Anglo-Saxon Church, THE
I. ANGLO-SAXON OCCUPATION OF BRITAIN
The word Anglo-Saxon is used as a collective name for those Teutonic settlers, the foundation stock of the English race, who after dispossessing the Celtic inhabitants of Britain in the middle of the fifth century, remained masters of the country until a new order of things was created in 1066 by the coming of the Normans. Though etymologically open to some objection (cf. Stevenson’s “Asser”, 149) the term Anglo-Saxon is convenient in practice, the more so because we do not know very much concerning the provenance of the Low German tribes who about the year 449 began to invade Britain. The Jutes, who came first and occupied Kent and the Isle of Wight, have been supposed to be identical with the inhabitants of Jutland, but it has been recently shown that this is probably an error (Stevenson, ibid., 167). They were, however, a Frisian tribe. The Saxons of the fifth century were better known and more widely spread, occupying the present Westphalia, Hanover, and Brunswick. The Angles in Taeitus’s day were settled on the right bank of the Elbe close to its mouth. They seem to have been nearly akin to their then neighbors, the Lombards, who after long wanderings eventually became the masters of Italy.
It is curious to find the great historian of the Lombards, Paul the Deacon, describing their dress as resembling that “which the Anglo-Saxons are wont to wear.” In England the Saxons, after establishing themselves in the south and east, in the localities now represented by Sussex and Essex, founded a great kingdom in the West which gradually absorbed almost the whole country south of the Thames. In fact, the King of Wessex ultimately became the lord of the entire land of Britain. The Angles, who followed close upon the heels of the Saxons, founded the kingdoms of East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk), Mercia (the Midlands), Deira (Yorkshire), and Bernicia (the country farther north). The extermination of the native inhabitants was probably not so complete as was at one time supposed, and a recent authority (Hodgkin) has declared that “Anglo-Celt rather than Anglo-Saxon is the fitting designation of our race.” But, although the Britons were Christians, the survivors were in any case too insignificant a body to convert their conquerors. Only in the extreme west and north, where the Teutonic invaders could not penetrate, did the Celtic Church still maintain its succession of priests and bishops. No effort seems to have been made by them to preach to the Saxons, and later on, when St. Augustine and St. Lawrence tried to open up friendly relations, the British Church held severely aloof.
Everyone knows the story of the Roman Mission which first brought to the English the knowledge of the Gospel. St. Gregory’s deep compassion for the angel-faces of some captive Angle children in the Roman slave-market led in time to the sending of the monk St. Augustine and his companions. They were well received by Ethelbert of Kent who had already married a Christian wife.
Augustine landed in Thanet only in 597, but before the end of the century most of the Jutes of Kent had been converted. Acting on instructions previously received, he went to Arles to receive episcopal consecration. Frequent communications were exchanged with Rome, and St. Gregory in 601 sent Augustine the pallium, the emblem of archiepiscopal jurisdiction, directing him to consecrate other bishops and to set up his see in London. This was not then possible, and Canterbury became the mother church of England. London, however, very shortly afterwards had its church, and Mellitus was consecrated to reside there as Bishop of the East Saxons, while another church was erected at Rochester with Justus as bishop. On Ethelbert‘s death in 616 great reverses befell the cause of Christianity. Essex and part of Kent apostatized, but St. Lawrence, the new archbishop, stood his ground. A few years later a great advance was made by the marriage of the powerful King Eadwine of Northumbria to a Kentish Christian princess. Paulinus, a Roman who had been sent to help Augustine, was consecrated bishop, and, accompanying her as her chaplain, he was able to baptize Eadwine in 627, and build the church of St. Peter at York. It is true that a pagan reaction six years afterwards swept away most of the results achieved, but even then his deacon James remained at work in Yorkshire. Meanwhile Felix, a Burgundian monk acting under orders from