FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY Early Medieval
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Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ Book V Chapter 19:
“of the life and death of Bishop Wilfrid.”
“[In 709] the great bishop, Wilfrid, ended his days in the province called In Undalum [Oundle, Northamptonshire], after he had been bishop 45 years. His body, being laid in a coffin, was carried to his monastery, which is called In Hrypum [Ripon, North Yorkshire], and buried in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter, with the honour due to so great a prelate. Concerning whose manner of life, let us now turn back, and briefly make mention of the things which were done. Being a boy of a good disposition, and virtuous beyond his years, he conducted himself so modestly and discreetly in all points, that he was deservedly beloved, respected, and cherished by his elders as one of themselves. At 14 years of age he chose rather the monastic than the secular life; which, when he had signified to his father, for his mother was dead, he readily consented to his godly wishes and desires, and advised him to persist in that wholesome purpose. Wherefore he came to the isle of Lindisfarne, and there giving himself to the service of the monks, he strove diligently to learn and to practise those things which belong to monastic purity and piety; and being of a ready wit, he speedily learned the psalms and some other books, having not yet received the tonsure, but being in no small measure marked by those virtues of humility and obedience which are more important than the tonsure; for which reason he was justly loved by his elders and his equals. Having served God some years in that monastery, and being a youth of a good understanding, he perceived that the way of virtue delivered by the Scots was in no wise perfect, and he resolved to go to Rome, to see what ecclesiastical or monastic rites were in use at the Apostolic See. When he told the brethren, they commended his design, and advised him to carry out that which he purposed. He forthwith went to Queen Eanflæd [wife of King Oswiu], for he was known to her, and it was by her counsel and support that he had been admitted into the aforesaid monastery, and he told her of his desire to visit the threshold of the blessed Apostles....
Broadly speaking, there were two Christian doctrines prevalent in the British Isles at this time: that of the indigenous Churches, often lumped together under the umbrella-term ‘Celtic Church’, as exemplified by the monks of Lindisfarne, who had come from Iona by the invitation of Oswiu's predecessor and brother, Oswald; and that of the Catholic Church of Rome, as promoted amongst the English by the mission of Pope Gregory the Great, which had been received by Æthelberht, king of Kent, in 597. The two doctrines – the major difference between them was the formula used to calculate Easter – coexisted in the Northumbrian court. Whilst King Oswiu followed the teachings of the Scots (i.e. the monks of Lindisfarne), his wife, Eanflæd (who was the granddaughter of King Æthelberht of Kent), followed the teachings of the Roman Church. Bede writes: “Thus it is said to have sometimes happened in those times that Easter was twice celebrated in one year; and that when the king, having ended his fast, was keeping Easter, the queen and her followers were still fasting, and celebrating Palm Sunday.” (‘HE’ III, 25).
.... She, being pleased with the youth's good purpose, sent him into Kent, to King Eorcenberht, who was her uncle's son, requesting that he would send him to Rome in an honourable manner. At that time, one of the disciples of the blessed Pope Gregory, a man very highly instructed in ecclesiastical learning, was archbishop there. When he [Wilfrid] had tarried there for a space, and, being a youth of an active spirit, was diligently applying himself to learn those things which came under his notice, another youth, called Biscop, surnamed Benedict, of the English nobility, arrived there, being likewise desirous to go to Rome ...
The king gave him Wilfrid for a companion, and bade Wilfrid conduct him to Rome [in 652/3]. When they came to Lyons, Wilfrid was detained there by Dalfinus, the bishop of that city; but Benedict hastened on to Rome. For the bishop was delighted with the youth's prudent discourse, the grace of his comely countenance, his eager activity, and the consistency and maturity of his thoughts; for which reason he plentifully supplied him and his companions with all necessaries, as long as they stayed with him; and further offered, if he would have it, to commit to him the government of no small part of Gaul, to give him a maiden daughter of his own brother to wife, and to regard him always as his adopted son. But Wilfrid thanked him for the loving-kindness which he was pleased to show to a stranger, and answered, that he had resolved upon another course of life, and for that reason had left his country and set out for Rome.
