Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK V - The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops)
Return to Title Page for The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
BOOK V - Saint Bede, The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops) 
The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops), with an Introduction by Vida D. Scudder (London: J.M. Dent, 1916).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
how ethelwald, successor to cuthbert, leading an eremitical life, calmed a tempest when the brethren were in danger at sea. [ 687.]
The venerable Ethelwald, who had received the priesthood in the monastery of Inhrypum, and had, by actions worthy of the same, sanctified his holy office, succeeded the man of God, Cuthbert, in the exercise of a solitary life, having practised the same before he was bishop, in the isle of Farne. For the more certain demonstration of the life which he led, and his merit, I will relate one miracle of his, which was told me by one of these brothers for and on whom the same was wrought: viz. Guthfrid, the venerable servant and priest of Christ, who, afterwards, as abbat, presided over the brethren of the same church of Lindisfarne, in which he had been educated.
“I came,” says he, “to the island of Farne, with two others of the brethren, to speak with the most reverend father, Ethelwald. Having been refreshed with his discourse, and taken his blessing, as we were returning home, on a sudden, when we were in the midst of the sea, the fair weather which was wafting us over was checked, and there ensued so great and dismal a tempest, that neither the sails nor oars were of any use to us, nor had we anything to expect but death. After long struggling with the wind and waves to no effect, we looked behind us to see whether it was practicable at least to recover the island from whence we came, but we found ourselves on all sides so enveloped in the storm, that there was no hope of escaping. But looking out as far as we could see, we observed, on the island of Farne, Father Ethelwald, beloved of God, come out of his cavern to watch our course; for, hearing the noise of the storm and raging sea, he was come out to see what would become of us. When he beheld us in distress and despair, he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in prayer for our life and safety; upon which, the swelling sea was calmed, so that the storm ceased on all sides, and a fair wind attended us to the very shore. When we had landed, and had dragged upon the shore the small vessel that brought us, the storm, which had ceased a short time for our sake, immediately returned, and raged continually during the whole day; so that it plainly appeared that the brief cessation of the storm had been granted from Heaven at the request of the man of God, in order that we might escape.”
The man of God remained in the isle of Farne twelve years, and died there; but was buried in the church of St. Peter and Paul, in the isle of Lindisfarne, beside the bodies of the aforesaid bishops. These things happened in the days of King Alfred, who ruled the nation of the Northumbrians eighteen years after his brother Egfrid.
how bishop john cured a dumb man by blessing him. [ 685.]
In the beginning of the aforesaid reign, Bishop Eata died, and was succeeded in the prelacy of the church of Hagulstad by John, a holy man, of whom those that familiarly knew him are wont to tell many miracles; and more particularly, the reverend Berthun, a man of undoubted veracity, and once his deacon, now abbat of the monastery called Inderawood, that is, in the wood of the Deiri: some of which miracles we have thought fit to transmit to posterity. There is a certain building in a retired situation, and enclosed by a narrow wood and a trench, about a mile and a half from the church of Hagulstad, and separated from it by the river Tyne, having a burying-place dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, where the man of God used frequently, as occasion offered, and particularly in Lent, to reside with a few companions. Being come thither once at the beginning of Lent, to stay, he commanded his followers to find out some poor person labouring under any grievous infirmity, or want, whom he might keep with him during those days, by way of alms, for so he was always used to do.
There was in a village not far off, a certain dumb youth, known to the bishop, for he often used to come into his presence to receive alms, and had never been able to speak one word. Besides, he had so much scurf and scabs on his head, that no hair ever grew on the top of it, but only some scattered hairs in a circle round about. The bishop caused this young man to be brought, and a little cottage to be made for him within the enclosure of the dwelling, in which he might reside, and receive a daily allowance from him. When one week of Lent was over, the next Sunday he caused the poor man to come in to him, and ordered him to put his tongue out of his mouth and show it him; then laying hold of his chin, he made the sign of the cross on his tongue, directing him to draw it back into his mouth and to speak. “Pronounce some word,” said he; “say yea,” which, in the language of the Angles, is the word of affirming and consenting, that is, yes. The youth’s tongue was immediately loosed, and he said what he was ordered. The bishop, then pronouncing the names of the letters, directed him to say A; he did so, and afterwards B, which he also did. When he had named all the letters after the bishop, the latter proceeded to put syllables and words to him, which being also repeated by him, he commanded him to utter whole sentences, and he did it. Nor did he cease all that day and the next night, as long as he could keep awake, as those who were present relate, to talk something, and to express his private thoughts and will to others, which he could never do before; after the manner of the cripple, who, being healed by the Apostles Peter and John, stood up leaping, and walked, and went with them into the temple, walking, and skipping, and praising the Lord, rejoicing to have the use of his feet, which he had so long wanted. The bishop, rejoicing at his recovery of speech, ordered the physician to take in hand the cure of his scurfed head. He did so, and with the help of the bishop’s blessing and prayers, a good head of hair grew as the flesh was healed. Thus the youth obtained a good aspect, a ready utterance, and a beautiful head of hair, whereas before he had been deformed, poor, and dumb. Thus rejoicing at his recovery, the bishop offered to keep him in his family, but he rather chose to return home.
the same bishop, john, by his prayers, healed a sick maiden. [ 686.]
The same Berthun told another miracle of the bishop’s. When the reverend Wilfrid, after a long banishment, was admitted to the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad, and the aforesaid John, upon the death of Bosa, a man of great sanctity and humility, was, in his place, appointed bishop of York, he came, once upon a time, to the monastery of Virgins, at the place called Wetadun, where the Abbess Hereberga then presided. “When we were come thither,” said he, “and had been received with great and universal joy, the abbess told us, that one of the virgins, who was her daughter in the flesh, laboured under a grievous distemper, having been lately bled in the arm, and whilst she was engaged in study, was seized with a sudden violent pain, which increased so that the wounded arm became worse, and so much swelled, that it could not be grasped with both hands; and thus being confined to her bed, through excess of pain, she was expected to die very soon. The abbess entreated the bishop that he would vouchsafe to go in and give her his blessing; for that she believed she would be the better for his blessing or touching her. He asked when the maiden had been bled? and being told that it was on the fourth day of the moon, said, ‘You did very indiscreetly and unskilfully to bleed her on the fourth day of the moon; for I remember that Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, said, that bleeding at that time was very dangerous, when the light of the moon and the tide of the ocean is increasing; and what can I do to the girl if she is like to die?’
“The abbess still earnestly entreated for her daughter, whom she dearly loved, and designed to make abbess in her stead, and at last prevailed with him to go in to her. He accordingly went in, taking me with him to the virgin, who lay, as I said, in great anguish, and her arm swelled so fast that there was no bending of the elbow; the bishop stood and said a prayer over her, and having given his blessing, went out. Afterwards, as we were sitting at table, some one came in and called me out, saying, ‘Coenberg’ (that was the virgin’s name) ‘desires you will immediately go back to her.’ I did so, and entering the house, perceived her countenance more cheerful, and like one in perfect health. Having seated myself down by her, she said, ‘Would you like me to call for something to drink?’—‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and am very glad if you can.’ When the cup was brought, and we had both drunk, she said, ‘As soon as the bishop had said the prayer, given me his blessing, and gone out, I immediately began to mend; and though I have not yet recovered my former strength, yet all the pain is quite gone from my arm, where it was most intense, and from all my body, as if the bishop had carried it away with him; though the swelling of the arm still seems to remain.’ When we departed from thence, the cure of the pain in her limbs was followed by the assuaging of the swelling; and the virgin being thus delivered from torture and death, returned praise to our Lord and Saviour, with his other servants who were there.”
the same bishop healed an earl’s wife that was sick, with holy water. [ 686.]
The same abbat related another miracle, similar to the former, of the aforesaid bishop. “Not very far from our monastery, that is, about two miles off, was the country-house of one Puch, an earl, whose wife had languished near forty days under a very acute disease, insomuch that for three weeks she could not be carried out of the room where she lay. It happened that the man of God was, at that time, invited thither by the earl to consecrate a church; and when that was done, the earl desired him to dine at his house. The bishop declined, saying, ‘He must return to the monastery, which was very near.’ The earl, pressing him more earnestly, vowed he would also give alms to the poor, if the bishop would break his fast that day in his house. I joined my entreaties to his, promising in like manner to give alms for the relief of the poor, if he would go and dine at the earl’s house, and give his blessing. Having at length, with much difficulty, prevailed, we went in to dine. The bishop had sent to the woman that lay sick some of the holy water, which he had blessed for the consecration of the church, by one of the brothers that went along with me, ordering him to give her some to drink, and wash the place where her greatest pain was, with some of the same. This being done, the woman immediately got up in health, and perceiving that she had not only been delivered from her tedious distemper, but at the same time recovered the strength which she had lost, she presented the cup to the bishop and to us, and continued serving us with drink as she had begun till dinner was over; following the example of Peter’s mother-in-law, who, having been sick of a fever, arose at the touch of our Lord, and having at once received health and strength, ministered to them.”
the same bishop recovered one of the earl’s servants from death. [ 686.]
At another time also, being called to consecrate Earl Addi’s church, when he had performed that duty, he was entreated by the earl to go in to one of his servants, who lay dangerously ill, and having lost the use of all his limbs, seemed to be just at death’s door; and indeed the coffin had been provided to bury him in. The earl urged his entreaties with tears, earnestly praying that he would go in and pray for him, because his life was of great consequence to him; and he believed that if the bishop would lay his hand upon him and give him his blessing, he would soon mend. The bishop went in, and saw him in a dying condition, and the coffin by his side, whilst all that were present were in tears. He said a prayer, blessed him, and on going out, as is the usual expression of comforters, said, “May you soon recover.” Afterwards, when they were sitting at table, the lad sent to his lord, to desire he would let him have a cup of wine, because he was thirsty. The earl, rejoicing that he could drink, sent him a cup of wine, blessed by the bishop; which, as soon as he had drunk, he immediately got up, and, shaking off his late infirmity, dressed himself, and going in to the bishop, saluted him and the other guests, saying, “He would also eat and be merry with them.” They ordered him to sit down with them at the entertainment, rejoicing at his recovery. He sat down, ate and drank merrily, and behaved himself like the rest of the company; and living many years after, continued in the same state of health. The aforesaid abbat says this miracle was not wrought in his presence, but that he had it from those who were there.
the same bishop, by his prayers and blessing, delivered from death one of his clerks, who had bruised himself by a fall. [ 686.]
Nor do I think that this further miracle, which Herebald, the servant of Christ, says was wrought upon himself, is to be passed over in silence. He was then one of that bishop’s clergy, but now presides as abbat in the monastery at the mouth of the river Tyne. “Being present,” said he, “and very well acquainted with his course of life, I found it to be most worthy of a bishop, as far as it is lawful for men to judge; but I have known by the experience of others, and more particularly by my own, how great his merit was before Him who is the judge of the heart; having been by his prayer and blessing brought back from the gates of death to the way of life. For, when in the prime of my youth, I lived among his clergy, applying myself to reading and singing, but not having yet altogether withdrawn my heart from youthful pleasures, it happened one day that as we were travelling with him, we came into a plain and open road, well adapted for galloping our horses. The young men that were with him, and particularly those of the laity, began to entreat the bishop to give them leave to gallop, and make trial of the goodness of their horses. He at first refused, saying, ‘it was an idle request’; but at last, being prevailed on by the unanimous desire of so many, ‘Do so,’ said he, ‘if you will, but let Herebald have no part in the trial.’ I earnestly prayed that I might have leave to ride with the rest, for I relied on an excellent horse, which he had given me, but I could not obtain my request.
“When they had several times galloped backwards and forwards, the bishop and I looking on, my wanton humour prevailed, and I could no longer refrain, but though he forbade me, I struck in among them, and began to ride at full speed; at which I heard him call after me, ‘Alas! how much you grieve me by riding after that manner.’ Though I heard him, I went on against his command; but immediately the fiery horse taking a great leap over a hollow place, I fell, and lost both sense and motion, as if I had been dead; for there was in that place a stone, level with the ground, covered with only a small turf, and no other stone to be found in all that plain; and it happened, as a punishment for my disobedience, either by chance, or by Divine Providence so ordering it, that my head and hand, which in falling I had clapped to my head, hit upon that stone, so that my thumb was broken and my skull cracked, and I lay, as I said, like one dead.
“And because I could not move, they stretched a canopy for me to lie in. It was about the seventh hour of the day, and having lain still, and as it were dead from that time till the evening, I then revived a little, and was carried home by my companions, but lay speechless all the night, vomiting blood, because something was broken within me by the fall. The bishop was very much grieved at my misfortune, and expected my death, for he bore me extraordinary affection. Nor would he stay that night, as he was wont, among his clergy; but spent it all in watching and prayer alone, imploring the Divine goodness, as I imagine, for my health. Coming to me in the morning early, and having said a prayer over me, he called me by my name, and as it were waking me out of a heavy sleep, asked, ‘Whether I knew who it was that spoke to me?’ I opened my eyes and said, ‘I do; you are my beloved bishop.’—‘Can you live?’ said he. I answered, ‘I may, through your prayers, if it shall please our Lord.’
“He then laid his hand on my head, with the words of blessing, and returned to prayer; when he came again to see me, in a short time, he found me sitting and able to talk; and, being induced by Divine instinct, as it soon appeared, began to ask me, ‘Whether I knew for certain that I had been baptized?’ I answered, ‘I knew beyond all doubt that I had been washed in the laver of salvation, to the remission of my sins, and I named the priest by whom I knew myself to have been baptized.’ He replied, ‘If you were baptized by that priest, your baptism is not perfect; for I know him, and that having been ordained priest, he could not, by reason of the dulness of his understanding, learn the ministry of catechising and baptizing; for which reason I commanded him altogether to desist from his presumptuous exercising of the ministry, which he could not duly perform.’ This said, he took care to catechise me at that very time; and it happened that he blew upon my face, on which I presently found myself better. He called the surgeon, and ordered him to close and bind up my skull where it was cracked; and having then received his blessing, I was so much better that I mounted on horseback the next day, and travelled with him to another place; and being soon after perfectly recovered, I received the baptism of life.”
He continued in his see thirty-three years, and then ascending to the heavenly kingdom, was buried in St. Peter’s Porch, in his own monastery, called Inderawood, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 721. For having, by his great age, become unable to govern his bishopric, he ordained Wilfrid, his priest, bishop of the church of York, and retired to the aforesaid monastery, and there ended his days in holy conversation.
cædwalla, king of the west saxons, went to rome to be baptized; his successor ina also devoutly repaired to the same church of the holy apostles. [ 688.]
In the third year of the reign of Alfrid, Cædwalla, king of the West Saxons, having most honourably governed his nation two years, quitted his crown for the sake of our Lord and his everlasting kingdom, and went to Rome, being desirous to obtain the peculiar honour of being baptized in the church of the blessed apostles, for he had learned that in baptism alone, the entrance into heaven is opened to mankind; and he hoped at the same time, that laying down the flesh, as soon as baptized, he should immediately pass to the eternal joys of heaven; both which things, by the blessing of our Lord, came to pass according as he had conceived in his mind. For coming to Rome, at the time that Sergius was pope, he was baptized on the holy Saturday before Easter Day, in the year of our Lord 689, and being still in his white garments, he fell sick, and departed this life on the 20th of April, and was associated with the blessed in heaven. At his baptism, the aforesaid pope had given him the name of Peter, to the end that he might be also united in name to the most blessed prince of the apostles, to whose most holy body his pious love had brought him from the utmost bounds of the earth. He was likewise buried in his church, and by the pope’s command an epitaph written on his tomb, wherein the memory of his devotion might be preserved for ever, and the readers or hearers might be inflamed with religious desire by the example of what he had done.
The epitaph was this—
Here was deposited Cædwalla, called also Peter, king of the Saxons, on the twelfth day of the kalends of May, the second indiction. He lived about thirty years, in the reign of the most pious emperor, Justinian, in the fourth year of his consulship, in the second year of our apostolic lord, Pope Sergius.
When Cædwalla went to Rome, Ina succeeded him on the throne, being of the blood royal; and having reigned thirty-seven years over that nation, he gave up the kingdom in like manner to younger persons, and went away to Rome, to visit the blessed apostles, at the time when Gregory was pope, being desirous to spend some time of his pilgrimage upon earth in the neighbourhood of the holy place, that he might be more easily received by the saints into heaven. The same thing, about the same time, was done through the zeal of many of the English nation, noble and ignoble, laity and clergy, men and women.
archbishop theodore dies, berthwald succeeds him as archbishop, and, among many others whom he ordained, he made tobias, a most learned man, bishop of the church of rochester. [ 690.]
The year after that in which Cædwalla died at Rome, that is, 690 after the incarnation of our Lord, Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, departed this life, old and full of days, for he was eighty-eight years of age; which number of years he had been wont long before to foretell to his friends that he should live, the same having been revealed to him in a dream. He held the bishopric twenty-two years, and was buried in St. Peter’s church, where all the bodies of the bishops of Canterbury are buried. Of whom, as well as of his companions, of the same degree, it may rightly and truly be said, that their bodies are interred in peace, and their names shall live from generation to generation. For to say all in few words, the English churches received more advantage during the time of his pontificate than ever they had done before. His person, life, age, and death, are plainly described to all that resort thither, by the epitaph on his tomb, consisting of thirty-four heroic verses. The first whereof are these—
The four last are as follow—
Berthwald succeeded Theodore in the archbishopric, being abbat of the monastery of Raculph, which lies on the north side of the mouth of the river Genlade. He was a man learned in the Scriptures, and well instructed in ecclesiastical and monastic discipline, yet not to be compared to his predecessor. He was chosen bishop in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 692, on the first day of July, Withred and Suebhard being kings in Kent; but he was consecrated the next year, on Sunday the 29th of June, by Godwin, metropolitan bishop of France, and was enthroned on Sunday the 31st of August. Among the many bishops whom he ordained was Tobias, a man learned in the Latin, Greek, and Saxon tongues, otherwise also possessing much erudition, whom he consecrated in the stead of Gebmund, bishop of that see, deceased.
egbert, a holy man, would have gone into germany to preach, but could not; wictbert went, but meeting with no success, returned into ireland, from whence he came. [ 689.]
At that time the venerable servant of Christ, and priest, Egbert, whom I cannot name but with the greatest respect, and who, as was said before, lived a stranger in Ireland to obtain hereafter a residence in heaven, proposed to himself to do good to many, by taking upon him the apostolical work, and preaching the word of God to some of those nations that had not yet heard it; many of which nations he knew there were in Germany, from whom the Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain, are known to have derived their origin; for which reason they are still corruptly called Garmans by the neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisons, the Rugins, the Danes, the Huns, the Ancient Saxons, and the Boructuars (or Bructers). There are also in the same parts many other nations still following pagan rites, to whom the aforesaid soldier of Christ designed to repair, sailing round Britain, and to try whether he could deliver any of them from Satan, and bring them over to Christ; or if this could not be done, to go to Rome, to see and adore the hallowed thresholds of the holy apostles and martyrs of Christ.
But the Divine oracles and certain events proceeding from heaven obstructed his performing either of those designs; for when he had made choice of some most courageous companions, fit to preach the word of God, as being renowned for their learning and virtue; when all things were provided for the voyage, there came to him on a certain day in the morning one of the brethren, formerly disciple and minister in Britain to the beloved priest of God, Boisil, when the said Boisil was superior of the monastery of Melrose, under the Abbat Eata, as has been said above. This brother told him the vision which he had seen that night. “When after the morning hymns,” said he, “I had laid me down in my bed, and was fallen into a slumber, my former master and loving tutor, Boisil, appeared to me, and asked, ‘Whether I knew him?’ I said, ‘I do; you are Boisil.’ He answered, ‘I am come to bring Egbert a message from our Lord and Saviour, which nevertheless must be delivered to him by you. Tell him, therefore, that he cannot perform the journey he has undertaken; for it is the will of God that he should rather go to instruct the monasteries of Columba.’ ” Now Columba was the first teacher of Christianity to the Picts beyond the mountains northward, and the founder of the monastery in the island Hii, which was for a long time much honoured by many tribes of the Scots and Picts; wherefore he is now by some called Columbkill, the name being compounded from Columb and Cell. Egbert, having heard the vision, ordered the brother that had told it him, not to mention it to any other, lest it should happen to be an illusion. However, when he considered of it with himself, he apprehended that it was real; yet would not desist from preparing for his voyage to instruct those nations.
A few days after the aforesaid brother came again to him, saying, “That Boisil had that night again appeared to him after matins, and said, ‘Why did you tell Egbert that which I enjoined you in so light and cold a manner? However, go now and tell him, that whether he will or no, he shall go to Columb’s monastery, because their ploughs do not go straight; and he is to bring them into the right way.’ ” Hearing this, Egbert again commanded the brother not to reveal the same to any person. Though now assured of the vision, he nevertheless attempted to undertake his intended voyage with the brethren. When they had put aboard all that was requisite for so long a voyage, and had waited some days for a fair wind, there arose one night on a sudden so violent a storm, that the ship was run aground, and part of what had been put aboard spoiled. However, all that belonged to Egbert and his companions was saved. Then he, saying, like the prophet, “This tempest has happened upon my account,” laid aside the undertaking and stayed at home.
However, Wictbert, one of his companions, being famous for his contempt of the world and for his knowledge, for he had lived many years a stranger in Ireland, leading an eremitical life in great purity, went abroad, and arriving in Frisland, preached the word of salvation for the space of two years successively to that nation and to its king, Rathbed; but reaped no fruit of all his great labour among his barbarous auditors. Returning then to the beloved place of his peregrination, he gave himself up to our Lord in his wonted repose, and since he could not be profitable to strangers by teaching them the faith, he took care to be the more useful to his own people by the example of his virtue.
wilbrord, preaching in frisland, converted many to christ; his two companions, the hewalds, suffered martyrdom. [ 690.]
When the man of God, Egbert, perceived that neither he himself was permitted to preach to the Gentiles, being withheld, on account of some other advantage to the church, which had been foretold him by the Divine oracle; nor that Wictbert, when he went into those parts, had met with any success; he nevertheless still attempted to send some holy and industrious men to the work of the word, among whom was Wilbrord, a man eminent for his merit and rank in the priesthood. They arrived there, twelve in number, and turning aside to Pepin, duke of the Franks, were graciously received by him; and as he had lately subdued the Hither Frisland, and expelled King Rathbed, he sent them thither to preach, supporting them at the same time with his authority, that none might molest them in their preaching, and bestowing many favours on those who consented to embrace the faith. Thus it came to pass, that with the assistance of the Divine grace, they in a short time converted many from idolatry to the faith of Christ.
Two other priests of the English nation, who had long lived strangers in Ireland, for the sake of the eternal kingdom, following the example of the former, went into the province of the Ancient Saxons, to try whether they could there gain any to Christ by preaching. They both bore the same name, as they were the same in devotion, Hewald being the name of both, with this distinction, that, on account of the difference of their hair, the one was called Black Hewald and the other White Hewald. They were both piously religious, but Black Hewald was the more learned of the two in Scripture. On entering that province, these men took up their lodging in a certain steward’s house, and requested that he would conduct them to his lord, for that they had a message, and something to his advantage, to communicate to him; for those Ancient Saxons have no king, but several lords that rule their nation; and when any war happens, they cast lots indifferently, and on whomsoever the lot falls, him they follow and obey during the war; but as soon as the war is ended, all those lords are again equal in power. The steward received and entertained them in his house some days, promising to send them to his lord, as they desired.
But the barbarians finding them to be of another religion, by their continual prayer and singing of psalms and hymns, and by their daily offering the sacrifice of the saving oblation,—for they had with them sacred vessels and a consecrated table for an altar,—they began to grow jealous of them, lest if they should come into the presence of their chief, and converse with him, they should turn his heart from their gods, and convert him to the new religion of the Christian faith; and thus by degrees all their province should change its old worship for a new. Hereupon they, on a sudden, laid hold of them and put them to death; the White Hewald they slew immediately with the sword; but the Black they put to tedious torture and tore limb from limb, throwing them into the Rhine. The chief, whom they had desired to see, hearing of it, was highly incensed, that the strangers who desired to come to him had not been allowed; and therefore he sent and put to death all those peasants and burnt their village. The aforesaid priests and servants of Christ suffered on the 3rd of October.
Nor did their martyrdom want the honour of miracles; for their dead bodies having been cast into the river by the pagans, as has been said, were carried against the stream for the space of almost forty miles, to the place where their companions were. Moreover, a long ray of light, reaching up to heaven, shined every night over the place where they arrived, in the sight of the very pagans that had slain them. Moreover, one of them appeared in a vision by night to one of his companions, whose name was Tilmon, a man of illustrious and of noble birth, who from a soldier was become a monk, acquainting him that he might find their bodies in that place, where he should see rays of light reaching from heaven to the earth; which turned out accordingly; and their bodies being found, were interred with the honour due to martyrs; and the day of their passion or of their bodies being found, is celebrated in those parts with proper veneration. At length, Pepin, the most glorious general of the Franks, understanding these things, caused the bodies to be brought to him, and buried them with much honour in the church of the city of Cologne, on the Rhine. It is reported, that a spring gushed out in the place where they were killed, which to this day affords a plentiful stream.
how the venerable swidbert in britain, and wilbrord at rome, were ordained bishops for frisland. [ 692.]
At their first coming into Frisland, as soon as Wilbrord found he had leave given him by the prince to preach, he made haste to Rome, where Pope Sergius then presided over the apostolical see, that he might undertake the desired work of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, with his licence and blessing; and hoping to receive of him some relics of the blessed apostles and martyrs of Christ; to the end, that when he destroyed the idols, and erected churches in the nation to which he preached, he might have the relics of saints at hand to put into them, and having deposited them there, might accordingly dedicate those places to the honour of each of the saints whose relics they were. He was also desirous there to learn or to receive from thence many other things which so great a work required. Having obtained all that he wanted, he returned to preach.
At which time, the brothers who were in Frisland, attending the ministry of the word, chose out of their own number a man, modest of behaviour, and meek of heart, called Swidbert, to be ordained bishop for them. He, being sent into Britain, was consecrated by the most reverend Bishop Wilfrid, who, happening to be then driven out of his country, lived in banishment among the Mercians; for Kent had no bishop at that time, Theodore being dead, and Berthwald, his successor, who was gone beyond the sea, to be ordained, not having returned.
The said Swidbert, being made bishop, returned from Britain not long after, and went among the Boructuarians; and by his preaching brought many of them into the way of truth; but the Boructuarians being not long after subdued by the Ancient Saxons, those who had received the word were dispersed abroad; and the bishop himself repaired to Pepin, who, at the request of his wife, Blithryda, gave him a place of residence in a certain island on the Rhine, which, in their tongue, is called Inlitore; where he built a monastery, which his heirs still possess, and for a time led a most continent life, and there ended his days.
When they who went over had spent some years teaching in Frisland, Pepin, with the consent of them all, sent the venerable Wilbrord to Rome, where Sergius was still pope, desiring that he might be consecrated archbishop over the nation of the Frisons; which was accordingly done, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 696. He was consecrated in the church of the Holy Martyr Cecilia, on her feast-day; the pope gave him the name of Clement, and sent him back to his bishopric, fourteen days after his arrival at Rome.
Pepin gave him a place for his episcopal see, in his famous castle, which in the ancient language of those people is called Wiltaburg, that is, the town of the Wilts; but, in the French tongue, Utrecht. The most reverend prelate having built a church there, and preaching the word of faith far and near, drew many from their errors, and erected several churches and monasteries. For not long after he constituted other bishops in those parts, from among the brethren that either came with him or after him to preach there; some of which are now departed in our Lord; but Wilbrord himself, surnamed Clement, is still living, venerable for old age, having been thirty-six years a bishop, and sighing after the rewards of the heavenly life, after the many spiritual conflicts which he has waged.
of one among the northumbrians, who rose from the dead, and related the things which he had seen, some exciting terror and others delight. [ 696.]
At this time a memorable miracle, and like to those of former days, was wrought in Britain; for, to the end that the living might be saved from the death of the soul, a certain person, who had been some time dead, rose again to life, and related many remarkable things he had seen; some of which I have thought fit here briefly to take notice of. There was a master of a family in that district of the Northumbrians which is called Cuningham, who led a religious life, as did also all that belonged to him. This man fell sick, and his distemper daily increasing, being brought to extremity, he died in the beginning of the night; but in the morning early, he suddenly came to life again, and sat up, upon which all those that sat about the body weeping, fled away in a great fright, only his wife, who loved him best, though in a great consternation and trembling, remained with him. He, comforting her, said, “Fear not, for I am now truly risen from death, and permitted again to live among men; however, I am not to live hereafter as I was wont, but from henceforward after a very different manner.” Then rising immediately, he repaired to the oratory of the little town, and continuing in prayer till day, immediately divided all his substance into three parts; one whereof he gave to his wife, another to his children, and the third, belonging to himself, he instantly distributed among the poor. Not long after, he repaired to the monastery of Melrose, which is almost enclosed by the winding of the river Tweed, and having been shaven, went into a private dwelling, which the abbat had provided, where he continued till the day of his death, in such extraordinary contrition of mind and body, that though his tongue had been silent, his life declared that he had seen many things either to be dreaded or coveted, which others knew nothing of.
