tions ; the pontiff (if we may believe his friends, for it is 
denied by his enemies (33),) approved his intention ; 
and, on his death-bed, he summoned his monks and 
clergy around him, and commanded them to inter his 
body in secrecy and silence within the walls of his cathe- 
dral. The command was cheerfully obeyed ; and three 
days elapsed before his death was announced. At the 
sound of the funeral bell, Janbyrht, abbot of the monas- 
tery, assembled his monks, and walked with them in pro- 
cession to the archiepiscopal residence, to demand the 
body. They were informed, that their services were un- 
necessary , the ridicule of th^ir opponents sharpened the 
sting of disappointment ; and they vented their indigna- 
tion in menaces, remonstrances, and protests. But me- 
naces, remonstrances, and protests, were fruitless j the 
charm of ancient custom was broken ; and the succeeding 
archbishops, with a single exception, were buried in their 
own cathedral (39). 

(38) By Gervase, the monk of Christchurch, it is positively as^ 
serted (X Script, p. 1641.) : by Thorn, the monk of St Augustine's, 
it is as positively denied (X Script, p. 1774). 

(39) SeeDecem Script, p. 1295, 1641, 1772, 2210. 



When once the churches had been opened for the se- 
pulture of the dead, the progress of innovation was rapid, 
and the honourable distinction was successively extended 
from metropolitans and princes, to bishops, abbots, eai- 
dormen and thanes. But an extraordinary distinction 
was allotted to those, whose reputation could challenge 
for them the honours of extraordinary sanctity. The 
bodies of their brethren, whose virtue had been more 
dubious or less renowned, were permitted to moulder in 
the earth : those of the saints were raised from their 
graves, and richly enshrined in the interior of the church. 
Of this species of canonization, the only one practised at 
that period, numerous instances occur in the works of 
our more early writers. It was generally, perhaps al- 
ways, preceded by a petition to the bishop, and sanction- 
ed by his approbation. Ten or twenty years after the 
death of the man, the object of their veneration, when it 
might be presumed that the less solid parts of the body 
had been reduced to dust, the monks or clergy assembled 
to perform the ceremony of his elevation. A tent was 
pitched over the grave, /-round it stood the great body 
of the attendants chaunting the psalms of David : with- 
in, the superior, accompanied by the more aged of the 
brotherhood, opened the earth, collected the bones, 
washed them, wrapped them carefully in silk or linen, 
and deposited them in a mortuary chest (40). With 
sentiments of respect, and hymns of exultation they were 
then carried to the place destined to receive them; 
which was elevated above the pavement, and decorated 
with appropriate ornaments. Of the shrines the most 

(40) Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 19, 30. Vit. St Cuth. c. xlii. Act SS, 
Bened, Sasc, iv. torn. i. p. 310. Saec. v. p. 735, 


ancient that has been described to us, contained the re- 
mains of St Chad, the apostle of Mercia : it was built of 
wood, in form resembled a house, and was covered with 
tapestry (4?1). But this was in an age of simplicity and 
monastic poverty : in a later period, a greater display of 
magnificence bespoke the greater opulence of the church ; 
and the shrines of the saints were the first objects, which 
invited the rapacity of the Danish invaders. 

To conclude this chapter, I shall present the reader 
with an extract: from a curious document. At the com- 
mencement of the twelfth century, four hundred and 
eighteen years after the death of St Cuthbert, the monks 
of Durham opened his sepulchre. A narrative of the 
discoveries made on this occasion, has been transmitted 
to posterity by the pen of an eye-witness, probably the 
historian Simeon : and his work is interesting, as it serves 
to illustrate the ancient customs of the Anglo-Saxons in 
the interment of the dead. 

William, the second bishop of Durham after the con- 
quest, had collected for the service of his cathedral a so- 
ciety of monks, and dissatisfied with the low and obscure 
church of his predecessors, had laid the foundations of a 
more spacious and stately fabric. In the year one thousand 
one hundred and four, it was nearly completed : and the 
twenty-ninth of August was announced as the day on 
which the incorrupt body of St Cuthbert would be trans- 
ferred from the old to the new church. The nobility 
and clergy of the neighbouring counties were invit- 
ed to the ceremony ; and Richard, abbot of St Al- 

(41) Bed. 1. iv. c. 3. Coopertus. mit> h]aae$ele 
MIL ibid. p. 570. Over the tomb of St Oswald was suspended 
his standard of purple and gold. Bed. 1. iii. c. U. 


ban's, Radulfus, abbot of Seez in Normandy, and Alex- 
ander, brother to the king of Scots, had arrived to 
honour it with their presence. But among this crowd 
of learned and noble visitors the whispers of incre- 
dulity were heard ; the claim of the monks was said to 
rest on the faith of a vague and doubtful tradition ; and 
it was asked, where were the proofs that the body of the 
saint was entire, or even that his ashes reposed in the 
church of Durham ? Who could presume to assert, that 
at the distance of four centuries, it still remained in the 
same state as at the time of Bede (4<2) ? or that during 
its numerous removals, and the devastations of the Danes, 
it had never perished by the negligence or flight of its 
attendants ? These reports alarmed the credulity of the 
monks ; and that alarm was considerably increased by 
the intelligence that the bishop himself was among the 
number of the sceptics. With haste and secrecy the 
brotherhood was summoned to the chapter house ; the 
advice of the more discreet was asked and discussed ; 
and, after a long and solemn consultation, it was deter- 
mined that Turgot, the prior, with nine associates, should 
open the tomb in the silence of the night, and make a 
faithful report concerning the state of its contents. 

As soon as their brethren were retired to rest, the ten 
visitors entered the church. After a short but fervent 
prayer that God would pardon their temerity, they re- 
moved the masonry of the tomb, and beheld a large and 
ponderous chest, which had been entirely covered with 
leather, and strongly secured with nails and plates of 
iron. To separate the top from the sides, required their 
utmost exertions ; and within it they discovered a second 

(42) See Bede hist. 1. iv. c. so. Vit. St Cuth. c. xlii. 


chest, of dimensions more proportionate to the human 
body, and wrapped in a coarse linen cloth, which had 
previously been dipped in melted wax. That it contained 
the object of their search, all were agreed : but their 
fears caused a temporary suspension of their labours. 
From the tradition of their predecessors they had learnt, 
that no man had ever presumed to disturb the repose of the 
saint, and escaped the instantaneous vengeance of heaven. 
The stories of ancient times crowded on their imagina- 
tions : engaged in a similar attempt, they expected to 
meet each moment with a similar punishment ; the 
silence of the night, the sacredness of the place, the su- 
perior sanctity of their patron, aided these impressions, 
and at last an almost general wish was expressed to aban- 
don so dangerous an experiment. But Turgot was in- 
flexible. He commanded them to proceed ; and, after a 
short struggle, the duty of obedience subdued the reluc- 
tance of terror. By his direction they conveyed the 
smaller chest from behind the altar, to a more conveni- 
ent place in the middle of the choir ; unrolled the cloth ; 
and with trembling hands raised up the lid. But instead 
of the remains of the saint, they found a copy of the 
gospels, lying on a second lid, which had not been nailed, 
but rested on three transverse bars of wood. By the help 
of two iron rings, fixed at the extremities, it was easily 
removed ; and disclosed the body lying on its right side, 
and apparently entire. At the sight, they gazed on 
each other in silent astonishment ; and then, retiring a 
few paces, fell prostrate on the floor, and repeated in a 
low voice the seven psalms of penitence. Gradually 
their fears were dispelled : they arose, approached the 
body, lifted it up, and placed it respectfully on a carpet 
spread on the floor. In the coffin they found a great 


number of bones wrapped in linen, the mortal remains 
of the other bishops of Lindisfarne, which, to facilitate 
the conveyance, the monks had deposited in the same 
chest, when they were compelled to leave their ancient 
monastery. These they collected, and transferred to a 
different part of the church ; and, as the hour of matins 
approached, hastily replaced the body in the coffin, and 
carried it back to its former situation behind the altar. 

The next evening, at the same hour, they resumed the 
investigation ; and the body was again placed on the floor 
of the choir. They discovered that it had been origi- 
nally dressed in a linen robe, a dalmatic, a chasuble, and 
a mantle. With it had been buried, a pair of scissors, a 
comb of ivory, a silver altar, a patine and a small chalice, 
remarkable for the elegance and richness of its ornaments 
(43). Having surveyed the body till their veneration 
and curiosity were satisfied, they restored it to the tomb 
in which it had formerly reposed, and hastened to com- 
municate the joyful intelligence to their anxious and im- 
patient brethren. 

The following morning, the monks were eager to an- 

(43) The very ancient and anonymous author of the life of St 
Cuthbert published by the Bollandists, says that the eucharist 
was enclosed in the chalice, oblatis super sanctum pectus positis. 
Apud Bollan. 20. Martii. The altar was a flat plate of silver, on 
which it was customary to consecrate the eucharist. A similar 
altar made of two pieces of wood, fastened with silver nails, and 
bearing the inscription, Alme trinitati. agie. sophie. Sanctae Marias, 
was found on the breast of Acca, bishop of Hexham, when his 
tomb was opened about the year 1000. Sim. Dunel. de gestis 
regum, p. 101. The scissors and comb buried with the body, 
were probably those which had been used at the bishop's conse- 


nounce the discovery of the preceding nights, and a so- 
lemn ad of thanksgiving was performed, to publish their 
triumph, and silence the doubts of the incredulous. But 
their joy was soon interrupted by the rational scepticism 
of the abbot of a neighbouring monastery. Why, he 
asked, was the darkness of the night selected as the most 
proper time to visit the tomb ? Why were none but the 
monks of Durham permitted to be present ? These cir- 
cumstances provoked suspicion. Let them open the cof- 
fin before the eyes of the strangers who had come to as- 
sist at the translation of the relics. To grant this, would 
at once confound their adversaries : but to refuse it, 
would be to condemn themselves of imposture and false- 
hood. This unexpected demand, with the insinuations 
by which it was accompanied, roused the indignation of 
the monks. They appealed to their character, which 
had been hitherto unimpeached : they offered to confirm 
their testimony with their oaths : they accused their op- 
ponent of a design to undermine their reputation, and 
then to seize on their property. The altercation con- 
tinued till the day appointed for the ceremony of the 
translation : when the abbot of Seez prevailed on the 
prior Turgot, to accede to so reasonable a demand. To 
the number of fifty they entered the choir : the chest 
which enclosed the remains, was placed before them, 
and the lid was removed ; when Turgot stept forward, 
and stretching out his hand, forbade any person to touch 
the body without his permission, and commanded his 
monks to watch with jealousy the execution of his orders. 
The abbot of Seez then approached, raised up the body, 
and proved the flexibility of the joints, by moving the 
head, the arms, and the legs. At the sight every doubt 


vanished ; the most incredulous confessed that they were 
satisfied ; the Te Deum was chaunted, and the translation 
of the relics was immediately performed with the accus- 
tomed ceremonies (44). 

(44) Translat. St Cuth. in act. SS. Bened. Sasc. iv. torn. 2. p. 
294. Nobis, says the historian Simeon, speaking of this transla- 
tion, incoiTuptum corpus ejus, quadringentesimo et octavo decimo 
dormitionis ejus anno, quamvis indignis divina gratia videre et 
manibus quoque contrectare donavit. Hist. eccl. Dunel. p. 53- 
The festival of St Cuthbert, formerly kept on the fourth of Sep- 
tember, refers, not to this, but to a more ancient translation, made 
by order of the bishop Aldhune in the year 999. 



Generation and invocation of the faints relics miracles -pic- 
tures and images pilgrimages travels of St Willibald 

THE invocation of the saints is a religious practice, 
which may be traced back to the purest ages of Christi- 
anity. The first proselytes to the gospel were wont to 
revolve with pride and exultation, the virtues, the suf- 
ferings, and the heroism of their apostles. To celebrate 
their memory, was to celebrate the triumph of religion : 
hymns were composed, churches dedicated, and festivals 
established in their honour. From the veneration of 
their virtues the transition was easy to the invocation of 
their patronage. When the pious Christian, in the fer- 
vour of devotion, cast an eye towards his heavenly coun- 
try, he beheld it inhabited by men, who like himself, had 
been forced to struggle with the difficulties of life. They 
were still his brethren : could they be indifferent to his 
welfare ? They were the favourites of God ; could he 
refuse to grant their petitions ( 1 ) ? Such was the reason- 
ing of ancient piety : that reasoning was justified by the 
testimony of the inspired writings : and throughout the 
whole Christian church, from the western coast of Ireland, 
to the farthest mountains of Persia, the faithful confident- 
ly solicited the patronage and intercession of the saints 

(1) St Hieron. adver. Vigil, torn. ii. p. 159. Colon. 1616. 

(2) Consult Du Pin, cent. iii. p. 182. 


Among those, who claimed the peculiar veneration of 
the Anglo-Saxons, a high pre-eminence was given to the 
virgin mother of the Messiah. That her influence with 
her son was unrivalled, might be justly inferred from her 
maternal dignity : and the honours, which were paid to 
her memory, had been sanctioned by her own prediction 
(3). Her praises were sung by the Saxon poets (4?); by 
their preachers her prerogatives were extolled (5) ; and 
the principal incidents of her life were commemorated 
by the four solemn festivals of the nativity, the annunci- 
ation, the purification, and the assumption (6). After 
the virgin, the next rank was occupied by St Peter. 
The belief that he had been raised to the dignity of 
prince of the apostles, and that to his custody were in- 
trusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, was deeply 
impressed on their minds, and strongly influenced their 
conduct. Clergy and laity were equally solicitous to se- 
cure his patronage. Altars and churches were dedicated 

(3) Luke c. i. v. 48. 

(4) St Aldhel. de Virg. in Bib. Pat. torn. viii. p. 14. Alcuin, 
Ant. lect. Canis.tom. ii. par. ii. p. 471. A hymn was sung in her 
honour every evening. Bed. oper. torn. vii. col. 148. In the 
Anglo-Saxon pontificals are preserved the same hymns as occur at 
present in the Roman breviary. See Wanley, MSS. p. 184, 244, 

(5) In the collections of Saxon homilies are several for the festi- 
vals of the blessed virgin. Wanley, p. 11, 17, 35, 59, &c. Some 
extracts from them have been published by Whelock, p. 314, 448, 
449. See also Bede, torn. vii. col. 147, 212, 468. 

(6) Bede's martyrology edit. Smith, p. 340, 352, 407, 419. 
Dachery, Spicil. torn. x. p. 126. St Boniface, in his constitutions, 
omits the annunciation. Spicil. torn. ix. p. 67. 


to his memory (7) ; pilgrimages were made to his tomb j 
and presents were annually transmitted to the church, 
which had been enriched with his earthly remains. 
Particular honours were also paid to the saints, Gregory 
and Augustine. To the charitable zeal of the former* 
and the laborious exertions of the latter, the Anglo-Sax- 
ons were principally indebted for their conversion to 
Christianity : the affection which these prelates had for- 
merly testified for the natives, could not be extinguished 
by their removal to a better world : they were therefore 
revered as the patrons of England; their festivals were 
celebrated with extraordinary solemnity ; and the aid of 
their intercession was confidently implored (8). Equally 
prompted by hope and gratitude,, each particular nation 
honoured the memory of its apostle ; and the bishops Ai- 
dan, Birinus, and Felix were severally venerated as the 

(7) Of the first Anglo-Saxon churches a great number were de- 
dicated in honour of St Peter. Bed. 1. ii. e. 14. Hi. 6, 17. iv. 3, 18.- 
v. 1. 17. His festival, with that of St Paul, was celebrated during 
eight days ; the last of which was kept with great solemnity. 
Bed. Marty rol. p. 39. Ritual. Dunel. MS. A. iv. 19. p. 27. It 
was a day of public communion : mit> jejimum. Martyrol. apud 
Wanley, p. 110. 

(8) Their festivals were ordered to be kept as holidays on the 
12th of March and 26th of May, by the synod of Cloveshoe in 
747 (Wilk. cone. p. 97). Soon after, St Boniface was added as 
the third patron of England. In general! synodo nostra, ejus diem 
natalitii statuimus annua frequentatione solemniter celebrare : ut- 
pote quern specialiter nobis cum beato Gregorio et Augustino et 
patronum quserimus, et habere indubitanter credimus coram 
Christo Domino. See the epistle of Cuthbert, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, to Lullus, the successor of St Boniface. Ep. St Bo- 
nif. 70. p. 94. 


protestors of .the countries, which had been the theatres 
of their piety, their labours, and their success. 

From saints of foreign extraction, the Anglo-Saxons 
were soon encouraged io extend their devotion to men, 
who had been born and educated among them. Of the 
converts, many had deeply imbibed the spirk, and faith- 
fully practised the precepts, of the gospel. To that fe- 
rocity, which formerly marked their character, had suc- 
ceeded the virtues of meekness, humility, and patience ; 
the licentiousness of desire they had learnt to repress by 
the mortification of the passions : and their labours in 
propagating the doctrines of Christianity, had been pushed 
with the zeal and perseverance, which formed a striking 
feature in the national character. Their contemporaries 
applauded the virtues which they had not the resolution 
to imitate , and the preternatural cures which were be- 
lieved to have been wrought at their tombs, augmented 
their reputation. By the voice of the public, and the au- 
thority of the bishops, they received the honours of sane* 
tity (9) 5 the respect which their countrymen paid to their 

(9) During the period of which I am writing, the power of ca- 
nonizing saints was exercised by the provincial bishops and nation- 
al councils. The first instance of a solemn canonization by the 
pope, (the opposite arguments of Benedict XIV. do not appear 
convincing, De canon. 1. i. c. 7), occurs in the year 993, when 
John XV. after a diligent enquiry into the life and virtues of Ul- 
ric, bishop of Augsburgh, enrolled him among the saints (Bullar. 
torn. i. p. 44). It was not, however, till the beginning of the 
twelfth century, that the privilege of canonization was reserved to 
the Roman see, by Alexander III. (Bull. torn. i. p. 67). From that 
period, to the accession of Clement XIII. in 1758, one hundred 
and fifteen persons had been solemnly canonized. See the cata- 
logue in Sandini, Vit Pontif. vol. ii.-p. 760,- 


virtues, was quickly imitated by foreign nations ; and 
England was distinguished with the flattering title of the 
island of the saints. 

But the reputation of the dead is frequently affefted 
by the vicissitudes, to which human opinion is subject. 
The men, whom our ancestors revered as the glory and 
pride of their country, are generally considered by mo- 
dern writers as obj efts of contempt or abhorrence. Their 
fame had withstood the shock of the Norman revolution, 
and the conquerors joined with the conquered in cele- 
brating their memory : but at the reformation, a race of 
innovators arose, who, considering them as the patrons of 
their adversaries, were eager to tear the laurel from their 
temples, and to apologize by calumny for the brutality, 
which violated their sepulchres, and scattered their ashes 
to the winds. From the altar, that witnessed the unhal- 
lowed union of Luther with his beloved Catharine (10), 
a strong ray of religious light seems to have burst on this 
island. It was then discovered that, during nine cen- 
turies, our ancestors had been plunged in the thickest 
darkness, unable to distinguish vice from virtue, insanity 
from devotion : and from that period to the present, the 
Saxon saints have repeatedly been described, either as fa- 
natics, who owed their canonization to the ignorance of 
the age, or as profligates, who by their benefactions had 
purchased that honour from the policy or the gratitude 

(10) In his forty-fith year, Luther married Catharine Boren, a 
professed nun. He was at no loss to justify his conduct. Ut non 
est in meis viribus situm, ut vir non sim ; tarn non est etiam mei 
juris, ut absque muliere sim. Nee enim libera est electio aut con- 
silium, sed res natura necessaria. Serm. de Matrim. torn, v, p. 


of the monks (11). Of fanaticism we are accustomed to 
judge from the notions, which we have previously im- 
bibed. With different persons the term assumes different 
significations, and what to one seems the pure doctrine of 
the gospel, by another is deemed folly and superstition 
(12). To appreciate the merit of those, whom the An- 
glo-Saxons revered as saints, we should review their sen- 
timents and their conduct. The former may be learnt 
from their private correspondence, the latter from the 
narratives of contemporary historians. Their letters (of 
which some hundreds are extant) (13), uniformly breathe 
a spirit of charity, meekness and zeal j a determined op- 
position to the most fashionable vices ; and an earnest 
desire of securing by their virtue the favour of heaven. 
Of their conduct the general tendency was, to soften the 
ferocity of their countrymen, to introduce the knowledge 
of the more useful arts, to strengthen by religious mo- 

(11) See Sturges, Reflections, p. 7, 27, 31, Rapin, hist, vol. i. 
p. 80, 116: 

(12) It is probably to their austerities that the charge of fanati- 
cism is attached. But they must share the reproach with the first 
Christians, whom they endeavoured to follow in the path of morti- 
fication, though at a considerable distance. To excuse their infe- 
riority, they were accustomed to alledge the severity of a northern 
climate, which was incompatible with a life of rigorous abstinence. 
Dier eajvo my eac caller ypa mzejenpaerr heji on urepeajitian ]>a;jie 
cojipan bna'onyyre. TP a TP a neo 1 T ro nut>tyey on m^jenyxy sum 
eajitmm. paeji man msej yseytan pjieojihcoji J>onne heji. Homil. 34, 
apud Whel. p. 228. See also Bede, Vit. St Cuthb. c. vi. 

(13) Those of St Boniface and his correspondents, are publish- 
ed by Serrarius (Ep. St Bonif. Moguntise, (1629,) and Maitene 
(Thesaur. Anecdot. torn, ix.) ; of Bede, in different parts of his 
works ; and of Alcuin, by Duchesne (opera Ale. par. iii.) Canisius 
(Ant. lect. torn. ii.)and Mabillon (Anal. vet. p. 398). See also Le- 
hmd's collectanea, vol. i. p. 392. 


rives the peace of society, to dispel the darkness of paga- 
nism, and to diffuse the pure light of the gospel. If this 
be fanaticism, the Anglo-Saxon saints must abandon their 
defence, and plead guilty. 

Their adversaries, however, have not been content 
with stripping them of their virtues, they have, even ac- 
cused them of several vices. But to me the very argu- 
ments, by which the charge has been supported, appear 
the fairest evidence of their merit. Though the records 
of antiquity have been searched with the keen eye of cri- 
tiscism and suspicion, curiosity has been defeated ; and 
no fact has hitherto been adduced which, in its natural 
shape, can impeach the purity of their morals ( 1-4). They 
have passed through the dangerous ordeal without a 
stain \ and their innocence has compelled their calumni- 
ators to descend to the unworthy artifice of imputing vir- 
tuous conduct to vicious motives, and of describing every 
Saxon, whose piety excited admiration, as indebted for 
his reputation to his hypocrisy. But the reader will 
pause before he assent to so unfounded an inference. 
This hypocrisy was invisible to the contemporaries of 
those, to whom it is objected : and we may rationally sus- 
pect the mysteries of an art, which professes at the pre- 
sent day to unfold the views and motives of men, whose 
ashes have been, during more than ten centuries, mingled 
with the. dust. 

But were not the honours of sanctity bestowed without 

(14) I trust I shall not be referred to Henry's story of the award 
by Edward the confessor (Henry, vol. iv. p. 344,) or Mr Turner's 
romance concerning St Duristan (Turn. vol. iii. p. 140.) The 
former is a mistake (See Gale, hist. Rames. c. 113, p. 456): the 
latter will be noticed in one of the following chapters. 



discrimination on the benefactors of monasteries, as a lure 
to attract the donations of opulence and credulity ? The 
question may excite a smile or a sigh in the uninformed 
reader ; but the ungenerous insinuation can hardly sur- 
vive the test of enquiry. To search in the Anglo-Saxon 
menology for the most distinguished patrons of the mo- 
nastic profession, will prove a fruitless labour. Neither 
Ina, nor Offa, nor Ethelwold, nor Alfred (15), were ever 
enrolled in the calendar : even Edgar, though more than 
forty monasteries owed their existence to his favour and 
liberality, was left in the crowd of uncanonized benefac- 
tors. His virtues, indeed, they praised : but they were 
not blind to his vices : and both have been transmitted, 
by the impartiality of their historians, to the knowledge 
of posterity. In the Saxon chronicle may be seen his 
character, portrayed by the pencil of a monk, his con- 
temporary. With fidelity he describes the faults as well 
as the virtues of his patron ; and concludes with a wish 
that does honour to his gratitude and sincerity. " God 
** grant," he exclaims, " that his good deeds overbalance 
< his evil deeds, to shield his soul at the last day" (16). 

2. ** The festivals of the saints," observes an Anglo- 
Saxon manuscript, " are established, that we may obtain 
< the benefit of their prayers, and be excited to the imi- 

(15) Voltaire (hist, generate, vol. i. p. 214) asserts that Alfred 
\vas refused the honour of canonization, because he had founded 
no monastery. The fact, however, is, that he built the abbey of 
Athelney for monks, and that of Shaftesbury for nuns, and annual- 
ly made numerous and valuable donations to different churches. 
See Spelman's life of Alfred, edit. Hearne, p. 164 171. 

(16) trot) him geunne ^ hir go'oe t>aet>a fpypjia peajipan ponne 
mifosE'oa. lny j*aple to ge^cyltmerre on langyuman yyfce. Chron. 
Sax. p. 116. 


tation of their virtues" (17). These were the great 
objects of the veneration which our ancestors paid to de- 
parted sanctity. But in the creed of modern historians, 
to offer any species of religious honour to a created be- 
ing, is a deadly act of idolatry. When they contemplate 
the Saxon invoking the patronage of the saints, their 
piety is, or affects to be, alarmed : and they exclaim, in 
the language of horror and indignation, that the worship 
of the Deity was supplanted by the worship of his crea- 
tures (18). But a short acquaintance with ancient lite- 
rature will prove, that our ancestors were too well in- 
structed, to confound man with God. They knew how 
to discriminate between the adoration due to the Supreme 
Being, and the honours which might be claimed by the 
most holy among his servants : and while they worshipped 
him as the author of every blessing, they paid no other 
respect to them, than what was owing to those, whom 
they considered as his favourites, and their advocates. 
Whoever shall attentively peruse the works of the Saxon 
writers, or the acts of the Saxon councils, from the era 
of their conversion, to what is deemed the darkest period 
of their history, will observe this important distinction 
accurately marked, and constantly inculcated. When 
the poet sang the praises of his patron, he sought neither 
to interest his mercy, nor deprecate his justice : to obtain 
the assistance of his intercession, to be remembered by 
him at the throne of the Almighty, was the sole object of 

(17) Festivitates sanctorum institute sunt, vel ad excitandam 
imitationem, vel ut meritis eorum consociemur, atque o&vtiombus 
adjuvemur. MS. apud Wanley, p. 148. 

(is) Hume, hist. c. 1, p. 42. 

s 4- 


his petition (19). If the preacher from the pulpit ex- 
horted his hearers to solicit the prayers of their more holy 
brethren, he was careful to inculcate, that they should 
adore God alone, as their true Lord and true God (20). 
If the Christian, when he rose from his bed, was accus- 
tomed to beg the protection of the saints, he was yet com- 
manded in the first place, to worship with bended knees 
the majesty of his Creator (21 ). These distinctions were 
too easy to be mistaken. The idea of intercession neces- 

(19) See Alcuin's address to the Virgin Mary. 
Tu mundi vitam, totis tu gaudia sasclis, 

Tu regem cceli, tu dominum atque Deum 
Ventris in hospitio genuisti, virgo perennis, 
Tu precibus nobis auxiliare tuis. 

Jllcuin. apud Can. torn, \\.par. ii./. 471. 

Also St Aldhelm, de Virgin. Bib. Pat. torn. viii. p. 22, and Bede 
Vit. St Cuthb. p. 291. 

(20) The Saxon homilist is very accurate in his expressions. To 
him anum pe pceolan uj~ jebi'o'oan. he ana rp jro]) hlajrojit) -3 j*op 
Eod. pe bit>t>ap pmgunja ser halgum mannum $ hi pceolan up pmsan 
TO heorta tijuhrne ] ro ujium t>jrihrne. Ne jebi'o'oe pe na fteah 
hpapejie ur ro him rpa TP a P e ro Jj^ e f o p- " Him alone shall 
* we adore. He alone is true Lord and true God. We beg the 
" intercession of holy men, that they would intercede for us to 
" their Lord and our Lord. But nevertheless we do not pray to 
" them as we do to God." Homil. Sax. apud Whel. p. 283. 
Nulli martyrum," says the MS. quoted above, " sacrificamus, 
" quamvis in memoriis martyrum constituamus altaria." Ibid. 

(21) Hip ]- cippent>e anum jepeojipo'oon. he cleopie ro Honey hal- 
gum. ] bitt)e j; hi 5 him ro Gode ^mgien. aeport; TO panccan QDajiian 
T pjppan ro eallum Dot>ey halgum. " Having worshipped his 
" Creator alone, let him invoke God's saints, and pray that they 
" would intercede for him to God ; first the Holy Mary, and then 
.? all the saints of God." Lib. leg. eccles. apud Wilk, p. 272= 


sarily includes that of dependence : and to employ the 
mediation of his favourites, is to acknowledge the supe- 
rior excellency of the Deity (22). 

3. With the invocation of the saints, is naturally con- 
nected the veneration of their remains. The man, who 
had been taught to respect their virtues, and to implore 
their patronage, would not hesitate to honour their ashes 
with a decent monument, and with a distinguished place 
in the assembly of the faithful. In the book of the apo- 
calypse, the martyrs are represented as reposing beneath 
the altar (23) ; and before the death of its author, we be- 
hold the Christians of Rome offering the sacred mysteries 
on the tombs of the holy apostles Peter and Paul (24). 
When the martyr Ignatius had been devoured by the 
wild beasts of the amphitheatre, the fragments of his 
bones were collected by his disciples, and carefully con- 
veyed to the capital of the east : where the Christians re- 
ceived them as an invaluable treasure, and deposited them 
with honour in the place appropriated to the divine 

(22) Thus in the Saxon homilies, "the preacher points out the 
difference between the intercession of the saints, and the mediation 
of Christ, when he exhorts his auditory to solicit the intercession 
of the Virgin Mary, with Christ, her Son, her Creator, and her Re- 
deemer. Utan pe bit>t>an nu *$ eatjije -3 j$ jef aehje maetien QDajiia. 
f heo ur sejun^ie to hijia a^enum runa. -3 to hijia j-cipperro haelerm 
erur*. Serm. in annunc, St Mariae, apud Wanley, p. 11. See 
note (P). 

(23) Revel, c. iv. v. 9. 

(24) See in St Cyril (cont. Julian, p. 327, 334,) the testimony of 
the emperor Julian. He probably possessed more authentic in* 
formation than the modern writers, who date the veneration of re<- 
Jics from the commencement of the fourth century. 


worship (25). Succeeding generations inherited the sen- 
timents of their fathers : the veneration of relics was dif- 
fused as far as the knowledge of the gospel ; and their 
presence was universally deemed requisite for the cano- 
nical dedication of a church or an altar (26). With this 
view Gregory the great, as soon as he heard of the suc- 
cess of the missionaries, was careful to send them a supply 
of relics (27): and scarce a pilgrim returned from Gaul 
or Italy, who had not procured by entreaty or purchase, 
a portion of the remains of some saint or martyr. But 
the poverty of the Saxon church was quickly relieved by 
the virtues of her children j and England became a soil 
fertile in saints. Scarcely was there a monastery, that 
did not possess one or more of these favourites of heaven : 
their bodies lay richly entombed in the vicinity of the 
principal altar ; and around were suspended the votive 
offerings of the multitudes, who had experienced the ef- 
ficacy of their intercession. In the hour of distress or 
danger, the afflicted votary threw himself at the foot of 
the shrine with an avowal of his ,un worthiness, but ex- 

(25) Qwavpos cAtpJIos. Act. St Ignat. c. vi. Compare this 
passage with that in the acts of St Polycarp. Ttp.ieJ\ip& A<0#v 
yrofivl&av KOLI eioxiftcJIipei, VTrtp %pv<rt<w. Act. C. XVlii. 

(26) Bed. 1. v. c. 12. Wilk. con. p. 169. 

(27) Hence we are informed by Carte, that the veneration of re- 
lics was introduced into England by the Roman missionaries, but 
was unknown to the Scottish bishops Aidan, Finan, and Colman 
(Carte, hist. voi. i. p. 241). Yet Finan ordered the bones of his 
holy predecessor to be taken out of his tomb, and placed on the 
right side of the altar, juxta venerationem tanto pontifice dignam. 
Bed. 1. iii. c. 17 : and Colman, at his departure, carried with hin 
into Scotland a part of the relics of the same saint. (Bed; 1. iii. < 
26.) See also Bede on St Oswald, 1. iii. c. 1 1, 12, 


pressed an humble confidence that the Almighty would 
not refuse to the merits of the patron, what he might 
justly deny to the demerit of the suppliant (28). Suc- 
cess often attended these petitions : the clergy of each 
community could appeal to a long list of preternatural 
cures, owing to the intercession of the saints, whose bodies 
reposed in their church; and the crowds of visitants, 
whom these miracles attracted, added to their reputation 
and importance (29). 

4. That the Deity has, on particular occasions, invert- 
ed or suspended the ordinary laws of nature, is a truth 
unequivocally admitted by all, who profess to believe in 
the gospel. But whether these celestial favours were 
confined to the fervour of the first Christians, or continue 
to be bestowed on their less worthy successors, is a point 
which has been fiercely argued by religious controver- 
tists. Without engaging rashly in the dispute, I may be 
allowed to observe, that it must be extremely difficult to 
assign any period, at which the gift of supernatural powers 

(28) Bed. 1. iv. c. 31. , 

(29) Hence, if we may believe Dr Henry, arose a new species of 
monastic excellence, entirely unknown to the founders of the or- 
der. To become a perfect monk, it was necessary to acquire dex- 
terity in the art of stealing relics ; and he, who had been so fortu- 
nate as to purloin the little finger of a celebrated saint, was esteem- 
ed the greatest and happiest man among his brethren (Henry, vol. 
p. 305). This information he professes to derive from the life of 
St Aldhelm, by Malmsbury. Ang. Sac. vol. ii. p. 39. But if the 
reader consult the original, his curiosity will be disappointed. He 
will only learn that, when the treasures of Queen Emma were 
pillaged, one of her servants secreted the head of St Owen ; and 
afterwards scrupling to retain it, deposited it with his brother, a 
monk of Malmsbury. Ang. Sac. ibid. 


was withdrawn from the church. The testimony of each 
particular generation as forcibly claims our assent, as that 
of the preceding ; and no argument can demonstrate, 
that if miracles were necessary at the commencement, 
they became inexpedient during the progress of Christi- 
anity. To have doubted their continuance at the period 
when England was converted, would have exposed the 
sceptic to the severest censures : the supernatural privi- 
lege was confidently claimed by the missionaries; and 
the voice of the people sanctioned the belief, that it had 
descended to the more lioly among their successors. 
The works of the Saxon writers are embellished, and 
sometimes disfigured, with narratives of extraordinary 
events, which their piety taught them to consider as evi- 
dent interpositions of the Divinity. Of these there are 
many, which it will require no small share of ingenuity 
to disprove, and of incredulity f to discredit (30) : but 

(so) Even an adversary must pity the perplexities, into which 

the miracles of St Augustine have plunged the scepticism of Dr 
Enfield. That both St Gregory and St Augustine ascribed the 
success of the mission in a great measure to the miracles, which 
had been wrought in its favour, he. willingly acknowledges : that 
any miracles had really been performed, he as confidently denies. 
In the search of expedients to reconcile these apparent contradic- 
tions, he dances from one unsatisfactory hypothesis to another, till 
at last he rests, though with some reluctance, in the idea, that the 
pontiff and the missionary had engaged in a conspiracy to deceive 
the Saxons, by the artifice of imaginary miracles (Aikin's Gen. 
Biog. vol. i. p. 474). But in such a supposition, would not these 
religious jugglers have dropt the mask in their private correspon- 
dence ? Would Gregory have so earnestly and pathetically warn- 
ed his disciple against the suggestions of vanity and presumption ? 
Was it necessary that the deception should be propagated as far as 
Alexandria, and that Gregory should acquaint the patriarch of 


there are also many, which must shrink from the frown 
of criticism. Some may have been the effects of accident 
or imagination ; some are more calculated to excite the 
smile than the wonder of the reader ; and some, on what- 
ever proof they Were originally admitted, depend at the 
present day on the distant testimony of writers not re- 
markable for sagacity or discrimination. But are we then 
to ascribe the belief of these miracles to the policy and 
artifices of the clergy, anxious to extend their influence 
over the minds, and to enrich themselves by nourishing 
the credulity of their disciples ? The odious charge has 
often been advanced, but cannot be supported by the au- 
thority of any ancient writer : nor were it difficult to de- 
rive the easy faith of our ancestors from a more natural 
and a less polluted source. Man is taught by nature to 
attribute every event to a particular cause ; and when an 
occurrence cannot be explained by the known laws of the 
universe, it is assigned by the illiterate, in every age, and 
under every religion,, to the operation of an invisible 
agent. From this persuasion arose the multitude of 
deities, with which the ignorance of mankind had crowd- 
ed the pagan mythology. The principle was not extir- 
pated, it was improved by the knowledge of the gospel. 
From the doctrine of a superintendant providence the 
converts were led to conclude, that God would often in- 
terfere in human concerns ; to him they ascribed every 
unforeseen and unusual event , and either trusted in his 

that metropolis, with the signs and wonders which accompanied 
the preaching of the missionaries ? Tantis miraculis vel ipse vel 
hi, qui cum eo transmissi sunt, in gente eadem coruscant, ut apos- 
tolorum virtutes in signis, quse exhibent, imitari videantur. Greg, 
epist. vii. 80. 


bounty for visible protection from misfortune, or feared 
from his justice that vengeance, which punishes guilt be- 
fore the great day of retribution. Men impressed with 
these notions, would rather expect, than dispute, the ap- 
pearance of miraculous events. On many occasions they 
would necessarily prove the dupes of their own credulity, 
and ascribe to the beneficence of the Deity, and the inter- 
cession of their patrons, those cures which might have 
been effected by the efforts of nature, or the powers of 
the imagination. It was their misfortune, that their 
knowledge was not equal to their piety : of their censors 
perhaps it may sometimes be said, that their piety is not 
equal to their knowledge. 

5. The mortal remains of the saints are necessarily 
confined to particular places : their likenesses, by the aid 
of the pencil or the chisel, may be multiplied to gratify 
the curiosity and animate the piety of thousands. But 
the innocence and utility of employing paintings and 
images in religious worship, has been often doubted, and 
as often maintained, by hostile controvertists. To deter- 
mine with precision the limits of that liberty, which 
should be granted or denied to the imagination of the 
multitude, is certainly a matter of no small difficulty. 
A worship, which appeals not to the senses, must insensi- 
bly sink into langour and indifference ; and too studied 
an attention to ceremony may give birth to superstition 
and idolatry. To hold with a steady hand the balance 
between deficiency and excess, is the duty of those to 
whom is intrusted the government of the church ; and 
their conduct should be guided by the genius of the peo- 
ple, the circumstances of the times, and the method of 
public instruction (31). During the three first centuries 

(31) Sed illud ante omnia constituendum, imagines ex illoruro 


of the Christian era, images and paintings were but 
sparingly admitted into the assemblies of the faithful : 
and this caution was justified by the apprehension, that 
the proselytes might easily revert to their former habits, 
and transfer their homage from the Creator to the crea- 
ture. As idolatry declined, pictures and statues met 
with greater indulgence : they spoke a language, which 
was intelligible to the meanest capacity ; they instructed 
the ignorant, and stimulated the languid : they preserved 
the memory of virtue, and pointed out the path, which 
conducted to the rewards of sanctity. At the period in 
which Augustine attempted the conversion of England> 
the churches of the east and the west, the almost insulat- 
ed Christians of Caledonia, no less than the immediate 
disciples of the Roman pontiff, had adopted this doctrine : 
and the Saxons, instructed by their example, hesitated 
not to perform their devotions before the representations 
of Christ and his saints. As the cross was the instrument 
of their redemption, it was always considered as the dis- 
tinguishing symbol of Christianity. A cross was borne in 
the front of the missionaries, when they announced the 
doctrine of the gospel to Ethelbert (32) : a cross was 
erected by Oswald, the exiled king of Northumbria, and 
venerated by his followers, before they ventured to face 
the numerous and victorious host of the Britons (33) : a 
cross in many districts supplied the place of an oratory, 

per se genere esse, qnae *&*pg* nominantur : hoc est, quas ad 
substantiam ipsam religionis non attinent, sed in potestate sunt eo 
clesiae, ut ea vel adhrbeat vel ableget, pro eo atque satius esse de- 
creverit. Petav. de incarn. 1. xv. c. 13. n. 1. 

(32) Bed. 1. i. c. 25. 

(33) Id. 1. iii. c, 2. 


and around it the thane and his retainers frequently as- 
sembled to perform their devotions (34): and in the 
principal churches, a cross of silver was displayed on the 
altar, and proclaimed the victory of Christ over the gods 
of paganism (35). At first, few pictures or^statues were 
possessed by the Saxons. They were ignorant of the 
arts of sculpture and painting : but the exertions of the 
pilgrims supplied the deficiency, and foreign models were 
successfully imitated by the ingenuity of native artists. 
In the writings of Bede is preserved a catalogue of the 
paintings, with which the pious liberality of Bennet Bis- 
cop decorated the church of his monastery (36). The 

(34) Sic mos est Saxonicse gentis, quod in rionnullis nobilium 
bonorumque hominum praediis, non ecclesiam sed sanctse crucis 
signum Deo dicatum, cum magno honore almum, in alto erectum, 
ad commodam diurnse orationis sedulitatem solent habere. Vit. 
St Willibaldi, apud Can. lect. ant. vol. ii. par. ii. p. 107. 

(35) Quin etiam sublime crucis radiante metallo 
Hie posuit trophasum. 

Bed.l.v. c. 19. 

See also Alcuin de ponti lin. 1225, 1496. Malm, de pont. 1. iii. 
f. 162. 

(36) Other churches were adorned in a similar manner. From 
a fragment of a latin poem, composed for the dedication of a 
church built by Bugge, (she was daughter to Centwin, king of 
Wessex, in 644. Lei. collect, vol. iii. p. 117), we learn that the 
portraits of the three apostles, Peter, Paul, and Andrew, were sus- 
pended over the high altar. 

Hie Petrus et Paulus, quadrati lumina mundi, 
Absidam gemino tutantur numine lautam ; 
Nee non Andreas. 

Can, ant* lect, torn, u.par. ii. p, 181. 


nave was occupied by the portraits of the virgin and the 
twelve apostles : the southern aisle exhibited a series of 
pictures representing the most remarkable facts recorded 
in the gospels : while the northern struck the eye with 
the terrific visions described by St John in the book of 
revelations. " The most illiterate peasant," adds the 
devout monk, u could not enter the church without re- 
(( ceiving the most profitable instruction. He either be-* 
" held with pleasure the amiable countenance of Christ 
" and his faithful servants ; or studied the important 
" mysteries of the incarnation and redemption : or from 
< ( the spelacle of the last judgment, learnt to descend 
" into his own breast, and ta deprecate the justice of the 
" Almighty" (37). 

(37) Bed. Vit. abbat. Wirem. p. 295. Horn. in. nat. D'ivi Be- 
ned. torn. vii. col. 465. It has been industriously inculcated that 
the respect, which the Anglo-Saxons in later ages paid to religious 
paintings, was an innovation imported from Rome, long after 
their conversion. The merit or infamy of the new doctrine has 
been ascribed to Egwin, bishop of Worcester ; and to give a co- 
lour of truth to the story, a synod has been described as assembled 
at London, and approving the worship of images. The forgery 
has even been honoured with a place in both the editions of the 
British councils. (Tali modo cultus imaginum Anglicanis ecclesiis 
auctoritate antichrist! et illusionibus diabolicis est obtrusus, paucis 
piis frustra gementibus et contradicentibus circiter annum 712 
aut 714. Spel. p* 216. Wilk. p. 73.) The imposture, however, 
was soon detected and exposed both by foreign and native writers. 
Spelman abandoned it to its fate : but he abandoned it with a sigh, 
and to supply its place left a long and elaborate note. In this he 
acknowledges that the Converts employed, but denies that they 
worshipped, religious images ; and asserts that no instance of such 
worship is recorded by Bede or any contemporary writer, (Spelm/ 
ibid.) If by worship he mean the adoration due to the Supreme 
Being, he is certainly accurate : but if he mean an inferior respect* 



Confined to a remote corner of the west, the Anglo- 
Saxons were scarcely acquainted with the violent disputes, 
which agitated the eastern Christians, and at last severed 

which may be shewn to the likeness for the sake of the original, 
he has only proved that the most learned antiquaries are sometimes 
subject to error. " Ne Beda quidem ipse," says Spelman, " uni- 
" us (quod sciam) meminit, qui vel crucem adoravit vel imagi- 
riem." Yet Bede expressly says of Ceolfrid, before his departure 
from Wearmouth, " crucem adoravit : , eqnum ascendit et abiit." 
Bed* vit. abbat. p. 301. In other places he often mentions the 
pilgrims, who travelled ' ad videnda atque adoranda apostolorum 
etmartyrum limina." Bed. 1. v. c. 9, p. 293, 301. To Bede I 
may add several others. St Aldhelm wrote before Bede, and fre- 
quently stiles the Christians crucicolte t or worshippers of the cross. 
St Aldhelm. de laude virg. p. 291, 330. The same expression is 
used ty the author of the life of St Willibald, who also observes, 
that great honour was paid to the cross : " magno honore almum." 
Vit. Willib. p. 107. Alcuin was always accustomed to bow to 
the cross, and repeat this prayer. " Tuam crucem adoramus, 
" domine, tuam gloriosam recolimus passionem : miserere nostri." 
Vit. Ale. in act. SS. Bened. saec. iv. torn. i. p. 156: and in his 
poem on York, he puts the following popish language into the 
mouth of king Oswald, 

(C Prosternite vestros 

" Vultus ante crucem, quam vertice mentis in isto 

Erexi, rutilat Christi quas clara trophaeo, 

" Quse quoque nunc nobis prasstabit ab hoste triumphum." 

Alc.depont. I. 246. 

That the worship or respect, which is mentioned in these pas- 
sages, was not idolatrous, is plain from the prayer composed by 
Alcuin and mentioned above, and from a passage in the Saxon ho- 
milies. To Ssepe jicroe pe ur- jebifc'oap. na rpa Seah ro 3am r jieope. 
ac ro fcam JElmihrigan -ojuhtne pe on ^sejie haljan pot5e poji up han- 
jo-oe. ' We bow ourselves to the cross : not indeed to the wood, 
but to the Almighty Lord, who hung on it for us." Horn. 
Sax. apud Wilk. p. 165. 


kome from the dominion of the Byzantine emperors. 
In the year seven hundred and twenty five, Leo the Isau-' 
rian proclaimed himself the enemy of the holy images; 
under his son and successor Copronimus, a synod of three 
hundred and thirty-eight obsequious prelates declared 
the will of the prince to be the doctrine of Christ ; and 
during thirty years, the creed of the Iconoclasts was pro- 
pagated with the instruments of persecution, the scourge, 
the sword, and the halter. The inhabitants of Italy, 
alarmed for the integrity of their faith, withdrew them- 
selves from the obedience of the empire; and the 
churches of the east and the west appeared on the eve 
of an eternal separation, when the second council of 
Nice restored to the images their ancient honours, and 
smothered during a temporary pause, the embers of dis- 
content. But the revival of religioiis concord between 
Rome and Constantinople, was the signal of religious! 
discord among the lately converted nations. A spurious- 
copy of the canons of Nice was forwarded to Charle- 
magne, and transmitted by him to the prelates of the 
Germans, the Francs, and the Anglo-Saxons. Their 
piety was alarmed at the impious assertion attributed to 
Constantine, bishop of Cyrus, that the sacred images 
were to be honoured equally with the persons of the 
adorable Trinity (38). Alcuin was commissioned to re- 

(38) Suscipio et amplector sanctas et venerandas imagines se- 
eundum servitium adorationis, quod consubstantiali et vivificatrici 
trinitati emitto. Carol. 1. iii. c. 17. That this was an error ap- 
pears from the original acts, in which the contrary is asserted. 
.x,k ets-TTot^ofttvos rot? otyias x.oe,i <r7rV? tix.ovoi<; : KOU T/JV 
Xetlpztotv 7Tpo<7>cvv7icrt'J p^ovy TYI v7Tipy<7i& xat fyot.yftix.q rptotot 
Binii, con. torn. 5. p. 605. The same mistake wa$ 
T 2 


fute the blasphemy of the Greeks (39) : and the synod 
of Frankfort equally condemned the heresy of the Ico- 
noclasts, and the supposed decision of the Nicene fathers 
(40). The Roman pontiffs, whose legates had presided 
in the council, were forced to temporize : they prudently 
postponed the confirmation of its decrees : and endea- 
voured, by successive explanations, to silence the mur- 
murs, and to appease the jealousy of the northern pre- 
lates. After the lapse of forty years, the adversaries of 
the council were formidable in number and talents. 
They acknowledged, indeed, the supreme authority of 
the successor of St Peter, and professed their readiness 
to obey his decisions : but at the same time they request- 
ed permission to lay their difficulties at his feet (41);. 

transmitted from France to England. Carolus rex Francorum 
misit librum synodalem ad Britanniam, in quo verse fidei multa 
reperta sunt obviantia, et eo maxime, quod pene omnium orienta- 
lium doctorum unanimi assertione est definitum, imagines adorari 
debere, quod omnino ecclesia catholica execratur. Mat. West. 
p. 146, an. 793. If in the time of Matthew of Westminster, the 
catholic church execrated the adoration of images, how are we to 
account for the general assertion of modern writers, that it had 
been established in England from the close of the eighth century I 
Must they not have confounded two things, which he was careful 
to distinguish, religious respect and divine worship ? 

(39) Mat. West. ibid. 

(40) Lib. Carol. Hi. 17. 

(41) Romana sedes nullis synodicis constitutk casteris ecclesiis 

prselata est, sed ipsius domini auctoritate primatum tenet 

omnes catholicse debent observare ecclesiae, ut ab ea post Christum 
ad muniendam fidem adjutorium petant. Lib. Carol, i. 6. A 
vestra sanctitate petiimus, ut sacerdotibus nostris liceret quaerere 
et colligere, quas ad eandem rem definiendam veraciter con venire 
potuissent . . . . Ea vestrse sanctitati legenda et examinanda miN 


and in the Caroline books, the acts of the council of 
Frankfort, and the letters of the synod of Paris, they 
collected every argument, which their learning or inge- 
nuity could suggest. It was boldly asserted, that under 
the mask of an orthodox definition (42), the Greeks had 
endeavoured to conceal the idolatry, which lurked in 
their breasts : that their secret intentions had been be- 
trayed by the indiscreet declaration of the bishop of Cy- 
prus ; and that the permission of tapers, incense, and sa- 
lutation, spoke more forcibly than his words, the real 
tendency of this heathenish worship (43). Notwith- 
standing the authority and representations of the pon- 

tere curavimus Quos (legates) non ad hoc ad vestrae 

almitatis praesentiam. misimus, ut hie docendi gratia directi puta- 
rentur. Ep. Imper. ad Eug. Pap. in actis synodi Paris. I should 
not have loaded the page with these quotations, had we not been 
repeatedly told by modern writers, that in this dispute the north- 
ern bishops bade defiance to the authority of the Roman pontiffs. 

(42) The definition was, that an honorary worship might be 
given to images, but not that true worship, which belongs only to 
the divine nature : nf&qltxviv TCOO-XW^O-JV, v ftiv l>jv xetlct TTiyviy 
'4ftuv cthqSivw hctTOUetv, v) "K^ttii fA&vt\rv\ Qua. fyvrtt* .Bin. con. torn* 
5, p. 198. The application of the hand to the mouth, in token of 
respect, gave birth to the two words irpmvniv and adorarQ. 
Whether this worship be such, as should only be given to the 
Deity, must depend on the intention. Otherwise, how are we to 
excuse the protestant, who kneels before the sacrament, the mere 
symbol of Christ ; or the bridegroom, who, in the ceremony of 
marriage, says to the bride*- with my body Ithee worship ? 

(43) These honours were first paid by the Greeks to the statues 
of the emperors : from them they passed to the pictures or repre- 
sentations of Christ and the saints. See Mabillon, act, SS, Bened, 
Saec. iv. torn. i. praef. p. xviii. xix. 


tiffs, their suspicions were for a time kept alive by the 
embassies of the 'Byzantine emperors, who favoured the 
party of the Iconoclasts ; but in the lapse of a few years, 
the Gallic prelates became divided in sentiment ; by de- 
grees they consented to a silent acquiescence in the doc- 
trine of the council ; and at last, the ceremonies, approv- 
ed by the popes, were adopted in the churches of Gaul, 
Germany, and England (44). 

5. At the present day, the thirst of curiosity prompts 
the man of letters to visit the scenes of ancient wisdom 
and ancient glory : in former times it conducted the 
pious Christian to the places, which had been consecrated 
by the triumphs of religion. To the adventurous spirit 
of the northern nations, the practice of pilgrimage offer- 
ed inestimable attractions : and the Anglo-Saxons w.ere 
particularly distinguished by their attachment to this 
devotion. In estimating the respective merits of differ- 
ent countries, none could challange, in their opinion, 
an equality with Palestine : there the religious wanderer 
might visit the cave in which the Saviour was born, 
might follow him in the course of his mission, might 
climb the mountain on which he suffered, and kiss the 
sepulchre in which his body was deposited. But the 
perils of the enterprize were sufficient to appal the most 
resolute courage. Jerusalem groaned beneath the yoke 
of the infidels : it lay at the distance of more than three 
thousand miles (45), and imagination multiplied the 
4angers of navigating an unknown sea, and of travelling 

(44) Sec note (Q). 

(45) According to the Roman Itineraries, the road from Sand- 
?,vich to Jerusalem, was 3566 Roman, or 3271 English miles. See 
/3'bbon's decline and fall, c. 2. 


through nations of different languages, manners, and 
religions. Yet the bold temerity of some adventurers 
was crowned with success ; and they returned, after an 
absence of several years, to relate to their astonished 
countrymen, the wonders which they had witnessed. 
Of these, the most ancient recorded in history, is St 
Willibald, whose long peregrination has been faithfully 
related by the pen of a female writer (4*6). Her narra- 
tive I shall abridge : nor will die reader perhaps refuse 
to follow through a few pages the first of his country- 
men, who ventured to approach the court of the Caliphs, 
and penetrated as far as the holy city. 

The father of Willibald had determed to visit, in 
company with his children, the tombs of St Peter and 
St Paul,. He died at Lucca; and the pilgrims, after 
paying the last duties to their deceased parent, continued 
their journey. At the sight of Rome they experienced 
emotions to which hitherto they had been strangers : 
and the different monuments of piety, with which that 
capital abounded, successively awakened their devotion 
and admiration. The curiosity of Willibald was en- 
larged ; his imagination wandered to the places, which 
had been consecrated by the corporal presence of the 
Redeemer ; and the fearless pilgrim resolved to visit the 
land of promise, the theatre on which God had display- 
ed the wonders of his power and his mercy. But the 
zeal of Winibald and Walburge, his brother and sister, 

(46) She was a nun of Heidenheim, and a relation of St Willi- 
bald. She wrote as he dictated, and appeals for her veracity to 
his deacons. " Ab ipso audita et ex illius ore dictata prsescripsi- 
** .mus, testibus mihi diaconis ejus." Hodoep. Will, inter lect, 
ant. Canis, edit. Basnage, torn. ii. p. IOG. 
T 4 


was less fervid, or more prudent : they refused to ac- 
company him ; and he was compelled to seek among 
the other Saxon pilgrims for associates of similar views, 
and equal resolution. 