Canterbury, had gained over East Anglia; and Birinus, who had been sent straight from Rome, began in 634 the conversion of the people of Wessex. In the North it seemed as if the Faith was almost extinguished, owing mainly to the relentless opposition of Penda, the pagan King of Mercia, but help came from an unexpected quarter. In 634 the remnants of Northumbrian sovereignty were soon grasped by St. Oswald, who had been brought up in exile among the Irish monks settled in Iona, and had there become a Christian. When this young prince had gained a victory over his enemies and established himself more firmly, he summoned (c. 635) a Scottish (i.e. Irish) missionary from Iona. This was St. Aidan, who established a community of his followers in the island of Lindisfarne, and thence evangelized all the land of the north. St. Aidan followed the Celtic traditions in the points in which they differed from the Roman (e.g. the keeping of Easter), but there can be no question as to his sanctity or as to the wonderful effects of his preaching. From Lindisfarne came St. Cedd and St. Chad, two brothers who respectively evangelized Essex and Mercia. To Lindisfarne also we are indebted, at least indirectly, for St. Cuthbert, who consolidated the empire of Christianity in the north, and for St. Wilfrid, who, besides converting the South Saxons, the tardiest of the Teutonic settlers to receive the Gospel, accomplished the great task of reconciling the Christians of Northumberland to the Roman Easter and to the other institutions which had the support of papal authority. To sum up, it has been said, not inaptly, that in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons “the Roman planted, the Scot watered, the Briton did nothing.”
III. DEVELOPMENT UNDER ROMAN AUTHORITY
Meanwhile a great work of organization had been going on. Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek monk who had been consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Vitalian, came to England in 669. He was warmly welcomed by all, and in 673 held a national council of the English bishops at Hertford, and another in 680 at Hatfield. In these synods much was done to promote unity, to define the limits of jurisdiction, and to restrain the wanderings and mutual interference of the clergy. What was still more important, St. Theodore, visiting the whole of England, consecrated new bishops and divided up the vast dioceses which in many cases were coextensive with the kingdoms of the heptarchy. It seems to have been a consequence of this last proceeding that a feud for a while broke out between Theodore and Wilfrid, the latter being driven from his See of Ripon and appealing to Rome. But after some tempestuous years, marked alike by great endurance and missionary zeal on Wilfrid’s part, Theodore acknowledged that he had done grave wrong to his brother bishop. They were reconciled and for the short time that remained worked together harmoniously in the cause of Roman order and discipline. It would seem that in the interests of antipapal controversy, a great deal too much has been made of the divergent customs of the Roman and Celtic missionaries. Both in Scotland and on the Continent, Irish Christianity was thoroughly loyal in spirit to the See of Rome. Such men as St. Cuthbert, St. Cedd, St. Chad, and St. Wilfrid cooperated heartily with the efforts to preach the Gospel made by the teachers sent from Canterbury. The Celtic customs had already received their deathblow in the choice made by the Northumbrian King Oswiu, when at the Synod of Whitby (664) he elected to stand by the Roman Keybearer, St. Peter. In fact, after the lapse of a few years they are no more heard of. In the eighth century the pope granted the pallium to Egbert, Bishop of York, and thus restored the see as an archbishopric according to a scheme already foreshadowed in St. Gregory’s letter to Augustine. Moreover, two very important synods were held at this period. The one, in 747, was summoned at the instance of Pope Zacharias, whose letter was read aloud, and devoted itself to thoroughgoing legislation for the internal reform of the clergy. The other, in 787, was presided over by the two papal legates, George and Theophylact, who forwarded to Pope Adrian a report of the proceedings, including among other things a formal recognition of tithes. In this synod Lichfield, through the influence of Off a, King of Mercia, who made misleading representations at Rome, was erected into an archbishopric; but, sixteen years