Thus he related what he had seen. “He that led me had a shining countenance and a bright garment, and we went on silently, as I thought, towards the north-east. Walking on, we came to a vale of great breadth and depth, but of infinite length; on the left it appeared full of dreadful flames, the other side was no less horrid for violent hail and cold snow flying in all directions; both places were full of men’s souls, which seemed by turns to be tossed from one side to the other, as it were by a violent storm; for when the wretches could no longer endure the excess of heat, they leaped into the middle of the cutting cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again into the middle of the unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of deformed spirits were thus alternately tormented far and near, as far as could be seen, without any intermission, I began to think that this perhaps might be hell, of whose intolerable flames I had often heard talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, ‘Do not believe so, for this is not the hell you imagine.’
“When he had conducted me, much frightened with that horrid spectacle, by degrees, to the farther end, on a sudden I saw the place begin to grow dusk and filled with darkness. When I came into it, the darkness, by degrees, grew so thick, that I could see nothing besides it and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on through the shades of night, on a sudden there appeared before us frequent globes of black flames, rising as it were out of a great pit, and falling back again into the same. When I had been conducted thither, my leader suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of darkness and this horrid vision, whilst those same globes of fire, without intermission, at one time flew up and at another fell back into the bottom of the abyss; and I observed that all the flames, as they ascended, were full of human souls, which, like sparks flying up with smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and again, when the vapour of the fire ceased, dropped down into the depth below. Moreover, an insufferable stench came forth with the vapours, and filled all those dark places.
“Having stood there a long time in much dread, not knowing what to do, which way to turn, or what end I might expect, on a sudden I heard behind me the noise of a most hideous and wretched lamentation, and at the same time a loud laughing, as of a rude multitude insulting captured enemies. When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I observed a gang of evil spirits dragging the howling and lamenting souls of men into the midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves laughed and rejoiced. Among those men, as I could discern, there was one shorn like a clergyman, a layman, and a woman. The evil spirits that dragged them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and as they went down deeper, I could no longer distinguish between the lamentation of the men and the laughing of the devils, yet I still had a confused sound in my ears. In the meantime, some of the dark spirits ascended from that flaming abyss, and running forward, beset me on all sides, and much perplexed me with their glaring eyes and the stinking fire which proceeded from their mouths and nostrils; and threatened to lay hold on me with burning tongs, which they had in their hands, yet they durst not touch me, though they frightened me. Being thus on all sides enclosed with enemies and darkness, and looking about on every side for assistance, there appeared behind me, on the way that I came, as it were, the brightness of a star shining amidst the darkness; which increased by degrees, and came rapidly towards me: when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that sought to carry me away with their tongs, dispersed and fled.
“He, whose approach put them to flight, was the same that led me before; who, then turning towards the right, began to lead me, as it were, towards the south-east, and having soon brought me out of the darkness, conducted me into an atmosphere of clear light. While he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the length and height of which, in every direction, seemed to be altogether boundless. I began to wonder why we went up to the wall, seeing no door, window, or path through it. When we came to the wall, we were presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and within it was a vast and delightful field, so full of fragrant flowers that the odour of its delightful sweetness immediately dispelled the stink of the dark furnace, which had pierced me through and through. So great was the light in this place, that it seemed to exceed the brightness of the day, or the sun in its meridian height. In this field were innumerable assemblies of men in white, and many companies seated together rejoicing. As he led me through the midst of those happy inhabitants, I began to think that this might, perhaps, be the kingdom of heaven, of which I had often heard so much. He answered to my thought, saying, ‘This is not the kingdom of heaven, as you imagine.’
“When we had passed those mansions of blessed souls and gone farther on, I discovered before me a much more beautiful light, and therein heard sweet voices of persons singing, and so wonderful a fragrancy proceeded from the place, that the other which I had before thought most delicious, then seemed to me but very indifferent; even as that extraordinary brightness of the flowery field, compared with this, appeared mean and inconsiderable. When I began to hope we should enter that delightful place, my guide on a sudden stood still; and then turning back, led me back by the way we came.
“When we returned to those joyful mansions of the souls in white, he said to me, ‘Do you know what all these things are which you have seen?’ I answered, I did not; and then he replied, ‘That vale you saw so dreadful for consuming flames and cutting cold, is the place in which the souls of those are tried and punished, who, delaying to confess and amend their crimes, at length have recourse to repentance at the point of death, and so depart this life; but nevertheless because they, even at their death, confessed and repented, they shall all be received into the kingdom of heaven at the day of judgment; but many are relieved before the day of judgment, by the prayers, alms, and fasting, of the living, and more especially by masses. That fiery and stinking pit, which you saw, is the mouth of hell, into which whosoever falls shall never be delivered to all eternity. This flowery place, in which you see these most beautiful young people, so bright and merry, is that into which the souls of those are received who depart the body in good works, but who are not so perfect as to deserve to be immediately admitted into the kingdom of heaven; yet they shall all, at the day of judgment, see Christ, and partake of the joys of his kingdom; for whoever are perfect in thought, word and deed, as soon as they depart the body, immediately enter into the kingdom of heaven; in the neighbourhood, whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet singing, with the fragrant odour and bright light. As for you, who are now to return to your body, and live among men again, if you will endeavour nicely to examine your actions, and direct your speech and behaviour in righteousness and simplicity, you shall, after death, have a place or residence among these joyful troops of blessed souls; for when I left you for a while, it was to know how you were to be disposed of.’ When he had said this to me, I much abhorred returning to my body, being delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place I beheld, and with the company of those I saw in it. However, I durst not ask him any questions; but in the meantime, on a sudden, I found myself alive among men.”
Now these and other things which this man of God saw, he would not relate to slothful persons and such as lived negligently; but only to those who, being terrified with the dread of torments, or delighted with the hopes of heavenly joys, would make use of his words to advance in piety. In the neighbourhood of his cell lived one Hemgils, a monk, eminent in the priesthood, which he honoured by his good works: he is still living, and leading a solitary life in Ireland, supporting his declining age with coarse bread and cold water. He often went to that man, and asking several questions, heard of him all the particulars of what he had seen when separated from his body; by whose relation we also came to the knowledge of those few particulars which we have briefly set down. He also related his visions to King Alfrid, a man most learned in all respects, and was by him so willingly and attentively heard, that at his request he was admitted into the monastery abovementioned, and received the monastic tonsure; and the said king, when he happened to be in those parts, very often went to hear him. At that time the religious and humble abbat and priest, Ethelwald, presided over the monastery, and now with worthy conduct possesses the episcopal see of the church of Lindisfarne.
He had a more private place of residence assigned him in that monastery, where he might apply himself to the service of his Creator in continual prayer. And as that place lay on the bank of the river, he was wont often to go into the same to do penance in his body, and many times to dip quite under the water, and to continue saying psalms or prayers in the same as long as he could endure it, standing still sometimes up to the middle, and sometimes to the neck in water; and when he went out from thence ashore, he never took off his cold and frozen garments till they grew warm and dry on his body. And when in the winter the half-broken pieces of ice were swimming about him, which he had himself broken, to make room to stand or dip himself in the river, those who beheld it would say, “It is wonderful, brother Drithelm (for so he was called), that you are able to endure such violent cold;” he simply answered, for he was a man of much simplicity and indifferent wit, “I have seen greater cold.” And when they said, “It is strange that you will endure such austerity;” he replied, “I have seen more austerity.” Thus he continued, through an indefatigable desire of heavenly bliss, to subdue his aged body with daily fasting, till the day of his being called away; and thus he forwarded the salvation of many by his words and example.
of another, who before his death saw a book containing all his sins, which was showed him by devils. [ 704-709.]
It happened quite the contrary with one in the province of the Mercians, whose visions and words, and also his behaviour, were neither advantageous to others nor to himself. In the reign of Coenred, who succeeded Ethelred, there was a layman in a military employment, no less acceptable to the king for his worldly industry, than displeasing to him for his private neglect of himself. The king often admonished him to confess and amend, and to forsake his wicked courses, before he should lose all time for repentance and amendment by a sudden death. Though frequently warned, he despised the words of salvation, and promised he would do penance at some future time. In the meantime, falling sick he was confined to his bed, and began to feel very severe pains. The king coming to him (for he loved the man), earnestly exhorted him, even then, before death, to repent of his offences. He answered, “He would not then confess his sins, but would do it when he was recovered of his sickness, lest his companions should upbraid him of having done that for fear of death, which he had refused to do in health.” He thought he then spoke very bravely, but it afterwards appeared that he had been miserably deluded by the wiles of the Devil.
The distemper still increasing, when the king came again to visit and instruct him, he cried out with a lamentable voice, “What will you have now? What are ye come for? for you can no longer do me any good.” The king answered, “Do not talk so; behave yourself like a man in his right mind.”—“I am not mad,” replied he, “but I have now all the guilt of my wicked conscience before my eyes.”—“What is the meaning of that?” rejoined the king. “Not long since,” said he, “there came into this room two most beautiful youths, and sat down by me, the one at my head and the other at my feet. One of them produced a very small and most curious book, and gave it me to read; looking into it, I there found all the good actions I had ever done in my life written down, and they were very few and inconsiderable. They took back the book and said nothing to me. Then, on a sudden, appeared an army of wicked and deformed spirits, encompassing this house without, and filling it within. Then he, who, by the blackness of his dismal face, and his sitting above the rest, seemed to be the chief of them, taking out a book horrid to behold, of a prodigious size, and of almost insupportable weight, commanded one of his followers to bring it to me to read. Having read it, I found therein most plainly written in black characters, all the crimes I ever committed, not only in word and deed, but even in the least thought; and he said to those men in white, who sat by me, ‘Why do you sit here, since you most certainly know that this man is ours?’ They answered, ‘You are in the right; take and add him to the number of the damned.’ This said, they immediately vanished, and two most wicked spirits rising, with forks in their hands, one of them struck me on the head, and the other on the foot. These strokes are now with great torture penetrating through my bowels to the inward parts of my body, and as soon as they meet I shall die, and the devils being ready to snatch me away I shall be dragged into hell.”
Thus talked that wretch in despair, and dying soon after, he is now in vain suffering in eternal torments that penance which he refused to suffer during a short time, that he might obtain forgiveness. Of whom it is manifest, that (as the holy Pope Gregory writes of certain persons) he did not see these things for his own sake, since they availed him only for the instruction of others, who, knowing of his death, should be afraid to put off the time of repentance, whilst they have leisure, lest, being prevented by sudden death, they should depart impenitent. His having books laid before him by the good or evil spirits, was done by Divine dispensation, that we may keep in mind that our actions and thoughts are not lost in the wind, but are all kept to be examined by the Supreme Judge, and will in the end be shown us either by friendly or hostile angels. As to the angels first producing a white book, and then the devils a black one; the former a very small one, the latter one very large; it is to be observed, that in his first years he did some good actions, all which he nevertheless obscured by the evil actions of his youth. If, on the contrary, he had taken care in his youth to correct the errors of his more tender years, and to cancel them in God’s sight by doing well, he might have been associated to the number of those of whom the Psalm says, “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are hid.” This story, as I learned it of the venerable Bishop Pechthelm, I have thought proper to relate in a plain manner, for the salvation of my hearers.
of another, who being at the point of death, saw the place of punishment appointed for him in hell. [ 704.]
I knew a brother myself, would to God I had not known him, whose name I could mention if it were necessary, and who resided in a noble monastery, but lived himself ignobly. He was frequently reproved by the brethren and elders of the place, and admonished to adopt a more regular life; and though he would not give ear to them, he was long patiently borne with by them, on account of his usefulness in temporal works, for he was an excellent carpenter; he was much addicted to drunkenness, and other pleasures of a lawless life, and more used to stop in his workhouse day and night, than to go to church to sing and pray, and hear the word of life with the brethren. For which reason it happened to him according to the saying, that he who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the church, will certainly be damned, and enter the gate of hell whether he will or no. For he falling sick, and being reduced to extremity, called the brethren, and with much lamentation, and like one damned, began to tell them, that he saw hell open, and Satan at the bottom thereof; as also Caiaphas, with the others that slew our Lord, by him delivered up to avenging flames. “In whose neighbourhood,” said he, “I see a place of eternal perdition provided for me, miserable wretch.” The brothers, hearing these words, began seriously to exhort him, that he should repent even then whilst he was in the flesh. He answered in despair, “I have no time now to change my course of life, when I have myself seen my judgment passed.”
Whilst uttering these words, he died without having received the saving viaticum, and his body was buried in the remotest parts of the monastery, nor did any one dare either to say masses or sing psalms, or even to pray for him. How far has our Lord divided the light from darkness! The blessed martyr, Stephen, being about to suffer death for the truth, saw the heavens open, the glory of God revealed, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And where he was to be after death, there he fixed the eyes of his mind, that he might die with the more satisfaction. On the contrary, this carpenter, of a dark mind and actions, when death was at hand, saw hell open and witnessed the damnation of the Devil and his followers; the unhappy wretch also saw his own prison among them, to the end that, despairing of his salvation, he might die the more miserably; but might by his perdition afford cause of salvation to the living who should hear of it. This happened lately in the province of the Bernicians, and being reported abroad far and near, inclined many to do penance for their sins without delay, which we hope may also be the result of this our narrative.
several churches of the scots, at the instance of adamnan, conformed to the catholic easter; the same person wrote a book about the holy places. [ 703.]
At this time a great part of the Scots in Ireland, and some also of the Britons in Britain, through the goodness of God, conformed to the proper and ecclesiastical time of keeping Easter. Adamnan, priest and abbat of the monks that were in the isle of Hii, was sent ambassador by his nation to Alfrid, king of the English, where he made some stay, observing the canonical rites of the church, and was earnestly admonished by many, who were more learned than himself, not to presume to live contrary to the universal custom of the Church, either in relation to the observance of Easter, or any other decrees whatsoever, considering the small number of his followers, seated in so distant a corner of the world; inconsequence of this he changed his mind, and readily preferred those things which he had seen and heard in the English churches, to the customs which he and his people had hitherto followed. For he was a good and wise man, and remarkably learned in Holy Scripture. Returning home, he endeavoured to bring his own people that were in the isle of Hii, or that were subject to that monastery, into the way of truth, which he had learned and embraced with all his heart; but in this he could not prevail. He then sailed over into Ireland, to preach to those people, and by modestly declaring the legal time of Easter, he reduced many of them, and almost all that were not under the dominion of those of Hii, to the Catholic unity, and taught them to keep the legal time of Easter.
Returning to his island, after having celebrated the canonical Easter in Ireland, he most earnestly inculcated the observance of the Catholic time of Easter in his monastery, yet without being able to prevail; and it so happened that he departed this life before the next year came round, the Divine goodness so ordaining it, that as he was a great lover of peace and unity, he should be taken away to everlasting life before he should be obliged, on the return of the time of Easter, to quarrel still more seriously with those that would not follow him in the truth.
This same person wrote a book about the holy places, most useful to many readers; his authority, from whom he procured his information, was Arculf, a French bishop, who had gone to Jerusalem for the sake of the holy places; and having seen all the Land of Promise, travelled to Damascus, Constantinople, Alexandria, and many islands, and returning home by sea, was by a violent storm forced upon the western coast of Britain. After many other accidents, he came to the aforesaid servant of Christ, Adamnan, who, finding him to be learned in the Scriptures, and acquainted with the holy places, entertained him zealously, and attentively gave ear to him, insomuch that he presently committed to writing all that Arculf said he had seen remarkable in the holy places. Thus he composed a work beneficial to many, and particularly to those who, being far removed from those places where the patriarchs and apostles lived, know no more of them than what they learn by reading. Adamnan presented this book to King Alfrid, and through his bounty it came to be read by lesser persons. The writer thereof was also well rewarded by him, and sent back into his country. I believe it will be acceptable to our readers if we collect some particulars from the same, and insert them in our History.
the account given by the aforesaid book of the place of our lord’s nativity, passion, and resurrection. [ 704.]
He wrote concerning the place of the nativity of our Lord, to this effect. “Bethlehem, the city of David, is seated on a narrow ridge, encompassed on all sides with valleys, being a thousand paces in length from east to west, the wall low without towers, built along the edge of the plain on the summit. In the east angle thereof is a sort of natural half cave, the outward part whereof is said to have been the place where our Lord was born; the inner is called our Lord’s Manger. This cave within is all covered with rich marble, over the place where our Lord is said particularly to have been born, and over it is the great church of St. Mary.” He likewise wrote about the place of his Passion and Resurrection in this manner. “Entering the city of Jerusalem on the north side, the first place to be visited, according to the disposition of the streets, is the church of Constantine, called the Martyrdom. It was built by the Emperor Constantine, in a royal and magnificent manner, on account of the cross of our Lord having been found there by his mother Helen. From thence, to the westward, appears the church of Golgotha, in which is also to be seen the rock which once bore the cross with our Saviour’s body fixed on it, and now it bears a large silver cross, with a great brazen wheel hanging over it surrounded with lamps. Under the place of our Lord’s cross, a vault is hewn out of the rock, in which sacrifice is offered on an altar for honourable persons deceased, their bodies remaining meanwhile in the street. To the westward of this is the Anastasis, that is, the round church of our Saviour’s resurrection, encompassed with three walls, and supported by twelve columns. Between each of the walls is a broad space, containing three altars at three different points of the middle wall; to the north, the south, and the west, it has eight doors or entrances through the three opposite walls; four whereof front to the north-east, and four to the south-east. In the midst of it is the round tomb of our Lord cut out of the rock, the top of which a man standing within can touch; the entrance is on the east; against it is still laid that great stone. To this day it bears the marks of the iron tools within, but on the outside it is all covered with marble to the very top of the roof, which is adorned with gold, and bears a large golden cross. In the north part of the monument, the tomb of our Lord is hewed out of the same rock, seven feet in length, and three palms above the floor; the entrance being on the south side, where twelve lamps burn day and night, four within the sepulchre, and eight above on the right hand side. The stone that was laid at the entrance to the monument is now cleft in two; nevertheless, the lesser part of it stands as a square altar before the door of the monument; the greater part makes another square altar at the east end of the same church, and is covered with linen cloths. The colour of the said monument and supulchre appears to be white and red.”
of the place of our lord’s ascension, and the tombs of the patriarchs. [ 704.]
Concerning the place of our Lord’s ascension, the aforesaid author writes thus. “Mount Olivet is equal in height to Mount Sion, but exceeds it in breadth and length; bearing few trees besides vines and olive trees, and is fruitful in wheat and barley, for the nature of that soil is not calculated for bearing things of large or heavy growth, but grass and flowers. On the very top of it, where our Lord ascended into heaven, is a large round church, having about it three vaulted porches. For the inner house could not be vaulted and covered, because of the passage of our Lord’s body; but it has an altar on the east side, covered with a narrow roof. In the midst of it are to be seen the last prints of our Lord’s feet, the sky appearing open above where he ascended; and though the earth is daily carried away by believers, yet still it remains as before, and retains the same impression of the feet. Near this lies an iron wheel, as high as a man’s neck, having an entrance towards the west, with a great lamp hanging above it on a pulley, and burning night and day. In the western part of the same church are eight windows; and eight lamps, hanging opposite to them by cords, cast their light through the glass as far as Jerusalem; this light is said to strike the hearts of the beholders with a sort of joy and humility. Every year, on the day of the Ascension, when mass is ended, a strong blast of wind is said to come down, and to cast to the ground all that are in the church.”
Of the situation of Hebron, and the tombs of the fathers, he writes thus. “Hebron, once the city and metropolis of David’s kingdom, now only showing what it was by its ruins, has, one furlong to the east of it, a double cave in the valley, where the tombs of the patriarchs are enclosed with a square wall, their heads lying to the north. Each of the tombs is covered with a single stone, worked like the stones of a church, and of a white colour, for three patriarchs. Adam’s is of more mean and common workmanship, and lies not far from them at the farthest northern extremity. There are also some poorer and smaller monuments of three women. The hill Mamre is a thousand paces from the monuments, and is full of grass and flowers, having a flat plain on the top. In the northern part of it, Abraham’s oak, being a stump about twice as high as a man, is enclosed in a church.”
Thus much have we collected from the works of the aforesaid writer, keeping to the sense of his words, but more briefly delivered, and have thought fit to insert in our History. Whosoever desires to see more of the contents of that book, may see it either in the same, or in that which we have lately epitomised from it.
the south saxons received eadbert and eolla, and the west saxons, daniel and aldhelm, for their bishops. of the writings of the same aldhelm. [ 705.]
In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 705, Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians, died just before the end of the twentieth year of his reign. His son Osred, a boy about eight years of age, succeeding him in the throne, reigned eleven years. In the beginning of his reign, Hedda, bishop of the West Saxons, departed to the heavenly kingdom; for he was a good and just man, and exercised his episcopal duties rather by his innate love of virtue, than by what he had gained from learning. The most reverend prelate, Pechthelm, of whom we shall speak in the proper place, and who was a long time either deacon or monk with his successor Aldhelm, is wont to relate that many miraculous cures have been wrought in the place where he died, through the merit of his sanctity; and that the man of that province used to carry the dust from thence for the sick, which, when they had put into water, the sprinkling or drinking thereof restored health to many sick men and beasts; so that the holy earth being frequently carried away, there was a considerable hole left.
Upon his death the bishopric of that province was divided into two dioceses. One of them was given to Daniel, which he governs to this day; the other to Aldhelm, wherein he most worthily presided four years; both of them were well instructed, as well in ecclesiastical affairs as in the knowledge of the Scriptures. Aldhelm, when he was only a priest and abbat of the monastery of Malmesbury, by order of a synod of his own nation, wrote a notable book against the error of the Britons, in not celebrating Easter at the proper time, and in doing several other things not consonant to the purity and the peace of the church; and by the reading of this book he persuaded many of them, who were subject to the West Saxons, to adopt the Catholic celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. He likewise wrote a notable book on Virginity, which, in imitation of Sedulius, he composed double, that is, in hexameter verse and prose. He wrote some other books, as being a man most learned in all respects, for he had a clean style, and was, as I have said, wonderful for ecclesiastical and liberal erudition. On his death, Forthere was made bishop in his stead, and is living at this time, being likewise a man very learned in Holy Writ.
Whilst they were bishops, it was decreed in a synod, that the province of the South Saxons, which till then belonged to the diocese of the city of Winchester, where Daniel then presided, should also have an episcopal see, and a bishop of its own. Eadbert, at that time abbat of the monastery of Bishop Wilfrid, of blessed memory, called Selsey, was consecrated their first bishop. On his death, Eolla succeeded in the bishopric. He also died some years since, and the bishopric has been discontinued to this day.
coinred, king of the mercians, and offa, of the east saxons, ended their days at rome, in the monastic habit. of the life and death of bishop wilfrid. [ 709.]
In the fourth year of the reign of Osred, Coinred, who had for some time nobly governed the kingdom of the Mercians, did a much more noble act, by quitting the throne of his kingdom, and going to Rome, where being shorn, when Constantine was pope, and made a monk at the relics of the apostles, he continued to his last hour in prayers, fasting and alms-deeds. He was succeeded in the throne by Coelred, the son of Ethelred, who had been king before Coinred. With him went the son of Sighere, king of the East Saxons above-mentioned, whose name was Offa, a youth of most lovely age and beauty, and most earnestly desired by all his nation to be their king. He, with like devotion, quitted his wife, lands, kindred and country, for Christ and for the Gospel, that he might “receive an hundredfold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.” He also, when they came to the holy places at Rome, receiving the tonsure, and adopting a monastic life, attained the long wished-for sight of the blessed apostles in heaven.
The same year that they departed from Britain, the celebrated prelate, Wilfrid, died in the province of Undalum, after he had been bishop forty-five years. His body, being laid in a coffin, was carried to his monastery, called Ripon, and there buried in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter, with the honour due to so great a prelate. We will now turn back, and briefly mention some particulars of his life. Being a boy of a good disposition, and behaving himself worthily at that age, he conducted himself so modestly and discreetly in all respects, that he was deservedly beloved, respected, and cherished by his elders as one of themselves. At fourteen years of age he preferred the monastic to the secular life; which, when he had signified to his father, for his mother was dead, he readily consented to his heavenly wishes, and advised him to persist in his holy resolution. Accordingly he came to the isle of Lindisfarne, and there giving himself up to the service of the monks, he took care diligently to learn and to perform those things which belong to monastic purity and piety; and being of an acute understanding, he in a very short time learned the psalms and some books, before he was shorn, but when he was already become very remarkable for the greater virtues of humility and obedience: for which he was deservedly beloved and respected by his equals and elders. Having served God some years in that monastery, and being a clear-sighted youth, he observed that the way to virtue taught by the Scots was not perfect, and he resolved to go to Rome, to see what ecclesiastical or monastic rites were in use there. The brethren being made acquainted therewith, commended his design, and advised him to put it into execution. He then repaired to Queen Eanfled, to whom he was well known, and who had got him into that monastery by her advice and assistance, and acquainted her that he was desirous to visit the churches of the apostles. She, being pleased with the youth’s resolution, sent him into Kent, to King Earconbert, who was her uncle’s son, requesting that he would send him to Rome in an honourable manner. At that time, Honorius, one of the disciples of the holy Pope Gregory, and well instructed in ecclesiastical institutes, was archbishop there. Whilst he made some stay there, and, being a youth of an active spirit, diligently applied himself to learn those things which he undertook, another youth, called Biscop, or otherwise Benedict, of the English nobility, arrived there, being likewise desirous to go to Rome, of which we have before made mention.
The king gave him Wilfrid for a companion, with orders to conduct him to Rome. When they came to Lyons, Wilfrid was detained there by Dalfin, the bishop of that city; but Benedict hastened on to Rome. That prelate was delighted with the youth’s prudent discourse, the gracefulness of his aspect, the alacrity of his behaviour, and the sedateness and gravity of his thoughts; for which reason he plentifully supplied him and his companions with all necessaries, as long as they stayed with him; and further offered to commit to him the government of a considerable part of France, to give him a maiden daughter of his own brother to wife, and to receive him as his adopted son. He returned thanks for the favour, which he was pleased to show to a stranger, and answered, that he had resolved upon another course of life, and for that reason had left his country and set out for Rome.
Hereupon the bishop sent him to Rome, furnishing him with a guide and plenty of all things requisite for his journey, earnestly requesting that he would come that way when he returned into his own country. Wilfrid arriving at Rome, by constantly applying himself to prayer and the study of ecclesiastical affairs, as he had before proposed to himself, gained the friendship of the most holy and learned Boniface, the archdeacon, who was also counsellor to the pope, by whose instructions he regularly learned the four Gospels, the true calculation of Easter, and many other things appertaining to ecclesiastical discipline, which he could not attain in his own country. When he had spent some months there, in successful study, he returned into France, to Dalfin; and having stayed with him three years, received from him the tonsure, and was so much beloved that he had thoughts of making him his heir; but this was prevented by the bishop’s untimely death, and Wilfrid was reserved to be bishop of his own, that is, the English, nation; for Queen Baldhilda sent soldiers with orders to put the bishop to death; whom Wilfrid, his clerk, attended to the place where he was to be beheaded, being very desirous, though the bishop opposed it, to die with him; but the executioners, understanding that he was a stranger, and of the English nation, spared him, and would not put him to death with his bishop.
Returning to England, he was admitted to the friendship of King Alfrid, who had always followed the catholic rules of the Church; and therefore finding him to be a Catholic, he gave him land of ten families at the place called Stanford; and not long after, the monastery, of thirty families, at the place called Ripon; which place he had lately given to those that followed the doctrine of the Scots, to build a monastery upon. But, forasmuch as they afterwards, being left to their choice, would rather quit the place than adopt the catholic Easter, and other canonical rites, according to the custom of the Roman Apostolic Church, he gave the same to him, whom he found to follow better discipline and better customs.
At the same time, by the said king’s command, he was ordained priest in the same monastery, by Agilbert, bishop of the West Saxons, above-mentioned, the king being desirous that a man of so much piety and learning should continue with him as priest and teacher; and not long after, having discovered and banished the Scottish sect, as was said above, he, with the advice and consent of his father Oswy, sent him into France, to be consecrated bishop, at about thirty years of age, the same Agilbert being then bishop of Paris, and eleven other bishops meeting at the consecration of the new bishop, that function was most honourably performed. Whilst he was yet beyond the sea, Chad, a holy man, was consecrated bishop of York, by command of King Oswy, as has been said above; and having ably ruled that church three years, he retired to govern his monastery of Lestingau, and Wilfrid was made bishop of all the province of the Northumbrians.