In the year 72], soon after the feast of Easter, Willi- 
bald departed from Rome with only two companions : 
but his example excited the enthusiasm of his country- 
men, and during his journey their number increased to 
eight (4?7). The time was favourable to their design. 
Though the Spanish Moslems were constantly at war 
with their Christian neighbours, the trade of the Medi- 
terranean was undisturbed, and the eastern subjects of 
the Caliphs occasionally visited the ports of Greece and 
Italy. At Naples, the good fortune of the pilgrims 
conducted them to an Egyptian merchant, who willingly 
received them on board his vessel : but their speed was 
retarded by the delays of commerce, and a circuitous 
navigation: and fourteen months expired before they 
reached the coast of Syria. From Naples they succes- 
sively sailed to Reggio in Calabria, to Catania in Sicily, 
where the inhabitants were accustomed to oppose the 
veil of St Agatha, to the fiery eruptions of the neigh- 
bouring mountain, to Manifasia, to the islands of Coos 
and Samos ; and at last, after a long and tedious voyage, 
arrived in safety in the port of Ephesus. During the 
several weeks, which they spent on the coast of Natolia, 
they had much to suffer from fatigue and hunger ; but 
they satisfied their curiosity by visiting the most cele- 
brated cities, and their piety by offering up their prayers 

(47) He left Rome cum duobus sociis (Hodoep.p. 100, Itiner. 
p. 118): when he arrived in Syria, erant cum St Willibaldo sep-- 
tern contributes ipsius (Hodoep. p. 1 JO. Itiner, p. 


at the shrines of the most celebrated saints. Paphos, in 
the island of Cyprus, next attracted their notice. There 
they rested to celebrate the festival of Easter, and after- 
wards repaired to Constantia, the ancient Salamis, to 
venerate the relics of St Epiphanius. From the west of 
the inland, to the opposite coast of Syria, the passage 
was short ; they landed at Tharratse, a port belonging 
to the -Moslems, and walked as far as Emessa, the resi- 
dence of the Caliph. At the entrance of the city they 
were stopped by the guard, and conducted by the order 
of a magistrate to the palace. 

Four years before this period, the Moslems had been 
compelled to retire with disgrace from the siege of Con- 
stantinople. Jealous of the designs of the imperial 
court, the Caliph treated Willibald and his companions 
as spies in the pay of the Greeks, and commanded them 
to be detained in close confinement. It was in vain that 
a Christian merchant offered a considerable sum for their 
ransom : his zeal could obtain no more than a mitigation 
of their sufferings. With a handsome present he pur- 
chased permission to conduct them twice in the week to 
the public baths, and on the Sundays to the church of 
the Christians. As they passed through the bazar, the 
inhabitants assembled to see the strangers ; and, if we 
may believe the national vanity of their female historian, 
it was their youth, their beauty, and the elegance of 
their dress, that attracted the curiosity of the infidels 

The subjugation of Spain, by the arms of the Mos- 

(48) Gives urbium curiosi jugiter illic venire consueverant illos 
,speculari, quia juvenes, et decori, et vestium ornatu bene induti 
Hodpep. p. 110. 


lems, had established a frequent communication between 
that country and the court of Syria ; and the natives 
were occasionally compelled to pay their homage to the 
successor of Mahomet. A Spanish Christian, whose 
brother possessed a considerable employment at court, 
listened with pity to the history, and eagerly espoused 
the protection, of the pilgrims. Having discovered the 
captain, who had landed them at Tharratse, he obtained 
an audience of the Caliph, and explained the real in- 
tentions of the prisoners. The prince heard him with 
kindness ; and, when he understood, that they came 
from the extremity of the west, from an island beyond 
which no land was known to exist (49), he declared 
himself satisfied, ordered them to be liberated without 
paying the customary fees, and gave them a written per- 
mission to pursue their journey to Jerusalem. 

With lightsome hearts the pilgrims departed from 
Emessa. A tedious road of a hundred miles conducted 
them to Damascus j and a week was spent in visiting the 
curiosities of the royal city. They were now on the con- 
fines of Palestine. After crossing the Libanus and the 
higher Galilee, they arrived at Nazareth, the ancient re- 
sidence of the parents of the Messiah. Over the reputed 
spot, on which the archangel announced his future birth 
to the virgin, the christians had built a magnificent 
church : but its riches tempted the avarice of the Mos- 
lems, and expensive presents were necessary to restrain 
their rapacity (50). Cana, distinguished by the first mi- 

(49) De occideatali plaga, ubi sol occasum habet, isti homines 
venerunt. Nos autem nescimus terram ultra illos, et nil nisi 
aquam. Ibid. 

(50) The wealth of the Christians, or the forbearance of the 


racle of Jesus, exhibited to their view six earthen vessels, 
ranged under the altars, which they were assured had 
been used at the marriage feast. Thence they climbed 
the steep mountain of Thabor ; and a monastery at the 
summit dedicated to Christ, Moses, and Elias, recalled to 
their minds the glorious mystery of the transfiguration. 
They descended to the city of Tiberias : the Christian in- 
habitants were numerous ; and a synagogue of Jews pre- 
served the memory of the ancient Rabbins. Curiosity 
led the travellers to the sources of the Jordan. Ascend- 
ing the Anti-libanus they were shewn two springs, dis- 
tinguished by their respective names of Jor and Dan, 
which united their streams in the valley, and gave their 
common appellation to the river. On the declivity of 
the mountain were numerous herds of cattle, remar- 
kable for their size, the shortness of their legs, and 
the length of their horns. Csesarea, built at the union 
of the two streams, was principally inhabited by chris- 
tians. Following the course of the river, they arrived at 
the place, where tradition reports that Christ was bap-> 
tised. The water had retired to a distance (51) ; but a 
small rivulet still occupied the ancient channel ; and a 
wooden cross, erected in the middle, pointed out the 
spot. A church had been raised over it, for the celebra- 



infidels, was at last exhausted. The church was destroyed, and 
afterwards rebuilt. Mariti, vol. ii. p. 162. 

(51) According to Maundrell, (Journey from Aleppo, p. 82,) 
river at this place has retreated, at least a furlong, from its 
ancient boundary. But Mariti informs us, that in the rainy sea- 
son, its waters overflow their banks, swell to the breadth of four 
miles, and often, on account of the inequality of the ground, dU 
vide themselves into different streams. 


tion of baptism, and to satisfy the devotion of the crowds, 
who on the feast of the Epiphany were eager to wash in 
the river. Its waters were believed to confer health to 
the infirm, and fecundity to the barren. As they passed 
by the city of Jericho, they admired the fertility which 
was imparted to the neighbouring country, by the foun- 
tain of Elias ; and, after visiting an ancient monastery, 
beheld at a distance the venerable remains of Jerusalem. 
With tears of joy and gratitude, the pilgrims entered the 
holy city. The first object which arrested their atten- 
tion, was the basilic, founded by Constantine the great, 
on the spot where the true cross had been discovered by 
his mother St Helena. At the eastern front were erect- 
ed three crosses, to perpetuate the memory of the event. 
In the neighbourhood stood the church of the resurrec- 
tion, which contained the sepulchre of Christ, an inva- 
luable treasure in the estimation of Christian piety. Ori- 
ginally it had been a vault, hewn in the solid rock : in 
the church it rose high above the pavement, was of a 
square figure, and terminated in a point. The entrance 
was on the eastern side, and an opening on the right 
hand introduced the pilgrim to the chamber, which had 
received the dead body of the Redeemer. The inside 
of the sepulchre was lighted by fifteen golden lamps 
(52) ; and near the door lay a large stone, in memory of 
that which had formerly closed the entrance. 

(52) Arcuulph, a Gallic prelate, had some time before visited 
the Holy Land. Bede abridged his narrative, which in some 
points differs from that of St Willibald. He tells us, that the se- 
pulchre was round, that the number of the lamps was only twelve, 
and that of these, four burnt in the inside,, and eight were fixed 
on the roof. See Bede de locis sac. c. ii. p. 316, 


After visiting, with sentiments of the most lively devo- 
tion, the other religious monuments contained within 
the walls of Jerusalem, they crossed the valley of Josa- 
phat, and repaired to the mount of Olives. On it stood 
two churches, of which one marked the garden, that had 
witnessed the agony of Jesus before his passion; the 
other occupied the summit, from which he ascended in- 
to heaven. In the centre of the latter, the spot which 
had received the impression of his last footsteps, was sur- 
rounded with a circular rail of brass ; in the roof of the 
church was left a large opening ; and two lofty columns 
of marble represented the two angels, that attended at 
his ascension. A lamp, surrounded with glass, was al- 
ways kept burning in the aperture (53). 

I shall not follow the pilgrims in their subsequent ex- 
cursions, which their historian has reduced to a barren 
catalogue of names. They traversed Palestine in every 
direction, till their curiosity was exhausted j and fatigue 
and infirmity admonished them to return to Europe. 
But to leave, was as difficult as to enter, the territory of 
the Moslems : and the companions of Willibald were 
compelled to make a second journey to Emessa, to solicit 
from the justice or caprice of the Caliph, the permission 
to revisit their native country. The prince was absent : 
but their request was granted by one of his ministers. 
When they had returned to Jerusalem, they were joined 
by Willibald, and bade a last farewel to the holy city. 
Their route led them through Sebaste, the ancient Sa- 
maria, to the opulent city of Tyre, where their baggage 

(53) When Maundrell visited the mountain, no part of the 
church remained, except an octagonal cupola, which the Turks- 
used as a moscb, p 104. 


was* strictly examined. The ignorance or experience of 
antiquity, had ascribed to the Opobalsamum the most 
salutary virtues ; and the exportation of this valuable 
medicine, was severely forbidden by the jealousy of the 
Caliphs (54). But the ingenuity of Willibald eluded the 
prohibition. To a gourd filled with the precious liquid, 
he had joined another gourd filled with petroleum : both 
were so artfully united, as to exhibit the appearance of 
one vessel : and the contrivance of the pilgrim defeated 
the curiosity of the Mohammedan officers (55). 

In his return, Willibald spent two years at Constan- 
tinople , visited the Volcanic eruptions in the islands of 
Lipari , ascertained the origin of the pumice stone, 
which was so useful to the monastic writers ; and at last 
retired to the celebrated monastery of Cassino. At the 
request of his relative St Boniface, he was drawn from 
this retirement by Gregory the Roman pontiff, and sent 
into Germany, where he laboured zealously in the dif- 
fusion of religious knowledge, and died at an advanced 
age, bishop of Aiehstad, in the year 786. 

But it was given to few to display the courage, and to 
experience the good fortune of Willibald (56). Rome 

(54) On the balsam extracted from the balm, which grows in 
the plains of Jericho, see Bede (de loc. sac. c. ix. p. 320,) and Ma- 
riti (p. 344.) 

(55) Hodoep. p. 113, 114. 

(56) If, as history assures us, Alfred corresponded with the pa- 
triarch of Jerusalem, and sent alms as far as the Indies, it is not 
improbable, that his messengers visited the holy land (Chron. Sax. 
p. 86. Malm, de reg. 1. ii. c. 4, f. 24. Wise's Asser. p. 58). By 
the conversion of the Hungarians in the tenth century, the length 
of the journey was shortened, and its danger diminished. Wyth- 
man, abbot of Ramsey, in the reign of Canute, made a successful 


lay at a shorter distance than Jerusalem ; and presented 
numerous attractions to the piety of the pilgrims. It was 
the residence of the sovereign pontiff: its inhabitants 
boasted that they were the descendants of the first chris- 
tians : the mortal remains of St Peter and St Paul reposed 
within its churches ; and its catacombs contained the 
relics of innumerable martyrs. Yet to travel at this pe- 
riod from England to Rome, was an attempt of no small 
difficulty and danger. The highways, which formerly 
conducted the traveller in security to the capital of the 
empire, had been neglected and demolished during the 
incursions of the barbarians : and, if the constitution of 
the pilgrim could bid defiance to the fatigue of the jour- 
ney, and the inclemency of the weather (57), he was 
still exposed to the insults of the banditti, who infested 
the passes of the Alps, and of the marauders, who were 
kept in the pay of turbulent and seditious chieftains (58). 

pilgrimage to Jerusalem (hist. Ram. p. 436) ; and his example was 
followed by the historian Ingulf, who joined the retinue of several 
German princes, and was so fortunate as to escape the sword and 
the pestilence which devoured one third of his companions. 
" Tandem de triginta equitibus, qui de Normannia pingues exi- 
'* vimus, vix viginti pauperes peregrini, et omnes pedites, mu-lta 
" made attenuati, reversi sumus." Ingul. p. 74. 

(57) Elsine, archoishop of Canterbury, was frozen to death in 
the Alps. His companions had recourse to the unusual expedient 
of ripping open the belly of a horse, and plunging his feet into 
it. Malms, de pont. 1. i. f. 114. Osbern, Vit. St Odonis, p. 86. 

(58) See the life of St Boniface by St Willibald, c. v. St El- 
phege was robbed as soon as he entered Italy : (Ang. Sac. vol. ii. 
p. 129.) the bishops of York, Wells, and Hereford, and the earl 
of Northumberland, in their return. Malm. f. 154. In the years 
921 and 922, two caravans of Anglo-Saxon pilgrims were sur- 


Hospitality was, indeed, a favourite virtue among the 
northern nations ; and religion offered her protection to 
the person and property of the itinerant devotee : but 
fhe mountaineers respected neither the dictates of huma- 
nity, nor the decrees of councils ; and of the numbers, 
%vho braved'the difficulties of the journey, many lived 
not to revisit their homes ; while of the rest, the greater 
part returned sickly, despoiled, and emaciated (59). 
Charlemagne, at the solicitation of Offa (60), Conrad, at 
that of Canute (61), had promised protection to the Eng- 
lish pilgrims : but it was proved by experience, that the 
sincerity or the power of these princes was not equal to 
their engagements or inclinations. The fate, however, of 
former adventurers, proved a useless lesson to their coun- 
trymen, and the objections of prudence were silenced by 
the impulse of devotion or curiosity. To behold the an- 
cient capital of the world, and receive the benediction of 
the successor of St Peter, kings abandoned their thrones, 
and bishops intrusted to others the care of their flocks : 
clergy and laity, monks and nuns, followed their exam- 
ple : and even the lower classes of the people were eager 
to gratify their wishes, by obtaining a place in the retinue 
of their superiors (62). The manners of the present 

prised and massacred in the Alps. Baron, ex Flodoard. an. 921, 

(59) In the ancient life of St Winibald, it is remarked, that 
strangers were generally subject to a fever at their arrival in Rome. 
Magna febris fatigatio adverias illic venientes visitare seu gra- 
vare solet. Vit. St Winib. apud Canis. p. 126. 

(60) Ep. Car. Magni, apud Mat. Par. p. 978. 

(61) Ep. Canut. apud Wilk. p. 298. 

(62) Romam adire curavit, quod eo tempore magnae virtutia 


age have branded their conduct with the name of su- 
perstition ; but candour must extort the confession, that 
their motives were innocent, their labours useful. It 
were difficult to assign a reason, why it should be more 
lawful to visit the scenes of ancient literature, than those 
of religious virtue : and he who has experienced the en- 
thusiasm, which is kindled in the mind by viewing the 
former residence of heroes and legislators (63), will easily 
conceive with what force the chains, the tombs, and the 
relics of the martyrs, spoke to the hearts of these foreign 
Christians. In a political view, the travels of the pilgrims 
were highly serviceable. They contributed to connect 
the independent nations, which had divided among them 
the fragments of the empire ; to dissipate the prejudices 
of national partiality ; and to diffuse the knowledge of 
the arts and the sciences. Rome, though she had suf- 
fered severely from the the ravages of the barbarians, 
was still the centre of knowledge, and the repository of 
whatever was elegant in the west. The riches, the ruins 
of the imperial city, astonished the strangers : they re- 
turned with ideas more enlarged, and views more ele- 
vated : attempts were made to imitate at home, what 
they had admired abroad : and to their observation and 
industry, England was indebted for almost every im- 

aestimabatur. Bed. 1. iv. c. 23. Quod his temporibus plures de 

gente Anglorum, nobiles, ignobiles, laid, clerici, viri ac feminse 

certatim facere consuerunt. Id. 1. v* c. 7. Also West. an. 738, p. 
140. St Bonif. ep. 20, 40, 51, 69. 

(63) " Naturane," says Cicero, " nobis datum dicam,an errore 
" quodam, ut cum ea loca videattms, in quibus memoria dignos 
" viros acceperimus multos esse versatos, magis moveamur, quam 
" quando eorum ipsorum aut facta audiamus ant scriptum ali- 
" quod legamus." De fin. 1. v. 



provement, which she received before the conquest (64). 
Yet, even when pilgrimages were most fashionable, there 
were many, who, though they dared hot to condemn a 
devotion consecrated by the practice of ages, justly con- 
tended that their countrymen carried it to excess (65). 
They complained that, by the absence of bishops, the 
interests of the church were abandoned ; by that of 
princes, the tranquillity of the state was endangered : 
thatjournies of devotion were undertaken to elude the 
severity of the penitential canons : and that the morals 
of the travellers were often impaired, instead of being 
improved. The last charge is forcibly corroborated by 
the conduct of several among the female pilgrims. 
Their beauty proved fatal to their chastity : amid 
strangers, without a friend, perhaps without the means 

(64) The improvements introduced by St Wilfrid, and St Ben- 
net Biscop, have been already noticed. The latter, however, 
seems to have disapproved of pilgrimages, when they were not 
justified by the prospect of great advantage. He was careful to 
procure masters and books for his monks, that they might not be 
tempted to make pilgrimages, but be willing rntra monasterii 
claustra quiescere. Bed. horn, in natal. Bened. abbat. torn. vii. 
col. 465. 

(65) The abbess Bugge was desirous to visit Rome, but so 
many objections were raised by her friends, that she wrote to St 
Boniface for his advice. " Scimus quod multi sunt, qui hanc 
" voluntatem vituperant, ( et hunc amorem derogant, et eorum 
" sententiam his astipulationibus confirmant, quod canones syno- 
<l dales praecipiant, quod imusquisque in eo loco ubi constitutus 
" fuerit, et ubi votum suum voverit, ibi maneat et Deo reddat 
" vota sua." Ep. Bonif. 38, p. 50. The archbishop answered, 
that it were better to remain in her monastery, unless the vexa- 
tious exactions of her enemies compelled her to leave it. Ep. 20, 

*p. 28, 


of subsistence, they sometimes fell victims to the arts of 
seduction : and the apostle of Germany confesses in the 
anguish of his zeal, that there were few cities in Lom- 
bardy or Gaul, which had not witnessed the shame of 
some of his itinerant countrywomen (66). But his re- 
monstrances were not more successful than those of St 
Jerome andSt Gregory had been in preceding ages (67) : 
the stream of pilgrimage was still directed towards the 
Vatican : the practice was defended by curiosity, and 
sanctioned by example ; and during the existence of the 
Saxon dynasty, Rome almost annually saw a crowd of 
English travellers offer their devotions at the shrine of 
St Peter (68). 

6. Before I conclude this chapter, I must notice an 
extraordinary practice, which united the most solemn 
rites of religion with the public administration of justice. 

(66) Ep. Bonif. 105, p. 149. Wilk. p. 93. 

(67) St Greg. Nys. torn. iii. ap. p. 72. St Hieron. ep. is. 

(68) The Saxon chronicle remarks, as something extraordinary, 
that in the year 889, no pilgrims went to Rome, and Alfred's let- 
ters were sent by two messengers. Chr. Sax. p. 90. On the sub- 
ject of pilgrimage, Henry has made an important discovery : that 
the Saxons considered it as the only, or at least, the most efficaci- 
ous method of securing their salvation. In support of this asser- 
tion, he adduces a letter of Canute the great, in which he makes, 
the king say, that, " on account of St Peter's influence in heaven, 
" he thought it absolutely necessary to obtain his favour by a piT- 
" grimage to Rome." (Henry, vol. iv. p. 303.) But Henry could 
seldom translate an ancient writer, without adding a few improve- 
ments. In the original, the king is silent respecting the necessity 
of a pilgrimage to Rome, but says that " he thought it very useful 
" to solicit the patronage of St Peter with God." Ideo specia- 
liter ejus patrocinium apud Deum expetere, valde utile duxi. Ep. 
Canut. apud Wilk. p. 297. 



To elicit, in judicial proceedings, the truth from a mass 
of unsatisfactory and often discordant evidence, demands 
a power of discrimination, and accuracy of judgment, 
which it were in vain to expect from the magistrates of 
a nation just emerging from ignorance and barbarity. 
The jurisprudence of 'an illiterate people is generally 
satisfied with a shorter and more simple process : and, 
in doubtful cases, an appeal to the equity of the Deity 
exonerates the conscience of the judge, and establishes 
the guilt or innocence of the accused. While the An- 
glo-Saxons adored the gods of their fathers, the decision 
of criminal prosecutions was frequently entrusted to the 
wisdom of Woden : when they became Christians, they 
confidently expected from the true God, that miraculous 
interposition, which they had before sought from an 
imaginary deity. He was a being of infinite knowledge 
and infinite power : he was the patron of virtue, and the 
avenger of crimes : could he then remain indifferent 
when he was solemnly invoked, and permit falsehood to 
triumph over truth ; innocence to be confounded with 
guilt (69) ? This reasoning, though false, was plausible ; 
and it made a deep impression on the minds of the illite- 
rate. By Gregory the great it is said to have been con- 
demned (70) : but if his disapprobation was known to 
the missionaries, the authority of the pontiff was borne 
down by the torrent of national manners j and during 
six centuries, appeals to the judgment of God were au- 

(69) Missa judicii, apud Spelm. glos. voce Ordalium. 

(70) Decret. par. 11, caus. 11, quaes. 5, cap. Men. The second 
part of the chapter, which contains the prohibition, does not oc- 
eur in St Gregory's works. 


thorized and commanded by the jurisprudence of the 

The time, the nature, and the ceremonies of these 
appeals, were defined by the legislature with the mi- 
nutest exactitude. To employ in judicial trials the days 
particularly consecrated to the Divine service, was deem- 
ed indecorous : and on festivals and fast-days, ordeals 
were strictly prohibited (71). Nor were they indiscri- 
minately permitted in all cases, or left to the option of 
the parties. In civil suits the law had pointed out a dif- 
ferent process : in criminal prosecutions, when the guilt or 
innocence of the accused could be proved by satisfactory 
evidence, they were unnecessary (72). But if the argu- 
ments on each side were nearly balanced, if the prisoner 
could not claim the privilege of canonical purgation (73), 
or procure a competent number of compurgators, re- 
course was had to the judgment of God. The accuser 
swore to the truth of the charge, the accused by oath 
attested his innocence, and the necessary preparations 
were made for the ordeal. 

As the discovery of the truth was now intrusted to 
the decision of heaven, the intermediate time was em- 

(71) Leg. Sax. p. 53, 188, 121, 131. 

(72) Ibid. p. 26. \Vilk. gloss, p. 422. 

(73) If a clergyman or monk was accused of a crime, and the 
evidence against him was not conclusive, he was permitted to ex- 
culpate himself by the eucharist, or by his oath. Wilk. p. 82, 300. 
" That we may not by a too great severity oppress the innocent," 
says Archbishop Egbert, " let him place the cross on his head, and 
swear by him who lives for ever, and who suffered for us on the 
cross, that he is not guilty of the crime of which he is accused." 
Ibid. p. 82. 

U 3 


ployed in exercises of devotion. Three nights before 
the day appointed for the trial, the accused was led to 
the priest : on the three following mornings he assisted, 
and made his offering at the mass : and during the three 
days, he fasted on bread, herbs, salt, and water (74). 
At the third mass the priest called him to the altar be- 
fore the communion, and adjured him by the God 
whom he adored, by the religion which he professed, 
by the baptism with which he had been regenerated, 
and the holy relics that reposed in the church, not to 
receive the eucharist, or go to the ordeal, if his con- 
science reproached him with the crime, of which he had 
been accused (75). He then gave him the communion, 
with these words : "may this body and blood of our 
" Lord, Jesus Christ, be to thee a proof of innocence 
" this day". As soon as the mass was finished, the 
prisoner again denied the charge, and took the follow- 
ing oath : " In the Lord, I am guiltless both in word 
*f and deed, of the crime, of which I am accused," He 
was then led to the trial (76). 

Of these trials there were four different kinds. 1. 
The corsned was a cake of barley bread, of the weight 
of one ounce ; and seems to have been instituted in imi- 


(74) Leg. Sax. p. 61. 

(75) Ic eop halpge on pefceji narna. 3 on yunu nama f i)' ujie 
ojaihren hxlent>e 6)iir~. T on J>ej* halgan garter- *] pop pseyie 

cjurtnerre ^ e 5 e un-oejipengan. -] j?on $e hahjan pnmerre 

^ ge TO }>ur hu^le ne gangen .na ro J>am oyitoele. jij: je ycylt) on eop 
piren Saef $e eop man rihrh oft^e on gepoprum oSfte on jepicrenyf r&- 
MS. Ritual. Dun'el. A. iv. 10, f. 55. 

(76) Coi-pus hoc et sanguis Domini nostri Jhesu Christi, sit vo- 
J^is (vel tibi) ad probationem hodie. Miss. Judic. apud Spelm. 
voce Ordal. Also Leg. Sax. 61, 64. 


tation of the water of jealousy, mentioned in the He- 
brew scriptures. Over it a prayer was pronounced by 
the priest, in which he begged that God would mani- 
fest the truth between the accuser and the accused : that 
if the latter were guilty, when he took the cake into 
his hands, he might tremble and look pale ; and when 
he attempted to chew it, his jaws might be fixed, his 
throat contracted, and the bread be thrown out of his 
mouth. It was then given to him to eat, and the event 
decided his guilt or his innocence (77). 2. In the or- 
deal of eold water, the prisoner was stript of his clothes, 
Jbis hands and feet were bound ; the cross and the book 
of the gospels were given him to kiss, and blessed water 
was sprinkled on his body. A cord, of the length of 
two ells and a half, was then fastened to his waist, and 
he was thrown into the water. If he sunk, he was im- 
mediately liberated; if he floated on the surface, he 
was delivered to the officers of justice (78). From these 
two trials it seems probable, that the guilty would have 
little to fear : from the other two it is difficult to con- 
ceive how the innocent could escape. 3. For the ordea 
by hot water, a fire was kindled under a caldron in a 
remote part of the church. At a certain depth below 
the surface of the water, which was augmented in pro- 
portion to the enormity of the oftence (79), was placed 

(77) Exorcism, panis Ordeaqii, apud Spelm. voce Ordal, 
Sometimes cheese was substituted. Ibid. 

(78) Adjuratio aquas, ibid. Leg. Sax. p. 26, 61. 

(79) In the ordeals by hot water and hot jron, the trial for 
greater crimes was called the threefold, that for smaller, the one- 
fold ordeal. The former was ordered for the crimes of sacrilege, 
treason, murder, idolatry, and magic. In the threefold ordeal the 

U * 


a stone, or a piece of iron. Strangers were excluded, 
and the two parties, each attended by twelve friends, 
proceeded to the trial. These were ranged in two lines, 
on each side of the fire. After the litanies had been 
said, the accuser and the accused deputed one of their 
companions to examine the water, and when they 
agreed that it had acquired the greatest possible heat, 
the latter plunged his naked arm into the caldron, and 
took out the stone. The priest immediately wrapped the 
arm in a clean linen cloth, and fixed on it the seal o^ 
the church. At the expiration of three days, the band- 
age was unfolded, and the fate of the accused was deter- 
mined by the appearance of the wound. If it were not 
perfectly healed, he was presumed to be guilty (80). 4. 
In the ordeal by hot iron, the same precautions were -ob- 
served with respect to the number and position of the 
attendants. Near the fire was measured a space equal to 
nine of the prisoner's feet, and afterwards divided into 
three parts. By the first stood a small stone pillar. As 
soon as the mass was begun, a bar of iron, of the weight 
of one or three pounds, according to the nature of 
the accusation, was laid on the coals. At the last collect 
it was taken off, and placed on the pillar. The prisoner 
instantly took it in his hand, made three steps on the 
lines previously marked, and threw it down. The 
treatment of the burn, and the indications of guilt, were 

ydepth of the stone was equal to the distance between a man's el- 
bow and the end of his linger, and the weight of the hot iron was 
three pounds. Leg. Sax. p. 27. 

(80) Leg. Sax. p. 26, 61. Adjuratio aquse ferventis, apud 
.Spelm. voce Qrdal, 


the same as in the trial by hot water (SI). To these 
four ordeals, a fifth was added by most of the continen- 
tal nations-, that of duel, or private battle. To the 
Anglo-Saxons it was unknown till after the Norman con- 
quest. Of all, it was the most absurd : and of all, is 
the only one which modern wisdom has thought proper 
to perpetuate. 

The different issues, which attended the ordeals, pre- 
sent a subject of ingenious speculation. That all were 
not proved innocent by the corsned, and the immersion 5 
nor all guilty by the hot water, and the hot iron, is evi- 
dent : otherwise these appeals to the justice of God, 
must have soon sunk in the public estimation. The 
effect of the corsned may be ascribed to the terrors of a 
guilty conscience, and a heated imagination : but to ac- 
count for that of the other three, is a task of consider- 
able difficulty. Some may, perhaps, be inclined to 
think, that God might, on particular occasions, inter- 
pose in favour of innocence : others, that the culprit 
was often indebted for his escape to his own dexterity, 
or the assistance of a robust constitution. But modern 
writers generally suppose, that the clergy were possessed 
of a secret, by which, as they saw convenient, they 
either indurated the skin before the ordeal, or after- 
wards healed the wound within the space of three days. 
This opinion, however, is unsupported by any contem- 

(81) Ibid. I have not mentioned a species of the ordeal by fire, 
which consisted in walking on the hot iron, instead of carrying it 
in the hand. I do not recollect any mention of it before the conquest, 
except in the story of Queen Emma : a story which deserves little 
credit, as it appears to have been unknown to those, who ought to 
have been best acquainted with it : Ingulf, Aelred, Malmesbury, 
Hoveden, Huntingdon, and the author of the Saxon chronicle. 

porary voucher, and must appear at the best highly im- 
probable. This secret, so widely diffused through al- 
most every nation of Christendom, and constantly em- 
ployed during more than six centuries, could not have 
been concealed from the knowledge of the public : and 
if it were known, how can we believe that legislators 
would have still persisted to enforce the trial by ordeal, 
for the conviction of guilt, and the acquittal of inno- 
cence. In the laws of the Anglo-Saxon princes, it is 
repeatedly approved : and we are indebted for its aboli- 
tion, at a later period, not to the wisdom of the legisla- 
ture, but to the remonstrances of the clergy. By the 
Roman pontiffs it was often condemned as superstitious : 
these condemnations were inserted in the collection of 
the canon law : and Henry III. to satisfy the scruples of 
his bishops, consented to suspend the use of the ordeals, 
in the third year of his reign (82). Though his procla- 
mation did not amount to an absolute prohibition, they 
do not appear to have been afterwards revived (S3). 

(82) See the rescript of Henry III., in Selden's spicilegium ad 
Eadm. p. 204. 

(83) We must except the ordeal by cold water, which, was 
employed for the conviction of witches, till a very late period. 


Literature of the Anglo-Saxons learning of Theodore and Adrian 

libraries theology daffies- logic arithmetic natural phi' 

lofophy learned men St AldhelmBedeAlcuin. 

THE conquests of the northern nations arrested the 
progress of human knowledge, and replunged the great- 
est part of Europe into the barbarity and ignorance, 
from which it had slowly emerged during the lapse of 
several centuries. If the fall of the empire did not to- 
tally extinguish the light of science, it is to religion that 
we owe the invaluable benefit. The expiring flame was 
kept alive by the solicitude of the churchmen : and their 
industry collected and multiplied the relics of ancient 

The functions of the priesthood require a considerable 
portion of learning : and the daily study of the sacred 
writings, and of the ecclesiastical canons, has always 
been recommended to the attention of the clergy. By 
the monks, knowledge was originally held in inferior 
estimation. They were laymen, and preferred the 
more humble employments of agriculture and the me- 
chanical arts, as better adapted to the life of penitence, 
to which they had bound themselves. The disciples of 
the saints Anthony and Pachomius spent a great part of 
their time in the manufacture of mats and baskets : and 
tlusir example was so approved by the patriarch of the 
western monks, that he enjoined his followers to devote 


at least seven hours of the day to manual labour (1). 
The veneration, which religious orders usually retain for 
the memory of their founders, enforced a temporary ob- 
servance of this regulation : but when monasteries were 
endowed with extensive estates, and the monks could 
command the labour of numerous families of slaves, it 
was insensibly neglected ; and the study of the sciences 
appeared a more useful and more honourable employ- 
ment. The propriety of this innovation was sanctioned 
by the necessities of religion. The sword of the barba- 
rians had diminished the numbers of the clergy ; and 
the monks were invited to supply the deficiency, as mi- 
nisters of the public worship, and the apostles of infidel 
nations. To understand the latin service, it became ne- 
cessary to acquire a competent knowledge of that lan- 
guage : and the duty of instruction induced them to 
peruse the writings of the ancient fathers. Under the 
influence of these motives, schools were opened in the 
monastic as well as in clerical communities ; and the 
rewards of reputation and honour were lavishly bestowed 
on the faintest glimmerings of science. When a thirst 
for knowledge is once excited, it is seldom satisfied with 
its original object. From the more necessary branches 
of religious learning, the students wandered with plea- 
sure to the works of the poets and philosophers of 
Greece and Rome : and their curiosity eagerly, but 
often injudiciously, devoured, whatever had escaped the 
ravages of their ancestors. In these literary pursuits, 
the Saxon clergy and monks acquired distinguished ap- 
plause. Their superiority was, for more than a century, 
felt and acknowledged by the other nations of Europe : 

(i) Reg. St Bened. c. 48. 


and when the repeated invasions of the Danes had un- 
happily cut off every source of instruction in England, 
the disciples of the Saxon missionaries in Germany, 
maintained the reputation of their teachers, and from 
their monastery at Fulda, diffused the light of know- 
ledge over that populous and extensive country (2). 

For this advantage our ancestors were principally in- 
debted to the talents and industry of Theodore, arch- 
bishop of Canterbury; and of Adrian, abbot of St 
Peter's, in the same city. The latter was a native of 
Africa, the former of Tarsus, in Cilicia : both were emi- 
nently versed in the languages of Greece and Rome, and 
perfect masters of every science which was known at that 
period. Compassionating the ignorance of the converts, 
they dedicated their leisure hours to the instruction of 
youth ; their lessons were eagerly frequented by pupils 
from every Anglo-Saxon kingdom; and masters formed 
under their inspection, were dispersed among the princi- 
pal monasteries. Their exhortations and example ex- 
cited an ardour for improvement, which was not confined 
to the cloister, but extended its influence to the castles of 
the nobility, and the courts of the kings. The children 
of the thanes educated in the neighbouring monasteries, 
imbibed an early respect, if not a passion, for literature ; 
and several of the princes condescended to study those 
sciences, on which their barbarous, but victorious fathers, 
had trampled with contempt ; others by rewards and do- 
nations, endeavoured to distinguish themselves as the pa- 
trons of the learned (3). Even the women caught the 

(2) See Mabillon, Act. SS. Bened. Saec. iv. torn. i. p. 188. Tom. 
ii. p. 23. Macquer, Histoire ecclesiastique, vol. i. p. 551. 

(3) Bed. hist. 1. iv. 2. 1. v. c r -l2. Abbat. Wirem. p. soo. 


general enthusiasm: seminaries of learning were esta- 
blished in their convents : they conversed \vith their ab- 
sent friends in the language of ancient Rome ; and fre- 
quently exchanged the labours of the distaff and the 
needle, for the more pleasing and more elegant beauties 
of the latin poets (4-). 

In modern times the art of printing, by facilitating the 
diffusion, has accelerated the progress of knowledge : 
but, at the period of which we are speaking, the scarcity 
of books was an evil deeply felt and lamented by these 
ardent votaries of science. Literature declined and fell 
with the power of Rome : and the writings of the an- 
cients were but slowly multiplied by the tedious labour 
of transcribers. To discover and obtain these remains of 
ancient knowledge, were among the principal objects, 
which prompted so many Anglo-Saxons to visit distant 

(4) St AWhelm wrote his treatise de laudibus virginitatis, for 
the use of the abbess Hildelith and her nuns. The stile, in which 
it is composed, shews that, if he wished them to understand it, he 
must have considered them as no mean proficients in the latin lan- 
guage. From this treatise we learn, that nuns were accustomed 
to read the pentateuch, the books of the prophets, and the new 
testament, with the commentaries of the ancient fathers ; and to 
study the historical, tropological, allegorical, and anagogical senses 
of the different passages ; profane history, chronology, grammar, 
orthography, and poetry, also employed their attention. St Ald- 
hel. de laud. virg. p. 294. See also Annal. Bened. vol. ii. p. 143. 
Of their proficiency, several specimens are still extant. The lives 
of St Willibald and St Wunebald, were both written in Latin by 
an Anglo-Saxon nun. Several letters in the same language, by 
English ladies, are preserved among the epistles of St Boniface. 
In some of them are allusions to the Roman poets ; and in one, a 
few verses composed by Leobgytha, who was then learning the 
rules of metre from fycr mistress Eadburga. Ep. Bonif. 3G, p. 46. 


countries (5) : by the acquisition of a few books, they 
considered their labours as amply repaid : and in their 
estimation, a single volume was often of equal value with 
an extensive estate (6). But necessity soon taught them 
to adopt a method, by which the number of copies was 
more nearly proportioned to the increase of readers. In 
every monastery a considerable portion of time was daily 
allotted to the humble, but useful occupation, of tran- 
scribing ancient manuscripts : and so efficient was the re- 
source, that when Charlemagne meditated the revival of 
letters in Gaul, he was advised to solicit assistance from 
the treasures accumulated in the Saxon libraries (7). Of 
these repositories of science, the most ancient was that 
of Canterbury, which owed its establishment to the pro* 
vident cafe of Gregory the great, but had been consider- 
ably augmented by the zeal and industry of Archbishop 
Theodore (8). Another numerous collection of books 

(5) Thus Alcuin says of his master Ecgbert : 

Non semel externas peregrino tramite terras 
Jam peragravit ovans, sophiae ductus amoie ; 
Si quid forte novi librorum aut studiorum 
Quod secum ferret, terris reperiret in illis. 

De pent. Ebor. v. 1454. 

(6) A treatise on cosmography was sold to Aldfrid, king of 
Northumbria, for an estate of eight hides of land, which appears 
to have been considered as its real value. Bed. Vit. abbat. p. 300. 

(7) Ale. ep. l. Malm, de reg. f. 12. Some years after, Lupus, 
abbot of Ferrieres, wrote to Altsig, abbot in the church of York, 
to lend him several books to be transcribed, and promised they 
should be faithfully restored. Annal. Bened, torn. ii. p. 684. 
Bib. pat. torn. ix. Lup. ep. 2. 

(8) Bed. hist. 1. i. c. 29. In the appendix to Smith's Bede, p. 
690, is an ancient account of the books brought into England by 
St Augustine. One of them, a MS. of the gospels, is said by 


was possessed by the monastery at Weremouth, the fruit 
of the labours of St Bennet Biscop, whose five journies 
to the continent, and indefatigable exertions, have been 
gratefully recorded by the pen of the venerable Bede 
(9). But of all the seminaries which flourished in Eng- 
land, that belonging to the clergy of York appears to 
have enjoyed the most valuable and extensive library : 
and in the imperfect catalogue of its volumes, which Al- 
cuin has inserted in his writings, we find the names of 
almost every Greek and Roman writer, who had distin- 
guished himself either in profane or in sacred literature 

Wanley, (p. 1 51,) to be preserved in the library of Corpus Christi 
college at Cambridge, L, 15. Godwin mentions a MS. of Ho- 
mer, brought to England by Theodore, which was so beautifully 
written, as scarcely to be equalled by any other manuscript or 
printed copy, (God. de praes. p. 41.) 

(9) Bed. Vit. abbat. Wirem. p. 295, 299. 

(10) JElbert, archbishop of York, left to Aleuin the care of his 
library, his caras super omnia gazas (Ale. de pont. et sanct. Ebor. 
eccl. v. 1 526.) That writer has given the following account of 
the books contained in it : 

Illic invenies veterum vestigia patrum, 
Quidquid habet pro se latio Romanus in orbe ; 
Gnecia vel quidquid transmisit clara latinis ; 
Hebraicus vel quod populus bibit ore superno ; 

1540 Africa lucifluo vel quidquid lumine sparsit. 

Quod pater Hieronymus, quod sensit Hilarius, atque 
Ambrosius prassul, simul Augustinus, et ipse 
Sanctus Athanasius, quod Orosius edit avitus, 
Quidquid Gregorius summus docet, et Leo papa: 

1545 Basilius quidquid, Fulgentius atque coruscant. 
Cassiodprus item, Chrycostomus atque Joannes. 
Quidquid et Athelmus docuit, quid Beda magister, 


In the system of education established by Theodore, 
and zealously propagated by his disciples, religious know- 
ledge and moral improvement were pronounced the two 
great objects of study. To the influence of the sciences 
in softening the manners, and multiplying the comforts 
of society, they appear to have been indifferent or insen- 
sible : but they endeavoured to rouse the ardour of their 
pupils, by promising them a more distinct view of the 
economy of religion, and a more extensive acquaintance 
with the works of the Creator. The life of man, they 
observed, was short , his time too precious to be thrown 
away on pursuits unconnected with his welfare in a future 
existence (11). Hence of the various branches of know- 
ledge, Theology (under that name were comprised the 
dogmata of faith, and the principles of morality) assumed 
the highest place in their estimation ; and the other 
sciences were only valued as the humble handmaids of 
this superior acquirement. Its excellence and utility are 
the constant theme of their eloquence : it was recom- 

Quae Victorious scripsere, Boetius, atque 
Historici veteres, Pompeius, Plinius, ipse 

1550 Acer Aristoteles, rhetor quoque Tullius ingens: 

Quid quoque Sedulius, vel quid canit ipse Juvencus, 
Alcuinus et Clemens, Prosper, Pauiinus, Arator, 
Quid Fortunatus vel quid Lactantius edunt, 
Quae Maro Virgilius, Statins, Lucanus, et auctor 

1555 Artis grammaticse, vel quid scripsere magistri, 

Quid Probus atque Phocas, Donatus, Priscianusve, 
Servius, Euticius, Pompeius, Comminianus. 
Invenies alios perpliires. 

Ah. de Pont, et Sane. Ebor. eccl. 

(ll) See Aldhelm's letter to his pupil Adilwald. Malm. 1. v, 
de pont. p. 340. 



mended to the attention of laymen and of females ; a'nd 
if the young student was exhorted to learn the 'rules of 
grammar, and the figures of elocution, it was that he 
might understand with greater facility the volumes, that 
contained this important science (12). Of the scholastic 
divinity, which so universally prevailed in succeeding 
ages, they ware ignorant ; and whatever theological 
learning they acquired, they professed to derive from 
two collateral streams, the inspired writings, and the 
works of the fathers (13). The inspired writings they 
studied assiduously from their infancy -, but considering 
them as a region overspread with darkness, they hesitated 
to advance a step without the aid of a guide, and scrupu- 
lously pursued the track which had been first opened by 
the labours of the most ancient of the Christian doctors. 
Bede and Alcuin, the brightest luminaries of the Saxon 
church, in expounding the sacred volumes, shine princi- 
pally with borrowed light : they scarcely presume to ex- 
press a sentiment of their own , their works are frequent- 
ly a chain of quotations from more ancient writers 5 and 

(12) Ibid. Aldh. de virg. p. 292, 294. Smith's Bed. p. 795. 
Ep. Ale. 32, 49. In another work Alcuin exhorts his disciples to 
study, " propter Deum, propter puritatem animge, propter verita- 
'< tern cognoscendam, etiam et propter se ipsam, non propter hu- 
" manam laudem, vel honores sseculi, vel etiam divitiarum fal- 
laces voluptates." Can. Ant. lect. torn. 2, p. 506. 

(13) Of the Latin fathers, St Gregory indulges the most fre- 
quently in allegorical interpretations. Gratitude taught the Saxons 
to admire and imitate his writings. 'I'hey adopted this mode of 
explication ; and as France and Germany received from them 
their most eminent teachers, they introduced it among the learned 
of those countries, by whom it was universally followed for seve- 
.l centuries. See Fleury's fifth discourse (art. xi.) 


to obviate the possibility of error, they anxiously point 
out to the reader every line, which is the offspring of 
their own judgment or imagination (14-). 

But though a decided preference was given to theolo- 
gical knowledge, the other departments of science were 
not neglefted. The number of classic allusions which 
occur in their writings and private correspondence, de- 
monstrate their acquaintance with the most eminent 
writers of Rome and Greece *, and we are assured, that 
many among them could speak the languages of these 
two countries, with no less fluency than their native 
tongue (15). But experience has shewn, that nations 
only acquire a taste for elegant literature by the progres- 
sive improvements of succeeding generations. Though 
the Anglo-Saxons, in the course of their reading, fre- 
quently conversed with the great geniuses of antiquity, 
they caught few sparks of the fire, which still lives in 
their immortal writings. Their attempts at composition 
are, with some exceptions, languid and incorrect ; ex- 
pressed in barbarous language, and disfigured by low or 
turgid metaphors. They studied, indeed, the laws of 
poetry and rhetoric ; they were acquainted with the dif- 
ferent poetic feet and their various combinations, with 
the lessons of the ancient rhetoricians, their tropes and 
figures : but, unassisted by the taste of a judicious mas- 
ter, they expended their industry in the pursuit of imna- 

(14) See Ale. praef. in Evan. Joan Mabillon'seulogium of Bed e" 
(Smith's Bcdt\ p. 793.) Bed. epis. ad Accam. torn. v. col. 2, 177. 
On the different versions of the scriptures used by the Anglo- 
Saxons, see note (R). 

(15) Bed. hist. 1. iv. c. 2. On their pronunciation' of Greet-, 
see note (S). 



tural ornaments, while real elegance was entirely neg- 
lected (16). To have compressed their language, how- 
ever mean or incorrect, within the compass of legitimate 
metre, appears to have been the highest praise, to which 
many of their Latin poets aspired. Even the composi- 
tions of Bede are disgraced by this common defect j and 
can be considered as little better than simple prose, di- 
vided into hexameter verse. But an honourable excep- 
tion must be admitted in favour of Alcuin, in whose 
poetic effusions are passages, which may be read with 
pleasure ; and of St Aldhelm, who assumed a more lofty 
and a more animated tone than any of his countrymen. 
His diction is often pompous ; his imagery elevated j and 
from the wild exuberance of his fancy, now and then 
may be culled a flower of exquisite fragrance (17). But 
all of them appear to have considered difficulty of com- 
position as a sufficient apology for the absence of every 
excellence : and the laborious trifles, the stultus labor 
ineptiarum, which during the decline of taste exercised 
the ingenuity of the Greek and Latin waiters, were seri- 
ously cultivated and improved by the most eminent of 
the Saxon scholars. In their works we meet with acros- 
tics, composed of the initial and final letters of each 
line, to be read sometimes in a descending, and some- 

(16) Read St Aldhelm's description of his studies. Foetica 
septense divisionis disciplina, hoc est, acephalos, procilos cum 
caeteris qualiter varietur ; qui versus monoschemi, qui pentasche~ 
mi, qui decaschemi certa pedum mensura terminantur ; et qua 
ratione catalectici, et brachycatalectici, et hypercatalcctici versus 
colligantur. Malm, de pont. p. 341. 

(17) See his poem De laude virginum. Bib. pat. torn. xili. 
p. 3. 


times in an ascending direction (18) : with couplets in 
which the first half of the hexameter, constantly forms 
the second half of the pentameter verse (19) ; and with 
poems in which the natural difficulty of the metre is en- 
creased, by the addition of middle and final rhimes (20). 

(18) See St Aldhelm De laude virgin, p. 3. JEnigmata, p. 13, 
St Boniface's letters, p. 3. I shall subjoin a double acrostic by 
St Aldhelm : 

" Arbiter, acthereo Jupiter qui regmine sceptrA 
" Lucifluumque simul cceli regale tribunal, 
" Disponis, moderans jEternis legibus illuD, 
** Horrida nam mulctans torsisti membra BehemotH 
" Ex alta quondam rueret dum luridus arcE, 
" Limpida dictanti metrorum carmina praesuL 
<f Munera nunc largire : rudis quo pandere reruM 
< Versibus aeriigmata queam clandestina fatU, 
" Si deus indignis tua gratis dona rependiS, &c." 

p. 21. 

(19) Bede's hymn on St JEdilthryda is of this description. It 
begins thus, 

" Alme Deus Trinitas, quas saecula cuncta gubernas, 
" Adnue jam cceptis, alme Deus Trinitas. 

" Bella Maro resonet, nos pacis dona canamus : 
*' Munera nos Christi, bella Maro resonet, &c." 

Bed. hist. /. iv. c. 20. 

(20) In the poems of Bede and Alcuin occur many verses with 
double rhimes. I shall subjoin an example, a riddle by St Aid- 


" Horrida, curva, rapax, patulis fabricata metallis, 
" Pendeo, nee ccelum tangens, terramve profundam ; 
Ignibus ardescens, necnon et gurgite fervens, 
<* Sic vario geminas patior discrimine pugnas, 
" Dum lymphs latices tolero, flammasque feroces." 

Bib. Pat. vol. 8, fr 2S. 
x 3 


Sometimes, however, they ventured to emancipate them* 
selves from the shackles of their Roman masters : the 
measure of their verse was determined by a certain 
number of syllables , and their ears were satisfied with 
the frequent recurrence of alliteration, and the constant 
jingle of rhime (21). 

In the pursuit of eloquence, as of poetry, the Saxon 
students frequently permitted themselves to be led astray 
by a vitiated taste. Desirous to surprise and astonish, 
they transferred to their Latin prose all the gorgeous 
apparatus of their vernacular poetry. Iq their more la- 
boured compositions, splendour is substituted for ele- 
gance , a profusion of extravagant metaphors bewilders 
the understanding of the reader -, and as if the Latin 

(21) Of this species of composition, several examples may be 
found among the letters of St Boniface, p. 3, 44, 75, 84. Each 
verse consists of eight syllables : but the alliteration is generally 
better supported in the first, than in the sec9nd line of the couplet. 
The following specimen is taken from a poem composed by a 
disciple of St Boniface, in honour of St Aldhelm : 

'* Summo satore sobolis 

" Satus fuisti nobilis, 

" Generosa progenitus 

" Genetrice expeditus, 

" Statura spectabilis, 

" Statu et forma agilis. 

" Caput candescens crinibus 

." Cingunt capilli nitidis : 

*'* Lucent sub fionte lumina 

P Lati ceu per culmina 

16 Coeli candescunt calida 

." Cliri fulgoris sidera. 

Ep. St Bonif.p. 51. 
Oil .the .vernacular poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, see note (T). 


tongue possessed not sufficient beauties, their language 
is constantly bespangled with expressions from the 
Greek. But to write in this manner, demanded leisure 
and application : and on ordinary occasions, and in long 
compositions, they were compelled to adopt a language 
more simple and intelligible, Bede, though he admired 
(22), did not attempt this inflated stile ; and his exam- 
ple was followed by the good sense of Alcuin : ..but Aid- 
helm surpassed all his competitors, though from the let- 
ters of St Boniface we may infer there were many willing 
to dispute with him the palm of excellence (23). 

(22) Speaking of St Aldhelm's character as a writer, he calls 
him sermone nitidus (1. v. c. 18); which JElfred has properly 
translated on poji-oum hluccojx *j r-cmen'oe. a glowing and splendid 
writer, p. 636. 

(23) As a specimen of Aldhelm's stile, I shall subjoin the fol- 
lowing passage from his letter to the monks of St. Wilfrid, in 
which he calls their attention to the respect which bees pay to 
their king. " Perpendite quseso, quomodo examina apum, 
" calescente ccelitus caumate, ex alveariis nectare fragrantibus 
" certatim emergant, et earum autore Imquente brumalia man- 
" sionum receptacula, densarum cavernarum cohortes, rapido 
volatu ad asthera glomerante, exceptis duntaxat antiquarum 
" sedium servatricibus ad propagationem futuras sobolis relictis, 
w inquam mirabilius dictu, rex earum spissis sodalium agmi- 
" nibus vallatus, cum hyberna castra gregatim egreditur, et 
" cara stipitum robora rimatur, si pulverulenta sabulonis asper- 
" gine praspeditus, seu repentinis imbribus cataracta Olympi 
" guttatim rorantibus retardatus fuerit, et ad gratam cratem 
*< sedemque pristinam revertatur, omnis protinus exercitus con* 
" sueta vestibula perrumpens, prisca cellarum claustra gratula- 
" bundus ingreditur." .Gale, p. 340. In a smiiar stile his dis- 
ciple JEdilwald describes the instructions which he had received 
from him, and then proceeds thus. " Quibus ad integrum ex- 
uberantis ingenii epulis ambronibus siticulosas intelligentias 

328 v 

From the study of the languages, the Saxon was con- 
ducted to that of philosophy, after having acquired the 
preliminary and necessary sciences of logic and numbers 
(24). His acquaintance with the former, he was ad- 
vised to derive from the writings of Aristotle and his 
disciples. The precepts of that acute philosopher were 
studied with avidity : -they -were thought to impart the 
power of discovering truth and detecting falsehood ; and 
the young logician was initiated in the art of disputation 
by committing to memory the categories, the laws of 
syllogisms, the doctrine of invention;;, and the subtleties 
of the periermenize (25). The science of numbers 
equalled that of logic in importance, and surpassed it in 

" faucibus avide absumptis, meam adhuc pallentem hebetudinis 
" maciem largissima blandae sponsionis epimenia affluenter refo- 
*' cillabat, pollicitans omni me desideratse lectionis instrumento, 
" quo potissimum meas mediocritatis industriam satis inhiantem 
" agnoverat, lib^nter edocendo imbuere." St Bonif. ep. p. 76. 
To these may be added an example from St Boniface. Speaking 
of misers, he says; " Hac de re. universi aurilegi ambronesapo- 
*' ton grammaton agion frustratis afflicti inservire. excubiis, et 
" fragilia arenarum incassum ceu flatum tenuem sive pulverem 
" captantia tetendisse retia dignosamtur : quia kata Psalmistam, 
" Tbrss.urizant) et ignorant cut congregent ilia, et dum exactrix in- 
" visi Piutonis, mors videlicet, cruentatis crudeliter infrendens 
*' dentibus in limine latrat, turn tremebundi, &c." (Ep. Bonif. 
p. 2.) 

(24) According to Alcuin, a course of liberal education should 
comprize grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and 
astrology. Ale. Gram, apud Canis. torn. ii. par. i. p. 508. St 
Aldhelm adds the study of logic. De laud. vir. p. 331. 

(25) Id. ibid. Ale. de pont. Ebor. v. 1550. Ingulf, f. 513. 
Alcuin 's treatise on logic is divided into five parts. Isagogse, 
Categoric, Syllqgismi, Topica, and Periermenias. Canis. ibid. 

P. 488. 


difficulty of attainment. The celebrated St Aldhelm, 
though the success of his former attempts had taught 
him to conceive a favourable notion of his abilities, was 
overwhelmed with unexpected difficulties, when he first 
applied himself to the different combinations of num- 
bers ; and lamented in forcible language his disappoint- 
ment and despondency (26). The reader, perhaps, will 
be tempted to smile at the pusillanimity of the monk j 
but let him pause to reflect on the many disadvantages, 
agamst which our ancestors were condemned to struggle. 
The Arabic figures, which the Christians received from 
the Mohammedans of Spain, about the close of the 
tenth century, have so facilitated the acquisition of this 
science, as to render it familiar even to children j but 
the Saxons were ignorant of so valuable an improve- 
ment, and every arithmetical operation was performed 
with the aid of the seven Roman letters C, D, I, L, M, 
V, X (27). With them, ill the solution of long and 
tedious problems, it was almost impossible to form the 
necessary combinations ; .and frequently the embarrassed 
calculator, instead of employing numerical signs, was 
compelled to write at length the numbers which he 
wished to employ. But if he descended to the fractions 
of integers, his difficulties were multiplied j and the 
best expedient which human ingenuity had hitherto de- 
vised, was to conceive every species of quantity divisible 

(26) Tantae supputationis imminens desperatio colla mentis 
oppressit. See Aldhelm's letter to Hedda (Malm. p. 339). He 
was at last so fortunate as to master every difficulty, and under- 
stand even the rules of fractions, calculi supputationes, quas 
partes numeri appellant (Ibid). 

(27) BecLoper. Bas. anno 1563. torn. i. col. 115. 


into twelve equal parts, the different combinations of 
which were called by the same names, and computed in 
the same manner as the uncial divisions of the Roman 
As (28). The inconvenience of these methods was 
severely felt by the learned ; and an inadequate remedy 
was provided by the adoption of a species of manual 
arithmetic, in which, by varying the position of the 
hands and fingers, the different operations were more 
readily performed. Meanly as we may be inclined to 
estimate the services of this auxiliary, it deserved and 
obtained the praise of utility from the venerable Bede, 
who condescended to explain its nature for the use of 
lais countrymen (29), 

When the perseverance of the student had conquered 
the difficulties of this science, he ventured to apply to 
the study of natural philosophy. The guides, whom he 
was principally advised to follow, were Aristotle and 
Pliny , and to the knowledge which he derived from 
their writings, was added the partial information, that 
might be gleaned from the works of the ecclesiastical 
writers. Among the philosophical treatises ascribed to 
Bede, there are two, commented by Bridferth, the 
learned monk of Ramsey, which are undoubtedly genu^ 
ine, and from which may be formed a satisfactory 
notion of the proficiency of our ancestors in astronomical 

(28) Ibid. col. 147. 

