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Chapter XV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1


History of the Church from the Time of Egbert to the Death of Edward the Martyr.
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Although many very learned writers have disputed the authenticity of the charter by which Ethelwulph granted the tithes of England to the clergy, we deem it necessary to give the document, as being important,' from the rights, real or imaginary, founded upon it. If genuine, in all probability it merely conferred rights which the Anglicau Church had long claimed.

"I, Ethelwulph, by the grace of God King of the West Saxons, by the advice of the bishops, earls, and other persons of distinction in my dominions, have, for the health of my soul, the good of my people, and the prosperity of my kingdom, taken the prudent and serviceable resolution of granting the tenth part of my lands throughout my whole kingdom to the Church and ministers of religion, to be enjoyed by them with all the privileges of free tenure, and discharged from all services due to the crown, and all incumbrances incidental to lay fees.

"This gift has been made by us to the Church in honour of Jesus Christ, the blessed Virgin, and all saints, and out of regard to the Paschal solemnity, and that Almighty God might vouchsafe his blessing to us and our posterity.

"Dated at the Palace of Wilton, in the year 854, indication the second, at the feast of Easter."

By this charter, real or spurious, a tenth part of the lands only are given to the Church. It was left for the priests, in succeeding reigns, to convert the tenth part into a tenth of the produce, which certainly does not appear upon the face of the document to have been the intention either of the king or the members of the council.

In speaking of the reigns of Ethelbald, Ethelbert, and Ethelred the First, the monkish historians have left us but little real information respecting the affairs of the Church, their pages being filled with lamentations over the massacre and plunderings of the monasteries and convents by the Danes, who appear to have exercised the greatest barbarities.

The councils held on ecclesiastical affairs were composed of laymen as well as priests: properly speaking, they were scarcely to be called councils, being spoken of in the Saxon chronicles by the name of "Wittena-Gemot, or Micel Synod, both signifying the great council.

It was at an assembly of this kind, at Winchester, that Ethelwulph is said to have granted the famous charter which secured to the clergy the tithes; but the most important regulations for the Church were made at the Synod of Greatly, where numerous laws or canons were enacted.

In the reign of Edgar were published a body of canons, of which the following are chiefly remarkable: -

By the fifth, if a priest received any injury, the complaint was to be preferred to the synod, who were to treat the case as if the injury had actually been done to the whole body of the clergy, and take care that satisfaction be made at the discretion of the bishop of the diocese.

The eleventh enjoins the priests to learn some employment, in order to get their livelihood in case of misfortune.

The seventeenth orders parents to teach their children the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, without which they were neither to be admitted to the Eucharist nor buried in consecrated ground.

The twenty-ninth forbids the burying in churches all those that were not of known and approved probity. The thirty-second prohibits the priests from officiating without the service-book before them, for fear the trusting to their memories might make them mistake.

By the thirty-sixth, no person was to eat or drink before receiving the communion.

The thirty-eighth enjoins the priest to have the holy Eucharist always ready by him; but if it grew so stale that it could not be eaten without disgusting the palate, it was to be burnt in a clear fire, and the ashes laid under the altar. The forty-third forbids the eating of blood.

The fifty-second orders priests to preach every Sunday.

The sixty-fourth declares hunting and hawking are improper diversions for a priest, who is to make books his entertainment.

These canons have been translated by Sir H. Spelman, from a Saxon manuscript in Bonnet College, Cambridge. It is not known where or by what authority they were drawn up.

After these canons, there follows a very particular form of confession, with what penances the confessor is to enjoin. We find here that the penitent was ordered to say the Lord's Prayer threescore times a day.

The following are the names of some of the most learned churchmen and saints who flourished from the time of Ethelwulph to the death of Edmund the Martyr: -

The first saint is Swithin, or Swithun, who, having been preceptor to King Ethelwulph, was promoted to the see of Winchester; and it is said that it was by his advice that Ethelwulph granted the charter of the tithes to the Church. This alone was sufficient to procure him the honour of canonisation, independent of his other merits.

Of Alfred the Great we have already spoken.