Hereupon the bishop sent him to Rome, furnishing him with a guide and supplying plenty of all things requisite for his journey, earnestly requesting that he would come that way, when he returned into his own country. Wilfrid arriving at Rome, and daily giving himself with all earnestness to prayer and the study of ecclesiastical matters, as he had purposed in his mind, gained the friendship of the most holy and learned Boniface, the archdeacon, who was also counsellor to the Apostolic Pope, by whose instruction he learned, in their order the four Gospels, and the true computation of Easter; and many other things appertaining to ecclesiastical discipline, which he could not learn in his own country, he acquired from the teaching of that same master. When he had spent some months there, in successful study, he returned into Gaul, to Dalfinus; and having stayed with him three years, received from him the tonsure, and Dalfinus esteemed him so highly in love that he had thoughts of making him his heir; but this was prevented by the bishop's cruel death, and Wilfrid was reserved to be a bishop of his own, that is, the English, nation. For Queen Baldhild sent soldiers with orders to put the bishop to death; whom Wilfrid, as his clerk, attended to the place where he was to be beheaded, being very desirous, though the bishop strongly opposed it, to die with him; but the executioners, understanding that he was a stranger, and of the English nation, spared him, and would not put him to death with his bishop.*
Returning to Britain [c.658], he won the friendship of King Alhfrith [Oswiu's son, sub-king of Deira], who had learnt to follow always and love the catholic rules of the Church; and [Alhfrith] therefore finding him [Wilfrid] to be a Catholic, he gave him presently land of 10 families at the place called Stanford [location uncertain]; and not long after, the monastery, with land of 30 families, at the place called Ripon; which place he had formerly given to those that followed the doctrine of the Scots, to build a monastery there. But, forasmuch as they afterwards, being given the choice, had rather quit the place than adopt the Catholic Easter and other canonical rites, according to the custom of the Roman Apostolic Church, he gave the same to him whom he found to be instructed in better discipline and better customs. At the same time, by the said king's command, he [Wilfrid] was ordained priest in the same monastery, by Agilbert, bishop of the Gewisse [i.e. of the West Saxons] ... the king being desirous that a man of so much learning and piety [i.e. Wilfrid] should attend him constantly as his special priest and teacher; and not long after, when the Scottish sect had been exposed and banished ... he, with the advice and consent of his father Oswiu, sent him into Gaul [664], to be consecrated as his bishop, when he [Wilfrid] was about 30 years of age, the same Agilbert being then bishop of the city of Paris.*  11 other bishops met at the consecration of the new bishop, and that function was most honourably performed....
A synod had been held at Whitby (North Yorkshire) in 664, to decide which of the two Christian doctrines: “was the truer tradition, that it might be followed by all in common” (‘HE’ III, 25).  Wilfrid was spokesman for the Roman Church, and his argument persuaded Oswiu that the Catholic doctrine was the correct one. The bishop of Lindisfarne, and other ‘Celtic’ clergymen who would not adopt Catholicism, withdrew to Iona (and later, Ireland). Wilfrid left for Gaul shortly after the synod at Whitby. According to his biographer, Eddius Stephanus, Wilfrid wanted to be consecrated in Gaul so that it was obvious to Rome that it had been carried out in a proper Catholic manner, and not tainted by ‘Celtic’ clergy – Quartodecimans, as Eddius disparagingly calls them (Chapter 12).  During the same year, 664, “a sudden pestilence” ravaged Britain “and destroyed a great multitude of men” (‘HE’ III, 27).  The newly appointed bishop of Lindisfarne – the only bishop in Northumbria – died of it, and it seems probable that Deusdedit, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in July 664, was also a victim.
.... Whilst he [Wilfrid] yet tarried beyond the sea, the holy man, Chad, was consecrated bishop of York by command of King Oswiu ... and having nobly ruled that church for three years [after Wilfrid's return, in 666], he retired to take charge of his monastery of Læstingaeu [Lastingham, North Yorkshire], and Wilfrid was made bishop of all the province of the Northumbrians [669]....
In Wilfrid's absence, Oswiu had sent Chad off to be consecrated bishop of York by the archbishop of Canterbury. Evidently, York was the see that Alhfrith had intended for Wilfrid, but Alhfrith has disappeared from history by this time. His fate isn't known, though Bede makes a passing reference (‘HE’ III, 14) to Oswiu having been “attacked ... by his son Alhfrith”, which might suggest that he had rebelled against his father and come to a sticky end – which, in turn, might explain why Wilfrid “tarried beyond the sea”.  Be that as it may, when Chad arrived in Kent, he found that Archbishop Deusdedit had not been replaced (as things panned out, there was no archbishop of Canterbury in place until the arrival of Theodore from Rome in May 669). As a result, he travelled: “to the province of the West Saxons, where Wine was bishop, and by him Chad was consecrated; two bishops of the British nation, who kept Easter Sunday, as has been often said, contrary to the canonical manner, from the 14th to the 20th day of the moon, being called in to assist at the ordination; for at that time there was no other bishop in all Britain canonically ordained, except Wine.” (‘HE’ III, 28).  Wilfrid eventually, in 666, reappeared in Britain, only to find that Chad had been appointed in his place.