(29) See Bede's treatise de indigitatione (torn. i. col. 165). The 
numbers from 1 to 100 were expressed by the fingers of the left 
hand : from 100 to 10,000 by those of the right : from 10,000 to 
100,000 by varying the position of the left ; and from 100,000 to 
IjOOO,ooo by varying that of the right hand. 


and physical knowledge (30). The reader will not, per- 
haps, be displeased, if I devote a few pages to this cu- 
rious subject. 

The origin of the visible universe had perplexed and 
confounded the philosophers of antiquity ; at each step 
they sunk deeper into an abyss of darkness and absurdi- 
ty; and the eternal chaos of the Stoics, the shapeless 
matter .of Aristotle, and the self-existent atoms of De- 
mocritus, while they amused their imagination, could 
only fatigue and irritate their reason. But the Saxon 
student was guided by an unerring light ; and in the 
inspired narrative of Moses, he beheld, without the 
danger of deception, the whole visible world start into 
existence at the command of an Almighty Creator. Of 
the scriptural cosmogony, his religion forbade him to 
doubt : but, in explaining the component parts of sensi- 
ble objects, he was at liberty to indulge in speculation. 
With the Ionic school, Bede admitted the four ele- 
ments ; of fire, from which the heavenly bodies derive 
their light ; of air, which is destined for the support of 
animal existence , of water, which surrounds, pervades, 
and binds together the earth on which we dwell ; and 
of the earth itself, which is accurately suspended in the 
centre, and equally poised on all sides by the pressure 
of the revolving universe. TO the different combina- 
tions of these elements, with the additional aid of the 

(30) De natura rerum, torn. ii. p. l. De temporum ratione, 
torn. ii. p. 49. These treatises are acknowledged by Bede him- 
self, at the end of his ecclesiastical history (1. v. c. 24). Leland 
highly admired the commentaries of Bridferth ; veluti avidus 
helluo totum profecto devoravi. Lei. comment, de scrip. Brit, 
edit. Hall, p. iTl. 


four primary qualities of heat and cold, moisture and 
dryness, he attributed the various properties of bodies, 
and the exhaustless fecundity of nature (31). 

Pythagoras had taught, though the conclusion was de- 
duced, not from the observation of the phenomena, but 
from the principles of a fanciful and erroneous theory, 
that the centre of the world was occupied by the sun, 
round which the celestial spheres performed their revo- 
lutions (32). But the truth of his opinion was too repug- 
nant to the daily illusions of the senses, to obtain credit ; 
and the majority of philosophers, for many centuries, 
adopted that arrangement of the heavenly bodies, which 
forms the basis of the Ptolemean system. From them it 
was received by the Christians, and adjusted with a few 
modifications, to their religious opinions. According to 
Bede, the terrestial atmosphere is immediately surround- 
ed by the orbits of the seven planets, and the firmament 
of the fixed stars : on the firmament repose the waters 
mentioned in the Mosaic cosmogony (33) : and these are 

(31) Bed. de nat. rer. c. 14. 

(32) According to the mysteries of his numerical system, it was 
necessary that the fiery globe of unity should be placed in the 
midst of the elements. See Arist. torn. i. p. 363. Laert. I. viii. 

(33) See Genesis (c. i. v. 67) " How," exclaims Bridferth of 
Ramsey, the commentator of Bede's philosophical works, " can 
" the waters rest on the firmament without falling to the earth ? 
" I know not," he replies, " but the authority of the scriptures 
' must silence the objections of reason" (Glos. in c. viii. p. 9). 
The ancient author of the elements of philosophy, published un- 
der the name of Bede, is justly dissatisfied with .this answer, and 
explains the passage in Genesis, of the waters, which are separated 
by evaporation from the ocean, and suspended in the atmosphere 
(de elem. 1. ii. p, 320.) 


again encircled by the highest and etherial heaven, des- 
tined for the residence of the angelic spirits. From the 
diurnal motion of the stars, which describe concentric 
circles of a smaller diameter as they approach towards 
the north, he infers, that this immense system daily re- 
volves with amazing rapidity round the earth, on an ima- 
ginary axis, of which the two extremities are called the 
northern and southern poles (34). 

In the present advanced state of astronomical know- 
ledge, we are tempted to smile at the idea of the Grecian 
philosopher, who conceived the stars to be so many con- 
cave mirrors, fixed in the firmament to collect the igne- 
ous particles which are scattered through the heavens, 
and to reflect them to the earth (35). From the asser- 
tion of Bede, that they borrow their brilliancy from the 
sun, we might naturally infer that he had adopted the 
opinion of Epicurus : but his commentator, the monk of 
Ramsey, informs us, that he considered them as bodies 
of fire, which emitted a light too feeble to affect the or- 
gans of vision, except when it was strengthened by the 
denser rays of the sun. That they were not extinguish- 
ed in the morning, and rekindled each evening, as had 
been taught by Xenophanes, was proved by their appear- 
ance during the obscurity of a solar eclipe : and of their 
influence on the atmosphere no one could remain igno- 
rant, who had remarked the storms that annually attend 
the heliac rising of Arcturus and Orion, and had felt the 
heat with which the dog-star scorches the earth (36). 

The twofold and opposite motions, which seem to ani- 

(34) Bed. de nat. rer. c. v viii. 

(35) This was one of the opinions of Epicurus. Laert. 1. x. 91. 

(36) Bed. de. nat. rer. c. xi. 


mate the planets, could not escape the knowledge of an 
attentive observer : but satisfactorily to account for 
them, as long as the earth was supposed immoveable, 
baffled all the efforts of human ingenuity. The Saxons 
justly considered the natural direction of their orbits to 
lie from west to east ; but conceived that their progress 
was constantly opposed by the more powerful rotation of 
the fixed stars, which compelled them daily to revolve 
round the earth, in a contrary direction. In their ex- 
planation of the other phenomena, they were equally un- 
fortunate. The ingenious invention of epicycles was un- 
known, of rejected by them ; and they ascribed most of 
the inequalities observed in the planetary motions to the 
more or less oblique action of the solar rays, by which 
they were sometimes accelerated, sometimes retarded, 
and sometimes entirely suspended. Yet they were ac- 
quainted with the important distinction between real and 
apparent motion. Though they conceived the planetary 
orbits to be circular, they had learnt from Pliny that each 
possessed a different centre ; and thence inferred, that 
in the perigeum their velocity must be apparently en- 
creased, in the apogeum apparently diminished (37). 

Among the planets, the first place was justly given to 
the sun, the great source of light and heat. They de- 
scribed this luminary as a globular mass of fiery particles, 
preserved in a state of ignition by perpetual rotation. 
Had it been fixed, says Bede, like the stars in the fir- 
mament, the equatorial portion of the earth would have 
been reduced to ashes, by the intensity of its rays. But 
the beneficence of the Creator wisely ordained, that it 
should daily and annually travel round the earth j and 

(37) Ibid. c. xii. xiv/ 


thus produce the succession of the night and day, the 
vicissitudes of the seasons, and the divisions of time. 
Its daily revolution is completed between midnight and 
midnight : and is usually divided into twenty four hours, 
each of which admits of four different sub-divisions, into' 
four points, (five in lunar computations) ten minutes, 
fifteen parts or degrees, and forty moments. Its annual 
revolution through the twelve signs of the zodiac, which 
it divides into two equal parts, forms the solar year j 
and consists of three hundred and sixty five days (38). 
As it recedes towards the brumal solstice, its rays, in the 
morning and evening, are intercepted by the convexity 
of the equator, and their absence prolongs the duration 
of darkness, and favours the cold of winter : but in pro- 
portion as it returns towards the tropic of Capricorn, the 
days gradually lengthen, and nature seems reanimated 
by the constant accumulation of heat (39). But here a 
rational doubt will occur. If the rays, which daily 
warm and illuminate the earth, be emitted from the sun, 
is there no reason to fear, that after a certain period, 
the powers of that luminary may be totally exhausted ? 
Bede readily answered, that its losses were quickly re- 

(38) Bed. op. torn. ii. p. 26, 53, 208. 

(39) Ibid. p. 105, 121, 125. As Bede has been censured by 
Feller (Diet. hist. art. Virgile) for asserting the earth to be flat, I 
may be allowed to transcribe a passage, which evidently shews 
this learned monk to have been well acquainted with the general 
figure of our globe. " Orbem terras dicimus, non quod absolute 
" orbis sit forma in tanta montium camporumque disparilitate, sed 
" cujus amplexus, si cuncta linearum comprehendantwr ambitu, 
" figuram absoluti orbis efficiat." De nat. rer. c. 44. p. 43. De 
temp. rat. p. 125. The work, to which Feller refers, is not among 
the writings of Bede. 


paired from the numerous exhalations of the ocean, situ- 
ated under the torrid zone (40). To feed the sun with 
water, is an idea which will probably appear ludicrous 
to the reader : but it originated from the tenets of 
Thales, the parent of the Grecian philosophy , and had 
been consecrated by the general adoption of his succes- 
sors (4-1). 

The regular increase and decrease of the moon have 
always called the attention of the learned to the pheno- 
mena of that planet. Respecting its magnitude, the 
Saxons followed two opposite opinions. Some, on the 
authority of Pliny, maintained that it was larger, others, 
with greater truth conceived that it was smaller, than 
the earth (42). Its phases they justly ascribed to the 
ever varying position of the illuminated disk (43); nor 
were they ignorant that its orbit was subject to several 
anomalies, which defied the precision of the most exact 
calculator (44). Bede explains with sufficient accuracy 
the causes of the solar and lunar eclipses, and observes, 
that their recurrence at each conjunction and opposition, 
is prevented by the obliquity of the moon's orbit (45). 

That curiosity, which prompts us to search into the 
secrets of futurity, and the ancient notion that the hea- 
venly bodies were animated by portions of the divine 
spirit, gave birth to the pretended science of judicial 

(40) Bed. de nat. rer. c. 19, p. 26. 

(41) Arist. met. 1. i. c. 3. Cic. de nat. Deor. 1. i. c. 10. 

(42) Bed. de rat. tern. p. ill. Bridferth's comments, p. 112? 


(43) De nat. rer. c. 20, p. 26. De rat. temp. c. 23, p. 107. 

(44) Ibid.C. 39, p. 143. 

(45) De nat. rer. c. 22, 23. p, 28, 29. De tern. rat. c. 5. p. 62. 


astrology. The influence of the sun and moon, on the 
vegetable productions of the earth, was universally ac- 
knowledged : and the accidental coincidence of certain 
extraordinary events with particular configurations of the 
planets, encouraged the belief, that they were conscious 
of future events, and regulated the destinies of mankind. 
By the pagan philosophers the astrological art was eager- 
ly studied and practised : and from them it was trans- 
mitted to the professors of Christianity. The Saxon 
Aldhelm inform us, that he learnt the difficult compu- 
tation of horoscopes in the school of the Abbot Adrian ; 
and Bede, though he pronounces the study to be false 
and pernicious, sufficiently discovers his acquaintance 
with it in different parts of his works (46 ). But calcu- 
lations of a more useful description generally occupied 
the leisure of literary men. From the letters of Alcuin 
it appears, that he spent a considerable portion of his 
time in calculating the orbits of the planets, and predict- 
ing the phenomena of the heavenly bodies : and Bede in 
his treatise de ratione temporum, accurately explains 
the rules for computing the age of the moon, its longi- 
tude, the hours at which it rises and sets, and the dura- 
tion of its daily appearance above the horizon. To satis- 
fy the curiosity of those who were ignorant of the 
science of numbers, this learned monk composed tables, 
which supplied the place of modern ephemerides ; and 
his example was followed by other philosophers, who 

(46) Malm, de pont. 1. v. p. 3S9. It is possible, that by horo- 
scope in this passage, St Aldhelm may mean a species of dial 
formerly known by that name. (See Bede de temp. p. 121). But 
there are many other passages, which prove the Anglo-Saxons to 
have been acquainted with the mysteries of astrology. Ibid. p. 5S. 


were accustomed to inspect and revise their respe&ive 
calculations. At the same time they were careful to ob- 
serve the heavens, and faithfully recorded every new 
and unexpected appearance (47). 

From their insular situation, the Saxons could not be 
ignorant of the interesting phenomena of the tides : and 
Bede seems to have suspected the existence of that cause, 
the discovery of which has contributed to immortalize 
the name of Newton. The ebb and flow, he observes, 
so accurately correspond with the motions of the moon, 
that he is tempted to believe the waters are attracted to- 
wards that planet by some invisible influence, and after a 
certain time, are permitted to revert to their former si- 
tuation (48). He does not, however, venture to specu- 
late on the nature of this attraction, but confines himself 
to the following enumeration of the particulars, in which 
the motions of the moon and of the ocean appear to coin- 
cide. As the moon daily recedes twelve degrees from 
the sun, so on an average the tides are daily retarded 
four points (eight and forty minutes) in their approach 
to the shore. Some days before the conjunction and op- 
position, they begin to increase : and from the fifth to the 
twelfth, from the twentieth to the twenty seventh day, 
they continually diminish. But the gradations of increase 
and decrease are not perfectly regular, and these anoma- 

(47) See Bede de ratione temporum (c, 15, 23, p. 95 107), 
and the letters of Alcuin (Ant. lect. Can. torn. ii. p. 394, et seq.). 
From them we learn that Mars disappeared from July 709 to 
June 710. (Ibid. p. 401, and note}. 

(48) Tanquam lunas quibusdam aspirationibus invitus protra- 
hatur, et iterum ejusdem vi cessante in propriam mensuram re- 
fundatur. Bed. de rat. tern. c. 27, p. 116. Sim. 
Keg. p. 112. 


lies may be ascribed, perhaps to the impulse or resistance 
of the winds, more probably to the agency of some un- 
known power. The Anglo-Saxon, however, was able to 
correct an erroneous opinion of former philosophers. It 
had been pretended, that in every part of the ocean the- 
waters began to rise at the same moment : but daily ob- 
servation authorized him to assert, that on the eastern 
coast of Britain, the tide was propagated from the north 
to the south, and that it reached the mouth of the river 
Tyne, before it washed the coast of the Deiri (49). 

In meteorological science, the fame of Aristotle was 
long unrivalled , and his four books on meteors have de- 
served the applause of modern philosophers. To them 
and the writings of Pliny, the Saxons were indebted for 
the knowledge, which they possessed on this subject. 
Yet it hardly required the assistance of a master to dis- 
cover, that the winds are currents of air ; that the vapours 
rise from the earth, coalesce into clouds, and fall in rain ; 
and that in the colder regions of the atmosphere, they 
sometimes assume the soft form of snow, and at others 
are, during their descent, congealed into hail (50) : but 
in explaining the more awful phenomena of lightning 
and thunder, the genius of Aristotle had failed ; and his 
Saxon disciples, compelled to wander from one,hypothesis 
to another, attributed their production, either to the sud- 
den generation of wind, which burst into fragments the 
collection of vapours that inclosed it ; or to the violent 
shock of clouds meeting in opposite directions ; or to the 
conflict: of the aqueous and igneous particles, which in 

(49) Bed. ibid. p. 117. 

(50) De nat. rer. c. 26, p. 31, c. 32 35, p. 36. 

y 2 


immense quantities were supposed to float in the atmos- 
phere (51). The brilliant meteor of the rainbow also en- 
gaged their attention. Aristotle had considered the 
drops of rain as so many convex mirrors, which remit 
the colours, but are too minute to reflect the image of 
the sun : and his explication was improved by Possidoni- 
us, who, to account for its arched appearance, contended 
that it could be produced only in the bosom of a concave 
cloud. Bede was satisfied with this hypothesis ; and by 
his approbation, recommended it to his countrymen, with 
this unimportant alteration, that he ventured to add the 
purple to the red, the green, and the blue, the three co- 
lours observed by the Greek philosophers (52). 

From this view of the state of science among the Ang- 
lo Saxons, the reader will have observed, that their know- 
ledge was blended with numerous errors : but his can- 
dour will attribute the cause, not to their indolence, but 
to the ignorance of the times. From Thales to Bede, 
during the lapse of more than twelve centuries, philoso- 
phy had received very few improvements. It was re- 
served for the learned of more modern times, to interro- 
gate nature by experiment. Former students were sa- 
tisfied, when they had observed the more obvious phe- 
nomena, and hazarded a few conjectures respecting their 
probable causes. Hence their ingenuity was expended 
in framing fanciful explications ; and each hypothesis, 
sanctioned by the authority of an illustrious name, was 
received with the veneration due to truth. If the Saxons 
exercised their own judgment, it was only in adopting 
the most probable among the contradictory opinions of 

(51) Ibid. C. 28, 29, p. 33, 34. 

(52) Ibid. c. 31, p. 35. 


their predecessors. To invent or improve, was not their 
object. They felt, that they were scarcely emerged 
from the ignorance of barbarism, and possessed not the 
presumption to think, that they could discover truths, 
which had escaped the penetration of their masters. 
To learn whatever had been formerly known, was their 
great ambition; and this they nearly accomplished. 
Whoever reads the treatise of Bede de ratione tempo- 
rum, in which he explains the nature of the Egyptian, 
Grecian, Roman, and Saxon years, must view with asto- 
nishment the deep and extensive erudition of a monk, 
who never passed the limits of his native province, but 
spent the whole of his days among the half-civilized in- 
habitants of Northumbria (53). 

(53) Bed. op. torn. 2, p. 49. Dr Henry asserts (vol. iii. p. 43), 
that the Saxons entirely neglected the study of natural philosophy 
and morals, and insinuates (p. 86) that they gave very little atten- 
tion to physic, geography, and law. 1. To their application to 
natural philosophy, the preceding pages have borne sufficient tes- 
timony ; and the study of morals was united with that of divinity. 
2. Nor were they entirely ignorant of physic. Archbishop Theo- 
dore taught the art of medicine at Canterbury (Bed. hist. 1. v. c. 
iii.) : Bede was acquainted with the works of Hippocrates, whom 
he calls oiwieilpos, and from whose writings he translates a long 
passage (De rat. tern. c. 28, p. 119): Kyneard, bishop of Win- 
chester, possessed some treatises on physic, and desired his friend 
the archbishop of Mentz to procure him others (Ep. St Bonif. 74, 
p. 104); and several Anglo-Saxon MSS. on the same subject are 
still preserved. (They are described by Wanley, p. 72, 75, 176, 
180). 3. Bede's knowledge of geography cannot be doubted by 
him, who has read his forty-seventh chapter de natura rerum, and 
thirty-first de temporum ratione, his libellus de locis sanctis, his 
treatise de nominibus locorum (Bed. oper. torn. v. col. 920), and 
his account of the travels of Arcuulphus (hist. 1. v. c. 16). Aid- 

Y 3 

But the men of letters among the Anglo-Saxons did 
not confine their efforts to the mere study of ancient 
science. The desire of diffusing knowledge, or of 
acquiring reputation, induced several to assume the 
office of teachers, and to transmit with their works their 
names to posterity. Catalogues of the Saxon writers 
have been collected by the industry of Leland, Bale, 
and Pits : but of many we know little more than their 
names , and the works ascribed to the majority are 

frid of Northumbria bought a treatise of cosmography from the 
monks of Weremouth ; and Crena speaks of several books on the 
same subject, in his letter to Archbishop Lullus(St Bonif. ep. 99, 
p. 130). 4. That they also studied the Roman law is evident 
from p. 227, of the first volume of this work. Bede mentions 
Justinian's code ; and the name of pandects, which he gives to the 
scriptures (Bed. p. 299), will perhaps justify a suspicion, that he 
was acquainted with the pandects of that emperor. Of the 
sciences studied in the school at York, Alcuin has left us the fol- 
lowing account : 

His dans Grammaticse rationis gnavitcr artes, 
1435 Illis Rhetoricae infundens refluamina linguae, 

Istos juridica curavit cote poliri; 

Illos Aonio docuit concinnere cantu, 

Castalida instituens alios reasonare cicuta, 

Et juga Parnassi lyricis percurrere plantis. 
1440 Ast alios fecit prsefatus nosse magister 

Harmoniam cceli, solis lunaeque labores ; 

Quinque poli zonas, errantia sidera septem, 

Astrorum leges, ortus simul atque recessus ; 

Aerios motus pelagi, terrseque tremorem, 
1445 Naturas hominum, pecudum, volucrumque ferarumy 

Diversas numeri Fpecics, variasque figuras, 

Paschalique dedit sollemnia certa recursu, 

Maxime scripture pandens mysteria sacroe. 

Ak. De sane. Ebor.p. 728, 


either lost or spurious. The three whose superior fame 
recommends them to the notice of the historian, are St 
Aldhelm, Bede, and Alcuin. 

I. Of the Saxon monks, the first who distinguished 
himself by his writings was St Aldhelm, abbot of Malms- 
bury, and afterwards bishop of Sherburne. In his 
youth he had attended the lessons of Maidulf, a Scottish 
monk : but the superior reputation of the school at Can- 
terbury., drew him to that capital, where he studied with 
unwearied application at the feet of the abbot Adrian. 
He soon felt, or thought he felt, the inspiration of the 
muses : his Saxon compositions obtained the applause of 
his countrymen : ancl, at the distance of two centuries, 
Alfred the great pronounced him the prince of the 
English poets (54). Successful in this attempt, he 
aspired to higher excellence, and was able to boast, that 
he had been the first of his countrymen, who had en- 
rolled himself among the votaries of the Roman muse 
(55). His reputation rapidly increased ; it was soon 
diffused over the neighbouring nations ; and even fo- 
reigners were eager to submit their writings to the supe- 
rior judgment of Aldhelm (56). From this circum- 
stance we might be inclined to form an exalted notion 
of his literary merit : but the principal of his works, 
which are still preserved, shew that he owed his fame, 

(54) Malm. 1. v. de pont. p. 342. 

(55) Mihi conscius sum illud me Virgilianum posse jactare : 
Primus ego in patriam mecum modo vita supersit, 
Aldhelmus rediens deducam vertice musas. Ibid. 

(56) Ibid. Among others were several of the Scottish scholars, 
who sent their writings to him, ut perfecti ingenii lima scabredo 
eraderetur Scotica. Ibid. His works were much esteemed in 
Spain. Annal. Bened. torn. ii. p. 25. 

y 4 


rather to the ignorance than to the taste of his admirers. 
With an exception in favour of some passages in his 
poems, they are marked by a pompous obscurity of lan- 
guage, an affectation of Grecian phraseology, and an 
unmeaning length of period, which perplexes and dis- 
gusts. As a writer his merit is not great : but if we 
consider the barbarism of the preceding generation, and 
the difficulties with which he was surrounded, we can- 
not refuse him the praise of genius, resolution, and in- 
dustry (57). 

II. While the people of Wessex gloried in the fame 
of Aldhelm, another and greater scholar was gradually 
rising into notice from an obscure corner of Northum- 
bria. Bede, whom posterity has honoured with the 
epithet of the venerable, was born in a village between 
the mouths of the Wear and the Tyne (58). At the 
age of seven he was instrusted to the care of the monks 
lately established by St Bennet Biscop, at Weremouth 
and Jarrow : and the gratitude of the disciple has im- 
mortalized the fame of the monastery and its founder. 
Endowed with natural talents, and ambitious of excel- 
lence, he applied without intermission to the study of 
the sciences : and towards the close of his life he informs 
us, that he had devoted two and fifty years to what he 
considered as the most delightful of all pursuits, his own 

(57) His writings were devoted to the cultivation of literature, 
and the advancement of virtue. They are entitled De Metro, De 
Schematibus, De Laude Virginum, De JEnigmatibus, &c. He 
died in 719. 

(58) He was born, according to his own account, in the territo- 
ry (the sundorland. JElfred's version, p. 647) of the united mo- 
nastery of Weremouth and Jarrow. He generally resided at the 
latter place. Ann. 672. 


improvement, and the instruction of his pupils (59). 
With no other help than what the library of the mo- 
nastery afforded, and amid the numerous and fatiguing 
duties of the monastic profession (60), his ardent and 
comprehensive mind embraced every science, which was 
then studied : and raised him to a high pre eminence 
above all his contemporaries. Had he yielded to the 
suggestions of his own modesty, his name had probably 
been lost in oblivion : but the commands of his superi- 
ors, and of Acca, bishop of Hexham, urged him to 
write ; and he sought an apology for his presumption in 
the hope, that by his works, he might abridge and faci- 
litate to his countrymen the acquisition of knowledge 
(61). In his own catalogue of books which he had 
composed, and which for the most part are still extant, 
we find elementary introductions to the different 
sciences, treatises on physics, astronomy, and geogra- 
phy ; sermons, biographical notices of the abbots of his 
own monastery, and of other eminent men, and com- 
mentaries on most of the books of scripture. But his 
ecclesiastical history of the Anglo-Saxons, is the most 
celebrated of his works. The idea of it was suggested 
by Albin, abbot of St Augustine's at Canterbury, and a 
disciple of Theodore and Adrian. All the English pre- 
lates approved the design, and communicated to the 
historian, whatever information they could acquire : and 
with the same view Gregory the third permitted the 

(59) Semper aut discere aut docere aut scribere dulce habut. 
Bed. hist. 1. v. c. 24. 

(60) According to his own expression, the innumera monastics 
servitutis retinacula. Bed. ep. ad Accam. 

(61) Ibid. 


records of the apostolic see to be searched by Nothelm, 
a presbyter of the church of London (62). The work 
was completed two years before the death of its author. 
It was received with universal applause : by succeeding 
generations it was piously preserved as a memorial of 
the virtue of their ancestors ; and by Alfred the great 
was translated into Saxon for the instruction of his more 
illiterate countrymen (63). That it is a faithful record 
of the times, has never been doubted : and if to some 
critics the credulity of the writer with respect to miracles 
appear a blemish, yet his candour, sincerity and piety 
must please and edify every reader. The stile is easy 
and perspicuous : and though far inferior to that of the 
great masters of antiquity, may justly claim higher praise 
than any other specimen of the age. Bede died as he 
had lived, in the prosecution of his studies, and the 
practice of devotion. During his last illness he had un- 
dertaken an Anglo-Saxon translation of the gospel of St 
John, and had reached the sixth chapter on the evening 
of his death. * c Dear master," said one of his disciples, 
" one sentence is not yet written." " Then write it 
quickly" replied Bede. The young man, soon after, 
said, it was finished. " Truly," exclaimed the dying 
monk, " it is finished ! Hold my head in thy hands, for 
" it is a pleasure to me to sit opposite the holy place, in 
" which I have been accustomed to pray. There let me 

(62) Hist, praef. p. 37, 38. 

(63) Some doubt was formerly entertained respecting the author 
of this version : but the testimony of JElfric has restored it to the 
king. Irrojua Xnglojium ]>a J>e ./Elj?net> cynmg op last>en on 6njlirc 
apent). Elstob's Sax. horn. p. 2. 


" invoke my father." He was placed on the pavement of 
his cell, repeated the Gloria Patri, and expired (64). 

The reputation of Bede survived and grew after his 
death. The Saxons were proud, that their nation had 
produced so eminent a writer : the monks of Were- 
mouth and Jarrow were harrassed with solicitations for 
copies of his works (65) ; and, at the distance of a hun- 
dred years, the prelates of the Franks, in the council of 
Aix la Chapelle, numbered him among the fathers of 
the church, and stiled him the venerable and admirable 
doctor (66). If the improvements of modern times have 
diminished the value of his writings, this circumstance 
ought no more to detract from his merit, than it does 
from that of the philosophers of Greece and Rome. 
Bede was a great man man for the age in which he 
lived : he would have been a great man had he lived in 
any other age. 

III. The loss, which Anglo-Saxon literature had 
suffered by the death of Bede, was quickly repaired by 
the abilities of Alcuin. Alcuin was descended from an 
illustrious family, and born within the walls, or in the 
vicinity of York (67). The great school in that city 

(64) Ep. Cuth. apud Sim. Dun. p. 78. An. 735. 

(65) Ep. Bonif. p. 12, 13, 120, 124, 130, 152, 231. " Et rec- 
" turn quidem mihi videtur," says the abbot Cuthbert, " ut tota 
" gens Anglorum, in omnibus provinciis ubicumque reperti sunt, 
" gratias Deo referant, quia tarn mirabilem virum illis in sua na- 
" tione donavit." Ibid. p. 124. 

(C6) Quid venerabilis, et modernis temporibus doctor admira- 
bilis, Beda presbyter sentiat, videamus. Con. Aquisgran. ii. prsef. 
1. iii. 

(67) As a descendant of the same family as St Willibrord, he 


had lately attained a high degree of reputation by the 
exertions of Archbishop Egbert, a prelate, who, under 
the tuition of Bede, had imbibed a passion for learning, 
and who, notwithstanding his royal birth and elevated 
station, was proud to impart the rudiments of knowledge 
to the noble youths, that were educated in the episcopal 
monastery (68). To his care Alcuin was intrusted at 
an early age; and the talents, virtue, and docility of 
the pupil, soon attracted the notice, and secured the 
affection of the master. At his death Egbert bequeath- 
ed to him his library, and selected him to succeed to the 

inherited the monastery of St Mary, built by the father of that mis- 
sionary, near the mouth of the Humber. Annal. Bened. torn. ii. 
p. 322. In the poem on the saints. of York, the author describes 
himself as a native of that city (v. 16, 1653.) There is sufficient 
internal evidence, that this poem should be assigned to the pen of 
Alcuin. The inferiority of the poetry may be excused by the 
youth of the poet. 

(68) Egbert, the brother of the king of Northumbria, had been 
educated under venerable Bede. Penetrated with respect for the 
memory of his master, he closely imitated his manner of teaching. 
He rose at day-break, and, when he was not prevented by more 
important occupations, sitting on his couch, taught his pupils suc- 
cessively till noon. He then retired to his chapel, and celebrated 
mass. (Sanctificabat eos, offerens corpus Christi et sanguinem 
pro omnibus. Vit. Ale. p. 149.) At the time of dinner, he repair- 
ed to the common hall, where he eat sparingly, though he was 
careful that the meat should be of the best kind. During dinner a 
book of instruction was always read. Till the evening he amused 
himself with hearing his scholars discuss literary subjects. Then 
he repeated with them the service of complin, called them to him, 
and, as they successively knelt before him, gave them his bene- 
diction. They afterwards retired to rest. These particulars Al- 
cuin used to relate to his friends. Vit. Ale. in act. SS. Bened. saec, 
iv. torn. i. p. 149. 


important office of teacher. The abilities of the new- 
professor, justified the partiality or the judgment of his 
patron ; his reputation added to the ancient celebrity of 
the school ; and students from Gaul and Germany, 
crowded to the lectures of so renowned a master (69). 

Egbert was succeeded by his kinsman ./Elbert, who 
had formerly taught in the same seminary. Like his 
predecessor, he was eager to honour the merit of Alcuin. 
He sent him on an important mission to the court of 
France, confided to his care and that of Eanbald, the 
erection of the new church ; and by his will, left to him 
" the most valuable of his treasures," the numerous 
volumes, which he had collected in different journies to 
Gaul and Italy (70). 

To procure the pallium for Eanbald, the next arch- 
bishop, Alcuin visited Rome ; and in his return, at 
Pavia, was introduced to Charlemagne. That prince 
was then in the zenith of his power. But to the glory 
of a conqueror, he was desirous to add the fame of 
a patron of learning ; the revival of literature in his ex- 

(69) Eo tempore in Eboraica civitate famosus merito scholam 
magister Alcuinus tenebat, undecunque ad se confluentibus de 
magna sua scientia communicans. Vit. St Liudgeri in act. Bened. 
ssec. iv. torn. i. p. 37. 

(70) Ale. de pont. ebor. eccl. v. 1525. Alcuin thus laments the 
death of his patron : 

" O pater, O pastor, vitae spes maxima nostras, 
" Te sine nos ferimur turbata per aequora mundi : 
'* Te duce deserti variis involvimur undis, 
" Incerti qualem mereamur tangere portum. 
" Sidera dum lucent, trudit dum nubila ventus, 
*' Semper honos, nomenque tuum, laudesque manebunt." 

Ibid. -v. 1596. 


tensive dominions, had long engaged his attention, and 
he seized the favourable moment to solicit the assistance 
of the Anglo-Saxon in so laudable a project. The am- 
bition of Alcuin was awakened ; and he promised to re- 
turn, if the king of Northumbria, and the archbishop of 
York, should give their consent. Their consent was 
given, and the promise was fulfilled (71). Charles imme- 
diately enrolled himself in the number of his disciples ; 
every nobleman and clergyman, who courted the favour 
of the prince, followed his example ; and distinction in 
the school of Alcuin became the surest path to civil and 
ecclesiastical honours. From the palace the spirit of im- 
provement diffused itself over the more distant pro- 
vinces : laws were published for the encouragement of 
learning ; schools were opened in the principal of the 
clerical and monastic establishments; and the efforts of 
the Anglo-Saxon, seconded by the influence of his pa- 
tron, restored the empire of learning in Gaul and Ger- 
many (72). 

(71) Vit. Ale. in act. Bened. sasc. iv. torn. i. p. 153. Alcuin al. 
hides to the same event in one of his letters to Charles. " Ex di- 
" versis mundi partibus amatores illius vestrae bonae voluntatis 
" convocare studuistis. Inter quos me etiam infimum ejusdem 
" sanctae sapientise vernaculum de ultimis Britanniae finibus ad- 
" sciscere curastis." Ale. ep. 23. 

(72) A German poet has thus expressed his gratitude to Alcuin 
and his countrymen : 

" Haec tamen arctois laus est aeterna Britannis. 
" Illabonas artes et Graiae munera linguae 
" Stellarumque vias, et magni sidera coeli 
" Observans, iterum turbatis intulit oris. 
" Quid non Alcuino facunda Lutetia debes ? 

Cam. torn. i./. 166; 


Charles was not ungrateful to his teacher. He con- 
stantly retained him near his person, honoured him with 
peculiar distinctions, and gave him the revenues of the 
abbeys of Ferrieres and St Martin's. But neither the 
favour nor the presents of the French monarch could 
wean the affection of Alcuin from Britain. He still con- 
sidered himself as an honourable exile ; and frequently, 
but ineffectually, solicited the permission to revisit his 
native country. The reluctance of Charles was not to be 
softened by entreaties : at last it was subdued by political 

The French monarch had commissioned Gerwold, the 
abbot of Fontanelles, and collector of the customs (73), 
to negociate a marriage between his son Charles and a 
daughter of Offa, king of Mercia. The pride of the 
Mercian might have been flattered by the alliance of so 
potent a sovereign : but he determined to treat on a foot- 
ing of equality, and in return demanded, as the price of 
his consent, the hand of a French princess for his son 
Egferth. Charles was irritated at the manner in which 
his proposal had been received ; and the merchants of 
each prince were respectively forbidden to trade with 
those of the other. It is probable, that the interests of 
Gerwold suffered from this interruption of commerce. 
He artfully contrived to mollify the resentment of his 
sovereign ; and Alcuin was selected to be the bearer of 

(73) Fontanelles was an abbey in the diocese of Rouen, after- 
wards called St Wandrille's. The principal port, in which Ger- 
wold collected the customs, was Cwentawic, now Estaples. It 
carried on a great trade with England (Chron. Fontanel. c. 15). 
Near the town stood the monastery of St Josse, which Charles af- 
terwards gave to Alcuin, for the convenience of the Anglo-Saxon 


friendly proposals to Offa (74). Though we have no 
positive proof, it can hardly be doubted, that he actually 
executed this commission. Certain it is, that he visited 
England at this period ; and that peace and amity were 
restored between the two nations (75). 

Alcuin was in no haste to leave his countrymen : and 
though he was repeatedly importuned by the solicitations 
of Charles, three years elapsed, before he returned to 
France. He was received with honour by his patron, re- 
sumed his former occupations, and was preferred to the 
abbeys of St Josse, at Cwentawic ; and St Martin, at 
Tours. For several years he remained at the court, ca- 
ressed and respected by the prince and his favourites : 
but as he advanced in age, he grew weary of the honours 
he enjoyed, and earnestly sighed after the tranquillity, 
which he had tasted in his former retirement at York. 
Had he been able to obtain the consent of Charles, it was 
his intention to end his days among his brethren, the 
clergy of that city (76) : and when this was refused, he 

(74) I have been rather circumstantial in relating this affair, as 
the cause of the dissention between Charlemagne and Offa has 
eluded the diligence of our national historians, from Malmsbury 
to Mr Turner. It is related by the chronicler of Fontanelles, in 
his account of the abbot Gerwold. Chron. Fontanel. c. 15. An- 
nal. Bened. torn. ii. p. 287. Alcuin mentions the report that he 
was to be sent to On% in his letter to Colcus apud Malm, de reg. 
l.i. c. 4, f. 17. 

(75) Charlemagne's letters to Offa, after their reconciliation, 
may be seen in Malmsbury, ibid. 

(76) Malm, de reg. 1. i. c. 3. In a letter to the clergy of York, 
Alcuin thus expresses himself. " Ego vester ero sive in vita, sive 
in morte. Et forte miserebitur mei Deus, ut cujus infantiam 
" aluistis, ejus senectutem sepeliatis. Et si alius corpori depute 


requested permission to retire to the monastery, which 
his countryman St Boniface had founded at Fnlda (77). 
But Fulda was at too great a distance from the royal re- 
sidence ; and his abbey of St Martin's was at last selected 
for the place of his retreat. There he resigned his be- 
nefices to his favourite disciples ; and spent in exercises 
of devotion, and his usual occupation of teaching, the re- 
maining years of his life. His diet was sparing, his 
prayer frequent, and he assisted daily in quality of dea- 
con at a mass, which was celebrated in his private chapel, 
by one of his disciples. His numerous charities excited 
the applause and gratitude of the inhabitants of Tours, 
and an hospital which he founded for the reception of 
the poor, and of travellers, was long preserved under the 
tuition of his successors, the abbots of St Martin's. To 
prepare himself for death became the great object of his 
thoughts ; and that he might frequently reflect on that 
hour, he composed his own epitaph, selected a place for 
his grave without the church, and often visited it, ac- 
companied by his pupils (78). He did not, however, 
neglect his favourite occupation ; and his school at Tours 
was equal in reputation to that which he had established 
in the court. Foreigners, and particularly his country- 

" bitur locus, tamen animae, qualemcumque habitaturse, erit per 
" vestras sanctas, Deo donante, intercession es requies." Ep. 98. 

(77) His biographer informs us, that if this had been granted, 
he meant to have become a monk. Vit. Ale. p. 1 54. After his 
departure from the court, the care of the palatine school was in- 
trusted to Clemens, a native of Ireland. Mabil. praef. sxc. iv, 
Bened. 181. 

(78) Ibid. p. 156, 161. His epitaph may be seen, note (U). 


men (79), crowded to his retreat, to enjoy the benefit of 
his conversation : and the emperor and his family fre- 
quently honoured him with their visits (80). Thus he 
lived respected by Charlemagne, and his court : and when 
he died, was lamented, as the pride of his age, and the 
benefactor of the empire (81). 

(79) The chronicle of Tours, and most writers assert, that Al- 
.euin introduced canons into St Martin's. Mabillon thinks he can 
prove, that the monks continued there till his death. However 
that may be, the clergy of Tours were jealous of the great number 
of Anglo-Saxons, who visited Alcuin. His biographer has pre- 
served the following anecdote on this subject. As Aigulf, an 
English priest, entered the monastery, four of the French clergy 
were standing by the gate, and one of them exclaimed in his own 
language^ supposing it unknown to the stranger, " Good God! 
" When will this house be delivered from the crowds of Britons, 
(C who swarm to that old fellow, like so many bees." Aigulf held 
down his head, and entered : but Alcuin immediately sent for 
them, told them what -he had .heard, and .requested them to sit 
down, and drink the health of his countryman in a glass of his 
best wine. Vit. Ale. p. 157. 

(80) When Charlemagne could not visit his old master, he was 
careful to write to him. The following verses do honour, if not 
to his abilities as a poet, at least to his affection as a friend : 

" Mens mea mellifluo, fateor, congaudet amore, 
t( Doctor amate, tui : volui quapropter in odis, 
" O venerande, tuam musis solare .senectam ; 
" Jam meliora,tenes sancta? vestigia vitae, 
" Donee astherii venias ad culmina regrii, 
" Congaudens sanctis, Christo sodatus in aevum. 
" Meque tuis precibus tecum rape, quaeso, magister, 
*' Ad pia, quas tendis, miserantis culmina regis." 

Ale. epigram. 185. 

(81) Alcuin died about the year 810. Act. SS. Bened. saec.. iv. 
j> 182. He never received any higher order than that of deacon,, 


The pen of Alcuin was seldom idle. For the use of 
his pupils he wrote, in the form of dialogues, elementary 
treatises on most of the sciences ; compiled, at the solici- 
tation of his friends, the lives of several eminent men ; 
and occasionally proved his devotion to the muses, by the 
composition of smaller poems. His letters are numerous, 
and will be read with interest from the fidelity with which 
they describe the views, manners, and employments, of 
the most distinguished characters of the age. To him 
the Caroline books, and the canons of the council of 
Frankfort, have been generally ascribed : and his writings 
against Felix and Elipandus exposed the errors, and con- 
founded the audacity of those innovators. Like Bede, 
he wrote comments from the works of the fathers, on se- 
veral books of scripture ; and his last labours were em- 
ployed on a subject of the highest importance to religion* 
a revision of the text of the Latin vulgate. As a scholar, 
Alcuin claims a high superiority over all his contempo- 
raries : but his principal merit must be derived from the 
ardour with which he propagated the love of knowledge, 
from the Gallic Alps, to the banks of the Loire, the 
Rhine, and the Elbe. 

Both he himself, and the Anglo-Saxons, who followed him into 
Gaul, were canons. Reyner, indeed, is positive, and Mabillon 
would fain persuade himself, that Alcuin was a monk (Act. Be- 
ned. p. 163). But their arguments are weak, and positively con- 
tradicted by the testimony of the monk, who wrote his life from 
the relation of his favourite' disciple Sigulf. " Sequantur vestigia, 
" Benedict! scilicet monachis, Alchuini per omnia canonicis, imita- 
" tione digna." P. 146. " O vere monachum, monachi sine voto.^" 
P. 150. " Vita denique ejus non monastics inferior fuit. Nam 
" quails in patribus superius nominatis (Ecgberto et Alberto) 
" prsecesserat, talis etin illo durabat." P. 154. 


The reader who has been taught to despise the litera- 
ture of the middle ages, will perhaps conceive that I have 
ascribed to our ancestors more than they justly deserved. 
But in estimating the respective merits of writers, who 
have lived at different times, it would be unfair to judge 
all by the same standard. If we compare the literary 
characters of the seventh and eighth centures, with those 
of a later period, the distance between them will, in 
several respects, appear immense : but their claims to 
our applause will converge more nearly to a point, when 
we reflect, that the latter have been assisted by the col- 
lective wisdom and experience of successive generations \ 
whereas the former were but just emerging from a state 
of ignorance and barbarism. The obstacles, which the 
Saxon students had to overcome, were numerous and for- 
midable : and their industry and perseverance demand 
our admiration. They performed whatever it was pos- 
sible for men in their circumstances to perform. They 
collected every relic of ancient literature : they under- 
took the most perilous and laborious journeys in pursuit 
of knowledge : they studied every species of learning, of 
which they could discover the rudiments in books ; and 
there is reason to believe, that they possessed most of 
the sciences as perfectly as they were known, when their 
forefathers made themselves masters of Britain. In pu- 
rity and elegance of style, they were undoubtedly defi- 
cient : but taste had been on the decline from the age of 
Augustus, and had gradually sunk with the prosperity of 
the empire. The Latin writings of the fourth and fifth 
centuries shew, that the language of Rome was no longer 
the language of Cicero and Virgil : and its deterioration 
was rapidly accelerated by the conquests of the northern 


nations, who adulterated it by the admixture of barbarian 
idioms. This defeat then will appear to the candid critic 
a subject of regret, rather than of blame : and when he 
observes the Saxon writers often equal, and sometimes 
superior, to many who lived before the dismemberment 
of the empire, instead of despising, he will approve and 
value their exertions. 



Def cents of the Danes deft ruS ion of churches and monqfteries 
prevalence of ignorance and Immorality efforts to rejlore the 
clerical and monajl'ic orders. 

IN the preceding chapters we have observed the intro- 
duction and diffusion of Christianity among our ances- 
tors j the faith, discipline, and morals of their monks 
and clergy ; their modes of religious worship, and their 
ardour in the pursuit of science. From the contempla- 
tion of this tranquil scene, the invasions of the Danes 
summon us to witness the ^lorrors of barbarian warfare, 
the conflagration of churches, the downfal of the mo- 
nastic, and the decline of the clerical orders. During 
the whole of the first, and the greatest part of the se- 
cond century after the mission of St Augustine, the An- 
glo-Saxon church was conspicuous for the virtues and 
the knowledge of many among its members. Christia- 
nity had given a new direction to the efforts of the con- 
verts ; and though the contending politics and ambition 
of their petty sovereigns, might occasionally retard, they 
did not, on the whole, prevent the progress of religious 
and civil improvement. In the year 800, Egbert as- 
cended the throne of Wessex. His superior fortune or 
superior abilities, soon crushed the power of his rivals ; 
and the friends of religion flattered themselves, that a 
long period of tranquillity would atone for the distur- 
bances of former times, and that the church might re- 


pose in security under the protection of one supreme- 
monarch. But their hopes were fallacious. A storm 
was silently gathering in the north, which, after a short 
respite, burst on the eastern coast, and involved, during 
more than half a century, the whole island in ruin and 

It were, however, inaccurate to suppose, that the fer- 
vour of the first converts had been perpetuated till this 
period, without suffering any diminution. Nations, like 
individuals, are subject to vicissitudes of exertion and 
depression. As long as the impulse communicated by 
the first missionaries continued, the Anglo-Saxon chris- 
tians cheerfully submitted to every sacrifice, and em- 
braced with eagerness the most arduous duties of reli- 
gion. But after a certain period, the virtues which had 
so brilliantly illuminated the aurora of their church, 
began to disappear ; with the extirpation of idolatry, the 
vigilance and zeal of the bishops were gradually relaxed ; 
and the spirit of devotion, which had formerly characte- 
rized the monks and clergy, insensibly evaporated in the 
sunshine of ease and prosperity. Even the love of science, 
which so often survives the sentiments of piety, was ex- 
tinguished. Malmsbury laments, though he allows of 
some exceptions, that the knowledge of the Saxons was 
buried in the same grave with the venerable Bede (1) : 
and Alfred informs us, that among the more distant 
successors of that learned monk, few were able, if they 
had been willing, to understand the numerous authors, 
that slept undisturbed in the tranquillity of their libra- 
ries (2). This degeneracy of his countrymen, was re- 

(1) Malm, de reg. 1. i. p. 12. 

(2) Spifie lycle peojxme J>aj\a boca pij^on. j?op]>am J>e hi hiju na 

z 4t 


marked and lamented by Alcuin. With every argument 
that his eloquence could suggest, he attempted to 
awaken their emulation : and his frequent letters to the 
kings of Northumbria and Mercia, the archbishops of 
Canterbury and York, the monks of Hexham, Lindis- 
farne, and Jarrow, are honourable monuments of his 
zeal (3). " Think," he writes to the latter, " on the 
" worth of our predecessors, and blush at your own in- 
" feriority. View the treasures of your library, and the 
" magnificence of your monastery, and recal to mind 
" the rigid virtues of those by whom they were former- 
" ly possessed. Among you was educated Bede, the 
<c most illustrious dodlor of modern times. How in- 
" tense was his application to study ! How great in re- 
<( turn is his reputation among men ! How much greater 
" still his reward with God [ Let his example rouse you 
from your torpor : listen to the instructions of your 
" teachers, open your books, and learn to understand 
" their meaning. Avoid all furtive revellings, and 
" leave to the world the vain ornaments of dress. What 
" becomes you, is the modesty of your habit, the sanc- 
" tity of your life, and the superiority of your virtue 
" (4-)." Such were the arguments of Alcuin. That 
they would have proved successful, may reasonably be 
doubted : but the experiment was prevented by the ca- 
lamity of the times ; and the decline of piety and know- 
ledge, which had originated in the indolence of the na- 

ongi-can ne mihron. -pojijjam ]>e hi uasfion on hijia agenje jjeot>e 
Ep. jElf. ad Wulst. apud Wajk. vit. Alf. p. 196- 

(3) Ep. Ale. 28, 29, 32, 49, 50, 

(4) Ep. AlC. 49, 


tives, was rapidly accelerated by the exterminating 
sword of the Danes. 

During the eighth and ninth centuries, the peninsula of 
Jutland, the islands of the Baltic, and the shores of the 
Scandinavian continent, were parcelled among a number 
of petty and independent chieftains, who sought no other 
occupation than war, and possessed no other wealth, than 
what they had acquired by the sword. Their children, 
with the exception of the eldest, were taught to depend 
for fame and power on their own abilities and courage : 
their ships were the only inheritance which they derived 
from their fathers : and in these they were compelled to 
sail in pursuit of adventures and riches (5). No injury 
was necessary to provoke their enmity. The prospect 
of plunder directed their attack j and carnage and devas^ 
tation were the certain consequences of their success. 
They could conceive no greater pleasure than to feast 
their eyes with the flames of the villages, which they had 
plundered, and their ears with the groans of their cap- 
tives, expiring under the anguish of torture (6). The 
northern seas were originally the theatre of their courage 
and cruelty. At last they ventured to try their fortune 
against the more opulent nations of the south: and, 
during more than two centuries, the maritime provinces 
of Gaul and Britain were continually pillaged and depo- 
pulated by these restless barbarians. 

It is uncertain whether their first descent in England, 
was the effect of accident or design. They quickly re- 
tired to their ships : but the plunder was sufficiently rich 

(5) Wallingford, p. 533. Spelm. Vit. JElf. edit. Walk. p. H ? 

(6) Mat. West. p. 388. Ang. sac. vol. ii. p. 135. 


to invite a repetition of the attempt (7). In the year 
seven hundred and ninety three, the inhabitants of Nor- 
thumbria were alarmed by the appearance of a Danish 
armament near the coast. The barbarians were per- 
mitted to land without opposition. The plunder of the 
churches exceeded their most sanguine expectations : and 
their route was marked by the mangled carcases of the 
nuns, the monks, and the priests, whom they had mas- 
sacred. But historians have scarcely condescended to 
notice the misfortunes of other churches : their attention 
has been absorbed by the fate of Lindisfarne. That ve- 
nerable pile, once honoured by the residence of the apostle 
of Northumbria, and sanctioned by the remains of St 
Cuthbert, became the prey of the barbarians. Their 
impiety polluted the altars, and their rapacity was re- 
warded by its gold and silver ornaments, the oblations of 
gratitude and devotion. The monks endeavoured by 
concealment to elude their cruelty : but the greater num- 
ber were discovered ; and were either slaughtered on the 
island, or drowned in the sea. If the lives of the children 
were spared, their fate was probably more severe than 
that of their teachers : they were carried into captivity 

The news of this calamity filled all the nations of the 

(7) On hij- "oagum cpomon ajieyr in ycipu Noji^manna 

Dar psjion pa sejiersan y cipu Deniyca monna pe Anjel-cmner lont> 
gerohron (Chr, Sax. p. 64). In this passage the appellations of 
Danes and Northmen are used indiscriminately for the same peo- 
ple. Yet in another passage they are distinguished as two different 
nations (5^ej\ je Gnjhrce ge Dem^ce ge Nojiftmen $e ofcjie. 
Chron. Sax. p. no). 

(8) Sim. Dunel. edit. Bedford, p. 87. Hoved. f. 405. Ep. Ale 
cit. Malm, de Pont. 1. iii. f. 157. 


Saxons with shame and sorrow. Lindisfarne had long 
been to them an objeft of peculiar respect: and the 
Northumbrians hesitated not to pronounce it the most 
venerable of the British churches (9). Alcuin received 
the account at the court of Charlemagne, and evinced, by 
his tears, the sincerity of his grief. But while he la- 
mented the present, his mind presaged future and more 
lasting calamities to his country. Prompted by his fears, 
he wrote to the bishop of Lindisfarne, to his brethren 
the clergy of York, and to the monks of Weremouth 
and Jarrow. " Who," he observes to the last, must 
" not tremble, when he considers the misfortune which 
" has befallen the church of St Cuthbert ? Let the fate 
of others be a warning to you. You also inhabit the 
" sea-coast : you are equally exposed to the fury of the 
" barbarians" (10). The event verified his foresight. 
Within a few months from the date of the letter, a Da- 
nish squadron entered the mouth of the Tyne, and the 
monasteries of Jarrow and Weremouth, the noble monu- 
ments of Benedict's zeal and Egfrid's munificence, were 
reduced to ashes. The pirates, however, did not escape 
with impunity. Scarcely had they left the harbour, when 
their ships were dashed by a storm against the rocks. 
Numbers were buried in the waves : the few, who swam 
to the shore, were immolated to the vengeance of the in- 
habitants (11). 

From this period, during the lapse of seventy years, 
the Anglo-Saxons were harassed by the incessant depre- 

(9) Locus cunctis in Britannia venerabilior. Ep. Ale. clt* 
Malm. 1. ill. f. 157. 

(10) Ale. ep. 49. Ann. 794. 

(11) Chr. Sax. p. 66. Walling, p. 533. Sim. Dun. p. 8S. 


dations of the Northmen. Each bay and navigable river 
was repeatedly visited by their fleets : the booty acquired 
by the adventurers, stimulated the avarice of their bre- 
thren ; and armament after armament darkened the 
shores of Britain. I shall not follow them in these de- 
sultory and destructive expeditions, which could only fa- 
tigue and disgust the mind of the reader with the unva- 
ried picture of carnage, pillage, and devastation. The 
wealth of the churches continued to allure their rapacity : 
each succeeding year was marked by the fall of some ce- 
lebrated monastery ; and the monks, in sorrowful asto- 
nishment, bewailed the rapid depopulation of their order. 
About the middle of the ninth century, Ragnar Lod- 
brog, a vikingr renowned for courage and cruelty, who 
had led his followers to the walls of Paris, and had 
wrung from the pusillanimity of Charles the bald, the 
most valuable of his treasures, was shipwrecked on the 
coast of Northumbria. Undismayed at his misfortune, 
the intrepid barbarian collected the remains of his troops 
and had begun to plunder the nearest villages, when 
./Ella, the usurper of the Northumbrian sceptre, ad- 
vanced to chastise his insolence. The pride of Ragnar 
refused to retire before a superior enemy. He fought, 
was taken, and by his death paid the forfeit of his teme- 
rity (12). The Danes could not reasonably accuse the 
severity of the conqueror. Had the chance of battle 
delivered ./Ella into the hands of the vikingr, he would 
have inflicted a similar fate. But his sons (they were 
ten in number) vowed to revenge the death of their 

(12) The adventures of Ragnar are but obscurely hinted in our 
national writers : the industry of Mr Turner has collected the 
particulars from the northern historians. Hist. vol. ii. p. 115. 


father : the pirates of the north crowded to their stand- 
ard ; and the most formidable fleet, which had ever 
sailed from the harbours of Scandinavia, steered to the 
coast of the East- Angles. By the terror of their name and 
numbers, they extorted from the king a reluftant per- 
mission to land ; and during the winter, were supported 
at the expence of the inhabitants (IS). The return of 
spring summoned them to the work of vengeance. From 
the banks of the Ouse, the flames of war were spread to 
the river Tyne : the towns, churches, and monasteries, 
were laid in ashes ; and so complete was their destruc- 
tion, that succeeding generations could with difficulty 
trace the vestiges of their f >rmer existence (14). ^Ella, 
and his competitor Osbert forgetting their private quar- 
rel, united in defence of heir country. But the latter 
was slain in the field : the former fell into the hands of 
his enemies, and the torments, which he was made to 
suffer, gratified, but did not satiate, their resentment 
(15). Intimidated by the fate of their princes, the in- 
habitants to the north of the Tyne, endeavoured, by a 
timely submission, to avert the arms of the invaders. 
But Halfdene had tasted the fruits of sacrilege ; and 
after an uncertain delay of eight years, he crossed the 
river with a strong division of the army, and levelled to 
the ground every church in the kingdom of Bernicia. 

(13) Anno86G. 

