Cuthbert (d.758) (DNB00)

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CUTHBERT (d. 758), archbishop of Canterbury, said to have been of noble parentage, first appears as abbot of Liminge in Kent (Codex Dipl. lxxxvi; Dugdale, Monasticon, i. 453). He was consecrated by Archbishop Nothelm to the see of Hereford, in succession to Wahlstod in 736 (Sym. Dunelm, 659), and was thence translated to Canterbury in 740 (ib. 661; according to Florence of Worcester in 741, and Osbern in 742). He attests a grant made by Æthelberht, king of Kent, to Liminge in 741. He went to Rome for the pall, and is said to have received it from Gregory III, and therefore before 29 Nov. 741; but the statement is probably a mere matter of calculation (Councils and Eccl. Docs. iii. 340). In 742 Cuthbert sat with Æthelbald, king of Mercia, who at that time had supremacy over Kent, at a council held at Clovesho, in which the king confirmed the privilege granted by Wihtred, king of Kent about 700, to the churches and monasteries of his kingdom. Cuthbert was friendly with Boniface, archbishop of Mentz, and it was probably on account of information received from him that Boniface and the five German bishops wrote their letter to Æthelbald, exhorting him to reform his evil life (Epp. Bonif. ed. Migne, lxxxix. 757; Councils and Eccl. Docs. iii. 350; Will. Malm., Gesta Regum, i. c. 80). In September 747 Cuthbert, acting on the wishes of Pope Zachary, held a provincial synod at Clovesho, which was attended by eleven bishops and other clergy. The archbishop opened the synod by reading the pope's letters, and then the assembly made various canons concerning the monastic life and the duties of bishops and priests. Every priest was to learn and to explain to the people the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the offices of the Mass and Baptism in their own tongue; the festivals and fasts, the canonical hours, and litanies of the Roman church were to be observed in England, and the feasts of St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine were instituted. The effect of Cuthbert's synod was to bring the English church to a closer following of Rome (the acts of the synod are given at length in ‘Councils and Eccl. Docs.’ iii. 362–76, and in an abbreviated form in ‘Gesta Pontiff.’ i. c. 5). Cuthbert sent the proceedings by his deacon, Cyneberht, to Archbishop Boniface, and received a letter of thanks from him. In this letter Boniface gives a report of a council he had held, in which it was ordained that the German church should be in union with and in subjection to the church of Rome. This letter has long been held to have been the cause of the synod of Clovesho (Will. Malm., Gesta Regum, i. c. 83; Inett, Origines, i. 243; Hook, Lives, i. 224). The authors of ‘Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents’ (iii. 383), however, have clearly proved that Boniface, so far from dictating in this letter the course to be taken by the English church, must have written it to show Cuthbert that he had followed his example; and apart from other arguments, the opening words of the letter, in which he thanks the English archbishop for the communications received through the deacon Cyneberht, afford a strong presumption that this was the case. When Cuthbert heard of the martyrdom of Boniface, who was slain on 5 June 755, he wrote to Lullus, his successor in the see of Mentz, informing him that it had been determined at a general synod of the English church to celebrate the martyr's anniversary. Up to this time Christ Church, Canterbury, although the cathedral church of the province, had scarcely been looked on as equal in dignity to the church of St. Peter and St. Paul (St. Augustine's), which, as the burial-place of the archbishops, received many rich offerings. It is said that Cuthbert, anxious for the honour and welfare of his cathedral, obtained leave from the pope, when he went to fetch the pall, that he and his successors might be buried there. Having persuaded King Eadberht to confirm this license, he built at the east end of the cathedral a chapel of basilican shape, and dedicated it to St. John the Baptist. This new building served both for the baptistery of the church and for the court of the archbishop, and he intended that he and his successors should be buried in it. As he knew that if the monks of St. Augustine's heard of his intention, which their chronicler describes as ‘foul, snake-like, and matricidal,’ they would endeavour to thwart it, he kept the matter secret, and when he felt his death was near, instructed his clerks not to toll for him or allow any one to know that he was dead until they had buried him some days. He died on 26 Oct. 758, and was buried according to his desire. It was not until the third day that his death was made known, and the bells of the church were tolled for him. Then Ealdhun, abbot of St. Augustine's, came with his monks to take the body to their church, and found that they were too late. The contest was revived on the death of Bregwin [q. v.], Cuthbert's successor; but from this time every archbishop up to the time of the Conquest, to go no further, was, with one exception, buried in Christ Church. Besides the letter to Lullus, two short poems written by Cuthbert are preserved by William of Malmesbury—one on a splendid cross he presented to the church of Hereford, and the other on a tomb he erected there for some of his predecessors in that see (Gesta Pontiff. 299). Leland says that he saw a volume of his epigrams in the library of Malmesbury Abbey, but no trace of this work now exists.

[Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Eccl. Docs. iii. 340–96; Gervase's Actus Pontiff. Cantuar. (Twysden), 1640; Thorn's Chron. (Twysden), 1772; Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub ann. 741, 742, 758; Florence of Worcester (Eng. Hist. Soc.), i. 54, 57; Symeon of Durham (Mon. Hist. Brit.), 659, 661; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum (Eng. Hist. Soc.), i. 115, 116; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontiff. 8, 9, 15, 299; Osbern's Vita St. Bregwini; Metrical Life of Cuthbert (both these are in Anglia Sacra, vol. ii.); Hook's Lives of the Archbishops, i. 217–34; Inett's Origines Anglic. Eccl. (Griffiths), 224, 243; Migne's Patrol. lxxxix. 763, 757; Wright's Biog. Lit. i. 305–8.]

W. H.