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The Council of the Society is not responsible for any
statements or opinions expressed in the YORKSHIRE
ARCHEOLOGICAL JOURNAL, the Authors of the various
Papers being alone responsible for the same.


(Being the First part of Volume XXII.)

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Yorkshire Archäological Journal.


By Rev. Canox J. T. FOWLER, D.C.L., F.S.A.

We know comparatively little of the Church in Ireland before the fifth century, in Scotland before the sixth, or in England before the seventh century. St. Augustine came over from Rome to the south of England in 597, and St. Aidan from Iona to the north in 635. The known history of Ripon begins about twenty-five years after this, for about 660 a Celtic monastery was founded here by Alchfrid, prince of Deira, Eata being the first abbot.2 old abbey, according to Leland", stood on lower ground than the present Minster, about two hundred yards away to the north, where was afterwards a Chapel of Our Lady, whence the name of the street, St. Mary Gate, which forms the eastern boundary of the site. Here St. Cuthbert held the office of guestmaster, and on a certain occasion ministered to the necessities of a mysterious guest, who was supposed to have been an angel. These earliest monks brought with them from Lindisfarne the Celtic traditions with regard to the time of keeping Easter, the form of the tonsure, and other matters in which the Celtic traditions differed from those of Rome that were introduced by Roman missionaries.

Now about 664, only four years after its foundation, this first monastery was bestowed by Alchfrid upon his friend Wilfrids, who had been to Rome, indeed he is said to have been the first Englishman to visit the Eternal City, and he came back full of Roman ideas. He was a man of great ability and determination, and insisted on the Roman Easter, tonsure, etc., being


1 This paper was read before the Yorkshire Archæological Society in the Minster on July 12th, 1911, but as some matters had to be passed over for want of time, these and other additions are here included, together with references to authorities.

2 Bede, Vit. S. Cuthb., vii; Memorials of Ripon, i, 2.

Itin., 1745, i, 89; M.R., i, 83. 4 Bedé, Vit. S. C., vii; M.R., i, 2; Metrical Life of S. C., 42.

5 Bede, Hist. Eccl. iii, xxv; M.R., i, 3.

6 Ripon Psalter, Whitham's ed., p. 6. Eddii Vita, cap. 3.



observed in the old abbey. The Celtic monks were unwilling to change their immemorial customs, and being then given their choice either to conform or to depart, they adopted the latter course, leaving Wilfrid, backed by Alchfrid, master of the situation. He at once introduced the Roman customs? to a new set of monks, who were willing to be ruled by him, and it is more than possible that he established here the Benedictine Rule. The controversy at Ripon was no mere local affair. The whole of the Church in Northumbria was divided on these same points, and the different times of observing Easter were causing the greatest inconvenience.3 In this same year, 664, a council or synod was held at Streonshal, where Whitby now is, in order to settle, if possible, the points in dispute, and to arrive at unity in practice. On the one side were Colman, the Northumbrian Bishop, and other leaders of the Celtic party, on the other, the ecclesiastics who took their ideas from Rome, among whom was Wilfrid, then a priest, and he was the chief speaker on the Roman side. He was the man of by far the greatest ability on either side, and it was he, practically, who won the victory. Colman retired with his monks to Ireland.4 Wilfrid was not long after elected to be bishop in Northumbria. He would not receive consecration from Celtic bishops, but went over into France, and was consecrated at Compiègne, twelve bishops being present on the occasion. He appears to have been in no hurry to return to England to take charge of the see of York, to which he had been consecrated, and he remained so long away, that when he did come he found the Celtic party again in the ascendant, and Chad established as bishop in his place. Wilfrid appears now to have retired to the old monastery in Ripon, of which he was still abbot, and at one time he acted as a missionary bishop in Kent and Mercia.? But happier circumstances were in store for him.

In 669 Theodore of Tarsus, that "grand old man," as Dean Hook calls him, was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury, and he immediately began a general reorganisation of the Church in England. He found that for three years Chad had been ruling the Church of York in manner highly commended by Bede, but from his rigidly Roman point of view, he noted a flaw in Chad's consecration, and moreover he


6, ?
6, 7 M. R., 1, 7

1 Bede, H.E., iii, xxv ; M.R., i, 3. 2 M.R., i, zn, 28n; Raine, Fasti Ebor., 58 and note x.

5 Raine, F.E., 60, and notes; M.R., i, “ Alle

3 Raine, F E., 58. Many references to authorities will be found in Raine's notes, passim.

Raine, F.E, 59, and notes.

, i. Eddii Vita Wilfridi, xiv; Eadmeri Vit. Wilfr., xiv; M.R., i, 7, 8.