later, when Off a and Pope Adrian were dead, Leo III reversed the decision of his predecessor. It has been suggested that the institution of Peter’s-pence, which dates from this period, was the price paid by Offa for Adrian’s complaisance, but this is pure conjecture. During the ninth century, in the course of which Wessex gradually acquired a position of supremacy, the Danish incursions destroyed many great seats of learning and centers of monastic discipline, such, for instance, as Jarrow, the home of St. Bede, and these calamities soon exercised a disastrous effect upon the lives and work of the clergy. King Alfred the Great strove hard to put things on a better footing, and, speaking generally, the devotion of secular rulers towards the papacy and the Church was never more conspicuous than at this period. To this age belongs the famous grant to the Church of a tenth of his land by Ethelwulf, father of Alfred. This had nothing directly to do with tithes, but it showed how completely the principle was recognized and how close was the union between Church and State. The final victory of Alfred over the Danes, the treaty with Guthrum their leader at Wedmore, and the consequent reception of Christianity by the invaders, did much to restore the Church to happier conditions. In the joint code of laws published by Alfred and Guthrum, apostasy was declared a crime, negligent priests were to be fined, the payment of Peter’s-Pence was commanded, and the practice of heathen rites was forbidden. The union between secular and ecclesiastical authority at this time, and indeed throughout the whole of the Anglo-Saxon period, was very close, and some of the great national councils seemed almost to have the character of Church synods. But the clergy, while remaining closely identified with the people, and discharging in each district the functions of local state officials, seem never to have quite regained the religious spirit which the period of Danish incursions had impaired. Hence, in the time of St. Dunstan, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 988, a very strong movement made itself felt (encouraged especially by St. Ethelwold of Winchester, and St. Oswald of Worcester and York), which aimed at replacing the secular clergy by monks in all the more important “minsters”. There can be no doubt that at this period the law of celibacy was ill observed by priests, and the custom of marrying was so general that it seemed to have been impossible to enforce any very severe penalties against delinquents. Hence, great efforts were made by the three saints named and by King Edgar to renovate and spiritualize monasticism upon the lines of the great Benedictine rule, hoping thereby also to raise the tone of the secular clergy and to increase their influence for good. For the same end St. Dunstan sought to remedy the isolation of the English Church not only by intercourse with France and Flanders, but also, in the words of Bishop Stubbs, “by establishing a more intimate communication with the Apostolic See“. Henceforth nearly all archbishops went personally to Rome for the pallium. These efforts resulted in a distinct advance in general culture, though England no longer led, but was content to follow the scholars of the Continent. Still, much was gained, and when, after renewed invasions, a Danish dynasty became masters of England, “the society which was unable to withstand the arms of Canute, almost immediately humanized and elevated him”. Canute was a fervent convert. He made a great pilgrimage to Rome in 1026-27. His legislation was largely ecclesiastical in character, and he insisted anew on the payment of Peter’s-Pence. These Roman influences were also reinforced under Edward the Confessor by the appointment of several foreigners to English sees and by a great revival of pilgrimages to Rome. The foreigners were probably both more devout and more capable than any native priests that were available. There is nothing to show that competent Englishmen were passed over. On the contrary, when in 1062 papal legates again visited England they were responsible for the appointment of one of the greatest native churchmen of Anglo-Saxon times, St. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester. In himself “a faultless character” (Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.), he lived on under Norman rule, for nearly thirty years, serving to perpetuate the best traditions of the Anglo-Saxon Church in the reorganized hierarchy of the Conquest.