Eddius Stephanus: “Wilfrid knew nothing of the whole affair. When he did return, it was easy to see who was in the wrong, but Wilfrid withdrew to his old post as abbot, to a humble life at Ripon for the next few years, remaining there all the time except for frequent invitations from King Wulfhere to carry out episcopal duties in Mercia... the pious King Egbert of Kent summoned Wilfrid to ordain a good number of priests and deacons... After three years had gone by, Archbishop Theodore came from Kent to the king of Bernicia and Deira [i.e. Oswiu] bringing with him from Rome the decrees of the Apostolic See. As soon as he set foot in the kingdom he was told how canon law had been flouted, one bishop, like a thief, grabbing another's diocese. He did not take this lightly. Chad was deposed. Being an extremely meek man and a true servant of God, he realized he had acted wrongly in being consecrated by those Quartodecimans to someone else's see, humbly confessed his fault, accepted the judgement of the bishops, and did penance. It was with Chad's consent then that Theodore installed Wilfrid in York.” (Chapters 14–15).*  Chad subsequently received a proper Catholic consecration and was appointed bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey. He died at Lichfield in 672.
Only the crypt of Wilfrid's church survives at Hexham Abbey. It uses stone robbed from the remains of nearby Roman structures.
Eddius Stephanus tells how, having at last taken his place at York, Wilfrid set about restoring the dilapidated stone-built church that had been founded in 627, by King Edwin, for Bishop Paulinus. It was given a new lead roof and glazed windows. The walls were whitewashed, and the interior was decorated. Then: “at Ripon he started and completed from foundation to roofbeam a church built of dressed stone, supported with columns and complete with side-isles.” (Chapter 17).  Amongst the dignitaries present at the dedication ceremony of Wilfrid's new church was Oswiu's son and successor, Ecgfrith (Oswiu having died in 670). Ecgfrith's saintly wife, Æthelthryth, gave Wilfrid a parcel of land at Hexham (Northumberland), on which he established a monastery and built another magnificent church: “My poor mind is quite at a loss for words to describe it – the great depth of the foundations, the crypts of beautifully dressed stone [see photograph], the vast structure supported by columns of various styles and with numerous side-isles, the walls of remarkable height and length, the many winding passages and spiral staircases leading up and down. Without a doubt it was the Spirit of God who taught our bishop to plan the construction of such a place, for we have never heard of its like this side of the Alps.” (Chapter 22).  In about 672, Æthelthryth, still a virgin, separated from Ecgfrith to follow her religious calling. She received the veil from Bishop Wilfrid and entered the monastery at Coldingham (Berwickshire) where Ecgfrith's aunt was abbess. Ecgfrith remarried.
.... Afterwards, in the reign of Ecgfrith, he was expelled from his bishopric [678], and others were consecrated bishops in his stead, of whom mention has been made above....
Eddius Stephanus asserts that: “Iurminburh, Ecgfrith's wife, greatly envied Bishop Wilfrid... she corrupted the king's heart with poisonous tales about Wilfrid... She used all her eloquence to describe to Ecgfrith all St Wilfrid's temporal glories, listing his possessions, the number of his monasteries, the vastness of the buildings, his countless followers arrayed and armed like a king's retinue. Her darts pierced the king's heart and took effect; from then on the pair used their cunning to secure the condemnation of this holy head of the church and to snatch all the gifts left to God by former kings... They secured Archbishop Theodore to further criminal folly, winning him over with bribes, for money will blind even the wisest. Theodore came to them and heard them explain that they intended to humiliate Wilfrid. Without the least excuse he agreed to condemn him although he was completely blameless. While our bishop was absent, Theodore found three men from somewhere or other, not Wilfrid's subjects, and in flagrant contempt of law and precedent proceeded to consecrate them bishops over Wilfrid's own territory.” (Chapter 24).
.... Designing to go to Rome, to plead his cause before the Apostolic Pope, he took ship, and was driven by a west wind into Friesland, and honourably received by that barbarous people and their King Aldgisl, to whom he preached Christ, and he instructed many thousands of them in the Word of truth, washing them from the defilement of their sins in the Saviour's font.* Thus he began there the work of the Gospel which was afterwards finished with great devotion by the most reverend bishop of Christ, Willibrord. Having spent the winter there successfully among this new people of God, he set out again on his way to Rome,* where his cause being tried before Pope Agatho and many bishops, he was by the judgement of them all acquitted of all blame, and declared worthy of his bishopric.
At the same time, the said Pope Agatho assembling a synod at Rome, of 125 bishops, against those who asserted that there was only one will and operation in our Lord and Saviour,* ordered Wilfrid also to be summoned, and, sitting among the bishops, to declare his own faith and the faith of the province or island whence he came; and he and his people being found orthodox in their faith, it was thought fit to record the same among the acts of that synod, which was done in this manner: “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city of York, appealing to the Apostolic See, and being by that authority acquitted of every thing, whether specified against him or not, and being appointed to sit in judgement with 125 other bishops in the synod, made confession of the true and catholic faith, and confirmed the same with his subscription in the name of all the northern part of Britain and Ireland, and the islands inhabited by the nations of the English and Britons, as also by the Scots and Picts.”