8 Lives of Abps. of Cant., i, 150.

regarded Chad as having wrongly intruded into a see to which Wilfrid had been consecrated. Chad did not care to retain a position that was so called in question, and though Theodore said he was not bound to resign, he insisted on returning to his monastery at Lastingham, whereupon Wilfrid was put into possession of the see. His remarkable energy at once showed itself. As one of his biographers says, "he was a quick walker?.” That graphic touch brings before us the strenuous, determined man. gorically, he was a quick walker his whole life through." At once he built at Hexham three churches, one of which, at least, was among the finest that had been seen in England. At York he put the church into thorough repair, and whitewashed it so that it was whiter than snow, and at Ripon he raised a church worthy to rank with the great church at Hexham. He chose a better site for his new church at Ripon than that of the old abbey, which, indeed, may have stood and remained in use long after the new church was built. The site of Wilfrid's new church was that of the present Minster, on higher ground than that of the old abbey, and in every way suitable. We only know what this church was from the glowing descriptions given by Wilfrid's biographers. None of it now remains to be seen, unless the crypt commonly attributed to Wilfrid was really made by him, and that it was is highly probable, for there is a very similar crypt still left at Hexham, and these two are the only crypts in England of this particular kind. Both, moreover, are quite what might have been suggested by the Catacombs in Rome, which Wilfrid would be sure to have visited. Wilfrid was now at the height of his prosperity, but it did not last very long. As Fuller says, “his Life was like an April-day (and a Day thereof is a Moneth for variety), often interchangeably fair and foul, and after many alterations, he set fair in full lustre at last.” I cannot now enter at any length upon the many changes and chances of his most eventful life, but only touch on certain matters that are specially connected with Ripon.

In Wilfrid's lifetime, about 670, we hear of an infant raised to life, and baptised by him. The child was promised to him to be adopted when seven years old, but the promise was not kept. Nevertheless, Wilfrid obtained the custody of the child at last, and he went by the name of the bishop's "son," a mode of speaking 1 Fasti Ebor., 61, 62, and notes.

5 So printed in Fuller's Church History, 2“ Pedibus velox.” Éddii Vita S.W.,iii. 1655 and 1656, p. 94, and in edd. 1837,

3 Lives of English Saints, 1844; St. 1845, and 1868, perhaps by mistake for Wilfrid, p. 7n.

alternations." * Eddius and Fridegode, in M.R., i, M.R., i, 15, note 4. 8-13; Fasti Ebor., 63.

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familiar to us in Biblical language, and he lived in the service of God in Ripon, until his death took place in a great pestilence.1

In 678 appeared the great comet, which has reappeared about every seventy-five years, and is known as Halley's comet, from Dr. Halley's having rightly calculated on its appearance in 1759. In 678 it made a great sensation in Ripon, where it was supposed to have betokened the driving of Wilfrid from his see by King Ecgfrid. Its appearance in 1066 was connected at the time with the Norman Conquest, and in the Bayeux tapestry there is a representation of it, with men gazing at it, and the inscription : Isti MIRANT STELLAM. We all remember its coming last year.

During Wilfrid's exile, namely in the comet year,678,one Eadhaed was consecrated as bishop for Lindsey, and was soon translated to Ripon. There never was another bishop of Ripon until modern times. In the same year again we hear of Wilfrid preaching in Friesland, and laying the foundation of a great missionary work there, continued by St. Willibrord, another son or pupil of Wilfrid, who had been brought up under him at Ripon. From 681 to 686 Wilfrid was labouring among the South Saxons in what is now called Sussex, and in the latter year, 686, he was restored to his see in York, and his monastery in Ripon.5 Bede informs us of one Æthelwald, who succeeded St. Cuthbert as hermit on Farne Island, having for many years worthily exercised the office of a priest in Wilfrid's monastery at Ripon. He died in Farne in 699.6

There is mention of a pastoral staff that had belonged to St. Columba and St. Kentigern, and had long been preserved and reverenced in the church of Ripon; it is on record that Ripon still possessed it, covered with gold and jewels, as late as the fourteenth century.?

In 703 it was proposed at a great synod, probably held at Austerfields, that Wilfrid should resign all his public offices, and retain only his monastery in Ripon; but two years later, Wilfrid having meanwhile made a personal appeal at the Papal court, it was decided at the synod of Nidd, that though he should not be restored to York, yet Ripon and Hexham should be given up to him.9 There had been a time when he would not have acquiesced in this compromise, but age and trouble had at last robbed him of his old fire, and probably he was not now such a " quick walker " as he had been in his earlier days. 1 Eddii V.W., xviii; M.R., i, 14,

5 M.R., i, 16, and reff. there.

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6 H.E., v, i; M.R., i, 17. 2 A.S. Chron., An. 678 ; M.R., i, 14, 7 M.R., I, 18, and Fordun, Scotichron,

iii, 30, in Warren, Celtic Liturgy, 116n. 3 Bede, H.E., iv, xii; M.R., i, 14.

8 Eddii V.W., xlvii; M.R., i, 18. 4 Eddii V.W , xxvi; M.R., i, 15.

9 Eddii V'.W., lx; M.R., i, 19.

note i.

and note 2

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