IV. ECCLESIASTICAL ORGANIZATION
There can be no doubt that in the Christianizing of Britain the monk came before the secular priest, the minister (monasterium) was prior to the cathedral. St. Augustine and his companions were monks, belonging seemingly to communities founded by St. Gregory himself, Although it would be a mistake to regard them a s identical in discipline, or even in spirit, with the Benedictines of a later age. Still greater would be the error of using modern standards to judge of the monks of the Celtic Church, whose rude but ascetic missionaries who established themselves in the lonely island of Lindisfarne, and who in their excursions under the leadership of St. Aidan gradually built up the Church of Northumbria. The early monastic institutions of the West, both Roman and Celtic, were very adaptable and seem to have been well fitted for missionary efforts; but they were nevertheless incapable of providing permanently for the spiritual needs of a Christian population, as they essentially supposed some form of common life and the gathering of numbers in one monastic center. As soon, then, as the work of conversion had made some little progress, it became the aim of the bishop or abbot—and under the Celtic system the abbot was often the religious superior of the bishop—to draw young men into intercourse with their community and after more or less of instruction to ordain them priests and send them to dwell among the people, wherever their ministrations were most needed, or where provision for their support was most readily offered. To a large extent the parochial system in England was brought into being by what may be called private chaplaincies (cf. Earle, Land Charters, 73). It was not, as used formerly to be maintained, the creation of Archbishop Theodore or any one organizer. The gesith, or noble landowner, in any “township” (this, of course, was a rural division) would build a church for his own private convenience, often in contiguity to his own house, and then he would either obtain from the bishop a priest to serve it or, more commonly, would present some nominee of his own for ordination. No doubt the bishop himself was also active in providing churches and clergy for noteworthy centers of population. Indeed, Bede writing to Archbishop Egbert of York urged that there ought to be a priest in each township (in singulis vicis), and to this day the parishes coincide with the former townships (now known as “civil parishes”), or in more thinly populated districts with a group of townships. While, in this way parishes came into being out of the oratories of the lords, a strong effort seems to have been made by the bishops at an early date both to check abuses and to secure some definite provision of a permanent nature for the support of the priest. This often took the form of lands legally “booked” to the saint to whom the church was dedicated. At first the bishop seems to have been seized of these endowments, as also of the tithes and of the general contributions for ecclesiastical purposes known as “Church-shot”, but soon the parish priest himself acquired, along with fixity of tenure, the administration of these emoluments. It is quite possible that the general prevalence in England of lay patrons with the right to present to benefices (q.v.) is to be traced to the fact that the parish church in so many cases originated in the private oratory of the lord of the township. It is difficult to decide at what date the organization of the parochial system should be regarded as complete. We can only say that the Domesday commission in the reign of William the Conqueror takes it for granted that every township had its own parish priest. The dioceses which were first divided up with some degree of adequacy by Archbishop Theodore were further added to. As time went on, York, as we have noticed, became an archbishopric under Egbert, but the province of York was always far behind Canterbury in the number of its suffragans. On the other hand, the recognition almost universally accorded to Canterbury, and the oaths of fealty taken by the bishops to the archbishop probably did much towards developing the idea of the national unity. At the close of the Anglo-Saxon period there were some seventeen bishoprics, but the numerous subdivisions, suppressions, translations, and amalgamations of sees during the preceding centuries are too complicated to be detailed here. The matter has been very fully discussed, in “English Dioceses”, by G. Hill, who gives the following list of bishoprics in 1066. I add the date of foundation; but in some cases, indicated in brackets, the see was suppressed or transferred and afterwards