The Northern Way

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

CHAPTER VII

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. [A.D. 688.]

IN the third year of the reign of Alfrid, Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, having most honorably 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 honor 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 accord. mg 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-

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High state and place, kindred, a wealthy crown,
Triumphs, and spoils in glorious battles won,
Nobles, and cities walled, to guard his state,
High palaces, and his familiar seat,
Whatever honors his own virtue won,
Or those his great forefathers handed down,
Caedwal armipotent, from heaven inspir'd,
For love of heaven hath left, and here retir'd;
Peter to see, and Peter's sacred chair,
The royal pilgrim traveled from afar,
Here to imbibe pure draughts from his clear stream,
And share the influence of his heavenly beam;
Here for the glories of a future claim,
Converted, chang'd his first and barbarous name.
And following Peter's rule, he from his Lord
Assumed the name at Father Sergius' word,
At the pure font, and by Christ's grace made clean,
In heaven is free from former taints of sin.
Great was his faith, but greater God's decree,
Whose secret counsels mortal cannot see
Safe came he, e'en from Britain's isle, o'er seas,
And lands, and countries, and through dangerous ways,
Rome to behold, her glorious temple see,
And mystic presents offer'd on his knee-
Now in the grave his fleshly members lie,
His soul, amid Christ's flock, ascends the sky.
Sure wise was he to lay his sceptre down,
And gain in heaven above a lasting crown.

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Here was deposited Caedwalla, 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, Inn succeeded him on the throne, being of the blood royal; and having reigned thirty-seven years over that nation, he gave up the king. dom 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 neighborhood 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.

CHAPTER VIII

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. [A.D. 690.]

THE year after that in which Caedwalla 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 -

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Here rests fam'd Theodore, a Grecian name,
Who had o'er England an archbishop's claim;
Happy and blessed, industriously he wrought,
And wholesome precepts to his scholars taught.

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The four last are as follow -

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And now it was September's nineteenth day,
When, bursting from its ligaments of clay,
His spirit rose to its eternal rest,
And joined in heaven the chorus of the blest.

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Berthwald succeeded Theodore in the archbishopric, being abbot 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.

CHAPTER IX

EGBERT, A HOLY MAN, WOULD HAVE GONE INTO GERMANY TO PREACH, BUT COULD NOT; WICTBERT WENT, BUY MEETING WITH NO SUCCESS, RETURNED INTO IRELAND, FROM WHENCE HE CAME. [A.D. 689.]

AT that time the venerable servant of Christ, and priest, Eghert, 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 neighboring 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 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 Abbot 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 Eghert a message from our Lord and Savior, 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 honored 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 labor 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.

CHAPTER X

WILBRORD, PREACHING IN FRISLAND, CONVERTED MANY TO CHRIST; HIS TWO COMPANIONS, THE HEWALDS, SUFFERED MARTYRDOM. [A.D. 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 favors 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 honor 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 honor 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 honor 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.

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