Afterwards, in the reign of Egfrid, he was expelled his bishopric, and others were consecrated bishops in his stead, of whom mention has been made above. Designing to go to Rome, to answer for himself before the pope, when he was aboard the ship, the wind blew hard west, and he was driven into Frisland, and honourably received by that barbarous people and their King Aldgist, to whom he preached Christ, and instructed many thousands of them in the word of truth, washing them from their abominations in the laver of salvation. Thus he there began the work of the Gospel which was afterwards finished by Wilbrord, a most reverend bishop of Jesus Christ. Having spent the winter there with his new converts, he set out again on his way to Rome, where his cause being tried before Pope Agatho and several bishops, he was by their universal consent, acquitted of what had been laid to his charge, and declared worthy of his bishopric.
At the same time, the said Pope Agatho assembling a synod at Rome, of one hundred and twenty-five bishops, against those that taught there was only one will and operation in our Lord and Saviour, ordered Wilfrid also to be summoned, and, when seated among the bishops, to declare his own faith and the faith of the province or island from whence he came; and they being found orthodox in their faith, it was thought fit to record the same among the acts of that synod, which was done in this manner: “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city of York, having referred to the Apostolic See, and being by that authority acquitted of every thing, whether specified against him or not, and having taken his seat in judgment, with one hundred and twenty-five other bishops in the synod, made confession of the true and catholic faith, and subscribed the same in the name of the northern part of Britain and Ireland, inhabited by the English and Britons, as also by the Scots and Picts.”
After this, returning to Britain, he converted the province of the South Saxons from their idolatrous worship. He also sent ministers to the Isle of Wight; and in the second year of Alfrid, who reigned after Egfrid, was restored to his see and bishopric by that king’s invitation. However, five years after, being again accused by that same king and several bishops, he was again expelled his diocese. Coming to Rome, together with his accusers, and being allowed to make his defence before a number of bishops and the apostolic Pope John, it was declared by the unanimous judgment of them all, that his accusers had in part laid false accusations to his charge; and the aforesaid pope undertook to write to the kings of the English, Ethelred and Alfrid, to cause him to be restored to his bishopric, because he had been falsely accused.
His acquittal was much forwarded by the reading of the synod of Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, which had been formally held when Wilfrid was in Rome, and sat in council among the bishops, as has been said before. For that synod being, on account of the trial, by order of the apostolic pope, read before the nobility and a great number of the people for some days, they came to the place where it was written, “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city of York, having referred his cause to the Apostolic See, and being by that power cleared,” etc., as above stated. This being read, the hearers were amazed, and the reader stopping, they began to ask of one another, who that Bishop Wilfrid was? Then Boniface, the pope’s counsellor, and many others, who had seen him there in the days of Pope Agatho, said, he was the same bishop that lately came to Rome, to be tried by the Apostolic See, being accused by his people, and who, said they, having long since been here upon such like accusation, the cause and controversy between both parties being heard and discussed, was proved by Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, to have been wrongfully expelled from his bishopric, and so much honoured by him, that he commanded him to sit in the council of bishops which he had assembled, as a man of untainted faith and an upright mind. This being heard, the pope and all the rest said, that a man of such great authority, who had exercised the episcopal function near forty years, ought not to be condemned, but being cleared of all the crimes laid to his charge, to return home with honour.
Passing through France, on his way back to Britain, on a sudden he fell sick, and the distemper increasing, was so ill, that he could not ride, but was carried in his bed. Being thus come to the city of Meaux, in France, he lay four days and nights, as if he had been dead, and only by his faint breathing showed that he had any life in him; having continued so four days, without meat or drink, speaking or hearing, he, at length, on the fifth day, in the morning, as it were awakening out of a dead sleep, sat up in bed, and opening his eyes, saw numbers of brethren singing and weeping about him, and fetching a sigh, asked where Acca, the priest, was? This man, being called, immediately came in, and seeing him thus recovered and able to speak, knelt down, and returned thanks to God, with all the brethren there present. When they had sat awhile, and begun to discourse, with much reverence, on the heavenly judgments, the bishop ordered the rest to go out for an hour, and spoke to the priest, Acca, in this manner—
“A dreadful vision has now appeared to me, which I wish you to hear and keep secret, till I know how God will please to dispose of me. There stood by me a certain person, remarkable for his white garments, telling me he was Michael, the Archangel, and said, ‘I am sent to save you from death: for the Lord has granted you life, through the prayers and tears of your disciples, and the intercession of his blessed mother Mary, of perpetual virginity; wherefore I tell you, that you shall now recover from this sickness; but be ready, for I will return to visit you at the end of four years. But when you come into your country, you shall recover most of the possessions that have been taken from you, and shall end your days in perfect peace.” The bishop accordingly recovered, at which all persons rejoiced, and gave thanks to God, and setting forward on his journey, arrived in Britain.
Having read the letters which he brought from the apostolic pope, Bertwald, the archbishop, and Ethelred, who had been formerly king, but was then an abbat, readily took his part; for the said Ethelred, calling to him Coinred, whom he had made king in his own stead, he requested of him to be friends with Wilfrid, in which request he prevailed; but Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians, refused to admit him. However he died soon after, and his son Osred obtained the crown, when a synod was assembled, near the river Nidd, and after some contesting on both sides, at length, by the consent of all, he was admitted to preside over his church; and thus he lived in peace four years, till the day of his death. He died on the 12th of October, in his monastery, which he had in the province of Undalum, under the government of the Abbat Cuthbald; and by the ministry of the brethren, he was carried to his first monastery of Ripon, and buried in the church of Saint Peter the apostle, close by the south end of the altar, as has been mentioned above, with this epitaph over him—
albinus succeeded to the religious abbat hadrian, and acca to bishop wilfrid. [ 709.]
The next year after the death of the aforesaid father (Wilfrid), that is, in the first year of King Osred, the most reverend father, Abbat Hadrian, fellow labourer in the word of God with Theodore the archbishop of blessed memory, died, and was buried in the church of the blessed Mother of God, in his own monastery, this being the forty-first year from his being sent by Pope Vitalian with Theodore, and the thirty-ninth after his arrival in England. Of whose learning, as well as that of Theodore, one testimony among others is, that Albinus, his disciple, who succeeded him in the government of his monastery, was so well instructed in the study of the Scriptures, that he knew the Greek tongue to no small perfection, and the Latin as thoroughly as the English, which was his native language.
Acca, his priest, succeeded Wilfrid in the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad; being himself a most active man, and great in the sight of God and man, he much adorned and added to the structure of his church, which is dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew. For he made it his business, and does so still, to procure relics of the blessed apostles and martyrs of Christ from all parts, to place them on altars, dividing the same by arches in the walls of the church. Besides which, he diligently gathered the histories of their sufferings, together with other ecclesiastical writings, and erected there a most numerous and noble library. He likewise industriously provided holy vessels, lights, and such like things as appertain to the adorning of the house of God. He in like manner invited to him a celebrated singer, called Maban, who had been taught to sing by the successors of the disciples of the blessed Gregory in Kent, for him to instruct himself and his clergy, and kept him twelve years, to teach such ecclesiastical songs as were not known, and to restore those to their former state which were corrupted either by want of use, or through neglect. For Bishop Acca himself was a most expert singer, as well as most learned in Holy Writ, most pure in the confession of the catholic faith, and most observant in the rules of ecclesiastical institution; nor did he ever cease to be so till he received the rewards of his pious devotion, having been bred up and instructed among the clergy of the most holy and beloved of God, Bosa, bishop of York. Afterwards, coming to Bishop Wilfrid in hopes of improving himself, he spent the rest of his life under him till that bishop’s death, and going with him to Rome, learned there many profitable things concerning the government of the holy church, which he could not have learned in his own country.
abbat ceolfrid sent the king of the picts architects to build a church, and with them an epistle concerning the catholic easter and tonsure. [ 710.]
At that time, Naitan, king of the Picts, inhabiting the northern parts of Britain, taught by frequent meditation on the ecclesiastical writings, renounced the error which he and his nation had till then been under, in relation to the observance of Easter, and submitted, together with his people, to celebrate the catholic time of our Lord’s resurrection. For performing this with the more ease and greater authority, he sought assistance from the English, whom he knew to have long since formed their religion after the example of the holy Roman Apostolic Church. Accordingly he sent messengers to the venerable Ceolfrid, abbat of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, which stands at the mouth of the river Wear, and near the river Tyne, at the place called Jarrow, which he gloriously governed after Benedict, of whom we have before spoken; desiring, that he would write him a letter containing arguments, by the help of which he might the better confute those that presumed to keep Easter out of the due time; as also concerning the form and manner of tonsure for distinguishing the clergy; not to mention that he himself possessed much information in these particulars. He also prayed to have architects sent him to build a church in his nation after the Roman manner, promising to dedicate the same in honour of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and that he and all his people would always follow the custom of the holy Roman Apostolic Church, as far as their remoteness from the Roman language and nation would allow. The reverend Abbat Ceolfrid, complying with his desires and request, sent the architects he desired, and the following letter—
“To the most excellent lord, and most glorious King Naitan, Abbat Ceolfrid, greeting in the Lord. We most readily and willingly endeavour, according to your desire, to explain to you the catholic observance of holy Easter, according to what we have learned of the Apostolic See, as you, devout king, with a religious intention, have requested; for we know, that whenever the Church applies itself to learn, to teach, and to assert the truth, which are the affairs of our Lord, the same is given to it from heaven. For a certain worldly writer most truly said, that the world would be most happy if either kings were philosophers, or philosophers were kings. For if a worldly man could judge truly of the philosophy of this world, and form a correct choice concerning the state of this world, how much more is it to be wished, and most earnestly to be prayed for by the citizens of the heavenly country, who are travelling through this world, that the more powerful any persons are in this world, the more they may labour to be acquainted with the commands of Him who is the Supreme Judge, and by their example and authority may induce those that are committed to their charge, as well as themselves, to keep the same.
“There are three rules in the Sacred Writings, on account of which it is not lawful for any human authority to change the time of keeping Easter, which has been prescribed to us; two whereof are divinely established in the law of Moses; the third is added in the Gospel by means of the passion and resurrection of our Lord. For the law enjoined, that the Passover should be kept in the first month of the year, and the third week of that month, that is, from the fifteenth day to the one-and-twentieth. It is added, by apostolic institution, in the Gospel, that we are to wait for our Lord’s day in that third week, and to keep the beginning of the Paschal time on the same. Which threefold rule whosoever shall rightly observe, will never err in fixing the Paschal feast. But if you desire to be more plainly and fully informed in all these particulars, it is written in Exodus, where the people of Israel, being about to be delivered out of Egypt, are commanded to keep the first Passover, that the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.’ And a little lower, ‘And he shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.’ By which words it most plainly appears, that thus in the Paschal observance mention is made of the fourteenth day, not that the Passover is commanded to be kept on that day: but the lamb is commanded to be killed on the evening of the fourteenth day; that is, on the fifteenth day of the moon, which is the beginning of the third week, when the moon appears in the sky. And because it was on the night of the fifteenth moon, when, by the slaughter of the Egyptians, Israel was redeemed from a long captivity, therefore it is said, ‘Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread.’ By which words all the third week of the same month is decreed to be kept solemn. But lest we should think that those same seven days were to be reckoned from the fourteenth to the twentieth, God immediately adds, ‘Even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel;’ and so on, till he says, ‘For in this selfsame day I will bring your army out of the land of Egypt.’
“Thus he calls that the first day of unleavened bread, in which he was to bring their army out of Egypt. But it is evident, that they were not brought out of Egypt on the fourteenth day, in the evening whereof the lamb was killed. and which is properly called the Passover or Phase, but on the fifteenth day, as is most plainly written in the book of Numbers. ‘Departing therefore from Ramesse on the fifteenth day of the first month, the next day the Israelites kept the Passover with a high hand.’ Thus the seven days of unleavened bread on the first whereof the people of God were brought out of Egypt, are to be reckoned from the beginning of the third week, as has been said, that is, from the fourteenth day of the first month, till the one-and-twentieth of the same month, that day included. But the fourteenth day is noted down separately from this number, by the name of the Passover, as is plainly made out by what follows in Exodus: where when it is said, ‘For in this same day I will bring your army out of the land of Egypt;’ it is presently added, ‘You shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one-and-twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses.’ Now, who is there that does not perceive, that there are not only seven days, but rather eight, from the fourteenth to the one-and-twentieth, if the fourteenth be also reckoned in the number? But if, as by diligent study of Scriptures appears to be the truth, we reckon from the evening of the fourteenth day to the evening of the one-and-twentieth, we shall certainly find, that the same fourteenth day gives its evening for the beginning of the Paschal feast; so that the sacred solemnity contains no more than only seven nights and as many days. By which our definition is proved to be true, wherein we said, that the Paschal time is to be celebrated in the first month of the year, and the third week of the same. For it is really the third week, because it begins on the evening of the fourteenth day, and ends on the evening of the one-and-twentieth.
“But since Christ our Paschal Lamb is slain, and has made the Lord’s day, which among the ancients was called the first after the Sabbath, a solemn day to us for the joy of his resurrection, the apostolic tradition has so inserted it into the Paschal festivals as to decree, that nothing in the least be anticipated, or detracted from the time of the legal Passover; but rather ordains, that the same first month should be waited for, pursuant to the precept of the law, and accordingly the fourteenth day of the same, and the evening thereof. And when this day should happen to fall on the Sabbath, every one in his family should take a lamb, and kill it in the evening, that is, that all the churches throughout the world, composing one catholic church, should provide bread and wine for the mystery of the flesh and blood of the unspotted Lamb ‘that took away the sins of the world;’ and after the solemnity of reading the lessons and prayers of the Paschal ceremonies, they should offer up these things to the Lord, in hopes of future redemption. For that same night in which the people of Israel were delivered out of Egypt by the blood of the Lamb, is the very same in which all the people of God were, by Christ’s resurrection, delivered from eternal death. Then, on the morning of the Lord’s day, they should celebrate the first day of the Paschal festival; for that is the day on which our Lord, with much joy of pious revelation, made known the glory of his resurrection. The same is the first day of unleavened bread, concerning which it is distinctly written in Leviticus, ‘In the fourteenth day of the first month, at even, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month, is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord; seven days ye must eat unleavened bread; the first day shall be most solemn and holy.’
“If therefore it could be that the Lord’s day should always happen on the fifteenth day of the first month, that is, on the fifteenth moon, we might always celebrate Easter at the very same time with the ancient people of God, though the nature of the mystery be different, as we do it with one and the same faith. But in regard that the day of the week does not keep pace exactly with the moon, the apostolical tradition, which was preached at Rome by St. Peter, and confirmed at Alexandria by Mark the Evangelist, his interpreter, appointed that when the first month was come, and in it the evening of the fourteenth day, we should also wait for the Lord’s day, which falls between the fifteenth and the one-and-twentieth days of the same month. For on whichever of those days it shall fall, Easter will be properly kept on the same; as it is one of those seven days on which the unleavened bread is ordered to be kept. Thus it comes to pass that our Easter never deviates from the third week of the first month, but either observes the whole, or at least some of the seven legal days of unleavened bread. For though it takes in but one of them, that is, the seventh, which the Scripture so highly commends, saying, ‘But the seventh day shall be more solemn and holy, ye shall do no servile work therein,’ none can lay it to our charge, that we do not rightly keep our Lord’s Paschal day, which we received from the Gospel, in the third week of the first month as the Law prescribes.
“The catholic reason of this observance being thus explained; the unreasonable error, on the other hand, of those who, without any necessity, presume either to anticipate, or to go beyond the term prescribed in the Law, is manifest. For they that think the Lord’s day of Easter is to be observed from the fourteenth day of the first month till the twentieth moon, anticipate the time prescribed in the Law, without any necessary reason; for when they begin to celebrate the vigil of the holy night from the evening of the thirteenth day, it is plain that they make that day the beginning of their Easter, whereof they find no mention in the Law; and when they refuse to celebrate our Lord’s Easter on the one-and-twentieth day of the month, they wholly exclude that day from their solemnity, which the Law often recommends as memorable for the greater festival; and thus, perverting the proper order, they place Easter day in the second week, and sometimes keep it entirely in the same, and never bring it to the seventh day of the third week. And again, because they rather think that Easter is to be kept on the sixteenth day of the said month, and so to the two-and-twentieth, they no less erroneously, though the contrary way, deviate from the right way of truth, and as it were avoiding to be shipwrecked on Scylla, they run on and are drowned in the whirlpool of Charybdis. For when they teach that Easter is to be begun at the rising of the sixteenth moon of the first month, that is, from the evening of the fifteenth day, it is manifest that they altogether exclude from their solemnity the fourteenth day of the same month, which the Law firstly and chiefly recommends; so that they scarcely touch upon the evening of the fifteenth day, on which the people of God were delivered from the Egyptian servitude, and on which our Lord, by his blood, rescued the world from the darkness of sin, and on which being also buried, He gave us hopes of a blessed repose after death.
“And the same persons, taking upon themselves the penalty of their error, when they place the Lord’s day of Easter on the twenty-second day of the month, openly transgress and exceed the legal term of Easter, as beginning the Easter on the evening of that day in which the law appointed it to be finished and completed; and appoint that to be the first day of Easter, whereof no mention is anywhere found in the Law, viz. the first of the fourth week. And they are sometimes mistaken, not only in defining and computing the moon’s age, but also in finding the first month; but this controversy is longer than can or ought to be contained in this letter. I will only say thus much, that by the vernal equinox, it may always be found, without the chance of an error, which is the first month of the year, according to the lunar calculation, and which the last. But the equinox, according to the opinion of all the Eastern nations, and particularly of the Egyptians, who exceed all other learned men in that calculation, usually happens on the twelfth day before the kalends of April, as we also prove by horological inspection. Whatever moon therefore is at the full before the equinox, being on the fourteenth or fifteenth day, the same belongs to the last month of the foregoing year, and consequently is not proper for the celebration of Easter; but that moon which is full after the equinox, or on the very equinox, belongs to the first month, and in it, without a doubt, the ancients were wont to celebrate the Passover; and we also ought to keep Easter when the Sunday comes. And that this must be so, there is this cogent reason, because it is written in Genesis, that ‘God made two lights; a greater light to rule the day, and a lesser light to rule the night.’ Or, as another edition has it, ‘A greater light to begin the day, and a lesser to begin the night.’ The sun, therefore, proceeding from the midst of the east, fixed the vernal equinox by his rising, and afterwards the moon, when the sun set in the evening, followed full from the midst of the east; thus every year the same first month of the moon must be observed in the like order, so that the full moon must be either on the very day of the equinox, as was done from the beginning, or after it is gone by. But if the full of the moon shall happen to be but one day before the time of the equinox, the aforesaid reason proves that such moon is not to be assigned to the first month of the new year, but rather to the last of the preceding, and that it is therefore not proper for the celebration of the Paschal festival.
“Now if it will please you likewise to hear the mystical reason in this matter, we are commanded to keep Easter in the first month of the year, which is also called the month of the new fruit, because we are to celebrate the mysteries of our Lord’s resurrection and our deliverance, with our minds renewed to the love of heavenly things. We are commanded to keep it in the third week of the same month, because Christ, who had been promised before the Law, and under the Law, came with grace, in the third age of the world, to be slain as our Passover; and rising from the dead the third day after the offering of his passion, He wished this to be called the Lord’s day, and the festival of his resurrection to be yearly celebrated on the same. For we also, in this manner only, can truly celebrate his solemnity, if we take care with Him to keep the Passover, that is, the passage out of this world to the Father, by faith, hope, and charity. We are commanded to observe the full moon of the Paschal month after the vernal equinox, to the end, that the sun may first make the day longer than the night, and then the moon may afford the world her full orb of light; inasmuch as first ‘the sun of righteousness, in whose wings is salvation,’ that is, our Lord Jesus, by the triumph of his resurrection, dispelled all the darkness of death, and so ascending into heaven, filled his Church, which is often signified by the name of the moon, with the light of inward grace, by sending down upon her his Spirit. Which plan of salvation the prophet had in his mind, when he said ‘The sun was exalted and the moon stood in her order.’
“He, therefore, who shall contend that the full Paschal moon can happen before the equinox, deviates from the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, in the celebration of the greatest mysteries, and agrees with those who confide that they may be saved without the grace of Christ forerunning them; and who presume to teach that they might have attained to perfect righteousness, though the true light had never vanquished the darkness of the world, by dying and rising again. Thus, after the equinoctial rising of the sun, and after the subsequent full moon of the first month, that is, after the end of the fourteenth day of the same month, all which, according to the law, ought to be observed, we still, by the instruction of the Gospel, wait in the third week for the Lord’s day; and thus, at length, we celebrate our due Easter solemnity, to show that we do not, with the ancients, honour the shaking off of the Egyptian yoke; but that, with devout faith and affection, we worship the redemption of the whole world; which having been prefigured in the deliverance of God’s ancient people, was completed in Christ’s resurrection, to make it appear that we rejoice in the sure and certain hope of the day of our own resurrection, which we believe will happen on the same Lord’s day.
“Now this calculation of Easter, which we show you is to be followed, is contained in a circle or revolution of nineteen years, which began long since, that is, in the very times of the apostles, especially at Rome and in Egypt, as has been said above. But by the industry of Eusebius, who took his surname from the blessed martyr Pamphilus, it was reduced to a plainer system; insomuch that what till then used to be sent about to all the several churches by the patriarch of Alexandria, might, from that time forward, be most easily known by all men, the course of the fourteenth day of the moon being regularly ordered. This Paschal calculation, Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, composed for the Emperor Theodosius, for a hundred years to come. Cyril also, his successor, comprised a series of ninety-five years in five revolutions of nineteen years. After whom, Dionysius Exiguus added as many more, in the same manner, reaching down to our own time. The expiration of these is now drawing near, but there is so great a number of calculators, that even in our churches throughout Britain, there are many who, having learned the ancient rules of the Egyptians, can with great ease carry on those revolutions of the Paschal times for any distant number of years, even to five hundred and thirty-two years, if they will; after the expiration of which, all that belongs to the question of the sun and moon, of month and week, returns in the same order as before. We therefore forbear to send you those revolutions of the times to come, because you only desired to be instructed respecting the Paschal time, and declared you had enough of those catholic tables concerning Easter.
“But having said thus much briefly and succinctly, as you required concerning Easter, I also exhort you to take care to promote the tonsure, as ecclesiastical and agreeable to the Christian faith, for concerning that also you desired me to write to you; and we know indeed that the apostles were not all shorn after the same manner, nor does the Catholic Church, though it agrees in the same Divine faith, hope, and charity, agree in the same form of tonsure throughout the world: in fine, to look back to remote times, that is, the times of the patriarchs, Job, the example of patience, when, on the approach of tribulation, he shaved his head, made it appear that he had used, in time of prosperity, to let his hair grow; and Joseph, the great practiser and teacher of chastity, humility, piety, and other virtues, is found to have been shorn when he was to be delivered from servitude; by which it appears, that during the time of servitude, he was in prison without cutting his hair. Now you may observe how each of these men of God differed in the manner of their appearance abroad, though their inward consciences were alike influenced by the grace of virtue. But though we may be free to confess, that the difference of tonsure is not hurtful to those whose faith is pure towards God, and their charity sincere towards their neighbour, especially since we do not read that there ever was any controversy among the Catholic fathers about the difference of tonsure, as there has been about the difference in keeping Easter, or in matters of faith; however, among all the tonsures that are to be found in the Church, or among mankind at large, I think none more worthy of being followed than that which that disciple had on his head, to whom, on his confession, our Lord said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ Nor do I think any more worthy to be abhorred and detested, by all the faithful, than that which that man used, to whom Peter, when he would have bought the grace of the Holy Ghost, said, ‘Thy money be with thee to perdition, because thou thoughtest the gift of God to be purchased for money; there is no part or lot for thee in this speech.’ Nor do we shave ourselves in the form of a crown only because Peter was so shorn; but because Peter was so shorn in memory of the passion of our Lord; therefore we also, who desire to be saved by the same passion, do with him bear the sign of the same passion on the top of our head, which is the highest part of our body. For as all the Church, because it was made a church by the death of Him that gave it life, is wont to bear the sign of his holy cross on the forehead, to the end, that it may, by the constant protection of his sign, be defended from the assaults of evil spirits, and by the frequent admonition of the same be instructed, in like manner, to crucify its flesh with its vices and concupiscences; so also it behoves those, who have either taken the vows of monks, or have any degree among the clergy, to curb themselves the more strictly by continence.
“Every one of them is likewise to bear on his head, by means of the tonsure, the form of the crown which Christ in his passion bore of thorns, in order that Christ may bear the thorns and briars of our sins; that is, that He may remove and take them from us; and also that they may at once show that they, willingly and with a ready mind, endure scoffs and reproaches for his sake; to make it appear, that they always expect ‘the crown of eternal life, which God has promised to those that love Him,’ and that for the gaining thereof they despise both the adversities and the prosperities of this world. But as for the tonsure which Simon Magus is said to have used, what Christian will not immediately detest and cast it off together with his magic? Upon the top of the forehead, it does seem indeed to resemble a crown; but when you come to the neck, you will find the crown you thought you had seen so perfect cut short; so that you may be satisfied such a distinction properly belongs not to Christians but to Simoniacs, such as were indeed in this life thought worthy of a perpetual crown of glory by erring men; but in that life which is to follow this, are not only deprived of all hopes of a crown, but are moreover condemned to eternal punishment.
“But do not think that I have said this much, as judging those who use this tonsure, are to be damned, in case they favour the catholic unity in faith and actions; on the contrary, I confidently declare, that many of them have been holy and worthy of God. Of which number is Adamnan, the abbat and renowned priest of Columba, who, when sent ambassador by his nation to King Alfrid, came to see our monastery, and discovering wonderful wisdom, humility, and religion in his words and behaviour, among other things, I said to him in discourse, ‘I beseech you, holy brother, who think you are advancing to the crown of life, which knows no period, why do you, contrary to the habit of your faith, wear on your head a crown that is terminated, or bounded? And if you aim at the society of St. Peter, why do you imitate the tonsure of him whom St. Peter anathematized? and why do you not rather even now show that you imitate to your utmost the habit of him with whom you desire to live happy for ever.’ He answered, ‘Be assured, my dear brother, that though I have Simon’s tonsure, according to the custom of my country, yet I utterly detest and abhor the Simoniacal wickedness; and I desire, as far as my littleness is capable of doing it, to follow the footsteps of the most blessed prince of the apostles.’ I replied, ‘I verily believe it as you say; but let it appear by showing outwardly such things as you know to be his, that you in your hearts embrace whatever is from Peter the Apostle. For I believe your wisdom does easily judge, that it is much more proper to estrange your countenance, already dedicated to God, from resemblance to him whom in your heart you abhor, and of whose hideous face you would shun the sight; and, on the other hand, that it becomes you to imitate the outward resemblance of him, whom you seek to have for your advocate with God, as you desire to follow his actions and instructions.’
“This I then said to Adamnan, who indeed showed how much he had improved upon seeing the statutes of our churches, when, returning to Scotland, he afterwards by his preaching brought great numbers of that nation over to the catholic observance of the Paschal time; though he was not yet able to gain the consent of the monks that lived in the island of Hii, over whom he presided. He would also have been mindful to amend the tonsure, if his authority had extended so far.
“But I also admonish your wisdom, O king, that you endeavour to make the nation, over which the King of kings, and Lord of lords, has placed you, observe in all points those things which appertain to the unity of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; for thus it will come to pass, that after your temporal kingdom has passed away, the blessed prince of the apostles will lay open to you and yours the entrance into the heavenly kingdom, where you will rest for ever with the elect. The grace of the eternal King preserve thee in safety, long reigning, for the peace of us all, my most beloved son in Christ.”
This letter having been read in the presence of King Naitan, and many more of the most learned men, and carefully interpreted into his own language by those who could understand it, he is said to have much rejoiced at the exhortation; insomuch that, rising from among his great men that sat about him, he knelt on the ground, giving thanks to God that he had been found worthy to receive such a present from the land of the English; and, said he, “I knew indeed before, that this was the true celebration of Easter, but now I so fully know the reason for observing of this time, that I seem convinced that I knew little of it before. Therefore I publicly declare and protest to you that are here present, that I will for ever continually observe this time of Easter, with all my nation; and I do decree that this tonsure, which we have heard is most reasonable, shall be received by all the clergy in my kingdom.” Accordingly he immediately performed by his regal authority what he had said. For the circles or revolutions of nineteen years were presently, by public command, sent throughout all the provinces of the Picts to be transcribed, learned and observed, the erroneous revolutions of eighty-four years being everywhere suppressed. All the ministers of the altar and monks had the crown shorn, and the nation thus reformed, rejoiced, as being newly put under the direction of Peter, the most blessed prince of the apostles and secure under his protection.
the monks of hii, and the monasteries subject to them, begin to celebrate the canonical easter at the preaching of egbert. [ 716.]