After this, returning into Britain [680] ....
Wilfrid presented the pope's judgement to Ecgfrith, but, as Eddius Stephanus reports: “No sooner had the letters been opened and read out than – the very thought makes us tremble – the king flew into a rage and, urged on by his flattering minions, defied the judgement of St Peter ... he swore by his soul's health that Wilfrid should be despoiled of all but his clothes and put in solitary confinement, that his subjects be scattered far and wide and no friend be allowed to come near him. The queen, moreover, took away his reliquary full of relics of the saints and – I can hardly bear to tell it – wore it as a necklace” (Chapter 34).  Whilst Wilfrid was incarcerated (which, incidentally, is nowhere mentioned by Bede): “the king sent to offer him what was part of his own diocese and other very lavish gifts provided he acquiesced in the king's commands and ordinances and denied that the statutes sent by Rome were genuine. To this he humbly replied, showing his trust in the authority of the Holy See, that he would rather lose his head than assent to such a proposal.” (Chapter 36).  In due course, it happened that the queen fell ill. Ecgfrith was advised to either reinstate or, at least, release Wilfrid. Wilfrid was freed (he had been imprisoned for nine months), and the queen recovered. However: “His release from prison and exile from his own province brought him no peace, for Ecgfrith stirred up unremitting persecution against him in every country on both sides of the Channel, as far as his power and influence extended. There was but one place free, an area of Sussex which dense forests and rocky coast had saved from conquest by other kingdoms. Up to this time [681] it had remained persistently heathen, and thither God, when all human aid failed, directed our good bishop's steps. He sought out King Æthelwalh and told him the whole story of his hardships and exile. Æthelwalh made a pact with him at once, swearing such friendship as neither threat nor sword of any of Wilfrid's enemies nor any amount of bribes should ever frighten or tempt him into breaking.” (Chapter 41).
In 678 Archbishop Theodore had divided Wilfrid's erstwhile diocese: Bosa was made bishop of the Deiri, with his see at York; Eata became bishop of the Bernicians, with seats at Hexham and Lindisfarne; additionally, Eadhæd was made bishop of Lindsey, which had recently been brought under Northumbrian rule. Theodore: “three years after the departure of Wilfrid [i.e. in 681], added two bishops to their number: Tunberht, appointed to the church of Hexham, Eata still continuing in that of Lindisfarne; and Trumwine to the province of the Picts, which at that time was subject to English rule. Eadhæd returning from Lindsey, because Æthelred [king of Mercia] had recovered that province, was placed by Theodore over the church of Ripon.” (‘HE’ IV, 12).  Trumwine's seat was at Abercorn (on the Forth, about eleven miles to the west of Edinburgh), but his diocese did not last for long – Ecgfrith being defeated and killed by the Picts in 685. Trumwine retired to the monastery at Whitby.
.... he converted the province of the South Saxons from their idolatrous worship to the faith of Christ. He also sent ministers of the Word to the Isle of Wight;* and in the second year of Aldfrith, who reigned after Ecgfrith [i.e. in 686/7], was restored to his see and bishopric by that king's invitation....
The aged Theodore (he was now in his eighties) was behind Wilfrid's recall to Northumbria. The archbishop was, says Eddius Stephanus, “nearly always in bad health” and “troubled with pangs of conscience”.  Accordingly, he apologized to Wilfrid – Eddius claims he wanted Wilfrid to succeed him – and: “sent word to Aldfrith begging him, for the fear of God and out of respect for the Holy See's commands, to be reconciled to Wilfrid by peace treaty." (Chapter 43).  And so it was that Aldfrith: “respectfully called Wilfrid back from exile, in obedience to Theodore. First of all he granted him the monastery at Hexham with all the possessions belonging to it and after a while, carrying out the command of Pope Agatho and the synod, he restored to him the see of York and the abbacy of Ripon together with their revenues, having driven out the usurping bishops.” (Chapter 44).  In fact, the bishop of Hexham had died just before Wilfrid's return. Wilfrid may have acted as caretaker until the new bishop took up office, but Hexham was not in his permanent jurisdiction.* Bosa would appear to have stood down as bishop of York at this time, but only temporarily as it turned out. What became of Eadhæd, erstwhile bishop of Ripon, is not known (more than a thousand years would pass before Ripon became the seat of a bishop again).
.... Nevertheless, five years after [691/2], being again accused, he [Wilfrid] was deprived of his bishopric by the same king and certain bishops....