(14) Cruore atque luctu omnia replevit : ecclesias longe lateque 
et monasteria ferro atque igne delevit, nil prater solos sine tecto 
parietes abiens reliquit, in tantum ut ilia quas praesens est aetas, 
ipsorum locorum vix aliquid, interdum nullum, antiquae nobili- 
tatis possit revisere signum. Sim. Dunel. hist. eccl. Dun. p. 93. 

(15) Chron. Sax, p. 79. Anno 867. 


The abbey of Tynemouth first attracted his rapacity. 
From its smoking ruins he directed his march towards 
the island of Lindisfarne. The monastery had risen 
from its ashes, and was again peopled with a numerous 
colony of monks. By the approach of Halfdene, they 
were plunged into the deepest consternation and per- 
plexity. The fate of their predecessors warned them to 
retire before the arrival of the barbarians : piety forbade 
them to abandon to insult the body of St Cuthbert. 
From this distressing dilemma they were relieved by the 
recollection of an aged monk, who reminded them of 
the wish expressed by the saint at his death, that if his 
children should be obliged to quit the island, his bones 
might accompany their exile (16). The shrine, which 
contained his body, with the remains of the other 
bishops of Lindisfarne, was instantly removed from the 
altar ; and the most virtuous among the clergy were se- 
lected to bear it from the monastery, to a place of secu- 
rity. With tears the monks bade a last adieu to the 
walls, in which they had devoted themselves to the mo- 
nastic profession : the loftiest of the Northumbrian 
mountains screened them from the pursuit of the infi- 
dels ; and the people crowded for protection to the re- 
mains of their patron. The abbey was pillaged, aad 
given to the flames (17). 

From Lindisfarne, the pursuit of plunder led Halfdene 
to the walls of Coldingham. Of the nuns of this monas- 
tery a story has been related, which, though its truth may 
be problematical (18), is not repugnant to the stern virtue 

(16) Bed. Vit. St. Cuth. c, xxxix. 

(17) An. 875. Sim. Dunel. p. 95. 

(18) The first writer by whom it is known to have been men- 


of the cloister, or the national enthusiasm of the Anglo- 
Saxons. ^Ebba, whose maternal authority the sisterhood 
obeyed, was not ignorant of the character of the chief or 
his followers. She had learnt that their impiety devoted 
to instant death the ministers of religion ; and that the 
females were invariably the victims, first of their lust, 
and then of their cruelty. Alarmed at their approach, 
she hastened to the chapter-house, assembled the trem- 
bling sisters, and exhorted those, who valued their ho- 
nour, to preserve it from pollution by the sacrifice of their 
beauty. At that instant, drawing a knife from her bo- 
som, she inflicted a ghastly wound on her countenance : 
and the nuns, with pious barbarity, followed the example 
of their mother. The gates were soon forced : the 
Danes turned with horror from the hideous spectacle : 
and these martyrs to chastity perished in the flames, 
which consumed their monastery. 

Seven years were devoted by the barbarians to the ac- 
quisition of plunder, nor did they sheathe the sword, till 
the general devastation bade defiance to their rapacity. 
During this period, the monks of Lindisfarne wandered 
from mountain to mountain, to elude the vigilance of 
their enemies : but their labours were sanctified in their 
eyes, by the merit of preserving from insult the body of 

tioned, is Matthew of Westminster. Though he may be consi- 
dered as one of our more modern chroniclers, yet his authority is 
not contemptible. His history, in the passages which can be 
compared, is generally a transcript or abridgement of the Saxon 
chronicle, and the most early writers : whence it may be fairly 
inferred, that in the composition of the remainder, he consulted 
other ancient records, which have since perished in the revolu- 
tions of so many centuries. The same remark will apply to 
Malmsbury, Hoveden, Huntingdon, &c. 


their patron : and they fondly compared themselves to 
the Israelites, who conveyed through the wilderness to 
the land of promise, the bones of the patriarch Joseph. 
The lot of the seven individuals, who carried the shrine, 
was the object of general envy ; their families thought 
themselves ennobled by the privilege ; and their -descen- 
dants, through many generations, claimed a superiority 
over the rest of the natives (19). At the return of tran- 
quillity, the survivors, descending from the mountains, 
solicited the proteftion of the conquerors. By the 
Danes it was willingly granted ; the body of the saint 
was deposited at Conchester (20) ; and new honours were 
paid to his memory. 

The ravages of Halfdene mflifted a deadly wound on 
the monastic institute in the kingdom of Northumbria. 
Within the short space of seven years, all the abbeys 
which ancient piety had founded, were swept away ; and 
of their inhabitants, the few who had survived the general 
calamity, were unable or unwilling to procure proselytes. 
With them the order of Northumbrian monks may be 
said to have expired. A constant succession is, indeed, 
asserted to have watched at the shrine of St Cuthbert : 
but we are also assured, that their number never exceed- 
ed three individuals at any one time, during the long 
lapse of two hundred and eight years (21). It was not 
till the reign of William the conqueror, that the institute 
was revived by the industry of Aldwin, a monk of Eve- 
sham, who collected a small colony from the southern 

(19) Sim. Dunel. p. 113. 

(20) Now Chester-le-street. It was called Conchester, from 
the small river Con. Lei. Itin. vol. ix, p. 61. 

(21) Sim. Dunel. p. 99. 


monasteries, and fixed his residence amid the ruins of 
Jarrow, from which he shortly migrated to the new 
church at Durham (22). 

In the annals of northern piracy, all the leaders are 
equally cruel, and equally versed in the arts of devasta- 
tion. While Northumbria was abandoned to the fury of 
Halfdene, five Danish kings with as many jarls, led their 
retainers across the Humber, to the opposite coast of 
Lincolnshire (23). The abbey of Bardney was the first 
to experience their barbarity. It was pillaged, and then 
consumed over the mangled bodies of its inhabitants. 
From Bardney they passed the Witham, into the country 
of the Girvii : but their progress was retarded by the op- 
position of a determined, though inconsiderable band of 
patriots. Algar, the ealdorman, had summoned the 
neighbouring thanes to his standard : Theodore, the ab- 
bot of Croyhndj sent to his assistance two hundred vete- 
rans, under the command of Tolius, then a monk, but 
formerly an officer of distinction in the armies of Mercia : 
and the courage of the soldiers was stimulated by the 
dangers of a defeat, the tears of their families, and the 
prayers of the religious. Their first essay was success- 
ful ; and the death of three of their kings taught the bar- 
barians to respect the valour of their adversaries. During 
the night the Danes recalled their detachments, and con- 

(22) Plane a tempore, quo a paganis ecclesiae in provincia 
Northanhymbrorum everste et monasteria sunt destructa atque in- 
censa, usque ad tertium annum prsesulatns Walchelini, quando 
per Aldwinum in ipsam provinciam venientem, monachorum in 
ilia ccepit habitatio reviviscere, duccnti et ofto computantur anni, 
Id. p. 207. 
, (23) An. 870. 

A a 


soled themselves with the hopes of revenge : a panic 
struck the Christians, and, under the covert of darkness, 
three fourths of the army silently withdrew from the 
scene of danger (24-). Their retreat irritated, but did 
not dismay the few, who remained : the intermediate 
hours were dedicated to the exercises of religion ; and 
each man devoutly received the viaticum from the hands 
of the officiating priest. At the dawn of light they re- 
paired to their posts, and foiled with the most patient 
courage the successive assaults of their numerous ene- 
mies. At sunset the Danes appeared to retire : with 
shouts of victory the Christians rushed to the pursuit 
and by their imprudence forfeited the reward due to 
their valour. The flight was only a feint. The fugi- 
tives turned against their pursuers : and the small and 
unconnected bands of the Saxons quickly disappeared 
beneath the swords of the multitude. 

It was midnight when the melancholy tidings reached 
the abbey of Croyland. Theodore and his monks were 
employed in the church, in chaunting matins : but the 
cries of the messengers summoned them from the duties 
of religion to the care of their own safety. The young- 
er part of the brotherhood were ordered to secure their 
charters, relics, and jewels, to cross the lake, and to 
conceal themselves in a distant wood ; while Theodore 
himself, in company with the children and the more 
aged of the monks, awaited the arrival of the barbarians. 

(.24) In the printed copies of Ingulf, the Christians are aid to 
have dwindled from 800 to 200 (Ing. inter scrip, post Bed. f. 49'J. 
Rer. Anglii. scrip, torn. i. p. 21.) : in the chronicle of Peterborough, 
with greater probability, from 8000 to 2000 (Chron. Abb. d<* 
Burg. p. 16, edit. Sparke), 

The old man was unwilling to abandon his monastery, 
without making an attempt to avert its fate : and he 
cherished a fallacious hope, that the innocence of the 
children and the grey hairs of his brethren (several had 
passed their hundredth year), would awaken sentiments 
of pity, even in the breasts of the Danes. While the 
necessary arrangements were made, the flames from the 
neighbouring villages gradually approached, and the 
shouts of the barbarians admonished the fugitives to de- 
part. With heavy hearts the two companies embraced, 
and separated for ever (25). 

From the beach the junior monks, to the number of 
thirty, steered across the lake to the place of conceal- 
ment : Theodore, with the companions of his fortunes, 
returned to the choir, resumed the matins, and cele- 
brated mass. Just as he had communicated, the Danes 
arrived. The solitude and silence of the cloisters 
would have induced a belief, that the inhabitants had 
fled, had not the distant chaunt of the monks directed 
the barbarians to the church. The gates were forced 
without difficulty : and Osketul, the Danish chieftain, 
rushing into the choir, seized the abbot by the hair, and 
struck off his head at the foot of the altar. The officU 
ating ministers were dispatched by the swords of his 
followers : but the children and the more aged of the 
monks were reserved for the torture. It was expected 
that pain and fear would easily extort a discovery of the 
concealment of their treasures, and the retreat of their 
brethren. But the constancy of their minds was superi- 
or to the weakness of their bodies j and their sufferings 
were soon terminated by the impatience of the barbari- 

(25) Ing. p. 22. 


ans. One victim alone was spared, a boy of ten years 
of age, and distinguished by his beauty. His name was 
Turgar. He had accompanied the sub-prior Lethwin to 
the refectory ; stood by him till he expired under the 
daggers of his murderers ; and eagerly solicited the fa- 
vour of sharing the fate of his tutor. The heart of the 
younger Sidroc, the Danish jarl relented. He tore the 
cowl from the head of the boy, threw a cloak over his 
shoulders, and bade him to be careful to follow his foot- 
steps (26). 

As soon as the barbarians had glutted their appetite 
for blood, they abandoned themselves to the pursuit of 
plunder. Every recess was burst open, and every corner 
was searched with the eye of desire and suspicion. Their 
avarice violated even the mansions of the dead. Around 
the shrine of St-Guthlake stood a range of marble monu- 
ments, in which were entombed the mortal remains of 
the saints and benefactors of the abbey. These the infi- 
dels defaced and demolished, scattered the bones on the 
pavement, and raked in the dust for the chalices, rings, 
and trinkets, which our ancestors were accustomed to 
bury with the body. Three days were employed in these 
researches : on the fourth they set fire to different parts 
of the building, and directed thei? march towards Medes- 

Medeshamstede, afterwards called Peterborough, was 
an abbey of royal foundation, and had been enriched by 
the profuse donations of several princes. It possessed a 
library to which few others were equal ; the magnificence 
of the fabric was the pride of Saxon architecture ; and 
the church, dedicated to the prince of the apostles, was, 



if we may believe a suspicious charter, exempted from 
the jurisdiction of the diocesan, and endowed by the fa- 
vour of Pope Agatho with the privileges^ which distin- 
guished St Peter's at Rome (27). Within its walls the 
inhabitants of the neighbourhood sought protection from 
the arms of the infidels ; and the issue of the first assault 
seemed to justify their hopes. In the second, a stone 
from an unknown hand wounded the brother of Hubba 
a Danish king. Eager for revenge the barbarian re- 
doubled his efforts : and the garrison shrunk in despair 
from the defence of the principal gate. Resistance ceased 
with the entrance of the enemy. The fury of the sol- 
diers was satisfied with the slaughter of the crowd of 
strangers : a long train of more distinguished victims was 
reserved for the vengeance of the king ; and Hubba with 
his own hand immolated the abbot, and eighty-three 
monks, to the shade of his brother. His barbarity was 
rewarded with spoils more numerous than those of Croy- 
land. The monks had not removed their treasures : and 
the imprudence of the neighbouring inhabitants had de- 
posited with them their most valuable effects. After the 
division of the plunder the monastery was burnt. The 
conflagration lasted fifteen days (28). 

Turgar, the boy of Croyland, had hitherto preserved 
liis life under the protection of Sidroc. But his situation 
now became more dangerous, and he was admonished by 
his patron, to avoid the eyes of the implacable Hubba. 
Alarmed at the advice, he embraced a favourable mo- 
ment to secrete himself from the view of the Danes ; 

(27) Chr. Sax. p. 35, 36. Wilk. p. 44. Hugo Cand. p. 4, edit 

(28) Ing. p. 23, 

A a 3 


and travelling all night through the woods, reached his 
former residence early in the morning. His arrival was 
just preceded by that of the younger monks, who had 
ventured to leave their concealment, and were beginning 
to extinguish the flames. The sight of Turgar revived 
their hopes ; his faithful narrative realized their fears. 
The fate of Theodore and their brethren was heard with 
the deepest anguish : they forgot the object of their la- 
bours ; and seated amid the smoking ruins, abandoned 
themselves to the lamentations of sorrow and despair. 
From this inactivity they were at length awakened by 
the necessity of their situation. To supply the place of 
Theodore, Godric was chosen, a monk distinguished 
among his brethren for his superior wisdom and piety. 
By his direction they made it their first care to drag from 
the ruins the half burnt bodies of their brethren, and to 
commit them with decent solemnity to the grave. Scarce- 
ly had they completed this pious ceremony, when they 
were requested by the hermits of Ancarig to perform the 
same office for the monks of Medeshamstede. With 
painful research they collected their bodies j dug before 
the entrance of the church a deep and spacious grave ; 
deposited in the centre the mangled corpse of the abbot ; 
and placed around him the remains of his eighty-three 
companions. To perpetuate their memory, Godric 
built over the tomb a pyramid of stone, on which was 
rudely engraved the history of this bloody catastrophe ; 
and opposite to the pyramid he raised an image of Christ 
nailed to the cross. The public road lay between them j 
and the pious abbot hoped, that the presence of the cru- 
cifix would prevent travellers from profaning so sacred 
a spot, and the figures on the monument induce them to 


offer up a prayer for those, whose ashes reposed beneath 
it. As for himself, these victims of Danish barbarity 
were never absent from his recollection. Annually, as 
long as he lived, on the anniversary of their massacre, he 
visited the cemetery, pitched his tent over the grave, 
and spent two days in celebrating masses, and performing 
the other devotions, to which catholic charity has attri- 
buted the power of benefiting the souls of the departed 

From Medeshamstede, the Danes directed their march 
to the isle of Ely, in which was situated a great and 
opulent monastery, originally founded by Edilthryda, 
the pious queen of Northumbria. The elevated rank, 
and edifying sanctity of the abbesses, by whom it was 
first governed, had raised it to a high pre-eminence 
among the southern convents j and its cloisters were 
still crowded with the most noble and most virtuous of 
the Saxon ladies. It might have been expected, that to 
these female recluses, the fate of Croyland and Medes- 
hamstede would have furnished a useful lesson. Some, 
indeed, listened to the suggestions of prudence, and 
shunned by flight the approach of the barbarians. But the 
greater part refused to abandon their convent : and their 
determination was confirmed by the afflux of the neigh^ 
bouring inhabitants, who conveyed their families and 
effects to Ely, as to a secure asylum. The extensive 
lake by which the monastery was surrounded, presented 
a formidable obstacle to the approach of an enemy : and 
those who were not encouraged by the sanctity, trusted 

(29) . . . omni anno quamdiu vixtt semel visitans, supra pe. 
tram suum tentorium figens pro animabus ibidem sepultorum mis 
3as per biduum devotione continua celebravit, Ing. p. 24, 
A a 4 

at least to the natural strength of the place- Perhaps if 
their efforts had been directed by an intelligent leader, 
or if their foe had been less determined, they would 
have had no reason to condemn their confidence : and 
their example might at a later period have stimulated 
the band of patriots, who in the same place bade defi- 
ance, during several years, to all the power of the Nor- 
man conqueror (30). But the Danes, with the prospect of 
accumulated plunder before their eyes, were not to be 
retarded by the appearance of difficulties : in spite of 
every opposition they transported their army across the 
water, and effected a landing on the island. From this 
instant, submission or resistance was equally fruitless : 
the massacres of Croyland and Medeshamstede were re- 
newed -, the abbey was burnt j and the nuns, after suf- 
fering indignities worse than death, ultimately perished 
by the sword or in the flames (31). 

From these instances we may learn to estimate the 
sufferings of the monastic and clerical orders during the 
long period of Danish devastation. Each kingdom in 
succession became the theatre of their fury. The sub- 
jection of East Anglia was secured by the captivity of its 
monarch , and his unprovoked murder shewed, that to 
the barbarians the blood of kings was as grateful a spec- 
tacle as that of monks. Burrhed of Mercia exhibited at 
first a vigour worthy of his exalted station : but his spirit 
sunk with repeated defeats j he abandoned the crown 
which he was unable to retain j and the victors placed it 
on the head of the traitor Ceolwolph (32). This shadow 

(30) Ang. Sac. vol. i. p. 609. 

(31) Ing. p. 24. 

(32) Ann. p. 874. 


of a king was only the sport and viftiin of their caprice. 
Within twelve months he was conducted from the 
throne to the prison, restored to the regal power, and 
then deprived of the sceptre and life. The Thames 
alone separated the barbarians from the more opulent 
provinces on the southern coast : they passed that river, 
subdued the feeble kingdoms of Kent and Sussex, and 
compelled the west Saxons, after an obstinate struggle, 
to shrink from the contest. Free from apprehension, 
they abandoned themselves during several months to the 
licentiousness of victory : and indulged without remorse 
their passion for bloodshed and plunder. But security 
relaxed their vigilance : and Alfred, who had secreted 
himself among the morasses of Somersetshire, started, at 
a favourable moment, from his concealment, and sur- 
prised his enemies in their camp (33). This success was 
the prelude to more important victories : the king im- 
proved every advantage ; and the invaders were com- 
pelled either to retire from the island, or to acknow- 
ledge themselves the vassals of the conqueror. Many- 
years, however, elapsed before tranquillity was restored. 
Hordes of barbarians successively landed on the coast, 
and solicited by promises and threats the wavering fide- 
lity of their countrymen. But their insolence was se- 
verely chastised by Alfred and his successors, and at last 
all the tribes of the Danes, as well as of the Saxons, 
submitted to the crown of Wessex. 

At this period the English church offered to the 
friends of religion a melancholy and alarming spectacle. 
1, The laity had resumed the ferocity of their heathen 
forefathers : 2, the clergy were dissolute and illiterate : 

(ss) Ann. 878. 


3, and the monastic order was in a manner annihilated. 
1. The numerous massacres of the war had considera- 
bly thinned the population of the country ; and to sup- 
ply the deficiency, Alfred had adopted an obvious but 
inadequate expedient, in the naturalization of several 
thousand Danes. In every country the strangers were 
intermixed with the natives : in East-Anglia and North- 
umbria, their numbers greatly exceeded the descendants 
of the ancient inhabitants. If the sacred rite of baptism 
had intitled the barbarians to the appellation and privi- 
leges of Christians, their manners and notions still re- 
duced them to a level with their pagan brethren. The 
superstition of Scandinavia was in many places restored. 
The charms and incantations of magic amused the cre- 
dulity of the people ; the worship of Odin was publicly 
countenanced, or clandestinely preserved : and oaths 
and punishments were often employed in vain to extort 
from these nominal converts an external respet for the 
institutions of Christianity. The morals of many among 
the Anglo-Saxons were scarcely superior to those of the 
naturalized Danes. During the long and eventful con- 
test, the administration of justice had been frequently 
suspended : habits of predatory warfare had introduced 
a spirit of insubordination : and impunity had strength- 
ened the impulse of the passions. To the slow and tran- 
quil profits of industry, were preferred the violent but 
sudden acquisitions of rapine : the roads were infest^ 
ed with robbers ; and the numbers and audacity of the 
banditti compelled the more peaceful inhabitants to as- 
sociate for the protection of their lives, families, and 
property. The dictates of natural equity, the laws of 
the gospel, and the regulations of ecclesiastical discipline 


were despised. The indissoluble knot of marriage was 
repeatedly dissevered at the slightest suggestion of pas- 
sion or disgust : and in defiance of divine and human 
prohibitions, the nuptial union was frequently polluted 
and degraded by the unnatural crime of incest. To re- 
form the degeneracy of his subjects, Alfred published a 
new code of laws, extracted from those of his predeces- 
sors and of the Jewish legislator : and the execution of 
forty-four judges in one year shews both the inflexible 
severity of the king, and the depravity of those, whose 
duty it was to be the guardians of the national morals 
(34). That his efforts were attended with partial success 
is not improbable ; but from the complaints and inv 
provements of later legislators, it is evident, that it re- 
quired a succession of several generations before the an- 
cient spirit of licentiousness could be suppressed and ex- 
tinguished (35). 

2. In the preceding pages the reader will have ob- 
served the degeneracy of the Anglo-Saxon scholars, after 
the death of Bede and his disciples. If the learning of 
their predecessors cast a feeble ray of light on the close 
of the eighth century, it was entirely extinguished by 
the devastations of the northmen, and quickly succeed- 
ed by a night of the profoundest ignorance. This la- 
mentable change is amply and feelingly described by the 

(34) Miroir des justices c. v. cit. Walker in vit. JElfr. p. 82. 

(35) This account of the immorality of the Saxons, after the^ 
Danish invasion, is extracted from the letter of Fulco to Alfred, 
noticed by Flodoard (1. iv. c. 5, p. 612), the epistle of Pope For- 
mosus (Wiik. p. 200), the laws of Alfred and his successors 
(Wilk. leg. p. 28 64), and the judicia civitatis Lundoni9e (ibid, 
p. 66.) 


pen of a royal witness. " There was a time," says Al- 
fred in his letter to Wulsige, " when foreigners sought 
" wisdom and learning in this island. Now we are 
" compelled to seek them in foreign lands. Such was the 
" general ignorance among the English, that there were 
" very few on this side the Humber, (and I dare say not 
" many on the other), who could understand the service 
<c in English, or translate a Latin epistle into their own 
" language. So few were they, that I do not recollect 
" a single individual to the south of the Thames, who 
" was able to do it, when I ascended the throne" 
(36). To revive the study of literature became one of 
the first objects, which inflamed the ambition of the 
monarch : he solicited the assistance of the most distin- 
guished scholars in the neighbouring nations ; and 
Wales, Flanders, and Germany, saw themselves de- 
prived of their brightest lights, by his promises and pre - 

In the year 883, an honourable embassy of thanes, 
bishops, priests, and deacons, sailed from England to 
France. The object of their mission was to solicit teach- 
ers from the Gallic churches. From one of the two 
monasteries, that bore the name of Corbie, they pro- 
cured the presbyter John, a native of Old-Saxony : from 
Fulco, archbishop of Rheims, and abbot of St Bertin's, 

(36) Hu man ut on bojvoe pifoom *j lajie hit>en on lante jpohre. } 
pe hi nu rceolt>an u~e bejiran, ^ip pe hi habban rceotaan. Spa clsne 
heo paey oftpeallen on Snjelcynne. ^ ypifte pepa paenon beheonan 
Humbne pe hina penunge cufton unt>ejif rant>an on Gnjlirc. oftfce an 
3e]aent>5epjiyr oj: Isetjene on Gnjlij^c ajieccan. -j ic pene ^ nahr monije 
beeont>an Humbjie nsepon. Spa peapa heojia pKjxon. j5 ic puyi^on 
anne senlejine ne mxj jepencan be^u^an Thamire. pa pa ic to juce 
^llf. ep. apud Walk. vit. ^lf. p. 196. Wise's Asser, p. 82. 


the provost Grimbald, a monk renowned for his know- 
ledge of the holy scriptures, and his proficiency in the 
science of music (37). Soon after, Asser, a canon of St 

(37) Wise's Asser, p. 47, 62, 123. Among the learned foreign- 
ers, whom the liberality of Alfred drew round him, a place has 
been allotted to Joannes Scotus Erigena, a bold metaphysical 
writer of the ninth century. Mr Turner has mentioned him with 
peculiar distinction in his history, and labours to prove that he is 
the same person with John, abbot of Athelingey, mentioned by 
Asser. But I think it clear from the testimony of Asser, 
that they were different persons. 1. Scotus is universally ac- 
knowledged to have been a native of Ireland : the abbot of 
Athelingey was born among the Saxons of Germany (Eald-Saxon r 
um genere. Asser, p. 61). 2. Scotus was neither a priest nor a 
monk (Mabil. Ssec. iv. Bened. torn. ii. p. 510) : the abbot of Athe- 
lingey was both a priest and a monk (presbyterum et monachum. 
Asser, p. 47, 61). I even think it may be doubted whether Scotus 
ever came to England. The passage in Ingulf (de veteri Saxonia 
Johannem, cognomine Scotutn, acerrimi ingenii philosophum. Ing. 
p. 27) is evidently taken from Asser, and the apparent contradic- 
tion which it contains, provokes a strong suspicion, that the words 
in italics were added to the original text by the officiousness of 
some blundering copyist. But what answer can be made to the 
consentient authority of Malmsbury (De reg. 1. ii. c. iv. f. 24. De 
pont. 1. iv. p. 360). Simeon (De reg. p. 148) Hoveden (f. 240, anno 
883)^ and Westminster, (p. 171, anno 883) ? As the three latter 
have done no more than transcribe Malmsbury, the whole account 
must rest on his authority : and from the hesitation with which he 

speaks (creditur sub ambiguo. De reg. f. 24), joined to 

the silence of Asser, when he mentions the literary characters at 
the court of Alfred, it may be fairly inferred, that the claims of 
Scotus are built on a very treacherous foundation. Malmsbury 
indeed refers to Alfred's works, for the proof that Scotus was his 
master (ut ex scriptis regis intellexi. De reg. f. 24. De pont. p. 
361). But if I have not mistaken the passage to which he alludes, 
it must prove the contrary. I learned the Latin language," says 
the king, from Plegmund, my archbishop, Asser, my bishop, 


David's in Wales, visited Alfred at the royal city of 
Dene, and was requested by the king to fix his residence 
in England. The pride of the Welshman was flattered : 
but he hesitated to abandon the church, in which he had 
been educated and ordained. After a short struggle his 
scruples were silenced : he consented to divide the year 
between the English court and the monastery of St Da- 
vid ; and his compliance was munificently rewarded by 
the gratitude of his patron (38). To these learned fo- 
reigners, Alfred joined the priests Werewulf and Ethel- 
stan, and the bishops, Plegmund of Canterbury, and 
Werfrith of Worcester , invited the nobility and clergy 
to profit by their instructions j and endeavoured to sti- 
mulate by his own example the industry of his subjects. 
The fruit of his application is manifest in the numerous 
translations, which he published : and his letter to Wul- 
sige proves, that it was not vanity, but the purest patriot- 
ism, which guided the pen of the royal author (39). 
Alfred lived to see the result of his efforts ; and was en- 
abled to boast that knowledge was once more decorated 
with the episcopal mitre. Yet his success was only par- 
tial. After his death literature languished, perhaps de- 
clined, till the accession of Edgar, when it received a 

" and Grimbald and John, my mass-priests." Ep. J,l. ad 
Wills, p. 197. But Scotus, as I observed before, was not a priest, 
and the John alluded to by the king, must have been John the na- 
tive of Old Saxony. 

(38) Asser, p. 50. 

(39) Apud Walk. vit. JElf. p. 196. Alfred translated Bede'* 
ecclesiastical history, Orosius, Boetius, St Gregory's pastorals, 
part of the psalms, and selections from the works of St Augus- 4 
tine. He also wrote other works, which are lost or unknown. 


new stimulus from the zeal and industry of archbishop 

Amid the horrors of a destructive war, the issue of 
which involved the very existence of their country, the 
vigilance of the prelates might, perhaps, be expected to 
slumber : but the passions of their inferiors were awake, 
and actively employed in undermining the strongest 
pillars of ecclesiastical discipline. From the arrival of 
St Augustine, to the devastations of the Danes, a married 
priest was an anomalous being, unknown to the consti- 
tution of the Saxon church (40). But during this event- 
ful period there arose men, whose ignorance could not 
comprehend, or whose passions refused to obey, the 
prohibitory statutes of their ancestors : the celibacy of 
the clergy fe was openly infringed j and impunity promoted 
the diffusion of the scandal. Of this bold innovation, 
the first hint occurs in the writings of a foreign prelate. 
Fulco, archbishop of Rheims, in a letter to the English 
monarch, congratulates him on the election of Plegmund 
to the see of Canterbury, a prelate whose vigour will 
quickly suppress the impiety, that teaches the lawfulness 
of matrimony both in priests and bishops (41). The 
latter part of the charge may be ascribed to the treacher- 
ous voice of fame, as it is unsupported by the testimo- 
ny of any other more ancient or more recent writer : the 
origin of the former may be fairly deduced from the ig- 
norance and the iniquity of the times. Repeated mas- 
sacres had almost extinguished the higher orders of the 
hierarchy : in several places the parochial and cathedral 
clergy had entirely disappeared : and necessity compelled 

(40) See chap. 2. 

(41) See Flodoard, 1. iv. c. 5, p. eie, 618. 


the bishops to select candidates for the priesthood, from 
the inferior clerks, of whom many, without infringing 
the ecclesiastical canons, had embraced the state of 
marriage (4-2). Perhaps the bishops, conceiving them- 
selves justified by the pressure of circumstances, and 
the example of the primitive church, exacted from them 
no promise of continency : perhaps it was sometimes ex- 
acted, but not always observed : and an acquaintance 
with the records of the age will shew, that these suppo- 
sitions have not been hastily assumed (4-3). Certain, 
however, it is, that from this period we observe married 
clergymen performing the functions of the priesthood in 
the Saxon church j and, though the ancient prohibitions 
were frequently enforced, under the penalty of the loss 
of ecclesiastical benefices, and the deprivation of Christian 
burial, the disease was too deeply rooted in the human 
constitution, to be eradicated by the severest remedies. 
Though often suppressed, it as often re-appeared. I 
must, however, add, that after the most minute investi- 
gation, I cannot discover the married clergy to have 
been as numerous as the policy of some writers has 
prompted them to assert ; nor do I believe that the 
Anglo-Saxon history, even in the most calamitous pe- 

(42) Such appears to have been the situation of the clergy of 
Undisfarn*. They were reduced at last, to the few clerks who 
carried the body of St -Cuthbert, and these were afterwards raised 
to the priesthood. Compare p. 101, 113, 143. St Epiphanius 
assigns the same reason for the toleration of married priests, in 
some dioceses of the ancient church. T fe] vctpxlov Kavovx, 
Trapse, Iqv l&v avdpuTrav KMTIX, X.OHPOV pa.8v{&ri<rcircv 

7rAj0j gv2x.v, p-fi tvgirxopsvyis vTrs^icietg. Haeres. 59, p. 

(43) Wilk. p. 225, 229, 233. Sim. p. 17O, 


riods, can furnish a single instance of a priest, who 
ventured to marry after his ordination (44). 

A second and almost incurable wound was inflicted on 
the discipline of the age, by the dissolution of the cleri- 
cal monasteries, and the conversion of the conventual 
clergy into secular canons. By living in communi- 
ties, and regulating their conduct according to the deci- 
sions of certain rules, the ecclesiastics had been with- 
drawn from the commerce of the world, and more strictly 
confined to the discharge of their religious duties. By 
the invasion of the Danes most of these confraternities 
were dispersed ; and their members, in the families of 
their friends and relatives, acquired a love of pleasure, a 
spirit of independence^ and a contempt of regular dis- 
cipline. Of the younger clerks some adopted the mar- 
ried state, nor was there any canon which condemned 
their conduct : others plunged with precipitation into the 
vices of the age, and by their licentiousness shocked the 
piety of their more fervent brethren. The restoration 
of tranquillity invited the survivors to return to their 
monasteries : but the yoke, which their virtue had for- 
merly rendered light, now pressed on the shoulders of 
many as an intolerable burden. In several instances 
they ventured to emancipate themselves from the re- 

(44) In the Antiquitates Britannicse Ecclesise, of Archbishop 
Parker, and the Praesules Anglican!, of Bishop Godwin, the eye is 
fatigued with the constant repetition of Sacerdotes in conjugio 
legitimo pie viventes ; and Spelman and Wilkins are careful to pre- 
fix so grateful a phrase to the titles and prefaces of the charters 
which they have published. They should, however, to prevent 
mistakes, have informed their readers, that this expression is of 
modern date, and has been recently prefixed to ancient records, 
in order to supply the deficiency of the original text. 



straints of ancient discipline, divided among themselves 
the revenues of their churches, lived in separate families, 
and confined themselves solely to the obligation of assist- 
ing daily in the choir during the public worship. Even 
this obligation was soon despised : they accepted the vica- 
rious services of others ; and retired to the farms at- 
tached to their respective prebends. To indulge in ease 
and indolence seemed to be their principal objecl: : and 
the care of serving the Almighty was abandoned to the 
industry of mercenary substitutes (4<5). 

3. While the reputation of the clergy was thus ob- 
scured by their ignorance and degeneracy, the monastic 
profession had rapidly sunk into insignificance and con- 
tempt. There was scarce a monastery, which had 
escaped the visits of the invaders ; and the devastation 
which had been begun by the rapacity of the Danes, was 
completed by the policy of the Saxon princes. To re- 
plenish their treasuries, exhausted by the continuance of 
the war, the monastic possessions presented an easy and 
adequate expedient ; and while a considerable portion 
was annexed to the royal domains, the remainder was 
divided among the retainers of the prince (4<G). Of the 

(45) See tlie Saxon Chronicle (p. 117), Osbr-rn (Vit. Duns. p. 
112,) Eadmer (Vit. Duns. p. 219), Annales Ecclesirc Wintonien- 
sis (p. 289). 

(46) The torch of Hymen has enabled Archbishop Parker to 
discover secrets, placed far beyond the unassisted ken of mortals. 
He gravely informs his readers, that the destruction of the monas- 
teries was ordained by providence, as a punishment for the diabo- 
lic superstition of the monks : and that the prosperity enjoyed by 
Alfred and his immediate successors, was granted by heaven, as a 
reward for the pious marriages of the clergy. (Ilasc licuit in me- 
dium proferre ut occultum Dei judicium iu obruendis monacho- 


monks who had survived the ruin of their convents, 
many engaged in secular professions, some retired to the 
churches which were still served by the clergy, and a few 
endeavoured to re-establish and perpetuate the institute 
(47). But their efforts were ineffectual : and poverty, 
or the difficulty of procuring proselytes, compelled them 
to relinquish the fruitless object (48). The days were 
past, when kings were ambitious to exchange the crown 
for the cowl. That ferocity of manners, which constant 
habits of warfare had inspired, equally despised the mild- 
er pleasures of society and the duties of religion : no 
profession could command respect but that of arms j and 
the monastic institute was condemned, as calculated only 
for mercenaries and slaves (49). When Alfred re-ascended 

rum cultibus superstitiosis et diabolicis .... probe animadver- 
tamus. Monachorum loco succedebant presbyteri, qui in con- 
jugio legitimo pie vivebant. Tune vero Deus Opt. Max. prasbuit 
se magis mitem atque placabilem erga Anglicanam gentem. Ant. 
Brit. fol. 72, 73). It was unfortunate for the primate, that he 
could not change the fate of Edwin, the patron of the clergy, for 
that of Edgar, the protector of the monks. But all parties have 
had their bigots. 

(47) Ingul. p. 27, 32. 

(48) The monks of Croyland amounted to thirty, after the re- 
treat of the Danes. Instead of multiplying, they gradually 
dwindled away by desertion and death, till in the reign of Edred, 
the whole community consisted of the abbot and two monks. Id. 
p. 29. 

(49) Nullumde sua propria gente nobilem acliberumhominem, 
qui monasticam voluntarie vellet subirevitam, habebat. Nimirum 
quia per multa retroacta annorum curricula monastics vitas desi- 

derium ab ea toto gente desierat Propter divitiarum 

abundantiam multo magis id genus despectum monastics vitsc 
fteri existimo. Asser, p, 62. 

B b2 


the throne, he endeavoured to raise the order from the ob- 
scurity in which it languished ; and selected for the at- 
tempt the memorable spot, which had concealed him from 
the pursuit of the Danes. But it was easier to found the 
monastery of Ethelingey, than to people it with inhabi- 
tants. Among his subjects no one would condescend to 
put on the monastic habit (50). He was compelled to 
collect a colony of monks from the monasteries in Gaul, 
and to the strangers he added a competent number of 
foreign children, who by their education might acquire 
a predilection for the institute, and by their future choice 
might ensure its existence (51). Whether the success 
of the king was answerable to his zeal, \ve are not in- 
formed : but circumstances have transpired to justify a 
suspicion, that some of the foreigners soon resigned, per- 
haps never possessed, the true spirit of their profession. 
Their superior was John of Old-Saxony, a priest of dis- 
tinguished talents, and one of the royal instructors. His 
prudent severity incurred the hatred of the more worth- 
less among his subjects : two of the number formed the 
horrid design of murdering their abbot ; and some of 
their countrymen, who were servants in the monastery, 
engaged to be the ministers of their vengeance. At the 
hour of midnight, the old man arose in silence according 
to his custom, entered the choir by a private door, and 
threw himself on his knees before the altar. This was 
the opportunity, which the assassins expected. While 

(50) Asser, ibid. 

(51) Comparavit etiam quamplurimos cjiisdem gentls G.illicrs, 
e quibus quosdam infantes in eodem monasterio edoccri Lmperavit, 
et subsequent! ternpore ad monachicum babitum sublevari. Id. 


his attention was absorbed in prayer, they darted on their 
unsuspecting victim, and plunged their daggers in his 
body. His cries alarmed the monks : they crowded to 
the church; and discovered their abbot weltering in 
blood. The murderers had escaped to the neighbouring 
woods. They were pursued, and, together with their 
employers, received the punishment due to their crime 

By the death of Alfred the monastic order lost a 
powerful and zealous protector. During the reigns of 
his immediate successors, some feeble attempts were made 
to restore the order to its former celebrity : and the ori- 
gin of several monasteries is referred by their respective 
historians to this doubtful period. But their existence 
is denied by the positive testimony of king Edgar : and 
unless we accuse that prince of sacrificing the truth to 
his vanity, we must believe that under the reigns of his 
predecessors every monastic establishment was abolished 
(53). The Anglo Saxons, who before the time of St 
Dunstan, aspired to the merit of monachism, either con- 

(52) Ibid. 

(53) Teraporibus antecessorum tneorum, regum Anglorum, 
monasteria tam monachorum quam virginum destructa (et) peni- 
tus rejecta in tota Anglia erant. Wilk. p. 239. Asser informs 
us, that in his days no one observed the monastic rule (nullo tamen 
regulam illius vitas ordinabiljter tenente. Asser, p. 62) : and 
Wolstan, the contemporary author of the life of St Ethelvvold, 
observes, that when that prelate was made bishop of Winchester, 
the only monks in England were those whom St Dunstan had 
established at Abingdon and Glastonbury. (Nam hactenus ea 
tempestate non habebantur monachi in gente Anglorum, nisi tan- 
tum qui in Glestonia morabantur et Abbandonia. Wolst. in Act. 
Bened. saec. v. p. 615). 



tented themselves with receiving the habit from the 
hands of a bishop, and leading an anachoretical life amid 
the ruins of some deserted abbey, or quitted their native 
country, and in the most celebrated of the foreign mo- 
nasteries laboured to imbibe the spirit, and practise the 
duties, of their profession. Fleury was their principal 
resort : and when the order was afterwards revived in 
England, from that monastery were imported most of the 
regulations and the teachers of monastic discipline (54-). 

The communities of religious women had not suffered 
less than those of the men from the ravages of the bar- 
barians : but they were restored with greater success un- 
der the patronage of Alfred and his queen, Alswitha. 
The nunnery of Shaftesbury was founded by the prince, 
that of St Mary at Winchester by his royal consort. To 
people these houses, it was not necessary to solicit the 
assistance of foreigners. The Saxon ladies viewed the 
retirement of the cloister with less prejudice than the 
men : and the birth, as well as the virtues, of the first ab- 
besses cast an inviting lustre on the profession. As soon 
as Alfred had completed the convent at Shaftesbury, his 
daughter Ethelgeova assumed the government of the in- 

(54) Hist. Abend, p. 165. The saints, Dunstan, Oswald, &c. 
were educated at Fleury, familiari per id tempus Anglis consue- 
tudine, ut si qui boniafflatiessent desiderio in beatissimi Benedict! 
monasterio coenobialem susciperent habitum, a quo religionis hu- 
juscemodi manavit exordium. Malm, de pont. 1. iii. f. 1 58. Does 
the relative quo refer to St Benedict or the monastery ? The claims 
of each antecedent have been fiercely maintained. Those who ad- 
mit the antiquity of the Benedictine institute, have decided in fa- 
vour of the saint : its adversaries are equally positive for the mo 
nastery (Broughtcn, p. 420). 

Kon nostrum est tantas co^rponere lites. 


fant establishment ; and several females of the first dis- 
tinction hastened to profess themselves her disciples (55). 
Alswitha envied the tranquil situation of her daughter : 
at the death of Alfred she retired to the abbey of St 
Mary : and her declining years were solaced by the com- 
pany and the rising virtues of her grand daughter Ead- 
burga. The history of Eadburga is curious. It was the 
early wish of her father king Edward to devote her to the 
cloister : but to consign to perpetual confinement an in- 
fant, who was yet unable to chuse for herself, was an idea 
that staggered his resolution (56). He hesitated, and, 
after some deliberation, committed the decision of his 
scruples to a singular and most uncertain experiment. 
'Eadburga, (she was but three years old) was conducted 
into a chamber, in one corner of which had previously 

(55) In quo monasterio propriam filiam JEthelgeovam devotam 
Deo virginem Abbatissam constitute : cum qua etiam alias multae 
nobiles moniales in monastic* vita Deo scrvientes in eodem mo- 
nasterio habitant. Asser, p. 64. 

(56) The custom of offering children to be devoted for life to 
the monastic or clerical profession, was early adopted in the 
Christian church, in imitation of the oblation of the prophet Sa- 
muel, in the temple of Jerusalem. The idea that the determina- 
tion of "his parents was no less binding on the child, than the vo- 
luntary profession of adults, was first embraced in the sixth cen- 
tury (Bing. vol. i. p. 255), and followed till the pontificate of 
Celestin III. who, according to the more ancient discipline, per- 
mitted the child at a certain age to decide for himself. (See Ma- 
billon vet. anal. p. 157. Excerp. Egb. apud Wilk. p. 107. Nat. 
Alex. torn. vi. p. 102, 143, 594). Numerous examples of this 
practice occur in our ancient writers (See Bede, 1. iii. c. 24. Ale. 
de Pont. ebor. v. 1416. Hist. Ram. p. 495, 7, 9). The ceremony 
of the oblation may be seen in St Benedict's rule (c. 59), and 
Lanfranc's constitutions (Wilk. p. 355). 

sb 4? 


been placed a collection of female trinkets, in another a 
chalice with the book of the gospels. It so chanced, 
that the child ran to the latter j and her father clasping 
her in his arms, exclaimed, {< thou shalt receive the object 
" of thy choice ; nor will thy parents regret, if they yield 
" to thee in virtue." She was intrusted to the care of 
the nuns at Winchester, with whom she spent a long 
course of years, eminent among her sisters for her tender 
piety, and extraordinary self-abasement (57). 

In the succeeding reigns the number of convents con- 
tinually increased. The deportment of the nuns was 
regular and edifying : but the quality of the abbesses, 
and the riches they possessed, induced them to assume 
a pomp, which ill accorded with the ideas of those, who 
admired the poverty of the ancient monks. When 
Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, was labouring to re- 
vive the original discipline of the Benedictine institute, 
he saw at court the abbess Editha, daughter of king 
Edgar. Her dress was splendid, and shocked the austere 
notions of the prelate. Daughter," he observed to 
her, " the spouse, whom you have chosen, delights not 
" in external pomp. It is the heart which he demands." 
" True, father," replied the abbess, " and my heart I 
" have given him. While he possesses it, he will not 
be offended with external pomp" (58). Editha might 
with justice be permitted to make the reply. Within 
the walls of her convent she was distinguished by the 
austerity of her life ; and her profuse donations to the 
indigent, demonstrated the solidity of her virtue. After 

(57) Malm, de -reg. 1. ii. c. xiii. f. 50, de pont. 1. ii. f. 140. 

(58) Malm, de reg. 1. ii. c. 13, f. 50. Gotselin. vit. StEadgithae 
-apud S3 Boned. SKC. v. p. 637. 


her death the Saxon church enrolled her name in the 
catalogue of the saints. Nor has her reputation been 
confined within the limits of her own country : she is 
commemorated with peculiar praise in the Roman mar- 



Rejloration of cecleftaftical difcipline St Dun/Ian he is ra'ifed to 
the fee of Canterbury reproves Edgar oppofes the pontiff 
rejlores the monks reforms the clergy council of Calne. 

To have been praised by the monastic historians is, in 
the estimation of modern writers, the infallible criterion 
of demerit: and their superior discernment has politely 
divided the whole body of our catholic ancestors into 
two classes ; of knaves, who under the mask of sanctity 
sought to satisfy their avarice, and of fools, who credu- 
lously condescended to be the dupes of their hypocrisy. 
Among the former they have allotted a distinguished 
place to the celebrated St Dunstan. He was long rever- 
ed as the ornament and pride of the Anglo-Saxon 
nation : and the laurels, which the gratitude of his con- 
temporaries had planted on his grave, were during more 
than six centuries, respected by the veneration of their 
posterity. But since the era of the reformation, his 
fame has been repeatedly assailed by a host of writers, 
who, if we may believe their confident assertions, have 
torn away the veil, which he had artfully thrown over 
his real character, and have proved it to be a compound 
of fraud, ambition, and injustice, (1). The merit of 

(l) See Rapin (hist. vol. i. p. 104, 107), Carte (vol. i. p. 327), 
Hume (vol. i. p. 78), and Henry (vol. iii. p. 102, 267). With 
these writers I am sorry to number the recent historian of the 
Anglo Saxons. As in other parts of his history he excels all his 
predecessors in industry and accuracy ; so in his account of St 


their discoveries I shall have occasion to discuss in the 
sequel of this chapter, which is designed to review the 
conduct of Dunstan in his attempts to revive the study 
of literature, to reform the national manners, and to re- 
store the monastic order. In describing his actions I 
shall follow no other guide than his ancient biographers : 
with the secret history of his breast I have not, like mo- 
dern historians, the good fortune to be acquainted. 
My narrative will prove, perhaps, less amusing : it will 
not be less accurate. The writer, who indulges his 
fancy in speculations on the unknown motives of ancient 
characters (2), will frequently wander from the bounda- 
ries of truth, till he is bewildered in the mazes of fiction. 
I shall not retard the curiosity of the reader by tran- 
scribing the miraculous circumstances, with which the 
pen of Osbern has adorned the birth of his hero. The 
merit of Dunstan requires not the aid of fable. His 
family was noble, and claimed a remote alliance with the 
kings of Wessex. From the Irish clergymen, who served 
the church of Glastonbury, he received the first rudi- 

Dunstan, he has improved their incoherent fables into a well-con- 
nected romance. Turner, vol. iii. p. 132 191. 

(2) " The life of Dunstan appears an interesting subject for 
philosophic contemplation." Id. vol. ii. pref. p. viii. The most 
ancient account of St Dunstan was written by a contemporary 
author, the initial of whose name was B. Mabillon conjectures 
him to have been Bridferth, the monk of Ramsey. He published 
the prologue or dedication to Archbishop ^Elfricj from a MS. be- 
longing to the monastery of St Vedast, at Arras. Act. Bened. 
Si^c. v. p. 654. The whole work was afterwards published by 
the Bollandists, Maii torn. iv. p. 346. The same life is in a MS* 
of the Cotton library, Cleop. B. 13. 


merits of learning (3) ; and at an early period of life dis- 
covered those abilities, which afterwards raised him to so 
high a pre-eminence above his contemporaries. Before 
he quitted the roof of his instructors, he was possessed of 
every acquirement, which that age thought honourable 
or fashionable. To the familiar use of the Latin tongue 
he joined a competent knowledge of philosophy : the holy 
scriptures and the works of the ancient fathers were the 
subjects of his assiduous meditation : and his proficiency 
in the various arts of music, painting, engraving, and 
working in the metals, as it was more easily appreciated, 
was universally and deservedly applauded. 

With these accomplishments Dunstan was introduced 
by his uncle Athelm, archbishop of Canterbury, to the 
notice of king Athelstan (4). His conduct at court did 
not obscure his former reputation : but the favour of the 
prince alarmed the jealousy of his competitors ; suspicions 
injurious to his character were whispered in the royal 
ear ; and after a short struggle he was compelled to re- 
tire from the prospect, which had just opened to his am- 
bition, and to conceal himself in the house of his relation, 
Elphege bishop of Winchester. During his disgrace the 
unsuccessful courtier had leisure to meditate on the in- 
stability of his former pursuits, and to fix the plan of his 

(3) MS. Cleop. B. 13. Osbern vit. Duns. p. 91. The monk 
adds a curious observation respecting the frequent peregrinations 
of the Irish. ** Hicque mos cum plerosque turn vehementer ad- 
" hue manet Hibernos : quia quod aliis bona voluntas in consue- 
" tudinem, hsec illis consuetude vertit in naturam." Ibid. 

(4) This circumstance, which is attested by Adelard and Os- 
bern, proves that he must have been born before the accession of 
Athelstan, though the contrary is asserted by the Saxon chronicle 
(p. ill.), and Osbern (p. 90). 


future conduct. His choice was anxiously suspended 
between the two opposite states of celibacy and marriage; 
whether he should make a second attempt to obtain dis- 
tinction in the world, or embrace with its austerities the 
abject profession of a monk. It is on the bed of sickness 
that the hopes and fears of religion most powerfully ex- 
ert their influence. The irresolution of Dunstan was 
protracted till a severe indisposition led him to the brink 
of the grave : but the prospect of death added new 
weight to the arguments in favour of a religious life : and 
at his recovery he received from the hands of the bishop 
the order of priesthood with the monastic habit, and 
was appointed by him to officiate in the church, in which 
he had spent the earlier portion of his youth (5). 

At Glastonbury his life was that of a man, who de- 
votes his whole attention to the faithful discharge of his 
duties, and looks for the only reward of his piety in the 
testimony of his own conscience, and the approbation 
of the Supreme Being (6). His reputation, however, 

(5) In the history of the Anglo-Saxons, this determination is 
ascribed to ambition. Unsuccessful in the world, Dunstan resolved 
to try his fortune in the church : and to conceal his views from 
the curiosity of the public, assumed the garb of superior sanctity. 
The long train of reasoning, by which the writer endeavours to 
support this hypothesis, is ingeniously, but fancifully deduced 
from this simple circumstance, that Dunstan's cell at Glastonbury 
was narrow, dark, and inconvenient. See Mr Turner, vol. iii. p. 

(fi) The story of the nocturnal conflict with the devil, was un- 
known to the contemporary writer of his life. (MS. Cleop. B. 
13). It is first related by Osbern, an injudicious biographer, 
whose anile credulity collected and embellished every fable (Osb. 
p. =)G). It is repeated by Mr Turner (vol. iii. p. H6) : but that 


reached the ears of Ethelfleda, a widow lady of royal 
descent, and extensive property. She visited the re- 
cluse, was charmed with his conversation, and learned 
to revere his virtues. He was soon intrusted with the 
direction of her conscience, and at her death was left 
the heir to her property. Had the mind of Dunstan 
thirsted after riches, it might now have been satisfied. 
The wealth of Ethelfleda had already raised him to an 
equality with the proudest of his former opponents, 
when the decease of his father Heorstan, placed at his 
disposal the patrimonial estates of his family. But his 
retirement from the world had subdued his passions. 
The profession of poverty, which he had embraced, was 
sacred in his eyes ; and he scrupulously divided both his 
own patrimony, and the property of Ethelfleda, be- 
tween the church and the poor (7). 

Soon after the death of Athelstan, Dunstan was drawn 
from the obscurity -of his cell. At the prayer of Ed- 
mund, the next king, he condescended to visit and 
edify the court : his compliance was rewarded by the 
gift of the royal palace and manor of Glastonbury : and 
the establishment of a colony of monks shewed the 
purity of his views, in the acceptance of the present (8). 

historian has artfully woven it into his own system, by represent- 
ing it as a contrivance, by which Dunstan hoped to attract notice. 
He has, however, forgotten to inform the reader, that this part of 
his narrative rests not on ancient, but on his own authority. 

(7) MS. Cleop. B. 13. Osb.p. 98, 99. So niggard is Mr Tur- 
ner of his praise, that even this action cannot extort his approba- 
tion. His sagacity suspects that it was merely a bait to catch ap- 
plause (vol. iii. p. 147). 

Sincerum est nisi vas, quodcuraque infundis, acescit. 

(8) Osb.p. 101. MS. Cleop. p. 72. The manner of his indue- 


The friendship of Edmund was surpassed by the vene- 
ration of Edred, his brother and successor. To the 
prudence of Dunstan, that prince resigned the govern- 
ment of his conscience, his finances, and his kingdom : 
and to reward his services, offered him the rich and im- 
portant bishopric of Winchester. The motives of his 
refusal did honour to the modesty of his virtue. He 
feared, was his reply, the severe responsibility attached 
to [the episcopal dignity, and dared not accept an 
office, the obligations of which he could not accurately 
discharge, as long as he retained his situation near the 
king (9). Edred admired his humility, and reluctantly 
yielded, not to his reasons, but to his entreaties. 

Edred was succeeded by Edwin, a boy whose age had 
not yet reached the sixteenth year, but whose character 
was already marked by the impetuosity of his passions. 
On the day of his coronation, when the nobility and 
clergy had been invited to partake of the royal feast, he 
abruptly rose from table, and precipitated himself into a 
neighbouring apartment, where he was expected by two 
ladies, Ethelgiva and Elgiva, the mother and the daugh- 

tion is thus related by a writer, who was almost his contemporary. 
Rex apprehensa ejus dextera, causa placationis seu etiam dignita- 
tjs osculatusest ilium, ducensque ad sacerdotalem cathedram> et 
imponens ilium in earn, dixit : esto sedis istius princeps, potensque 
insessor. Ibid. He introduced the Benedictine rule, and was the 
first English abbot. Primus abbas Anglicse nationis enituit. Ibid. 
(9) MS. Cleop. Osb. p. 103. If on this occasion Dunstan could 
deceive the king, he was unable to deceive Mr Turner, who has 
discovered that he refused the bishopric, because Canterbury and 
not Winchester was the object of his ainbiiion. Vol. iii. p. 150. 
Yet most of the archbishops of that period were translated to the 
metropolitical, from an inferior see. 


ter (10). If we may listen to the scandal of the age, 
chastity was not their favourite virtue : nor did their 
visit to the royal youth originate in the most delicate 
motives (11). A general murmur spoke the indignation 
of the company : at their request, the abbot of Glaston- 
bury, with the prelate Kynsey, entered the chamber; 
and the unwilling prince was persuaded or compelled to 
resume his seat. By the language of modern prejudice 
the share which Dunstan bore in this transaction, has 
been magnified into an attempt to subdue the spirit of 
the king, and a daring insult to the regal authority : 
more moderate readers may, perhaps, feel inclined to 
applaud the promptitude, with which he endeavoured to 
smother the first sparks of discontent, and taught his 
pupil to respecl: the laws of decorum (12). 

(10) The name of the mother was JEthelgiva (sic erat nomen 
ignominiosae mulieris. MS. Cleop. p. 76). That of the daughter 
was Elgiva, as will appear from the sequel. 

(11) Huic quasdam natione praecelsa, inepta tamen mulier per 
nefaridum familiaritatis lenocinium sectando inhserebat, eotenus 
videlicet quo sese vel etiam natam suam sub conjugal! titulo illi 
innectendo sociaret. Quas ille, ut aiunt, alternatim, quod jam 
pudet dicere, turpi palpatu et absque pudore utriusque libidinose 
tractavit Repente prosiluit lascivus ad pnedictum scelus lenoci- 
nii invenerunt ilium inter utrasque volutan tern. MS. Cleop. p. 
76. Duarum feminarum illic eum opperientiiim stupri ardore 
succensus. Osb. p. 83. In complexum ganese devolutus. Malm. 
1. ii. c. vii. f. SO. The reader must excuse these quotations. It 
was necessary to oppose them to the contrary assertions of mo- 
dern writers." 