refounded. Canterbury, 597; London, 604; Rochester, 604; York, (625), 664; Dorchester (634), 870 with Leicester; Lindisfarne, 635, later Durham; Lichfield, 656; Winchester, Hereford, 669; 662; East Anglia (Elmham), 673; Worcester, 680; Sherborne, 705; Sussex (Selsey), 708; Ramsbury, c. 909; Crediton, c. 909; Wells, c. 909; Cornwall (St. Germans), 931. Some of these dioceses afterwards became more famous under other names. Thus Ramsbury was later on represented by Salisbury or Sarum, which, owing to the influence of St. Osmund (d. 1099), a post-Conquest bishop, acquired a sort of liturgical primacy among the other English dioceses. Similarly, the sees established at Dorchester, Elmham, and Crediton were after the Conquest transferred to the far more famous cities of Lincoln, Norwich, and Exeter. Other bishoprics at one time renowned, such as those of Hexham and Ripon, were suppressed or merged into more important dioceses. At the period of the Norman Conquest, York had only one suffragan see, that of Lindisfarne or Durham, but it obtained a sort of irregular supremacy over Worcester, owing to the abuse that for a long time the same archbishop had been accustomed to hold the sees of York and Worcester at once. Undoubtedly a large part of the chopping and changing which are noticed in the delimitation of the old Saxon dioceses must be attributed to the effects of the Danish irruptions. The same cause is no doubt mainly responsible for the decay of the older monastic system; though something should also be laid to the charge of the looseness of organization and the undue prevalence of family influence in the succession of superiors, which in many instances left to the cloister only the semblance of religious life. The “booking” of land to these pretended monasteries seems in the early period to have become recognized as a fraudulent means of evading certain burdens to which the land was subject. The prevalent system, of “double monasteries”, in which both sexes resided though of course in separate buildings, the nuns under the rule of an abbess, seems never to have been viewed with approval by Roman authority. It is not clear whether the English derived this institution from Ireland or from Gaul. The best known examples are Whitby, Coldingham, Bardney, Wenlock, Repton, Ely, Wimborne, and Barking. Some of these were purely Celtic in origin; others, for example the last, were certainly founded under Roman influences. Only in the case of Coldingham have we any direct evidence of grave scandals resulting. When, however, in the tenth century, after the submission of the Danes, the monasteries began to revive once more, English monks went to Fleury which had recently been reformed by St. Odo of Cluny, and the Fleury tradition was imported into England. (Eng. Hist. Review, IX, 691 sq.). It was the spirit of Fleury which, under the guidance of St. Dunstan and St. Aethelwold, animated the great centers of English monastic life, such as Winchester, Worcester, Abingdon, Glastonbury, Eynsham, Ramsey, Peterborough, and many more. We must also remember, as an explanation of the efforts made at this time to dislodge the secular canons from the cathedrals, that these secular canons were themselves the successors, and sometimes the actual progeny, of degenerate monks. It was felt that all sacred traditions cried out for the restoration of a worthier clergy and a stricter observance. Even during times of the greatest corruption ecclesiastical authority never fully acquiesced in the marriage of the Anglo-Saxon Mass-priests, though this was undoubtedly prevalent. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the word preost (as opposed to messe-preost) of itself only means cleric in minor orders, and consequently every mention of the son of a priest does not necessarily presuppose a flagrant violation of the canons. To the clergy in general, from a social point of view, great privileges were accorded which the law fully recognized. The priest, or massthegn, enjoyed a high wergeld (i.e. man-price, a claim for compensation proportionate to dignity), and an increased mundbyrd, or right of protection. He ranked as a thane, and the parish priest together with the reeve and the four best burghers of each township attended the hundred-moot as a matter of right. On the other hand, the clergy and their property, at least in later times, were not exempt from the public burdens common to all. Save for the option of the corsned, a form of ordeal by blessed bread, the clergy were judged in the ordinary tribunals, and frithborh, or the duty of finding a number of sureties for their keeping the peace, was incumbent upon them as upon other men.