Eddius Stephanus: “For a while all would be peace between the wise king Aldfrith and our holy bishop, and a happier state of affairs could hardly be imagined. Then spite would boil up again and the situation would be reversed. And so they continued for years, in and out of friendship with each other, till finally their quarrels came to a head and the king banished Wilfrid from Northumbria. The principal cause of the dissension was of long standing, namely the unjust removal of land and possessions from the Church of St Peter [Ripon]. The second was the making of the same monastery, which had been given to us as our own property, into an episcopal see. This entailed loss of rights that had been granted by Pope Agatho and confirmed by 5 kings. The third was Aldfrith's insistence on obedience to Theodore's edicts – not to those issued when he first took office nor those at the end of his reign whereby he had called all the churches to peace and concord in obedience to the canons, but only those from the middle period when all the trouble had started. Wilfrid refused to submit and betook himself to his friend the king of Mercia. Æthelred welcomed him with great honour out of reverence for the Apostolic See, so Wilfrid dwelt on there under his and God's protection and was held in high respect by the people of the diocese.” (Chapter 45).  Wilfrid's new seat was at Leicester. Meanwhile, Bishop Bosa was evidently reappointed to York.
Little is known of Wilfrid's activities for a decade or so, but it is plain that he remained a thorn in the side of Aldfrith and the Church authorities. Then, in about 703, Eddius reports that Aldfrith hosted a synod at Austerfield (near Bawtry, South Yorkshire): “at which Archbishop Berhtwald and nearly all the bishops were present.” (Chapter 46).  It was: “openly declared that it was their wish to strip Wilfrid of all he possessed so that he would not be able to call the smallest cottage his own in either Northumbria or Mercia.”  There was a general outcry at the severity of this decision, and so, as a compromise, it was suggested that Wilfrid: “would be allowed to keep the monastery at Ripon which he himself had built and dedicated to St Peter, with all its lands and possessions, and the privileges granted to the abbot and community would devolve on him. But the grant was made only on condition that he signed a solemn promise to the effect that he would stay there quietly and never leave the monastery bounds without royal consent, nor exercise his episcopal office in any way at all, and finally that he would voluntarily lay down his rank.” (Chapter 47).  Needless to say, this was not acceptable to Wilfrid. He and his ally, King Æthelred , decided that, once more, the matter should be put to the pope.
.... Coming to Rome [704], he was allowed to make his defence in the presence of his accusers, before a number of bishops and the Apostolic Pope John. It was shown by the judgement of them all, that his accusers had in part laid false accusations to his charge; and the aforesaid Pope wrote to the kings of the English, Æthelred and Aldfrith, to cause him to be restored to his bishopric, because he had been unjustly condemned.
His acquittal was much forwarded by the reading of the acts of the synod of Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, which had been formerly held, when Wilfrid was in Rome and sat in council among the bishops, as has been said before. For the acts of that synod being, as the case required, read, by order of the Apostolic Pope, before the nobility and a great number of the people for some days, they came to the place where it was written, “Wilfrid, the beloved of God, bishop of the city of York, appealing to the Apostolic See, and being by that authority acquitted of everything, whether specified against him or not,“ and the rest as above stated. This being read, the hearers were amazed, and the reader ceasing, they began to ask of one another, who that Bishop Wilfrid was. Then Boniface, the Pope's counsellor, and many others, who had seen him there in the days of Pope Agatho, said that he was the same bishop that lately came to Rome, to be tried by the Apostolic See, being accused by his people, and who, said they, having long since come here upon the like accusation, the cause and contention of both parties being heard and examined, was proved by Pope Agatho, of blessed memory, to have been wrongfully expelled from his bishopric, and was held in such honour by him, that he commanded him to sit in the council of bishops which he had assembled, as a man, of untainted faith and an upright mind. This being heard, the Pope and all the rest said, that a man of so great authority, who had held the office of a bishop for nearly 40 years, ought by no means to be condemned, but being altogether cleared of the faults laid to his charge, should return home with honour.*
When he came to Gaul, on his way back to Britain, on a sudden he fell sick, and the sickness increasing, he was so weighed down by it, that he could not ride, but was carried in his bed by the hands of his servants. Being thus come to the city of Mældum [Meaux], in Gaul, he lay four days and nights, as if he had been dead, and only by his faint breathing showed that he had any life in him. Having continued thus four days, without meat or drink, without speech or hearing, at length, on the fifth day, at daybreak, as it were awakening out of a deep sleep, he raised himself and sat up, and opening his eyes, saw round about him a company of brethren singing psalms and weeping. Sighing gently, he asked where Acca, the priest, was. This man, straightway being called, came in, and seeing him somewhat recovered and able to speak, knelt down, and gave thanks to God, with all the brethren there present. When they had sat awhile and begun to discourse, with great awe, of the judgements of heaven, the bishop bade the rest go out for a time, and spoke to the priest, Acca, after this manner:
“A dread vision has even now appeared to me, which I would have you hear and keep secret, till I know what God will please to do with me. There stood by me a certain one, glorious in white raiment, and he told me that he was Michael, the Archangel, and said, “I am sent to call you back from death: for the Lord has granted you life, through the prayers and tears of your disciples and brethren, and the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary, of perpetual virginity; wherefore I tell you, that you shall now recover from this sickness; but be ready, for I will return and visit you at the end of four years. And when you come into your country, you shall recover the greater part of the possessions that have been taken from you, and shall end your days in peace and quiet.” The bishop accordingly recovered, whereat all men rejoiced and gave thanks to God, and setting forward on his journey, he arrived in Britain.