(12) In support of this statement I have to contend against 
Carte, who has brought into the field a formidable auxiliary, 
William of Malinsbury. But if I can divest the monk of his mo- 
dern armour, his efforts will be harmless. Let the reader com- 


From this day the influence of Dunstan rapidly de- 
clined. The prodigality of Edwin regretted the trea- 
sures, which, during the last reign, had been expended 
in religious foundations : his restless spirit bore with im- 
patience the restraint of his tutor ; and his impetuosity 
was stimulated by the enmity of Ethelgiva. Dunstan 
was suddenly deprived of his officer at court, and ba- 
nished to his monastery. But this disgrace did not 
satisfy the resentment of the woman. The monks of 
Glastonbury were urged to rebel against their abbot ; 
threats of personal violence were sounded in his ears ; 
and it was with difficulty he eluded the keen pursuit of 
his enemies (13). Arnulf, earl of Flanders, received 
and protected the fugitive. With his permission Dun- 
stan retired to the monastery of St Peter's at Ghent, 
whose inhabitants were flattered by the choice of their 
guest, and long cherished the remembrance of his vir- 

The vengeance of Ethelgiva was ingenious and perse- 
vering. In his retreat Dunstan was secure from the 

pare the Latin original with Carte's English translation. The 
ambiguous expression, proxime cognatam invadens uxorem ejus 
formae (vel forma) deperibat, Carte boldly renders, " the king 
had married a wife nearly related to him :" the decisive line, pro- 
rupit in triclinium in complexuin ganece devolutus, is softened 
into an innocent visit " to the queen's apartment :" lasci<vientem 
juvenem, means no more than " playing at romps with his wife 
" and her mother :" and pellicem repudiare is improved into a 
" divorce from his wife." (Carte, vol. i. p. 325. Malm. 1. ii. c. 
7. f. 30). Hume condescended to re-echo the opinions of this his- 
torian; Henry inherited his art of translation. 

(13) Parentela mulieris prosequens Sancti oculos eruere dispo- 
nebat. Wallingford, p. 543. MS. Cleop. p. 77. 

C C 


sword of the assassin j but he could feel the ruin of the 
societies which he had so earnestly laboured to establish' 
His two abbeys of Glastonbury and Abingdon were dis- 
solved ; and the monks whom he had carefully trained 
to the duties of their profession, were cast on the world 
without friends or support. But her triumph was quick- 
ly terminated by the disgrace of exile, and, after a short 
period, by the pangs of a cruel death. The respect due 
to her birth had long been effaced by the licentiousness 
of her conduct j and the great council of the nation had 
endeavoured to interrupt her familiarity with the king, 
by the threat of the most ignominious punishment (14-). 
Their admonitions she despised, and bade defiance to 
their resentment. Her connexion with the royal youth 
continued till she was seized by a party of soldiers, 
branded in the forehead with a hot iron, and conveyed 
out of the kingdom (15). Her disgrace, however, did 
not correct the vices of Edwin. The public discontent 
was daily augmented by his follies and extravagance : all 
the provinces to the north of the Humber transferred 
their allegiance to his brother Edgar ; and none but the 
men of Kent and Wessex were willing to draw the 
sword in his favour (16). While the country was ra- 

(14) Suspend!! comminatione percellat. Osb. p. 83. The 
witena gemot was the supreme judicial tribunal among the Saxons. 

(15) That this punishment was inflicted in consequence of a 
judicial sentence is obscurely hinted by the historian (perpetua 
exilii relegatione, Osb. p. 84) though he ascribes it to Arch- 
bishop Odo : probably because, in the absence of the king, that 
prelate presided in the assembly of the nobility and clergy. 

(16) Who were the authors of the insurrection ? Odo and the 
monks, exclaim a host of writers, whose credulity condescends to 


vaged by the flames of civil war, Ethelgiva ventured to 
return , but she chose an inauspicious moment, when 
her lover was fleeing with precipitation from the pursuit 
of the insurgents. It was her misfortune to fall into 
their hands; and they, abusing the licence of vic- 
tory, cruelty cut the nerves and muscles of her legs, 
which speedily occasioned her death (IT). 

re-echo a calumny 1 , sprung from the rancour of religious contro- 
versy. That the sufferings of the monks might teach them to 
wish for a change of government, is not unnatural : that they ex- 
cited or abetted the revolt, cannot be deduced from the narrative 
of any ancient writer. The order at this period was fallen too 
low to effect so important a revolution ; and the only monks in 
England, whose existence is certain, (Wolst. vit. Ethel, p. 615. 
Ang. sac. vol. 2. p. 105), and whose wrongs are recorded, were 
those of Abingdon and Glastonbury, monasteries situated in the 
provinces which continued faithful to Edwin. The framers of 
the accusation should at least inform us, by what strange fatality 
it happened, that the insurrection burst out in the provinces in 
which its authors possessed no influence, and did not exist in 
those in which they did. As for Odo, I know not why his name 
is added, except because it is enrolled in the calendar of the saints. 
He lived and died the subject of Edwin. The most ancient ac- 
count of the origin of the insurrection is comprised in these words. 
Factum est autern ut rex prasfatus in prastereuntibusannis penitus 
a brumali populo relinquereter contemptus, quum in commisso re- 
gimine insipienter egisset, sagaces et sapientes odio vanitatis dis- 
perdens, et ignaros quosque sibi consimiles studio dilectionis ad- 
sciscens. MS. Cleop. p, 78. 

(17) I am not disposed to apologize for the assassins of Ethel- 
giva, or to justify her death : though I believe that, according to 
the stern maxims of Saxon jurisprudence, a person returning with- 
out permission from banishment, might be executed without the 
formality of a trial. But is it evident that the primate, as is ge- 
nerally asserted, was privy to her death ? Osbern, from whom 
c c 2 


The dispute between the royal brothers was at last ter- 
minated in an assembly of the witan ; and the rivers 
Thames and Severn were selected for the boundary of 
their respective dominions (18). But Edwin did not 
long survive the partition j and at his death the whole 
Anglo-Saxon monarchy was united under the government 
of Edgar (19). He was careful to recal the abbot of Glas- 
tonbury from banishment, received him with expressions 
of the warmest friendship, and gradually advanced him 
to the highest ecclesiastical dignities (20). In contrast- 
ing the past with the subsequent conduct of Dunstan, his 
ambition has been severely lashed by the zeal or the in- 
temperance of several modern writers. But it does not 
necessarily follow, that the man acts inconsistently, who 
at one period of life accepts an office, which at another 

alone posterior writers derive their information, in his life of Odo 
says she was taken and hamstrung by his retainers : in his life of 
Dunstan he attributes it solely to the insurgents of Mercia. If 
the first account be true, it does not convict, if the second, it ac- 
quits the archbishop. See note (V). 

(18) Sicque universo populo testante publica res regum ex de- 
finitione sagacium segregata est, ut famosum flumen Tamese reg- 
num disterminaret amborum. MS. Cleop. p. 78. Wallingford, p. 
543. Mat. West. an. 957. These passages might, perhaps, have 
relieved the doubts, in which the partition of the kingdom has in- 
volved the casuistry of Collier. Church hist. vol. i. p. 183. 

(19) Ah utroque populo electus suscepit. MS. Cleop. p. 78. 

(20) Henry is so desirous that the blame of the insurrection 
ihould attach to Dunstan, that he represents him as returning from 
exile before this period, and placing Edgar by his intrigues on the 
throne of Mercia. (Hibt. vol. iii. p. 103). Yet every ancient 
writer asserts that he did not return, till Edgar had obtained the 
undisputed possession of the crown. MS. Cleop. p. 78. Chron.. 
Sax. p. 117. Osb. p. 107. Wigorn. p, 605. West. p. 19<S V 


he had refused : and the apparent change in his senti- 
ments may be fairly ascribed to the revolutions of the 
system, in which he finds himself placed. The modesty 
of Dunstan yielded to the importunity of the king, or the 
necessities of the church : as they became vacant, he ac- 
cepted the bishoprics of Worcester and of London ; and 
from them ascended, by the forced or voluntary retreat 
of Archbishop Brihtelm, to the metropolitan throne of 
Canterbury (21). This rapid acquisition of wealth and 
power did not relax that vigour of character, which had 
distinguished Dunstan in an inferior station. Faithful 
to what he conceived to be the true interests of religion, 
he permitted no consideration to allure him from the 
strict line of duty ; and on more than one occasion com- 
pelled both the king and the pontiff to recede from their 
pretensions, and bend to the equity of his decisions. The 
passions of Edgar were not less violent, though perhaps 
less obstinate, than those of his unfortunate brother. 
The monkish writers, whose credit has been impeached 
by modern prejudice, but whose veracity is strongly sup- 
ported by the fidelity with which they record the vices of 
their greatest patron, have transmitted to us the history 
of his amours : and the efforts of the archbishop to re- 
strain and to correct the passions of his sovereign, do ho- 
nour to his courage and his virtue. In the convent of 
Wilton, Edgar had dared to violate the chastity of a no- 
ble female, who resided with the nuns, and who, to elude 
his passion, had covered herself with the veil of one of 

(21) Post hunc Byrhtelmus, Dorsatensium provisor, Dorober- 
nensis prassul eligitur, qui nimis mansuetus pro reprimendis malis, 
jussus est a rege relictam dignitatem rursus recipere providendam. 
MS. Cleop. 

c 2 


the sisters. The infamy of the royal ravisher was speedily 
divulged ; but confident in his own power, he afFe&ed 
to despise the censure of the public. Dunstan received 
the news with the keenest anguish. As the guardian of 
religion, and the keeper of the royal conscience, he re- 
paired to the court ; represented in strong but respectful 
language the enormity of the sin ; and demanded satis- 
faction for the insult which had been offered to the sanc- 
tity of the cloister. The heart of Edgar was softened : 
with tears he acknowledged his guilt, and professed him- 
self ready to perform whatever penance the prelate might 
impose. That penance was severe (22). During seven 
years he laid aside his crown, the ensign of his dignity, 

(22) If the reader wish to see a specimen of historical accuracy, 
he may consult the account of this transaction in Hume, (c. 2. p. 
86). " Edgar," says that writer, " broke into a convent," (he 
went there on a visit, Eadem. p. 218), " carried off Editha," 
(her name was Wulfrith ; her daughter by Edgar was Editha, 
Malm, de reg. 1. ii. c. 8. f. 33), " a nun," (she was pupil to the 
nuns. Inter sanctimoniales non velata nutriebatur. Eadm. p. 
218. Certum est non tune sanctimonialem fuisse sed pueilam 
laicam. Malm. ibid, et de pon. 1. ii. f. 143), " by force, and even 
" committed violence or? her person. That he might reconcile 
" himself to the church, he was obliged, not to separate himself 
" from his mistress," (They did separate, and Wulfrith became 
a nun in the same convent. Malm, de pont. 1. ii. f. 143. Gotselin. 
in vit. Edith, p. 637) " but to abstain from wearing his crown 
" during seven years, and to deprive himself so long of that 
" vain ornament," (that this was but the smallest part of his 
penance may be seen above). The historian may have been misled 
in some of the circumstances by an ambiguous expression of 
Malmsbury, (ibid. f. 33) : but it was his duty to have collated the 
different passages ; and not to have incautiously imposed on him*- 
self, and insulted the credulity of his readers. 


and exhibited to his subjects the edifying spectacle of a 
penitent king : he observed a rigorous fast twice in each 
week ; distributed to the poor the treasures which he had 
inherited from his father ; and, to atone for the scandal 
which he had given, creeled and endowed an opulent 
monastery for religious virgins. Dunstan had added two 
other conditions, with which he also complied , that he 
should publish a code of laws for the more impartial ad- 
ministration of justice, and transmit, at his own expence, 
to the different counties copies of the holy scriptures for 
the instruction of the people (23). 

In this transaction it may, perhaps, be said that Dun- 
stan acted merely from the respect which he bore his 
own character. But the purity of his motives may be 
lawfully inferred from the uprightness of his conduct on 
other occasions, when, without the prospect of glory or 
the fear of infamy, he hesitated not to dare the resent- 
ment of the pontiff as freely as that of the king. A 
nobleman distinguished by his rank and opulence, had 
taken to his bed a near relation ; and Dunstan had re- 
peatedly admonished him to dissolve the incestuous con- 
nection. It was in vain that the marriage was annulled, 
and the sentence of excommunication excluded the cul- 
prit from the society of the faithful. Secure behind the 
protection of Edgar, he despised the thunders of the 

(23) If this be true, I do not see why the papistic prelate Dun- 
stan has not as good a claim to the honours of a reformer as either 
Alfred or JElfric. See the curious remark of Wise in his letter to 
Mores, Comment, de JElfr. p. xxix. But I suspect the true read- 
ing in Osbern to be ; justas legum rationes sanciret, sancitas con- 
seriberet, scrip tas per omnes fines imperii sui populis custodiendas 
mandaret, instead of sanctas conscriberet scripturas, as the worcU 
stand in the printed copies. 

c c 4? 


metropolitan, and appealed from the injustice of the Sax- 
on, to the equity of the Roman bishop. The credulity 
of the pontiff was surprised, and Dunstan received a pa- 
pal mandate to revoke his censures, and restore the of- 
fender to his former privileges. " I will obey," was 
the reply of the inflexible prelate, " when I shall see 
" him sorry for his crime. But God forbid that I con- 
" sent to transgress the divine law for the love or fear 
" of any mortal man, or the preservation of my life.'* 
The firmness of this answer astonished and overcame the 
nobleman. He separated from the object of his passion, 
and submitted to ask forgiveness in a public synod. The 
primate, charmed with his obedience and the sincerity of 
his repentance, raised him from the ground, gave him 
the kiss of peace, and admitted him to the participation 
of the sacraments (24-). 

It could not be expected, that, under a metropolitan of 
this unbending character, the vices of the clergy would 
be suffered to escape unnoticed or unpunished. It was, 
probably, during his banishment, that he first conceived 
the idea of restoring among his countrymen the severity 
of the ancient discipline. At that period the prelates of 
Flanders were industriously engaged in similar attempts ; 
and he had the opportunity of witnessing the success of 
their exertions. The very monastery in which he re- 
resided at Ghent, had, only a few years before, belonged 
to a society of secular canons : but the irregularity of 
their conduct had awakened the zeal of the abbot Gerard, 
and they had been compelled to yield their places to a 
community of Benedictine monks, who by their rule were 

(54) Eadm. vit. Dun. p. 215. 


bound to a greater austerity of life, and by the fate of 
their predecessors were impelled to a more scrupulous 
observance of the duties of religion (25). As soon as 
Dunstan saw himself at the head of the Saxon church, he 
determined to pursue the same plan : but the ardour of his 
zeal was tempered by the suggestions of prudence. His 
first essay was to raise the monastic order from that de- 
preciated state, into which it had fallen. At his own ex- 
pence he founded a convent at Westminster : the monks, 
who had been expelled by the vengeance of Edwin, were 
invited to return to the abbeys of Glastonbury and Ab- 
ingdon : and the zeal of the opulent and the pious was 
carefully directed to the restoration of the old, and the 
erection of new monasteries. The most eminent of the 
order were gradually raised to the highest dignities in the 
church ; and the bishopric of Sherburne was bestowed on 
Wulfsine abbot of Westminster, and that of Wells on 
Brithelm a monk of Glastonbury.' But the two, whom 
he principally honoured with his confidence were Oswald 
and Ethelwold. The former, a man of the strictest inte- 
grity, was nephew to the late archbishop Odo, and after 
resigning the rich deanery of Winchester, had embraced 
the monastic profession at Fleury in France. At his re- 
turn his reputation recommended him to the notice of 
Dunstan, who admired his piety, and resigned to him 
the bishopric of Worcester. Ethelwold was his beloved 

(25) Eliminata abinde clericorum irreligiositate, licet jactitarent 
sese ventosa nobilitate, melioratis quibusque coenobitarum religion- 
em non distulit subrogare. Vit. St Gerar. in act. Bened. saec. V. 
p. 272. It is recorded to the praise of the abbot Gerard, that he 
reformed in this manner no less than eighteen monasteries. Ibid, 
p. 273. 


disciple. He had imbibed the first rudiments of mo- 
nastic virtue under the care of Dunstan at Glaston- 
bury: his rapid proficiency was rewarded with the 
superintendence of the monks at Abingdon : and he 
was now selected as the most proper person to govern 
the important see of Winchester. , 

Though the archbishop could depend on the co-opera- 
tion of these prelates, he foresaw that the opposition of 
either the king or the pontiff would prove fatal to his 
success. But these apprehensions were soon removed. 
The messengers, who had been dispatched to Rome, re- 
turned with a favourable answer (26) : and Edgar readily 
promised his protection to an enterprise, which he was 
taught to consider as glorious to himself, and beneficial 
to his people. Armed with the papal and regal authori- 
ty, Dunstan summoned a national council, in which the 
king pronounced (if ever he pronounced), the discourse 
preserved by the abbot of Rieval (27). With a conside- 
rable display of eloquence, he described to the members, 
the degeneracy of the clergy belonging to some of the 
principal sees ; lamented the misapplication of the re- 
venues, which the piety of his ancestors had bestowed 
upon the church ; exhorted the prelates to punish the 
guilty with all the severity of ecclesiastical discipline ; 
and offered to support their decisions with the whole 

(26) Fretus auctoritate Johannis apostolicae sedis antistitis apud 
regem obtinuit, quatenus canonici, qui caste vivere nollent, eccle- 
siis depellerentur, et monachi loco eorum intromitterentur. Eadm. 
p. 219. See also his life of St Oswald, p. 200. 

(27) Int. dec. scrip, p. 360. I should rather think it was a decla- 
mation composed by some monk, in imitation of the ancient his- 


power of the crown. Before the council separated, it 
was enacted that every priest, deacon, and subdeacon, 
should be compelled to live chastly, or to resign his be- 
nefice : and the execution of this law was intrusted to 
the zeal of Dunstan, Oswald, and Ethelwold (28). It is, 
however, observable, that from this moment the arch- 
bishop disappears from the scene, and relinquishes to his 
two associates the whole glory of conducting and com- 
pleting the enterprise. Whether it was, that the clergy 
of Canterbury were exempt from the vices ascribed to 
many of their brethren, or that they were too powerful 
to be attacked with impunity, he made no effort to expel 
them from the possession of his cathedral. It was, prin- 
cipally, in the dioceses of Worcester and Winchester 
that the subjects of complaint existed : and in them the 
reformers first endeavoured to execute their commission. 
Oswald was a prelate of a mild disposition : his heart 
revolted at the idea of violence, and suggested in its place 
an innocent but successful artifice. In the vicinity of the 
cathedral he erected a church to the honour of the virgin 
Mary, which he intrusted to the custody of a community 
of monks ; and which he frequented himself for the ce- 
lebration of mass. The presence of the bishop attracted 
that of the people : the ancient clergy saw their church 
gradually abandoned ; and after some delay Wensine, 
their dean, a man advanced in years, and of an un- 
blemished character, took the monastic habit, and was 
advanced to the office of prior. The influence of his ex- 
ample, and the honour of his promotion, held out a 
strong temptation to his brethren. Each week the num- 

(28) Eadm. vit. Oswal. p. 200. Wilk. p. 239, 247. 


her of the canons was diminished by repeated desertions : 
and at last the principal of the churches of Mercia was 
transferred without violence or dispute, from its ancient 
possessors to the Benedictine monks. The policy of the 
bishop was admired and applauded by the king (29). 

To the zeal of Ethelwold was opposed a more vigorous 
and determined resistance. The clergy of Winchester 
were the sons of noble families, who discovered an equal 
reluctance to surrender their pleasures or their prefer- 
ments. Depending on the influence of their friends, 
they secretly derided the impotent menaces of the 
bishop : and publicly eluded his urgent exhortations by 
repeated but insincere professions of amendment. Still 
the irregularity of their conduct was such, as would have 
justified the severest treatment. The ample revenue of 
their benefices they spent in idleness and luxury : the de- 
corations of the church were neglected : the celebration 
of the public "worship was abandoned to the zeal of 
mercenary substitutes : and some, if we may believe the 
scandal of the times, lived in the open violation of the 
canons respecting clerical celibacy (30). 

(29) Edm. p. 202. Hist. Rames. p. 400. 

(30) Clerici illi, nomine tenus canonici, frequentationem chori, 
labores vigiliarum, et ministerium altaris vicariis suis utcunque 
sustentatis relinquentes, et ab ecclesiae conspectu plerumque ab- 
sentes septennio,quidquid de prsebendis percipiebant,locis et modis 
sibi placitis absumebant. Nuda fuit ecclesia intus et extra. An- 
nal. Winton. p. 289. The character given to them by Wolstan 
their contemporary is equally unfavourable. Erant canonici ne- 
fandis scelerum moribus implicati, elatione et insolentia, atque 
luxuria praeventi, adeo ut nonnulli eorum dedignarentur missas suo 
ordine celebrare, repudiantes uxores, quas illicite duxerant, et alias 


Ethelwold at last impatient of delay, requested the 
royal permission to introduce in their place a colony of 
monks, but the conscience of Edgar was, or appeared to 
be, alarmed : he refused to deprive the clergy of their 
ancient property ; and advised the bishop to remove the 
more incorrigible of the canons, and bestow their bene- 
fices on those whom they had hitherto procured to per- 
form their duties (31). This expedient, however, pro- 
duced but a temporary amendment. So partial a punish- 
ment was, perhaps, regarded as a victory : the new canons 
adopted the manners of their predecessors : and Edgar 
at last abandoned them to the severity of their bishop. 
On a Saturday in lent, during the celebration of mass, 
Ethelwold, attended by a royal deputy, entered the choir, 
and throwing on the ground a bundle of cowls, addressed 
the astonished canons : The time is come," he ex- 
claimed, " when you must finally determine. Put on 
" the monastic habit, or depart : you have no other 
choice." Their murmurs were silenced by the pre- . 
sence of the officer, and three reluctantly consented to 
change their profession (32). The rest retired in sullen 

accipientes, gulae et ebrietati jugiter dediti. Wolstan. vit. Ethel, 
p. 614. 

(31) Malens per canonicos, quam per aliud genus arctioris reli- 
gionis, ministrari negotium, ablatas quibusdam eorum praebendas 
contulit vicariis. Annal. Winton. p. 290. 

(32) For this transaction see Wolstan (Vit. S. Ethel, p. 614); 
Annales Winton. (p. 289); Eadmer (Vit. S. Dunst. p. 219); 
Malmsbury (de reg. 1. ii. c. vii. f. 31. de pont. 1. ii. f. 139), and 
Rudborne (hist. mag. p. 2 1 8). The Saxon chronicle only observes, 
that the canons were ejected because they refused to observe any 
rule. j:oj\5an j5 hi nolt>on nan jie^ul heah>an. Chron. Sax. ann. 963 
p. 117. 

discontent. But the humanity of Ethel wold did not 
abandon them to the privations of poverty : from the 
episcopal domain, he selected the richest and most con- 
venient manors, and assigned them for the support of the 
ejected clergy (33). Their places were supplied by a 
confraternity of monks from the monastery of Abingdon. 
Animated by their success, the two prelates proceeded 
rapidly in the work of reformation and expulsion. At 
Winchester the new minster, which had been founded 
by Alfred the great, arid completed on a more extensive 
plan by Edward, his successor, was still inhabited by the 
clergy : but after a decent respite of twelve months, they 
received an order to depart ; and the additional establish- 
ment of two abbeys, one for monks, and a second for 
nuns, confirmed the reign of monachism within the walls 
of the royal city. The clerical monasteries of Chertsey 
and Middleton soon shared the same fate : and the abbeys 
of Ely, Thorney, and Medeshamstede rose from their 

(33) Malm, de pont. 1. ii. f. 139. Ethel wold was distinguished 
by his charities. During a destructive famine he employed hrs 
servants to discover and support the sufferers ; distributed relief 
to all who were in want ; and sold in their favour the plate belong- 
ing to the altar, and the silver ornaments of the church. Wolst. 
p. 617. He was also a great benefactor to his cathedral, which 
he in a great measure rebuilt, in the year 980. Ibid. p. 621. He 
afterwards laid the foundations of an additional chapel at the east 
end (Nam fundamen ovans a cardine jecit eoo. Wolst. carm. p. 
630) ; but he lived not to complete it. The work was continued 
by Elphege his successor, who added the crypts, which still re- 
main. See a very circumstantial account of both buildings in 
Wolstan's poem, out of which I shall transcribe the description 
of the tower and vane creeled by Elphege, as a favourable speci- 
men of the abilities of the poet. Note (X). 


ashes, and recovered their ancient splendour (34). The 
services of Ethelwold were not forgotten by the veneration 
of his brethren. His name was enrolled in the calendar 
of the saints ; his festival was celebrated with every tes- 
timony of veneration j and .^Elfric and Wolstan, two 
monks of Winchester were employed to pour in his 
praise the muddy stream of their eloquence. 

In the diocese of Worcester, Oswald had recourse 
again to his favourite artifice ; and the canons of Win- 
chelcomb saw themselves gradually moulded into a com- 
munity of monks. Six other monasteries he erected 
within the limits of his bishopric *, founded with the assis- 
tance of the ealdorman Alwyn, the opulent abbey of 
Ramsey , and restored the ancient discipline in those of 
St Alban's and Beamflete (35). The vigour of Oswald 
and Ethelwold stimulated the tardiness of the other 
bishops ; and Edgar was enabled to boast, that during 
the first six years of his reign no less than seven and 
forty monasteries had been peopled with monks (3G). 

In the language of rival parties, vice and virtue fre- 
quently exchange their respective appellations : and the 
same conduct which has extorted the applause of Rome 
or Paris, has been as loudly condemned at London and 
Geneva. By the admirers of monachism, the names of 
Dunstan, Oswald, and Ethelwold, are still pronounced 
with reverence and gratitude : and their efforts in sup- 
port of the order, are considered as proofs of their at- 

(34) Chron. Sax. ann. 963, 964. p. 117, 118, 122. Wolst. p. 

(35) Ead. vit. St Oswal. p. 200, 201. Hist. Rames. p. 400. 

(36) Ingulf, f. 502. Malm, de pont. 1. ii. f. 139. Wilk. torn. I, 
p. 239. 


tachment to the true interests of religion. The praise of 
the catholic has provoked the censure of the protestant 
historians. With the name of monk, they have sought 
to associate the ideas of hypocrisy and fraud : and while 
they indiscriminately condemn the patrons, they cano- 
nize, with equal partiality, the enemies of the institute. 
The avarice of the eighth Henry prompted him to dis- 
solve the numerous monasteries in his dominions ; and 
though he suborned the voice of calumny to sanclify the 
deeds of oppression (37), though the revenues of the in- 
nocent sufferers were speedily absorbed by the extrava- 
gance of the king, and the rapacity of his courtiers, 
writers have been found eager to celebrate his conduct. 
Dunstan, with his two associates, expelled from a few 
churches a race of men, whose vices were a disgrace to 
their profession ; and though their hands were not con- 
taminated with sacrilegious plunder, though in the place 
of the ejected clergy they introduced men of stricter mo- 
rals and more religious deportment, the same writers 
have unblushingly accused them of partiality, injustice, 
and tyranny. But to form an accurate notion of their 
conduct, we must transport ourselves from the present to 

(37) " This would not have satisfied the ends of himself, and 
" his covetous and ambitious agents. They all aimed at the re- 
" venues and riches of the religious houses. F^r which reason no 
" arts nor contrivances were to be passed by, that might be of use 
" in obtaining those ends. The most abominable crimes were to 
" be charged upon the religious, and the charge was to be mana- 
" ged with the utmost industry, boldness, and dexterity. And 
" yet after all, the proofs were so insufficient, that from what I 
" have been able to gather, I have not found any direft one against 
" even any single monastery." Hearne, preliminary observations 
to the view of mitred abbeys, by Browne Willis, p. 84. 


the tenth century. In the preceding chapters we have 
observed the original severity, and the rapid decline of 
the discipline prescribed to the conventual clergy : we 
have seen the canons of several churches, (for the dege- 
neracy was not universal) abandon their religious duties, 
indulge their passion for dissipation and pleasure, and by 
their scandalous immorality, excite the tears of the vir- 
tuous, and the ridicule of the profane (38). In the in- 
vectives of the monastic writers, candour will indeed at- 
tribute much to the prejudice of rivals ; yet it must re- 
quire no common share of incredulity to read the charters 
and writings of the age, and maintain that the canons 
were guilty of no crime, but that of living piously in legiti- 
mate marriage (39). Had the bishops been content to 
sit down the idle spectators of the disgrace of their 
clergy, they might have escaped the censures of modern 
prejudice, but their conscience would have reproached 
them with betraying the most sacred of their duties* 
They acted as honour and religion called on them to act : 
they exhorted and conjured the canons to reform : from 
exhortations they proceeded to threats : and at length 
punished by expulsion that obstinacy, which could neither 
be softened by entreaty, nor subdued by terror. 

To secure the permane'ncy of these infant establishments 
was the next object which engaged the attention of the 
reforming prelates. Of the charters, which, at their soli- 
citation, Edgar granted to the different monasteries, many 
are still extant , and are filled with the most dreadful 
anathemas against those whose impiety should presume 

(38) Wilk. p. 246. 

(39) In legitimo matrimonio pie viventes. Parker, Godwin, 



to molest the monks -in the possession of their new habi- 
tations. To the temporal authority of the king were 
superadded the spiritual censures of the bishops: and 
their conduct was approved by the rescripts of the sove- 
reign pontiff. Yet the prudence of Dunstan foresaw, 
that the time might arrive, in which these precautions 
would prove feeble barriers against the attempts of supe- 
rior power - 9 and the clergy, under the protection of the 
king and the bishops, might resume possession of the 
churches, from which they had been expelled. To re- 
move, as far as it was possible, the probability of such an 
event, a council was summoned to meet at Winchester, 
in which it was proposed to invest the monks with the 
right of chusing the bishop of the vacant see, and to bind 
them to seleci the object of their choice from their own 
or some neighbouring monastery. By the patrons of the 
measure it was urged, that in the conventual cathedrals 
the bishop occupied the place and the authority of the 
abbot : that it was his duty, in this capacity, to inspect 
the morals of his monks, and enforce the observance of 
their rule : and that to entrust so important a charge to 
a man who had not been educated in the monastic dis- 
cipline, would infallibly open a way to innovation and 
degeneracy. The reasoning was plausible : it satisfied 
the judgment of the king and the prelates; and the pro- 
position was unanimously adopted. Thus a certain num- 
ber of voices was secured in the episcopal college ; and in 
every emergency the monks might look up with confi- 
dence to the bishops, whom they had chosen, and whom 
affection and gratitude would urge to espouse the inte- 
rests of the order (40). 

(40) Selden's Eadmer not. p. 150. Apost. Bened. app. s. p. 


In the same assembly was adopted another regulation, 
which, while it aspired to the merit of introducing uni- 
formity among the different monasteries, possessed the 
superior advantage of more closely connecting all the 
members of the monastic body. At the recommenda- 
tion of the king, who probably was no more than the 
echo of the archbishop, the customs of the celebrated 
monasteries of Fleury and Ghent, were ingrafted on the 
original rule of St Benedict : and to these were added 
some of the observances which had distinguished the 
Saxon coenobites before the Danish invasions (41). The 
concord of the English monks (so it was termed), is still 
extant ; but an abstract of it would probably be uninte- 
resting to the reader (42). It is wholly confined to a 

73. It is observable that the monks were to chuse the bishop ac- 
cording to the directions of their rule respecting the election of 
abbots, but with the consent and advice or' the king (Regis con- 
s<*nsu et concilio. Ibid). This regulation was soon violated, and 
clergymen were elected to the episcopal dignity in the churches 
possessed by monks, though Benedict XIV. has inadvertently as- 
serted the contrary. De Syn. Dioc. vol. iii. p. 344. 

(41) Honestos hujus patrias mores ad Dominum pertinentes, 
cyios veterum usu didicimus, nullo modo abjieere, sed undique 
corroborare decrevimus, Apost. Bened. p. 85. St Ethelwold com- 
posed a small treatise de diurqa consuetudine monachorum. It is 
extant in MS. Cotton, Tib. A.. 3. Wanley, p. 9*2. The daily al- 
lowance of his monks at Abingdon is described in the Monasticon 
Anglicanum. Tom. i. p. 104. 

(42) The preface is published by Sdden among las notes en 
Eadmer, in Latin and Saxon (p. 145): and the whole work in 
Latin by Reyner in his third appendix to the Apostolatus Bene- 
diclinorum (p. 77). Though it seems to comprehend all the mo- 
nasteries in England, Turketul the abbot of Croyland did not 
conceive himself bound by its regulations, but ordered the an- 

D d^ 


variety of regulations respecting the minutiae of the mo- 
nastic service, and a few; fanciful practices of devotion, 
which, however, it is left to the discretion of the supe- 
jior to adopt or reject, as he may think most conducive 
to the interests of virtue and piety (43). 

cicnt customs of his monastery to be inviolably observed. The 
monks were divided into three classes. The first comprised those 
who had net spent four and twenty years in the abbey ; and these 
were subject to all the duties imposed by the rule of St Benedict . 
After the expiration of that term, and during the next sixteen 
years, they belonged to the second class, and were exempted 
from the more tedious observances, and permitted to discharge 
by deputies their respective employments. From the fortieth to 
the fiftieth year they enjoyed still greater indulgences, and the 
only duty required from them was a daily attendance at the high 
mass. If they survived this period, they were entirely freed from 
restraint. A chamber was allotted to each, with a servant to 
wait on him, and a young monk for his companion. See Ingulf, 
p. 48 50. 

(43) Hasc inserenda curavimus, ut si quibus devotionis gratia 
placuerint, habeant in his unde hujus rei ignaros instruant : qui 
autem noluerint, ad hoc agendum minime compcllantur (Apost, 
Ben. p. 86). A curious ceremony was recommended for the feast 
of Easter. Towards the close of matins, a monk retired into a 
species of sepulchre prepared in the church, and three others with 
thuribles in their hands, and their eyes fixed on the ground walk- 
ed slowly along the choir. After some delay, a voice issued from 
the sepulchre chauntirg the anthem, " Whom do you seek ?" 
They replied, " Jesus of Nazareth." " He is not here," re- 
sumed the voice, " he is risen as he said. Go and tell his disci- 
ples (Mat. xxviii. 6)." Turning towards the choir, they imme- 
diately sang the anthem, " The Lord is risen, &c." when they 
were recalled by the voice to the sepulchre, with the words of 
the angel, "Come and see the place where the Lord lay (Mat. 
Ibid)." They entered, and returned bearing before them a 


Alfred the Great had attempted to restore the empire 
of letters, after the devastations of the Danes : but his 
success was temporary, and the Saxons speedily relapsed 
into their former ignorance. The spirit of Alfred se.em- 
ed to be revived in Dunstan : and the labours of the 
bishop were more fortunate than those of the king (44). 
Long before he ascended the metropolitan throne, as 
soon as he could command the obedience of a small 
society of monks, he meditated the revival of learning : 
the knowledge which he had acquired from the Irish ec- 
clesiastics, he liberally imparted to his pupils ; and from 
his monastery of Glastonbury, diffused a spirit of im- 
provement through the Saxon church. Ethelwold im- 
bibed the sentiments of his master : and the bishop would 
often descend from his more important functions, to the 
humble employment of instructing children in the first 
rudiments of grammar, and of interrogating them respect- 
ing their progress in the knowledge of the Latin tongue 
(45). From his school, at Winchester, masters were dis- 

winding sheet, and singing, " The Lord is risen from the grave.** 
The prior in thanksgiving intoned the Te Deum, and the office 
was continued in the usual manner. Apost. Ben. p. 89. 

(44) Ij* nu j;oj\pi jotjej* fteopum -j mynycep. mannum jeojine ro 
pannigenne -j5 fo halije lap. on urtum t>a5um ne accohje oppe areopije. 
ypa rpa. hir pasj* 5e"oon on Angelcynne oft ^ t>unj"ran ajicebircop ] 
apelpolo bip cop epc $a lajve on munclypum ajisejitjon. ./Elf. in proL 
ad gram, apud Spel. vol. i. p. 618, 

(45) Dulce erat ei adolescentes et juvenes semper docere, et 
latinos libros anglice eis solvere, et regulas grammatics artis et 
metricas rationis tradere, et jocundis alloquiis ad meliora hortari: 
undefactum est ut perplures ex discipulis ejus fierent sacerdotes, 
atque abbates, et honorabiles episcopi, quidam etiam archiepisco- 
pi in gente Anglorum. Wolst. Vit. St Ethel, p. 617, 

Dd 3 


tributed to the different monasteries : and the reputation 
of their disciples reflected a lustre on their talents and in- 
dustry. In times of ignorance, no great portion of know- 
1-edge is required to excite admiration : but we should 
judge of the merit of men by comparing them with their 
contemporaries, not with those who have lived in happier 
times. Yet among the Anglo-Saxon scholars of this pe- 
riod, there were some who have merited no vulgar praise. 
The commentaries of Bridferth, the monk of Ramsey, 
display an extent of reading, and an accuracy of calcu- 
lation, which would have done honour to the most emi- 
nent philosophers of former ages : and the name of 
jElfric, the disciple of Ethelwold, has been rendered 
more illustrious by the utility of his writings, than by 
the archiepiscopal mitre with which he was honoured. 

It had been the frequent complaint of Alfred, that 
every species of learning was concealed under the obscu- 
rity of a foreign language : and ^Elfric, after the example 
of the king, laboured to instruct the ignorance of his 
countrymen, by translating and publishing several treatises 
in the Anglo-Saxon tongue. Of these the most celebrat- 
ed are his versions of different parts of the Holy Scrip- 
tures, and his three books of Catholic homilies. As a 
translator, he cannot claim the praise of fidelity. Many 
passages of the original he has thought proper to omit : 
some he Ixas endeavoured to improve by explanatory ad- 
ditions : and in others, where he conceives the Latin text 
to be obscure, he has not scrupled to substitute his own 
interpretation for the expressions of the inspired writer. 
Through the whole of the work he appears to have been 
alarmed, lest his illiterate countrymen should assume the 
conduct of the ancient patriarchs^ as a justification of 


their own irregularities. To prevent so dangerous an 
^rror, he anxiously inculcates the difference between the 
Old and New Testaments ; remarks that the former was 
a figure of the latter ; and exhorts his reader to observe 
the law of Moses according to the spirit, that of Christ 
according to the letter (4-6). His homilies were written 

(46) See his preface to the book of Genesis (Heptat. Anglo-Sax, 
edit. Thwaites, p. 2), and conclusion of that of judges (Ibid. p. 
1 61 ). Many of the Anglo-Saxons had endeavoured to transfer dif- 
ferent parts of the scriptures into their native idiom. Of these the 
first, with whom we are acquainted, was Ctedmon, a monk of 
Whitby, who died in 680. But his was not properly a translation. 
It was rather a poetic paraphrase of the book of Genesis, and the 
most remarkable histories contained in the inspired writings (Bed. 
hist. 1. iv. c. 24). Poems of this description under the name of 
Csedmon, were published by Junius at Amsterdam in 1655. In 
735 Bede undertook to translate the gospel of St John " for the 
" advantage of the church ;" but he had only proceeded as far as 
the beginning of the sixth chapter, when he died (Ep. Cuthb. 
Smith's Bede, p. 793). The same was the fate of king Alfred, 
who began an Anglo-Saxon version of the book of psalms, but died 
soon after he had finished the first part (Malm, de reg. 1. ii. f. 24). 
In his laws he had translated many passages from the twentieth, 
and the two following chapters of Exodus (Wilk. p. 186). In the 
eighth century lived the priest Aldred, who wrote an interlineary 
version of the four gospels in the celebrated MS. belonging to the 
bishops of Lindisfarne, which is still preserved in the Cotton libra- 
ry. Nero D. iv. This translation is now published by Mr Hen- 
shall. Farmer and Owun, the other two glossators mentioned 
by Marshall (Evang. Anglo-Sax, p. 492), appear to have lived at a 
later period. ^Elfric's versions comprehended the pentateuch, the 
books of Judges, Esther, Judith, part of the books of Kings, and 
the two first of the Maccabees (Mores, Comment, de jEif. p. 29). 
They are all of them designedly abridged (on ujre ptr-an'y-ceojithce. 
JElf. de vet. testam. p. 22). But besides these translators, there 
were many others, whose names are unknown : though copies of 


with the benevolent intention of assisting those clergy- 
men who were too indolent or too illiterate to compose 
sermons for themselves. They are not original compo- 
sitions. The only merit to which he aspires, is that of 
selecting from preceding writers, passages appropriate to 
the gospel of the day ; and of presenting them in a lan- 
guage adapted to the capacity of his hearers (47). As 
soon as the work was finished, he dedicated it to the 
archbishop Sigeric, and humbly desired him to correct 
every error which his superior learning might discover 
(48). The labours of ^Elfric were not unrewarded. 
From the monastery of Abingdon he was transferred to 
the school at Winchester, and was successively made 
visiter of Cernley, abbot of St Alban's, bishop of Wilton, 
and archbishop of Canterbury (49). 

some of their works are still extant in MS. (Wanley's MSS. pas- 
sim). The custom of making interlineary versions contributed to 
. multiply the number of translations ; as the scarcity of copies 
rendered it frequently a more easy task to compose a new, than to 
transcribe a more ancient version. 

(47) Besides JElfric, Wulfstan, archbishop of York, was the 
author of several sermons, under the name of Lupus (Wanley, 
MSS. p. 148). Many others, of which the writers are unknown, 
occur in our libraries. 

(48) Precor modo obnixe almitatem tuam, mitissime pater Si- 
gerice, ut digneris corrigere per tuam industriam, si aliquos nxvos 
malignas heresis aut nebulosas fallacias in nostra interpretatione re- 
perias. Preface .to the first volume in Walney's MSS. p. 153. 
He begins the second in the same manner. Hoc quoque opus 
commendamus tuae auctoritati corrigendum quemadmodum pras- 
cedens, precantes obnixe, ne parcas obliterare, si aliquas malignae 
hseresis maculas in eo reperies. Ibid. 

(49) Sec Mores, Comment, p. 21 65. He died in 1005. 
^Chron. Sax. p. 134. The most celebrated of JElfric's scholars 


The expulsion of the refractory canons, and the re- 
storation of the monastic order, did not satisfy the zeal 
of the three bishops : the great body of the clergy still 
retained their benefices ; and the irregularity of many 
among them reflected disgrace on the religion, of which 
they professed themselves the ministers. To compose a 
new code of discipline was unnecessary, perhaps had 
been dangerous : but the laws which the Anglo-Saxon 
church had formerly acknowledged, were revived in the 
national synods ; and the ecclesiastics were required to 
conform to the equitable demand of the archbishop, that 
they should submit to regulations which had been sancti- 
fied by the observance of their predecessors. This 
scheme of reformation was received with joy by the 
friends of religion, whose impatience already hailed the 
return of ancient fervour : but it was resolutely opposed 
by the more wealthy and dissipated of the clerical order. 
From the writings of ^Elfric, we may collect the argu- 
ments of the adverse parties. The canon, which ex- 
cluded female servants and female relatives from the 
habitations of the clergy, was condemned as imposing a 
superfluous and barbarous restraint, which would de- 
prive them both of the society of those to whom they 
were most dear, and of services, which, on many occa- 
sions, were absolutely indispensable. Against the in- 
junction of celibacy, it was urged, that the permission 

was another JElfric surnamed Bata. He was abbot of Egnesham, 
prior of Winchester, and afterwards archbishop of York. His 
principal works are a life of St Ethelwold mentioned by Mabillon 
(Act. Bened. Sec. v. p. 606), and two letters to archbishop Wul- 
stan, which have been frequently quoted in the preceding chapters. 
His death happened in 1051. Mores, p. 65/ 


\vhich had been granted to the priests of the old, had 
descended, with their other privileges, to those of the 
new law : and that to deny the propriety of such an in- 
stitution, was to dispute the wisdom of the Saviour him- 
self, who had raised St Peter, a married man, to the 
dignity of prince of the apostles. To these reasons 
^Elfric condescended to reply, that the canons, which 
were most loudly opposed, had, in former times, been 
accurately observed in the Anglo Saxon church, and 
that his contemporaries, if they possessed the virtue, 
would willingly imitate the obedience of their prede- 
cessors. The marriage of the clergy he treated as a late 
and profane innovation, derogatory from the sanctity, 
and repugnant to the functions of the priesthood. Celi- 
bacy had been recommended to the ministers of the altar 
by Christ himself, when he required of his disciples to 
be willing to relinquish every object for his sake ; and 
had been enjoined by the fathers of the great council of 
Nice, when they ordered the ttnvaxlu to be ejected from 
the houses of the clergy (50). If under the Mosaic dis- 
pensation the priests were permitted to marry, it should 
be remembered, that the sacred functions were then 
confined to a certain number of families, and that the 
immolation of animals required a less degree of purity, 
than the oblation of the holy husel (51). The example 

(50) Wilk. con. p. 250. 251. Leg. Sax. p. 167. 

(51) ^Ifric Batain his epistle to Wulstan, says that the priests 
in the old law, were obliged to a temporary chastity before they 
offered sacrifice. The same appears to have been recommended 
by the heathens. 

Vos quoque abesse procul jubeo ; discedite ab aris, 
Queis tulit hesterna gaudia nocte Venus. 


of St Peter was, he contended, a confirmation of his 
opinion. He had, indeed, been married before his vo- 
cation to the apostleship j but from the moment in which 
he attached himself to Christ, he had abandoned all 
commerce with his wife, and practised that chastity 
which he learned from the doftrine and example of 
his master (52). The sentiments which ^Elfric has ex- 
pressed in his writings, he had imbibed in the monastery 
of Winchester : they were enforced by the strong arm 
of authority ; and each successive council commanded 
the clergy to observe the chastity of their profession (53). 
By an easy metaphor, the engagement which the priest 
contracted at his ordination, was likened to that of ma- 
trimony : his church was considered as his only lawful 
wife : and to admit any woman, under whatever title, 
to his bed, was to charge his soul with the guilt of a 
spiritual and sacrilegious adultery (54). The more vir- 

Casta placent superis ; casta cum mente venite 
Et puris manibus sumite fontis aquam. 


(52) Leg. Sax. 154. 162. 167. JElf. prasf. in Gen. p. 2. He 
also wrote a treatise on the celibacy of the clergy, which is un- 
published in the Cotton library, Faust. A. 9. (Mores, com. p. 
45). It was formed into a sermon and read in the church (Wan- 
ley, MSS. p. 199). 

(53) Presbyteros summopere obsecramus, ut caste et continen- 
ter Domino jugiter servientes, a connubiis se femineis omnino 
abstineant : sicque Domini iram devitent. Con. .ZEnnam. p. 293. 
Full geojine hig piran. *J5 hij nsejon mit> yiihre ftujih hzemet) ftmje 
piper jemanan. Leg. cccl. Can. p. 301. vi. 

(J4) Da pnt>on pa sepbjiycan pe pujih healicne hat) ciruc aepe im- 
oejijrengon -3 ^ p$3an abyisecan. Cirxice ir racerfoor aspe. nah he 
mio jiihre aemje oSjie. Nir nanum peopct) pejne alipet) J5 he pijnan 


tuous of the clergy readily yielded to the commands of 
their superiors : but many listened with greater docility 
to the suggestions of passion ; and, during the century 
of confusion which preceded the extinction of the Saxon 
dynasty, derided the severe but impotent menaces of 
the canons. In a charge to his clergy, Wulstan, arch- 
bishop of York, laments that the iniquity of the times 
prevented him from chastising the contumacy of the 
rebels : but his duty impelled him to admonish them of 
the obligation of chastity, and to invite them to observe 
it by every motive which religion could inspire. (55). 

During the long reign of Edgar, the ejected clergy 
were condemned to bewail in silence, the loss of their 
possessions : but their present discontent was soothed 
with the hope of obtaining ample indemnity from the 
equity or weakness of his successor. That successor was 
a boy : and an ambitious stepmother attempted to trans- 
fer the crown from his temples to those of her own son, 
This season of confusion and doubtful loyalty appeared 
propitious to their design. Alfere, duke of Mercia, was 
the first to unfurl the standard of the clergy : their ad- 
herents, moved by compassion, or allured by presents, 
were eager to copy his example : and in several provinces 
the monks were ignominiously expelled from their con- 
vents by the swords of their enemies (56). But army 

mote. Lib. const, apud Wilk. leg. sax. p. 150. 151. See also 
Edgar's canons in Wilkins, (cone. vol. l.p. 225. viii. 229. lx). 

(55) L. pe ne magon eop nu neatmnge nyt>an TO clasnner re ac pe 
mynjiaS eop rpa $eah. f je claennerre healsan r pa rpa Cjiif ref 
pegnar rculon. Apud eund. p. 167. 

(56) Wigor. ad an. 975. Hoved. ad ann. 975. f. 245. Ingulf, p. 
54. In the Saxon chronicle the sufferings of the monks afford the 
subject of a short poem, (Chr. Sax. p. 123). 


was soon opposed to army : and Alwine, duke of East 
Anglia, his brother Alfwold, and the earl Brithnode, de- 
elated themselves the protestors of the monks. The 
kingdom was menaced with the horrors of a civil war, 
from the passions of the opposite parties, when their 
chieftains were induced to argue the merits of their re- 
spective claims in a council at Winchester. The issue 
proved unfavourable to the clergy. The efforts of Dun- 
stan and the bishops had succeded in fixing the crown on 
the head of Edward, the eldest son of the deceased mo- 
narch ; and their preponderance ensured to the monks 
an easy victory (57). Scarcely, however, had four years 
elapsed, when the complaints of the clergy, and the 
clamours of their friends, were revived, and another 
council was summoned to meet at Calne. But, in the 
heat of the debate, the floor of the room sunk under the 
weight of numbers ; the whole assembly, except the 
archbishop who fortunately held by a beam, were preci- 
pitated to the ground : and amidst the ruins and the 
confusion many were dangerously wounded, and others 
lost their lives. This melancholy event decided the con- 
troversy. The pious credulity of the age ascribed the 
fall of the floor, and the preservation of Dunstan, to the 
interposition of heaven : and the clergy at length desist- 

(57) In this or some other council held at Winchester (for his- 
torians do not agree respecting the time), it is said that a voice is- 
sued from a crucifix exclaiming, " all is well : make no change." 
Mr Turner with his usual fidelity and candour describes this voice 
as an artifice of the primate : I would rather say that the whole 
history is no more than a popular tale adopted and perhaps im- 
proved by later writers. It was unknown to the mpre ancient 


ed from a contest, in which they believed that both God 
and man were their adversaries. 

Such is the plain unvarnished history of the synod of 
Calne : but on this narrow basis a huge superstructure of 
calumny and fable has been raised by religious prejudice. 
Dunstan, if we may credit the recent historian of the 
Anglo-Saxons (58), harassed by the repeated attempts of 
the clergy, trembled for the permanency of his favourite 
establishments, and resolved to terminate the quarrel by 
the destruction of his opponents. By his order, the floor 
of the room destined to contain the assembly was loosen- 
ed from the walls ; during the deliberation the temporary 
supports were suddenly removed -, and in an instant the 
nobles, the clergy, and the other members were promis- 
cuously cast among the ruins : while the archbishop, se- 
cure in his seat, contemplated with savage satisfaction 
the bloody scene below. This is the substance of the 
tale, which has lately been presented to the public : but 
I may be allowed to pause, before I subscribe to its 
truth. The atrocity of the deed, the silence of his con- 
temporaries, the impolicy of involving in the same fate 
his friends as well as his adversaries, must provoke a 
doubt in favour of the primate : and even those, who 
have been taught to think disadvantageously of his cha- 
racter, will at least, before they venture to condemn him, 
demand some evidence of his guilt. But no such evi- 
dence has been, or can be produced. By contemporary 
and succeeding writers the fall of the floor was attributed 
to accident, or the interposition of heaven : the sangui- 
nary contrivance of Dunstan was a secret, which during 
almost eight centuries eluded the observation of every 

(58) Hist, of the Anglo-Sax, vol. iii. p. 190, 191. 


historian, and was first, I believe, revealed to the scep- 
ticism of Hume, who introduced his suspicion to the pub- 
lic under the modest veil of a possibility (59). But sus- 
picion has quickly ripened into certitude ; and the guilt 
of the archbishop has been pronounced without doubt 
or qualification. Nor (the omission is inexplicable) has 
his accuser claimed the merit of the discovery ; but left 
his incautious readers to conclude, that he had derived 
his information from the respectable authorities to whom 
he boldly appeals (60). Yet they appear to have been 
ignorant of the charge, and contented themselves with 
translating the simple narrative of the Saxon chronicle, 
the most faithful register of the times. " This year the 
" principal nobility of England fell at Calne from an up- 
" per floor, except the holy archbishop Dunstan, who 
" stood upon a beam. And some were grievously hurt, 
" and some did not escape with their lives" (61). 

(59) Hist. c. 2. Should, however, any friend of archbishop 
Parker assign to that prelate the merit of the discovery, I shall 
not dispute the priority of his claim. This, at least, is certain, 
that he ascribed the misfortune at Calne to a conspiracy between 
the devil and the monks. Humana fraude et ope diabolica carere 
non potuit. Antiquit. p. 87. 

(60) Malm. p. 61. Flor. Wig. p. 361. Sim. Dun. p. 160. 

(61) On pTppum jeaji ealle paylt>eptan Anjelcynnep piran jepeol- 
lan asr Calne op anne up-plejian buran pe haljan Dunpran Ajace- 
bipcop. ana zeptot) uppon anum beame. } pume pa'p. ppiSe jebjrocoioe 
paenon. -] pume hit ne 5et>y5t>an mm pam bpe. Chron. Sax. p. 124. 
I shall add Huntingdon's translation. Omnes optimates Anglorum 
cecidenint a quodam solio apud Calne praeter sanctum Dunstan- 
urn, qui trabe quadam apprehensa restitit. Unde quidam eorurn 
valde loesi sunt, quidam vero mortui. Hunting. 1. v. f. 204 St 
Dunstan died ten years after this event, in 988. Godwin (p. 53.) 
informs us that some centuries elapsed before his canonization. 


From the council of Calne till the Norman conquest, 
during a period of about ninety years, the Anglo-Saxon 
church presents few objects worthy the attention of the 
historian. The horrors which had marked the greater 
part of the ninth century, were renewed. The assassi- 
nation of the young king Edward, the indolence and 
pusillanimity of Ethelred, and the treachery of the Saxon 
nobles, invited Swegen of Denmark, to retrace the 
bloody footsteps of his fathers : his immature death did 
not arrest the victorious career of his followers ; and his 
son and successor, Canute, refused to sheathe the sword, 
till he had mounted the throne of England. From the 
history of their devastations, I may be allowed to select 
the calamitous fate of Canterbury (62). The citizens, 
impelled by repeated injuries, had killed the brother of 
Edric, a name infamous in the annals of domestic trea- 
son. The policy or justice of Ethelred refused to punish 
the murderers ; and Edric, in the pursuit of revenge, 
joined with his retainers, the enemies of his country. 
As the army of the barbarians approached, the citizens 
surrounded Elphege, their archbishop, and intreated 
him, to provide for his security by a timely retreat. 
" It is the duty of the shepherd to watch by his flock," 
was his intrepid reply. On the twentieth day of the 
siege, the traitor ^Elmer set fire to a quarter of the city : 
and as the garrison deserted the walls to save their wives 
and children, the Danes, snatching the favourable mo- 
ment, forced their way through the nearest gate. With 
tears of anguish and indignation, the Anglo-Saxon 

This is a mistake. Within fifty years his festival was ordered to 
be kept on the thirtieth of May. Wilk. p. 303. 
(62) Anno ion. 


writers describe the miseries which the barbarians ki- 
flicted on this devoted city. Other cruelties may be 
supplied by the imagination of the reader : but it was 
their amusement, their own writers attest it (63), to toss 
the infants of their captives on the points of their spears, 
or to crush them beneath the wheels of their waggons 
(64-). The archbishop, solicitous for his flock, and for- 
getful of his own danger, tore himself from the hands 
and entreaties of his monks, and rushing into the midst 
of the carnage, besought the barbarians to spare his de- 
fenceless countrymen. His voice and gestures attracted 
their notice. He was seized, bound as a captive, and 
dragged to behold the ruin of his cathedral. Within 
this venerable church were collected the monks, the 
clergy, and a crowd of inhabitants. The sanctity of the 
place might, perhaps, arrest the fury of the Danes : or its 
strength might protract their fate, till the enemy should 
listen to the suggestions of humanity. These hopes were 
fallacious. A pile of dry wood was raised against the 
wall : with shouts of joy the fire was kindled : the flames 
ascended the roof ; and the falling timbers and melted 
lead compelled the fugitives to abandon their asylum. 
As they appeared, they were massacred before the eyes 
of the archbishop. 