V. ECCLESIASTICAL OBSERVANCES
The close union of the religious and social aspects of Anglo-Saxon life is nowhere more clearly seen than in the penitential system. Codes of penalties for moral offenses, which were known as Penitentials and were ascribed to such venerated names as Theodore, Bede, and Egbert, meet us from an early period. The application of these codes, at least in some imperfect way, lasted on until the Conquest, and the public penance enforced upon the offenders seems almost to have had the effect of a system of police. Closely related with this was the practice of making confession to the parish priest on Shrove Tuesday or shortly afterwards. In cases of public offenses against morality, reconciliation was commonly deferred at least until Maundy Thursday, at the end of Lent, and belonged of strict right to the bishop alone. Confession may have been relatively infrequent, and probably enough its necessity was only recognized when there was question of sins of a palpably grievous character, but it is certain that secrecy was respected in the case of hidden sins, and that absolution was given, at least in the precatory form. The earliest example of our modern declarative form of absolution in the West is probably of Anglo-Saxon origin. Of the general prevalence of confession no stronger proof can be given than the fact that the term commonly used in Anglo-Saxon to denote a parish was scri f tscir (i.e. shrift shire, confession district). Like the observance of certain appointed fasts and festivals, the obligation of confession was made a subject of secular legislation by the king and his Witan. Another obligation enforced by legal enactment in the Witena gemot (council of the wise men) was the Cyricsceat (i.e. church-shot, church dues). The nature of this payment is not quite clear, but it seems to have consisted in the first fruits of the seed-harvest (cf. Kemble, Saxons in England, II, 559). It was apparently distinct from tithes and probably was even older than the formation of regular parishes (Baldwin Brown, Arts in Early Eng., I, 314-316). The payments of the tithe of increase was first plainly enjoined in the legatine synod held at Cealchythe (Chelsea?) in 787 and the obligation was confirmed in an ordinance of Athelstan, 927. Soul-shot (saul scent), also a payment enforced by legal sanction, seems to have been a due paid to the parish church with a view to the donor’s burial in its churchyard. The importance attached to it shows how intimately bound up with Anglo-Saxon religious conceptions was the duty of prayer for the dead. The offering of Masses for the dead is legislated for in some of the earliest ecclesiastical documents of the English Church which have been preserved to us, e.g. in the “Penitential” of Theodore. The same desire to obtain the prayers of the living for the souls of the departed is manifested alike in the wording of the land charters and in the earliest stone monuments. The cross erected at Bewcastle in Cumberland about 671, in honor of the Northumbrian king Alchfrith, has a runic inscription asking prayers for his soul. Religious communities as early as the first half of the eighth century banded themselves together in associations pledged to recite the psalter and offer Masses for their deceased members, and this movement which spread widely in Germany and on the Continent had its origin in England. (See Ebner, Gebetsverbruderungen, 30.) Similarly among secular persons guilds were formed, the main object of which was to secure prayers for the souls of their members after death (Kemble, Saxons, I, 511). For the same purpose, at the obsequies of the great, doles of food were commonly distributed, and slaves were manumitted. Another institution many times mentioned in the later Anglo-Saxon laws is that of Peter’s-Pence (Rom-feoh, Rom-pennig). It appears from a letter of Pope Leo III (795-816) that King Offa of Mercia promised to send 365 mancusses yearly to Rome for the maintenance of the poor and of lights, and Asser tells of some similar gift of Ethelwulf, the father of King Alfred, to St. Peter’s. Not very long after, it seems to have taken the form of a regular tax collected from the people and annually transmitted to Rome. This voluntary contribution undoubtedly bears witness to a very close union between England and the Holy See, and indeed this is made clear to us in numerous other ways. It is Bede who directs special attention to the constant pilgrimages from England to the Holy City and to the abdication of kings, like Caedwalla and Ine, who resigned the crown and went to Rome to die. The prevalence of dedications to St. Peter, the generous gifts of such men as the Abbot Ceolfrith, whose present to the Pope, the magnificent Northumbrian manuscript now known as the “Codex Amiatinus“, is preserved to this day, together with the language of several of the English synods, all point in the same direction. The fact was even commented upon by continental contemporaries, and the “Gesta Abbatum Fontanellensium” (Saint Vandrille), written c. 840, speaks of the “English who are always specially devoted to the Apostolic See” (Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, I, 457, 3d ed.). We have very good evidence of the existence in the Anglo-Saxon Church of