Having read the letters which he brought from the Apostolic Pope, Berhtwald, the archbishop, and Æthelred, sometime king [of Mercia], but then abbot, readily took his part; for the said Æthelred, calling to him Cenred, whom he had made king in his own stead, begged him to be friends with Wilfrid, in which request he prevailed; nevertheless Aldfrith, king of the Northumbrians, disdained to receive him....
Aldfrith became seriously ill, and, according to Eddius Stephanus: “He at once came to his senses, realized that he had been stricken down by the power of the apostles for his defiance of Rome, and repented.  “If only Wilfrid could be persuaded to come to me now,” he lamented, “I would quickly make amends.”  There and then he vowed to God and St Peter that if he were spared to rise from his bed he would carry out the pope's commands, let Wilfrid have his way and put everything in order.  “But if by God's will I should die, I bid my successor, who ever he may be, to come to terms with Wilfrid for the good of his soul and my own.”  This verbatim account was given us by trustworthy witnesses” (Chapter 59).
.... But he [Aldfrith] died soon after [14th December 705], and so it came to pass that, during the reign of his son Osred, when a synod was assembled before long by the river Nidd [706], after some contention on both sides, at length, by the consent of all, he [Wilfrid] was restored to the government of his own church ....
Previously (‘HE’ V, 3), Bede had noted: “the most reverend Wilfrid, after a long banishment, was admitted to the bishopric of the church of Hexham, and the aforesaid John [the bishop whom Wilfrid was displacing from Hexham], upon the death of Bosa, a man of great sanctity and humility, was, in his place, appointed bishop of York”.  Eddius Stephanus says (Chapter 60) that Wilfrid: “got back the two best monasteries, Ripon and Hexham, with all their revenues.”
.... and thus he lived in peace four years, till the day of his death. He died in his monastery, which he had in the province of Oundle, under the government of the Abbot Cuthbald;* and by the ministry of the brethren, he was carried to his first monastery which is called Ripon, and buried in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter, hard by the altar on the south side, as has been mentioned above, and this epitaph was written over him:
“Here rests the body of the great Bishop Wilfrid, who, for love of piety, built these courts and consecrated them with the noble name of Peter, to whom Christ, the Judge of all the earth, gave the keys of Heaven. And devoutly he clothed them with gold and Tyrian purple; yea, and he placed here the trophy of the Cross, of shining ore, uplifted high; moreover he caused the four books of the Gospel to be written in gold in their order, and he gave a case meet for them of ruddy gold. And he also brought the holy season of Easter, returning in its course, to accord with the true teaching of the catholic rule which the Fathers fixed, and, banishing all doubt and error, gave his nation sure guidance in their worship. And in this place he gathered a great throng of monks, and with all diligence safeguarded the precepts which the Fathers' rule enjoined. And long time sore vexed by many a peril at home and abroad, when he had held the office of a bishop forty-five years [actual phraseology: “thrice fifteen years”], he passed away and with joy departed to the heavenly kingdom. Grant, Jesus, that the flock may follow in the path of the shepherd.” ”*
 
Translations:
Eddius Stephanus ‘Vita Sancti Wilfridi’ by J.F. Webb
Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ by A.M. Sellar
Though he doesn't mention it, in his own account “of the life and death of Bishop Wilfrid”, Bede draws, very selectively, on a Latin ‘Life’ of Wilfrid written by Eddius Stephanus. It is Eddius who names the bishop of Lyon “Dalfinus”. The bishop in question was, however, evidently called Aunemundus. Scholars have tended to rationalize this anomaly by either presenting Dalfinus as the, otherwise unnamed, brother of Aunemundus, or by saying that Aunemundus was also known as Dalfinus (the position adopted by the 17th century editor of, the traditional account of Aunemundus' ‘Deeds’, the ‘Acta Aunemundi’), but it seems that there is no early substantiation for either suggestion. A greater difficulty with Eddius' story is that, in order for Wilfrid to be present when Aunemundus/Dalfinus was put to death, it would have had to have taken place before the end of 658, but charters indicate Aunemundus was still alive in 660.
In the early days of Christianity, Quartodecimans celebrated Easter on the fourteenth day of Nisan, whether it was a Sunday or not. This was not the practice in the, so-called, ‘Celtic Church’, and Eddius seemingly uses the word (he actually puts it into Wilfrid's mouth) as a slight. (The Catholic Easter was adopted on Iona in 716.)