Johannes Scotus, surnamed Erigena, or Irishman (Ireland being then called Erin), also flourished at this time. He had already acquired an extensive reputation in France, where Charles the Bald entertained him at his court, and used to converse with him with great familiarity, when Alfred invited him into England. He was at first the king's preceptor in languages and the sciences; but he afterwards taught at Oxford, whence, in all probability, he was removed to Malmesbury, since it was in this monastery he is said to have been stabbed to death by his scholars with penknives. Before he left France, he was engaged by the emperor's order in the dispute concerning the nature of the eucharist; and in his treatise upon this subject he strongly argued against Pascasius's doctrine, who maintained the body of Christ in the eucharist to be the same that was born of the Blessed Virgin. It must therefore necessarily be, that the contrary opinion defended by Scotus was not looked upon then as heretical, since it prevented not Alfred from inviting him into England, from having a very great esteem for him, and entrusting him with the education of youth; and, indeed, it is certain he was honoured as a saint and a martyr after his death. Roger de Hoveden says Scotus at first had an obscure burial; but afterwards, a miraculous light shining over his grave for several nights together, the monks of St. Lawrence removed his body into their church, and buried it close by the altar.

His epitaph also, the antiquity of which, according to Malmesbury, appears from the structure and diction of the verses, indisputably says he was considered a saint when that was erected.

Grimbald, who lived also in the same century, was very eminent for his learning, and had a great reputation. He was invited into England by Alfred the Great (who was acquainted with him at Rheims), and who had advanced him to the government of the new abbey at Winchester.

Among the Englishmen eminent for their learning, Asserius was one of the most considerable. He wrote the life of Alfred the Great in 893, and died Bishop of St. David's, in Wales. His work extended only to the forty-fifth year of the king's age; that is, to the year 893. It was continued to Alfred's death by some later hand. He shows through the whole a great deal of modesty; and mentions nothing of the visionary dialogue betwixt Alfred and St. Cuthbert, which other historians largely insist on. He is copied by Florence of Worcester, and others. This treatise was first published by Archbishop Parker in the old Saxon character; and there is an edition by Mr. Wise, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, with a vindication of the contested clause about the antiquity of Oxford. Leland calls it the Chronicle of St. Neots, because he found it in. that monastery.

Werefrid, Bishop of Worcester, in Mercia, lived in the reign of King Buthred. When the Danes became masters of Mercia, he retired into France, from whence he was re called by King Alfred. He translated the dialogues cf Gregory the Great into Saxon; and having acquired a great reputation for learning and piety when living, he was registered as a saint after his death.

Plegmund, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, was considered a very learned prelate, and was particularly eminent for his skill in divinity.

Dunulf had been a herdsman, and is affirmed by some to be the same who sheltered Alfred whilst the Danes possessed the kingdom. However this may be, he had the good fortune to be known to this prince; who finding him a person of a genius superior to his birth and employment, had him instructed in learning, and used his advice in affairs of the greatest moment. He subsequently promoted him to the see of Winchester, which was then the metropolis of Wessex, and the place where Alfred usually resided.

Wulfig, Bishop of London, had also a great share in Alfred's esteem, as appears by his letter to this prelate prefixed to his translation of Gregory's pastoral.

Neots was an abbot distinguished for his birth, learning, regularity, and zeal for promoting the interests of the true religion. Some say, he was nearly related to King Alfred; and others, that he was descended from the blood-royal of East Anglia. He died in 890, in Cornwall, where he left his name to the town of Neotstow, or St. Neots.

Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the son of an East Anglian Dane, a pagan, who expelled him from his home for becoming a Christian; in the reign of Edward the Elder he became a priest. Odo refused, and with some appearance of sincerity, the primacy which Edmund entreated him to accept.

He proved a zealous champion of the monks, and an unflinching advocate for the celibacy of the clergy.

Of Dunstan, it may with truth be said that he was the directing spirit of the Church, in England, in the age in which he lived. Devoted to Rome, and to its interests, he contrived to establish the new order of things respecting the marriage of priests, which the popes had so much at heart.

Turkelict, or Turkelut, the near relative and chancellor of Edmund, retired to a monastery, and lived in great sanctity.


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Pictures for Chapter XV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1

Assassination of Edward the Martyr.
Assassination of Edward the Martyr. >>>>

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