the whole of the present sacramental system, including Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The Mass was the center of all religious worship, and the Holy Sacrifice was certainly offered privately, sometimes as often as three or four times in the same day by the same priest, but always fasting. The attempt made, upon the authority of certain expressions of Abbot Aelfric (q.v.), to show that the Anglo-Saxons did not believe in the Real Presence is wholly illusory. (See Bridgett, Hist. of Holy Eucharist, I, 119 sq.). In these matters of faith and ritual England differs in no substantial respect from the rest of Western Christendom. The Latin language was used both in the liturgy and in the canonical hours. The books were the Roman service books without any important additions of native or Celtic growth. The principal foreign influence which can be discerned is a likeness to the ritual observances of southern Italy (e.g., Naples), a peculiarity to which attention has been drawn on many occasions by Edmund Bishop and Dom Germain Morin. It is probably due to the fact that Adrian, Abbot of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury, who came to England in the train of Archbishop Theodore, had brought with him the traditions of Monte Cassino. Even the coronation service, which began by being pronouncedly Celtic, was remodeled about the time of Eadgar (973) in imitation of the usages which obtained in the coronation of the Emperor of the West (Robertson, Historical Essays, 203 sq.; Thurston, Coronation Ceremonial, 18 sq.). Hence many interesting details of liturgical custom, e.g. the churchyard procession on Palm Sunday, the dramatic dialogue beside the Sepulchre on Easter eve, the episcopal benediction after the Pater Noster of the Mass, the multiplication of prefaces, the great O’s of Advent, the communion of the laity under both species, etc., were not peculiar to England, even though in some cases the earliest recorded examples are English examples. As regards the veneration of the saints and of their relics, no Church was farther removed than the Anglo-Saxon Church from the principles of the Reformation. The praises of our Blessed Lady are sung by Aldhelm and Alcuin in Latin, and by the poet Cynewulf (c. 775) in Anglo-Saxon, in glowing verse. An Anglican writer ( Church Quarterly Rev., XIV, 286) has frankly admitted that “Mariolatry is no very modern development of Romanism—the Blessed Virgin was not only Dei Genitrix and Virgo Virginum, but in a tenth-century English litany she is addressed thus:
Sancta Regina Mundi, ora pro nobis;
Sancta Salvatrix Mundi, ora pro nobis;
Sancta Redemptrix Mundi, ora pro nobis.”
The bodies of the saints, e.g. that of St. Cuthbert, were reverently honored from the beginning and esteemed the most precious of treasures. Besides the feasts of Christ and Our Lady, a number of saints’ days were observed throughout the year, to which in a synod of 747 the festivals of St. Gregory and St. Augustine, the true apostles of England, were specially added. Later secular legislation determined the number of such feasts and prescribed abstention from servile work. All feasts of the Apostles had vigils on which men fasted. Sts. Peter and Paul’s day was celebrated with an octave. The Ordeals, a method of trial by “judgment of God“, though accompanied by prayer and conducted under the supervision of the clergy, were not exactly an ecclesiastical institution, neither were they peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon Church.
Of the missionary enterprise of the Anglo-Saxons a more detailed account must be sought under the names of the principal missionaries and of the countries evangelized. It will be sufficient to say here in general that the preaching of the Irish monks, of whom St. Columban was the most celebrated, in central and western Europe, was followed and eclipsed by the efforts of the Anglo-Saxons, in particular by those of the Northumbrian St. Willibrord and the West Saxon Winfrith better known as St. Boniface. St. Boniface, to whom a later age gave the name of the Apostle of Germany, was supported by many followers, e.g. Lull, Willibald, Burchard, and others. The work of evangelization in Germany was almost accomplished in the eighth century, the crowning effort being made by St. Willehad between 772 and 789, in the North, beside the banks of the Elbe and the Weser. These missionary undertakings were much assisted by the devotion of many holy Englishwomen, e.g. Sts. Walburg, Lioba, Tecla, and others, who founded communities of nuns and in this way did much to educate and Christianize the young people of their own sex. At a somewhat later date another great missionary field was provided for Anglo-Saxon zeal in the northern lands of Denmark and Scandinavia. St. Sigfrid led the way under the protection of King Olaf Tryggvesson, but the accession of King Canute to the throne of England was an important factor in this new development. Although not much is known of the history of the missions in Sweden and Norway, it has lately been shown by such scholars as Taranger and Freisen, alike from linguistic and liturgical considerations, that the impress of the Anglo-Saxon Church is everywhere recognizable in the Christian institutions of the extreme North.
