Its organization like its foundation came from Rome. An archbishop-designate who was sent to Rome for consecration having died there, Pope Vitalian in 668 consecrated Theodore of Tarsus as archbishop of Canterbury. The Scots had no diocesan system, and the English bishoprics were vast in extent, followed the lines of the kingdoms and varied with their fortunes. The church had no system of government nor means of legislation. Theodore united it in obedience to himself, instituted national synods and subdivided the over-large bishoprics. At his death, in 690, the English dominions were divided into fourteen dioceses.

Wilfrid, who had become bishop of Northumbria, resisted the division of his diocese and appealed to the pope. He was imprisoned by the Northumbrian king and was exiled. While in exile he converted the South Saxons, and their conversion led to that of the Isle of Wight, then subject to them, in 686, which completed the evangelization of the English. After long strife Wilfrid, who was supported by Rome, regained a part of his former diocese. Theodore also gave the church learning by establishing a school at Canterbury, where many gained knowledge of the Scriptures, of Latin and Greek, and other religious and secular subjects. In the north learning was promoted by Benedict Biscop in the sister monasteries which he founded at Wearmouth and Jarrow. There Bede received the learning which he imparted to others. In the year of Bede's death, 735, one of his disciples, Ecgbert, bishop of York, became the first archbishop of York, Gregory III giving him the pallium, a vestment which conferred archiepiscopal authority. He established a school or university at York, to which scholars came from the continent. His work as a teacher was carried on by Alcuin, who later brought learning to the court and Frankish dominions of Charlemagne.

The infant church, following the example of the Irish Scots, showed much missionary zeal, and English missionaries founded an organized church in Frisia and labored on the lower Rhine; two who attempted to preach in the old Saxon land were martyred. Most famous of all, Winfrid, or Saint Boniface, the apostle of Germany, preached to the Frisians, Hessians and Thuringians, founded bishoprics and monasteries, became the first archbishop of Mainz, and in 754 was martyred in Frisia. He had many English helpers, some became bishops, and some were ladies, as Thecla, abbess of Kitzingen, and Lioba, abbess of Bischofsheim. After his death, Willehad laboured in Frisia, and later, at the bidding of Charlemagne, among the Saxons, and became the first bishop of Bremen.

Religion, learning, arts, such as transcription and illumination, flourished in English monasteries. Yet heathen customs and beliefs lingered on among the people, and in Bede's time there were many pseudo-monasteries where men and women made monasticism a cloak for idleness and vice. In the latter part of the 8th century Mercia became the predominant kingdom under Offa, and he determined to have an archbishop of his own. By his contrivance two legates from Adrian I held a council at Chelsea in 787 in which Lichfield was declared an archbisbopric, and seven of the twelve suffragan bishoprics of Canterbury were apportioned to it. In 802, however, Leo III restored Canterbury to its rights and the Lichfield archbishopric was abolished.

This text forms part of the History of the Church of England originally part of the entry ENGLAND, CHURCH OF from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the content of which lies within the public domain.

Previous: Next

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.