Stephen the Priest

“Stephen the priest” is how the author of a Vita (Life) of St Wilfrid – written by a follower of Wilfrid, probably during the decade following Wilfrid’s death in 709 – describes himself in one of the two surviving manuscripts.[*] The name is confirmed by William of Malmesbury, in his Gesta Pontificum Anglorum (Deeds of the Bishops of England), who precedes his own record of Wilfrid with the comment:

And so, cutting out long, rambling narratives, I shall go for the truth and summarise briefly what Stephen, the priest, recounted with a great army of words.
Prologue to Book III

Now, Bede (Historia Ecclesiastica IV, 2) mentions one “Æddi, surnamed Stephen” (Aeddi cognomento Stephanus), a singing-master brought to Northumbria, from Kent, by Wilfrid, and within the Vita itself (§14) it is noted that Æddi (no surname given) was one of a pair of singers (Aedde et Aeona) that Wilfrid brought to Ripon – the date would be between 666 and 669. Putting two and two together, the singer, “Æddi, surnamed Stephen”, and the author of the Vita, “Stephen the priest”, have traditionally been seen as one and the same man, known by the Latinized name Eddius Stephanus. However, Æddi would have been in his sixties when Wilfrid died, so it is perhaps more likely that he and the author were two individuals who, by coincidence, shared the name Stephen. At any rate, there is a modern tendency to call the author Stephen of Ripon.

Stephen Vita Sancti Wilfridi by J.F. Webb
William of Malmesbury Gesta Pontificum Anglorum by David Preest

One of the manuscripts (London, British Library MS Cotton Vespasian D vi) is an 11th century copy, the other (Salisbury Cathedral Library MS 223) is an early-12th century copy. It is the Salisbury manuscript that begins:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here begins the humble preface of Stephen the priest to his account of the life of St Wilfrid, a bishop worthy before God.
Aeona in the Cotton manuscript;
Eonan in the Salisbury manuscript.