Towards the evening, Elphege was conducted by his 
guards to the northern gate, the rendezvous of those, 
whom the victors had destined to be sold or ransomed. 
The sight of their archbishop renewed the the sorrows of 


(63) Bartholin, p. 457. 

(64) Osb. vit. StElpheg. p. 135. Wigorn.p. 614. Anno 1011. 
Hoved. f. 247. Anno 1011. 

E e 


the captives ; and a general exclamation announced their 
anguish. He attempted to speak : but a stroke from a 
battle axe compelled him to be silent. The Danes num- 
bered the captives. They amounted to eight hundred. 
Seven thousand men, besides women and children, had 
perished in the sack of the city. Of forty monks, four 
only remained. 

The life of the archbishop had been spared by the 
avarice of the Danes ; and the price of his ransom was 
fixed at three thousand pounds of silver. Had he ex- 
horted the neighbouring clergy to surrender their sacred 
ornaments, the sum might probably have been raised : 
but to the urgent requisitions of the barbarians he answer- 
ed, that the life of a decrepit old man was of little value ; 
and the obstinacy of his refusal increased the severity of 
his treatment. Seven months he was confined in prison, 
or compelled to follow their camp : and on the vigil of 
Easter was informed, that within eight days he must 
either pay the money, or forfeit his life. On the fol- 
lowing Saturday he was conducted before the army. 
" Bishop," exclaimed a thousand voices, " Where is 
your ransom ?" The old man, to recover from his fa- 
tigue, sat down in silence. After a short pause he arose : 
" I have no other gold or silver," said he, " to offer you, 
" than the knowledge of the true God. Him it is my 
duty to preach to you : and if you are deaf to my 
" voice, you will experience the effects of his justice." 
He could proceed no farther. Rushing from their seats, 
the Danish chieftains beat him to the ground : the mul- 
titude copied the fury of their leaders ; and in a few mi- 
nutes the body of the archbishop was buried under a heap 


of stones (65). At the close of the tragedy, Thrum, a 
Dane, whom he had baptised and confirmed on the pre- 
ceding day, ventured to approach. He found him still 
breathing ; and, to put an end to his pain, clove his skull 
with a battle-axe. The body was conveyed the next 
morning to London, and interred by the bishops Eadnoth 
and ^Elfhune, in the church of St Paul (66). 

During this turbulent and calamitous period, the vigi- 
lance of the bishops was employed to prevent the de- 
cline of ecclesiastical discipline ; and the regulations, 
which they published in the national synods, would have 
done honour to the most fervent era of their church The 
laity were exhorted to despise the superstition of the 
pagan Danes, and to practise the virtues of the gospel : 
the parochial clergy were admonished in detail of their 
numerous and important duties : to the monks was re- 
commended the exact observance of their rule ; and the 
discipline which had formerly distinguished the canons, 
was accurately described, and at times severely enforced. 
They were commanded to serve the Lord in chastity ; 
to attend in the choir at the seven hours of the divine 
service j to eat daily in the common refectory j and to 
sleep each night in their own dormitory. If in any 

(65) Osbem, p. 140. Hoveden, Florence of Worcester, and the 
Saxon chronicle add bones, and the skulls of oxen. The Danish 
army had just dined, and were intoxicated with mead or wine. 
Chron. Sax. p. 142. Hoved. f. 247. Floren. Wig. p. 614. The 
archbishop was killed at Greenwich. Angl. Sac. torn. 1. p. 5. 
Thorn, p. 1781. 

(66) These particulars are related by the contemporary writer 
in the Saxon chronicle (ibid), and by Osbern, who received them 
from the mouths of Alfward and Godric, the former a disciple of 
St Dunstan, the latter of St Elphege. Osbern, p. 145. 

E e2 


churches these praftices had been omitted, they were to 
be resumed : and the incorrigible members were to be 
expelled in favour of others more willing to comply with 
the duties of their profession (67). 

The rivalry, which the reformation of St Dunstan 
had excited between the clergy and the monks, was still 
kept alive by occasional occurrences : and the fortunes 
of each party varied with the power or the fancy of its 
protectors. ^Elfric, the primate, established a colony 
of benedictines in the cathedral of Canterbury, and his 
conduct was confirmed by a charter of king Ethelbert 
(68) : for the clergy, who served the church of St Ed- 
mund's, Canute substituted a confraternity of monks 
(69) : Leofric, earl of Coventry, built and endowed 
several monasteries ; and the magnificent remains of the 
abbey of Westminster still proclaim the munificence of 
Edward the confessor. On the other hand, churches 
were frequently transferred by the partiality of their 
patrons from the benedictines to the clergy (70) : the 

(67) Con. .ZEnham. p. 292. 

(68) Wilk. p. 282, 284. Mores, Comment, p. 84, 88. 

(69) The body of St Edmund was translated from Hoxton to 
Bury, and a monastery of canons erected over it in the reign of 
Canute. Lei. Itiner. vol. ix. p. 5. Monast. Ang. Tom. i. p. 285. 

(70) Seethe council of JSnham (p. 292). Si autem cujuspiam 
Monachorum monasterium, velut plerumque mutata temporum 
vicissitudine contingere solet, cum canonicis constitutum sit. In 
this case the ejected monk was to -appear before his bishop, and 
promise to observe chastity, wear the monastic habit, and perse- 
vere in his profession till death. The last instance of the kind 
which I can find is that of Leofric bishop of Crediton, who 
translated his see to Exeter, ejected the religious, and introduced 
4 society of canons, that followed the rule of St Chrodogand of 


massacres of the Danes compelled the monks of Canter- 
bury to solicit the assistance of the canons : several ab- 
beys were reduced by the barbarians to the lowest de- 
gree of poverty j and some, with their inhabitants, were 
committed to the flames (71). The Norman invasion 
terminated these disputes. The petty jealousies of party 
were absorbed in the general confusion : and both monks 
and clergy, instead of contending against each other, 
were eager to unite their influence, in order to preserve 
their respective property from the rapacious gripe of the 

Metz. 3>ui contra morem Anglorum> ad formam Lotharingiorum, 
uno triclinio comederent, uno cubiculo cubitarent (Malm. 1. ii. f. 
145). Had the historian never seen the canon of the council of 
JEnham, which is referred to in page 328 ? 

X71) Ingulf, f. 506, 507. 

E e 3 



Mlflions of tie Anglo-Saxons Sf WillibrordSt Boniface St 
Willehad 5"; Sigifrid in Sweden Converfion of Denmark 
of Norway. 

IN the preceding pages I have endeavoured to convey 
to the mind of the reader a satisfactory notion of the 
discipline, polity, and principal revolutions of the Anglo- 
Saxon church : in the present chapter I shall attempt to 
describe the spiritual conquests of her children in the 
conversion of foreign and idolatrous nations. Scarcely 
had Christianity assumed a decided superiority in Eng- 
land, when many of the converts felt themselves ani- 
mated with the spirit of apostles. The north of Ger- 
many, inhabited by kindred tribes of barbarians, pre- 
sented an ample field to their exertions : the merit of 
rescuing them from the dominion of paganism, inflamed 
their zeal : and they eagerly devoted to the pious enter- 
prise their abilities, fortunes and lives. The success of 
their labours was answerable to the purity of their mo- 
tives : and within little more than a century from the 
mission of St Augustine, the rays of the gospel were re- 
verberated from the shores of Britain to the banks of 
the Weser, the Rhine, and the Danube. 

The first of the Anglo-Saxons, who preached on the 
continent, was the celebrated St Wilfrid. When the 
injustice of his enemies compelled him to abandon his 
native country, he prudently avoided the hostile ports 
of Gaul, and landed on tLe more friendly coast of Fries* 


land. Adelgise, the king, received the stranger with 
kindness, and gave him his hand as a pledge of his pro- 
tection. Prevented from prosecuting his journey by the 
early inclemency of the winter, ^and encouraged by the 
friendship of the king, Wilfrid announced the truths of 
the gospel to the Frisians ; and several chieftains, with 
some thousands of their retainers, received from his 
hands the sacrament of baptism. When Ebroin (he was 
mayor of the palace to the king of Neustria and Bur- 
gundy, and the personal enemy of Wilfrid) (1), learned 
his arrival in Friesland, he dispatched a messenger to 
demand the fugitive, and promised the king a sack of 
gold, as the reward of his perfidy. The Frisian re- 
ceived the proposal with indignation. In the presence 
of his chieftains, the Anglo-Saxon, and the ambassador* 
he read the letter of Ebroin, and tearing it in pieces, ex- 
claimed : " So may the Creator divide the kingdom of 
" that prince, who perjures himself to God, and violates 
" his promise to man." Wilfrid remained in safety un- 
der the protection of Adelgise , and with the return of 
spring, resumed his journey (2). 

The preaching of Wilfrid may be ascribed to accident 
rather than design : and the merit of establishing the 

(1) Dagobert the lawful heir to the crown of Austrasia, had in 
his youth been compelled to seek an asylum in Ireland. After an 
interval of some years his friends determined to place him on the 
throne. At their request Wilfrid discovered the royal exile ; and 
assisted him, probably with money or troops, to regain possession 
of his kingdom (Edd. vit. Wilf. c. 27). As Ebroin was the great 
adversary of Dagobert, he was naturally the enemy of Wilfrid ; 
and at the solicitation of the king of Northumbria had undertaken 
to arrest him in his journey to Rome. Edd. c. 24. 

(2) Edd. c. 25. 26. Ann. 675. 676. 

E e 4 


missions in Germany must be allotted to Ecgbert, a 
Northumbrian priest of noble extraction. The monaste- 
ries of Ireland and the western isles were filled, at this 
period, with men, whose well-earned reputation was 
acknowledged by the other Christian nations of Europe. 
The praise of their virtue and learning had been the 
favourite theme of Aidan, Finan, and Colman, the 
three first bishops of Lindisfarne : and the desire of im- 
provement induced a crowd of noble youths to cross the 
sea, and assist at the lessons of these . foreign masters. 
In Ireland the hospitality of the natives gained the affec- 
tion of the strangers ; and the advantages, which they 
enjoyed, attached them to their voluntary exile (3). 
Of the number was Ecgbert. His application was un- 
wearied ; in the course of a few years he saw himself 
surrounded with disciples ; and his reputation -drew to 
his school many of his countrymen. It was then he 
formed the design of diffusing the light of the gospel 
through the north of Germany, and selected for his 
associates the most learned and zealous of his hearers. 
But the loss of the ship, destined to transport the mis- 
sionaries, retarded his departure : a dream or the ad- 
vice of his friends suggested an improvement of the ori- 
ginal plan. The personal exertions of Ecgbert were 
confined to the inhabitants of the western islands ; and 
the foreign missions were allotted to the zeal of his more 
robust disciples. As their precursor, Wigbert was sent 
to Friesland, to sound the dispositions of the natives. 
Two years of fruitless labour exhausted his patience, and 
he returned to relate a lamentable tale of the indocility 
of Radbode, the successor of Adelgise, and of the fero- 

(3) Bed. hist. I. iii. c. 27. 


city of his subje&s (4). But Wigbert had scarcely 
reached Ireland, when the Franks, under the conduct of 
Pepin of Heristal, wrested from the Frisian prince the 
southern part of his dominions. The news revived the 
hopes of Ecgbert. Pepin was a Christian : his authority 
would second the exertions of the missionaries : and 
twelve Anglo-Saxons, with Willibrord at their head, 
sailed frona the coast of Ireland to the mouth of the 
Rhine (5). 

Willibrord was a native of Northumbria. His educa- 
tion had been intrusted to the care of the monks of Rip- 
pon ; and in that seminary he received the clerical ton- 
sure and the monastic habit. But the fame of Ecgbert 
excited the emulation of the young monk , his thirst af- 
ter knowledge could not be satisfied with the instructions 
of an inferior master 5 and at the age of twenty, he sailed, 
with the permission of his abbot, to the eastern coast of 
Ireland. Ecgbert was charmed with the modesty, appli- 
cation, and virtue of his disciple : and hesitated not to 
appoint him, when he had scarcely attained his thirty- 
second year, the superior of the mission in Friesland. 
By the natives he was received with welcome. His 
views were sanctioned by the approbation of Pepin, and 
of the Roman pontiff : and his labours, with those of his 
associates, were rewarded with a plenteous harvest. The 
multitude of the converts compelled him to receive the 
episcopal dignity. He was consecrated at Rome by 
pope Sergius -, fixed his residence at Utrecht ; assumed 
the style of metropolitan of the Frisians ; and ordained 
for the more distant missions, a competent number of 

(4) Ibid. 1. v. c. 9. 

(5) Anno. 690. Bed. 1. v. c. 10. 


suffragan bishops. Pepin and his successor frequently 
displayed the highest veneration for his character, and 
by their munificence enabled him to build and endow 
several monasteries and churches (6). 

The views of Willibrord expanded with his success. 
He ventured to preach to the independent Frisians : nor 
was he opposed by Radbode, who either respected his 
virtues, or feared the resentment of the Franks. The 
territories of Ongend, a ferocious Dane, were next visited 
by the intrepid missionary : but the threats of their chief- 
tain rendered the natives deaf to his instructions, and he 
was compelled to content himself with the purchase of 
thirty boys, whom he designed to educate as the future 
apostles of their country. In the isle of Foiseteland his 
zeal was nearly rewarded with the crown of martyrdom. 
In a spring, which superstition had consecrated to the 
service of the pagan deities, he had presumed to baptize 
three of his converts. The profanation alarmed the fa- 
naticism of the idolaters : and the permission of Radbode 
was asked to sacrifice the missionaries to the gods, whose 
fountain they had polluted. By the order of the king 
the lots were cast. Willibrord escaped : but one of his 
companions was immolated to the vengeance of the 
islanders (7). 

Among the disciples of Ecgbert were two Anglo-Sax- 
ons, brothers, of the name of Ewald. The first news of 
the success of Willibrord kindled a similar ardour in their 
breasts ; and with the permission and benediction of their 
teacher, they proceeded to the territories of the Old-Sax- 
ons. At the frontiers they were received by the reeve 

(6) Bed. 1, v. c. 12. Ep. St Bonif. p. 132. 

(7) Act.^SS. Bened. Saec. iii. Tom. 1. p. 601. 


of a neighbouring village, who entertained them hospi- 
tably in his house, and dispatched a messenger to inform 
the ealdorman of their arrival. But the priests of the 
canton carefully watched the conduct of the strangers : 
they observed them employed in the rites of a foreign 
worship ; and fearing the seduction of their chief, sacri- 
ficed, in a moment of jealousy, the two missionaries to 
their suspicions. One of the brothers was dispatched by 
a single stroke : the lingering torments of the other 
amused and satisfied the cruelty of his persecutors. But 
the ealdorman considered their fate as an insult to his 
authority. At his return he put the murderers to death, 
and ordered the village to be razed. By Pepin the bodies 
of the missionaries were honoured with a magnificent fu- 
neral at Cologne : by the Anglo-Saxon church their 
names were immediately enrolled in the martyrology 

Of the Anglo-Saxons, who associated themselves to 
the labours of Willibrord, several are mentioned in his- 
tory with peculiar praise ; and their memory was long 
revered with gratitude by the posterity of their converts. 
1. Swidbert was one of his first companions. The Bo- 
ructuarii, the inhabitants of the present dutchy of Berg, 
and the county of Mark, were the principal objects of 
his zeal : but the fruits of his labours were interrupted 
and destroyed by a sudden irruption of the pagan Saxons. 
The country was laid waste *, the natives, incapable of 
resistance, emigrated to the neighbouring nations ; and 
the missionary, in his distress, was compelled to solicit 

(s) Anno 692. Bed. 1. v. c. 11. In Bede's martyrology the 
third of October is assigned to their memory. Smith's Bede, p. 


the assistance of Pepin. That prince gave him the island 
of Keisserswerdt, in the river Rhine ; on which he built 
a monastery, and from which he occasionally made ex- 
cursions to instruct the remaining inhabitants (9). 2. 
Adelbert, a prince of the royal race of Northumbria, 
abandoned his country to share the merit and fortunes of 
Willibrord. He chose the north of Holland for the ex- 
ercise of his zeal ; the pagans listened with docility to 
his instructions ; and his memory was long held in vene- 
ration by the inhabitants of Egmond, the place of his re- 
sidence and death (10). 3. The Batavi, who dwelt in 
the island formed by the Rhine and the Wahal, owed 
their conversion to the instructions of Werenfrid. Elste 
was the capital of the mission j and the church of that 
town preserved his relics (11). 4. Wiro, Plechelm, and 
Otger, three Anglo-Saxons, devoted themselves to the 
conversion of the inhabitants of Gueldres. Pepin re- 
vered and rewarded their virtues, and successively in- 
trusted to the two former the direction of his conscience. 
Their principal residence was in the vicinity of Rure- 
mond (12). 

But the merit of converting barbarous nations was not 
confined to the zeal of the Northumbrian missionaries : 
and the title of apostle of Germany has been bestowed 
by posterity on a West-Saxon of the name of Boniface. 

(9) Bed. 1. v. c. 12. 

(10) Act SS. Bened. Sasc. iii. torn. i. p. 631. 

(11) Act. SS. Bolland. Aug. 28. 

(12) Soc. Bollan. Mai. torn. ii. p. 309. Jul. torn. iv. p. 58. 
Sep. torn. ii. p. 612. The Irish writers consider Wiro as their 
countryman ; but on the authority of Alcuin I have called him an 
Anglo-Saxon. Ale. de pont. Ebor. v. 1045. 


He was born at Crediton in Devonshire, and at an early 
age discovered a strong predilection for the monastic pro- 
fession. His father beheld with displeasure the inclina- 
tion of his son : but a dangerous indisposition removed 
or subdued his objections ; and the young Winfrid (such 
was his original name) accompanied by the friends of his 
family, repaired to the monastery of Exanceaster. From 
Exanceasterhe was soon transferred to Nutscelle , and in 
both houses his rising virtues and abilities commanded 
the esteem and admiration of his brethren. After having 
acquired every species of knowledge which was valued at 
that period, he was advanced to the office of teacher : his 
school was frequented by a crowd of students ; and to 
facilitate the diffusion of knowledge, he taught by the 
command of his superiors, in the neighbouring monaste- 
ries and convents. At the age of thirty he was ordained 
priest ; and the eloquence or piety of his sermons increas- 
ed his former reputation. He was admitted to the great 
council of the nation : Ina, king of Wessex, honoured 
him with his confidence ; and the ambition of the monk, 
had he listened to ambition, might have justly aspired to 
the highest ecclesiastical preferments. But he had heard 
of the spiritual conquests of Willibrord and the other 
missionaries : and their example had kindled in his breast 
a desire of contributing like them to the progress and dif- 
fusion of Christianity. The abbot Wibert relunctantly 
yielded to his entreaties : and Winfrid, accompanied by 
three of his brethren, sailed from the port of London to 
the coast of Friesland. He could not have chosen a more 
inauspicious moment. Pepin was dead : Charles, his son 
and successor, was opposed by the rival ambition of Ra- 
genfrid ; and Radbode seized the favourable opportunity 


to pour his barbarians into the provinces, which he had 
been formerly compelled to cede to the power of the 
Franks. The missionaries fled ; the churches were de- 
molished ; and paganism recovered the ascendancy. 
Winfrid, however, penetrated as far as Utrecht ; he 
even ventured to solicit the protection of the king : but 
his efforts were fruitless ; and prudence induced him to 
return to England, and expect the issue of the war in the 
retirement of his former monastery (13). 

But in England his humility was soon alarmed by the 
partiality of his brethren, who chose him for their supe- 
rior. To elude their importunity, he implored the assis- 
tance of Daniel, bishop of Winchester : and by the influ- 
ence of that prelate a new abbot was installed, and the 
missionary was again permitted to pursue his apostolic 
labours. With several companions he sailed to the con- 
tinent, and directed his steps to Rome, carrying with him 
a letter from his diocesan. As soon as the pontiff had 
learnt from it the views and qualifications of the pilgrim, 
he applauded his zeal, pointed out Germany as the theatre 
of his future labours, and dismissed him with his advice 
and benediction. By Liutprand, king of Lombardy, he was 
received with veneration. From the court of that hospi- 
table monarch he crossed the Alps, traversed the territory 
of the Bavarians, and entered the country of the Thurin- 
gii. The natives had formerly listened to the doctrines 
of the gospel : but they still retained the habits of pagan- 
ism, and their clergy were few, ignorant of their duties, 
and irregular in their morals. Boniface (he had now as- 
sumed a Latin name,) instructed the people, and reform- 
ed the clergy. But he was recalled from this pious work 

(13) St Willib. vit. St Bonif. p. 255262. edit Serrar. 


to the first object of his choice, by the death of Radbode, 
and the subsequent successes of the Franks. Descending 
the Rhine he entered Friesland, offered his services to 
Willibrord, and laboured three years under the direction 
of that apostolic prelate. The archbishop revered the 
virtues of his new associate ; and determined to ordain 
him his successor in the see of Utrecht : but Boniface de- 
clined the dignity, and retired with precipitation among 
the Hessians and the Old-Saxons. The poverty of the 
country, the inclemency of the weather, and the caprice 
of the barbarians, furnished a long and severe trial to the 
patience of the missionary : but his perseverance subdued 
every obstacle ; and within a few years he saw himself sur- 
rounded by a numerous and fervent society of Christians 

By the report of travellers, Gregory II. was first in- 
formed of the conquests of Boniface : from his letters he 
learnt that many thousands of the natives of Hesse, Sax- 
ony, and Thuringia, had willingly submitted to the doc- 
trines of the gospel. The piety of the pontiff was grati- 
fied : he summoned the missionary to Rome, conferred 
on him the episcopal ordination (15), and sent him back 

(14) Ibid. p. 262268. 

(15) An ancient custom required that bishops at their ordina- 
tion, should subscribe a promise, or take an oath, of obedience to 
their metropolitan. That, which was exacted by the Roman 
pontiffs, is still preserved in the Liber Diurnus Rom. pont. p. 69. 
It is divided into two parts. In the first, the bishop promises to 
profess the faith, maintain the unity, and watch over the interests 
of the church : in the second, to bear true allegiance to the em- 
peror, to oppose all treasonable practices, and to disclose to the 
pontiff such as may come to his knowledge. But after the con- 
quests and conversion of the northern nations, it became necessary 


with honour to his converts. From this hour spiritual 
distinctions continued to flow upon him. He soon re- 
ceived the pallium with the metropolitical jurisdiction j 
was authorized to assume the title of envoy of St Peter, 
and legate of the apostolic see ; and was appointed the 
superior not only of the German, but also of the Gallic 
prelates. To relieve the fatigue of the reader, I shall ne- 
glect the chronology of events, and rapidly notice the 
principal of his actions ; 1, as a missionary to the pagan 
nations ; and, 2, as the representative of the Roman 

1. The first care of the missionary, after he had re- 
ceived the episcopal consecration, was to increase the 
number of his associates. In a circular letter addressed 
to the bishops and the principal abbots in England, he 
painted in lively colours the wants of the mission, and 
exhorted his countrymen to assist him in liberating the 
souls of their fellow creatures from the yoke of ignorance 

to change the second part, and adapt it to the particular circum- 
stances of the bishop, to whom it was proposed. Thus in the 
time of Gregory the great, the prelates of the Longobards, instead 
of the promise of allegiance to the emperor, swore that they would 
endeavour to preserve a just peace between their nation and the Ro- 
mans (Lib* Diurn. p. 71). Another alteration was made at the 
ordination of St Boniface. As several of the French prelates lived 
in the open infringement of the canons, he was made to promise, 
that he would keep no communion with those prelates, but would 
endeavour to reform them ; and if his efforts were fruitless, would 
denounce them to the apostolic see. Sed et si cognovero antis- 
tites contra instituta antiqua SS. patrum conversari, cum eis nul- 
lam habere communionem aut conjunctionem, sed magis, si va- 
luero prohibere, prohibebo ; sin minus, fideliter statim domno 
meo apostolico renunciabo. Ibid. p. 70. 


and paganism. His exhortations were read with conge- 
nial sentiments by the more fervent of the monks and 
clergy : the merit of converting the infidels, and the hope 
of obtaining the crown of martyrdom, taught them to 
despise the dangers and difficulties of the enterprize ; 
and many zealous missionaries successively crossed the 
sea, and placed themselves at the disposal of the new 
apostle. No motives but those of the purest zeal could 
have supported them under the numerous privations and 
dangers, to which they were continually exposed. Bread, 
indeed, they were able to obtain from the gratitude of 
their proselytes, and the menaces of the Franks protected 
them from the insults of the vanquished barbarians, who 
refused to listen to their doctrine : but for clothing and 
almost every other necessary, they were compelled to de- 
pend on the casual benevolence of their distant friends, 
and the fruits of their labours were frequently destroyed, 
and their lives endangered, by the hostilities of the tribes, 
that still retained the religion and independence of their 
fathers. By one incursion no less than thirty 'churches 
were levelled with the ground (16). 

The next object of the archbishop was ta ensure a per- 
manent supply of missionaries. With this view he erect- 
ed several monasteries, and exhorted his associates to 
copy his example in their different districts. His first 
foundation was the small cell at Ordof , this was followed 
by the larger monasteries of Fritzlar, and Amelburg : 
and to them succeeded the rich and magnificent abbey 
of Fulda. An extensive forest, known by the name of 
Buchow, lay in the midst of Franconia, Hesse, Wettera- 

(16) StBonif. ep. 91, 92. 



via, and Thuringia. Through it ran the river Fuld, on 
the banks of which Boniface discovered a spot, adapted 
in his opinion to the purposes of a monastic life. A grant 
of the place was readily obtained from the piety of Car- 
loman, the son of Pepin : Sturm, his beloved disciple, 
with seven associates, cleared the wood, and erected the 
necessary buildings ; and Boniface himself taught them 
the strict observance of the rule of St Benedict. The ab- 
bey continued to flourish after the death of its founder, 
and within the space of a few years contained four hun- 
dred monks. Till its late secularization its superior was 
a prince of the empire, and stiled himself primate of all 
the abbots of Gaul and Germany (17). 

For the education of the female sex, Boniface solicited 
the assistance of Tetta, the abbess of Winburn j and Lio- 
ba, with several of the sisters, readily devoted themselves 
to so meritorious an attempt. To these he afterwards 
joined several other English ladies, who were animated 
with similar views, and equally desirous to partake in the 
merit of the missionaries. Lioba was placed in the con- 
vent of Bischofesheim, on the Tuber ; Tecla, at Chit- 
zingen, in Franconia ; Walpurge, at Heidenheim, near 
the Brentz ; and Chunihild and Chunitrude were sent, 
the former into Thuringia, the latter into Bavaria (18). 

, As Boniface advanced in age, he found himself un- 
equal to the administration of so extensive a diocese. 
With the permission of the pontiff, and the consent of 
Carloman, he established four episcopal sees at Erford, 
Buraburg, Aichstad, and Wurtzburg; and instrusted 

(17) Vit. Bonif. p. 271, 272, 277. Ep. 142. 

(18) Othloni Vit. St Bonif. apud Canis, ant. Lect. torn. iiU 
Annal. Bened. torn. ii. p. 72. 


them to the care of four of the most zealous among his 
associates, Adelhard, Wintan, Willibald, and Burchard 

2. But the Anglo-Saxon did not confine his pastoral 
solicitude to the nations, whom by his preaching he had 
converted to the Christian faith. In quality of apostolic 
legate, he visited Bavaria, and was received by the Duke 
Odilo with respect and kindness. The Bavarian church 
was then governed by Vivilo, a prelate ordained for that 
mission by the sovereign pontiff. Boniface judged that a 
greater number of pastors was necessary to accelerate the 
progress of the gospel, and divided the country into four 
smaller dioceses. Vivilo was obliged to content himself 
with the bishopric of Passau ; John, an Anglo-Saxon, 
was ordained for that of Saltzburg ; and Goibald and 
Erembert were placed in the churches of Ratisbon and 
Fresingen (20). 

During the preceding century, the ambition of the 
mayors of the palace had dissolved the bands of civil sub- 
ordination, and ecclesiastical polity, in the empire of the 
Franks. The regulations of the canons were openly in- 
fringed ; the highest dignities of the church were usurped 
by powerful and rapacious laymen ; and the clerical and 
monastic bodies were ignorant of the duties of their pro- 
fession. To recal the severity of the ancient discipline 
was the great ambition of Boniface : and Carloman, 
whose piety readily listened to his suggestions, ordered 
the bishops of Austrasia to obey the summons of the le- 
gate. They met him successively in council, and respecl- 

(19) St Bonif. ep. 131, 132. 

(20) Vit. St Bonif. auct. Willibal. p. 274. 

pf 2 


fully subscribed to the canons, which he dictated (2 1 ). 
Pepin imitated the zeal of his brother ; a synod of three 
and twenty bishops assembled at Soissons ; and by the 
care of Boniface, an uniformity of discipline was intro- 
duced throughout all the churches of the Franks. 

An important revolution marks the history of this pe- 
riod. The sceptre had long since slrpt from the feeble 
grasp of the Merovingian kings into the hands of Charles 
Martel and his sons. These princes at first contented 
themselves with the power, without the title of royalty : 
and, on the calends of May, the hereditary monarch of 
the Franks was annually exhibited to the veneration of 
his subjects. But Pepin soon dismissed the dangerous 
pageant : Childeric, the last king of the race of Clovis, 
was shorn in the monastery of Sithiu ; and Bpniface, if 
we may believe a host of ancient writers, crowned the 
mayor of the palace, according to the wish or the advice 
of pope Zachary. No point of history is, perhaps better 
attested than the share, which the pontiff and his legate 
bore in this transaction (22:) yet several French critics have 
ventured to call it in question ; and their rational scepti- 
cism may be excused or justified by the silence of Za- 
chary and Boniface, and of Anastasius and Willibald, 
their ancient biographers. 

Towards the close of his life the archbishop fixed his 
residence in the city of Mentz ; and with the consent of 
Pepin and the pontiff ordained to succeed him his disciple 
Lullus, formerly a monk of Malmesbury. It was his wish 
to resume the labours of his youth, and spend his- last 

(21) Int. epist. St Bonif. p. 1 10, 112. 

(22) See Eginhard, Annales Laureshamenses, Loiselani, Fulden- 
aes* Beriiniani, &e. apudLe Cointe, Annal. tom*iv. 


breath in the conversion of the pagans. Attended by 
one bishop, three priests, three deacons, four monks, 
and forty-one laymen, he descended the Rhine, and 
penetrated to the centre of East-Friesland. By his ex- 
hortation some thousands of the idolaters were induced 
to abandon the altars of the gods, and to submit to the 
rite of baptism. After a short delay a general assembly 
of the neophytes was summoned to receive the sacra- 
ment of confirmation on the vigil of Pentecost ; and in a 
tent in the plain of Dockum the archbishop waited the 
arrival of his converts. At the break of day he was in- 
formed that a body of Frisians, completely armed, and 
of hostile aspect, were rapidly approaching. The lay- 
men prepared to defend their lives : but Boniface, going 
out of his tent, bade them sheathe their swords, and 
receive with patience the crown of martyrdom. He had 
scarcely spoken, when the barbarians rushed upon them, 
and immolated the whole company to their fury. But 
their avarice was disappointed : and instead of the trea- 
sures which they expected, they obtained only a few 
books, with the use of which they were unacquainted. At 
the news, the Christian Frisians were fired with indigna- 
tion : they assembled in great numbers ; and within 
three days revenged the death of their teacher in the 
blood of his murderers (23). 

(23) Vit. S. Bonif. p. 279. The benefits, which Germany re- 
ceived from the ministry of Boniface, have not screened him 
from the severity of criticism ; and the gratitude of Mosheim has 
induced him to draw a disadvantageous portrait of the apostle of 
his country. If we may believe him, Boniface often employed 
fraud and violence to multiply the number of his converts ; and 
his own letters prove him to have been a man of an arrogant and 

Ff 3 

The fate of Boniface did not arrest the zeal of his 
countrymen , and the nations, whom he had converted, 
listened with docility to the instructions of his followers. 
But the first, that added a new people to the Christian 
name, was Willehad, a Northumbrian priest, who with 
the permission of his bishop and of king Alhred, sailed 
in 772 to the northern coast of Germany, As soon as 
he had landed, he visited the plain of Dockum, kissed 
the ground which had been sanctified by the blood of 
the martyrs, and rose from prayer animated with the 
spirit of his predecessor. With irresistible eloquence he 
preached to the barbarians the doctrine of the gospel : 
the dangers to which he was frequently exposed, were 
repaid by the success of his labours ; and the knowledge 
of the true God was successively planted on the banks of 
the Ems, the Weser, and the Elbe. Wigmode, the 
country lying between the two last rivers, became the 
principal theatre of his zeal ; and during seven years he 
governed the mission with the authority, but without 
the ordination, of a bishop. When the Saxons made a 
last effort to throw of the yoke of the Franks, the 

Insidious temper, and profoundly ignorant of many necessary 
truths, and of the real nature of the Christian religion. Mosh. 
saec. viii. par I.e. 1. As the German historian does not attempt 
to fortify his assertions by any reference to ancient writers, they 
must rest on his own authority : but if the reader think proper 
to peruse either the letters of the missionary, or his life by St 
Wiilibald, he will be enabled to form an accurate notion of the 
veracity and impartiality of his accuser. The Anglo-Saxons con- 
sidered Boniface as the glory of the nation. He died in 755, and 
in the first synod which was held the following year, they en- 
rolled his name in the calendar, and chose him for one of the 
.patrons of their church. Ep. Cuthb. archiep. p. 9-1. 


Christians were the first victims of their fury. The 
churches erected by Willehad were demolished ; five of 
his associates, with their companions, were massacred ; 
and the missionary himself escaped with difficulty into 
Friesland. But after two years, the fortune of Charle- 
magne invited him to return ; and he was ordained the 
first bishop of the Saxons. He chose for his residence a 
spot on the right bank of the Weser, where he built a 
cathedral, and laid the foundations of the city of Bre- 
men. He died in 789 (24). 

From Germany the zeal of the Anglo-Saxon mission- 
aries induced them to cross the Baltic ; and Sigfrid, a 
priest of York, about the middle of the tenth century, 
preached, at the request of Olave Scotkonung, king of 
Upsal, to the natives of , Sweden. The prince, his fa- 
mily and army, received the sacrament of baptism ; five 
episcopal sees were filled with pastors by the exertions 
of the missionary ; and though he lost his three nephews 
by the cruelty of the idolaters, he at last succeeded in 
fixing the church of Sweden on a firm and lasting foun- 
dation. He died in 1002, and was buried at Wexiow, 
which had been his principal residence (25). Ulfrid and 
Eskill, two of his countrymen, were martyred some time 
after by the inhabitants (26). 

In Denmark the seeds of the gospel had been sown at 
different periods by the successors of St Willehad, the 
archbishops of Bremen : but their success had been li- 
mited and transitory , and many missions were begun, 
many generations passed, before the fierce intractable 

(24) Annal. Bened.tom. ii. p. 222, 255, 260, 291. 

(25) Apud Benzel. p. 1. cit. Butler, Feb. 15. 
{26) Adam. Bremen. 1. ii. c. 44. 

* f A 


spirit of the natives could be induced to bend to the mild 
precepts of Christianity. A share of the merit of this 
pious work is due to the Anglo-Saxons 5 several of whom 
were transported by Canute the Great,*lo Denmark, that 
by their virtue and preaching they might disseminate 
the Christian faith among his subjects. Bernard presided 
with episcopal authority in Schonen ; Ger brand in Zea- 
land, and Reinher in Finland : but all three acknow- 
ledged the superior jurisdiction of Unuan, archbishop of 
Bremen (27). 

The first of the Norwegian kings, who received the 
sacrament of baptism, was Haco surnamed the good. 
With the zeal of a proselyte he endeavoured to propagate 
the Christian religion; and at his request bishops and 
priests were sent from England to his assistance. In a 
public assembly he exhorted the deputies of the nation 
to embrace the new worship : but they despised his elo- 
quence and authority, and compelled him to revert to the 
worship of his fathers (28). Paganism retained the su- 
periority in Norway till the accession of St Olave. la 
one of those piratical expeditions, which were the darling 
employment of the northern chieftains, he was converted 
to the faith by a hermit on one of the Scilly islands. 
When he had obtained the crown by the death of Haco 
the bad, he made it his principal ambition to convert his 
subjects ; the severity of his laws abolished or repressed 
the practices of ancient superstition ; the priests of Woden 
were put to death without mercy ; and Norway was 
filled with real or pretended Christians. His assistants 

(27) ChTon. Holsatiae c. 10 13. Adam. Brem. 1. iL c. ss. 
.(28) Snorre, p. 138. 


and advisers were Anglo-Saxons ; Grimkele bishop of 
Drontheim, Sigefrid, Rodolf, and Bernard, whose labours 
were not confined to the continent, but extended to all 
the islands, which owned the dominion of the king of the 
Northmen (29). 

(29) Ibid. 223, 258- Adam. Bremen. 1. ii. c. 40, 43. Anno 



(A) p. 88. 

TOWARDS the clofe of his reign, Ethelwulf made a valua- 
ble donation to the church. It is, however, difficult to afcer- 
tain the true import of this donation. Some writers have 
defcribed it as the establifliment of tithes, ( Selden, hift. of 
tithes, c. 8), and in defence of their opinion, appeal to the 
teftimony of Ingulf, (Tune primo cum decimis omnium ter- 
rarum ac bonorum aliorum five catallorum univerfam dota- 
verat ecclefiam. Ing. f. 494-). I have, however, fliewn 
(p. 87) that tithes were introduced fome centuries before : 
nor can I conceive how " the tenth part of the land" can 
mean no more than the donation of the tenth part of the 
produce of the land. The ancient hiftorians may in general, 
be divided into two clafles. The firfl appear to limit the 
grant, whatever may have been its ultimate object, to the 
tenth part of the royal demefne lands. (Teofan "oael hif 
longer*. Chron. Sax. p. 76. Totam terram fuam pro 
Chrifto decimavit, Ailred, inter x. fcript. p. 351. Totam 
terram fuam decumavit. Hunt. 1. v. p. 200. Decimam 
partem terra meae. Chart, apud Wilk. p. 184-. Totam 
terram de dominico fuo decimavit. Annal. Winton. apud 
Dudg. Monaft. torn. i. p. 32. Decimam partem omnium 
terrarum in manibus fuis exiftentium ecclefiae donavit Angli- 
cans. Rudborne, p. 200.) The others, and in general 
the more ancient, extend it to all his dominions. (Decimam 
totius regni fui partem ab omni regali fervitio et tribute 
liberavit, et in fempiterno graphio in cruce Chrifti uni et 
trino Deo immolavit. Afler. p. 2. Hoved. p. 232. Decu- 


mavit de omni pofieflione fua in partem domini, et in uni- 
verfo regimine principatus fui fie inftituit. Ethelw. 1. iii. c. 
3, f. 478. Decimam omnium hydarum intra regnum fuum 
Malm, de Reg. 1. ii. c. 2, f. 20.) There are alfo two char- 
ters given by Ethel wulf on this fubjecl:. The firft is dated 
in the year 854, and appears from the fignatures to have 
regarded only the kingdom of Weflex. In it he fays, perfeci, 
ut decimam partem terrarum per regnum meum non folum 
facris ecclefiis darem, verum etiam et miniftris meis in per- 
petuam libertatem habere concederem. Malm, de pont. 1. 
v. p. 360, edit. Gale. Regift. Abend, apud Dugd. Monaft. 
torn. i. p. 100. From thefe words the grant appears to 
have been made to the fecular as well as the fpiritual thanes ; 
and was, perhaps, a donation not of lands, but of immuni- 
ties. This idea is ftrengthened by the additional claufe in 
the copy preferved by the monks of Malmefbury. Terra 
autem ifta, quam in libertate ponimus, ad ecclefiam pertinens 
Meldubefburg, eft Piretune, &c. Malm. ibid. The fecond 
charter was given in the following year, and fubfcribed by 
the kings of Mercia and Eaft-Anglia, and by all the bifhops 
of England. The donation is exprefTed in the following 
terms : Altquam portionem terras hereditariam, antea pofli- 
dentibus omnibus gradibus, five famuli's et famulabus Dei 
Deo fervientibus, five laicis miferis (perhaps miniftris, as in 
the former charter,) femper decimam manfionem ; ubi mi- 
nimus fit, turn decimam partem omnium bonorum in liber- 
tatem perpetuam donari fanclx ecclefiae digudicavi. Wilk. 
ex Ingul. p. 183. This charter appears alfo to regard 
lands, which were already in the pofleflion of the clergy and 
laity, {antea poflidentibus) and therefore can hardly mean 
any thing more than a grant of the great ecclefiaftical pri- 
vilege, that is, of immunity from all fecular fervices, to the 
tenth part of fuch lands. This is infmuated in another part 
*>f the charter, in which it is termed a partial diminution of 


fervitude. Eo libentius pro nobis ad Deum fine ceflatione 
preces fundant, quo eorum fervitutem in aliqua parte levi- 
gamus. Char. ibid. The grant of Ethelwulf is adverted 
to in a charter faid to have been given by his grandfon, 
Edward, to the new minfter at Winchefter, and extracted 
by Alford from the annals of Hyde. Ego Edvardus Saxo- 
num Rex, ex decimatione, quam avi mei decimaverunt, ex 
eorum propriis terris iftius regni, miniftris fuis aliquibus, five 
etiam peregrinis, epifcopis et bonis preibyteris, et monafte- 
riis etiam emendandis, et pafcendis pauperibus, tradiderunt 
ea ratione ut pro rege miflarum celebrationem et votivas 
orationes faciant, &c. Alfordi annal. Tom. iii. p. 207. 

(B) p. 91. 

HERE it may not be amifs to notice an error, to which 
the authority of refpeclable names has imparted the fem- 
blance of truth. It has long been fafhionable to decry the 
clergy of the middle ages. Among their real or imaginary 
faults, they have been accufed of valuing religion only as 
the fource of temporal wealth ; and in fnpport of the charge, 
we are perpetually referred to the definition of a good chrif- 
tian, attributed to St Eloi, bifhop of Noyon, in the feventh 
century. The hiftory of this definition may, perhaps, amufe 
the reader. Dachery, a Benedictine monk, had refcued 
from the moths and cobwebs, an old manufcript, containing 
the life of the faint : he publiflied it in the fifth volume of 
his fpicilegium ; and it fell into the hands of Maclaine, the 
Englifh tranflator of Moflieim. With an eager eye this 
writer perufed its contents, and fele&ed from it a paflage, 
which he appended, as a valuable ornament, to the text of 
the German hiftorian. It was the character of the good 
chriflian j and this character was made to confift in paying the 


dues of the church, and performing a few external practices 
of devotion : qualifications, which, as he obferves more at 
length, might fill the coffers of the clergy, but could not 
fatisfy the demands of the gofpel. (Molh. cent. vii. part, 2, 
c. 3.)- The prefent of Maclaine was gratefully accepted by 
the prejudices of his readers; and Robertfon, who reprinted 
it, publicly acknowledged his obligations to him for the pe- 
rufal of fo important a pafTage. (Hid. Charles V. vol. i. p. 
218, octavo edit.) From that period, it has held a very dif- 
tinguiftied place in every invective, which has been publilhed 
againft the clergy of former ages : and the definition of the 
good chriftian has been re-echoed a thoufand times, by the 
credulity of writers and their readers. May I hope to efcape 
the imputation of fcepticifm, when I own, that I have al- 
ways been inclined to miftruft this hoft of witnefTes and their 
quotations ? I at laft refolved to confult the original docu- 
ment, nor were my expectations difappointed. I difcovered 
that the bifhop of Noyon had been foully calumniated, and 
that, inftead of his real doctrine, a garbled extract had been 
prefented to the public. That the good chriftian fhould pay 
the dues of the church, he indeed requires : but he alfo re- 
quires, that he Ihould cultivate peace among his neighbours, 
forgive his enemies, love all mankind as himfelf, obferve 
the precepts of the decalogue, and faithfully comply with 
the engagements, which he contracted at his baptifm. Non 
ergo vobis fufficit, charifllmi, quod chriftianum nomen ac- 
cepiftis, fi opera chriftiana non facitis. Illi enim prodeft, 
quod chriftianus vocatur, qui femper Chrifti praecepta mente 
retinet, et opere perficit : qui furtum fcilicet non facit, qui 
falfum teftimonium non dicit, qui nee mentitur nee perjerat, 
qui adulterium non committit, qui nullum hominem edit, 
fed omnes ficut femetipfum diligit, qui inimicis fuis malum 
non reddit, fed magis pro ipfis orat, qui lites non concitar, 
fed difcordes ad cpncordiam revocat, &c. Dacb. Spicil. 


torn. v. p. 213. On account of its fimilarity, I fhall fubjoin 
another defcription of the good chriftian from an Anglo- 
Saxon prelate, Wulftan, archbifhop of York. " Let us 
" always profefs one true faith, and love God with all our 
" mind and might, and carefully keep all his command- 
" ments, and give to God that part (of our fubftance) 
" which by his grace we are able to give, and earneftly 
" avoid all evil, and aft righteoufly to all others, that is, 
" behave to others, as we wifh others to behave to us. He 
" is a good chriftian who obferveth this." Sermo Lupi 
Epis. apud Whel. p. 487. 

(C)_p. 98. 

IT is no eafy matter to determine the relative value of the 
different denominations of Anglo-Saxon money. The fol- 
lowing is the moft accurate information, which I have been 
able to collect on this fubjecl. 

1. The principal of the Anglo-Saxon coins appears to have 
been the filver penny. There is no evidence that our ancef- 
tors poflefTed any national pieces of a higher value. 

By a ftatute, made in the reign of Edward I. it was or- 
dered, that each penny fhould weigh thirty-two grains of 
wheat, taken from the middle of the ear ; that twenty of 
thefe pennies fhould make one ounce ; and twelve ounces 
one pound. (Spelm. Glofs. voce Denar.) This ftatute ap- 
pears not to have altered, but only to have declared the 
legitimate weight of the Englifh penny. Every more an- 
cient document agrees in dividing the pound of filver into 
the fame number of pennies. 

I therefore conceive the penny always to have been the 
two hundred and fortieth part of a pound of filver : nor can 
I affent to thofe writers, who have ingenioufly contended for 
two forts of pennies j the larger, of which five, and the 


fmaller, of which twelve, are believed to have compofed the 
fhilling. For if the {Killing of five pennies, had contained as 
much filver as that of twelve, it muft have been indifferent 
to the receiver, what ihillings were offered him in payment : 
nor would the legiflature fo often have diflinguifhed between 
the two forts of (hillings, and ordered fome penalties to be 
difcharged in Shillings of five, and others in thofe of twelve 

To prove the extftence of two forts of pennies, it has been 
obferved that, in the laws of Alfred, mention is made of 
pounds masjrpa penmga (Leg. Sax. p. 35,) and in thofe 
afcribed to William the conqueror, of bener deners. (Tur- 
ner, vol. iv. p. 168. I have not found the original paflage,) 
But I conceive the firft paffage fhould be tranflated fhining 
pennies, or pennies frefh from the mint ; the fecond, better 
pennies, or fuch as were not adulterated with too great a 
quantity of alloy. From domefday book, and other autho- 
rities, we know, that, when the king's treafurers fufpected the 
purity of the filver, they refufed it : and that, when the pen- 
nies had been diminifhed by remaining long in circulation, 
they required others, or a greater number to make up the 
weight. jElfric tranflates, probata moneta publica, money 
of full weight : be jzullon gepihce. Thvvaites, Heptat. p. 

For the convenience of fmaller payments, the penny was 
frequently clipped into two equal parts, each of which was 
called a hssfling, or half-penny : and thefe were again divid- 
ed into halves, which were named feorthlings, or farthings. 

In the Saxon tranflation of the gofpels, are mentioned the 
wecg, (Matth. xvii. 27,) which I conceive to mean only a 
piece of money, and the ftyca. (Mark xii. 42). In this 
paffage, two ftycas are faid to be the fourth of a penny. In 
the parallel pafiage in St Luke, (xxi. 2,) the fame fum is 
called two feorthlings. It ihould however be obferved, that 


the tranflators are different JElfric in the latter, Aldred or 
Far men in the former. In the year 1695, a confiderable 
number of fmall copper coins, fuppofed to be ftycas, were 
found near Rippon. Gibfon's Cam. vol. i. p. cciii. 

In the laws of Alfred, (Leg. Sax. p. 45,) and of Henry I. 
(ibid. p. 282), mention is made of the third part of a penny. 
I am ignorant whether it was a coin, or only a divifion of 
the penny. Moft probably it was the latter. 

2. The fliilling appears to have denoted a certain number 
of pennies, and to have varied in value at different times, and 
in different places. As this opinion has been controverted, 
I may be allowed to produce a few inftances, by which I 
conceive it may be clearly eftablifhed. 

From the laws of Ethelred and Canute, (Leg. Sax. p. 113> 
127,) it appears that one hundred and twenty (hillings were 
the half of five pounds. Whence it follows, that the pound 
confifted of forty eight fhillings, and each fhilling of five pen- 
nies, fmce the pound contained in all two hundred and forty- 
pennies. This inference is confirmed by ^Elfric, who allures 
us, that when he wrote, five pennies were equal to one fhil- 
ling. Fij2 pemngay* gemacija'S aenne fcillmge. Wilk. 
Glofs. p. 416. 

From the laws of Henry I. it appears, that fifty fliillings 
were, at that period, the half of five pounds. (Leg. Sax. p. 
272). Whence it follows that the pound confifted of twenty 
fliillings, and each fliilling of twelve pennies, as the pound 
of filver was ftill coined into two hundred and forty pennies. 
This inference is confirmed by feveral payments in domefday 
book, of twenty fliiliings to the pound : and by the Dahegeld 
of the year 1083, which, by the Saxon chronicle, is faid to 
kave been feventy-two pennies, (p. 185,) by other hiftorians, 
fix fliillings, (Mat. Paris p. 9, Weftmon. p. 229, and Bromp- 
ton, p, 978.) 

In the laws of Alfred, the different wounds which may be 


inflicted on the human body, are carefully enumerated, and 
a pecuniary compenfation is affigned to each, proportionate 
to the injury which it was fuppofed to occafion, (Leg. Sax. 
p. 45.) The whole chapter, with the fame fines, is inferted 
in the laws of Henry I. but the Norman legiflator, to prevent 
miftakes, admonifhes his readers, that the {hillings, which are 
mentioned in it, are only fhillings of five pennies, (ibid. p. 
281, 282.) 

In the laws of Ina, and of Edward the fucceffor of Alfred, 
we are told, that the healsfang for a man, whofe were was 
twelve hundred fhillings, amounted to one hundred and 
twenty (hillings, (Lex. Sax. p. 25, 54.) In thofe of Henry 
I. we are told, that the healsfang of a man, whofe were was 
twelve hundred (Killings, or twenty-five pounds, amounted to 
one hundred and twenty fhillings, which, according to the 
method of computation then in ufe, were only fifty fhillings, 
(qui faciunt hodiefolidos quinquaginta. Leg. Sax. p. 269.) 
Here the Norman obferves, that the twelve hundred jQiillings, 
which according to the ancient laws were ftill demanded for 
the were, were the ancient fhillings of five pennies, fince they 
were only equal to twenty-five pounds, and that the one hun- 
dred and twenty fhillings for the healsfang were of the fame 
defcription, and equal to no more than fifty of the common 
fhillings of twelve pence. In effect, one hundred and twenty 
fhillings of five pennies, and fifty of twelve, give equally fix 
hundred pennies. 

According to the laws of Alfred, the lorhbrycs was a 
penalty of five pounds, (Leg. p. 35,) according to thofe of 
Henry I. it was one hundred fhillings. (Leg. p. 250.) 
Five pounds of two hundred and forty pennies, and one hun- 
dred fliillings of twelve pennies, give equally twelve hundred 

In the laws of Ethelred and Canute, (Leg. p, 113,, 127,} 


the griilbryce, the penalty for violating the peace of a churdi 
of the 


1ft clafs was 5 = 240 = 1200 

2d 4 = 120 = 600 

3d | = 60 = 300 

4th | = 30 = 150 

In the laws of Henry I. (Leg. p. 272,) the fame penalty 
is ftated as follows. For a church of the 


I ft clafs was 5 = 100 = 1200 

2d ..... 4 = 50- =r 600 

3d ..... - i = 25 = . 300 

4th = 12-6 = 150 

In both ftatements the value is the fame. The only dif- 
ference is in the (hillings, which in the firft are (hillings of 
five, in the fecond of twelve pennies. 

From thefe inftances it may be inferred 1, that the fame 
pecuniary compenfations for crimes were in general con- 
tinued by the Norman, which had been originally enforced 
by the Saxon princes : 2, that under the Saxons they were 
paid in (hillings of five, under the Normans, in (hillings of 
twelve pennies : 3, that the pennies continued of the fame 
value, and the only difference was in the amount of the no- 
minal fum called a (hilling, which firft denoted five, and af- 
terwards twelve pennies. 

It is difficult to difcover at what period the (hilling of 
twelve pennies was firft employed. That it was introduced 
by fome of the foreign adventurers, who, during the ninth, 
tenth, and eleventh centuries, fettled in England, is evi- 
dent : that it (hould be afligned to the national partiality of 
the Norman conquerors, is highly probable : both becaufe 
it firft appears in the Englifti laws after the conqueft, and 
becaufe it is known to have been the (hilling in ufe among 

all the provinces, which originally compofed the empire of 
the Franks. (The French pound contained two hundred 
and forty pennies, or twenty (hillings of twelve pennies each. 
Mabil. Sxc. iv. Bened. praef. i. p. cxi. It was fixed at this 
fum by Pepin and Charlemagne. Du Frefne, Glof. p. 
894. The Spanifh pound contained three hundred pennies,, 
and only twelve {hillings of twenty-five pennies each. Mabil. 
Anal. vet. p. 551.) To this opinion, however, it may be 
objected, that in the hiftory of Ely, mention is made of 
payments of twenty (hillings to the pound, as early as the 
reign of Edgar, (hift. Elien. p. 473) : and in JElfric's ver- 
fion of Exodus, c. xxi. v. 10, the maeT))at>e, which Alfred f 
in his laws, declares to be the woman's dower, (Leg. Sax. 
p. 39,) is faid to be twelve (hillings of twelve pennies, (J>a 
j*mt> tpelp pcillmjaj" 1 be rpel_p pemgon. Thwaites, Hep- 
tat, p. 85.) It is not, however, impoffible, that the monk 
of Ely, as he wrote after the conqueft, might adopt, in- 
ftead of the ancient, the new method of computation, which 
was more intelligible to his readers : and as the paiTage in. 
JEAfric is an addition to the original, it might, perhaps, be 
inferted by fome of his copyifts as a note, and have crept 
from the margin into the text. 

There is reafon to believe, that even among the Saxon 
nations, the (hilling did not always denote the fame number 
of pennies. The (hilling of five pennies, was the (lulling of 
Weffex ; the head, as it is (tiled by Henry I. of the empire 
and the laws, (Qux caput regni eft et legum. Leg. Sax. p. 
265) : but in Mercia the (hilling appears to have contained 
no more than four pennies. 

That the Mercians followed a particular method of calcu- 
lation, is infmuated in the laws of Athclftan, from which 
we learn that a certain fum of money among the Angles,. 
was equal to one hundred pounds in the Mercian law. (be- 
mypcna lage. Leg. Sax. p. 71.) 

G g 2 


In the afleffment of the Weregild, we are told, that 
among the Mercians, feven thoufand two hundred fhillings 
are equal to one hundred and twenty pounds. (Ibid. p. 72.) 
Hence it follows that fixty Mercian Ihillings made a pound, 
and that of confequence, each fhilling could contain no 
more than four pennies. 

This inference is confirmed by a pa/Tage in the fame laws, 
in which four pennies, and fhortly after one ihilling, are 
mentioned, as the fum contributed by each member of an. 
aflbciation in London. Ibid. p. 66. 

In the laws afcribed to William the conqueror, we are 
told, that the fhilling Englifh is four pennies. (Leg. p. 
221.) If the reading be correct, this muft be the Mercian 

Hence it may not be raih to infer, that the fhilling de- 
noted among the Weft-Saxons five, the Mercians four, and 
the Normans twelve pennies. 

