Imágenes de páginas


I. History of the Constitution of the Church.



§ 1.

a. The introduction of Christianity."

As early as the beginning of the third century Christianity was widely diffused in the Roman province of Britain, alike among the Romans and the native inhabitants. The constitution of the church was episcopal. Members of the British clergy took part in the councils of Arles (314), Nicaea (325) and Rimini (359): doctrinal controversies did not leave the church of Britain unconcerned. Owing to missionary efforts, emanating partly from Britain, partly from Rome, Christian churches arose in Ireland and at several points in what is now called Scotland.

At the time when the successive descents of Teutonic tribes began (450), the Roman province was essentially Christian. These heathen settlers, however, gradually conquered the southeastern part of the principal island, and their settlements were combined to form seven small kingdoms, the boundaries of which were constantly changing: Kent (peopled by Jutes), Essex, Sussex, Wessex (east, south and west Saxons), East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria (all three peopled by Angles). For a considerable time the hegemony fell now to one, now to another of these states, the king of the leading state being designated Bretwalda. The earlier, British

The dates which mark the gradual disruption of the country are brought together in Haddan and Stubbs, Councils I, 43. The conquest of the district south of the Thames falls between the years 450-516; that of the whole eastern coast, 516-77.

2 Various forms of the name occur. By some it is interpreted as Britenwalter; by others, perhaps more correctly, as Breitwalter, from the adjective bryten. The dignity of Bretwalda represents historically a preliminary stage in the establishment of a common sovereignty for all Anglo-Saxon states. On the derivation of the name and the position of the Bretwalda cf. Freeman, Hist. of Norman Conquest, 3rd edition I, 548, appendix B.

■ Perry, Hist. of the Engl. Church I cc 1-9.-Compare also appendix XIV, II, 3 a, H. C.



inhabitants were in part slain or driven out, in part merely reduced to subjection and compelled to discharge the lowest offices. In these districts but slight traces were left of the constitution of a Christian church, traces which were speedily obliterated.3

Even whilst the driving back of the Britons by the new settlers was still in progress, the conversion of the latter was undertaken from Rome. Pope Gregory I sent in quick succession two missions, the first in 597 under the conduct of Augustine, the second, intended to reinforce the first, in 601 under the direction of Laurentius 1 and Mellitus.


As the first point of attack Kent was chosen. The Kentish king Aethilberht held at this time the position of Bretwalda. The queen, a Frankish princess, had remained a Christian and was already exercising the rites of her faith in a church, which dated back to Roman times, near the chief town of Kent, Canterbury (= Kenterburg).

Christianity as taught by the Roman missionaries differed in various external uses, from the Christianity of those parts of the country whose population still remained Keltic. The differences related principally to the mode of determining Easter, to the rites observed at baptism and to the shape of the tonsure.5

The emissaries of the pope succeeded, in a brief space of time, in extending the church over Kent and Essex. To the latter country Augustine had gained ready admission, inasmuch as Saeberht, a relation of Aethilberht, was ruler there. In Kent the church, in spite of the blows which fell upon it, maintained its ground; but in Essex it was suppressed as early as 617-618, that is, shortly after the death of Saeberht.

Meanwhile (from 616) Northumbria under king Eadwine had become the leading state. Eadwine was a suitor for the hand of

