A History of the Medieval Church: 590-1500 by Margaret Deanesly

By Margaret Deanesly

A vintage background of the church from the accession of Gregory the nice to the Reformation.

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But Aidan’s work was not wiped out as that of Paulinus had been, and Celtic Christianity spread, under the rule of Oswy, not only over Northumbria, but over Penda’s old kingdom of Mercia. Cedd and three other Celtic monks had already been working in Mercia before Penda’s death: Cedd was now sent off as bishop and chaplain to 44 MISSIONARIES the king of the east Saxons, but Diuma, one of his followers, was ordained by Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne, as bishop of the midland Angles, and Mercia. The Celtic missionaries spread over England even more widely than the continental ones from the south: their small, rectangular churches, with a rectangular recess at the end for the altar, were easier to build than the apsidal basilicas of the south, and became the typical form for later English church-building.

The council of Toledo, 531, had enacted: “Of those whom the will of their parents sets free from the years of their first infancy for the clerical office, we decree that immediately they have received the tonsure they shall be handed over to the ministry of the lectors: they ought to be taught in the house of the church, in the bishop’s presence, by his deputy. ” If the boy lector chose to marry, when his intention was solemnly scrutinised by his bishop, he was not to be denied power to do so. The churches of the rural parishes were served by similar familiae, though of course on a smaller scale.

Augustine of Hippo before them, that the secular clergy ought to live a communal life, like the apostles and early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles. Accordingly many bishops lived with their familiae, and provided a communal life of this kind, in a dwelling near the church called indifferently the bishop’s monastery or house. Clerks who thus lived in the monastery were as frequently called monks as those who live; under a definite religious rule. They were the predecessors of the “Austin canons” of the twelfth century (see p.

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