In ancient charters we fometimes meet with mention of 
ficli:. in Archbifliop Egbert's dialogue (p. 272, 273, 275,) 
of ficli and argentei for the fame fum. Both words weze 
borrowed from the latin translation of the fcriptures, and 
adopted by the Saxon writers in that language, as lefs bar- 
barous than the national term fcyllinge. In the vernacular 
verfion of the gofpels, argenteus is always rendered by fliil- 
ling, in that of Genefis it is rendered a ihilling, p. 27, and a 
penny, p. 43. -ZElfric translates ficlus by f cillinj. Gen, 
xxiii. 16, and Exod xxi. 32, by entj-a. Jof. vii. 21. 

3. Among the Angles, (mne mro Englum. Leg. p. 71. 
Perhaps the Middle-Angles mentioned by Bede, 1. iii. c. 21,) 
the pennies feem to have been computed, not by fhillings, 
but by thrymfas, The word is derived from^jico or ^j\im, 
and appears to mean three pennies. That fuch was the real 
value of the thrymfa, may be deduced from the laws of 
Athelftan, from which we learn that two hundred, and fixty- 


fix thrymfas among the Angles, were equal to two hundred 
Shillings among the Mercians. (Leg. p. 71.) Two hun- 
dred and fixty-fix thrymfas of three pennies, give feven hun- 
dred and ninety eight pennies, ancl two hundred Mercian 
{hillings of four, give eight hundred pennies. The differ- 
ence is only two, and in fo large afum might have been over- 
looked by the legiflator, for the fake of a round number. 
Such inftances occur in the Saxon laws. See Leg. Sax. p. 

4. Of the value of the fceatta, I am compelled to confefs 
my ignorance. From a diligent comparifon of the fums 
mentioned in the laws of Ethelbert, k : ng of Kent, the fceatta 
appears to have been the twentieth part of a fhilling. Hence, 
if the flailing in thefe laws be that of WefTex, the fceatta will 
be one fourth, if that of Mercia, one fifth of a penny. But 
at the diftance of three centuries it appears to denote a much 
greater fum. In the laws of Athelftan, the king's Weregild 
is faid to be, according to the cuftom of Mercia, thirty thou- 
fand fceattas, which, by the computation mentioned above, 
will amount to no more than twenty-five pounds. Yet we 
are told immediately after, that it is equal to one hundred 
and twenty pounds, which makes each fceatta equal to one 
penny and the twenty-fourth pan of a penny. I fufpect the 
correftnefs of the paflage. 

5. The ora firft appears in the convention between Ed- 
ward and Guthrun, king of the Danes ; it is often mentioned 
afterwards, and appears to have been peculiar to the coun- 
tries in which the Danes were fettled. In the laws of Ethel- 
red, the ora is faid to be the fifteenth part of a pound. 
(Spelm. Glofs. voce ora. Wilk. Glofs. voce Huftinge.) 
It was, therefore, equal to fixteen pennies ; and fuch is the 
value afcribed to it by jElfric, according to Spelman (ibid), 
and by the regifter of Burton, according to Camden. (Gib- 
fon's Camden, Wiltshire, p. 1 30. ) Twenty oras, if the re- 
eg 3 


; gifter be correct, were equal to two marks, or three hundred 
and twenty pennies. But though fixteen new pennies made 
an ora, yet in many payments twenty were exacted on ac- 
count of the diminution of the coin by circulation. Domef- 
day, Gale, p. 759, 765. 

6. The mancus was the eighth of a pound. ./Elfric, after 
obferving that five pennies make a Ihilling, adds, and thirty 
pennies a mancus, (Wilk. Glofs. voce Manca.) It is faid in 
one chapter of the laws of Henry I (c. 34-,) that thirty (hil- 
lings of five pennies make five mancufes ; and in another, 
that twelve common fhillings and iixpence make five man- 
cufes. In each paflage the mancus appears to have contain- 
ed thirty pennies. 

7. The mark is fo frequently mentioned among the differ- 
,ent denominations of Saxon money, that it muft appear fur- 
prifmg any doubt fhould exift refpecling its value. By Spel- 
man (Glofs. voce marca) it is faid to have been at one period 
equal to no more than two pennies. But he was deceived by 
a law of Edward the confeiTor, the true meaning of which 
may be difcovered from a parallel law of William the con- 
queror. (Compare Leg. p. 198, with p. 222.) Other 
writers have pronounced the mark to be the fame fum with 
.the mancus : and in fome pafTages, particularly in the laws 
of Henry I. thefe two denominations appear to be ufed indif- 
criminately. But this I am inclined to afcribe to the negli- 
gence of the copyifls, who might eafily confound words fo 
fimilar to ea^ch other as marca and manca. At an early pe- 
riod after the conqueil, the mark was two thirds of a pound, 
(at this value it was called on the continent the Englifh mark. 
Du Frefne, Glofs. p. 438,) and there is every reafon to be- 
lieve it to have been the fame under the Saxon princes. This 
I fhall endeavour to prove, by fhewing that the latter com- 
putation agrees, and the former difagrees, with the relative 
value of the fums mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon laws. 


In the convention between Alfred and Guthnin, the life 
of an Englifh and a Danifli thane is declared to be of equal 
value : and the compenfation for each is faid to be eight half- 
marks of gold : that is, if the mark were two-thirds of a 
pound, thirty ->two ounces ; if like the mancus, one eighth, fix 
ounces. Under the Normans, the value of gold to filver 
was as one to nine or ten, (Spel. Glofs. p. 397. Wilk. Glofs. 
p. 416) ; and, as far as I can judge, the fame proportion 
feems to have obtained under the Saxons. In this fuppofition 
tbirty-two ounces of gold will be worth about twenty-five 
pounds of filver, and fix ounces of gold xyorth about five 
pounds. To decide which of thefe computations deferves 
the preference, we need only examine the laws of Ethelred 
and Henry I. in which the fame law is re-enacted, and the 
penalty is declared. o be twenty-five pounds of filver. (See 
Leg. Sax. p. 47, 105, 265.) 

Among the Danes, the lahflite, the fine for violating the 
law, was five marks, if the criminal were a king's thane ; 
three, if he were a landholder ; and twelve oras, if he were 
a countryman, (Leg. p. 101.) Suppofmg the mark to be 
no more than the mancus, the thane would pay thirty {hil- 
lings, the landholder eighteen, and the countryman thirty- 
eight {Killings and two-pence, which is evidently wrong. 
But fuppofing the mark to be two-thirds of a pound, the 
thane would pay one hundred and fixty {hillings, the land- 
holder ninety -fix, and the countryman thirty-eight and two- 
pence, which appears nearer to the truth. 

In the laws attributed to Edward the confeflbr, (Leg. p. 
199), the manbote to be paid to the king or archbifhop, for 
the murder of one of their retainers, was three marks ; to a 
iuftiop or earl, forty-eight {hillings of five pennies, equal to 
twenty of twelve ; to a thane, twenty-four of five pennies, 
or ten of twelve. Suppofmg the mark to be two thirds of a 
pound, three marks are ninety-fix {hillings of five pennies, 

G g 4 


and forty of twelve, That this is the true value of the three 
marks, will appear from the gradual diminution of the man- 
bote in geometrical proportion. 


King's manbote 3 = 96 = 40 

Bilhop's manbote ~ = 48 rr 20 

Thane's manbote f = 24 = 10 

Hence I conclude the Anglo-Saxon mark was two-thirds of 

the pound, or one hundred and fixty pennies. 

The Saxon money may therefore be reckoned as follows : 


The pound 1 = 240 

The mark \ = 160 

The mancus -f = 30 

The ora T V = 16 

The greater milling ^ = 12 

The common (hilling T \ = 5 

The Mercian fhilling -^ = 4 

The thrymfa -^ = 3 

The penny -^ = 1 

l 121. 

THE mod accurate account of the difcipline obferved in 
the double monafteries, among the Anglo-Saxons, occurs in 
the life of St Lioba, written by Ralph, a monk of Fulda, and 
contemporary hiftorian. In quo (Winburne) duo monafte- 
ria antiquius a regibus gentis illius conftrucla funt, muris 
altis et firmis circumdata, et omni fufficientia fumptuum ra- 
tionabili difpofitione procurata, unum fcilicet clericorum, al- 
terum feminarum. Quorum ab initio fundationis fuse ea lege 
difciplinae ordinatura eft, ut neutrum eorum difpar fexus in- 


grederetur. Nunquam enim virorum congregationem fe- 
mina, aut virginum conturbernia quifquam virorum intrare 
permittebatur, exceptis folummodo prefbyteris, qui in eccle- 
fias earum ad agenda Mi/Tarum officia tantum ingredi fole- 
bant, et confummata celeriter oratione ftatim ad fua redire. 
Feminarum vero quaecumque fseculo renuntians earum col- 
legio fociari voluerat, nunquam exitura intrabat, nifi caufa 
rationabilis vel magnae cujuflibet utilitatis exiftens earn cum 
confilio emitteret. Porro ipfa congregationis mater, quando 
aliquid externum pro utilitate Monafterii ordinare vel man- 
dare necefle erat, per feneftram loquebatur. Tetta abbatifla 
virgines cum quibus indefmenter manebat, adeo immunes a 
virorum voluit effe confortio, ut non tantum laicis aut cleri- 
cis, verum etiam ipfis quoque Epifcopis in congregationem 
earum negaret ingrefTum. Vit. St. Liobx apud Mab. Aft. 
SS. Bened. Sax. 3. p. 246. See alfo Bede, 1. jv. c. 7. Hi. c. 

(E) p. 138. 

I ihall take this opportunity to add a few mifcellaneous 
remarks concerning the Anglo-Saxon monks at this period. 

For feveral centuries, as Mabillon has juftly obferved, 
(Ssec. Bened. iv. prxf. 1, n 52,} the diftinftion of different 
orders of monks was unknown. Whatever diverfity might 
exift in their private difcipline, they confidered each other 
as brethren, and profeflbrs of the fame inftitute. Hence 
they made no difficulty to alter, as they thought proper, 
the internal police of their own monafteries, to borrow new 
regulations from each other, and to join in the obfervance 
of two or more rules at the fame time, in thofe points in 
which they did not contradict each other. Many iftances 


-might be adduced from the hiftorians of other countries, 
nor are they wanting in the records of the Anglo-Saxons. 
The difcipline eftablifhed at Weremouth, by St Bennet 
Bifcop, was collected from the cuftoms of feventeen foreign 
monafteries, (ex decem e feptem monafleriis, Bed. vit. Ab- 
bat. p. 297) : St Botulf compofed his rule from that of St 
Benedict, the cuftoms of the ancient monks, and the fug- 
geftions of his own judgment. Quod tranfmarinis partibus 
didicerat de monachorum diftrictiori vita et regulari confue- 
tudine, memoriter repetendo quotidianis inculcationibus fub- 
ditos* confuefcit folita manfuetudine. Praecepta falutis fecun- 
clum B. patris Benedicti documentum, vetera novis, nova 
veteribus mifcens, nunc antiquorum inftituta, nunc per fe 
intellecta difcipulos edocuit. Vit. St Botul. auctore Felice, 
in actis SS. Benedic. torn. iii. p. 2. At Lindisfarne, after 
the departure of the Scottifh monks, was obferved a rule 
compofed by St Eata, the firft Anglo-Saxon abbot, after- 
wards the rule of St Benedict was added, and both were 
obferved together. Nobis regularem vitam componens con- 
ftituit, quam ufque hodie cum regula Benedict! obfervamus . 
Vit. St. Cuth. auctore anonymo fed antiquo, cit. Mab. annal. 
Bened. torn. i. p. 275. 

The great number of monks belonging to fome monafte- 
ries, will probably furprife the reader. At Winchelcomb 
they amounted to three, hundred, (Monaf. Ang. torn. i. p. 
190) ; at Weremouth and Jarrow to fix hundred, (Bed. vit. 
Abbat. p. 301) : and in the houfes eftabliftiedby St Wilfrid, 
to fome thoufands (Ed. vit. Wilf. c. 24.) It were, however, 
inaccurate to fuppofe, that all thefe were withdrawn from 
the occupations of focial life, to attend folely to pious exer- 
cifes. In the moft populous monafteries, a very fmall pro- 
portion of the members were permitted to ftudy the fciences, 
or to afpire to holy orders : the greater part (five fixths ac- 
cording to the monk of Winchelcomb) were employed in the 


daily occupations of hufbandry, and the mechanic arts, in 
which they acquired a much greater proficiency than any 
of their contemporaries. In illo magno religioforum nu- 
mero, vix fortaffis quadraginta aut circiter in facerdotes 
aut clericos ordinari cerneres : reliqua vero multitude here- 
mitarum et laicorum more, diverfis artificiis, et aliis manuum 
laboribus operam dantes, pro his, quse in neceflariis defue- 
runt, prout ab antique boni fecere monachi, diligenter pro- 
fpiciebant. Regift. Winchel. in Monaf. Ang. torn. 1. p. 190. 
The drefs of the Anglo-Saxon monks and nuns was not 
uniform. It is noticed as an inftance of uncommon aufteri- 
ty, that the abbefs Edilthryda denied herfelf the ufe of linen. 
(Bed. hid. 1. iv. c. 19) ; and St Cuthbert is praifed for 
haying forbidden the woollen garments of his difciples to be 
dyed. (Bed. vit. St. Cuth. c. 16.) The Saxons in general 
were paffionately addicted to drefs, and great admirers of 
the mcfl gaudy colours. Among thefe fcarlet was the 
favourite ; and flammea puella is ufed by Archbilhop Lullus 
to denote a lady of fafliion, (Ep. St Bonif. 45. p. 63). Va- 
riety however, as we learn from St Aldhelm, was deemed 
neceffary : and from his expreffions we may infer, that the 
weavers employed looms with feveral treadles, and under- 
ftood the art of ornamenting their webs with figures, form- 
ed by threads of different colours. (Panuculae purpureis, 
imo diverfis colorum varietatibus fucatae, inter denfa filorum 
ftamina ultro citroque decurrant, et arte plumaria omne 
textrinum opus diverfis imaginum toraciclis perornent. St 
Aid. de laud. virg. p. 305.) He himfelf poilelTed a chafu- 
ble (a veftment for the celebration of mafs) of a fcarlet 
colour, decorated with figures of peacocks, each of which 
was enclofed in a circle of black, (Gale, p. 351.) It was 
not long before this tafte violated, in many inftances, the ori- 
ginal fimplicity of the monaftic habit. Of the ladies, who 
retired to the convents, many were defcended from the moft 


illuflrious families : in the cloifter they devoted their leifure 
hours to works of ornament ; and often retained a great part 
of the drefs which they had worn in a fecular life. St Ald- 
helm has defcribed the appearance of one of thefe noble or 
royal nuns. Her under veft (fubucula) was of fine linen, 
and, if the text be accurate, of a violet colour ; above this 
ihe wore a fcarlet tunic, (tunica coccinea), with wide fleeves, 
and a hood ' ftriped with filk, (manicac et caputium fericis 
clavatas) ; her fhoes were of red leather; the locks on her 
forehead and temples were curled with irons ; and a veil 
(mafortium) was tied to her head with ribbands, croffed over 
her bread, and permitted to fall behind to the ground. He 
adds, that her nails were paired to a point, that they might 
referable the talons of the falcon. St Aid. ibid. p. 364-. 
The principal difference between this drefs and that of the 
fecular ladies appears to have been, that the latter fuf- 
pended crefcents of gold and filver (lunulae) on their necks, 
wore bracelets round their arms, rings enchafed with jewels 
on their fingers, and employed ftibium to paint the face. 
Id. p. S07. The drefs of the more diffipated among the 
clergy and monks is faid to have borne a great refemblance 
to that of the nuns above defcribed. Id. p. 364. But they 
affe&ed to wear their tunics (horter, and imitated the fecu- 
lar thanes by wrapping fillets of different colours round their 
legs, (fee an inftance of this cuftom in Strutt's engraving from 
the ancient MSS. Horda Angelcynn. vol. i. p. 47), and 
covering their heads with the lappets of their robes, which 
were made to refemble a mantle. (Imitantur fseculares in 
veftitu crurum per fafciolas, et per coculas in circumdatione 
capitis in modum pallii. Con. Cloves, p. 99.) Thefe robes 
were faced with filk, and ornamented with vermicular figures, 
(Ep. St Bonif. 105, p. 149) : the filk was of a crimfon co- 
lour, ftriped with white, green, or yellow. (Carmen Aldhel. 
inter ep. Bonif. p. 89). In the correfpondence between the 


miffionaries in Germany, and their friends in England, is 
mentioned a great variety of prefents. Among thefe are 
feveral articles of the clerical and monaftic drefs, the 
figure of which is perhaps now unknown : but which were 
made of filk, filk and wool, wool, and linen : fome were 
lined with furs, and others woven in imitation of them. (Ep. 
St Bonif. p. 15, 105, 117, 126, 152, 155.) 

Thefe innovations in the monaftic drefs were not, how- 
ever, univerfal. Many monafteries retained with fcrupulous 
exactitude the fevere fimplicity of their founders : and the 
vanity of the others was defervedly chaftifed by the zeal of 
the more vigilant prelates, and the decrees of the national 
councils. Among the former, St Aldhelm, (de laud. vir. 
paflim.) and St Boniface, (Ep. ad Cuth. apud Wilk. p. 93) ; 
among the latter, the fynods of Clovefhoe and Calcuith, were 
confpieuous. By the fynod of Clovefhoe, wo^ks of ornament 
were difcouraged in nunneries, a greater attention t"> prayer 
and reading was recommended, and fuch habits ordered to 
be worn, as became thofe, who had renounced for ever the 
pleafures and the vanities of the world. In the fynod of 
Calcuith, the papal legates feverely condemned the ufe of 
garments dyed with Indian colours, (tinclis Indias coloribus. 
Id. p. 147. From apaffage in the life of St Anfegifus, Aft. 
SS. Bened. Sxc. iv. vol. i. p. 634, in which the Indian co- 
lour is diftinguifhed from the green and red, I fhould fufpecl 
it to be the fame as is ftill known by the name of indigo). 
The clergy and monks were alfo ordered to adopt the habits 
of their brethren in the eaft. (Ibid. By the eaft were meant 
the nations on the continent, as appears from comparing this 
pafiage with another, p. 151.) Whether this regulation was 
ever enforced I am ignorant. If it were, the drefs of the 
monks would be as follows : a clofe woollen tunic of a white 
colour, reaching to the feet, over which was worn a wider 
robe, with long fleeves and a cowl of the fame ftuff, but of' 


a darker colour. On many occafions this was exchanged for 
a fhorter veft of nearly the fame figure, with this exception, 
that it only reached to the elbows and thighs. They were 
called the tunic, cowl, and fcapular. (Tunica, cuculla, 
fcapulare. Mab. Aft. SS. Ben. Sxc. v. praf n 59.) 

Of the canonical drefs of the clergy, I have met with no 
exa<5t defcription. From Ingulf, (f. .500) we learn, that Tur- 
ketul ordered the clergy, who ferved the church of St Pega, 
to wear chlamydem nigram, veftefque talares, ac omnes ni- 
gri colons. The chlamys was an open robe, fattened with 
a clafp. Ifidor. orig. 1. xix. c. 24. 

The warm bath was in frequent ufe in monafteries at this 
period. It was recommended as conducive to cleanlinefs 
and health. St Wilfrid bathed every evening during many 
years. Edd. vit. St Wilf. c. 21. People bathed before 
communion through refpecl to the facrament. Mab. Sxc. 
iv. torn. ii. prsef. n 187. Bede mentions with praife the felf- 
denial of St Edilthryda, who feldom ufed the warm bath, 
except on the vigils of Eafter, Pentecoft, and the Epiphany. 
He adds, that all the other nuns were accuftomed to bathe 
before her. Bed. hift. 1. iv. c. 19. 

In the hiftories of fome monafteries, mention is made of 
reclufes. A reclufe was a woman of approved piety, whom 
the abbot permitted to refide in a cell near the church, and 
to attend daily at the divine fervice. She generally wore 
the fame habit as a nun, and fubmitted to the fame regula- 
tions. Of this defcription was Etheldrida, a Mercian princess, 
who had been promifed in marriage to Ethelbert, king of the 
Eaft-Angles. Shocked at the barbarous murder of her in- 
tended hulband, (he was killed by order of her father Offa, 
on his arrival at the court of Mercia,) (he determined to for- 
fake the world, and devote herfelf to a religious life. Croy- 
land, which had been founded by a prince of her family, was 
the object of her choice : and the monks erected apartments 


for her in a corner of the church. In this fituation fhe fpent 
the reft of her days. Her cell afforded a fecure afylum to 
her coufm Witlaff, king of Mercia, and concealed him during 
four months from the refentment of his victorious enemy, 
Egbert, king of WefTex. Cart. Witlaf. apud* Ingulf, f. 487. 
It was feldom that more than one reclufe was permitted 
to refide near the monaftery. If the abbot received many 
applications, he fometimes built a convent in the neighbour- 
hood, appointed a priorefs, and drew up a code of laws foy 
its inhabitants. Matt. Paris, vit. Abbat. p. 992. Men, as 
well as women, fometimes became reclufes. 

(F)-p. 142. 

THE houfes of the Anglo-Saxons appear to have refembled 
thofe of the other northern tribes of that period. The walls 
were built of wood or ftone, the roofs of branches of trees 
covered with ftraw or reeds. An aperture in the center 
tranfmitted the fmoke (Bed. 1. iii. c. x'.) The habitation 
which St Cuthbert built for himfelf in the ifle of Fame, con- 
fided of two feparate rooms, furrounded by a wall two 
yards high. The latter was built with ftone and turf: the 
rooms were partly excavated in the rock (Bed. p. 243. 263.) 
Even the palace of the king of Northumbria was nothing 
more than a large hall, with two oppofite openings for 
doors. The hearth was in the middle of the floor (Bed. 1. 
ii. c. 13.) 

In the erection of their churches the converts followed 
the method of the countries, from which their teachers 
came. The Irifti mifllonaries taught them to build churches 
of fplit oak, which Bede diftinguifhes by the name of the 
Irifh method (1. iii. c. 25.) and which appears to have kept 
its ground in Ireland during feveral centuries (Vit. St Ma- 
lachias, austere D. Bern. c. v. xiii.) Of this method of 


building, a curious fpecimen ftill remains in Greenflead 
church, in the county of EfTex. The walls are formed of 
the trunks of oaks fix feet high, sawed in half. Being cut 
away at the bottom into a tenon, they are inferted into a 
groove cut in a horizontal piece of timber, which ferves as 
the bafe fuftainment. A fecond horizontal fquare timber, 
by way of intablature, grooved like the firft, receives the 
ridges of the trunks, which ftand with their fawed faces in- 
wards, and within one inch of each other. At the gable end 
the trunks rife gradually pediment wife to the height of 
fourteen feet. The interfaces between the trunks admitted 
the light : but we find from Bede (Vit. Cuth. c. xlvi.) that they 
were fometimes filled with ftraw : others nailed fkins agairrft 
them : Eadbert of Lindisfarne covered them entirely with 
lead. Id. 1. iii. c. 25. 

The Roman miffionaries, who had been accuftomed to 
the buildings of Italy, introduced the cuftom of building 
churches of ftone : and the fuperior elegance and folidity of 
thefe foon fuperfeded the method of building with wood. 

The cruciform fhape, which has fince been ufually given 
to churches, was then feldom adopted. The firft inftance of 
the kind in England is generally fuppofed to have been the 
church at Ramfey, built in 969. (Gale, hift. Ram. c. 20.) 
but the contrary appears from a poem written in England 
long before that period, in which mention is made of a 
church built in the fhape of a crofs ( Ethelwulf, de Abbat. 
JLindis. c. 22,) In general, however, the Anglo-Saxon 
churches approached the form of a fquare (Ibid. c. 20. Bed. 
1. ii. c. 14.) 

The ceilings were flat, framed with oak, and fupported 
by rows of columns (Lei. col. vol. i. p. 24. Ale. de pont. 
v. 1507. Edd. vit. Wilf. c. 17.) From them were fulpend- 
ed a great number of lamps. 


Ut ccelum rutilat ftellis fulgentibus, omnes 
Sic tremulas vibrant fubter teftudine templi 
Ordinibus variis funalia pendula flammas. 

Ethel, de Abbat c. 20. 

In the walls were formed fpiral ftair-cafes (Edd. vit. Wilf, 
c. 20. ) The body of the church was furrounded by numerous 
porches, each of which formed a diftinft chapel ( Bed. L ii. 
c. 3. Ed. vit. Wilf. c, 17. 20.) 

Emicat egregiis laquearibus intus atque feneftris, 
Pulchracjue porticibus fulget circumdata multis. 

Ale. de pont. v. 1507. 

Plures facris altaribus jedes, 
Quae retinent dubium liminis introitum. 
Quifquis ut ignotis deambulat atria plantis 

Nefciat unde meat, quove pedem referat. 
Omni parte quia fores confpiciuntur apertse. 
Nee patet ulla fibi femita certa vise. 

Wolftan in Act. SS Ben. vol. iii. p. 629. 

The church at Ramfey was ornamented with two towers* 
one at the weftern entrance, and another in the centre of 
the tranfept fupported by four arches (Hift. Rames. c 20.) 
The tower of the new church at Winchefter was at the 
eaftern extremity (Wolft. p, 630.) But I conceive that 
originally the towers were diftincl: from the churches, like 
the celebrated round towers that are ftill remaining in Ire- 
land. Thus a tower had been erected before the weftern 
entrance of the old church at Winchefter, as we learn from 

Turris erat roftrata tholis quia maxima quosdam 
Illius ante facri pulcherrima limina templi, c. 

Act. SS Ben. vol. ii. p. 70, 



If I may be allowed a conjecture on a fubject which has 
exercifed the ingenuity of many writers, I conceive fuch 
towers to have been originally built at a fhort diflance from 
the church, that the walls might not be endangered by their 
weight, and that they were not confidered merely as an or- 
nament, but ufed as beacons to direct the traveller towards 
the church or monaftery. Lights were kept burning in 
them during the night. At leaft fuch was the fact with 
refpect to the new tower at Winchefter, which we learn from 
Wolftan, confided of five ftories, in each of which were four 
windows looking towards the four cardinal points, that were 
illuminated every night (Wols. p. 631.) 

p . 149. 

THAT the Anglo-Saxon monks, by their virtue, their learn- 
ing, and their utility, deferved the efteem of their contempo- 
raries, can fcarcely be denied by thofe, who are acquainted 
with their true hiftory. It muft, however, be acknowledged, 
that the merit of all was not equal, and that in feveral mo- 
nafteries, the fevere difcipline of their founders was gradually 
abandoned. Experience {hewed that opulence was not in 
general the foil the rnoft favourable to the growth of monaf- 
tic virtue. But the caufe fhould be afcribed to the circum- 
ftances of the times. The wealth and importance attached to 
the dignity of abbot, often ftimulated the ambition, and re- 
warded the intrigues of men, the leaft qualified for fo elevat- 
ed an office. When the prince aflumed the right of nominat- 
ing to the vacant abbeys, the merit of the candidate was fre- 
quently the laft recommendation which he required : and if 
the freedom of election was granted to the monks, they were 
often compelled, by the rapacity of an unprincipled neigh- 
bour, to purchafe the protection of fome powerful family, by 


giving their fuffrages to one of its members. If we perufe 
the catalogues of thofe, who governed the more opulent mo- 
nafteries, we fhall find them filled with names of royal or 
noble defcent : and of thefe fuperiors, though feveral main- 
tained with honour the reputation of the order, and the regu- 
larity of the monks, many confidered themfelves as little 
more than fecular thanes. They abandoned to others the 
care of the community, followed the fovereign to the field 
of battle, and mixed in the pleafures and occupations of the 
world. The confequence was natural. The fterner virtues 
of the inftitute were fuffered to languifh ; difcipline was re- 
laxed ; and the private monk imitated, in many inftances, the 
diffipation of his fuperior. See Wilkins, p. 93, 97. Bed. 1. 
iv. c. 25. Ep. ad Egb. p. 311. Ep. Ale. apud Canif. xxiii. 
p. 411. Mat. Paris, vit. Abbat. p. 992. Gul. Thorn, p. 

(H) p. 158. 

THE belief of the Anglo-Saxon church, refpecVmg the fu- 
premacy of St Peter, is fo well eftablifhed, that I fhall not 
Hop to unravel the web, which the fophiftry of Hicks, (Gram, 
p. 20,) and Whelock, (hift. p. 237,) has fpunfrom fome ex- 
preflions in the Saxon homilift. Yet I may obferve, that 
the fuperior dignity of the apoftle is aflerted in the very 
paifage, which is the fubjecl of their triumph. Nu 
beja]> Perjiuj* ^ hip o'S'Se geracnunge ft'arjxe halgan 
5ela|)un^e on J>aejie he ij~ earoojx unt>ej\ GJTIJT. 
" Now Peter beareth the type or refemblance of the holy 
** church ; in which he is the prince under Chrift." Whel. 
p. 237. Whelock indeed, has rendered the Saxon word 
eaVoop. by fenior, Elftob by biftiop, (Sax. homil. pref. p xl.) ; 
but that it fhould be prince or chief, is plain from the con- 

H h 2 


text, ftom Alfred's verfion of Bede, in which ealt>oj\ always 
aniVers to princeps, and from the original fermon of St Au- 
guftine, ( Sermo 1 3, de verb. Dom. ) from which this pafTage 
was borrowed by the homilift, and which has the words, prin- 
cipatum tenens. 

(I) p. 166. 

THE reader has already feen, that the council of Clove- 
Ihoe was convoked in obedience to the command of the pon- 
tiff, and to avoid the fentence of excommunication, with 
which he had threatened the Anglo-Saxon prelates. I fhall 
proceed to notice the manner, in which Henry has undertaken 
to prove, from the fame council, that the Englifli church 
was independent of the church of Rome. He was urged to 
the attempt by the apparent fuccefsof Inett, (vol. i. p. 177) : 
but he applied to the work with ^greater boldnefs ; and the 
mafter muft be content to yield the palm to his fcholar. 

In Henry's ingenious narrative we are told 1, that the 
council was held, probably, at the fuggeftion of St Boni- 
face : 2, that its canons were, for the moft part, taken from 
thofe of the fynod of Mentz, which that prelate had tranf- 
niitted to Archbifhop Cuthbert : .3, but that the Englifti 
council made a very important alteration in the canon refpect- 
ing the unity of the church. In that formed by St Boniface, 
the bifhops profefled their obedience to St Peter and his vi- 
car : in that publifiied by the Englifli prelates, no mention 
was made of the church of Rome, but it was declared that 
" fmcere love and affection ought to be among all the clergy 
< ( in the world, in deed and judgment, without flattery of 
** any one's perfon." " This remarkable caution," adds the 
hiftorian, " in the language of the canon, is a fufficient proof 
<{ that the clergy of England were not yet difpofed to bend 


** their necks to the intolerable and ignominious yoke of 
" Rome." Hen. vol. iii. p. 225. 

It muft be confefled, that the art with which this narra- 
tive is compofed, does honour to the ingenuity of its author. 
The idea, that the fynod was afTembled at the fuggeftion of 
St Boniface, and that the canons were felected from thofe, 
which had been tranfmitted from Germany to the Saxon 
metropolitan, is well calculated to juftify the inference 
which he was fo anxious to eftablifh. The only defect is, 
that the whole fyftem has been raifed on a treacherous 
foundation ; on the fpeculations of a modern writer, inftead 
of the documents of ancient hiftory. Henry's account is 
contradicted, in every particular, by the very acts of the 
council. 1. In the procemium the bifhops affert, that they 
had aflembled, not at the fuggeftion of St Boniface, but at 
the peremptory command of pope Zachary. 2. The canons 
fent from Germany were only nine jn number, and were 
comprifed in a few lines, (Wilk. p. 91 ) : thofe publifhed at 
Clovefhoe amounted to thirty, and are, many of them at 
lead, of confiderable length. (Ibid. p. 95100.) How 
the latter could be felected from the former, it is difficult to 
conceive. In reality, there are only two or three paflages 
in which they bear any refemblance to each other, 3. The 
Englifli bifheps made no alteration m the canon refpecting 
the unity of the church. There" is no fuch canon in either 
collection. As the bifhops aflembled at Mentz, had been 
fent into Germany by the popes, to labour in the converfion 
of the pagans, it was natural for them to exprefs their obe- 
dience to the apoftolic fee : but the Englifh prelates were 
in different circumftances, and no reafon can be affigned 
why they fhould adopt the fame conduct. They therefore 
did not tranfcribe the firft canon of the council of Mentz ; 
much lefs did they make any alteration in it. To give 
fome colour of plaufibility to his ftory, Henry has had re" 

nh 3 


courfe to a rufe de guerre, which is fometimes employed 
by controversial writers. He has framed a new title for the 
fecond of the canons of Clovelhoe, omitted its commence- 
ment, and interpolated it in an important pafTage. The 
true title is not the unity of the church, but the unity of 
peace, (De unitate pads. Wilk. p. 95) : and the object of 
the canon is to inform us that the bilhops had figned an en- 
gagement to live in peace and amity among themfelves, 
without interfering with each others rights, or flattering any 
particular perfon. The engagement which reftrains die 
meaning of the canon to the contracting parties, Henry has 
prudently omitted : and, to extend its operation, has inge- 
niously inferted the words, " all the clergy in the world.'* 
Ipfi prefules, fay the acts, ad fe ipfos verba mutuae exhor- 

tationis verterunt, . . . . et fecundo loco fub teftificatione 


-quadam confirmaverunt, ut pacis intimse et fmcerae chari- 
tatis devotio ubique inter eos (all the clergy in the world, 
in Henry's tranflation), perpetuo permaneat, atque ut una 
fit omnium concordia in omnibus juribus ecclefiafticas reli- 
gionis, in fermone, in opere, in judicio, fine cujusquam 
adulatione perfonae. Wilk. ibid. 

But the hiftorian has another argument in referve. " So 
*' careful," he adds, " were the prelates to guard againft the 
" encroachments of the popes on the independency of the 
" church of England, that applications to Rome in difficult 
' cafes were difcouraged by the twenty-fifth canon, and 
f< bifhops directed to apply only to their metropolitan in a 
" provincial fynod." As Henry has not tranflated this 
canon, and I am unable to difcover in it the difcourage- 
ment, of which he fpeaks, I fhall content myfelf with tran- 
fcribing it for the perufal of the reader. Unufquifque epif- 
.coporum, fi quid in fua dicecefi corrigere et emendare ne- 
quiverit, idem in fynodo coram Archiepifcopo, et palam 
cmnibus ad corrigendum infmuet. Wilk. p. 98. Did 


Henry really believe that this canon was framed " to guard 
" againft the encroachments of the popes ?" If he had read 
a letter to which he fometimes refers, he would have known 
that it was originally compofed by St Boniface, who adds 
immediately after it : Sic enim, ni fallor, omnes epifcopi 
deberit metropolitano, et ipfe Romano pontifici, fi quid de 
corrigendis populis apud eos impoffibile eft, . notum facere, 
.et fie alieni fient a fanguine animarum perditarum. Ep. St 
Bonif. ad Cuthb. Archiep. apud Wilk. p. 91. 

(K) p. 182. 

ST WILFRID, by his earned endeavours to introduce the 
canonical obfervances among his countrymen, and his fuc- 
cefsful appeals to the juftice of the pontiffs, has been reward- 
ed with the fevereft reproaches, by the enemies of the 
church of Rome. To paint his character in the moft odious 
colours, has been a favourite theme with modern writers. 
Among a hoft of competitors, I have affigned the preceden- 
cy to Carte : and that the reader may form fome notion of 
his merit, I fhall fubjoin a few paflages from his work, and 
confront them with the original hiftory of Eddius. 

1. According to Carte, (p. 
250), " Wilfrid's appeal ap- 
" peared fo new and fingular, 
" that it occafioned a general 
t < laughter, as a thing quite 
< ridiculous." He refers to 
Eddius, c. 24. Henry thought 
this obfervation fo important, 
that he was careful to copy it. 

1. Eddius (c. 24. p. 63) 
fays, not that the appeal ex- 
cited either furprife or ridi- 
cule, but that the flatterers of 
the king, exprefled their joy 
by their laughter. Adulato- 
ribus cum rifu gaudentibus. 
They laughed at Wilfrid's 
difgrace. Qui ridetis in 
meamcondemnationem. Ibid. 


2. Carte accufes Eddius of 
mifreprefentation, when he 
fays, that Wilfrid was advifed 
to appeal by his fellow-bifhops 
(cum confilio co-epifcoporum 
fuorum. Ed- c 24, p. 63) ; 
t>ecaufe no one but Winfrid, 
the depofed bifhop of Mercia, 
could give fuch advice. Carte, 
p. 250. 

3. Carte aflerts, that the 
king of Northumbria would 
not reftore the depofed pre- 
late, becaufe he conceived the 
conduct of the pontiff to be 
derogatory to the rights of 
the crown, (p 251.) 

4. According to Carte, (p. 
252,) the king offered him a 
part of his former diocefe, if 
be would renounce the autho- 
rity of the papal mandate. 
He refers to Eddius, c. 25. 

5. If we may believe Carte 
(p. 254), Wilfrid made his 
fubmiffion to Theodore, and 
employed the good offices of 
the biihop of London to pro 
cure a reconciliation. His 
authority is Eddius, c. 42. 

6. To prove that this re- 
conciliation was not owing to 
any refpect which the metro- 
politan paid to the papal au 

2. The afiertion of Eddius 
s confirmed by Wilfrid's pe- 
tition to the pontiff, in which 

obferves, that though fe- 
deral bifhops were prefent 
with Theodore, not one of 
them afTented to his meafures. 
In conventu Theodori, alio- 
rumque tune temporis antifti- 

tum abfque confenfu 

cujuflibet epifcopi. Ed. c. 
29, p. 66. 

3. According to Eddius, 
the ground of the objection 
was, that the papal decree 
had been purchafed with mo- 
ney ; pretio redempta. Edd. 
c. 33, p. 69. 

4. Eddius informs us, that 
the king offered him a part 
of his former diocefe, if he 
would acknowledge the pa- 
pal mandate to be a forgery. 
Si denegaret vera effe. Ed. 
c. 35, p. 70. 

5. If Eddius is to be cre- 
dited, it was Theodore, who, 
actuated by remorfe for his 
paft injuflice,-fent for Wilfrid 
and the bifhop of London, 
and folicited the forgivenefs 
of the man whom he had in- 
jured. Ed. c. 42, p. 73. 

6. Theodore, in his letter 
to king Ethelred, affigns the 
authority of the pontiff as the 
caufe of l\is reconciliation. 


thority,but folely to his efteem 
for the perfonal merit of Wil- 
frid, he fends his reader to 
the letter of Theodore to 
king Ethelred, p. 254. 

7. Carte informs us, that, 
when the controverfy was ter- 
minated at the fynod of Nid, 
it was agreed, without con- 
forming to the terms of the 
papal decree, that Wilfrid 
fhould be reftored to his fee 
of Hexham, and monaftery 
of Rippon, p. 259. 

8. According to Carte, the 
Anglo-Saxon bifliops, during 
this conteft, were careful to 
oppofe the introduction of 
appeals, and to preferve the 
independence of their church. 

Idcirco ego Theodorus, hu- 
milis epifcopus, decrepita 
setate, hoc tuae Beatitudini 
fuggero, quia Apoftolica hoc, 
ficut fcis, commendat auclo- 
ritas. Ep. Theod. .apud 
Wilk. p. 64. Ed. c. 42, p. 
74. Pope John aflerts the 
fame. Ut ex ejus dictis ap- 
paruit, decretis pontificalibus 
obfecutus erat. Ibid. c. 52, 
p. 82. 

7. Yet the refloration of 
Hexham and Rippon was all 
that Wilfrid demanded from 
the pontiff. Ed. c. 49, p. 79. 
It was alfo as much as the 
papal decree required, which 
is thus explained by Arch- 
bifhop Brithwald. Ut prae- 
fules ecclefiarum huju^ pro- 
vincise cum Wilfrido epifcopo 
pacem plene perfecteque ine- 
ant, et partes ecclefiarum, 
quas olim ipfe regebat, ficut 
fapientes mecum judicaverint, 
reftituant. Ed. c. 58, p. 85. 

8. It is evident, from the 
whole hiftory of Eddius, that 
both the archbifhops, inftead 
of oppofing the introduction 
of appeals, acknowledged 
their legality, and fent mef- 
fengers to Rome, to fupport 
their own decifions. Ed. c. 
29, p. 66 j c. 50, p. 79. 


(L) p. 190. 

THIS poem was written about the year 810, and publiflied 
by Mabillon (Saec. iv. torn. ii. p. 302), from a copy of a MS. 
at Cambridge, fent to him by Gale. In his preface he ob- 
ferves, that it proves the exiftence of a monaftery in the 
ifle of Lindisfarne, diftinct from that built by St Aidan. 
(Prsef. n 21 3). But the learned monk was undoubtedly de- 
ceived by the title of MonachusLindisfarnenfis ecclefise, which 
is given to Ethelwold, at the beginning and end of the 
poem. It is evident from the text, that the ccenobium St 
Petri to which he belonged, was not in the ifland ; and the 
copy from which Leland made his extracts, appears not to 
have contained the addition of Monachus Lindisfarnenfis ec- 
clefiae. Lei. Collecl. vol. i. p. 362. In his catalogue of 
Britifh writers, Leland informs us, that Ethelwold was a 
monk in the monaftery of St Peter, ad orientale littus Berni- 
ciorum. Lei. de fcript. p. 140. 

(M)~ p. 195. 

WOLSTAN'S poem contains a curious defcription of the 
old church at Winchefter. The following is the account of 
the organ : 

Talia et auxiftis hie organa, qualia nufquam 

Cernuntur, gemino conftabilita folo. 
BifTeni fupra fociantur in ordine folles, 

Inferiufque jacent quatuor atque decem. 
Flatibus alternis fpiracula maxima reddunt, 

Quos agitant validi feptuaginta viri, 


Brachia verfantes, multo et fudore madentes, 

Certatimque fuos quique monent focios, 
Viribus ut totis impellant flamina furfum, 

Rugiat et pleno capfa referta fmu. 
Sola quadringentas quae fuftinet ordine mufas, 

Quas manus organic! temperat ingenii. 
Has aperit claufas, iterumque has claudit apertas, 

Exigit ut varii certa camoena foni. 
Confiduntque duo concordi pectore fratres, 

Et regit alphabetum rector uterque fuum. 
Suntque quater denis occulta foramina linguis, 

Inque fuo retinet ordine quaeque decem. 
Hue alias currant, illuc aliaeque recurrunt, 

Servantes modulis fmgula puncla fuis, 
Et feriunt jubilum feptem difcrimina vocum, 

Permixto lyrici carmine femitoni. 

Wolftani carm. Sac. Ben. v. /. 631. 

Befides organs, other mufical inftruments appear to have 
been employed in the church. 

Et fimul hymnifona fratrum coeunte corona, 
Quifque tuum votum, qua valet arte, canit. 

Cimbalicae voces calamis mifcentur acutis, 
Difparibufque tropis dulce camcena fonat. 

Ibid. p. 632. 

(N) p. 196. 

To the reader, who has formed his notions of antiquity on 
the credit of modern writers, it may, probably, create fur- 
prife, that I have dared to pronounce the doclrine of the real 
prefence, to have been the doctrine of the Anglo-Saxon 
church. What ! he will afk, have not Parker, and Lifle, 


and Ufher, and Whelock, and Hicks, and Collier, and Carte, 
and Littleton, and Henry, fhewn that the ancient belief of 
our anceftors, refpecling the facrament of the eucharift, per- 
fectly coincides with that eftabliftied by the reformed 
churches ? But facts are to be proved, not by authority, but 
by evidence : and to this formidable phalanx of controver- 
tifts, philologifts, and hiftorians, may be oppofed a ftill more 
formidable array of contemporary and unqueftionable vouch- 
ers. My opinion was not haftily affirmed. It was the refult 
of long and patient inveftigation ; and before I am condemn- 
ed of temerity, I truft the reader will have the candour to 
perufe the following obfervations : 

I. The ecclefiaftical hiftory of the Anglo-Saxons may be 
divided into two periods, that which preceded, and that 
which followed, the Danilh cfevaftations in the ninth century. 
Of thefe, the firft muft be acknowledged to have been the 
more brilliant. The writers, whom it produced, were equal, 
if not fuperior, to any of their contemporaries in the other 
nations of Europe. The works of feveral have furvived the 
revolutions of one thoufand years, and are ftill extant to at- 
teft the religious creed of their authors. To fearch in them 
for a fmgle pafTage, which denies the real prefence r will be a 
fruitlefs labour : but teftimonies, which tacitly fuppofe, or 
exprefsly aflert it, may be difcovered in almoft every page. 
By a long acquaintance with them in the compofition of thefe 
fheets, I have earned the right to make this aflertion. 

But to the reader, fomething more is due than mere afler- 
tion. To fatisfy his judgment, without fatiguing his pa- 
tience, I {hall fubjoin a few fhort quotations, from the acts 
of the council of Calcuith, the homilies of the venerable Bede, 
and the Anglo-Saxon pontificals. 

1 . A cuftom, which originated in the earlier ages of chrif- 
tianity, had introduced a law, that no church fhould be dedi- 
cated, unlefs the remains of fome martyr repofed within its 


walls. In England, the difficulty of obferving this regula- 
tion, induced the bifhops of the council of Calcuith (anno 816) 
to ordain, that when the proper relics couipi not be procured, 
the eucharift fhould be confeciated, and carefully preferved 
in the church. The reafon, which they affign, is remarka- 
ble : " Becaufe the eucharift is the body and blood of our 
" Lord Jefus Chrift." (Quia corpus et fanguis eft Domini 
noftri Jefu Chrifti. Con. Calc. apud Wilk. p. 169) : words 
which, in this cafe, appear to imply net only a real, but alfo 
a permanent prefence, that is not confined merely to the time 
of manducation. 

2. Bede, the brighteft luminary of the Anglo-Saxoa 
church, in a homily on the vigil of Eafter, forcibly exprefles 
the notion, which he had been taught to entertain refpedting 
the facrifice of the mafs, and the facrament of the altar. 
" When we celebrate the mafs," fays he, " we again immo- 
" late to the father, the facred body and the precious blood 
*' of the lamb, with which we have been redeemed from our 
" fins." Miflarum folemnia celebrantes, corpus facrofan&um 
et preciofum agni fanguinem, quo a peccatis redempti fumus, 
denuo Deo in profectum noftrx fulutis immolamus. Horn, 
in vig. Paf. torn. vii. p. 6. 

3. Egbert, archbifhop of York, lived before the middle 
of the eighth century. His pontifical, written in Anglo- 
Saxon characters, was preferved in the church of Evreux in 
Normandy. The abbey of Juraiege, in the fame province, 
potfeiTed another Anglo-Saxon pontifical of nearly the fame 
age. From both, Martene, a Maurift monk, publiflied 
feveral copious extracts in his treatife de antiquis ecclefise 
ritibus (anno 1700 et feq.) : and from them may be readily 
learnt the doctrine of our anceftors, refpecling the eucharift. 
In the office of ordination, the biiliop is directed to invoke 
the bleffing of God on the prieft whom he ordained, that he 
might be endowed with every virtue, and might transform. 


by an immaculate benedi&ion, the body and blood of Chrift. 
(Tu, Domine, fuper hunc famulum tuum ill. quem ad 
prefbyterii honored dedicamus, manum tux benedi<5Honis 

infunde, ut purum atque immaculatum minifterii 

tui donum cuftodiat, et per obfequium plebis tuae corpus et 
fanguinem filii tui immaculata benediclione transformet. 
Pontif,. Egberti apud Martene torn. ii. p. 353. Pontif. Ge- 
met, ibid. p. 366). The veffel, in which the eucharift was 
preferved, is called the bearer of the body of Chrift, (cor- 
poris Domini noftri Jefu Chrifti gerulum. Pontif. Egbert, 
apud Mart. lib. ii. p. 258. Pontif. Gemet. p. 266), and a new 
fepulchre for the the body of Chrift, (hoc vafculum corporis 
Chrifti novum fepulchrum fpiritus fancli gratia perficiatur. 
Pont. Egb. ibid.) The corporale is faid to be a piece of 
linen, on which the body and blood of Chrift are confe- 
crated, and in which they are covered or wrapped up (hxc 
linteamina in ufum altaris tui ad confecrandum fuper ea, 
five ad tegendum involvendumque corpus et fanguinem filii 
tui. Pont. Egb. ibid. p. 25.5. Pon. Gemet. p. 265) : and 
the altar is faid to be confecrated, that on it " a fecret virtue 
" may turn the creatures chofen for facrifice into the body 
" and blood of the redeemer, and transform them by an 
" invifible change, into the facred hofts of the lamb, that, 
" as the word was made flefh, fo the nature of the offering 
" being blefled, may be elevated to the fub fiance of the 
" word, and what before was food, may here be made eter- 
" nal life." Quod eleclas ad facrificium creaturas in cor- 
pus et fanguinem redemptoris virtus fecreta convertat, et in 
facras agni hoftias invifibili mutatione tranfcribat, ut ficut 
verbum caro factum eft, ita in verbi fubftantiam benedicla 
oblationis natura proficiat, et quod prius fuerat alimonia, 
vita hie efficiatur aeterna. Pont. Gemet. p. 263. 

II. The fecond period, compared with the firft, may al- 
moft be called an age of darknefs. The writers, whom it 


produced, were fewer in number, and inferior in merit. 
Among them was jElfric, a monk who fludied in the 
fchool of St Ethelwold, and after pafling through the differ- 
ent gradations of ecclefiaftical preferment, was raifed at laft 
to the metropolitan chair of Canterbury. He has left 
fome tranflations, and feveral fermons. But he is chiefly 
remarkable for the novelty and obfcurity of his lan- 
guage, refpecling the eucharift. He frequently inculcates 
that " the euchariftic differs from the natural body of 
" Chrifl : and that the former is indeed his body, but after 
" a fpiritual, not after a bodily manner." (Na lichamlice 
ac jayrlice. Serm. in die Pafc. p. 7, edit. Lifle). Thefe 
expreflions have been accepted with gratitude by proteftant 
writers, (Lifle praef. Uflier, anfwer to Chall. p. 77. Whe- 
lock, p. 462. Inett, vol. i. p. 351. Henry, hift. vol. ii. 
p. 202, quarto), and their author has been hailed as the 
firft of the Englifh reformers (Wife apud Mores, xxix). 
But catholic polemics have refufed to furrender him to their 
adverfaries, and have eagerly maintained the orthodoxy of 
his fentiments (Smith, flores hift. p. 90. CrefTy, hift. p. 
912. Alford, annal. torn. iii. p. 440). To enable the 
reader to form an opinion on this controverted fubject, it 
will be proper to quit for a while the concerns of the Anglo- 
Saxon church, and attend to the religious difputes on the 

During the ninth century, feveral of the inoft eminent 
fcholars in France exercifed their ingenuity in difcuffing 
difficult and obfcure points, relative to the facrament of the 
eucharift. From the doctrine univerfally received, that the 
eucharift was truly the body and blood of Chrift, it was in- 
ferred by fome (Haimo, biftiop of Halberftad, and his fol- 
lowers), that the facrament contained no myftery or fign, 
becaufe the fign was neceflarily excluded by the reality. 
This argument did not fatisfy the reafon of others, (Pafcha- 


fms Ratbertus, Hincmar, &c.) who admitted both the fign 
and the reality ; and added, that the body of Chrift contain- 
ed in the eucharift, was the identical body, which had been 
bora of the virgin, and had fuffered on the crofs. A third 
party rejected both the former opinions; and contended for 
a triple diftinction of the body of Chrift : viz. the body born 
of the virgin, the body contained in the eucharift, and his 
myftical body, the church. Among the latter was Ratramn 
or Bertramn, a monk of Corbie, whofe differtation I fhall 
notice, as it is intimately connected with the doctrine of 

The treatife of Bertram is Ihprt, and divided into two 
parts. In the firft, he propofes to folve the queftion, whether 
there be in the eucharift any myftery or figure. With 
Pafchafms, he decides in the affirmative. His principal ar- 
gument is the following : After the confecration, the bread 
and wine have become, or have pafled into, the body and 
blood of Chrift (facta funt, p. 20, tranfitum fecerunt, p. 18) : 
confequently they are changed. But no change has been 
made outwardly or corporally : therefore it has been made 
inwardly or fpiritually : therefore the eucharift is the body 
and blood of Chrift ; not indeed corporally, but fpiritually ; 
and of confequence a myftery or figure muft be admitted. 
He adds, left his meaning fhould be mifunderftood, that he 
does not affert the fimultaneous exiftence of two things fo 
different as a body and a fpirit, but that the fame thing in 
one refpect, is the appearance of bread and wine, and in ano- 
ther, is the body and blood of Chrift. Non quod duarum 
fmt exiftentias rerum inter fe diverfarum, corporis videlicet et 
fpiritus, verum una eademque res fecundum aliud fpecies 
panis et vini confiftit, fecundum aliud autem corpus et fan- 
guis Chrifti. The principal difficulty in this part of the 
treatife, is to difcover the exact fignification, which Bertram 
affixes to the words corporally and fpiritually. To me he 


appears to mean, that in the eucharift the body of Chrift ex- 
ifts, not with the properties of bodies in their natural ftate, 
but after a manner which is ipiritual or myfterious, and im- 
perceptible to the fenfes ( 1 ). 

In the fecond part he enquires, whether the euchariftic be 
the fame as the natural body of Chrift. To prove that it is 
not, he obferves that the natural body was vifible and palpa- 
ble, the euchariftic is invifible and impalpable ; that the na- 
tural body appeared to be what it was, the euehariftic ap- 
pears to be what it is not : whence he infers that they are 
different, and confequently cannot be the fame. This argu- 
ment he purfues through feveral pages ; and after comparing 
the euchariftic body of Chrift with his myftical body, the 
congregation of the faithful (2) ; he concludes with begging 
the reader, not to infer from what he has faid, that he denies 
the body and blood of Chrift to be received in the eucharift. 
Non ideo, quoniam ifta dicimus, putetur in myfterio facra- 
menti corpus Domini vel fanguinem ipfms non a fidelibus 
fumi, quando fides, non quod oculus videt, fed quod credit, 
accipit, p. 134. Though Bertram, through the whole of this 
treatife, attempts to prove that the natural and euchariftic 
body of Chrift are not the fame, he appears to confine the 
difference to the manner in which they exift, (fecundem fpe- 
ciem quamgerit exterius, p. 94). In onepafiage he plainly 
aflerts their identity, when he fays, that Chrift, on the night 
before his paflion, changed the fubftance of bread into his 
own body, which was about to fuffer, and the creature of 

(1) Thus he says, p. 42, in the person of Christ: Non ergo carnem 
meam vel sanguinem meum vofois corporaliter comedendum vel biben- 
dum, et per partes distributv:m distribuendum putetis .... sed vere per 
mysterium panem et vinum in corporis et sanguinis- mei conversa substau- 
tiam a credentibus sumendam. 

(2) It is perhaps to these opinions that Paschasius alludes, when he con- 
temptuously mentions the ineptias de tripartite corpore Christi. 
Mabil. Ssec. iv. torn, ii. pracf. n Q 55. 

i i 


wine into his own blood, which was to be fhed on the crof*. 
Paulo antequam pateretur panis fubftantiam, et vini creatu- 
ram convertere potuit in proprium corpus quod pafTurum 
erat, et in fuum fanguinem, qui poft fundertdus extabat, p. 
40. Perhaps the true fentiments of Bertram may be fafely 
collected from thofe of Rabanus Maurus, archbifhop of 
Mentz, who lived at the fame time, and defended the fame 
eaufe. This writer exprefsly declared, that the difference for 
which he contended, was entirely confined to the external ap- 
pearance. Manifeftiflime cognofcetis, non quidem (quod 
abfit ! ) naturaliter, fed fpecialiter aliud efTe corpus Domini, 
quod ex fubftantia panis ac vini pro mundi vita quotidie per 
fpiritum fanctum confecratur, quod a facerdote poftmodum 
Deo patri fuppliciter offertur ; et aliud fpecialiter corpus 
Chrifti, quod natum eft de Maria virgine, in quod iftud tranf- 
fertur. Dicta cujufdam fapien. apud Mab. Saec. iv. vol. iu 
p. 593 (3). 