Not long after, those monks also of the Scottish nation, who lived in the isle of Hii, with the other monasteries that were subject to them, were by the assistance of our Lord brought to the canonical observation of Easter, and the right mode of tonsure. For in the year after the incarnation of our Lord 716, when Osred was slain, and Coenred took upon him the government of the kingdom of the Northumbrians, the holy father and priest, Egbert, beloved of God, and worthy to be named with all honour, whom we have often mentioned before, coming among them, was joyfully and honourably received. Being a most agreeable teacher, and devout in practising those things which he taught, and being willingly heard by all, he, by his pious and frequent exhortations, converted them from that inveterate tradition of their ancestors, of whom may be said those words of the apostle, “That they had the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” He taught them to perform the principal solemnity after the catholic and apostolic manner, as has been said, under the figure of a perpetual circle; which appears to have been accomplished by a wonderful dispensation of the Divine goodness; to the end, that the same nation which had willingly, and without envy, communicated to the English people the knowledge of the true Deity, should afterwards, by means of the English nation, be brought where they were defective to the true rule of life. Even as, on the contrary, the Britons, who would not acquaint the English with the knowledge of the Christian faith, now, when the English people enjoy the true faith, and are thoroughly instructed in its rules, continue inveterate in their errors, expose their heads without a crown, and keep the solemnity of Christ without the society of the Church.
The monks of Hii, by the instruction of Egbert, adopted the catholic rites, under Abbat Dunchad, about eighty years after they had sent Aidan to preach to the English nation. This man of God, Egbert, remained thirteen years in the aforesaid island, which he had thus consecrated again to Christ, by kindling in it a new ray of Divine grace, and restoring it to the unity of ecclesiastical discipline. In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 729, in which the Easter of our Lord was celebrated on the 24th of April, he performed the solemnity of the mass, in memory of the same resurrection of our Lord, and dying that same day, thus finished, or rather never ceases to celebrate, with our Lord, the apostles, and the other citizens of heaven, that greatest festival, which he had begun with the brethren, whom he had converted to the unity of grace. But it was a wonderful dispensation of the Divine Providence, that the venerable man not only passed out of this world to the Father, in Easter, but also when Easter was celebrated on that day, on which it had never been wont to be kept in those parts. The brethren rejoiced in the certain and catholic knowledge of the time of Easter, and rejoiced in the protection of their father, departed to our Lord, by whom they had been converted. He also congratulated his being so long continued in the flesh till he saw his followers admit, and celebrate with him, that as Easter day which they had ever before avoided. Thus the most reverend father being assured of their standing corrected, rejoiced to see the day of our Lord, and he saw it and was glad.
of the present state of the english nation, or of all britain. [ 725-731.]
In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 725, being the seventh year of Osric, king of the Northumbrians, who succeeded Coenred, Wictred, the son of Egbert, king of Kent, died on the 23rd of April, and left his three sons, Ethelbert, Eadbert, and Alric, heirs of that kingdom, which he had governed thirty-four years and a half. The next year died Tobias, bishop of the church of Rochester, a most learned man, as has been said before; for he was disciple to those teachers of blessed memory, Theodore, the archbishop, and Abbat Hadrian, by which means, as we have before observed, besides his erudition in ecclesiastical and general literature, he learned both the Greek and Latin tongues to such perfection, that they were as well known and familiar to him as his native language. He was buried in the porch of St. Paul the Apostle, which he had built within the church of St. Andrew for his own place of burial. After him Aldwulf took upon him the office of bishop, having been consecrated by Archbishop Bertwald.
In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the rising sun in the morning, the other followed him when he set at night, as it were presaging much destruction to the east and west; one was the forerunner of the day, and the other of the night, to signify that mortals were threatened with calamities at both times. They carried their flaming tails towards the north, as it were ready to set the world on fire. They appeared in January, and continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged France with miserable slaughter; but they not long after in that country received the punishment due to their wickedness. In which year the holy man of God, Egbert, departed to our Lord, as has been said above, on Easter day; and immediately after Easter, that is, on the 9th of May, Osric, king of the Northumbrians, departed this life, after he had reigned eleven years, and appointed Ceolwulf, brother to Coenred, who had reigned before him, his successor; the beginning and progress of whose reign were so filled with commotions, that it cannot yet be known what is to be said concerning them, or what end they will have.
In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 731, Archbishop Bertwald died of old age, on the 9th of January, having held his see thirty-seven years, six months and fourteen days. In his stead, the same year, Tatwine, of the province of the Mercians, was made archbishop, having been a priest in the monastery called Briudun. He was consecrated in the city of Canterbury by the venerable men, Daniel, bishop of Winchester, Ingwald of London, Aldwin of Lichfield, and Aldwulf of Rochester, on Sunday, the 10th of June, being a man renowned for religion and wisdom, and notably learned in Sacred Writ.
Thus at present, the bishops Tatwine and Aldwulf preside in the churches of Kent; Ingwald in the province of the East Saxons. In the province of the East Angles, Aldbert and Hadulac are bishops; in the province of the West Saxons, Daniel and Forthere are bishops; in the province of the Mercians, Aldwin. Among those people who live beyond the river Severn to the westward, Walstod is bishop; in the province of the Wiccians, Wilfrid; in the province of the Lindisfarnes, Cynebert presides: the bishopric of the Isle of Wight belongs to Daniel, bishop of Winchester. The province of the South Saxons, having now continued some years without a bishop, receives the episcopal ministry from the prelate of the West Saxons. All these provinces, and the others southward to the bank of the river Humber, with their kings, are subject to King Ethelbald.
But in the province of the Northumbrians, where King Ceolwulf reigns, four bishops now preside: Wilfrid in the church of York, Ethelwald in that of Lindisfarne, Acca in that of Hagulstad, Pechthelm in that which is called the White House, which, from the increased number of believers, has lately become an episcopal see, and has him for its first prelate. The Picts also at this time are at peace with the English nation, and rejoice in being united in peace and truth with the whole Catholic Church. The Scots that inhabit Britain, satisfied with their own territories, meditate no hostilities against the nation of the English. The Britons, though they, for the most part, through innate hatred, are adverse to the English nation, and wrongfully, and from wicked custom, oppose the appointed Easter of the whole Catholic Church; yet, from both the Divine and human power withstanding them, can in no way prevail as they desire; for though in part they are their own masters, yet elsewhere they are also brought under subjection to the English. Such being the peaceable and calm disposition of the times, many of the Northumbrians, as well of the nobility as private persons, laying aside their weapons, rather incline to dedicate both themselves and their children to the tonsure and monastic vows, than to study martial discipline. What will be the end hereof, the next age will show. This is for the present the state of all Britain; in the year since the coming of the English into Britain about 285, but in the 731st year of the incarnation of our Lord, in whose reign may the earth ever rejoice; may Britain exult in the profession of his faith; and may many islands be glad, and sing praises in honour of his holiness!
chronological recapitulation of the whole work: also concerning the author himself
I have thought fit briefly to sum up those things which have been related more at large, according to the distinction of times, for the better preserving them in memory.
In the sixtieth year before the incarnation of our Lord, Caius Julius Cæsar, first of the Romans, invaded Britain, and was victorious, yet could not gain the kingdom.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 46, Claudius, second of the Romans, invading Britain, had a great part of the island surrendered to him, and added the Orkney islands to the Roman empire.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 167, Eleutherius, being made bishop at Rome, governed the Church most gloriously fifteen years. Lucius, king of Britain, writing to him, requested to be made a Christian, and succeeded in obtaining his request.
In the year from the incarnation of our Lord, 189, Severus, being made emperor, reigned seventeen years; he enclosed Britain with a trench from sea to sea.
In the year 381, Maximus, being made emperor in Britain, sailed over into Gaul, and slew Gratian.
In the year 409, Rome was crushed by the Goths, from which time Roman emperors began to reign in Britain.
In the year 430, Palladius was sent to be the first bishop of the Scots that believed in Christ, by Pope Celestine.
In the year 449, Martian being made emperor with Valentinian, reigned seven years; in whose time the English, being called by the Britons, came into Britain.
In the year 538, there happened an eclipse of the sun, on the 16th of February, from the first to the third hour.
In the year 540, an eclipse of the sun happened on the 20th of June, and the stars appeared during almost half an hour after the third hour of the day.
In the year 547, Ida began to reign; from him the royal family of the Northumbrians derives its original; he reigned twelve years.
In the year 565, the priest, Columba, came out of Scotland, into Britain, to instruct the Picts, and he built a monastery in the isle of Hii.
In the year 596, Pope Gregory sent Augustine with monks into Britain, to preach the word of God to the English nation.
In the year 597, the aforesaid teachers arrived in Britain; being about the 150th year from the coming of the English into Britain.
In the year 601, Pope Gregory sent the pall into Britain, to Augustine, who was already made bishop; he sent also several ministers of the word, among whom was Paulinus.
In the year 603, a battle was fought at Degsastane.
In the year 604, the East Saxons received the faith of Christ, under King Sabert, and Bishop Mellitus.
In the year 605, Gregory died.
In the year 616, Ethelbert, king of Kent, died.
In the year 625, the venerable Paulinus was, by Archbishop Justus, ordained bishop of the Northumbrians.
In the year 626, Eanfleda, daughter to King Edwin, was baptized with twelve others, on Whit-Saturday.
In the year 627, King Edwin was baptized, with his nation, at Easter.
In the year 633, King Edwin being killed, Paulinus returned to Kent.
In the year 640, Eadbald, king of Kent, died.
In the year 642, King Oswald was slain.
In the year 644, Paulinus, first bishop of York, but now of the city of Rochester, departed to our Lord.
In the year 651, King Oswin was killed, and Bishop Aidan died.
In the year 653, the Midland Angles, under their prince, Penda, received the mysteries of the faith.
In the year 655, Penda was slain, and the Mercians became Christians.
In the year 664, there happened an eclipse of the sun; Earconbert, king of Kent, died; and Colman returned to the Scots; a pestilence arose; Ceadda and Wilfrid were ordained bishops of the Northumbrians.
In the year 668, Theodore was ordained bishop.
In the year 670, Oswy, king of the Northumbrians, died.
In the year 673, Egbert, king of Kent, died, and a synod was held at Hertford, in the presence of King Egfrid, Archbishop Theodore presiding; the synod did much good, and its decrees are contained in ten chapters.
In the year 675, Wulfhere, king of the Mercians, dying, when he had reigned seventeen years, left the crown to his brother Ethelred.
In the year 676, Ethelred ravaged Kent.
In the year 678, a comet appeared; Bishop Wilfrid was driven from his see by King Egfrid; and Bosa, Eata, and Eadhed were consecrated bishops in his stead.
In the year 679, Elfwine was killed.
In the year 680, a synod was held in the field called Hethfeld, concerning the Christian faith, Archbishop Theodore presiding; John, the Roman abbat, was also present. The same year also the Abbess Hilda died at Streaneshalch.
In the year 685, Egfrid, king of the Northumbrians, was slain.
The same year, Lothere, king of Kent, died.
In the year 688, Cædwalla, king of the West Saxons, went to Rome from Britain.
In the year 690, Archbishop Theodore died.
In the year 697, Queen Ostritha was murdered by her own people, that is, the nobility of the Mercians.
In the year 698, Berthred, the royal commander of the Northumbrians, was slain by the Picts.
In the year 704, Ethelred became a monk, after he had reigned thirty years over the nation of the Mercians, and gave up the kingdom to Coenred.
In the year 705, Alfrid, king of the Northumbrians, died.
In the year 709, Coenred, king of the Mercians, having reigned six years, went to Rome.
In the year 711, Earl Bertfrid fought with the Picts.
In the year 716, Osred, king of the Northumbrians, was killed; and Coenred, king of the Mercians, died; and Egbert, the man of God, brought the monks of Hii to observe the Catholic Easter and ecclesiastical tonsure.
In the year 725, Withred, king of Kent, died.
In the year 729, comets appeared; the holy Egbert departed; and Osric died.
In the year 731, Archbishop Bertwald died.
The same year Tatwine was consecrated ninth archbishop of Canterbury, in the fifteenth year of Ethelbald, king of Kent.
Thus much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more especially of the English nation, as far as I could learn either from the writings of the ancients, or the tradition of our ancestors, or of my own knowledge, has, with the help of God, been digested by me, Bede, the servant of God, and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow; who being born in the territory of that same monastery, was given, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend Abbat Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid; and spending all the remaining time of my life in that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, teaching, and writing. In the nineteenth year of my age, I received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and by the order of the Abbat Ceolfrid. From which time, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and explain according to their meaning these following pieces—
On the Beginning of Genesis, to the Nativity of Isaac and the Reprobation of Ismaal, three books.
Of the Tabernacle and its Vessels, and of the Priestly Vestments, three books.
On the first Part of Samuel, to the Death of Saul, four books.
Of the Building of the Temple, of Allegorical Exposition, like the rest, two books.
Item, on the Book of Kings, thirty Questions.
On Solomon’s Proverbs, three books.
On the Canticles, seven books.
On Isaiah, Daniel, the twelve Prophets, and Part of Jeremiah, Distinctions of Chapters, collected out of St. Jerome’s Treatise.
On Esdras and Nehemiah, three books.
On the Song of Habacuc, one book.
On the Book of the blessed Father Tobias, one Book of Allegorical Exposition concerning Christ and the Church.
Also, Chapters of Readings on Moses’s Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges.
On the Books of Kings and Chronicles.
On the Book of the blessed Father Job.
On the Parables, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles.
On the Prophets Isaiah, Esdras, and Nehemiah.
On the Gospel of Mark, four books.
On the Gospel of Luke, six books.
Of Homilies on the Gospel, two books.
On the Apostle, I have carefully transcribed in order all that I have found in St. Augustine’s Works.
On the Acts of the Apostles, two books.
On the seven Catholic Epistles, a book on each.
On the Revelation of St. John, three books.
Also, Chapters of Readings on all the New Testament, except the Gospel.
Also a book of Epistles to different Persons, of which one is of the Six ages of the world; one of the Mansions of the Children of Israel; one on the Words of Isaiah, “And they shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited;” one of the Reason of the Bissextile, or Leap-Year, and of the Equinox, according to Anatolius.
Also, of the Histories of Saints. I translated the Book of the Life and Passion of St. Felix, Confessor, from Paulinus’s Work in metre, into prose.
The Book of the Life and Passion of St. Anastasius, which was ill translated from the Greek, and worse amended by some unskilful person, I have corrected as to the sense.
I have written the Life of the Holy Father Cuthbert, who was both monk and prelate, first in heroic verse, and then in prose.
The History of the Abbats of this Monastery, in which I rejoice to serve the Divine Goodness, viz. Benedict, Ceolfrid, and Huetbert, in two books.
The Ecclesiastical History of our Island and Nation in five books.
The Martyrology of the Birth-days of the Holy Martyrs, in which I have carefully endeavoured to set down all that I could find, and not only on what day, but also by what sort of combat, or under what judge they overcame the world.
A Book of Hymns in several sorts of metre, or rhyme.
A Book of Epigrams in heroic or elegiac verse.
Of the Nature of Things, and of the Times, one book of each.
Also, of the Times, one larger book.
A book of Orthography digested in Alphabetical Order.
Also a Book of the Art of Poetry, and to it I have added another little Book of Tropes and Figures; that is, of the Figures and Manners of Speaking in which the Holy Scriptures are written.
And now, I beseech thee, good Jesus, that to whom thou hast graciously granted sweetly to partake of the words of thy wisdom and knowledge, thou wilt also vouchsafe that he may some time or other come to thee, the fountain of all wisdom, and always appear before thy face, who livest and reignest world without end. Amen!
here ends, by god’s help,
the fifth book
of the ecclesiastical history
of the english nation.
THE LIFE AND MIRACLES OF SAINT CUTHBERT,
To the holy and most blessed Father Bishop Eadfrid, and to all the Congregation of Brothers also, who serve Christ in the Island of Lindisfarne, Bede, your faithful fellow-servant, sends greeting.
Inasmuch as you bade me, my beloved, prefix to the book, which I have written at your request about the life of our father Cuthbert, of blessed memory, some preface, as I usually do, by which its readers might become acquainted with your desire and my readiness to gratify it, it has seemed good to me, by way of preface, to recall to the minds of those among you who know, and to make known to those readers who were before ignorant thereof, how that I have not presumed without minute investigation to write any of the deeds of so great a man, nor without the most accurate examination of credible witnesses to hand over what I had written to be transcribed. Moreover, when I learnt from those who knew the beginning, the middle, and the end of his glorious life and conversation, I sometimes inserted the names of these my authors, to establish the truth of my narrative, and thus ventured to put my pen to paper and to write. But when my work was arranged, but still kept back from publication, I frequently submitted it for perusal and for correction to our reverend brother Herefrid the priest, and others, who for a long time had well known the life and conversation of that man of God. Some faults were, at their suggestion, carefully amended, and thus every scruple being utterly removed, I have taken care to commit to writing what I clearly ascertained to be the truth, and to bring it into your presence also, my brethren, in order that by the judgment of your authority, what I have written might be either corrected, if false, or certified to be true. Whilst, with God’s assistance, I was so engaged, and my book was read during two days by the elders and teachers of your congregation, and was accurately weighed and examined in all its parts, there was nothing at all found which required to be altered, but every thing which I had written was by common consent pronounced worthy to be read without any hesitation, and to be handed over to be copied by such as by zeal for religion should be disposed to do so. But you also, in my presence, added many other facts of no less importance than what I had written, concerning the life and virtues of that blessed man, and which well deserved to be mentioned, if I had not thought it unmeet to insert new matter into a work, which, after due deliberation, I considered to be perfect.
Furthermore, I have thought right to admonish your gracious company, that, as I have not delayed to render prompt obedience to your commands, so you also may not be slow to confer on me the reward of your intercession; but when you read this book, and in pious recollection of that holy father lift up your souls with ardour in aspiration for the heavenly kingdom, do not forget to entreat the Divine clemency in favour of my littleness, in as far as I may deserve both at present with singleness of mind to long for and hereafter in perfect happiness to behold the goodness of our Lord in the land of the living. But also when I am defunct, pray ye for the redemption of my soul, for I was your friend and faithful servant; offer up masses for me, and enrol my name among your own. For you, also, most holy prelate, remember to have promised this to me, and in testimony of such future enrolment you gave orders to your pious brother Guthfrid, that he should even now enrol my name in the white book of your holy congregation. And may your holiness know that I already have written in heroic verse, as well as in this prose work, which I offer to you, the life of this same our father beloved by God, somewhat more briefly indeed, but nevertheless in the same order, because some of our brethren entreated the same of me: and if you wish to have those verses, you can obtain from me a copy of them. In the preface of that work I promised that I would write more fully at another time of his life and miracles; which promise, in my present work, I have, as far as God has allowed me, done my best to perform.
Wherefore it is my prayer for you, that Almighty God may deign to guard your holinesses in peace and safety, dearest brethren and masters of mine.—Amen!
how cuthbert, the child of god, was warned by a child of his future bishopric
The beginning of our history of the life of the blessed Cuthbert is hallowed by Jeremy the prophet, who, in exaltation of the anchorite’s perfect state, says, “It is good for a man, when he hath borne the yoke from his youth; he shall sit alone, and shall be silent, because he shall raise himself above himself.” For, inspired by the sweetness of this good, Cuthbert, the man of God, from his early youth bent his neck beneath the yoke of the monastic institution; and when occasion presented itself, having laid fast hold of the anachoretic life, he rejoiced to sit apart for no small space of time, and for the sweetness of divine meditation to hold his tongue silent from human colloquy. But that he should be able to do this in his advanced years, was the effect of God’s grace inciting him gradually to the way of truth from his early childhood; for even to the eighth year of his life, which is the first year of boyhood succeeding to infancy, he gave his mind to such plays and enjoyments alone as boys delight in, so that it might be testified of him as it was of Samuel, “Moreover Cuthbert knew not yet the Lord, neither had the voice of the Lord been revealed to him.” Such was the panegyric of his boyhood, who in more ripened age was destined perfectly to know the Lord, and opening the ears of his mind to imbibe the voice of God. He took delight, as we have stated, in mirth and clamour; and, as was natural at his age, rejoiced to attach himself to the company of other boys, and to share in their sports: and because he was agile by nature, and of a quick mind, he often prevailed over them in their boyish contests, and frequently, when the rest were tired, he alone would hold out, and look triumphantly around to see if any remained to contend with him for victory. For in jumping, running, wrestling, or any other bodily exercise, he boasted that he could surpass all those who were of the same age, and even some that were older than himself. For when he was a child, he knew as a child, he thought as a child; but afterwards, when he became a man, he most abundantly laid aside all those childish things.
And indeed Divine Providence found from the first a worthy preceptor to curb the sallies of his youthful mind. For, as Trumwine of blessed memory told me on the authority of Cuthbert himself, there were one day some customary games going on in a field, and a large number of boys were got together, amongst whom was Cuthbert, and in the excitement of boyish whims, several of them began to bend their bodies into various unnatural forms. On a sudden, one of them, apparently about three years old, runs up to Cuthbert, and in a firm tone exhorts him not to indulge in idle play and follies, but to cultivate the powers of his mind, as well as those of his body. When Cuthbert made light of his advice, the boy fell to the ground, and shed tears bitterly. The rest run up to console him, but he persists in weeping. They ask him why he burst out crying so unexpectedly. At length he made answer, and turning to Cuthbert, who was trying to comfort him, “Why,” said he, “do you, holy Cuthbert, priest and prelate! give yourself up to these things which are so opposite to your nature and rank? It does not become you to be playing among children, when the Lord has appointed you to be a teacher of virtue even to those who are older than yourself.” Cuthbert, being a boy of a good disposition, heard these words with evident attention, and pacifying the crying child with affectionate caresses, immediately abandoned his vain sports, and returning home, began from that moment to exhibit an unusual decision both of mind and character, as if the same Spirit which had spoken outwardly to him by the mouth of the boy, were now beginning to exert its influence inwardly in his heart. Nor ought we to be surprised that the same God can restrain the levity of a child by the mouth of a child, who made even the dumb beast to speak when He would check the folly of the prophet: and truly it is said in his honour, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise!”
how he became lame with a swelling in his knee, and was cured by an angel
But because to every one who hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; that is, to every one who hath the determination and the love of virtue, shall be given, by Divine Providence, an abundance of these things; since Cuthbert, the child of God, carefully retained in his mind what he had received from the admonition of man, he was thought worthy also of being comforted by the company and conversation of angels. For his knee was seized with a sudden pain, and began to swell into a large tumour; the nerves of his thigh became contracted, and he was obliged to walk lamely, dragging after him his diseased leg, until at length the pain increased, and he was unable to walk at all. One day he had been carried out of doors by the attendants, and was reclining in the open air, when he suddenly saw at a distance a man on horseback approaching, clothed in white garments, and honourable to be looked upon, and the horse, too, on which he sat, was of incomparable beauty. He drew near to Cuthbert, and saluted him mildly, and asked him as in jest, whether he had no civilities to show to such a guest. “Yes,” said the other, “I should be most ready to jump up and offer you all the attention in my power, were I not, for my sins, held bound by this infirmity: for I have long had this painful swelling in my knee, and no physician, with all his care, has yet been able to heal me.” The man, leaping from his horse, began to look earnestly at the diseased knee. Presently he said, “Boil some wheaten flour in milk, and apply the poultice warm to the swelling, and you will be well.” Having said this, he again mounted his horse and departed. Cuthbert did as he was told, and after a few days was well. He at once perceived that it was an angel who had given him the advice, and sent by Him who formerly deigned to send his archangel Raphael to restore the eyesight of Tobit. If any one think it incredible that an angel should appear on horseback, let him read the history of the Maccabees, in which angels are said to have come on horseback to the assistance of Judas Maccabæus, and to defend God’s own temple.
how he changed the winds by prayer, and brought the scattered ships safe to land
From this time the lad becoming devoted to the Lord, as he afterwards assured his friends, often prayed to God amid dangers that surrounded him, and was defended by angelic assistance; nay, even in behalf of others who were in any danger, his benevolent piety sent forth prayers to God, and he was heard by Him who listens to the cry of the poor, and the men were rescued out of all their tribulations. There is, moreover, a monastery lying towards the south, not far from the mouth of the river Tyne, at that time consisting of monks, but now changed, like all other human things, by time, and inhabited by a noble company of virgins, dedicated to Christ. Now, as these pious servants of God were gone to bring from a distance in ships, up the above-named river, some timber for the use of the monastery, and had already come opposite the place where they were to bring the ships to land, behold a violent wind, rising from the west, carried away their ships, and scattered them to a distance from the river’s mouth. The brethren, seeing this from the monastery, launched some boats into the river, and tried to succour those who were on board the vessels, but were unable, because the force of the tide and violence of the winds overcame them. In despair therefore of human aid, they had recourse to God, and issuing forth from the monastery, they gathered themselves together on a point of rock, near which the vessels were tossing in the sea: here they bent their knees, and supplicated the Lord for those whom they saw under such imminent danger of destruction. But the Divine will was in no haste to grant these vows, however earnest; and this was, without a doubt, in order that it might be seen what effect was in Cuthbert’s prayers. For there was a large multitude of people standing on the other bank of the river, and Cuthbert also was among them. Whilst the monks were looking on in sorrow, seeing the vessels, five in number, hurried rapidly out to sea, so that they looked like five sea-birds on the waves, the multitude began to deride their manner of life, as if they had deserved to suffer this loss, by abandoning the usual modes of life, and framing for themselves new rules by which to guide their conduct. Cuthbert restrained the insults of the blasphemers, saying, “What are you doing, my brethren, in thus reviling those whom you see hurried to destruction? Would it not be better and more humane to entreat the Lord in their behalf, than thus to take delight in their misfortunes?” But the rustics, turning on him with angry minds and angry mouths, exclaimed, “Nobody shall pray for them: may God spare none of them! for they have taken away from men the ancient rites and customs, and how the new ones are to be attended to, nobody knows.” At this reply, Cuthbert fell on his knees to pray, and bent his head towards the earth; immediately the power of the winds was checked, the vessels, with their conductors rejoicing, were cast upon the land near the monastery, at the place intended. The rustics blushing for their infidelity, both on the spot extolled the faith of Cuthbert as it deserved, and never afterwards ceased to extol it: so that one of the most worthy brothers of our monastery, from whose mouth I received this narrative, said that he had often, in company with many others, heard it related by one of those who were present, a man of the most rustic simplicity, and altogether incapable of telling an untruth.
how, in company with shepherds, he saw the soul of bishop aidan carried to heaven by angels
But whereas the grace of Christ, which is the directress of the life of the faithful, decreed that its servant should encounter the merit of a more rigid institution, and earn the glory of a higher prize, it chanced upon a time that he was tending a flock of sheep entrusted to his care on some distant mountains. One night, whilst his companions were sleeping, and he himself was awake, as he was wont to be, and engaged in prayer, on a sudden he saw a long stream of light break through the darkness of the night, and in the midst of it a company of the heavenly host descended to the earth, and having received among them a spirit of surpassing brightness, returned without delay to their heavenly home. The young man, beloved of God, was struck with the sight, and, stimulated to encounter the honours of spiritual warfare, and to earn for himself eternal life and happiness among God’s mighty ones, he forthwith offered up praise and thanksgivings to the Lord, and called upon his companions, with brotherly exhortations, to imitate his example. “Miserable men that we are,” said he, “whilst we are resigning ourselves to sleep and idleness, we take no thought to behold the light of God’s holy angels, who never sleep. Behold, whilst I was awake and praying, during a moderate portion of the night, I saw such great miracles of God. The door of heaven was opened, and there was led in thither, amidst an angelic company, the spirit of some holy man, who now, for ever blessed, beholds the glory of the heavenly mansion, and Christ its King, whilst we still grovel amid this earthly darkness: and I think it must have been some holy bishop, or some favoured one from out of the company of the faithful, whom I saw thus carried into heaven amid so much splendour by that large angelic choir.” As the man of God said these words, the hearts of the shepherds were kindled up to reverence and praise. When the morning was come, he found that Aidan, bishop of the Church of Lindisfarne, a man of exalted piety, had ascended to the heavenly kingdom at the very moment of his vision. Immediately, therefore, he delivered over the sheep, which he was feeding, to their owners, and determined forthwith to enter a monastery.
how, on his way, he was supplied with food by god
And when he now began with care to meditate on his intended entrance to a more rigid course of life, God’s grace was revealed to him, whereby his mind was strengthened in its purpose, and it was shown to him by the clearest evidence, that to those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, the bounty of the Divine promise will grant all other things also, which are necessary for their bodily support. For on a certain day, as he was journeying alone, he turned aside at the fourth hour into a village which lay at some distance, and to which he found his way. Here he entered the house of a pious mother of a family, in order to rest himself a little, and to procure food for his horse rather than for himself, for it was the beginning of winter. The woman received him kindly, and begged him to allow her to get him some dinner, that he might refresh himself. The man of God refused, saying, “I cannot yet eat, for it is a fast-day.” It was the sixth day of the week, on which many of the faithful, out of reverence to the Lord’s passion, are accustomed to extend their fasting even to the ninth hour. The woman, from a motive of hospitality, persisted in her request. “Behold,” said she, “on the way you are going there is no village, nor house; you have a long journey before you, and cannot get through it before sunset. Let me entreat you, therefore, to take some food before you go, or else you will be obliged to fast all the day, and perhaps even till to-morrow.” But though the woman pressed him much, his love of religion prevailed, and he fasted the whole day until the evening.
