Erkenwald (DNB00)

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ERKENWALD or EARCONWALD, Saint (d. 693), bishop of London, is said to have been born at Stallington (Stallingborough?) in Lindsey, of the family of Offa, a king of the East Angles (Capgrave, Acta SS. Bolland. 30 April, iii. 790), which Dr. Stubbs suggests may mean that he belonged to the royal race of the Uffings (Dict. of Christian Biography). Before he became bishop he founded two monasteries, one at Chertsey in Surrey, over which he presided himself, and the other at Barking in Essex, which he committed to the care of his sister Æthelburh or Ethelburga [q. v.] In his foundation at Chertsey he is said to have been assisted by Frithewald, under-king of Surrey under Wulfhere, king of the Mercians (Flor. Wig.; Gesta Pontiff. 143), and this statement is to some extent confirmed by some spurious charters (Kemble, Codex Dipl. 986 sq.), from which it may be inferred that Chertsey was founded in the reign of Ecgberht of Kent (d. 673), and passed under Frithewald, the lieutenant of Wulfhere, when the Mercian king spread his dominion over Surrey (Stubbs; Green). On the death of Bishop Wini, and during the reign of the East-Saxon kings Sebbi and Sighere, Archbishop Theodore, either in 675 or 676, consecrated Earconwald to the bishopric of the East-Saxons, and he had his episcopal see in London. He was famed for his holiness. When he was infirm he was drawn about his diocese in a horse-litter, which was reverently preserved after his death, and in the time of Bæda worked many miracles (Hist. Eccl. iv. 6). By Theodore's invitation he was present at the reconciliation made at London in 686 between the archbishop and Wilfrith (Eddi, c. 43). Ini, in the preface to his laws made about 690, when the East Saxons had submitted to him, speaks of Earconwald as ‘my bishop’ (Thorpe), and he and Wilfrith join in attesting a charter (Kemble, Codex Dipl. 35), which was probably made during Wilfrith's exile in 692 (Stubbs). His death may have taken place in 693, and very likely on 30 April, which was observed as his ‘day.’ He is said to have died at Barking, and the canons of his church and the monks of Chertsey are represented as disputing with the nuns for the possession of his body. The canons had the best of the quarrel, but their victory was endangered by the sudden rising of the waters of the Lea, which had been swollen by a storm. A miracle overcame the difficulty, and the body was carried to London and laid in St. Paul's. A new shrine was made for him in 1140, and his body was translated to the ‘east side of the wall above the high altar’ on 14 Nov. 1148 (Matt. West ii. 40; Dugdale). In 1386 Bishop Braybroke [q. v.] decreed that the days of the saint's death and translation, which had of late been neglected, should be kept holy, and they were observed with great honour as first-class feasts at St. Paul's (Stubbs). A spurious privilege, purporting to be a grant of Pope Agatho to St. Paul's, is said to have been brought from Rome by Earconwald, to whom it is addressed; another privilege, also spurious, to the monastery of Chertsey is addressed to the bishop (Councils and Eccl. Docs. iii. 161). There is no historical foundation for the belief that he visited Rome. His chief claim to remembrance is that he must have developed the organisation of the diocese ‘from the missionary stage in which Cedda had left it’ (Stubbs). An exhaustive discussion by Bishop Stubbs, on the chronology of his episcopate, and full particulars of the legends relating to him, and of the reverence paid to his memory, will be found in the ‘Dictionary of Christian Biography.’

[Bædæ Hist. Eccles. iv. 6; Kemble's Codex Dipl. 35, 986–8; Eddi, Vita Wilfridi, c. 43; Historians of York, 1 (Rolls Ser.); Florence of Worcester, sub ann. 675; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, p. 143 (Rolls Ser.); Life from Capgrave in Acta SS. Bolland. 30 April, iii. 790; another life from Cotton MS., Claudius, A 5, printed in Dugdale's History of St. Paul's (ed. 1818), p. 289, see also p. 15; Thorpe's Ancient Laws, p. 45; Green's Making of England, pp. 328, 330; art. ‘Erkenwald,’ Dict. of Christian Biog. ii. 177–9.]

W. H.