Previously (‘HE’ IV, 12), Bede had reported that Wilfrid: “was driven from his see, and two bishops substituted for him, to preside over the nation of the Northumbrians, namely, Bosa, to govern the province of the Deiri; and Eata that of the Bernicians; the former having his episcopal see in the city of York, the latter either in the church of Hagustald [Hexham], or of Lindisfarne; both of them promoted to the episcopal dignity from a community of monks. With them also Eadhæd was ordained bishop for the province of Lindsey, which King Ecgfrith had but newly acquired, having defeated Wulfhere and put him to flight”.
Monothelitism asserts that Jesus had only one will even though he had two natures (human and divine), which is contrary to the orthodox position that he had two wills corresponding to his two natures. It enjoyed considerable support in the seventh century before being rejected as heretical at the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople, in 680–681.
Bede makes it seem as though Wilfrid ended up in Frisia by accident, but Eddius Stephanus tells a different story. Wilfrid had become embroiled in Frankish politics, and he was trying to avoid a character called Ebroin, de facto ruler of Neustria. Eddius says (Chapter 27) that Ebroin offered Aldgisl “a full bushel of gold solidi” to send him Wilfrid, dead or alive, but the Frisian king made a great show of destroying Aldgisl's letter in front of Wilfrid, and, indeed, Eddius himself.
Eddius claims (Chapter 25) that Wilfrid's English enemies, thinking he would be taking the direct route to Rome through Neustria, had bribed “the wicked Duke Ebroin”: “to exile him for good”, or else to kill his companions and rob him. It just so happened that Bishop Winfrid (i.e. Wynfrith), who had been deprived of the see of Lichfield by Archbishop Theodore, was en route for Rome at that time. Misled by the similarity of his name, it was Winfrid's party that was attacked, the bishop being left “naked”, though many of his party were killed. This yarn, however, receives no support from Bede, who mentions (‘HE’ IV, 6) that Wynfrith was deposed by Theodore for “some act of disobedience”, but says he retired to his monastery “and there ended his life in holy conversation”.
On the journey from Frisia to Rome, Eddius claims (Chapter 28) that Dagobert II, king of Austrasia, offered Wilfrid the bishopric of Strasbourg, and that King Perctarit of Campania (says Eddius, but actually of Lombardy) said he had been offered a reward by Wilfrid's enemies if he would prevent the bishop from reaching his destination.
Tunberht, who had been appointed bishop of Hexham in 681, was deposed, and replaced by Cuthbert in 685. Cuthbert switched positions with Eata, bishop of Lindisfarne. Hence Eata was the bishop of Hexham who died just before Wilfrid's return to Northumbria. Bede indicates (‘HE’ V, 2) that Eata was immediately replaced by John of Beverley. On the other hand, when Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, died, in March 687, Bede notes: “the venerable Bishop Wilfrid held the episcopal see of that church one year, till such time as a bishop should be chosen to be ordained in the room of Cuthbert.” (‘HE’ IV, 29).
Theodore had died (aged eighty-eight) on 19th September 690. Berhtwald, his successor, was not chosen until 1st July 692. Eddius does maintain it was Theodore's wish that Wilfrid succeed him at Canterbury, so perhaps arguments regarding this were the cause of the delay – neither Eddius nor Bede comment.
Bede seems to be saying in ‘HE’ V, 19, quoted above (“having nobly ruled that church [York] three years, he retired to take charge of his monastery”), that Chad had been bishop of York for only three years, but in ‘HE’ III, 28, he gives the distinct impression that Chad was consecrated specifically to occupy the see of York in 664. Then in ‘HE’ V, 24 is the direct statement: “In the year 664 ... Chad and Wilfrid were ordained bishops of the Northumbrians.”  It would seem, then, that Chad took up his position at York in 664, served two years in Wilfrid's absence, but remained in place for a further three years after the latter's return in 666.
Bede apparently didn't know the precise date of Aldfrith's death, but he places it in the year 705 (‘HE’ V, 24). Manuscripts D and E of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ provide the full date: 14th December 705.
