Saxulf (DNB00)

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SAXULF or SEXUULFUS (d. 691?), Mercian bishop, is said by Bede to have been the builder and first abbot of the monastery of Medeshamstede (Peterborough) in the country of the Gyrvii (Historia Ecclesiastica, iv. c. 6). The Peterborough historians have further details about him of a more or less legendary character. He is described as a powerful and wealthy thegn who, with others of the same rank, helped Peada [q. v.] in the evangelisation of Mercia (Hugo Candidus, p. 24), the Gyrvii being under Mercian rule in the middle of the seventh century. In a passage inserted in the Peterborough version of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ under 654 Peada and Oswy or Oswiu [q. v.] are said to have founded Medeshamstede, and to have committed it to a monk named Saxulf, who was much beloved, nobly born, and rich. Under 656 is another long insertion recording the completion of the monastery by Wulfhere, the brother and successor of Peada, who is represented as giving Saxulf the money for the work, as being present at the dedication, and declaring grants of lands to St. Peter, the abbot Saxulf, and the monks of the house. Saxulf is also said to have received from the king the island of Ancarig (Thorney Island) to build a monastery there. These entries are at best records of tradition. There are also Peterborough charters of 664 and 675 containing grants to the monastery while under Saxulf, which must be regarded as spurious (Codex Diplomaticus, v. Nos. 984, 990). It is certain, however, that in or about 675 Archbishop Theodore made Abbot Saxulf bishop of Mercia in place of Winfrith, whom the archbishop had deposed for disobedience (Hist. Eccl. u.s.). Saxulf was succeeded at Medeshamstede by Cuthbald, but doubtless continued to exercise some authority over the abbey, as is implied in a notice of a gift by Æthelred to Medeshamstede (Stubbs in Dict. Chr. Biogr. s.v. ‘Saxulf’). He was at first bishop of the undivided Mercian diocese, but in or about 678 Ecgfrith, the son and successor of Oswy, took Lindsey from Mercia, and appointed Eadhed bishop over it (Hist. Eccles. iv. c. 12). In or about 679 the Mercian diocese was, according to Florence of Worcester (sub an. 680), divided into five dioceses, with the sees Worcester, Lichfield, Leicester, Lindsey, and Dorchester; and Florence says (i. App. 240) that Saxulf chose the diocese of Mid-Anglia, and had his see at Leicester, and that the Mercian bishopric of Lichfield was taken by Cuthwin. This statement must be corrected by the older lists of bishops copied by Florence, where Saxulf is made bishop of Lichfield and Cuthwin of Leicester (ib. pp. 241–242; Ecclesiastical Documents, iii. 127–30). On the death of Cuthwin his diocese of Mid-Anglia was reunited to the diocese of Saxulf, who thus became ‘Merciorum et Mediterraneorum Anglorum simul episcopus’ (Hist. Eccl. iv. 12), and it is possible that, if Florence is right in making Dorchester a Mercian diocese in 679, it may also have been reunited to Saxulf's diocese on the death of Ætla, who Florence says was appointed to that see (Eccl. Doc. u.s. 130). When Putta [q. v.], bishop of Rochester, lost his bishopric, Saxulf gave him a church in the country of the Hecanas, now Herefordshire (Hist. Eccles. u.s.). Saxulf died probably in 691 or 692, and after his death Wilfrith of York took charge of part of his diocese (Eddius, c. 45, which proves the A.-S. Chron., Winchester version, where Saxulf is said to have died in 705, to be in error); it was again divided, Wilfrith taking the see of Leicester, and Headda that of Lichfield.

[Bede's Hist. Eccles. iv. cc. 6, 12; Kemble's Codex Dipl. i. 12, 22, 23, v. 984, 990, Flor. Wig. i. 33, 35, App. p. 240 (all in Engl. Hist. Soc.); A.-S. Chron. sub ann. 655–6, 705, ed. Plummer; Eddi's Vita Wilfridi, c. 45, ap. Hist. of York, i. 65, Will. of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontiff, pp. 125, 235, 307, 352 (both Rolls Ser.); Hugo Candidus, pp. 1–8, 24, ed. Sparke; Dugdale's Monasticon, i. 384; Haddan and Stubbs's Eccles. Doc. iii. 127–30; Dict. Chr. Biogr. art. ‘Saxulf,’ by Bishop Stubbs.]

W. H.