3 As to the alleged archbishop of York, Samson, who is said to have lived at the end of the fifth century, see Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. I, 149 note.Geoffrey of Monmouth, not a credible authority, relates, Historia Britonum (ed. Giles) lib. xi §§ 8 and 10, and after hin Matth. Parisiensis, Chron. major., that the Saxons summoned to their help against the British king Careticus [according to Matth. Parisiensis (Rer. Brit. Scr.), Chr. Maj. I, 250 he ascended the throne in 586] an African king named Gormund, who had invaded Ireland. Gormund defeated Careticus and ceded a large part of the conquered country to the Saxons. Secesserunt itaque Britonum reliquiae in Occidentales regni partes, Cornubiam videlicet atque Gualias. Tres igitur archipraesules, videlicet urbis Legionum, Theonus Londoniensis, et Thadioceus Eboracensis, cum omnes ecclesias sibi subditas, usque ad humum destructas vidissent: cum omnibus ordinatis, qui in tanto discrimine superfuerant, diffugiunt ad tutamina nemorum in Gualias. Plures etiam Armoricanam Britanniam magno navigio petiverunt: ita ut tota ecclesia duarum provinciarum, Loëgriae videlicet et Northanhumbriae, a conventibus suis desolaretur: sed haec alias referam, cum librum de exulatione eorum transtulero. No such account is found in the Anglo-Saxon chronicles, Beda Hist. Eccles., Nennius Hist. Britonum or Gildas De excid. Britanniae. On Gormund see also W. Hardy in Rer. Brit. Ser. No. 39; I, 596.

Laurentius had been commissioned by Augustine to convey to Rome his reports and enquiries. (See preface to Gregory's answers, printed in Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. III, 18.)

5 For the details see Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. I, 152.

the Kentish king's sister. He received her to wife upon condition of allowing her the free exercise of her religion. Paulinus, a member of the second Roman mission, accompanied the princess in 625 to York, the chief town of Northumbria, and was successful in inducing the king and the nobles (627) to accept Christianity; he it was who spread the Christian faith over Northumbria, and bore it also to certain places in Mercia.

In the year 633, Eadwine was defeated and slain in the battle of Haethfelth by the united kings of Mercia and the western Britons, the former a heathen, the latter a Keltic Christian. As a consequence, the Roman Christianity in Northumbria and Mercia became the object of persecution and its organization was destroyed. Paulinus fled to Kent, where he laboured until his death as bishop of Rochester. Upon Eadwine's overthrow the two provinces of Northumbria, Deira and Bernicia, fell to separate rulers. Both of these princes had previously been converted to Keltic Christianity, but renounced their faith upon their accession to power. They continued the war with the Britons and were alike slain. Oswald now became king of Northumbria and in the year 635 defeated the Britons at Denisesburna (= Dilston?). His conversion had taken place during his exile in the north. Thus the form of Christianity presented to him by his teachers was the Keltic; and it was this form that, after his victory, he introduced into Northumbria, being assisted by bishop Aidan, whom he had summoned from the monastery at Iona." As a result of the dominant influence of the then reigning kings of Northumbria, Christianity was presently again diffused over Mercia and Essex.10 Here too the form which now prevailed was Keltic.

In East Anglia, at an earlier time (between 628 and 632), king Eorpwald, acting under the suasion of the Romish Christian, king Eadwine of Northumbria, had accepted Christianity. After a short break in the propagation of the church, the work was, with the consent of archbishop Honorius of Canterbury, resumed (between 631 and 636) by Felix, a Burgundian bishop, and carried on with success. At a later date Christianity was further spread in the land, partly from Roman, partly from Keltic sources.

The conversion of Wessex was undertaken by the missionary Birinus, who arrived in Britain in the year 634. The mission was an independent one, proceeding from North Italy. Here as in East Anglia there was an intermission in the work (643-50), after which it was, in the latter year, taken up again by Agilbert, who was of Gallic origin but had studied long in Ireland.12

6 Compare, however, Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. I, 123 for an account of the baptism of Eadwine by an apparently British priest, Run, son of Urbgen.

7 Beda, Hist. Eccles. Book III, c 1 § 150.


Beda, Hist. Eccles. Book III, c 1 § 151.

Beda, Hist. Eccles. Book III, c 3.

10 Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. III, 93 ft.-In 654, after a break of thirty-seven

years, a bishop of London was again consecrated-Bishop Cedd.

11 Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. III, 88; on the date see III, 89, note a.

12 Haddan and Stubbs, Counc. III, 90.

« AnteriorContinuar »