When the evening drew near, and he perceived that he could not finish his intended journey the same day, and that there was no house at hand in which he could pass the night, he presently fell upon some shepherds’ huts, which, having been slightly constructed in the summer, were now deserted and ruinous. Into one of these he entered, and having tied his horse to the wall, placed before him a handful of hay, which the wind had forced from the roof. He then turned his thoughts to prayer, but suddenly, as he was singing a psalm, he saw his horse lift up his head and pull out some straw from the roof, and among the straw there fell down a linen cloth folded up, with something in it. When he had ended his prayers, wishing to see what this was, he came and opened the cloth, and found in it half of a loaf of bread, still hot, and some meat, enough of both to serve him for a single meal. In gratitude for the Divine goodness, he exclaimed, “Thanks be to God, who of his bounty hath deigned to provide a meal for me when I was hungry, as well as a supper for my beast.” He therefore divided the piece of bread into two parts, of which he gave one to his horse and kept the other for himself; and from that day forward he was more ready than before to fast, because he now felt convinced that the food had been provided for him in the desert by the gife of Him who formerly fed the prophet Elias for so long a time by means of ravens, when there was no man to minister unto him, whose eyes are upon those that fear Him, and upon those who trust in his mercy, that He may save their souls from death, and may feed them when they are hungry. I learnt these particulars from a religious man of our monastery of Weremouth, a priest of the name of Ingwald, who now, by reason of his extreme old age, is turning his attention, in purity of heart, to spiritual things rather than to earthly and carnal affections, and who said that the authority on which his relation rested was no less than that of Cuthbert himself.
how, as he was coming to a monastery, boisil, a holy man, bore testimony to him by prophesying in spirit
Meanwhile this reverend servant of God, abandoning worldly things, hastens to submit to monastic discipline, having been excited by his heavenly vision to covet the joys of everlasting happiness, and invited by the food with which God had supplied him to encounter hunger and thirst in his service. He knew that the Church of Lindisfarne contained many holy men, by whose teaching and example he might be instructed, but he was moved by the great reputation of Boisil, a monk and priest of surpassing merit, to choose for himself an abode in the abbey of Melrose. And it happened by chance, that when he was arrived there, and had leaped from his horse, that he might enter the church to pray, he gave his horse and travelling spear to a servant, for he had not yet resigned the dress and habits of a layman. Boisil was standing before the doors of the monastery, and saw him first. Foreseeing in spirit what an illustrious man the stranger would become, he made this single remark to the bystanders: “Behold a servant of the Lord!” herein imitating Him who said of Nathaniel, when he approached Him, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” I was told this by that veteran priest and servant of God, the pious Sigfrid, for he was standing by when Boisil said these words, and was at that time a youth studying the first rudiments of the monastic life in that same monastery; but now he is a man, perfect in the Lord, living in our monastery of Yarrow, and amid the last sighs of his fainting body thirsting for a happy entrance into another life. Boisil, without saying more, kindly received Cuthbert as he approached; and when he had heard the cause of his coming, namely, that he preferred the monastery to the world, he kept him near himself, for he was the prior of that same monastery.
After a few days, when Eata, who was at that time priest and abbot of the monastery, but afterwards bishop of Lindisfarne, was come, Boisil told him about Cuthbert, how that he was a young man of a promising disposition, and obtained permission that he should receive the tonsure, and be enrolled among the brethren. When he had thus entered the monastery, he conformed himself to the rules of the place with the same zeal as the others, and, indeed, sought to surpass them by observing stricter discipline; and in reading, working, watching, and praying, he fairly outdid them all. Like the mighty Samson of old, he carefully abstained from every drink which could intoxicate; but was not able to abstain equally from food, lest his body might be thereby rendered less able to work: for he was of a robust frame and of unimpaired strength, and fit for any labour which he might be disposed to take in hand.
how he entertained an angel, and whilst ministering to him earthly bread, was thought worthy to be rewarded with bread from heaven
Some years after, it pleased King Alfred, for the redemption of his soul, to grant to Abbot Eata a certain tract of country called Inrhipum, in which to build a monastery. The abbot, in consequence of this grant, erected the intended building, and placed therein certain of his brother-monks, among whom was Cuthbert, and appointed for them the same rules and discipline which were observed at Melrose. It chanced that Cuthbert was appointed to the office of receiving strangers, and he is said to have entertained an angel of the Lord who came to make trial of his piety. For, as he went very early in the morning, from the interior of the monastery into the strangers’ cell, he found there seated a young person, whom he considered to be a man, and entertained as such. He gave him water to wash his hands; he washed his feet himself, wiped them, and humbly dried them in his bosom; after which he entreated him to remain till the third hour of the day and take some breakfast, lest, if he should go on his journey fasting, he might suffer from hunger and the cold of winter. For he took him to be a man, and thought that a long journey by night and a severe fall of snow had caused him to turn in thither in the morning to rest himself. The other replied, that he could not tarry, for the home to which he was hastening lay at some distance. After much entreaty, Cuthbert adjured him in God’s name to stop; and as the third hour was now come, prayer over, and it was time to breakfast, he placed before him a table with some food, and said, “I beseech thee, brother, eat and refresh thyself, whilst I go and fetch some hot bread, which must now, I think, be just baked.” When he returned, the young man, whom he had left eating, was gone, and he could see no traces of his footsteps, though there had been a fresh fall of snow, which would have exhibited marks of a person walking upon it, and shown which way he went. The man of God was astonished, and revolving the circumstances in his mind, put back the table in the dining-room. Whilst doing so, he perceived a most surprising odour and sweetness; and looking round to see from what it might proceed, he saw three white loaves placed there, of unusual whiteness and excellence. Trembling at the sight, he said within himself, “I perceive that it was an angel of the Lord whom I entertained, and that he came to feed us, not to be fed himself. Behold, he hath brought such loaves as this earth never produced; they surpass the lily in whiteness, the rose in odour, and honey in taste. They are, therefore, not produced from this earth, but are sent from paradise. No wonder that he rejected my offer of earthly food, when he enjoys such bread as this in heaven.” The man of God was stimulated by this powerful miracle to be more zealous still in performing works of piety; and with his deeds did increase upon him also the grace of God. From that time he often saw and conversed with angels, and when hungry was fed with unwonted food furnished direct from God. He was affable and pleasant in his character; and when he was relating to the fathers the acts of their predecessors, as an incentive to piety, he would introduce also, in the meekest way, the spiritual benefits which the love of God had conferred upon himself. And this he took care to do in a covert manner, as if it had happened to another person. His hearers, however, perceived that he was speaking of himself, after the pattern of that master who at one time unfolds his own merits without disguise, and at another time says, under the guise of another, “I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago, who was carried up into the third heaven.”
how cuthbert was recovered from sickness, and boisil, on his death-bed, foretold to him his future fortunes
Meanwhile, as every thing in this world is frail and fluctuating, like the sea when a storm comes on, the above-named Abbot Eata, with Cuthbert and the other brethren, were expelled from their residence, and the monastery given to others. But our worthy champion of Christ did not by reason of his change of place relax his zeal in carrying on the spiritual conflict which he had undertaken; but he attended, as he had ever done, to the precepts and example of the blessed Boisil. About this time, according to his friend Herefrid the priest, who was formerly abbot of the monastery of Lindisfarne, he was seized with a pestilential disease, of which many inhabitants of Britain were at that time sick. The brethren of the monastery passed the whole night in prayer for his life and health; for they thought it essential to them that so pious a man should be present with them in the flesh. They did this without his knowing it; and when they told him of it in the morning, he exclaimed, “Then why am I lying here? I did not think it possible that God should have neglected your prayers: give me my stick and shoes.” Accordingly, he got out of bed, and tried to walk, leaning on his stick; and finding his strength gradually return, he was speedily restored to health: but because the swelling on his thigh, though it died away to all outward appearances, struck into his inwards, he felt a little pain in his inside all his life afterwards; so that, as we find it expressed in the Apostles, “his strength was perfected in weakness.”
When that servant of the Lord, Boisil, saw that Cuthbert was restored, he said, “You see, my brother, how you have recovered from your disease, and I assure you it will give you no further trouble, nor are you likely to die at present. I advise you, inasmuch as death is waiting for me, to learn from me all you can whilst I am able to teach you; for I have only seven days longer to enjoy my health of body, or to exercise the powers of my tongue.” Cuthbert, implicitly believing what he heard, asked him what he would advise him to begin to read, so as to be able to finish it in seven days. “John the Evangelist,” said Boisil. “I have a copy containing seven quarto sheets: we can, with God’s help, read one every day, and meditate thereon as far as we are able.” They did so accordingly, and speedily accomplished the task; for they sought therein only that simple faith which operates by love, and did not trouble themselves with minute and subtle questions. After their seven days’ study was completed, Boisil died of the above-named complaint; and after death entered into the joys of eternal life. They say that, during these seven days, he foretold to Cuthbert every thing which should happen to him: for, as I have said before, he was a prophet and a man of remarkable piety. And, moreover, he had three years ago foretold to Abbot Eata, that this pestilence would come, and that he himself would die of it; but that the abbot should die of another disease, which the physicians call dysentery; and in this also he was a true prophet, as the event proved. Among others, he told Cuthbert that he should be ordained bishop. When Cuthbert became an anchorite, he would not communicate this prophecy to any one, but with much sorrow assured the brethren who came to visit him, that if he had a humble residence on a rock, where the waves of the ocean shut him out from all the world, he should not even then consider himself safe from its snares, but should be afraid that on some occasion or other he might fall victim to the love of riches.
how cuthbert was zealous in the ministry of the word
After the death of Boisil, Cuthbert took upon himself the duties of the office before mentioned; and for many years discharged them with the most pious zeal, as became a saint: for he not only furnished both precept and example to his brethren of the monastery, but sought to lead the minds of the neighbouring people to the love of heavenly things. Many of them, indeed, disgraced the faith which they professed, by unholy deeds; and some of them, in the time of mortality, neglecting the sacrament of their creed, had recourse to idolatrous remedies, as if by charms or amulets, or any other mysteries of the magical art, they were able to avert a stroke inflicted upon them by the Lord. To correct these errors, he often went out from the monastery, sometimes on horseback, sometimes on foot, and preached the way of truth to the neighbouring villages, as Boisil, his predecessor, had done before him. It was at this time customary for the English people to flock together when a clerk or priest entered a village, and listen to what he said, that so they might learn something from him, and amend their lives. Now Cuthbert was so skilful in teaching, and so zealous in what he undertook, that none dared to conceal from him their thoughts, but all acknowledged what they had done amiss; for they supposed that it was impossible to escape his notice, and they hoped to merit forgiveness by an honest confession. He was mostly accustomed to travel to those villages which lay in out of the way places among the mountains, which by their poverty and natural horrors deterred other visitors. Yet even here did his devoted mind find exercise for his powers of teaching, insomuch that he often remained a week, sometimes two or three, nay, even a whole month, without returning home; but dwelling among the mountains, taught the poor people, both by the words of his preaching, and also by his own holy conduct.
how cuthbert passed the night in the sea, praying; and when he was come out, two animals of the sea did him reverence; and how the brother, who saw those things, being in fear, was encouraged by cuthbert
When this holy man was thus acquiring renown by his virtues and miracles, Ebbe, a pious woman and handmaid of Christ, was the head of a monastery at a place called the city of Coludi, remarkable both for piety and noble birth, for she was half-sister of King Oswy. She sent messengers to the man of God, entreating him to come and visit her monastery. This loving message from the handmaid of his Lord he could not treat with neglect, but, coming to the place and stopping several days there, he confirmed, by his life and conversation, the way of truth which he taught.
Here also, as elsewhere, he would go forth, when others were asleep, and having spent the night in watchfulness, return home at the hour of morning-prayer. Now one night, a brother of the monastery, seeing him go out alone, followed him privately to see what he should do. But he, when he left the monastery, went down to the sea, which flows beneath, and going into it, until the water reached his neck and arms, spent the night in praising God. When the dawn of day approached, he came out of the water, and, falling on his knees, began to pray again. Whilst he was doing this, two quadrupeds, called otters, came up from the sea, and, lying down before him on the sand, breathed upon his feet, and wiped them with their hair: after which, having received his blessing, they returned to their native element. Cuthbert himself returned home in time to join in the accustomed hymns with the other brethren. The brother, who waited for him on the heights, was so terrified that he could hardly reach home; and early in the morning he came and fell at his feet, asking his pardon, for he did not doubt that Cuthbert was fully acquainted with all that had taken place. To whom Cuthbert replied, “What is the matter, my brother? What have you done? Did you follow me to see what I was about to do? I forgive you for it on one condition,—that you tell it to nobody before my death.” In this he followed the example of our Lord, who, when He showed his glory to his disciples on the mountain, said, “See that you tell no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead.” When the brother had assented to this condition, he give him his blessing, and released him from all his trouble. The man concealed this miracle during St. Cuthbert’s life; but, after his death, took care to tell it to as many persons as he was able.
how, when the sailors were prevented from sailing by bad weather, he predicted that it would be fine on a certain day, and how he obtained food by prayer
Meanwhile the man of God began to wax strong in the spirit of prophecy, to foretell future events, and to describe to those he was with what things were going on elsewhere. Once upon a time he left the monastery for some necessary reason, and went by sea to the land of the Picts, which is called Niduari. Two of the brethren accompanied him; and one of these, who afterwards discharged the priest’s office, made known to several the miracle which the man of God there performed. They arrived there the day after Christmas-day, hoping, because the weather and sea were both tranquil, that they should soon return; and for this reason they took no food with them. They were, however, deceived in their expectations; for no sooner were they come to land, than a tempest arose, and prevented them from returning. After stopping there several days, suffering from cold and hunger, the day of the holy Epiphany was at hand, and the man of God, who had spent the night in prayer and watching, not in idleness or sloth, addressed them with cheerful and soothing language, as he was accustomed: “Why do we remain here idle? Let us do the best we can to save ourselves. The ground is covered with snow, and the heaven with clouds; the currents of both winds and waves are right against us: we are famished with hunger, and there is no one to relieve us. Let us importune the Lord with our prayers, that, as He opened to his people a path through the Red Sea, and miraculously fed them in the wilderness, He may take pity on us also in our present distress. If our faith does not waver, I do not think He will suffer us to remain all this day fasting—a day which He formerly made so bright with his heavenly majesty. I pray you, therefore, to come with me and see what provision He has made for us, that we may ourselves rejoice in his joy.” Saying these words, he led them to the shore where he himself had been accustomed to pray at night. On their arrival, they found there three pieces of dolphin’s flesh, looking as if some one had cut them and prepared them to be cooked. They fell on their knees and gave thanks to God. “You see, my beloved brethren,” said Cuthbert, “how great is the grace of God to him who hopes and trusts in the Lord. Behold, He has prepared food for his servants; and by the number three points out to us how long we must remain here. Take, therefore, the gifts which Christ has sent us; let us go and refresh ourselves, and abide here without fear, for after three days there will most assuredly be a calm, both of the heavens and of the sea.” All this was so as he had said: three days the storm lasted most violently; on the fourth day the promised calm followed, and they returned with a fair wind home.
how he foretold that, on a journey, an eagle would bring him food, and how this took place accordingly
It happened, also, that on a certain day he was going forth from the monastery to preach, with one attendant only, and when they became tired with walking, though a great part of their journey still lay before them ere they could reach the village to which they were going, Cuthbert said to his follower, “Where shall we stop to take refreshment? or do you know any one on the road to whom we may turn in?”—“I was myself thinking on the same subject,” said the boy; “for we have brought no provisions with us, and I know no one on the road who will entertain us, and we have a long journey still before us, which we cannot well accomplish without eating.” The man of God replied, “My son, learn to have faith, and trust in God, who will never suffer to perish with hunger those who trust in Him.” Then looking up, and seeing an eagle flying in the air, he said, “Do you perceive that eagle yonder? It is possible for God to feed us even by means of that eagle.” As they were thus discoursing, they came near a river, and behold the eagle was standing on its bank. “Look,” said the man of God, “there is our handmaid, the eagle, that I spoke to you about. Run, and see what provision God hath sent us, and come again and tell me.” The boy ran, and found a good-sized fish, which the eagle had just caught. But the man of God reproved him, “What have you done, my son? Why have you not given part to God’s handmaid? Cut the fish in two pieces, and give her one, as her service well deserves.” He did as he was bidden, and carried the other part with him on his journey. When the time for eating was come, they turned aside to a certain village, and having given the fish to be cooked, made an excellent repast, and gave also to their entertainers, whilst Cuthbert preached to them the word of God, and blessed Him for his mercies; for happy is the man whose hope is in the name of the Lord, and who has not looked upon vanity and foolish deceit. After this, they resumed their journey, to preach to those among whom they were going.
how he foresaw a vision of a fire coming from the devil whilst he was preaching, and how he put out the same
About the same time, as he was preaching the word of life to a number of persons assembled in a certain village, he suddenly saw in the spirit our old enemy coming to retard the work of salvation, and forthwith began by admonitions to prevent the snares and devices which he saw were coming. “Dearest brethren,” said he, “as often as you hear the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom preached to you, you should listen with attentive heart and with watchful feelings, lest the devil, who has a thousand ways of harming you, prevent you by superfluous cares from hearing the word of salvation.” As he said these words, he resumed the thread of his discourse, and immediately that wicked enemy, bringing supernatural fire, set light to a neighbouring house, so that flakes of fire seemed to fly through the air, and a storm of wind and thunder shook the sky. Nearly the whole multitude rushed forward, to extinguish the fire, (for he restrained a few of them himself,) but yet with all their real water they could not put out the false flames, until, at Cuthbert’s prayer, the author of the deceit was put to flight, and his fictitious fires dispersed along with him. The multitude, seeing this, were suffused with ingenuous blushes, and, falling on their knees before him, prayed to be forgiven for their fickleness of mind, acknowledging their conviction that the devil never rests even for an hour from impeding the work of man’s salvation. But he, encouraging them under their infirmity, again began to preach to them the words of everlasting life.
how, when a house was really set on fire, he put out the flames by prayer
But it was not only in the case of an apparition of a fire that his power was shown; for he extinguished a real fire by the fervency of his tears, when many had failed in putting it out with all the water they could get. For, as he was travelling about, preaching salvation, like the apostles of old, he one day entered the house of a pious woman, whom he was in the habit of often visiting, and whom, from having been nursed by her in his infancy, he was accustomed on that account to call his mother. The house was at the west end of the village, and Cuthbert had no sooner entered it to preach the word of God, than a house at the other end of the place caught fire and began to blaze most dreadfully. For the wind was from the same quarter, so that the sparks from the kindled thatch flew over the whole village. Those who were present tried to extinguish it with water, but were driven back by the heat. Then the aforesaid handmaid of the Lord, running to the house where Cuthbert was, besought him to help them, before her own house and the others in the village should be destroyed. “Do not fear, mother,” said he; “be of good cheer; this devouring flame will not hurt either you or yours.” He then went out and threw himself prostrate on the ground before the door. Whilst he was praying, the wind changed, and beginning to blow from the west, removed all danger of the fire assailing the house, into which the man of God had entered.
And thus in two miracles he imitated the virtues of two of the fathers. For in the case of the apparition of fire above mentioned, he imitated the reverend and holy father Saint Benedict, who by his prayers drove away the apparition of a fire like a burning kitchen, which the old enemy had presented before the eyes of his disciples: and, in the case of the real fire which he thus extinguished, he imitated that venerable priest Marcellinus of Ancona, who, when his native town was on fire, placed himself in front of the flames, and put them out by his prayers, though all the exertions of his fellow-countrymen had failed to extinguish them with water. Nor is it wonderful that such perfect and pious servants of God should receive power against the force of fire, considering that by their daily piety they enable themselves to conquer the desires of the flesh, and to extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one: and to them is applicable the saying of the prophet, [Is. xliii. 2.] “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the fire kindle upon thee.” But I, and those who are, like me, conscious of our own weakness and inertness, are sure that we can do nothing in that way against material fire, and, indeed, are by no means sure that we shall be able to escape unhurt from that fire of future punishment, which never shall be extinguished. But the love of our Saviour is strong and abundant, and will bestow the grace of its protection upon us, though we are unworthy and unable in this world to extinguish the fires of vicious passions and of punishment in the world which is to come.
how he cast out a devil from the præfect’s wife, even before his arrival
But, as we have above related how this venerable man prevailed against the false stratagems of the devil, now let us show in what way he displayed his power against his open and undisguised enmity. There was a certain præfect of King Egfrid, Hildemer by name, a man devoted with all his house to good works, and therefore especially beloved by Saint Cuthbert, and often visited by him whenever he was journeying that way. This man’s wife, who was devoted to almsgiving and other fruits of virtue, was suddenly so afflicted by a devil, that she gnashed her teeth, uttered the most pitiable cries, and, throwing about her arms and limbs, caused great terror to all who saw or heard her. Whilst she was lying in this state, and expected to die, her husband mounted his horse, and, coming to the man of God, besought his help, saying, “My wife is ill, and at the point of death: I entreat you to send a priest to visit her before she dies, and minister to her the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; and, also, that when she is dead, she may be buried in this holy place.” He was ashamed to say that she was out of her senses, because the man of God had always seen her in her right mind. Whilst the holy man was going to find out a priest to send to her, he reflected in his mind that it was no ordinary infirmity, but a visitation of the devil; and so, returning to the man who had come to entreat him in his wife’s behalf, he said, “I will not send any one, but I will go myself to visit her.”
Whilst they were going, the man began to cry, and the tears ran down his cheeks, for he was afraid lest Cuthbert, finding her afflicted with a devil, should think that she had been a false servant of the Lord, and that her faith was not real. The man of God consoled him: “Do not weep because I am likely to find your wife otherwise than I could wish; for I know that she is vexed with a devil, though you are afraid to name it: and I know, moreover, that, before we arrive, she will be freed, and come to meet us, and will herself take the reins, as sound in mind as ever, and will invite us in and minister to us as before; for not only the wicked but the innocent are sometimes permitted by God to be afflicted in body, and are even taken captive in spirit by the devil.” Whilst he thus consoled the man, they approached the house, and the evil spirit fled, not able to meet the coming of the holy man. The woman, freed from her suffering, rose up immediately, as if from sleep, and, meeting the man of God with joy, held the bridle of his horse, and, having entirely recovered her strength, both of mind and body, begged him to dismount and to bestow his blessing upon her house; and ministering sedulously to him, testified openly that, at the first touch of the rein, she had felt herself relieved from all the pain of her former suffering.
how he lived and taught in the monastery of lindisfarne
Whilst this venerable servant of the Lord was thus during many years, distinguishing himself by such signs of spiritual excellence in the monastery of Melrose, its reverend abbot, Eata, transferred him to the monastery in the island of Lindisfarne, that there also he might teach the rules of monastic perfection with the authority of its governor, and illustrate it by the example of his virtue; for the same reverend abbot had both monasteries under his jurisdiction. And no one should wonder that, though the island of Lindisfarne is small, we have above made mention of a bishop, and now of an abbot and monks; for the case is really so. For the same island, inhabited by servants of the Lord, contains both, and all are monks. For Aidan, who was the first bishop of that place, was a monk, and with all his followers lived according to the monastic rule. Wherefore all the principals of that place from him to the present time exercise the episcopal office; so that, whilst the monastery is governed by the abbot, whom they, with the consent of the brethren, have elected, all the priests, deacons, singers, readers, and other ecclesiastical officers of different ranks, observe the monastic rule in every respect, as well as the bishop himself. The blessed Pope Gregory showed that he approved this mode of life, when, in answer to Augustine, his first missionary to Britain, who asked him how bishops ought to converse with their clerks, among other remarks he replied, “Because, my brother, having been educated in the monastic rule, you ought not to keep aloof from your clerks: in the English Church, which, thanks be to God, has lately been converted to the faith, you should institute the same system, which has existed from the first beginning of our Church among our ancestors, none of whom said that the things which he possessed were his own, but they had all things common.” When Cuthbert, therefore, came to the church or monastery of Lindisfarne, he taught the brethren monastic rules both by his life and doctrines, and often going round, as was his custom, among the neighbouring people, he kindled them up to seek after and work out a heavenly reward. Moreover, by his miracles he became more and more celebrated, and by the earnestness of his prayers restored to their former health many that were afflicted with various infirmities and sufferings; some that were vexed with unclean spirits, he not only cured whilst present by touching them, praying over them, or even by commanding or exorcising the devils to go out of them; but even when absent he restored them by his prayers, or by foretelling that they should be restored; amongst whom also was the wife of the præfect above mentioned.
There were some brethren in the monastery who preferred their ancient customs to the new regular discipline. But he got the better of these by his patience and modest virtues, and by daily practice at length brought them to the better system which he had in view. Moreover, in his discussions with the brethren, when he was fatigued by the bitter taunts of those who opposed him, he would rise from his seat with a placid look, and dismiss the meeting until the following day, when, as if he had suffered no repulse, he would use the same exhortations as before, until he converted them, as I have said before, to his own views. For his patience was most exemplary, and in enduring the opposition which was heaped equally upon his mind and body, he was most resolute, and, amid the asperities which he encountered, he always exhibited such placidity of countenance, as made it evident to all that his outward vexations were compensated for by the internal consolations of the Holy Spirit.
But he was so zealous in watching and praying, that he is believed to have sometimes passed three or four nights together therein, during which time he neither went to his own bed, nor had any accommodation from the brethren for reposing himself. For he either passed the time alone, praying in some retired spot, or singing and making something with his hands, thus beguiling his sleepiness by labour; or, perhaps, he walked round the island, diligently examining every thing therein, and by this exercise relieved the tediousness of psalmody and watching. Lastly, he would reprove the faintheartedness of the brethren, who took it amiss if any one came and unseasonably importuned them to awake at night or during their afternoon naps. “No one,” said he, “can displease me by waking me out of my sleep, but, on the contrary, give me pleasure; for, by rousing me from inactivity, he enables me to do or think of something useful.” So devout and zealous was he in his desire after heavenly things, that, whilst officiating in the solemnity of the mass, he never could come to the conclusion thereof without a plentiful shedding of tears. But whilst he duly discharged the mysteries of our Lord’s passion, he would, in himself, illustrate that in which he was officiating; in contrition of heart he would sacrifice himself to the Lord; and whilst he exhorted the standersby to lift up their hearts and to give thanks unto the Lord, his own heart was lifted up rather than his voice, and it was the spirit which groaned within him rather than the note of singing. In his zeal for righteousness he was fervid to correct sinners, he was gentle in the spirit of mildness to forgive the penitent, so that he would often shed tears over those who confessed their sins, pitying their weaknesses, and would himself point out by his own righteous example what course the sinner should pursue. He used vestments of the ordinary description, neither noticeable for their too great neatness, nor yet too slovenly. Wherefore, even to this day, it is not customary in that monastery for any one to wear vestments of a rich or valuable colour, but they are content with that appearance which the natural wool of the sheep presents.
By these and such like spiritual exercises, this venerable man both excited the good to follow his example, and recalled the wicked and perverse from their errors to regularity of life.
of the habitation which he made for himself in the island of farne, when he had expelled the devils
When he had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted. He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.” At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men. There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide, which the Greeks call rheuma, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean. No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.
Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city. The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him. The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall. There were two chambers in the house, one an oratory, the other for domestic purposes. He finished the walls of them by digging round and cutting away the natural soil within and without, and formed the roof out of rough poles and straw. Moreover, at the landing-place of the island he built a large house, in which the brethren who visited him might be received and rest themselves, and not far from it there was a fountain of water for their use.
how by his prayers he drew water from the dry ground, and how he got on during his retirement
But his own dwelling was destitute of water, being built on hard and stony ground. The man of God, therefore, sent for the brethren, for he had not yet withdrawn himself entirely from the sight of visitors, and said to them, “You see that my dwelling is destitute of water; but I pray you, let us beseech Him who turned the solid rock into a pool of water and stones into fountains, that giving glory, not to us, but to his own name, He may vouchsafe to open to us a spring of water, even from this stony rock. Let us dig in the middle of my hut, and, I believe, out of his good pleasure, He will give us drink.” They therefore made a pit, and the next morning found it full of water, springing up from within. Wherefore there can be no doubt that it was elicited by the prayers of this man of God from the ground which was before dry and stony. Now this water, by a most remarkable quality, never overflowed its first limits so as to flood the pavement, nor yet ever failed, however much of it might be taken out; so that it never surpassed or fell short of the daily necessities of him who used it for his sustenance.
