The Saxon Cathedral at Canterbury and The Saxon Saints Buried Therein/Chapter 6

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JUNE 9, 832—AUGUST 29, 832

ST. FEOLOGILD, or Theologild, also called Swithred, was the 16th Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding Wulfred, who died in March, A.D. 832. Feologild had formerly (in 803) been Abbot of a Kentish Monastery; possibly he had been Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, as "Abbot" was a general term in those days for the head of a religious house of either regulars or seculars. As Abbot, he witnessed several Charters during the Archiepiscopates of Athelard and Wulfred, from A.D. 803 onwards. For example, he attested the Act of the Council at Clovesho, held on October 12, 803, forbidding the election of laymen or seculars as Rulers of Monasteries, as "FEOLOGELD PRESBYTER ABBAS."

This document, an illustration of which is given in facsimile, is not only most interesting on account of its age—it is eleven and a quarter centuries old—but also on account of the number of those ecclesiastics who attended the Council at Clovesho. There are 90 Bishops, Abbots, Priests and Deacons in all, headed by Archbishop Athelard, whose names are recorded thereon. The Rev. William Hunt, in his History of the English Church from 597 to 1066, thinks that Clovesho was probably in the Mercian Dominions, and near London; but he agrees that the old opinion that Clovesho is to be identified with "Cliffe-at-Hoo" in Kent is supported by the fact of the supremacy of Mercia over Kent in the eighth century, and especially from the ecclesiastical supremacy of Canterbury, though these arguments are not altogether convincing.

The above Charter, entitled the "Decree of Archbishop Athelard concerning the Liberty of Churches," is preserved amongst the valuable and unique collection of Saxon Charters belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, in the Cathedral Library with the Press Mark "Chartae Antiquae C.I." (formerly C. 195).

It will be noticed that the Archbishop signs first; Feologild's name is the first on the third line; next to this is the name of Wernoth, Priest, who represented St. Austin's Abbey and became its Abbot in 822; then occurs the name of Wulfrid, Archdeacon, an officer appearing for the first time in this pontificate, who succeeded Athelard as Archbishop in 805.

There are no Charters extant in which Feologild's name appears as Archbishop; but his archiepiscopate lasting only three months probably accounts for all the obscurity respecting him.

The Saxon Chronicle under date A.D. 829 says,

this year died Archbishop Wulfred, and Abbot Feologild was after him chosen to the See, on the 25th April, and consecrated on Sunday, the 9th of June (Ingram alters this to the 11th). On the 13th August he was dead."

Haddon and Stubbs in Councils and Documents point out that June 9, 829, was not a Sunday, and that the correct date of his consecration was June 9, 832, as Wulfred his predecessor only died in March, 832. Dr. Stubbs, in his Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum gives the authority Brit. Mus. MS. Vesp. B.6 and the correct date of his death also as August 29, 832.

Archbishop Feologild was buried in the Church of St. John and rested there until the fire of 1067; after which his remains were laid by Lanfranc in a wooden coffin and placed before the altar of St. Michael on its south side in the lower apsidal chapel in the south transept. To the north side of this altar, the holy Virgin Siburgis was afterwards translated, whom the Blessed Dunstan had caused to be buried in the Saxon Church on account of her sanctity.

Later, when St. Michael's Chapel was rebuilt by Prior John Elham in 1447, the relics of St. Feologild were put in a chest or shrine and placed on the beam over the screen at the entrance to the chapel of The Holy Trinity ad Coronam,[1] where they remained until 1547,
Photo: Youngman & Son, Canterbury. Charter of Archbishop Athelard, A.D. 803
when under the Injunction issued in the name of Edward VI they were probably buried beneath the pavement at this spot.

None of the extant Canterbury Kalendars contain the name of St. Feologild. His rule lasted less than three months, but the fact that he was counted a Confessor of the Faith, proves that long before he was called to administer the Southern Province, his character for holiness of life and personal piety was well known and appreciated in those far-off days, records of which are so scanty that even the chroniclers are silent regarding him.


✠ I Athelard by the Grace of God humble Archbishop of this Holy Church of Canterbury by the unanimous advice of the whole Holy Synod to the congregations of all Monasteries which have in times past been dedicated by the Faithful in perpetual liberty to Christ Our Lord, In the Name of The Almighty God and by His Tremendous Doom, I charge, even as I have received command from the Apostolic Lord Pope Leo, that from this time forth, they shall never presume with rash attempt to elect for themselves lay or secular persons as Rulers over the inheritance of The Lord; but as it is directed in the privileges granted by the Apostolic See and also as it has been handed down by Holy Canons by Apostolic Men in the beginning of the Nascent Church or in like manner settled by the possessors of Monasteries themselves, they shall study to observe their monastic rights by that rule of observance of discipline. If therefore, which God forbid, they should spurn or hold for naught, this our own and our Apostolic Lord the Pope's command, let them know that they will have to render an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ, unless they make amends beforehand.

These are the names of the Holy Bishops and Venerable Abbots, and Priests and Deacons, who with the consent of the whole Holy Synod, have for confirmation of the aforesaid matter subscribed the sign of the Holy Cross.

Here follow the names, headed by that of the Archbishop, of 89 Bishops, Abbots, Priests and Deacons, ending thus:

"Done in the well known place which is called Clofeshoas, in the year from the Incarnation of Our Lord 803, the 11th Indiction the 4th day of the Ides of October (12th Oct. A.D. 803)."

The Decree of Archbishop Athelard concerning the Liberty of Churches.[2]

  1. Legg and Hope, Inventories of Christ Church, p. 31.
  2. Facsimiles of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts, by Lt.-Col. L. Cameron*, R.E., and W. Basevi Sanders, 1878.
    ^* Lt.-Col. L. Cameron is incorrectly notated, it is meant to reference Lieutenant-General John Cameron, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey, 1875-78 (Wikisource contributor note)