Wilfrid had been chosen to be Alhfrith's bishop in 664. Bede (presumably following the epitaph he quotes, which, incidentally, does not appear in Eddius' work) says Wilfrid had been a bishop forty-five years at his death, though Eddius says (Chapter 66) forty-six. Bede follows Eddius in placing Wilfrid's death, as predicted by Archangel Michael, four years after his illness at Meaux. Eddius, more definite than Bede, dates (Chapter 60) the synod on the Nidd to “the first year of Osred's reign”.  Not mentioned by Bede is the rule, for just two months, of one Eadwulf between Aldfrith and Osred. He does, however, say that Wilfrid lived for four years after the synod on the Nidd, and, later (‘HE’ V, 20), places Wilfrid's death in the fourth year of Osred. Bede evidently believed that Aldfrith's death, the synod and Osred's succession all took place in 705, though, assuming Manuscripts D and E of the ‘Chronicle’ are correct in their dating of Aldfrith's death, both Osred's succession and the synod must have taken place in 706. Nevertheless, Bede clearly, though indirectly, places Wilfrid's death in 709 by linking it (in ‘HE’ V, 19) to another event (the abdication of King Cenred of Mercia, and his journey to Rome) that he subsequently (in ‘HE’ V, 24) dates 709. Manuscripts D and E of the ‘Chronicle’, unequivocally, place Wilfrid's death in 709. There is, however, a problem, as Alan Thacker (‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’, 2004) explains: “In pre-conquest England, Wilfrid was commemorated by two feasts, 12 October and 24 April. In 709 neither date was a Thursday, the death-day which Stephen of Ripon [i.e. Eddius Stephanus] expressly says [Chapter 65] was kept as Wilfrid's feast. Although the October date has traditionally been regarded as the main commemoration, marking Wilfrid's death or deposition, the April feast is in fact earlier – it alone occurs in the eighth- and ninth-century calendars; 24 April was a Thursday in 710, and is therefore probably the date of Wilfrid's death. The emphasis on the October feast perhaps developed because that in April was likely to conflict with Lent and Easter.”
Eddius says (Chapters 64 & 65) that Wilfrid had travelled to Mercia to see the new king, Ceolred. It would seem that Wilfrid never met the king – having completed a tour of his Mercian monasteries, he fell ill and died “at Oundle”. Bede says “in the province of Oundle”, which tends to suggest that the monastery where Wilfrid died, though in the vicinity, is not to be found in Oundle itself. In his paper ‘Saint Wilfrid's Church at Hexham’ (published in ‘Saint Wilfrid at Hexham’, 1975) Edward Gilbert notes that he: “is inclined to believe that Peterborough was Wilfrid's monastery. Certainly the architectural evidence is plentiful for a monastery of this date at Peterborough, but totally absent at Oundle.”  (In Wilfrid's day, Peterborough was called Medeshamstede.)
Acca would become bishop of Hexham following Wilfrid's death in 709. He urged Eddius Stephanus to produce his ‘Vita’ of Wilfrid, and he was a friend and source of information to Bede. Bede writes that Acca:“was brought up from boyhood and instructed among the clergy of the most holy and beloved of God, Bosa, bishop of York. Afterwards, coming to Bishop Wilfrid in the hope of a better plan of life, he spent the rest of his days in attendance on him till that bishop's death” (‘HE’ V, 20).  Although Wilfrid had clearly taken the direct route back from Rome, via Meaux, his outward journey had been via Frisia. “The most reverend prelate, Acca, is wont to relate”, says Bede, that: “in his journey to Rome, he and his bishop Wilfrid stayed some time with Willibrord, the holy archbishop of the Frisians.” (‘HE’ III, 13).  Willibrord, whose see was at Utrecht, was Northumbrian – he had been raised in Wilfrid's monastery at Ripon. In the same year that Bede completed his ‘Ecclesiastical History’, Acca was, for unknown reasons, driven from his see (the event is noted in a brief annal, dated 731, added to the oldest surviving manuscript of the ‘History’).
The Roman town of Coria (Corbridge) is some three miles east of Hexham, and Hadrian's Wall is a similar distance to the north.
Bede says that Wilfrid had been a bishop “for nearly 40 years” at this time. Eddius, however, on whom Bede is drawing, actually states (Chapter 53) that Wilfrid had “been a bishop now for 40 years and more”. Eddius says (Chapter 47) that Wilfrid had been a bishop “for nearly 40 years” at the time of the synod held at Austerfield (of which Bede makes no mention). Wilfrid was chosen to be Alhfrith's bishop in 664, therefore, Austerfield can be dated c.703 and, since Pope John VI died in January 705, Wilfrid's appearance in Rome to 704.
Having been made welcome in Sussex by King Æthelwalh, Wilfrid subsequently allied himself with an exiled West Saxon prince, Cædwalla, who invaded Sussex and killed Æthelwalh (which Eddius does not mention), established himself as king of the West Saxons, and conquered the Isle of Wight.
The dating evidence is contradictory and confusing, but it would appear that Agilbert was no longer bishop of the West Saxons at the time he ordained Wilfrid as a priest, nor was he yet bishop of Paris at the time he officiated at Wilfrid's consecration as a bishop. Following a falling-out with Cenwalh, the West Saxon king, it seems likely that Agilbert resigned his position in 663 and travelled to Northumbria, where he ordained Wilfrid at Ripon and subsequently attended the synod of Whitby. He returned to Gaul after the synod, in 664, and officiated at Wilfrid's consecration at Compiègne. It would appear that he didn't become bishop of Paris until about 667/8, i.e. after Wilfrid's return to Britain.