In the tenth century, about the time in which St Dunftan 
reftored the monaftic order in England, thefe difputes were 
revived in France. As the devaftations of the Danes had 
interrupted the fucceffion of the Englifh monks, colonies of 
inftruclors were obtained from the French monafteries : and, 
at the prayer of Ethelwold, the abbots of Fleury and Corbie 
commiffioned fome of their difciples to teach at Abingdon 
and Winchefter. It was in thefe eftabliftiments that ^Elfric 
was educated, and in them he imbibed from his foreign 

(3) The English translator of Bertram is positive, that in the latin of 
this age, the word species signified the specific nature of a thing. This 
passage proves his mistake, as in it species and natura are opposed to each 
other. Here I may observe, that the orthodoxy of Bertram was never 
questioned before the reformation. From the catalogues of the monastic 
libraries in Leland, copies of his work appear not to have been scarce ; and, 
five years before th ;j first printed edition, he is cited as a champion of the 
catholic faith, by Dr Fisher, the learned and virtuous bishop of Rochester, 
,Praef. lib. iT. adver. (Ecolamp. an. 1526.) 


matters the doctrine of Bertram, which he afterwards moil, 
zealoufly inculcated. 

Among the works of jElfric, much importance has been 
attached by controverfial writers, to his fermon on the facri- 
fice of the mafs. Nearly one one half of it confifts. of ex- 
tracts from the work of* Bertram ; and of thefe extracts it 
has been afferted, perhaps with more boldnefs than prudence, 
that they contain the doctrine of the proteftant church in the 
cleareft terms, and cannot by any ingenuity be reconciled 
with the tenets of the church of Rome. (Henry, v6l. ii. p. 
202.) That the reader may be able to judge for himfelf, I 
fhall tranflate, as literally as 1 can, the paiTage on which 
this aflertion is chiefly founded, preferving fuch Saxon ex- 
preffions as are fUll intelligible, fmd inferring thofe fentences 
which Henry has fupprerTed. Below I fhall add the original 
latin of Bertram, that the translation of JElfric may more 
readily be compared with it. The Saxon may be feen at 
the end of jElfric's treatife on the old and new teftament, 
publiihed by Line in 1623, and in Whelock's edition of 
Bede's hiftory, p. 462. 

" Much is there between the invifible might of the holy 
** hufel, and the viable appearance of its own kind. In its 
" own kind it is corruptible bread and corruptible wine ; 
" but, after the might of the divine word, it is truly Chrift's 
" body and his blood, not indeed in a bodily, but in a 
" ghoftly manner (4). Much is there between the body, 
" in which Chrift fuffered, and the body which is hallowed 
" to hufel (5). Truly the body, in which Chrift fufFered, 

(4) Christ! corpus et sanguis superficie tenus considerata creatura est 
mutabilitati corruptelxque subjecta: si mysterii vero perpendas virtutem, 
vita est participantibus se tribuens immortalitatem p. 28. Ad sensura 
quod pertinet corporis, corruptibile est, quod fides vero credit, incorrup- 
tibile, p. 100. 

(5) Multa differentia separantur corpus, in quo passus est Christus, e*, 
i 12 


" was born of the fielli of Mary, with blood and with bone, 
" with {kin and with fmews, in human limbs, and with a 
" reafonable living foul. But his ghoftly body, which we 
" call the hufel, is gathered of many corns, without blood 
" and bone, without limbs and a foul (6) ; and therefore 
" nothing is to be underftood in it after a bodily, but all is 
" to be underftood after a ghoftly manner (7). Whatever 
" there is in the hufel, which giveth us the fubftance of life, 
" that cometh of the ghoftly might and invifible operation 
" (8). For this reafon the holy hufel is called a facrament ; 
" becaufe one thing is feen in it, and another underftood (9). 
" That which is feen, hath a bodily appearance, that which 
" we underftand, hath a ghoftly might (10). Certainly 
" Chrift's body, that fuffered death, and arofe from death t 
dies now no more ; it is eternal and impaflible. The hufel 
" is temporal not eternal, corruptible, and dealed into pieces, 
" chewed between the teeth, and fent into the -ftomach (11). 

hoc corpus quod in mysterio passionis Christi quotidie a fidelibus celcbra- 
tur, p. 88. 

(6) Ilia namque caro, quae crucifixa est, de virginis carne facta est, 
ossibus et nervis compacta, humanorum membrorum lineamentis dis- 
tincta, rationalis animre spiritu vivificata in propriam vitam. At vero 
caro spiri.uaiis, quse populum credentem spiritualiter pascit, secundum 
ipeciem quam gerit extcrius, frumenti granis manu artificis consistit, nullisu 
nervis ossibusque compacta, nulla membrorum varietate distincta, null* 
rational! substantia vegetata, nullos proprios potens motus exercere r p. 94. 

(7) Nihil in esca ista, nihil in potu isto corporaliter sentiendurn, sed 
totum spiritualiter attendendum, p. 86. 

(8) Quidquid in ea vita prasbet substantiam, spiritualis est potentias, et 
invisibilis efficien'Jae, divinasque virtutis, p. 94. 

(9) Ostendit (St Isidorus) omne sacramentum aliquid secreti in se con- 
tinere, et aliud esse quod visibiliter appareat, aliud vero quod invisibiliter 
sit accipiendum, p. 62. 

(10) Exterius quod videtux, speciem habet corpoream, . . . interius vero 
quod intelligitur, fructum spiritualem, p. 126. 

r ll) Corpus Christi, quod mortuum est, quod resurrojtit, . . . jam noiv 


" But it is neverthelefs all in every part according to the 
" ghoftly might. Many receive the holy body, but it is 
" neverthelefs all in every part according to the ghoftly fa- 
" crament. Though fome men receive a fmaller part, yet 
" there is not more might in a greater part than in a fmaller. 
" Becaufe it is entire in all men according to the inviiible 
"might (12). This facrament is a pledge and a figure: 
" Chrift's body is truth. This pledge we hold Tacramental- 
" ly, till we come to the truth, and then this pledge will end 
" (13). Truly it is, as we faid before, Chrift's body and 
" his blood, not after a bodily, but after a ghoftly manner 
" (14-). Nor fhall ye fearch how it is made fo : but hold 
" that it is made fo" (15). 

How fuch language as this would found from a proteftant 
pulpit, I fhall not pretend to determine (16) : but this I am 

moritur .... sternum est jam, non passible. Hoc autem quod in ecclesia 
celcbratur, temporale est, non zeternum, corruptibile non incorruptum,p, 
99, 100. 

(12) This passage I do not find in Bertram. 

(13) Hoc corpus pignus est et species : illud veritas. , Hoc enim geritur 
donee ad illud perveniatur : ubi vero ad illud perventum fuerit, hoc re- 
movebitur, p. 114. 

(14) Est quidem corpus Christi, sed non corporate sed spirituale: est 
sanguis Christi, sed non corporalis sed spirituals, p. 80. 

(15 Nee istic ratio qui fieri potuit est disqirirenda, sed fides, quod fao 
turn sit adhibenda, p. 36. 

(16) Indeed I cannot, as I am unable to understand the doctrine of the 
established church on this subject. After an attentive perusal of Arch- 
bishop Seeker's thirty-sixth lecture on the catechism, I have only learnt, 
that the unworthy communicant " receives what Christ has called his body 
" and blood, that is the signs of them," but that the worthy communicant 
" eats his flesh and drinks his blood, because Christ is present to his 
*' soul, becoming by the inward virtue of his spirit, its food and sus- 
u tenance." If the reader wish for more information on this subject, he 
may consult bishop Porteus. He " believes Christ's body and blood to be 
" verily and indeed taken and received, by the faithful in the Lord's sup- 
" per ; that is, an union with him to be not only represented, but really 

i i 3 


free to afiert, that no catholic divine will pronounce it repug- 
nant to the catholic doctrine. 

1. If the body of Chrift exift at all in the eucharift, it is 
evident that it does not exift after the manner of a natural 
body. Hence, to exprefs this difference of exiftence, fome 
diftinclion is necefTary. By Bertram and JElfric, the words 
naturaliter and fpiritualiter were adopted : by the council of 
Trent, naturaliter and facramentaliter were preferred, (Sefs, 
13, c. 1.) Many catholics, however, still preferve the old dif- 
tincli&n of Bertram, (Veron. reg. fid. c. xi.) I fliall cite only 
Holden, an EnglHhman, and an eminent member of the 
univerfity of Paris. Summa doctrine noftrae in eo fita eft, 
ut vefum et reale corpus Chrifti profiteamur effe in hoc fa- 
cramento, non more corporeo et paffibili, fed fpirituali et 
invifibili, nobis omnino incognito. Hold. anal. fid. p. 192, 
edit. 1767. If this diftinction be a teft of proteftantifm, the 
church of Rome muft refign the moft diftinguifhed of her 

2. It is true that JElfric denies the perfect identity of the 
.natural and euchariftic body of Chrift. But the fame doc- 
trine is admitted by the moft orthodox among the catholic 
writers. Lanfranc, the firft Norman archbifhop of Canter- 
bury, and the ftrenuous opponent of Berengarius, in the 
eleventh century, aiTerts, that if we confider the manner in 
which the euehariftic body exifts, we may truly fay, it is not 
the fame body, which was born of the virgin. Ut vere dici 
poflit, et ipfum corpus, quod de yirgine fumptum eft, nos 
fumere, et non ipfum ; ipfum quidem, quantum ad effenti- 
am vencque naturae proprietatem ; non ipfum autem, fi 
fpecles panis vinique fpeciem. Lanf. adver. Bereng. c. 18. 
With Lanfranc agrees, and that too in ftronger terms, Bof- 

" and effectually communicated to the worthy receiver." Confutation of 
errors, p. 37. If these right reverend divines have clear ideas on this sub- 
ject, it must, I think, be confessed, that they also possess the art of clothing 
--hem in obscure language. 


ftiet, the great champion of catholicity in the feventeenth 
century. En un fens et n'y regardant que la fubftance c'eft 
le meme corps de Jefus Chrift, ne de Marie : mais dans un 
autre fens, et n'y regardant que les manieres, e'en ell un 
autre, qu'il f'eft fait par fes paroles. Bos. torn. iii. p. 182. 
This is the general language of catholic divines : but there 
have been fome who have adopted ftill ftronger language. 
Ce corps facramentel, quoiqu'il n'a pas etc immole fur la 
croix, ne laifle pas d'etre le corps de J, C. parceque fa fainte 
ame y eft unie, et que fon ame eft unie perfonellement au 
verbe. InftrucT:. fur 1'euchariftie par 1'eveque de Boulogne, 
p. 36. With the truth of their opinion, I have no concern : 
but if it has been maintained without the imputation of he- 
terodoxy, I cannot fee what there is iu the writings of 
JElfric repugnant to the catholic faith. 

3. Tlie obfervation of ./Elfric, that the eucharift is a 
pledge and a figure, is ftrictly conformable to the doctrine 
of the church of Rome. The fame is exprefsly afTerted in 
the office of the facrament, ufed by that church. In the 
anthem at the magnificat, the eucharift is called a pledge of 
future glory (pignus future glorias) ; in the prayer after the 
communion it is called a figure, almoft in the language of 
jElfric (quam pretioii .corporis et fanguinis tui temporalis 
perceptio praefigurat). 

If thefe obfervations do not convince the reader .of the ca- 
tholicity of jElfric, he may perufe the paifage immediately 
following that which I have tranfcribed. In it, to prove the 
truth of his doctrine, he appeals to two miracles, in which 
he pretends that the eucharift, by the divine permiffion, ap- 
peared to different perfons under the form of flefh and 
blood (Lifle, p. 7. Whelock, p. 427). What credit may 
be due to thefe miracles, is. foreign to the prefent fubjedr; 
but I cannot perfuade myfelf that any perfon, who denied 
the fupernatural converfion of the bread and wine into the 

i i 4 


body and blood of Chrift, would ever attempt to prove by 
fuch miracles the truth of his opinion. 

It is perpetually inculcated by modern \vriters, that the 
doctrine of ./Elfric was the national belief of the Anglo-Sax- 
ons. In one refpecl this afTertion is true. ^Elfric, as well as 
his countrymen, believed, that in the mafs the bread and 
\vine were made, by the divine power, the body and blood 
of Chrift. But ingenious men have always aflumed the pri- 
vilege of fpeculating on the myfteries of chriftianity : nor 
have their fpeculations been condemned, as long as they 
have not trenched on the integrity of faith. In this career, 
JElfric exercifed his abilities under the guidance of Bertram : 
and I think I have {hewn that his opinions are not repugnant 
to the eftabliftied doctrine of the catholic church. His lan- 
guage and diftinctions were certainly fingular : but I am at 
a lofs to conceive why we muft confider them as the ftantlard 
of Anglo-Saxon orthodoxy. With refpecl to them ^Elfric 
{lands alone. He has neither precurfor nor fuccefibr. It is 
in vain to fearch for a fingle allufion to his particular opini- 
ons, either in the works of the Anglo-Saxon writers, or in 
the adls of the Anglo-Saxon councils, that preceded, accom- 
panied, or followed him. But it were eafy to felecl nume- 
rous inltances both prior and pofterior in time, in which the 
contrary dodrine, that the natural and euchariftic body of 
Chrift are the fame, is frequently and forcibly inculcated. 
1. The pafTage, which I have already tranfcribed from 
Bede, afferts, that the body of the lamb, which is immolated 
on the altar, is that by which we were redeemed from our 
fins : and in another part the fame venerable author obferves, 
that the blood of Chrift is not now fhed by the hands of the 
Jews, but received by the mouths of the faithful. Sanguis 
illius non infidelium manibus ad perniciem ipforum funditur, 
fed fidelium ore fuam fumitur in falutem. Horn, in Epiph. 
torn. vii. 2. To Bede I fhall add Alcuin. In the Caroline 


books, which were principally compofed by him, and to which 
modern writers frequently refer their readers, we are told, 
that the eucharift is not an image but the truth, not the 
ihadow but the body, not a figure of future things, but that 
which was prefigured by things paft, &c. Non enim corporis 
et fanguinis dominici myfterium imago jam dicendum eft, 
fed veritas ; non umbra fed corpus ; non exemplar futuro- 
rum, fed id quod exemplaribus praefigtirabatur : nee ait, haec 
eft imago corporis mei, fed hoc eft corpus meum, quod pro 
vobis tradetur. Carol, lib. iv. c. 14. 3. But Bede and Al- 
cuin may perhaps be confidered as too early ; let us there- 
fore confult the writers, who followed ^Elfric in the eleventh 
century. In a Franco -theotifc MS. once the property of 
Canute the great (Cott. MSS. Cal. A. ?. Wanley> p. 225), 
Chrift is reprefented as fpeaking to his apoftles at the laft 
fupper, and declaring that " he gave to them his body to 
" eat, and his blood to drink, that body which he fhculd give 
" up to be crucified, and that blood which he fhould fhed 
w for them." (gibu ik m berhu famod etan endi dnncan. 
tjief an errhu fcal geban endi giotan. Hicks, Gram. p. 
191.) In another MS. (Tib. c. i.) of the fame, or perhaps 
of a later date, we are told that " Chrift did not fay, take 
this confecrated bread, and eat it in place of my body, or drink 
this confecrated wine in place of my blood : but without any 
figure or circumlocution, this, faid he, is my body, and this 
is my blood. And to cut off all the windings of error, he 
added, which body fhall be delivered for you, and which 
blood fhall be fhed for you." (Non dixit dominus, accipite 
panem hunc confecratum, et comedite in vice corporis mei, 
vel bibite vinum hoc confecratum in vice fanguinis mei ; fed 
nulla figura, nulla circuitione ufus, hoc, inquit, eft corpus 
meum, hie eft fanguis meus. Utque omnes excluderet er- 
rorum ambages, quod, inquit, corpus pro vobis tradetur, et 
fjui fanguis pro vobis fundetur. Wanley MSS. p. 221.) 


Thefe inftances appear to me to prove, not only that the real 
prefence, but alfo that the identity of the natural and the 
euchariftic body of Chrift was believed by the Saxon church 
as late as the period of the Norman conqueft. 

This note has infenfibly fwelled to the bulk of a diflerta- 
tion. To the reader, who is defirous to learn the real fenti- 
ments of antiquity, I truft, that I fhall ftand in need of no 
apology. But I had ventured to contradict an opinion, which 
had been zealoufly propagated by a ho ft of refpectable writ- 
ers : and I owed it both to the public and myfelf, to ftate 
the reafons on which I refufed to bend to their authority. 
Of the validity of thefe reafons, it is for others to judge. 

(0)~ p. 209. 

THE three days preceding the fail of Lent, which are ftill 
called fhrovetide (i. e. confeffion-tide), were the time parti- 
cularly allotted to confeffion. The public impofition of pe- 
nance was referved for the mafs of Afh-Wednefday ( Egbert, 
pcenitent. apud Wilk p. 127). In the morning, thofe, who 
were difpofed to repair, in the face- of their brethren, the in- 
fult, which by their fcandalous behaviour they had offered to 
religion and morality, were admonifhed to repair to the porch 
of the church, barefoot, and in fackcloth. At the proper 
hour the bifhop introduced them into the church, and lay 
proftrate before the altar, while the choir chaunted the thirty- 
feventh, fiftieth, fifty-third, and fifty-firft pfalms. At the 
conclufion of the laft, he rofe, and recited the following 
prayer : " O Lord, our God, who art not overcome by our 
" offences, but art appeafed by our repentance, look down, 
" we befeech thee, on thefe thy fervants, who confefs that 
they have finned againft thee. To wafh away fin, and 
grant pardon to the fmner belongs to thee, who haft faid 
that thou willed not the death, but the repentance of fm- 


" ners. Grant then, O Lord, to tliefe, that they may perform 
" their courfe of penance, and having amended their bad ac- 
" tions, rejoice in eternal happinefs, through Chrift our Lord." 
He then impofed his hands on them, placed aflies and fack- 
cloth on their heads, and informed them, that as Adam for 
his difobedience, had been excluded from paradife, fo they 
for their crimes would be expelled from the church. While 
the clergy led them to the porch, was fung the anthem, " in 
" the fweat of thy brow thou fhalt eat thy bread, until thou 
" return to the duft from which thou wert taken ; for duft 
" thou art, and into duft thou fhalt return." They then 
proftrated themfelves on the ground, four prayers were faid 
over them, and the gates were clofed. During the reft of 
lent, they remained in the buildings belonging to the church, 
and performed the penitential exercifes, which had been pre- 
fcribed them. Pontificale Egbert!, apud Marterie part. 2. p. 
41. Pontif. Gemet. ibid. p. 44. 

On the Thurfday before Eafter, the penitents, who had 
completed their courfe, were publicly reconciled. After 
the gofpel, they were again introduced into the church, and 
caft themfelves on the pavement. The bifhop afcended the 
pulpit, and pronounced over them feveral forms of abfolu- 
tion. Of thefe the greater part were deprecatory : fome 
were abfolute. He began by the following prayer : " At- 
" tend, O Lord, to our fupplications, and hear me, who 
*' firft ftand in need of thy mercy. It was not through my 
" merit, but through thy grace, that thou didft appoint me 
" to be thy minifter. Grant me the confidence to perform 
" the duty, which thou haft intrufted to me, and do thou 
" thyfelf, by my fervice, perform the part which belongs 
" to thy mercy." He then continued. " In the place of 
" the blefled Peter, the prince of the apoftles, to whom the 
" Lord gave the power of binding and loofing, we abfolve 
" you, as far as you are obliged to confefs, and we have 


power to remit. May the Almighty God be to you fal- 
' vation and life, and forgive you all your fins." " King 
" of kings, and Lord of Lords, who fitteft at the right 
" hand of the father to intercede for us, look down on thefe 
" thy fervants, and hear them begging for the remiffion of 
" their fins. Have mercy, O Lord, on their fighs, have 
" mercy on their tears. Thou, O Saviour, knoweft the 
" nature of man, and the frailty of flefh. Spare therefore, 
" O Redeemer of the world, fpare thy fervants returning 
" to thee, whofe mercy has no bounds : heal their wounds, 
" forgive their offences, releafe the bonds of their fins." 
They now rofe from the pavement, and the fiftieth pfalm 
was fung. The bifhop proceeded thus : " O God, the 
" reflorer and lover of innocence, extend, we befeech thee, 
' the hand of thy mercy to thefe thy fervants, whom we 
" raife from the duft, and preferve them immaculate from 
" the ftain of fin. For it is the glory of our church, that, 
" as thou haft given to the blefTed apoftle, the prince of our 
u miffion, the power of binding and of loofmg, fo by means 
" of his difciples, the teachers of thy truth, thou haft ap- 
" pointed us to bind thy enemies, and loofe thofe who are 
" converted to thee. Therefore we befeech thee, O Lord 
" our God, be prefent to the miniftry of our mouth, and 
" loofe the bonds of the fins of thy fervants, that freed from 
" the yoke of iniquity, they may walk in the path which 
" leads to eternal happinefs." " I, a biftiop, though fmful 
" aud unworthy, confirming this abfolution with my hand, 
" my mouth, and my heart, humbly implore the clemency 
" of God, that by his power, and at our prayer, he abfolve 
" you from all the bonds of your fins, and from whatever 
" you have negligently committed in thought, word, and 
" deed : and after abfolving you by his mercy, bring you 
" to eternal happinefs AMEN." The penitents then made 
their offering, aflifted at the facrifice, and received the com- 


munion. Pontif. Egb. ibid. Pontif. Gemet. ibid. Of the 
prayers in the originals, I have omitted fome, and abridged 
others. Whether all were repeated at once, I am uncertain : 
perhaps the bifhop felecled thofe, which pleafed him beft. 

I fhall take this occafion to fubjoin a fhort account of the 
manner, in which the facrament of confirmation was confer- 
red in the Anglo Saxon church. 

Of confirmation, the fole minifter was the bifhop ( Wilk. 
Leg. Sax. p. 167). It was regularly given immediately 
after baptifm : but as the bifhop could not always be 
prefent, he was careful in his annual vifits (Wilk. con. p. 
95, 146, 213. Bed. vit, Cuth. c. xxix.) to adminifter it to 
thofe who had been lately baptifed. Extending his hands 
over them, he prayed that the feven-fold gifts of the holy 
fpirit might defcend upon them : and, anointing the fore- 
head of each, repeated thefe words : " receive the fign of 
" the holy crofs, with the chrifm of falvation in Chrift Jefus 
*' for eternal life. AMEN." Their heads were then bound 
with fillets of new linen, which were worn during the next 
feven days. The bifhop at the fame time faid : " O God, 
" who gaveft the holy fpirit to thy apoftles, that by them 
" and their fucceflbrs he might be given to the reft of the 
" faithful, look down on our miniftry, and grant that in 
" the hearts of thofe, whofe foreheads we have thii day 
" anointed, and confirmed with the fign of the crofs, the 
" holy fpirit may defcend, and dwelling there, make them 
" the temples of his glory. AMEN." He then gave them 
his benediction, and the ceremony was finished. Egb. Pon- 
tif. apud Mart. L i. c. 2, p. 249. 


(O).p- 233. 

THE origin of the ceremonies, which during many centuries 
have accompanied the coronation of princes, has by fome 
writers been afcribed to die policy of ufurpers, who fought to 
cover the defect of their title under the fanction of religion. 
Carte, in a long and learned differtation, has laboured to 
prove that Phocas, who afTumed the imperial purple in 602, 
was the fir ft of the chriftian emperors, whofe coronation was 
performed as a religious rite (Carte, hift. vol. 1. p. 290.) 
It is, indeed, true, that Phocas was the firft, who is exprefsly 
faid to have received the regal unction at his inaugration : 
but it is equally true, that moft, perhaps all, of his predecef- 
fors, from the acceffion of Theodofms in 450, were crowned 
by the hands of the patriarch of Conftantinople : and the 
very felection of that prelate to perform the ceremony, will 
juftify the inference that the coronation of the emperors was 
not merely a civil rite, but accompanied by acts of religious 
worfhip. Carte, indeed, contends that the patriarch was 
chofen, becaufe he was the firft officer in the empire : but 
this afTertion is fupported by no proof, and is overturned by 
the teftimony of the poet Corippus, to whom he appeals. 
That writer in his defcription of the coronation of the empe- 
ror Juftin, in 565, exprefsly mentions the prayers and bene- 
diction of the patriarch. 

Poftquam cuncta videt ritu perfecta priorum 
Pontificum fummus plenaque astate venuftus, 
Aftantem lenedixit eum, ccelique potentem 
Exorans Dominum, facro diademate juflit 
Auguftum fancire caput, fummoque coronam 
Impouens capiti feliciter 

CORIP. 1. ifc 


With refpecl to other princes, Gildas, who wrote before 
the acceflion of Phocas, informs us, that the kings, who 
reigned in Britain about the clofe of the fifth century, were 
accuftomed to receive the regal unction (Gild. p. 82) : and 
from the fact recorded of St Columba by his ancient bio- 
grapher Cuminius, it appears that the princes of Ireland in 
the fixth century, were crowned with ceremonies refembling 
the ordination of priefts (Cum. vit. St Colum. p. 30). Are 
we then to believe that the Byzantine emperors borrowed 
the rite of coronation from the petty princes of Britain and 
Ireland ? To me it appears more probable, that the Irifli 
chieftains, and alfo the Britilh after their feparation from the 
empire, and the recovery of their independence, caufed them- 
felves to be crowned with the fame ceremonies, which they 
knew to have been adopted b/ the Roman emperors. If this 
be true, the coronation of thofe princes muft have been per- 
formed with religious rites as early as the commencement of 
the fifth century. 

Carte is equally unfortunate, when he afTerts Eardulf, the 
ufurper of the Northumbrian fceptre in 797, to have been the 
firft Anglo-Saxon prince, who was anointed at his coronation 
(Carte p. 293). The Saxon chronicle affures us that Eg- 
ferth, the fon of OfFa of Mercia, was confecrated king in 785* 
To cyninge gehal^ot). Chron. Sax. p. 64-. 

(P) p. 281. 

MABILLON, in his analecta vetera (p. 168), has publifhed 
an ancient litany, which he has entitled veteres litanix An- 
glicanse. He difcovered the original manufcript at Rheims, 
and was induced to give it that title from a petition con- 
tained in it for the profperity of the clergy and people of 
the Engliih (Ut clerum et plebem Anglorum confervare 
digneris, p. 169). As none of the perfons mentioned in is, 


are known to have lived after the year 650, we may infer, 
that it was compofed towards the expiration of the feventh 

Were it certain that this litany originally belonged to the 
Anglo-Saxon church, it would be, undoubtedly, a curious 
document. But I think there are many reafons to queftion 
it. From a diligent infpeclion it will appear, 1. that the 
litany does not contain the name of any Anglo-Saxon, or 
even of any mifllonary to the Anglo-Saxons : for the St 
Augufline, inferted between SS. Gregory and Jeiome, 
feems to be the celebrated bifhop of Hippo. 2. Neither 
does it contain the name of any of the ancient faints of 
Britain, who were afterwards revered by our anceftors. 3. 
The majority of the names are evidently Britifh ; and of 
thefe all which are known, belonged to perfons, who flou- 
rifhed in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Armorica. If this 
litany had been formerly in ufe among the Saxons, how 
happened it that all thefe names, with one or two exceptions, 
fhould have been afterwards expunged, and others admitted 
in their place ? 

For thefe reafons I am inclined to think the learned editor 
was deceived. The litany appears to me to have belonged 
to fome of the many Britilh churches, which the fate of war 
fubje<5led to the power of the Anglo-Saxons, in the feventh 
and eighth centuries: and to this circumftance I would 
afcribe the infertion of the petition in favour of the Englifh 
clergy and people. 

The moft ancient document refpecting the faints revered, 
by the Anglo-Saxons, is the martyrology of Bede. It was 
written about the year 700 ; and feems to have been con- 
fined to the faints, whofe feftivals were kept by the monks 
of Weremouth and Jarrow. Of the miffionaries he mentions 
only SS. Auguftine, Paulinus, and Mellitus ; of the natives 
SS. Cuthbert, Edilthryda, and the two Ewalds. In Dache- 


ry's fpicilegium (Tom. x. p. 126) is another martyrology, 
written in verfe, and afcribed alfo to Bede, in which are 
added the names of Egbert, Wilfrid, Wilfrid, and Bofa. 

In the Cotton library, Jul. A. 10. and the library of Cor- 
pus Chrifti college at Cambridge, D. 5. are two imperfect 
manufcript copies of an ancient martyrology or menology. 
The latter was written about the beginning, the former 
about the end of the tenth century (Wanley, p. 106* 185). 
From them both I have extracted the following calendar of 
the Anglo-Saxon faints ; with a few of the foreign faints, to 
(hew the connection between the Englifh church, and the 
churches on the continent* 


12. St Benedict (abbot of Weremouth and Jarrow). 
16. St Furfey (abbot and hermit). 


I. StCeadda, bifhop (of Lichfield). 

7. St Eafterwine (abbot of Weremouth and Jarrow). 
12. The day of the departure of St Gregory, our father, 
who fent baptifm to us in Britain. 

20. St Cuthbert, bifhop. 


II. St Guthlake, hermit (at Croyland). 

21. St Ethelwald, (bifhop) hermit at Fame Ifland, 
24. St Wilfrid, bifhop. 


6. St Eadbryht, bifhop at Fame Ifland. 

7. St John, bifhop in Northumbrla. 

26. The memory of St Auguftine, the bifhop, who firft 
brought baptifm to the Englifli nation. His fee was at 


9. St Columba, otherwise called St Columcylle. 

22. St Alban, martyr in Britain. 

23. St Edilthryda, virgin, queen of Northumbria. 

29. St Lupus, bifhop. 


I. St Germanus, bifhop. 

5. St Ofwald, king of Northumbria. 
31. StAidan, bifhop. 


5. St Bertin, abbot (of Sithiu). 

8. St Omer, bifhop (of Terouenne). 

25. St Ceolfrid, abbot (of Weremouth and Jarrow). 


3. SS. Ewalds, martyrs. 

II. StEwelburh, (Edelburgh) abbefs (of Barking). 

26. St Cedd, biihop. He was brother to St Ceadda. 


6. St Wimioc, abbot (of Wormhoult, near Berg St 

17. St Hilda, abbefs (of Whitby). 



14-. vSt Hygebald, abbot (in Lincohifliire). 

From the names it is evident that this calendar was ori- 
ginally appropriated to the north of England. I have not 
met with any belonging to the fouthern churches : but from 
a litany in a MS. of the Norfolk library, belqnging to the 
royal fociety, Wanley (p. 291) extracted the following 

Martyrs: SS. Edward, Ofwald, Edmund, Alban, Ke- 
nelm, ^Ethelbriht. 

Bifhops and confefTors : SS. Cuthbert, Swithin, Dunftan, 
Ethelwold, Birnftan, Elphege, Rumwold, Columban, Er- 
conwald, Hedda, Fritheftan, Guthlake, Iwig. 

Virgins : SS. Etheldrithe, Eadgive, Sexburh, Eadburh, 
Withburh, Etheldrithe, Mildrithe, Ofgith, Mildburh, Fri- 
thefwith, ^Ethelburh, Wserburh, ^Elgiva, Msenvenn, and 

(Q)-p. 29*. 

ON the fubjecl of images, the learning of the two Spel- 
mans has enabled them to make fome curious difcoveries. 
Alfred the great, in the preface to his laws, inferted an 
abridgment of the decalogue, in which were omitted the 
words " Thou fhalt not make to thyfelf any graven thing." 
Now, what could be the caufe of this omiflion ? Sir Henry 
Spelman gravely informs us, that it w r as made out of com- 
pliment to the church of Rome, which from the time, when 
(he firft adopted the worihip of images, had expunged the 
fec'ond commandment from the decalogue. The king, how- 
ever, appears to have felt fome compundUon for the fraud, 
and, to compound the matter with his confcience, added 
the following prohibition : " Thou fhalt not make to thyfelf 

K k 2 


" gods of filver, nor gods of gold." Thus far Sir Henry Spel- 
man. Cone. Tom. i. p. 363. Sir John Spelman purfued 
his father's difcoveries, and informed the public, that the 
addition irritated the court of Rome, arid was one of the 
offences, which deprived the king of the honour of canoniza- 
tion. Spelm. Life of Alfred, p. 220. edit. Hearne. Thefe 
moft important difcoveries have been gratefully received, 
and carefully re-echoed by the prejudice or ignorance of 
later hiftorians (Smollet, vol. i. p. 374'. Henry, vol. iii. p. 
251). Fortunately, however, the Spelmans did not grafp 
at univerfal praife : and if any modern antiquary wiih to 
difpute with them the palm of abfurdity, he may dill exert 
. his fagacity to difcover why the king omitted another very 
important prohibition : " Thou lhalt not covet thy neigh. 
" hour's wife." Perhaps an ordinary reader would afcribe 
both omiffions to the fame caufe : a perfuafion that the 
claufes omitted were fufficiently included in thofe, that were 

(R) p. 323. 

AT the time, when our anceftors were converted, different 
Latin verfions of the fcriptures were in ufe among the wef- 
tern chriftians. The fame diverfity prevailed in the Anglo- 
Saxon church during its infancy. At Lindisfarne the pfalms 
were fung according to a tranflation from the Greek, correct- 
ed by St Jerome -, at Canterbury according to another tranf- 
lation from the Greek, which Eddius calls the fifth edition 
(Quintam editionem. Edd. vit. St Wilf. p. 45. Aft. SS. 
Bened. fxc. iv. Tom. i. p. 678). At Weremouth the abbot 
Ceolfrid procured for his monks three pandecls (bibles) of 
the new, and one of the old tranflation (Bed. Vit. abbat. 
Wirem. p. 299). The new tranflation was that by St Je- 
rome. It quickly fuperfeded the old, except in the church 


office, hi which they continued to fmg the pfalms, and a few 
other parts, after the more ancient verfion. In his commen- 
taries Bede generally agrees with the prefent vulgate, though 
he fometimes refers to the old tranflation (Expof. Genef. p. 
34*, 36. edit. Wharton) : but in his expofition of the canticle 
of Habacuc he has followed the ancient verfion, though he 
occafionally qotes that of St Jerome, and the different read- 
ings in oldMSS. (Expo*: cant. Abac. p. 199, 203, 205, &c.) 
In the Anglo-Saxon verfion of the gofpels, publifhed at 
London in 1571* and reprinted by Junius and Marfhall at 
Dordrecht in 1665, are feveral readings, which correfpond with 
the celebrated MS. of Beza, edited by Dr Kipling. This 
has encouraged an idea that the Anglo-Saxon church ufed a 
Latin verfion of the fcriptures very different from the vulgate. 
It may, however, be obferved, that all the exifting MS. copies 
of the fcripture, which are known to have belonged to the 
Anglo-Saxons, are of t Jerome's tranflation. Of thefe 
fome are very ancient. In the library belonging to the dean 
and chapter of Durham, are two very fair copies of the four 
gofpels, written about the year 700 (A. 11. 16. A. 11. 17.) 
In the Britifh Mufeum (Nero. D. 4) is another MS. of the 
gofpels, beautifully written about the year 686, by Eadfrid, 
who was afterwards bifhop of Lindisfarne. Ethelwald, his 
fucceflbr, illuminated and ornamented it with feveral elegant 
drawings. By the anachoret Bilfrith, it was covered with 
gems, filver gilt, and gold, in honour of St Cuthbert ; and 
Aldred the prieft afterwards added an interlineary verfion. 
During the removal of St Cuthbert's body in 885, this copy 
was loft in the fea, but recovered three days afterwards. If 
we may believe Simeon of Durham, it had not been injured 
by the water (Sim. p. 117): but Mr Wanley thought he 
could difcover fome ftains, which he afcribed to that acci- 
dent. It is ftill in the beft prefervation. In the poffeflion 
of the Rev. Mr Stone, at Stonyhurft, is another and ftill more 
K k3 


ancient MS. of St John's gofpe!, believed to be the fame, 
which is faid by Bede to have belonged to St Boifil, themaf- 
ter of St Cuthbert. An infcription in a more recent hand, 
dates it to have been taken out of the tomb of the Saint : 
but this is probably a miftake. The contemporary hiftory 
of .the trajiflation of St Cuthbert fays, that the MS. buried 
with him was a book of the gofpels ( Act. SS. Bened. Saec. iv. 
p. 296) ; and that the copy of St John, which had belonged 
to St Boifil, was preferved in the church in a cafe of red 
leather, and was held by die biftiop in his hand, while he 
preached to the people during the tranflation (ibid. p. 301.) 
As all thefe MSS. contain the verfion of St Jerome, I fuf- 
pect the agreement between the Anglo-Saxon tranflation and 
the Codex Bezae, to be accidental. A fimilar agreement 
xifts, in many inftances, between that Codex and the cele- 
brated MS. of the Abbey of Corbie ; nor is it improbable 
that a f copy of that MS. might be brought into England by 
fome x)f the monks, who, at the invitation of St Dunftan, left 
Corbie to inftrucl the Anglo-Saxon coenobites. It was fooa 
after that period, that the tranflation was made. 

(S) p. 323. 

IT is well known, .that feveral of the Greek vowels and 
diphthongs are differently founded by the prefent inhabitants 
of Greece, and the learned in fome of the more weftern na- 
tions. After the revival of literature, the arguments or au- 
thority of Manutius, Erafmus, Sir John Cheke, Beza, Gretfer, 
and others, induced feveral univerfities to reject the old, and 
adopt a new pronunciation. To decide on the refpective 
merits of the two fyftems,, would be perhaps a difficult at- 
tempt : but to inquire in what manner the Anglo-Saxons 
were taught to pronounce the Greek letters, is a fubject of 
curious and more eafy inveftigation. It was by Theodore of 


Canterbury, that the knowledge of the language was intro- 
duced into England (Bed. hift. 1. iv. c. 2). He was born at 
Tarfus, in Cilicia, and verfed in Grecian literature ; whence 
it were not rafh to infer, that the pronunciation, which he 
taught, was the fame as was followed at that period by the 
natives of Greece. 

In the Cotton library, Galba, A. 18. is a fmall MS. faid 
to have once belonged to king ./Ethelftan. It was written in 
703, thirteen years after the death of Theodore (ibid. f. 16). 
It contains a calendar with ornamental paintings, a pfalter, 
prayers, and a fragment of a litany in the Greek language, 
but in Anglo-Saxon characters. The writer appears to have 
been ignorant of Greek, and either to have tranfcribed fome 
other copy, or to have written, while another perfon dictated. 
Hence his work contains feveral errors : but his general fyf- 
tem of fpelling clearly (hews the founds which were then 
given to the vowels and diphthongs. For the fatisfaction of 
the reader, I fhall tranfcribe the Our father, and an abridg- 
ment of the Creed : but it will be neceflary to premife, that 
in the Anglo-Saxon fpelling, the vowels a, e, i, fhould be 
founded in the same mariner as they are founded in the pro- 
nunciation of Latin, by all the nations of Europe, except the 

ftWV IV TOIS 6pOCC,VOl$ ' Ky '< &<TV\t '& Tfl OVX^U, (TOV . 

Pater imon o yn (t)ys uranis agiafthito onaman fu . 

vi Bxtr thine, a-ov' ytrffivtfM TO QtXvpa, cry, a$ tv 

elthetu e bafilia s genitthito to theliman fu ofs en 


tvpctvy xxi tTTi Tyg yyg ' rov otprov qfiav rov ZTTIOVFIOV ooq 

uaranu ke ep tas gis . ton arton imon ton epiuffion dofs 

yfAtv <rqf,t,tpov, xott ottyts vfAtv ret otytthyptxTot: vtf^uv a$ KMI 
imin fimero. ke affes imin ta offilemata imon os ke imis 

ecttpiv rots ottfaTetts npw KCM pn tia-tviyxy? -/!,$ <? 
affiomen tas ophiletas imon. ke mi efminkes imas is 

TTO rov 

perafmon, ala ryfe imas apo tu poniru. 


$ 6tov veci^t6 Tfc&vlo 

Piftheu is then patera 'pantocratero. ce is criftcn ihu yon 

Ty TOV (ttoyaysvjj, TGV KVPIOV yia&v, rov y?vj|5gyla; IK 

autu ton monogen ton quirion imon, ton genegenta ek 

i&vtv[6ci:TO$ y<y, tx f&c&(>ioi,$ TJJJ 7T<g0jyy, TOV ST< WOVT<S# 

pneumatus agiu cc maria tis parthenu . ton epi pontio 

TTiXccTii retv^lritrrvi ra<piVTx, tv\ rgiry vtptgex, etvetrroivroc, tx, 

pilatu ftaurothenta, tafinta, te trite imera anaftanta ec 

y&xf>6>v t ctvavavTa, tie; rx$ x^xvzs^ y $&%tot. TX TrotT^o;, 

nicroil, anaunta is tos uranos, catimenon in dexia tu patros, 

O&iV SpffiTiXl KPIVSCI ^aVTCtS Xftt VZX,(nt<; . Ktil 11$ TTVtVUCX, X"/tOV, 

oten erchete crine zontas ce nicros . ce is pneuma agion 

uv x-oivaviavj ectytiriv <x,[toi(?Ti(*)v, O-O.KPOS otvu.crTct.Fty . <y,p.r t v. 

agri afifin amartion, farcos anafta. amin. 

That this manner of fpellmg may not be thought peculiar 
to the writer of the MS. I will add another fpecimen from 
the firft chapter of Genefis in an Anglo Saxon MS. of the 
Bodleian library, NE. D. ll.f. 28. A fac fimile of it is 
publiftied by Hicks, Thef. p. 168. 

Ev Ci^^*J 27TOJ>)cr2V Qt6$ TOV HQViVOV Tt.%1 TJJV y?)V . H Ot 

En archn epoeifen o theos ton uranon ce tin gin. i de 

yy ( jjv aopy-Tog x.oe.1 a.x.&Toicrx.tvxTOs ' xxi <TX.OTO<; v/v tTrava TYI*; a'avara . 

^i in aoratos ce acatasceuaftos ce fkotos in epano tis abuffu . 

X.0it TTVlVpM 3iS# &5r^5p2TO 7TaV& TSf V00t.TO$. Koil U7TW 6 

ce phneuma theu epefereto epano tu ydatos . ce ipen o 

so$ ygvu^Tfl Cpcyf, XVA tytvzTO tyac, . xai tidtv o 610? 

theos genethito fos, ce egeneto fos . ce iden o theos 

TO $>6>$ 6Ti XaAoV . XOil OitftUPWiV $$.6$.. 

to fos, oti kalon, ce chechorifen o theos. 

Neither was this method of writing Greek peculiar to the 
Anglo-Saxons : it occurs in the fpecimen which Mabillon 
has given of the characters in the codex Dyonifianus. De 
re diplomat, p. 367- 

UurTtva s*5 tva, Qiov TruTipu KOH Zi$ TO Tryzvftoc, TO 

Pifteugo is ena theon patera ke is to pneuma to 

ay;oy TO xvpiov X.OM (oaTroiov, TO tx. T& 

agion to kyrion ke zoopion, to ek tu patros. 


It muft be confeffed that thefe paflages prefent many 
errors : yet from a diligent comparifon of thofe words and 
fyllables, in which the ear was lefs liable to be deceived, I 
think it may be inferred that not only the vowel *, but alfo 
7i, and the diphthongs u and 01 were generally founded alike, 
and expreffed by the Anglo-Saxon i, and that the diphthong 
at had the long flender found of the prefent Englifh a, and 
therefore was always exprefled by the Anglo-Saxon letter e. 
In thefe refpects the pronunciation of our anceftors appears 
to agree perfectly with the pronunciation of the modern 
Greeks. Dans #*, s<, ot, v, v, fays De la Rocca, vicar gene- 
ral of the ifle of Syra, les Ellcniftes de Paris pretendent qu'il 
faut prononcer les trois premieres, comme fi elles etoient deux 
lettres aV, ei, 01 : a 1'egard des deux autres la premiere comme 
e, la feconde comme i. Nous prononcons au contraire la 
premiere comme e, et les quatres autres comme i. Precis 
hiftorique fur 1'ifle de Syra, p. 159. Paris, 1790. 

(T)-p. 327. 

THE vernacular poetry of the Anglo-Saxons has been 
ably defcribed by Mr Turner, in his fourth volume, p. 374-. 
Its principal characteriitics appear to be a conftant inverfion 
of phrafe, with the frequent ufe of alliteration, metaphor, and 
periphrafis. Rhyme feems neither to have been fought af- 
ter, nor rejected. It occurs but feldom. To reduce the 
meafure of the verfe to certain rules is difficult, perhaps im- 
practicable. Of the many writers, who have attempted it, 
not one has fucceeded. If I may be indulged in a conjecture, 
I would fay that their verification confided in fuch an ar- 
rangement of words, as might eafily be adapted to fome fa- 
vourite national tune. All their poetry was originally de- 
figned to be fung to the harp. 

The reader will not perhaps be difpleafed with a fhort 


fpecimen of Anglo-Saxon poetry, believed to have been com- 
poied by Caedmon, the celebrated monk of Whitby. Bede 
tranflated it in his ecclefiaftical hiftory : but confefled that his 
verfion did not do juftice to the fpirit and elegance of the 
original (Bed. 1. iv. c. 24). The Anglo-Saxon verfes are 
.found in king Alfred's tranflation of Bede, and are generally 
fuppofed to have been tranfcribed by that prince from fome 
ancient copy. I think it, however, equally probable, that 
they were the compofition of the royal tranflator. 

To the Anglo-Saxon I have added an Englifh verfion as 
literal as poflible. 

Nu pe f ceolan hejiigean 

Heopon jaicej- peajitK 

ODero'oer' mihte 

Ant> hij~ mot) ^efanc 

Yeojic pult)0j\ j:aet)ej\. 

Spa he pult>j\ej~ jehpaep 

Ece t>p.ihren 

Ojxt) onr*realt)e. 

He aepiej-i: ^er-cop 

Eojifan beaj\num 

Heojron ro jiojze 

Halt 5 r*cyppend. 

Da mit>t)an geaji'o 

CD on cynner* peajit) 

Ece Driihrne 

^Ej:re)T reot>e. 

Fijium poltan 

Fj\ea aelmihrig. ALFRED'S BED. p. 

Now ought we to praife 
Of heaven the guardian, 
The might of the creator, 
The thoughts of his mind, 


The works of the father of glory. 

How he, of all glory, 

The lord eternal ! 

Made the beginning. 

He firft did frame, 

For the children of earth, 

Heaven as a canopy : 

Holy creator ! 

The expanded earth 

The guardian of man, 

The lord eternal, 

Afterwards made. 

For men the earth : 

Ruler almighty ! 

(U) p. 353. 


Hie, rogo, pauxillum veniens fubfifte, viator, 

Et mea fcrutator peftore difta tuo. 
Ut tua, deque meis, cognofcas fata figuris, 

Vertitur en fpecies, ut mea, ficque tua. 
Quod nunc es, fueram, famofus in orbe viator : 

Et quod nunc ego fum, tuque futurus eris. 
Delicias mundi caflb feftabar amore : 

Nunc cinis et pulvis, vermibus atque cibus. 
Quapropter potius animam curare memento, 

Quam carnem : quoniam haec manet, ilia perit, 
Cur tibi rura paras ? Quam parvo cernis in antro 

Me tenet hie requies, fie tua parva net. 
Cur Tyrio corpus inhias veftirier oftro 
Quod mox efuriens pulvere vermis edet ? 

Ut flores pereunt vento veniente minaci, 

Sic tua namque caro, gloria tota perit. 
Tu mihi redde vicem, leftor, rogo carminis hujus, 

Et die, da veniam, Chrifte, tuo famulo. 
Obfecro nulla manus violet pia jura fepulchri, 

Perfonet angelica donee ab arce tuba. 
Qui jaces in tumulo, terrae de pulvere furge, 

Magnus adeft judex milibus innumeris. 
Alchwin nomen erat fophiam mihi Temper amanti, 

Pro quo funde preces mente, legens titulum. 

Hie requiefcit beats memoriae domnus Alchwinus abbas, 
qui obiit in pace xiiii. Kalend. Junias. Quando legeritis, o 
vos omnes, orate pro eo, et diclte : Requiem aeternam donet 

ei Dominus. This epitaph was infcribed on a brafs tablet 

fixed in the wall. Vit. Ale. p. 161. 

(VJ p. 404. 

In my account of Edwin, I have ventured to oppofe the 
whole ftream of modern writers (1). With the perfon or 
hiftory of Ethelgiva, they fcarcely appear acquainted : her 
daughter is their favourite ; and, after lavifhing upon her 
every charm, of which the female form is fufceptible, they 
marry her to Edwin before his coronation, lafti with zeal 
the bigotry of her fuppofed enemies, and allot to her the 
difgrace and fuffefings, which I have defcribed as the fate 
of her mother. In the prefent note I may be allowed to 
detail the authorities on which my narrative is grounded. - 

(1) From this number, however, should have been exceptedDr Milner, 
who in his history of Winchester, (vol. i. p. 153.) has shewn that in nar- 
rating the history of, Rapin, Guthrie, Carte and Hume have sub- 
stituted a romance of their own creation in place of the real facts, as they 
are stated by the ancient writers. 


I. As to the names of the two women, Mr Turner has 
produced an ancient charter, in which they are called Ethel- 
giva and Elgiva (Teftes fuerunt JElfgiva regis uxor, et 
jEthelgiva mater ejus. Ex hift. Abbend. Turn. vol. iii. p. 
163). The authenticity of the inftrument, as he obferves, 
is fufpicious ; but I have no doubt of the accuracy of the 
names. In the contemporary biographer of St Dunftan, the 
mother is called Ethelgiva (MS. Cleop. B. 13) : and Elgi- 
va is often mentioned as the name of the woman from 
whom Edwin was afterwards feparated. Hoved. ann. 958. 
Wigcrn. ann. 958. Weftmon. ann. 9.58. 

II. But was not Elgiva married to Edwin at the time of 
his coronation ? I anfwer in the negative. 1. This marriage 
is not, as far as I have read, exprefsly aflerted by any ancient 
writer. 2. By every hiftorian, who defcribes at length the 
tranfaclions of that day, fhe is confidered not as the wife, 
but as the miftrefs of the king. See note 11, p. 400. 
3. The contemporary life of St Dunftan, plainly fhews 
that fhe was not his wife : as it afcribes the indelicacy of 
Ethelgiva' s conduct to her hope of prevailing with the 
king to marry either her or her daughter (Eotenus videli- 
cet, quo fefe vel etiam natam fuam fub conjugali titulo illi 
inneftendo fociaret. MS. Cleop, p. 76). Of confequence 
the king, at the time of his coronation, remained unmarried : 
and the queen to whom Dunftan is reprefented as offering 
the grofleft infult, is the creation of modern prejudice. 

III. Whether Edwin married Elgiva after his coronation, 
,is a more difficult queflion. That fhe was his near relation 

(proxime cognatam, Malms, de reg. 1. ii. c. 7)> is acknow- 
ledged : and confequently the marriage, if ever it took place, 
muft have been deemed void according to the canons, which 
at that period obtained the force of laws among our anceftors. 
Perhaps the expreffion of the monk of Ramfey (illicitum in- 
vafit matrimonium. Hift, Ram. p. 390), and the title of 


queen, which Wallingford gives t6 Elgiva (Chron. WalKng. 
p. 51-3), may countenance the idea that they were actually 
married : and a MS. of the Saxon chronicle (Tib- B. 4), 
quoted by Mr Turner (vol. iii. p. 164), in a paragraph 
which occurs not in the other copies, afferts, that in the year 
958, Archbilhop Odo feparated Edwin and Elgiva, becaufe 
they were relations (958). On pyjyum geajie Ot)a ajice- 
brpcop rorpaenvoe Eat>pi cynmg ^ JElgype po]\ 'Ssem ^a 
hi psep.on ro geyybbe). But the other chroniclers, when 
they notice the reparation, are lefs pofitive ; and obferve that 
the archbifhop acted in this manner, becaufe Elgiva was either 
the king's relation, or his miftrefs (Archiepifcopus regem 
Weftfaxonum Edwium et Elfgivam, vel quia, ut fertur, pro- 
pinqua illius extiterit, vel quia ipfam fub propria uxore ada- 
mavit, ab invicem feparavit. Hoved. ami. 958. Wigorn. ann. 
958. Sim. Dunel. ann. 958. Vel caufa confanguinitatis, vel 
quia illam ut adulteram adamavit. Weftmon. ann. 958). 
However, were we to admit the marriage, yet the very date 
of the feparation will furnifn an additional proof that it was 
pofterior to the king's coronation. Otherwife how can we 
account for the apathy or indolence of that active and inflexi- 
ble prelate Odo, who would have waited three years before 
he performed that, which he muft daily have confidered as 
an imperious and indifpenfible duty ? If his irrefolution be 
afcribed to fear, why did he omit the favourable moment of 
the infurrection, and wait till Edwin was firmly and peaceably 
feated on the throne of WefTex, Kent, and SufTex ? 

IV. I do not know that any writer has mentioned the name 
of the unfortunate woman, who was banifhed to Ireland, and 
at her return put to a cruel death. That it was either Ethel- 
giva or Elgiva, is certain : that it was Elgiva is the confen- 
tient afTertion of our modern hiftorians. I cannot fubmit to 
their authority. 1. To decide the controverfy we muft have 
recourfe to Ofbern, from whole narrative fucceeding writers 


have derived their information. In his account of the coro- 
nation, he mentions Ethelgiva under the defignation of adul- 
tera ((he was then the wife of a thane, according to Bromp- 
ton, p. 863), and adds that her daughter was in her com- 
pany. But from that moment he lofes fight of the daughter, 
and fixes our attention folely on the mother, till he defcribes 
her death by the fwords of the infurgents (Repertum fimtil 
cum adultera et filia ejus - - - Regem cum adultera perfequi 
non defiftunt - - - - ipfam repertam fubnervavere. Ofbern, 
p. 105, 106.) I do not think it poffible to read attentively 
the narrative of Ofbern, and believe that it was the daughter 
who fell a victim to the fury of the rebels. 2. From the 
writers quoted above, it appears that Elgiva was alive in 
958, fmce in that year fhe was feparated from Edwin. Now 
the death of the woman, who returned from Ireland, happen- 
ed in 956, or at the lateft in 957- Ofbern informs us that 
fhe was murdered during the revolt of the Mercians, and be- 
fore the divifion of the kingdom between the two brothers : 
events which occurred in 956, according to the Peterborough 
(p. 27) and the Saxon chronicles (p. 116) ; in 957, accord- 
ing to Simeon, Wigornenfis, and Matthew of Weftminfter 
(Vide omnes ad ann. 957). Hence it follows, that the wo- 
man who was banifhed, and afterwards put to death, muft 
have been, not the daughter, but her mother Ethelgiva. 

From thefe premifes I fhould infer, that thefe ladies were 
women of high rank, but abandoned character, who endea- 
voured to corrupt the morals of their young fovereign : that 
the mother was compelled to quit the kingdom, and venturing 
to return, perifhed during the revolt ; and that Edwin, after 
her banifhment, either took Elgiva to his bed as his miftrefs, 
or married her within the prohibited degrees, which called 
forth the cenfures of Archbiftiop Odo. If thefe circumftances 
be true, the laboured narrative of Hume, and the paffionate 
declamation of Mr Turner, may be given to the winds. 


(X) p. 414. 

Ex Wolft. epift. adElpbeg. epif. Winton. 
Infuper excelfum feciftis et addere templum, 

Quo fine noc"te manet continuata dies. 
Turris ab axe micat, quo fol oriendo corufcat, 

Et fpargit lucis fpicula prima fuse. 
Stat fuper auratis virgae fabricatio bullis, 

Aureus et totum fplendor adornat opus. 
Luna coronato quoties radiaverit ortu, 

Alterum ab sede facra furgit ad aftra jubar. 
Si node infpiciat hunc praetereundo viator, 

Et terram ftellas credit habere fuas. 
Additur ad fpeciem, flat ei quod vertice Callus 

Aureus ornatu, grandis et intuitu. 
Defpicit omne folum, cun&is fupereminet arvis, 

Signiferi et Borex fidera pulchra videns. 
Imperil fceptrum pedibus tenet ille fuperbis, 

Stat fuper et cunftum Wintoniae populum* 
Imperat et cun&is evedhis in aera gallis, 

Et regit occiduum nobilis imperium. 
Impiger imbriferos qui fufcipit undique ventos. 

Seque rotando fuam prsebet eis faciem. 
Turbinis horrifonos fuffertque viriliter idus, 

Intrepidus perftans, flabra, nives tolerans. 
Oceano folem folus vidit ipfe ruentem : 

Aurora primum cernit et hie radium. 
A longe adveniens oculo vicinus adhseret, 

Figit et adfpedtum diflbciante loco : 
Quo fefTus rapitur vifu mirante viator, 

Et pede disjunftus, lumine jundlus adeft. 

ACT. SS. BENED. Ssec. iv. p. 93P. 


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