Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

St Hadrian of Canterbury

I saw on the Universalis website this morning that today is the feast day of St Hadrian of Canterbury (d. 710). I have adapted and extyended somewhat their note about him as follows;

Born in the period 630-637 and feeling called to the monastic life, Hadrian left his native North Africa - he probably was Greek speaker from Libya - at the time of the Arab invasion and joined the Benedictines in southern Italy. Renowned for his scholarship and holiness, he was elected abbot of his monastery and, having probably travelled to Rome with the Byzantine Emperor Constans II,  in 667 was nominated by Pope Vitalian as Archbishop of Canterbury. Out of humility he declined the appointment, and after his suggested alternative was deemed too frail, Theodore of Tarsus was appointed to the archbishopric. A condition of this was that Hadrian accompanied him to England as a missionary. He endured various trials and even imprisonment on his journey to Canterbury, since he was taken for Byzantine spy by the Franks. Once in England, he was appointed abbot of the monastery of SS Peter and Paul in Canterbury where he lived for 39 years, actively involved in preaching and education. He died in 710.

The longer and more detailed Oxford Dictionary of National Biography life of St Hadrian by Michael Lapidge, which i used to revise the Universalis note, can be read here.

St Hadrian's life is fascinating and remarkable in itself, and a reminder of the international links which shaped the Anglo-Saxon church, and the place of that church within the wider world of the seventh and eighth centuries.

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