Now when Cuthbert had, with the assistance of the brethren, made for himself this dwelling with its chambers, he began to live in a more secluded manner. At first, indeed, when the brethren came to visit him, he would leave his cell and minister to them. He used to wash their feet devoutly with warm water, and was sometimes compelled by them to take off his shoes, that they might wash his feet also. For he had so far withdrawn his mind from attending to the care of his person, and fixed it upon the concerns of his soul, that he would often spend whole months without taking off his leathern gaiters. Sometimes, too, he would keep his shoes on from one Easter to another, only taking them off on account of the washing of feet, which then takes place at the Lord’s Supper. Wherefore, in consequence of his frequent prayers and genuflexions, which he made with his shoes on, he was discovered to have contracted a callosity on the junction of his feet and legs. At length, as his zeal after perfection grew, he shut himself up in his cell away from the sight of men, and spent his time alone in fasting, watching, and prayer, rarely having communication with any one without, and that through the window, which at first was left open, that he might see and be seen; but, after a time, he shut that also, and opened it only to give his blessing, or for any other purpose of absolute necessity.
how he sowed a field with barley, and kept off the birds from the crop by his mere word
At first, indeed, he received from his visitors a small portion of bread, and drank water from the fountain; but afterwards he thought it more fitting to live by the labour of his own hands, like the old fathers. He therefore asked them to bring him some instruments of husbandry, and some wheat to sow; but when he had sown the grain in the spring, it did not come up. At the next visit of the monks, he said to them, “Perhaps the nature of the soil, or the will of God, does not allow wheat to grow in this place: bring me, I beg of you, some barley: possibly that may answer. If, however, on trial it does not, I had better return to the monastery than be supported here by the labour of others.” The barley was accordingly brought, and sown, although the season was extraordinarily late; and the barley came up most unexpectedly and most abundantly. It no sooner began to ripen, than the birds came and wasted it most grievously. Christ’s holy servant, as he himself afterwards told it, (for he used, in a cheerful and affable manner, to confirm the faith of his hearers by telling them the mercies which his own faith had obtained from the Lord,) drew near to the birds, and said to them, “Why do you touch that which you have not sown? Have you more share than I in this? If you have received license from God, do what He allows you; but if not, get you gone, and do no further injury to that which belongs to another.” He had no sooner spoken, than all the flock of birds departed, and never more returned to feed upon that field. Thus in two miracles did this reverend servant of Christ imitate the example of two of the fathers: for, in drawing water from the rock, he followed the holy St. Benedict, who did almost the same thing, and in the same way, though more abundantly, because there were more who were in want of water. And in driving away the birds, he imitated the reverend and holy father St. Antony, who by his word alone drove away the wild asses from the garden which he had planted.
how the crows apologized to the man of god for the injury which they did him, and made him a present in compensation
I am here tempted to relate another miracle which he wrought in imitation of the aforesaid father St. Benedict, in which the obedience and humility of birds are a warning to the perversity and pride of mankind. There were some crows which had long been accustomed to build in the island. One day the man of God saw them, whilst making their nests, pull out the thatch of the hut which he had made to entertain the brethren in, and carry it away to build with. He immediately stretched out his hand, and warned them to do no harm to the brethren. As they neglected his command, he said to them, “In the name of Jesus Christ, depart as speedily as possible, and do not presume to remain any longer in the place, to which you are doing harm.” He had scarcely uttered these words, when they flew away in sorrow. At the end of three days one of the two returned, and finding the man of God digging in the field, spread out its wings in a pitiable manner, and bending its head down before his feet, in a tone of humility asked pardon by the most expressive signs it could, and obtained from the reverend father permission to return. It then departed and fetched its companion; and when they had both arrived, they brought in their beaks a large piece of hog’s lard, which the man of God used to show to the brethren who visited him, and kept to grease their shoes with; testifying to them how earnestly they should strive after humility, when a dumb bird that had acted so insolently, hastened by prayers, lamentation, and presents, to obliterate the injury which it had done to man. Lastly, as a pattern of reformation to the human race, these birds remained for many years and built their nests in the island, and did not dare to give annoyance to any one. But let no one think it absurd to learn virtue from birds; for Solomon says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise.”
how even the sea was subservient to his wants
But not only did the animals of the air and sea, for the sea itself, as the air and fire, on former occasions which we have mentioned, exemplified their obedience to the venerable man. For it is no wonder that every creature should obey his wishes, who so faithfully, and with his whole heart, obeyed the great Author of all creatures. But we for the most part have lost our dominion over the creation that has been subjected to us, because we neglect to obey the Lord and Creator of all things. The sea itself, I say, displayed the most ready obedience to Christ’s servant, when he had need of it. For he intended to build a little room in his monastery, adapted to his daily necessities; and on the side towards the sea, where the waves had scooped a hollow, it was necessary to put some support across the opening, which was twelve feet wide. He therefore asked the brethren, who came to visit him, when they returned the next time, to bring him a beam twelve feet long, to support his intended building. They readily promised to bring it, and having received his blessing, departed; but by the time they reached home they had entirely forgotten the matter, and on their next visit neglected to carry the timber which they had promised. He received them mildly, and giving them welcome in God’s name, asked them for the wood which he had requested them to bring. Then they, remembering what they had promised, apologized for their forgetfulness. Cuthbert, in the most gentle manner, pacified them, and requested them to sleep there, and remain till the morning; “for,” said he, “I do not think that God will forget my service or my necessities.” They accepted his invitation; and when they rose in the morning, they saw that the tide had, during the night, brought on shore a beam of the required size, and placed it exactly in the situation where the proposed chamber was to be built. When they saw this, they marvelled at the holiness of the venerable man, for that even the elements obeyed him, and took much shame to themselves for their forgetfulness and sloth, who were taught even by the senseless elements what obedience ought to be shown to God’s holy saints.
how he gave salutary admonitions to many who came to him, and exposed the impotent snares of the old enemy
But many came to the man of God, not only from the furthest parts of Lindisfarne, but even from the more remote parts of Britain, led thither by the fame of his virtues, to confess the errors which they had committed, or the temptations of the devil which they suffered, or the adversities common to mortals, with which they were afflicted, and all hoping to receive consolation from a man so eminent for holiness. Nor did their hope deceive them. For no one went away from him without consolation, no one returned afflicted with the same grief which had brought him thither. For he knew how to comfort the sorrowful with pious exhortation; he could recal the joys of celestial life to the memory of those who were straitened in circumstances, and show the uncertainty of prosperity and adversity in this life: he had learnt to make known to those who were tempted the numerous wiles of their ancient enemy, by which that mind would be easily captivated which was deprived of brotherly or Divine love; whereas, the mind which, strengthened by the true faith, should continue its course, would, by the help of God, break the snares of the adversary like the threads of a spider’s web. “How often,” said he, “have they sent me headlong from the high rock! How many times have they thrown stones at me as if to kill me! Yea, they sought to discourage me by various trials of apparitions, and to exterminate me from this scene of trial, but were never able to affect my body with injury, or my mind with fear.”
He was accustomed to relate these things more frequently to the brotherhood, lest they should wonder at his conversation as being peculiarly exalted, because, despising secular cares, he preferred to live apart. “But,” said he, “the life of monks may well be wondered at, who are subjected in all things to the orders of the abbot, the times of watching, praying, fasting, and working, being all regulated according to his will; many of whom have I known far exceed my littleness, both in purity of mind and advancement in prophetic grace. Among whom must I mention, with all honour, the venerable Boisil, servant of Christ, who, when an old man, formerly supported me in my youth at Melrose Abbey, and while instructing me, he foretold, with prophetic truth, all things which would happen to me; and of all things which he foretold to me, one alone remains which I hope may never be accomplished.” Cuthbert told us this was a prophecy of Boisil, that this, our holy servant of Christ, should attain to the office of a bishop; though he, in his eagerness after the heavenly life, felt horrified at the announcement.
how elfled the abbess and one of her nuns were cured of an infirmity by means of his girdle
But though our man of God was thus secluded from mankind, yet he did not cease from working miracles and curing those who were sick. For a venerable handmaid of Christ, Elfled by name, who, amid the joys of virginity, devoted her motherly care and piety to several companies of Christ’s handmaids, and added to the lustre of her princely birth the brighter excellence of exalted virtue, was inspired with much love towards the holy man of God. About this time, as she afterwards told the reverend Herefrid, presbyter of the church of Lindisfarne, who related it to me, she was afflicted with a severe illness and suffered long, insomuch that she seemed almost at the gates of death. The physicians could do her no good, when, on a sudden, the Divine grace worked within her, and she by degrees was saved from death, though not fully cured. The pain in her inside left her, the strength of her limbs returned, but the power of standing and walking was still denied her; for she could not support herself on her feet, nor move from place to place, save on all fours. Her sorrow was, therefore, great; and she never expected to recover from her weakness, for she had long abandoned all hope from the physicians. One day, as she was indulging her bitter thoughts, she turned her mind to the holy and tranquil life of the reverend father Cuthbert; and expressed a wish that she had in her possession some article that had belonged to him; “for I know, and am confident,” said she, “that I should soon be well.” Not long after this, there came a person who brought with him a linen girdle from Saint Cuthbert: she was overjoyed at the gift, and perceiving that Heaven had revealed to the saint her wish, she put it on, and the next morning found herself able to stand upon her feet. On the third day she was restored to perfect health.
A few days after, one of the virgins of the same monastery was taken ill with a violent pain in the head; and whilst the complaint became so much worse that she thought she should die, the venerable abbess went in to see her. Seeing her sorely afflicted, she brought the girdle of the man of God to her, and bound it round her head. The same day the pain in the head left her, and she laid up the girdle in her chest. The abbess wanted it again a few days after, but it could not be found either in the chest or anywhere else. It was at once perceived that Divine Providence had so ordered it, that the sanctity of the man of God might be established by these two miracles, and all occasion of doubting thereof be removed from the incredulous. For if the girdle had remained, all those who were sick would have gone to it, and whilst some of them would be unworthy of being cured, its efficacy to cure might have been denied; whereas their own unworthiness would have been to blame. Whereof, as I said before, Heaven so dealt forth its benevolence from on high, that when the faith of believers had been strengthened, all matter for detraction was forthwith removed from the malice of the unrighteous.
of his prophecy in answer to the same elfled, concerning the life of king egfrid and his own bishopric
At another time, the same Elfled, who was a most holy virgin, and mother of the virgins of Christ, sent for the man of God, adjuring him in the name of our Lord that she might be allowed to see him and to speak about certain things of importance. He therefore entered with the brethren into a ship, and went over to an island which is situated in the mouth of the river Coquet, from which it received its name. The island was also remarkable for the number of its monks. The abbess, who had requested him to meet her in this island, when she had enjoyed his conversation for some time, and the man of God had answered many questions that she put to him; on a sudden, in the midst of his conversation, she fell at his feet and adjured him, by the terrible and sacred name of our heavenly King and his angels, that he would tell her how long her brother Egfrid would live and govern the English nation. “For I know,” she said, “that you abound in the spirit of prophecy, and that, if you are willing, you are able to tell me even this.” But he, shuddering at the adjuration, and yet not being willing openly to reveal the secret which she had asked him, replied, “It is a wonderful thing that you, being a wise woman and skilled in sacred Scriptures, should call long the duration of human life: the Psalmist says, that ‘our years shall perish like a spider’s web,’ and Solomon advises, that if a man shall live many years, and shall have been prosperous in all of these, he ought to remember the gloomy time of many days, which when it shall come, the past is convicted of folly; how much more then ought that man, to whose life one year only is wanting, to be considered as having lived a short time when death stands at his door!”
On hearing these words she lamented the dreadful prophecy with many tears; but then having wiped her face, she with feminine boldness adjured him by the majesty of the Holy One, that he would tell her who would be the heir to the kingdom, seeing that Egfrid had neither sons nor brothers. After a short silence, he said, “Do not say that he is without heirs, for he shall have a successor, whom you shall embrace like Egfrid himself with the affection of a sister.”—“But,” said she, “I beseech you to tell me where he may be found.” He answered, “You behold this great and spacious sea, how it aboundeth in islands. It is easy for God out of some of these to provide a person to reign over England.” She therefore understood him to speak of Alfrid, who was said to be the son of her father, and was then, on account of his love of literature, exiled to the Scottish islands. But she was aware that Egfrid proposed to make him a bishop, and wishing to know if the effect would follow the intention, she began by inquiring in this manner: “Oh, with what various intentions are the hearts of men distracted! Some rejoice in having obtained riches, others always eager after them are still in want: but thou rejectest the glory of the world, although it is offered thee; and although thou mightest obtain a bishopric, than which there is nothing more sublime on earth, yet thou preferrest the recesses of thy desert to this rank.”—“But,” said he, “I know that I am not worthy of so high a rank; nevertheless, I cannot shun the judgment of the Supreme Ruler, who, if he decreed that I should subject myself to so great a burden, would, I believe, restore me after a moderate freedom, and perhaps after not more than two years would send me back to my former solitude and quiet. But I must first request you in the name of our Lord and Saviour that you do not relate to any one before my death the things which I have told you.” When he had expounded to her the various things which she asked, and had instructed her concerning the things which she had need of, he returned to his solitary island and monastery, and continued his mode of life as he had commenced it.
Not long after, in a full synod, Archbishop Theodore of blessed memory presiding in the presence of God’s chosen servant, the holy King Egfrid, he was unanimously elected to the bishopric of the see of Lindisfarne. But, although they sent many messengers and letters to him, he could not by any means be drawn from his habitation, until the king himself, above mentioned, sailed to the island, attended by the most holy Bishop Trumwine, and by as many other religious and influential men as he could: they all went down on their knees before him, and adjured him by the Lord, with tears and entreaties, until they drew him away from his retirement with tears in his eyes, and took him to the synod. When arrived there, although much resisting, he was overcome by the unanimous wish of all, and compelled to submit to undertake the duties of the bishopric; yet the ordination did not take place immediately, but at the termination of the winter which was then beginning. And that his prophecies might be fulfilled in all things, Egfrid was killed the year afterwards in battle with the Picts, and was succeeded on the throne by his illegitimate brother Alfrid, who, a few years before, had devoted himself to literature in Scotland, suffering a voluntary exile, to gratify his love of science.
how, when elected to the bishopric, he cured a servant of one of the king’s attendants by means of holy water
When Cuthbert, the man of God, after having been elected to the bishopric, had returned to his island, and for some time had served God in secret with his accustomed devotion, the venerable Bishop Eata called him and requested him to come to an interview with him at Melrose. The conversation being finished, and Cuthbert having commenced his journey homewards, a certain attendant of King Egfrid met him, and besought him that he would turn aside and give a benediction at his house. When he had arrived there, and had received the grateful salutations of all, the man pointed out to him one of his servants who was infirm, saying, “I thank God, most holy father, that you have thought worthy to enter our house to see us, and, indeed, we believe that your arrival will afford us the greatest profit both of mind and body. For there is one of our servants tormented with the worst infirmity, and is this day afflicted with such great pain that he appears more like a man dying than sick. For his extremities being dead, he seems only to breathe a little through his mouth and nostrils.” Cuthbert immediately blessed some water, and gave it to a servant whose name was Baldhelm, who is still alive and filling the office of presbyter in the bishopric of Lindisfarne, which he adorns by his good qualities. He also has the faculty of relating in the sweetest manner the virtues of the man of God to all who are desirous of knowing, and it was he that told me the miracle which I relate. The man of God, then, giving him the holy water, said, “Go and give it to the sick man to drink.” In obedience to these words he brought the water to the sick man, and when he poured it into his mouth the third time, the sick man, contrary to his usual custom, fell asleep. It was now evening, and he passed the night in silence, and in the morning appeared quite well when his master visited him.
of his manner of life in his bishopric
The venerable man of God, Cuthbert, adorned the office of bishop, which he had undertaken, by the exercise of many virtues, according to the precepts and examples of the Apostles. For he protected the people committed to his care with frequent prayers, and invited them to heavenly things by most wholesome admonitions, and followed that system which most facilitates teaching, by first doing himself what he taught to others. He saved the needy man from the hand of the stronger, and the poor and destitute from those who would oppress them. He comforted the weak and sorrowful; but he took care to recal those who were sinfully rejoicing to that sorrow which is according to godliness. Desiring still to exercise his usual frugality, he did not cease to observe the severity of a monastic life, amid the turmoil by which he was surrounded. He gave food to the hungry, raiment to the shivering, and his course was marked by all the other particulars which adorn the life of a pontiff. The miracles with which he shone forth to the world bore witness to the virtues of his own mind, some of which we have taken care briefly to hand down to memory.
how, though at a distance, he saw in spirit the death of king egfrid, and the end of his warfare, which he had foretold
Now, when King Egfrid had rashly led his army against the Picts, and devastated their territories with most atrocious cruelty, the man of God, Cuthbert, knowing that the time was now come, concerning which he had prophesied the year before to his sister, that the king would live only one year more, came to Lugubalia (which is corruptly called by the English Luel) to speak to the queen, who was there awaiting the result of the war in her sister’s monastery. But the next day, when the citizens were leading him to see the walls of the town, and the remarkable fountain, formerly built by the Romans, suddenly, as he was resting on his staff, he was disturbed in spirit, and, turning his countenance sorrowfully to the earth, he raised himself, and, lifting his eyes to heaven, groaned loudly, and said in a low voice, “Now, then, the contest is decided!” The presbyter, who was standing near, in incautious haste answered, and said, “How do you know it?” But he, unwilling to declare more concerning those things which were revealed to him, said, “Do you not see how wonderfully the air is changed and disturbed? Who is able to investigate the judgments of the Almighty?” But he immediately entered in and spoke to the queen in private, for it was the Sabbath-day. “Take care,” said he, “that you get into your chariot very early on the second day of the week, for it is not lawful to ride in a chariot on the Lord’s day; and go quickly to the royal city, lest, perchance, the king may have been slain. But I have been asked to go to-morrow to a neighbouring monastery, to consecrate a church, and will follow you as soon as that duty is finished.”
But when the Lord’s day was come, whilst he was preaching the word of God to the brethren of the same monastery, the sermon being finished, he began again to teach his listening congregation, as follows:—“I beseech you, my beloved, according to the admonitions of the Apostle, to watch, remain stedfast in the faith, act manfully, and be comforted, that no temptation may find you unprepared, but rather that you may be always mindful of the precept of the Lord Himself, ‘Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.’ ” But some thought he said this because a pestilence had not long before afflicted them and many others with a great mortality, and that he spoke of this scourge being about to return. But he, resuming his discourse, said, “When I formerly lived alone in my island, some of the brethren came to me on the day of the Holy Nativity, and asked me to go out of my cabin and solemnize with them this joyful and hallowed day. Yielding to their prayers, I went out, and we sat down to feast. But, in the middle of the banquet, I suddenly said to them, ‘I beseech you, brethren, let us act cautiously and watchfully, lest, perchance, through carelessness and a sense of security, we be led into temptation.’ But they answered, ‘We entreat you, let us spend a joyful day now, for it is the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ To which I agreed. Some time after this, when we were indulging ourselves in eating, merriment, and conversation, I again began to admonish them that we should be solicitous in prayer and watchfulness, and ever prepared to meet all temptations. But they replied, ‘You teach well; nevertheless, as the days of fasting, watching, and prayer are numerous, let us to-day rejoice in the Lord. For the angel manifested great joy to the shepherds when the Lord was born, and told them that it was a day to be celebrated by all people!’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘let us do so.’ But when I repeated the words of the same admonition the third time, they perceived that I would not have suggested this so earnestly for no purpose, and said to me in fear, ‘Let us do as you teach, for it is incumbent on us to watch in spirit, armed against the snares and temptations of the devil.’ When I said these things, I did not know any more than they that any new temptation would happen to us; but I was only admonished, as it were instinctively, that the state of the heart is to be always fortified against the storms of temptations. But when they returned from me to their own home, that is, to the monastery of Lindisfarne, they found that one of their brethren was dead of a pestilence; and the same disease increased, and raged so furiously from day to day, for months, and almost for a whole year, that the greater part of that noble assembly of spiritual fathers and brethren were sent into the presence of the Lord. Now, therefore, my brethren, watch and pray, that if any tribulation assail you, it may find you prepared.”
When the venerable man of God, Cuthbert, had said these things, the brethren thought, as I have before stated, that he spoke of a return of the pestilence. But the day after, a man who had escaped from the war explained, by the lamentable news which he brought, the hidden prophecies of the man of God. It appeared that the guards had been slain, and the king cut off by the sword of the enemy, on the very day and hour in which it was revealed to the man of God as he was standing near the well.
how he foretold his own death to herebert, the hermit, and by prayers to god obtained his attendance
Not very long afterwards, the same servant of God, Cuthbert, was summoned to the same city of Lugubalia, not only to consecrate priests, but also to bless the queen herself with his holy conversation. Now there was a venerable priest of the name of Herebert, who had long been united to the man of God, Cuthbert, in the bond of spiritual friendship, and who, leading a solitary life, in an island in the large marsh from which the Derwent rises, used to come to him every year, and receive from him admonitions in the way of eternal life. When this man heard that he was stopping in that city, he came according to his custom, desiring to be kindled up more and more by his wholesome exhortations in aspiring after heavenly things. When these two had drunk deeplyy of the cup of celestial wisdom, Cuthbert said, among other things, “Remember, brother Herebert, that you ask me now concerning whatever undertaking you may have in hand, and that you speak to me about it now, because, after we shall have separated, we shall see each other no more in this life. I am certain that the time of my death approaches, and the time of leaving my earthly tenement is at hand.” Upon hearing these words, he threw himself at his feet with tears and lamentations, saying, “I beseech you by the Lord not to leave me, but be mindful of your companion, and pray the Almighty Goodness that, as we have served Him together on earth, we may at the same time pass to heaven to see his light. For I have always sought to live according to the command of your mouth; and what I have left undone through ignorance or frailty, I have equally taken care to correct, according to your pleasure.” The bishop yielded to his prayers, and immediately learnt in spirit, that he had obtained that which he had sought from the Lord. “Arise, my brother,” says he, “and do not lament, but rejoice in gladness, for his great mercy has granted us that which we asked of Him.” The event confirmed his promise and the truth of the prophecy; for they never met again, but their souls departed from their bodies at one and the same moment of time, and were joined together in a heavenly vision, and translated at the same time by angels to the heavenly kingdom. But Herebert was first afflicted with a long infirmity, perhaps by a dispensation of holy piety, in order that the continual pain of a long sickness might supply what merit he had less than the blessed Cuthbert, so that being by grace made equal to his intercessor, he might be rendered worthy to depart this life at one and the same hour with him, and to be received into one and the same seat of everlasting happiness.
how, through his priest, he cured the wife of an earl with holy water
When he was one day going round his parish to give spiritual admonitions throughout the rural districts, cottages, and villages, and to lay his hand on all the lately baptized, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, he came to the mansion of a certain earl, whose wife lay sick almost unto death. The earl himself, meeting him as he entered, thanked the Lord on his knees for his arrival, and received him with kind hospitality. When his feet and hands were washed, according to the custom of hospitality, and the bishop had sat down, the man began to tell him about the sickness of his wife, who was despaired of, and besought him to consecrate some water to sprinkle on her. “I believe,” said he, “that by-and-by she will either, by the grace of God, be restored to health, or else she will pass by death to life eternal, and soon receive a recompense for so heavy and long-continued trouble.” The man of God assented to his prayers, and having blessed the water which was brought to him, gave it to the priest, directing him to sprinkle it on the patient. He entered the bedroom in which she lay, as if dead, and sprinkled her and the bed, and poured some of the healing draught down her throat. Oh, wonderful and extraordinary circumstance! the holy water had scarcely touched the patient, who was wholly ignorant what was brought her, than she was so restored to health, both of mind and body, that being come to her senses she blessed the Lord and returned thanks to Him, that He thought her worthy to be visited and healed by such exalted guests. She got up without delay, and being now well, ministered to those who had been instrumental in curing her; and it was extraordinary to see her, who had escaped the bitter cup of death by the bishop’s benediction, now the first of the nobleman’s family to offer him refreshment, following the example of the mother-in-law of the Apostle Peter, who, being cured of a fever by the Lord, arose forthwith and ministered unto Him and his disciples.
how he cured a girl of a pain in the head and side by anointing her with oil
But the venerable Bishop Cuthbert effected a cure similar to this, of which there were many eye-witnesses, one of whom is the religious priest, Ethelwald, at that time attendant on the man of God, but now abbot of the monastery of Melrose. Whilst, according to his custom, he was travelling and teaching all, he arrived at a certain village, in which were a few holy women, who had fled from their monastery through fear of the barbarian army, and had there obtained a habitation from the man of God a short time before: one of whom, a sister of the above-mentioned priest, Ethelwald, was confined with a most grievous sickness: for during a whole year she had been troubled with an intolerable pain in the head and side, which the physicians utterly despaired of curing. But when they told the man of God about her, and entreated him to cure her, he in pity anointed the wretched woman with holy oil. From that time she began to get better, and was well in a few days.
how he cured an infirm man by consecrated bread
I must not here pass over a miracle which was told to me as having been worked by his holiness, though he himself was absent. We mentioned a prefect of the name of Hildemer, whose wife the man of God freed from an unclean spirit. The same prefect afterwards fell seriously ill, so that his malady daily increased, and he was confined to his bed, apparently near death. Many of his friends were present who had come to console him in his sickness. Whilst they were sitting by the bedside, one of them mentioned that he had with him some consecrated bread which Cuthbert had given him: “And I think,” said he, “that if we were in faith to give him this to eat, nothing doubting, he would be well.” All present were laymen, but at the same time very pious men, and turning to one another, they professed their faith, without doubting, that by partaking of that same consecrated bread he might be well. They therefore filled a cup with water, and putting a little of the bread into it, gave it him to drink: the water thus hallowed by the bread no sooner touched his stomach than all his inward pain left him, and the wasting of his outward members ceased. A perfect recovery speedily ensued, and both himself and the others who saw or heard the rapidity of this wonderful cure were thereby stirred up to praise the holiness of Christ’s servant, and to admire the virtues of his true faith.
how, by prayer, he restored to life a young man whom he found at the point of death on a journey
As this holy shepherd of Christ’s flock was going round visiting his folds, he came to a mountainous and wild place, where many people had got together from all the adjoining villages, that he might lay his hands upon them. But among the mountains no fit church or place could be found to receive the bishop and his attendants. They therefore pitched tents for him in the road, and each cut branches from the trees in the neighbouring wood to make for himself the best sort of covering that he was able. Two days did the man of God preach to the assembled crowds; and minister the grace of the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands upon those that were regenerate in Christ; when, on a sudden, there appeared some women bearing on a bed a young man, wasted by severe illness, and having placed him down at the outlet of the wood, sent to the bishop, requesting permission to bring him, that he might receive a blessing from the holy man. When he was brought near, the bishop perceived that his sufferings were great, and ordered all to retire to a distance. He then betook himself to his usual weapon, prayer, and bestowing his blessing, expelled the fever, which all the care and medicines of the physicians had not been able to cure. In short, he rose up the same hour, and having refreshed himself with food, and given thanks to God, walked back to the women who had brought him. And so it came to pass, that whereas they had in sorrow brought the sick man thither, he now returned home with them, safe and well, and all rejoicing, both he and they alike.
how, at a time of sickness, he restored a dying boy in health to his mother
At the same time the plague made great ravages in those parts, so that there were scarcely any inhabitants left in villages and places which had been thickly populated, and some towns were wholly deserted. The holy father Cuthbert, therefore, went round his parish, most assiduously ministering the word of God, and comforting those few who were left. But being arrived at a certain village, and having there exhorted all whom he found there, he said to his attendant priest, “Do you think that any one remains who has need that we should visit and converse with him? or have we now seen all here, and shall we go elsewhere?” The priest looked about, and saw a woman standing afar off, one of whose sons had died but a little time before, and she was now supporting another at the point of death, whilst the tears trickling down her cheek bore witness to her past and present affliction. He pointed her out to the man of God, who immediately went to her, and, blessing the boy, kissed him, and said to his mother, “Do not fear nor be sorrowful; for your child shall be healed and live, and no one else of your household shall die of this pestilence.” To the truth of which prophecy the mother and son, who lived a long time after that, bore witness.
how he saw the soul of a man, who had been killed by falling from a tree, ascend to heaven
But now this man of God, foreseeing his end approaching, had determined to lay aside the duties of his pastoral office, and return to his former solitary life, that by shaking off the cares of this life he might occupy himself amidst unrestrained psalmody and prayer in preparing for the day of his death, or rather of his entrance into everlasting life. He wished first to go round his parishes, and visit the houses of the faithful in his neighbourhood; and then, when he had confirmed all with such consolatory admonitions as should be required, to return to the solitary abode which he so longed after. Meanwhile, at the request of the noble and holy virgin, the Abbess Elfleda, of whom I have before made mention, he entered the estate belonging to her monastery, both to speak to her and also to consecrate a church therein; for there was there a considerable number of monks. When they had taken their seats, at the hour of repast, on a sudden Cuthbert turned away his thoughts from the carnal food to the contemplation of heavenly things. His limbs being much fatigued by his previous duties, the colour of his face changed, his eyes became unusually fixed, and the knife dropped from his hands upon the table. The priest, who stood by and ministered to him, perceiving this, said to the abbess, “Ask the bishop what he has just seen: for I know there was some reason for his hand thus trembling and letting fall the knife, whilst his countenance also changed so wonderfully: he has surely seen something which we have not seen.” She immediately turned to him and said, “I pray you, my lord bishop, tell me what you have just seen, for your tired hand did not let fall the knife just now without some cause.” The bishop endeavoured to conceal the fact of his having seen any thing supernatural, and replied in joke, “I was not able to eat the whole day, was I? I must have left off some time or other.” But, when she persisted in her entreaty that he would tell the vision, he said, “I saw the soul of a holy man carried up to heaven in the arms of angels.”—“From what place,” said she, “was it taken?”—“From your monastery,” replied the bishop; upon which she further asked his name. “You will tell it me,” said he, “to-morrow, when I am celebrating mass.” On hearing these words, she immediately sent to the larger monastery to inquire who had been lately removed from the body. The messenger, finding all safe and well, was preparing to return in the morning to his mistress, when he met some men carrying in a cart the body of a deceased brother to be buried. On inquiring who it was, he found that it was one of the shepherds, a worthy man, who, having incautiously mounted a tree, had fallen down, and died from the bruise, at the same time that the man of God had seen the vision. He immediately went and told the circumstance to his mistress, who went forthwith to the bishop, at that time consecrating the church, and in amazement, as if she were going to tell him something new and doubtful, “I pray,” said she, “my lord bishop, remember in the mass my servant Hadwald,” (for that was his name,) “who died yesterday by falling from a tree.” It was then plain to all that the holy man possessed in his mind an abundant spirit of prophecy; for that he saw before his eyes at the moment the man’s soul carried to heaven, and knew beforehand what was afterwards going to be told him by others.
how he changed water by tasting it, so that it had the flavour of wine
When he had gone regularly through the upper districts, he came to a nunnery, which we have before mentioned, not far from the mouth of the river Tyne; where he was magnificently entertained by Christ’s servant, Abbess Verca,—a woman of a most noble character, both in spiritual and temporal concerns. When they rose from their afternoon repose, he said he was thirsty, and asked for drink. They inquired of him what he would have, whether they should bring him wine, or beer. “Give me water,” said he; and they brought him a draught from the fountain. But he, when he had given thanks and tasted it, gave it to his attendant priest, who returned it to the servant. The man, taking the cup, asked if he might drink out of the same cup as the bishop. “Certainly,” said the priest, “why not?” Now that priest also belonged to the same monastery. He therefore drank, and the water seemed to him to taste like wine. Upon which he gave the cup to the brother who was standing near, that he might be a witness of so great a miracle; and to him also the taste seemed, without a doubt, to be that of wine. They looked at one another in amazement; and when they found time to speak, they acknowledged to one another that they had never tasted better wine. I give this on the authority of one of them, who stopped some time in our monastery at Weremouth, and now lies buried there.
how some of the brethren, for disobedience to him, were detained by a storm at sea
When Cuthbert had passed two years in the episcopal office, knowing in spirit that his last day was at hand, he divested himself of his episcopal duties and returned to his much-loved solitude, that he might there occupy his time in extracting the thorns of the flesh, and kindle up to greater brightness the flame of his former humility. At this time he was accustomed to go out frequently from his cell, and converse with the brethren, who came to visit him. I will here mention a miracle which he then wrought, in order that it may be more evident to all men what obedience should be rendered to his saints, even in the case of commands which they seem to have given with carelessness or indifference. He had one day left his cell, to give advice to some visitors; and when he had finished, he said to them, “I must now go in again; but do you, as you are inclined to depart, first take food; and when you have cooked and eaten that goose, which is hanging on the wall, go on board your vessel in God’s name, and return home.” He then uttered a prayer, and, having blessed them, went in. But they, as he had bidden them, took some food; but having enough provisions of their own, which they had brought with them, they did not touch the goose.