VII. LITERATURE AND ART
Both literature and art among the Anglo-Saxons were intimately bound up with the service of the Church, and owed almost all their inspiration to her ministers. In the century or more which preceded the terrible Viking raid of 794 extraordinary progress was made. Aldhelm, Bede, and Alcuin represented the high-water mark of Latin scholarship in the Christian West of that day, and the native literature, so far as we can judge from the surviving poetry of Caedmon and Cynewulf (if the latter, as seems likely, is really the author of the “Christ” and the “Dream of the Rood“) was of unparalleled excellence. With this high standard the arts introduced from Rome, especially by St. Wilfrid and St. Benedict Biscop, seem to have kept pace. Nothing could be more remarkable for graceful design than the ornamentation of the stone crosses of Northumbria belonging to this period, e.g. those of Bewcastle and Ruthwell. The surviving manuscripts of the same epoch are not less wonderful in their way. We have spoken of the copy of the Bible written at Jarrow and taken to Rome by Ceolfrid as a present for the Pope. Two other equally authentic relics are the Lindisfarne Gospels and the copy of the Gospel of St. John, now at Stonyhurst College, which was buried with St. Cuthbert and found in his tomb. But this precocious development of culture was, as already explained above, terribly blighted by the inroads of the Danes. With the era of King Alfred, however, there are many signs of recovery. His own Anglo-Saxon prose, mostly translations, is conspicuous for its grace and freedom, also the remarkable work of art known as the Alfred jewel bears witness, with rings and other objects of the same epoch, to a very high level of technical skill in goldsmith’s work. Within the century of Alfred’s death we also find that in this period of comparative peace and religious revival an admirable school of calligraphy and illumination had grown up which seems to have had its principal home at Winchester. The Benedictional of St. Aethelwold and the so-called Missal of Robert of Jumieges are famous MSS. which may be regarded as typical of the period. In literature also this was a time of great development, the inspiring motive of which was almost always religious. Considerable collections of homilies are preserved to us, many of them rhythmical in structure, which are specially connected with the names of Elfric and Wulfstan. Besides these we have a number of manuscripts which contain translations, or at least paraphrases, of books of Scripture; Bede‘s last work, as is well known, was to translate into his native tongue the Gospel of St. John, though this has not survived. Still more commonly Latin texts were transcribed, and an Anglo-Saxon gloss written over each word as an aid to the student. This was the case with the famous Lindisfarne Gospels, written and illuminated about the year 700, though the Anglo-Saxon interlinear translation was only added some 250 years afterwards. The manuscript, one of the treasures of the British Museum, is also remarkable for the beauty of its interlaced ornament. This form of decoration, though no doubt originally derived from the Irish missionaries who accompanied St. Aidan to Northumbria, soon became a distinctive feature of the art of the Anglo-Saxons. It is as conspicuous in their stone carvings (compare the early crosses mentioned above) as it is in the decoration of their manuscripts, and it long survived in a modified form. In the field of history, again, we possess in the so-called “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”, reaching in some manuscripts from the Saxon conquest down to the middle of the twelfth century, the most wonderful chronicle in the vernacular which is known to any European people; while in the “Beowulf” we have a comparatively late transcription of a pagan Teutonic poem which in subject and inspiration is older than the eighth century. But it is impossible to enumerate within narrow limits even the more important elements of the rich literature of the Anglo-Saxon period. Neither can we describe the many architectural remains, more particularly of churches, which survive from before the Conquest, and which, though mainly noteworthy for their massive strength, are not by any means lacking in a sense of beauty or destitute of pleasing ornament. The ancient Saxon tower of Earl’s Barton church near Northampton may be appealed to as an illustration of the rest.