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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 customs1 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.2 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. 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.7 But happier circumstances were in store for him.
In 669 Theodore of Tarsus, that "grand old man," as Dean Hook calls him8, 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 a manner highly commended by Bede, but from his rigidly Roman point of
view, he noted a flaw in Chad's consecration, and moreover he
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.1 His remarkable energy at once showed itself. As one of his biographers says, "he was a quick walker2." That graphic touch brings before us the strenuous, determined man. Allegorically, 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 alterations5, 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. 2" Pedibus velox." Eddii Vita S.W.,iii. 3 Lives of English Saints, 1844; St. Wilfrid. p. 7n.
Eddius and Fridegode, in M.R., i, 8-13; Fasti Ebor., 63.
5 So printed in Fuller's Church History, 1655 and 1656, p. 94. and in edd. 1837, 1845, and 1868, perhaps by mistake for "alternations."
M.R., i, 15, note 4.
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.2 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 Austerfield, 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, and note I.
2 A.S. Chron., An. 678; M.R., i, 14, and note 2
3 Bede, H.E., iv, xii; M.R., i, 14. 4 Eddii V.W, xxvi; M.R., i, 15.
5 M.R., i, 16, and reff. there.
7 M.R., i, 18, and Fordun, Scotichron,
9 Eddii V.W., lx; M.R., i, 19.
His connexion with Ripon, as head of his monastery, was never severed until towards the end of his life, when he appointed his kinsman, Tatbercht, as ruler of the house.1 On the 12th of October, 709, he fell sick and died in the monastery of Oundle, in Northamptonshire, and at his own request, his body was brought to Ripon, where it was entombed on the south side of the altar, forty years having passed since he had consecrated the church.2
And with Wilfrid's death closes the most important chapter in the history of the church of Ripon. After the time of his biographers the records become very scanty. There is a letter from one Botwine, abbot of Ripon, unless it was from an abbot of Peterborough of the same name, to Lullus, archbishop of Mayence, about 786, proposing mutual intercession, and sending three "lacernæ," probably ecclesiastical vestments enriched with embroidery, as a present. Botwine, the abbot of Ripon, died in 786, and was succeeded by Albert, who died in 787, and was succeeded by Sigred and Wildeng.3 In 790, Ethelred, King of Northumbria, was supposed to have slain one Eardwulf outside the gates of the monastery; the body being brought into the church, was found to be alive after midnight, having been raised from death, as was thought, by the prayers of the brethren assembled round him.1
It is with the history of the church that we are at present concerned, still I may perhaps be expected to say something about the alleged incorporation of the town by King Alfred the Great, in commemoration of which the "Ripon Millenary" was celebrated with much enthusiasm in 1886.5 But all I can say is, that there is no historical foundation whatever for any such supposition, and that it is moreover inherently impossible. The sole ground for it is that in Gent's "Rippon" the author makes a remark to that effect, which he says is from "an antient manuscript." He does not say what this " antient manuscript" was, but there can be little doubt that he is referring to a MS. by Alderman Theakston, who was mayor in 1615, 729 years later than the alleged date of the supposed incorporation. Then if we are to accept the statement in the MS., we must believe that an English town was incorporated by Royal Charter in 886, and that a West Saxon king exercised kingly authority in Northumbria at that time.
1 Eddii V.W., lxii; M.R., i, 22.
2 M.R., i, 19-30; A.S. Chron., an. 709; Bede, H.E., v, xix; Eadmer, liv; Eddius, lxii; Fridegoda, lines 1355-9; Ripon Psalter, Whitham's ed., pp. 25-27; Fasti Ebor., i, 79, and notes.
3 M.R., i, 31, 32, 42, 43, and notes.
4 Chron. de Mailros, p. 139; Sym. Dunelm., Hist. Regum, sub anno; M.R., i,
the quarto volume, Ripon
Millenary, Ripon, 1892.
6 Rippon, 1733, p. 101.
To historical scholars I need say no more. To E. A. Freeman it sounded much as the statement that the earth is flat sounds to an astronomer1, and I should think that by this time there must be few indeed who think that there is any historical value in a statement that rests solely on the authority of Alderman Theakston and good old Thomas Gent.
There seems to be no reason to doubt that Athelstan conferred the right of sanctuary and other privileges on Ripon in the former half of the tenth century, although the charters that purport to convey these rights must be two or three centuries later. Charters of this kind were often fabricated after the Norman Conquest, not for the purpose of establishing new and unfounded rights, but to place on record old and undoubted rights, and to protect them from the cavils of Norman lawyers. In later times, the benefits believed to have been conferred by King Athelstan were kept in mind by special commemorations held in the church.3
Soon after Athelstan's time, namely towards the middle of the tenth century, Northumbria was harried, Wilfrid's church burnt, Ripon laid waste, and, we may suppose, the monks slain or dispersed. According to Eadmer the monk of Canterbury, Archbishop Odo, during a vacancy in the see of York, about 952, visited Ripon, and, finding the church in ruins, carried the bones of St. Wilfrid to Canterbury, leaving the dust at Ripon.5 In Leland's time it was a common opinion that Odo then began a new church at Ripon, where the Minster now stands. But an anonymous biographer relates that Oswald, Archbishop of York, found Wilfrid's bones in his grave on the south side of the altar, and enshrined them on the north side, brought back monks, and rebuilt the Minster. Eadmer in his life of Oswald, says that it was the bones of a later Wilfrid that Oswald found, those of the great Wilfrid having been previously removed by Odo to Canterbury.8 However, it was always believed in Ripon that the relics of the great Wilfrid were enshrined in his own church, and that it was those of the second Wilfrid that had gone to Canterbury. There was a later translation by Archbishop Gray in 1224, when the head was enshrined separately. There are stones with interlacing work on them, built into the north-west corner of the present north transept,