Now when they had refreshed themselves, they tried to go on board their vessel, but a sudden storm utterly prevented them from putting to sea. They were thus detained seven days in the island by the roughness of the waves, and yet they could not call to mind what fault they had committed. They therefore returned to have an interview with the holy father, and to lament to him their detention. He exhorted them to be patient, and on the seventh day came out to console their sorrow, and give them pious exhortations. When, however, he had entered the house in which they were stopping, and saw that the goose was not eaten, he reproved their disobedience with mild countenance and in gentle language. “Have you not left the goose still hanging in its place? What wonder is it that the storm has prevented your departure? Put it immediately into the caldron, and boil and eat it, that the sea may become tranquil, and you may return home.”
They immediately did as he had commanded; and it happened most wonderfully that the moment the kettle began to boil, the wind began to cease, and the waves to be still. Having finished their repast, and seeing that the sea was calm, they went on board, and, to their great delight, though with shame for their neglect, reached home with a fair wind. Their shame arose from their disobedience and dulness of comprehension, whereby, amid the chastening of their Maker, they were unable to perceive and to correct their error. They rejoiced, because they now saw what care God had for his faithful servant, so as to vindicate him from neglect, even by means of the elements. They rejoiced, too, that the Lord should have had so much regard to themselves, as to correct their offences even by an open miracle. Now this, which I have related, I did not pick up from any chance authority, but I had it from one of those who were present,—a most reverend monk and priest of the same monastery, Cynemund, who still lives, known to many in the neighbourhood for his years and the purity of his life.
of the temptations which he underwent in his sickness, and his orders concerning his burial
The solemn day of the nativity of our Lord was scarcely over, when the man of God, Cuthbert, returned to his dwelling on the island. A crowd of monks were standing by as he entered into the ship; and one of them, an old and venerable monk, strong in faith but weak in body, in consequence of a dysentery, said to him, “Tell us, my lord bishop, when we may hope for your return.” To this plain question, he replied as plainly, “When you shall bring my body back here.” When he had passed about two months in the enjoyment of his rest, and had as usual subdued both his body and mind with his accustomed severity, he was suddenly seized with illness, and began to prepare for the joy of everlasting happiness, through pain and temporal affliction. I will describe his death in the words of him who related it to me, namely, his attendant priest Herefrid, a most religious man, who also at that time presided over the monastery of Lindisfarne, in the capacity of abbot.
“He was brought to the point of death,” said he, “after having been weakened by three weeks of continued suffering. For he was taken ill on the fourth day of the week; and again on the fourth day of the week his pains were over, and he departed to the Lord. But when I came to him on the first morning after his illness began—(for I had also arrived at the island with the brethren three days before)—in my desire to obtain his blessing and advice as usual, I gave the customary signal of my coming, and he came to the window, and replied to my salutation with a sigh. ‘My lord bishop,’ said I, ‘what is the matter with you? Has your indisposition come upon you this last night?’—‘Yes,’ said he, ‘indisposition has come upon me.’ I thought that he was speaking of an old complaint, which vexed him almost every day, and not of a new malady; so, without making any more inquiries, I said to him, ‘Give us your blessing, for it is time to put to sea and return home.’—‘Do so,’ replied he; ‘go on board, and return home in safety. But, when the Lord shall have taken my spirit, bury me in this house, near my oratory, towards the south, over against the eastern side of the holy cross, which I have erected there. Towards the north side of that same oratory is a sarcophagus under the turf, which the venerable Abbot Cudda formerly gave me. You will place my body therein, wrapping it in linen, which you will find in it. I would not wear it whilst I was alive, but for the love of that highly favoured woman, who sent it to me, the Abbess Verca, I have preserved it to wrap my corpse in.’ On hearing these words, I replied, ‘I beseech you, father, as you are weak, and talk of the probability of your dying, to let some of the brethren remain here to wait on you.’—‘Go home now,’ said he; ‘but return at the proper time.’ So I was unable to prevail upon him, notwithstanding the urgency of my entreaties; and at last I asked him when we should return to him. ‘When God so wills it,’ said he, ‘and when He Himself shall direct you.’ We did as he commanded us; and having assembled the brethren immediately in the church, I had prayers offered up for him without intermission; ‘for,’ said I, ‘it seems to me, from some words which he spoke, that the day is approaching on which he will depart to the Lord.’
“I was anxious about returning to him on account of his illness, but the weather prevented us for five days; and it was ordered so by God, as the event showed. For God Almighty, wishing to cleanse his servant from every stain of earthly weakness, and to show his adversaries how weak they were against the strength of his faith, kept him aloof from men, and put him to the proof by pains of the flesh, and still more violent encounters with the ancient enemy. At length there was a calm, and we went to the island, and found him away from his cell in the house where we were accustomed to reside. The brethren who came with me had some occasion to go back to the neighbouring shore, so that I was left alone on the island to minister to the holy father. I warmed some water and washed his feet, which had an ulcer from a long swelling, and, from the quantity of blood that came from it, required to be attended to. I also warmed some wine which I had brought, and begged him to taste it; for I saw by his face that he was worn out with pain and want of food. When I had finished my service, he sat down quietly on the couch, and I sat down by his side.
“Seeing that he kept silence, I said, ‘I see, my lord bishop, that you have suffered much from your complaint since we left you, and I marvel that you were so unwilling for us, when we departed, to send you some of our number to wait upon you.’ He replied, ‘It was done by the providence and the will of God, that I might be left without any society or aid of man, and suffer somewhat of affliction. For when you were gone, my languor began to increase, so that I left my cell and came hither to meet any one who might be on his way to see me, that he might not have the trouble of going further. Now, from the moment of my coming until the present time, during a space of five days and five nights, I have sat here without moving.’—‘And how have you supported life, my lord bishop?’ asked I; ‘have you remained so long without taking food?’ Upon which, turning up the couch on which he was sitting, he showed me five onions concealed therein, saying, ‘This has been my food for five days; for, whenever my mouth became dry and parched with thirst, I cooled and refreshed myself by tasting these;’—now one of the onions appeared to have been a little gnawed, but certainly not more than half of it was eaten;—‘and,’ continued he, ‘my enemies have never persecuted me so much during my whole stay in the island, as they have done during these last five days.’ I was not bold enough to ask what kinds of persecutions he had suffered: I only asked him to have some one to wait upon him. He consented, and kept some of us with him; amongst whom was the priest Bede the elder, who had always been used to familiar attendance upon him. This man was consequently a most faithful witness of every thing which he gave or received, whom Cuthbert wished to keep with him, to remind him if he did not make proper compensation for any presents which he might receive, that before he died he might render to every one his own. He kept also another of the brethren with him, who had long suffered from a violent diarrhœa, and could not be cured by the physicians; but, for his religious merit, and prudent conduct, and grave demeanour, was thought worthy to hear the last words of the man of God, and to witness his departure to the Lord.
“Meanwhile I returned home, and told the brethren that the holy father wished to be buried in his own island; and I added my opinion, that it would be more proper and becoming to obtain his consent for his body to be transported from the island, and buried in the monastery with the usual honours. My words pleased them, and we went to the bishop, and asked him, saying, ‘We have not dared, my lord bishop, to despise your injunction to be buried here, and yet we have thought proper to request of you permission to transport your body over to the monastery, and so have you amongst us.’ To which he replied, ‘It was also my wish to repose here, where I have fought my humble battles for the Lord, where, too, I wish to finish my course, and whence I hope to be lifted up by a righteous Judge to obtain the crown of righteousness. But I think it better for you, also, that I should repose here, on account of the fugitives and criminals who may flee to my corpse for refuge; and when they have thus obtained an asylum, inasmuch as I have enjoyed the fame, humble though I am, of being a servant of Christ, you may think it necessary to intercede for such before the secular rulers, and so you may have trouble on my account.’ When, however, we urged him with many entreaties, and asserted that such labour would be agreeable and easy to us, the man of God at length, after some deliberation, spoke thus:—‘Since you wish to overcome my scruples, and to carry my body amongst you, it seems to me to be the best plan to bury it in the inmost parts of the church, that you may be able to visit my tomb yourselves, and to control the visits of all other persons.’ We thanked him on our bended knees for this permission, and for his advice; and returning home, did not cease to pay him frequent visits.
how, during his illness, he cured one of his attendants of a diarrhœa
“His malady now began to grow upon him, and we thought that the time of his dissolution was at hand. He bade his attendants carry him to his cell and oratory. It was the third hour of the day. We therefore carried him thither, for he was too feeble to walk himself. When we reached the door, we asked him to let one of us go in with him, to wait upon him; for no one had ever entered therein but himself. He cast his eyes round on all, and, fixing them on the sick brother above mentioned, said, ‘Walstod shall go in with me.’ Now Walstod was the man’s name. He went in accordingly, and stayed till the ninth hour: when he came out, and said to me, ‘The bishop wishes you to go in unto him; but I have a most wonderful thing to tell you: from the moment of my touching the bishop, when I supported him into the oratory, I have been entirely free from my old complaint.’ No doubt this was brought about by the effect of his heavenly piety, that, whereas in his time of health and strength he had healed many, he should now heal this man, when he was himself at the point of death, that so there might be a standing proof how strong the holy man was in spirit, though his body was at the lowest degree of weakness. In this cure he followed the example of the holy and reverend father and bishop, Aurelius Augustine, who, when weighed down by the illness of which he died, and lying on his couch, was entreated by a man to lay his hand on a sick person whom he had brought to him, that so he might be made well. To which Augustine replied, ‘If I had such power, I should first have practised it towards myself.’ The sick man answered, ‘I have been commanded to come to you: for some one said to me in a dream, Go to Bishop Augustine, and let him place his hand upon you, and you shall be well.’ On hearing this, Augustine placed his hand upon him, gave him his blessing, and sent him home perfectly recovered.
of his last instructions to the brethren; and how, when he had received the viaticum, he yielded up his soul in prayer
“I went in to him about the ninth hour of the day, and found him lying in one corner of his oratory before the altar. I took my seat by his side, but he spoke very little, for the weight of his suffering prevented him from speaking much. But when I earnestly asked him what last discourse and valedictory salutation he would bequeath to the brethren, he began to make a few strong admonitions respecting peace and humility, and told me to beware of those persons who strove against these virtues, and would not practise them. ‘Have peace,’ said he, ‘and Divine charity ever amongst you: and when you are called upon to deliberate on your condition, see that you be unanimous in council. Let concord be mutual between you and other servants of Christ; and do not despise others who belong to the faith and come to you for hospitality, but admit them familiarly and kindly; and when you have entertained them, speed them on their journey: by no means esteeming yourselves better than the rest of those who partake of the same faith and mode of life. But have no communion with those who err from the unity of the Catholic faith, either by keeping Easter at an improper time, or by their perverse life. And know and remember, that, if of two evils you are compelled to choose one, I would rather that you should take up my bones, and leave these places, to reside wherever God may send you, than consent in any way to the wickedness of schismatics, and so place a yoke upon your necks. Study diligently, and carefully observe the Catholic rules of the Fathers, and practise with zeal those institutes of the monastic life which it has pleased God to deliver to you through my ministry. For I know, that, although during my life some have despised me, yet after my death you will see what sort of man I was, and that my doctrine was by no means worthy of contempt.’
“These words, and such as these, the man of God delivered to us at intervals, for, as we before said, the violence of his complaint had taken from him the power of speaking much at once. He then spent the rest of the day until the evening in the expectation of future happiness; to which he added this also, that he spent the night in watchfulness and prayer. When his hour of evening service was come, he received from me the blessed sacrament, and thus strengthened himself for his departure, which he now knew to be at hand, by partaking of the body and blood of Christ; and when he had lifted up his eyes to heaven, and stretched out his hands above him, his soul, intent upon heavenly praises, sped his way to the joys of the heavenly kingdom.
how, according to the previous warning of the psalm which they sang at his death, the brethren of lindisfarne were assailed from without, but by the help of god were protected
“I immediately went out, and told the brethren, who had passed the whole night in watchfulness and prayer, and chanced at that moment in the order of evening service to be singing the 59th Psalm, which begins, ‘O Lord, thou hast rejected us and destroyed us; thou hast been angry, and hast pitied us.’ One of them instantly lighted two candles, and, holding one in each hand, ascended a lofty spot, to show to the brethren who were in the monastery of Lindisfarne, that the holy man was dead; for they had agreed beforehand that such a signal should be made. The brother, who had waited an hour on an opposite height in the island of Lindisfarne, ran with speed to the monastery, where the brethren were assembled to perform the usual ceremonies of the evening service, and happened to be singing the above-named Psalm when the messenger entered. This was a Divine dispensation, as the event showed. For, when the man of God was buried, the Church was assailed by such a blast of temptation, that several of the brethren left the place rather than be involved in such dangers.
“At the end of a year, Eadbert was ordained bishop. He was a man of great virtues, learned in the Holy Scripture, and in particular given to works of charity. If I may use the words of Scripture, The Lord built up Jerusalem, i.e. the vision of peace, and gathered together the dispersion of Israel. He healed those who were contrite in heart, and bound up their bruises, so that it was then given openly to understand the meaning of the hymn which was then for the first time sung, when the death of the sainted man was known; namely, that after his death his countrymen should be exposed to be repulsed and destroyed, but after a demonstration of his threatening anger should again be protected by the Divine mercy. He who considers the sequel also of the above-named Psalm will perceive that the event corresponded to its meaning. The body of the venerable father was placed on board a ship, and carried to the island of Lindisfarne. It was there met by a large crowd of persons singing psalms, and placed in the church of the holy Apostle Peter, in a stone coffin on the right-hand side of the altar.”
how a boy, who was possessed by a devil, was cured by some dirt, from the place where the water in which his corpse had been washed had been thrown
But even when the servant of Christ was dead and buried, the miracles which he worked whilst alive did not cease. For a certain boy, in the territory of Lindisfarne, was vexed so terribly by an evil spirit, that he altogether lost his reason, and shouted and cried aloud, and tried to tear in pieces with his teeth his own limbs, or whatever came in his way. A priest from the monastery was sent to the sufferer; but, though he had been accustomed to exorcise and expel evil spirits, yet in this case he could not prevail: he therefore advised the lad’s father to put him into a cart and drive him to the monastery, and to pray to God in his behalf before the relics of the holy saints which are there. The father did as he was advised; but the holy saints, to show how high a place Cuthbert occupied amongst them, refused to bestow on him the benefit desired. The mad boy, therefore, by howling, groaning, and gnashing his teeth, filled the eyes and ears of all who were there with horror, and no one could think of any remedy; when, behold, one of the priests, being taught in spirit that by the aid of the holy father Cuthbert he might be cured, went privately to the place where he knew the water had been thrown, in which his dead body had been washed; and taking from thence a small portion of the dirt, he mixed it with some water, and carrying it to the sufferer, poured it into his open mouth, from which he was uttering the most horrible and lamentable cries. He instantly held his tongue, closed his mouth, and shutting his eyes also, which before were bloodshot and staring hideously, he fell back into a profound sleep. In this state he passed the night; and in the morning, rising up from his slumber, free from his madness, he found himself also, by the merits and intercession of the blessed Cuthbert, free from the evil spirit by which he had been afflicted. It was a marvellous sight, and delectable to all good men, to see the son sound in mind accompany his father to the holy places, and give thanks for the aid of the saints; although the day before, from the extremity of his madness, he did not know who or where he was. When, in the midst of the whole body of the brethren looking on and congratulating him, he had on his knees offered up before the relics of the martyrs praise to the Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, he returned to his home, freed from the harassing of the foe, and confirmed in the faith which he before professed. They show to this day the pit into which that memorable water was thrown, of a square shape, surrounded with wood, and filled with little stones. It is near the church in which his body reposes, on the south side. From that time God permitted many other cures to be wrought by means of those same stones, and the dirt from the same place.
how his body after nine years was found undecayed
Now Divine Providence, wishing to show to what glory this holy man was exalted after death, who even before death had been distinguished by so many signs and miracles, inspired the minds of the brethren with a wish to remove his bones, which they expected to find dry and free from his decayed flesh, and to put them in a small coffer, on the same spot, above the ground, as objects of veneration to the people. This wish they communicated to the holy Bishop Eadbert about the middle of Quadragesima; and he ordered them to execute this on the 20th of April, which was the anniversary of the day of his burial. They accordingly did so; and opening the tomb, found his body entire, as if he were still alive, and his joints were still flexible, as if he were not dead, but sleeping. His clothes, also, were still undecayed, and seemed to retain their original freshness and colour. When the brethren saw this, they were so astonished, that they could scarcely speak, or look on the miracle which lay before them, and they hardly knew what they were doing.
As a proof of the uncorrupted state of the clothes, they took a portion of them from one of the extremities,—for they did not dare to take any from the body itself,—and hastened to tell what they had found to the bishop, who was then walking alone at a spot remote from the monastery, and closed in by the flowing waves of the sea. Here it was his custom to pass the Quadragesima; and here he occupied himself forty days before the birthday of our Lord in the utmost devotion, accompanied with abstinence, prayer, and tears. Here, also, his venerable predecessor, Cuthbert, before he went to Farne, as we have related, spent a portion of his spiritual warfare in the service of the Lord. The brethren brought with them, also, the piece of cloth in which the body of the saint had been wrapped. The bishop thanked them for the gift, and heard their report with eagerness, and with great earnestness kissed the cloth as if it were still on the saint’s body. “Fold up the body,” said he, “in new cloth instead of this, and place it in the chest which you have prepared. But I know of a certainty that the place which has been consecrated by the virtue of this heavenly miracle will not long remain empty; and happy is he to whom the Lord, who is the giver of true happiness, shall grant to rest therein.” To these words he added what I have elsewhere expressed in verse, and said,—
When the bishop had said much more to this effect, with many tears and much contrition, the brethren did as he ordered them; and having folded up the body in some new cloth, and placed it in a chest, laid it on the pavement of the sanctuary.
how the body of bishop eadbert was laid in the grave of the man of god, and the coffin of that saint placed upon it
Meanwhile, God’s chosen servant, Bishop Eadbert, was seized by an illness, which daily grew more and more violent, so that not long after, that is, on the sixth of May, he also departed to the Lord. It was an especial mercy granted to his earnest prayers, that he left this life by a gradual, and not a sudden death. His body was placed in the grave of the blessed father Cuthbert, and upon it they placed the coffin in which the body of that saint lay. And to this day miracles are there wrought, if the faith of those who seek them admit of it. Even the clothes which had covered his blessed body, whether dead or alive, still possess a healing power.
how a sick man was cured at his tomb by prayer
Lastly, there came from foreign parts a certain priest of the reverend and holy Wilbrord Clement, bishop of the Fresons, who, whilst he was stopping at the monastery, fell into a severe illness, which lasted so long, that his life was despaired of. Overcome with pain, he seemed unable either to live or die, until, thinking on a happy plan, he said to his attendant, “Lead me, I beg of you, to-day after mass,” (for it was Sunday,) “to the body of the holy man of God, to pray: I hope his intercession may save me from these torments, so that I may either return whole to this life, or die, and go to that which is everlasting.” His attendant did as he had asked him, and with much trouble led him, leaning on a staff, into the church. He there bent his knees at the tomb of the holy father, and, with his head stooping towards the ground, prayed for his recovery; when, suddenly, he felt in all his limbs such an accession of strength from the incorruptible body of the saint, that he rose up from prayer without trouble, and returned to the guests’ chamber without the assistance of the conductor who had led him, or the staff on which he had leaned. A few days afterwards he proceeded in perfect health upon his intended journey.
how a paralytic was healed by means of his shoes
There was a young man in a monastery not far off, who had lost the use of all his limbs by a weakness which the Greeks call paralysis. His abbot, knowing that there were skilful physicians in the monastery of Lindisfarne, sent him thither with a request that, if possible, he might be healed. The brethren, at the instance of their own abbot and bishop also, attended to him with the utmost care, and used all their skill in medicine, but without effect, for the malady increased daily, insomuch that, save his mouth, he could hardly move a single limb. Being thus given over by all worldly physicians, he had recourse to Him who is in heaven, who, when He is sought out in truth, is kind towards all our iniquities, and heals all our sicknesses. The poor man begged of his attendant to bring him something which had come from the incorruptible body of the holy man; for he believed that by means thereof he might, with the blessing of God, return to health. The attendant, having first consulted the abbot, brought the shoes which the man of God had worn in the tomb, and having stripped the poor man’s feet naked, put them upon him; for it was in his feet that the palsy had first attacked him. This he did at the beginning of the night, when bedtime was drawing near. A deep sleep immediately came over him; and as the stillness of night advanced, the man felt a palpitation in his feet alternately, so that the attendants, who were awake and looking on, perceived that the virtue of the holy man’s relics was beginning to exert its power, and that the desired restoration of health would ascend upwards from the feet. As soon as the monastery bell struck the hour of midnight prayer, the invalid himself was awakened by the sound and sat up. He found his nerves and the joints of his limbs suddenly endowed with inward strength: his pains were gone; and perceiving that he was cured, he arose, and in a standing posture spent the whole time of the midnight or matin song in thanksgiving to God. In the morning he went to the cathedral, and in the sight of all the congratulating brethren he went round all the sacred places, offering up prayers and the sacrifice of praise to his Saviour. Thus it came to pass, that, by a most wonderful vicissitude of things, he, who had been carried thither weak and borne upon a cart, returned home sound in his own strength, and with all his limbs strengthened and confirmed. Wherefore it is profitable to bear in mind that this change was the work of the right hand of the Most High, whose mighty miracles never cease from the beginning of the world to show themselves forth to mankind.
how the hermit felgeld was cured of a swelling in the face by means of the covering of the wall of the man of god’s house
Nor do I think I ought to omit the heavenly miracle which the Divine mercy showed by means of the ruins of the holy oratory, in which the venerable father went through his solitary warfare in the service of the Lord. Whether it was effected by the merits of the same blessed father Cuthbert, or his successor Ethelwald, a man equally devoted to the Lord, the Searcher of the heart knows best. There is no reason why it may not be attributed to either of the two, in conjunction with the faith of the most holy father Felgeld; through whom and in whom the miraculous cure, which I mention, was effected. He was the third person who became tenant of the same place and its spiritual warfare, and, at present more than seventy years old, is awaiting the end of this life, in expectation of the heavenly one.
When, therefore, God’s servant Cuthbert had been translated to the heavenly kingdom, and Ethelwald had commenced his occupation of the same island and monastery, after many years spent in conversation with the monks, he gradually aspired to the rank of anchoritish perfection. The walls of the aforesaid oratory, being composed of planks somewhat carelessly put together, had become loose and tottering by age, and, as the planks separated from one another, an opening was afforded to the weather. The venerable man, whose aim was rather the splendour of the heavenly than of an earthly mansion, having taken hay, or clay, or whatever he could get, had filled up the crevices, that he might not be disturbed from the earnestness of his prayers by the daily violence of the winds and storms. When Ethelwald entered and saw these contrivances, he begged the brethren who came thither to give him a calf’s skin, and fastened it with nails in the corner, where himself and his predecessor used to kneel or stand when they prayed, as a protection against the storm.
Twelve years after, he also ascended to the joys of the heavenly kingdom, and Felgeld became the third inhabitant of the place. It then seemed good to the right reverend Eadfrid, bishop of the church of Lindisfarne, to restore from its foundation the time-worn oratory. This being done, many devout persons begged of Christ’s holy servant Felgeld to give them a small portion of the relics of God’s servant Cuthbert, or of Ethelwald his successor. He accordingly determined to cut up the above-named calf’s skin to pieces, and give a portion to each. But he first experienced its influence in his own person: for his face was much deformed by a swelling and a red patch. The symptoms of this deformity had become manifest long before to the monks, whilst he was dwelling among them. But now that he was living alone, and bestowed less care on his person, whilst he practised still greater rigidities, and, like a prisoner, rarely enjoyed the sun or air, the malady increased, and his face became one large red swelling. Fearing, therefore, lest he should be obliged to abandon the solitary life and return to the monastery; presuming in his faith, he trusted to heal himself by the aid of those holy men whose house he dwelt in, and whose holy life he sought to imitate. For he steeped a piece of the skin above mentioned in water, and washed his face therewith; whereupon the swelling was immediately healed, and the cicatrice disappeared. This I was told, in the first instance, by a religious priest of the monastery of Jarrow, who said that he well knew Felgeld’s face to have been in the deformed and diseased state which I have described, and that he saw it and felt it with his hand through the window after it was cured. Felgeld afterwards told me the same thing, confirming the report of the priest, and asserting that his face was ever afterwards free from the blemish during the many years that he passed in that place. This he ascribed to the agency of the Almighty Grace, which both in this world heals many, and in the world to come will heal all the maladies of our minds and bodies, and, satisfying our desires after good things, crown us for ever with its mercy and compassion. Amen.
THE LIVES OF THE HOLY ABBOTS OF WEREMOUTH AND JARROW
The pious servant of Christ, Biscop, called Benedict, with the assistance of the Divine grace, built a monastery in honour of the most holy of the apostles, St. Peter, near the mouth of the river Were, on the north side. The venerable and devout king of that nation, Egfrid, contributed the land; and Biscop, for the space of sixteen years, amid innumerable perils in journeying and in illness, ruled this monastery with the same piety which stirred him up to build it. If I may use the words of the blessed Pope Gregory, in which he glorifies the life of the abbot of the same name, he was a man of a venerable life, blessed (Benedictus) both in grace and in name; having the mind of an adult even from his childhood, surpassing his age by his manners, and with a soul addicted to no false pleasures. He was descended from a noble lineage of the Angles, and by corresponding dignity of mind worthy to be exalted into the company of the angels. Lastly, he was the minister of King Oswy, and by his gift enjoyed an estate suitable to his rank; but at the age of twenty-five years he despised a transitory wealth, that he might obtain that which is eternal. He made light of a temporal warfare with a donative that will decay, that he might serve under the true King, and earn an everlasting kingdom in the heavenly city. He left his home, his kinsmen and country, for the sake of Christ and his Gospel, that he might receive a hundredfold and enjoy everlasting life: he disdained to submit to carnal nuptials, that he might be able to follow the Lamb bright with the glory of chastity in the heavenly kingdoms: he refused to be the father of mortal children in the flesh, being foreordained of Christ to educate for Him in spiritual doctrine immortal children in heaven.
Having therefore left his country, he came to Rome, and took care to visit and worship in the body the resting-places of the remains of the holy Apostles, towards whom he had always been inflamed with holy love. When he returned home, he did not cease to love and venerate, and to preach to all he could the precepts of ecclesiastical life which he had seen. At this time Alfrid, son of the above-named King Oswy, being about to visit Rome, to worship at the gates of the holy Apostles, took him as the companion of his journey. When the king, his father, diverted him from this intention, and made him reside in his own country and kingdom; yet, like a youth of good promise, accomplishing the journey which he had undertaken, Biscop returned with the greatest expedition to Rome, in the time of Pope Vitalian, of blessed memory; and there having extracted no little sweetness of wholesome learning, as he had done previously, after some months he went to the island of Lerins, where he joined himself to the company of monks, received the tonsure, and, having taken the vow, observed the regular discipline with due solicitude; and when he had for two years been instructed in the suitable learning of the monastic life, he determined, in love for that first of the Apostles, St. Peter, to return to the city which was hallowed by his remains.
Not long after, a merchant-vessel arrived, which enabled him to gratify his wish. At that time, Egbert, king of Kent, had sent out of Britain a man who had been elected to the office of bishop, Wighard by name, who had been adequately taught by the Roman disciples of the blessed Pope Gregory in Kent on every topic of Church discipline; but the king wished him to be ordained bishop at Rome, in order that, having him for bishop of his own nation and language, he might himself, as well as his people, be the more thoroughly master of the words and mysteries of the holy faith, as he would then have these administered, not through an interpreter, but from the hands and by the tongue of a kinsman and fellow-countryman. But Wighard, on coming to Rome, died of a disease, with all his attendants, before he had received the dignity of bishop. Now the Apostolic Father, that the embassy of the faithful might not fail through the death of their ambassadors, called a council, and appointed one of his Church to send as archbishop into Britain. This was Theodore, a man deep in all secular and ecclesiastical learning, whether Greek or Latin; and to him was given, as a colleague and counsellor, a man equally strenuous and prudent, the abbot Hadrian. Perceiving also that the reverend Benedict would become a man of wisdom, industry, piety, and nobility of mind, he committed to him the newly ordained bishop, with his followers, enjoining him to abandon the travel which he had undertaken for Christ’s sake; and with a higher good in view, to return home to his country, and bring into it that teacher of wisdom whom it had so earnestly wished for, and to be to him an interpreter and guide, both on the journey thither, and afterwards, upon his arrival, when he should begin to preach. Benedict did as he was commanded; they came to Kent, and were joyfully received there; Theodore ascended his episcopal throne, and Benedict took upon himself to rule the monastery of the blessed Apostle Peter, of which, afterwards, Hadrian became abbot.
He ruled the monastery for two years; and then successfully, as before, accomplished a third voyage from Britain to Rome, and brought back a large number of books on sacred literature, which he had either bought at a price or received as gifts from his friends. On his return he arrived at Vienne, where he took possession of such as he had entrusted his friends to purchase for him. When he had come home, he determined to go to the court of Conwalh, king of the West Saxons, whose friendship and services he had already more than once experienced. But Conwalh died suddenly about this time, and he therefore directed his course to his native province. He came to the court of Egfrid, king of Northumberland, and gave an account of all that he had done since in youth he had left his country. He made no secret of his zeal for religion, and showed what ecclesiastical or monastic instructions he had received at Rome and elsewhere. He displayed the holy volumes and relics of Christ’s blessed Apostles and martyrs, which he had brought, and found such favour in the eyes of the king, that he forthwith gave him seventy hides of land out of his own estates, and ordered a monastery to be built thereon for the first pastor of his church. This was done, as I said before, at the mouth of the river Were, on the left bank, in the 674th year of our Lord’s incarnation, in the second indiction, and in the fourth year of King Egfrid’s reign.
After the interval of a year, Benedict crossed the sea into Gaul, and no sooner asked than he obtained and carried back with him some masons to build him a church in the Roman style, which he had always admired. So much zeal did he show from his love to Saint Peter, in whose honour he was building it, that within a year from the time of laying the foundation, you might have seen the roof on and the solemnity of the mass celebrated therein. When the work was drawing to completion, he sent messengers to Gaul to fetch makers of glass, (more properly artificers,) who were at this time unknown in Britain, that they might glaze the windows of his church, with the cloisters and dining-rooms. This was done, and they came, and not only finished the work required, but taught the English nation their handicraft, which was well adapted for enclosing the lanterns of the church, and for the vessels required for various uses. All other things necessary for the service of the church and the altar, the sacred vessels, and the vestments, because they could not be procured in England, he took especial care to buy and bring home from foreign parts.
Some decorations and muniments there were which could not be procured even in Gaul, and these the pious founder determined to fetch from Rome; for which purpose, after he had formed the rule for his monastery, he made his fourth voyage to Rome, and returned loaded with more abundant spiritual merchandise than before. In the first place, he brought back a large quantity of books of all kinds; secondly, a great number of relics of Christ’s Apostles and martyrs, all likely to bring a blessing on many an English church; thirdly, he introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church, by obtaining permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the archchanter of the church of St. Peter, and abbot of the monastery of St. Martin, to teach the English. This John, when he arrived in England, not only communicated instruction by teaching personally, but left behind him numerous writings, which are still preserved in the library of the same monastery. In the fourth place, Benedict brought with him a thing by no means to be despised, namely, a letter of privilege from Pope Agatho, which he had procured, not only with the consent, but by the request and exhortation, of King Egfrid, and by which the monastery was rendered safe and secure for ever from foreign invasion. Fifthly, he brought with him pictures of sacred representations, to adorn the church of St. Peter, which he had built; namely, a likeness of the Virgin Mary and of the twelve Apostles, with which he intended to adorn the central nave, on boarding placed from one wall to the other; also some figures from ecclesiastical history for the south wall, and others from the Revelation of St. John for the north wall; so that every one who entered the church, even if they could not read, wherever they turned their eyes, might have before them the amiable countenance of Christ and his saints, though it were but in a picture, and with watchful minds might revolve on the benefits of our Lord’s incarnation, and having before their eyes the perils of the last judgment, might examine their hearts the more strictly on that account.
Thus King Egfrid, delighted by the virtues and zealous piety of the venerable Benedict, augmented the territory which he had given, on which to build this monastery, by a further grant of land of forty hides; on which, at the end of a year, Benedict, by the same King Egfrid’s concurrence, and, indeed, command, built the monastery of the Apostle St. Paul, with this condition, that the same concord and unity should exist for ever between the two; so that, for instance, as the body cannot be separated from the head, nor the head forget the body by which it lives, in the same manner no man should ever try to divide these two monasteries, which had been united under the names of the first of the Apostles. Ceolfrid, whom Benedict made abbot, had been his most zealous assistant from the first foundation of the former monastery, and had gone with him at the proper time to Rome, for the sake of acquiring instruction, and offering up his prayers. At which time also he chose priest Easterwine to be the abbot of St. Peter’s monastery, that with the help of this fellow-soldier he might sustain a burden otherwise too heavy for him. And let no one think it unbecoming that one monastery should have two abbots at once. His frequent travelling for the benefit of the monastery, and absence in foreign parts, was the cause; and history informs us, that, on a pressing occasion, the blessed St. Peter also ordained two pontiffs under him to rule the Church at Rome; and Abbot Benedict the Great, himself, as Pope St. Gregory writes of him, appointed twelve abbots over his followers, as he judged expedient, without any harm done to Christian charity; nay, rather to the increase thereof.
This man therefore undertook the government of the monastery in the ninth year after its foundation, and continued it till his death four years after. He was a man of noble birth; but he did not make that, like some men, a cause of boasting and despising others, but a motive for exercising nobility of mind also, as becomes a servant of the Lord. He was the cousin of his own abbot Benedict; and yet such was the singleness of mind in both, such their contempt for human grandeur, that the one, on entering the monastery, did not expect any notice of honour or relationship to be taken of him more than of others, and Benedict himself never thought of offering any; but the young man, faring like the rest, took pleasure in undergoing the usual course of monastic discipline in every respect. And indeed, though he had been an attendant on King Egfrid, and had abandoned his temporal vocation and arms, devoting himself to spiritual warfare, he remained so humble and like the other brethren, that he took pleasure in threshing and winnowing, milking the ewes and cows, and employed himself in the bakehouse, the garden, the kitchen, and in all the other labours of the monastery with readiness and submission. When he attained to the name and dignity of abbot, he retained the same spirit; saying to all, according to the advice of a certain wise man, “They have made thee a ruler; be not exalted, but be amongst them like one of them, gentle, affable, and kind to all.” Whenever occasion required, he punished offenders by regular discipline; but was rather careful, out of his natural habits of love, to warn them not to offend and bring a cloud of disquietude over his cheerful countenance. Oftentimes, when he went forth on the business of the monastery, if he found the brethren working, he would join them and work with them, by taking the plough-handle, or handling the smith’s hammer, or using the winnowing machine, or any thing of like nature. For he was a young man of great strength, and pleasant tone of voice, of a kind and bountiful disposition, and fair to look on. He ate of the same food as the other brethren, and in the same apartment: he slept in the same common room as he did before he was abbot; so that even after he was taken ill, and foresaw clear signs of his approaching death, he still remained two days in the common dormitory of the brethren. He passed the five days immediately before his death in a private apartment, from which he came out one day, and sitting in the open air, sent for all the brethren, and, as his kind feelings prompted him, gave to each of them the kiss of peace, whilst they all shed tears of sorrow for the loss of this their father and their guide. He died on the seventh of March, in the night, as the brethren were leaving off the matin hymn. He was twenty-four years old when he entered the monastery; he lived there twelve years, during seven of which he was in priest’s orders, the others he passed in the dignity of abbot; and so, having thrown off his fleshly and perishable body, he entered the heavenly kingdom.
Now that we have had this foretaste of the life of the venerable Easterwine, let us resume the thread of the narrative. When Benedict had made this man abbot of St. Peter’s, and Ceolfrid abbot of St. Paul’s, he not long after made his fifth voyage from Britain to Rome, and returned (as usual) with an immense number of proper ecclesiastical relics. There were many sacred books and pictures of the saints, as numerous as before. He also brought with him pictures out of our Lord’s history, which he hung round the chapel of Our Lady in the larger monastery; and others to adorn St. Paul’s church and monastery, ably describing the connexion of the Old and New Testament; as, for instance, Isaac bearing the wood for his own sacrifice, and Christ carrying the cross on which he was about to suffer, were placed side by side. Again, the serpent raised up by Moses in the desert was illustrated by the Son of Man exalted on the cross. Among other things, he brought two cloaks, all of silk, and of incomparable workmanship, for which he received an estate of three hides on the south bank of the river Were, near its mouth, from King Alfrid, for he found on his return that Egfrid had been murdered during his absence.
But, amid this prosperity, he found afflictions also awaiting his return. The venerable Easterwine, whom he had made abbot when he departed, and many of the brethren committed to his care, had died of a general pestilence. But for this loss he found some consolation in the good and reverend deacon, Sigfrid, whom the brethren and his co-abbot Ceolfrid had chosen to be his successor. He was a man well skilled in the knowledge of Holy Scripture, of most excellent manners, of wonderful continence, and one in whom the virtues of the mind were in no small degree depressed by bodily infirmity, and the innocency of whose heart was tempered with a baneful and incurable affection of the lungs.
Not long after, Benedict himself was seized by a disease. For, that the virtue of patience might be a trial of their religious zeal, the Divine Love laid both of them on the bed of temporal sickness, that when they had conquered their sorrows by death. He might cherish them for ever in heavenly peace and quietude. For Sigfrid also, as I have mentioned, died wasted by a long illness: and Benedict died of a palsy, which grew upon him for three whole years; so that when he was dead in all his lower extremities, his upper and vital members, spared to show his patience and virtue, were employed in the midst of his sufferings in giving thanks to the Author of his being, in praises to God, and exhortations to the brethren. He urged the brethren, when they came to see him, to observe the rule which he had given them. “For,” said he, “you cannot suppose that it was my own untaught heart which dictated this rule to you. I learnt it from seventeen monasteries, which I saw during my travels, and most approved of, and I copied these institutions thence for your benefit.” The large and noble library, which he had brought from Rome, and which was necessary for the edification of his church, he commanded to be kept entire, and neither by neglect to be injured or dispersed. But on one point he was most solicitous, in choosing an abbot, lest high birth, and not rather probity of life and doctrine, should be attended to. “And I tell you of a truth,” said he, “in the choice of two evils, it would be much more tolerable for me, if God so pleased, that this place, wherein I have built the monastery, should for ever become a desert, than that my carnal brother, who, as we know, walks not in the way of truth, should become abbot, and succeed me in its government. Wherefore, my brethren, beware, and never choose an abbot on account of his birth, nor from any foreign place; but seek out, according to the rule of Abbot Benedict the Great, and the decrees of our order, with common consent, from amongst your own company, whoever in virtue of life and wisdom of doctrine may be found fittest for this office; and whomsoever you shall, by this unanimous inquiry of Christian charity, prefer and choose, let him be made abbot with the customary blessings, in presence of the bishop. For those who after the flesh beget children of the flesh, must necessarily seek fleshly and earthly heirs to their fleshly and earthly inheritance; but those who by the spiritual seed of the Word procreate spiritual sons to God, must of like necessity be spiritual in every thing which they do. Among their spiritual children, they think him the greatest who is possessed of the most abundant grace of the Spirit, in the same way as earthly parents consider their eldest as the principal one of their children, and prefer him to the others in dividing out their inheritance.”
Nor must I omit to mention that the venerable Abbot Benedict, to lessen the wearisomeness of the night, which from his illness he often passed without sleeping, would frequently call a reader, and cause him to read aloud, as an example for himself, the history of the patience of Job, or some other extract from Scripture, by which his pains might be alleviated, and his depressed soul be raised to heavenly things. And because he could not get up to pray, nor without difficulty lift up his voice to the usual extent of daily psalmody, the prudent man, in his zeal for religion, at every hour of daily or nightly prayer would call to him some of the brethren, and making them sing psalms in two companies, would himself sing with them, and thus make up by their voices for the deficiency of his own.
Now both the abbots saw that they were near death, and unfit longer to rule the monastery, from increasing weakness, which, though tending no doubt to the perfection of Christian purity, was so great, that, when they expressed a desire to see one another before they died, and Sigfrid was brought in a litter into the room where Benedict was lying on his bed, though they were placed by the attendants with their heads on the same pillow, they had not the power of their own strength to kiss one another, but were assisted even in this act of fraternal love. After taking counsel with Sigfrid and the other brethren, Benedict sent for Ceolfrid, abbot of St. Paul’s, dear to him not by relationship of the flesh, but by the ties of Christian virtue, and with the consent and approbation of all, made him abbot of both monasteries; thinking it expedient in every respect to preserve peace, unity, and concord between the two, if they should have one father and ruler for ever, after the example of the kingdom of Israel, which always remained invincible and inviolate by foreign nations as long as it was ruled by one and the same governor of its own race; but when for its former sins it was torn into opposing factions, it fell by degrees, and, thus shorn of its ancient integrity, perished. He reminded them also of that evangelical maxim, ever worthy to be remembered,—“A kingdom divided against itself shall be laid waste.”
Two months after this, God’s chosen servant, the venerable Abbot Sigfrid, having passed through the fire and water of temporal tribulation, was carried to the resting-place of everlasting repose: he entered the mansion of the heavenly kingdom, rendering up whole offerings of praise to the Lord which his righteous lips had vowed; and after another space of four months, Benedict, who so nobly vanquished sin and wrought the deeds of virtue, yielded to the weakness of the flesh, and came to his end. Night came on chilled by the winter’s blasts, but a day of eternal felicity succeeded, of serenity and of splendour. The brethren met together at the church, and passed the night without sleep in praying and singing, consoling their sorrow for their father’s departure by one continued outpouring of praise. Others clung to the chamber in which the sick man, strong in mind, awaited his departure from death and his entry into eternal life. A portion of Scripture from the Gospels, appointed to be read every evening, was recited by a priest during the whole night, to relieve their sorrow. The sacrament of our Lord’s flesh and blood was given him as a viaticum at the moment of his departure; and thus his holy spirit, chastened and tried by the lengthened gallings of the lash, operating for his own good, abandoned the earthy tenement of the flesh, and escaped in freedom to the glory of everlasting happiness. That his departure was most triumphant, and neither impeded nor delayed by unclean spirits, the psalm which was chanted for him is a proof. For the brethren coming together to the church at the beginning of the night, sang through the Psalter in order, until they came to the 82nd, which begins, “God, who shall be like unto thee?” The subject of the text is this; that the enemies of the Christian name, whether carnal or spiritual, are always endeavouring to destroy and disperse the church of Christ, and every individual soul among the faithful; but that, on the other hand, they themselves shall be confounded and routed, and shall perish for ever, unnerved before the power of the Lord, to whom there is no one equal, for He alone is Most Highest over the whole earth. Wherefore it was a manifest token of Divine interposition, that such a song should be sung at the moment of his death, against whom, with God’s aid, no enemy could prevail. In the sixteenth year after he built the monastery, the holy confessor found rest in the Lord, on the 14th day of January, in the church of St. Peter; and thus, as he had loved that holy Apostle in his life, and obtained from him admission into the heavenly kingdom, so also after death he rested hard by his relics, and his altar, even in the body. He ruled the monastery, as I have stated, sixteen years: the first eight alone, without any assistant abbot; the last eight in conjunction with Easterwine, Sigfrid, and Ceolfrid, who enjoyed with him the title of abbot, and assisted him in his duties. The first of these was his colleague four years; the second, three; the third, one.
The third of these, Ceolfrid, was a man of great perseverance, of acute intellect, bold in action, experienced in judgment, and zealous in religion. He first of all, as we have mentioned, with the advice and assistance of Benedict, founded, completed, and ruled the monastery of St. Paul’s seven years; and, afterwards, ably governed, during twenty-eight years, both these monasteries; or, to speak more correctly, the single monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, in its two separate localities; and, whatever works of merit his predecessor had begun, he, with no less zeal, took pains to finish. For, among other arrangements which he found it necessary to make, during his long government of the monastery, he built several oratories; increased the number of vessels of the church and altar, and the vestments of every kind; and the library of both monasteries, which Abbot Benedict had so actively begun, under his equally zealous care became doubled in extent. For he added three Pandects of a new translation to that of the old translation which he had brought from Rome; one of them, returning to Rome in his old age, he took with him as a gift; the other two he left to the two monasteries. Moreover, for a beautiful volume of the Geographers which Benedict had bought at Rome, he received from King Alfrid, who was well skilled in Holy Scripture, in exchange, a grant of land of eight hides, near the river Fresca, for the monastery of St. Paul’s. Benedict had arranged this purchase with the same King Alfrid, before his death, but died before he could complete it. Instead of this land, Ceolfrid, in the reign of Osred, paid an additional price, and received a territory of twenty hides, in the village called by the natives Sambuce, and situated much nearer to the monastery. In the time of Pope Sergius, of blessed memory, some monks were sent to Rome, who procured from him a privilege for the protection of their monastery, similar to that which Pope Agatho had given to Benedict. This was brought back to Britain, and, being exhibited before a synod, was confirmed by the signatures of the bishops who were present, and their munificent King Alfrid, just as the former privilege was confirmed publicly by the king and bishops of the time. Zealous for the welfare of St. Peter’s monastery, at that time under the government of the reverend and religious servant of Christ, Witmer, whose acquaintance with every kind of learning, both sacred and profane, was equally extensive, he made a gift of it for ever of a portion of land of ten hides, which he had received from King Alfrid, in the village called Daldun.
But Ceolfrid having now practised a long course of regular discipline, which the prudent father Benedict had laid down for himself and his brethren on the authority of the elders; and having shown the most incomparable skill both in praying and chanting, in which he daily exercised himself, together with the most wonderful energy in punishing the wicked, and modesty in consoling the weak; having also observed such abstinence in meat and drink, and such humility in dress, as are uncommon among rulers; saw himself now old and full of days, and unfit any longer, from his extreme age, to prescribe to his brethren the proper forms of spiritual exercise by his life and doctrine. Having, therefore, deliberated long within himself, he judged it expedient, having first impressed on the brethren the observance of the rules which St. Benedict had given them, and thereby to choose for themselves a more efficient abbot out of their own number, to depart, himself, to Rome, where he had been in his youth with the holy Benedict; that not only he might for a time be free from all worldly cares before his death, and so have leisure and quiet for reflection, but that they also, having chosen a younger abbot, might naturally, in consequence thereof, observe more accurately the rules of monastic discipline.
At first all opposed, and entreated him on their knees and with many tears, but their solicitations were to no purpose. Such was his eagerness to depart, that on the third day after he had disclosed his design to the brethren, he set out upon his journey. For he feared, what actually came to pass, that he might die before he reached Rome; and he was also anxious that neither his friends nor the nobility, who all honoured him, should delay his departure, or give him money which he would not have time to repay; for with him it was an invariable rule, if any one made him a present, to show equal grace by returning it, either at once or within a suitable space of time. Early in the morning, therefore, of Wednesday, the 4th of May, the mass was sung in the church of the Mother of God, the immaculate Virgin Mary, and in the church of the Apostle Peter; and those who were present communicating with him, he prepared for his departure. All of them assembled in St. Peter’s church; and when he had lighted the frankincense, and addressed a prayer at the altar, he gave his blessing to all, standing on the steps and holding the censer in his hand. Amid the prayers of the Litany, the cry of sorrow resounded from all as they went out of the church: they entered the oratory of St. Laurence the martyr, which was in the dormitory of the brethren over against them. Whilst giving them his last farewell, he admonished them to preserve love towards one another, and to correct, according to the Gospel rule, those who did amiss: he forgave all of them whatever wrong they might have done him; and entreated them all to pray for him, and to be reconciled to him, if he had ever reprimanded them too harshly. They went down to the shore, and there, amid tears and lamentations, he gave them the kiss of peace, as they knelt upon their knees; and when he had offered up a prayer he went on board the vessel with his companions. The deacons of the Church went on board with him, carrying lighted tapers and a golden crucifix. Having crossed the river, he kissed the cross, mounted his horse, and departed, leaving in both his monasteries about six hundred brethren.
When he was gone, the brethren returned to the church, and with much weeping and prayer commended themselves and theirs to the protection of the Lord. After a short interval, having ended the nine o’clock psalm, they again assembled, and deliberated what was to be done. At length they resolved, with prayer, hymns, and fasting, to seek of the Lord a new abbot as soon as possible. This resolution they communicated to their brethren of St. Paul’s, by some of that monastery who were present, and also by some of their own people. They immediately gave their consent, and both monasteries showing the same spirit, they all together lifted up their hearts and voices to the Lord. At length, on the third day, which was Easter Sunday, an assembly was held, consisting of all the brethren of St. Peter’s and several of the elder monks from the monastery of St. Paul’s. The greatest concord prevailed, and the same sentiments were expressed by both. They elected for their new abbot, Huetbert, who from his boyhood had not only been bred up in the regular discipline of the monastery, but had acquired much experience in the various duties of writing, chanting, reading, and teaching. He had been at Rome in the time of Pope Sergius, of blessed memory, and had there learnt and copied every thing which he thought useful or worthy to be brought away. He had also been twelve years in priest’s orders. He was now made abbot; and immediately went with some of the brethren to Ceolfrid, who was waiting for a ship in which to cross the ocean. They told him what they had done, for which he gave thanks to God, in approbation of their choice, and received from his successor a letter of recommendation to Pope Gregory, of which I have preserved the few passages which follow.
“To our most beloved lord in the Lord of lords, and thrice blessed Pope Gregory, Huetbert, his most humble servant, abbot of the monastery of the holiest of the Apostles, St. Peter, in Saxony, Health for ever in the Lord! I do not cease to give thanks to the dispensation of Divine wisdom, as do also all the holy brethren, who in these parts are seeking with me to bear the pleasant yoke of Christ, that they may find rest to their souls, that God has condescended to appoint so glorious a vessel of election to rule the Church in these our times; and by means of the light of truth and faith with which you are full, to scatter the beams of his love on all your inferiors also. We recommend to your holy clemency, most beloved father and lord in Christ, the grey hairs of our venerable and beloved father Abbot Ceolfrid, the supporter and defender of our spiritual liberty and peace in this monastic retirement; and, in the first place, we give thanks to the holy and undivided Trinity, for that, although he hath caused us much sorrow, lamentation, and tears, by his departure, he hath nevertheless arrived at the enjoyment of that rest which he long desired; whilst he was in his old age devoutly returning to that threshold of the holy Apostles, which he exultingly boasted, that when a youth he had visited, seen, and worshipped. After more than forty years of care and toil, during his government of the monasteries, by his wonderful love of virtue, as if recently incited to conversation with the heavenly life, though worn out with extreme old age, and already almost at the gates of death, he a second time undertakes to travel in the cause of Christ, that the thorns of his former secular anxieties may be consumed by the fire of zeal blazing forth from that spiritual furnace. We next entreat your fatherly love, that, though we have not merited to do this, you will carefully fulfil towards him the last offices; knowing for certain, that though you may possess his body, yet both we and you shall have in his devout spirit, whether in the body or out of the body, a mighty intercessor and protector over our own last moments, at the throne of grace.” And so on through the rest of the letter.
When Huetbert had returned to the monastery, Bishop Acca was sent for to confirm the election with his blessing. Afterwards, by his youthful zeal and wisdom, he gained many privileges for the monastery; and, amongst others, one which gave great delight to all, he took up the bones of Abbot Easterwine, which lay in the entrance porch of St. Peter’s, and also the bones of his old preceptor, Abbot Sigfrid, which had been buried outside the Sacrarium towards the south, and placing both together in one chest, but separated by a partition, laid them within the church near the body of St. Benedict. He did this on Sigfrid’s birthday, the 23rd of August; and on the same day Divine Providence so ordered that Christ’s venerable servant Witmer, whom we have already mentioned, departed this life, and was buried in the same place as the aforesaid abbots, whose life he had imitated.
But Christ’s servant Ceolfrid, as has been said, died on his way to the threshold of the holy Apostles, of old age and weakness. For he reached the Lingones about nine o’clock, where he died seven hours after, and was honourably buried the next day in the church of the three twin martyrs, much to the sorrow, not only of the English who were in his train, to the number of eighty, but also of the neighbouring inhabitants, who were dissolved in tears at the loss of the reverend father. For it was almost impossible to avoid weeping to see part of his company continuing their journey without the holy father, whilst others, abandoning their first intentions, returned home to relate his death and burial; and others, again, lingered in sorrow at the tomb of the deceased among strangers speaking an unknown tongue.
Ceolfrid was seventy-four years old when he died: forty-seven years he had been in priest’s orders, during thirty-five of which he had been abbot; or, to speak more correctly, forty-three,—for, from the time when Benedict began to build his monastery in honour of the holiest of the Apostles, Ceolfrid had been his only companion, coadjutor, and teacher of the monastic rules. He never relaxed the rigour of ancient discipline from any occasions of old age, illness, or travel; for, from the day of his departure till the day of his death, i.e. from the 4th of June till the 25th of September, a space of one hundred and fourteen days, besides the canonical hours of prayer, he never omitted to go twice daily through the Psalter in order; and even when he became so weak that he could not ride on horseback, and was obliged to be carried in a horse-litter, the holy ceremony of the mass was offered up every day, except one which he passed at sea, and the three days immediately before his death.
He died on Friday, the 25th of September, in the year of our Lord 716, between three and four o’clock, in the fields of the city before mentioned, and was buried the next day near the first milestone on the south side of the city, in the monastery of the Twins, followed by a large number of his English attendants, and the inhabitants of the city and monastery. The names of these twin martyrs are Speusippus, Eleusippus, and Meleusippus. They were born at one birth, and born again by baptism at the same time: together with their aunt Leonella, they left behind them the holy remembrance of their martyrdom; and I pray that they may bestow upon my unworthy self, and upon our holy father, the benefit of their intercession and protection.
NOTES TO ‘ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY’
The Temple Press Letchworth England