Notes from My Publications
Edited by The Rt. Revd. William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen (1483–1514), the Aberdeen Breviary is a 16th century Scottish Catholic service book, which has been described as the "Sarum Office in Scottish". For our purposes, it is notable for its accounts of a variety of Scottish saints.
The Revd. Sabine Baring Baring-Gould, MA (†1924) was a Church of England priest, novelist, antiquarian, hagiographer, and eclectic scholar. He is also remembered as a writer of hymns, including “Onward Christian Soldiers”. An exceedingly prolific writer, his bibliography currently stands at over 1,240 publications, and his sixteen-volume The Lives of the Saints is a treasure of hagiographic information.
Bonedd y Saint
Welsh for “Descent of the Saints” the Bonedd y Saint is a Welsh genealogical tract detailing the lineages of the early British saints dating from the twelfth century. Dealing mostly with saints from northern and central Wales the foremost copies of the tract known as the Bonedd y Saint are:
Peniarth MS 16 (‘Bonhed y Seint’)
Peniarth MS 45 (‘Bonhed Seint Kymry’)
Peniarth MS 12 (‘Boned y Seint’) (these pages really belong to the Peniarth MS 4 ‘The White Book of Rhydderch’)
Hafod MS 2 (‘Bonheyd Seynt’) (sometimes called ‘Llannerch MS’)
Hafod MS 16 (no title)
Peniarth MS 50 (‘Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd’) (and a copy in Cardiff MS 25 (Hb)
Llanstephan MS 28, (taken from the lost Hengwrt MS 33)
Peniarth MS 27
Peniarth MS 127
Peniarth MS 182
Peniarth MS 137
Peniarth MS 177
Peniarth MS 178
Peniarth MS 132
All of which, unless otherwise noted, are kept at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
The Revd. Fr. Alban Butler (†1773) was an English Roman Catholic priest. After extensive studies and travel throughout the Continent, in 1756–9 he published The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other principal Saints, compiled from original Monuments and other authentic records, illustrated with the remarks of judicious modern critics and historians. In this work, the Lives of over 1,600 saints are arranged according to the Church calendar, and although though their chief purpose was edification, and history and legend are not differentiated, they remain a monumental work. To this day Butler’s Lives of the Saints remains a foundational work for hagiographic research, reference, and education.
John Colgan, O.F.M. (†c.1657) was an Irish Franciscan and noted hagiographer and historian. Following studies at the Irish Franciscan College of St. Anthony of Padua in Louvain, he served his alma mater briefly as a Professor of Theology, but soon turned to Irish studies and wrote his six volume Irish ecclesiastical history. The last four volumes (Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae) cover the lives of Irish Saints. The second volume of the series entitled Acta Triadis Thaumaturgae (The Acts of a Wonder-Working Triad) cover the lives of SS. Patrick, Brigid of Kildare, and Columba. For a long time, the Triadis Thaumaturgae was nearly the only source of information on St. Patrick.
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniæ
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniæ (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) is a work by the sixth-century British cleric St. Gildas the Wise (29th January). A sermon in three parts, it condemns the acts of St. Gildas’ contemporaries, both secular and religious, whom he blames for the dire state of affairs in sub-Roman Britain. De Excidio is one of the most important sources for the history of fifth and sixth century Britain, as it is the only significant source for the period written by a near contemporary of the people and events described.
The Félire Óengusso (Martyrology of Ængus) dates from the late eighth or early ninth century. It consists of 365 quatrains, one for each day of the year, framed between a lengthy prologue and epilogue. It is generally said to be the earliest metrical Martyrology to have been written in the vernacular. While St. Ængus (11th March) wrote most of the text is in Old Irish, approximately 194 proper names, as well as some phrases and formulae in the poem and in the preface are in Latin. While St. Ængus added numerous Irish saints, he cites as his principal source the Martyrology of Tallaght, the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, De Martyribus by Eusebius, as well as “Ireland’s host of books”.
Forbes’ Kalendar of Scottish Saints
The Rt. Revd. Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L. (†1875), the Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Brechin, wrote one of the most comprehensive listings of the Saints of Scotland. In his Kalendar, Bishop Forbes not only lists the saints by date and provides fairly detailed hagiographies, he includes copies of all the primary sources as well. Forbes’ Kalendar provides a treasure trove of information on the lives of the saints of Scotland.
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum — Ven. Bede
Believed to have been completed in 731, this work is considered to be one of the most important original references on Anglo-Saxon history. St. Bede the Venerable’s (25th May) Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) is a history of England and of the Christian Churches in England, and has played a key role in the development of an English national identity.
Divided into five books (approximately 400 pages total), the Historia covers the history of England, both ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Julius Caesar to the date of the Historia’s completion (731). The first twenty-one chapters, covering the period before the mission of Augustine, are compiled from the works of earlier writers including Orosius, Gildas, Prosper of Aquitaine, the letters of Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist (3rd September) and others, with the insertion of legends and traditions. After 596, documentary sources that St. Bede the Venerable (25th May) took pains to obtain throughout England and from Rome are used, as well as oral testimony, which he referred to along with critical consideration of its authenticity.
In 563 St. Columba of Iona (9th June), exiled from his native Ireland, founded a monastery on this small island of the Inner Hebrides. Called in Gaelic Í Chaluim Cille, Í of St. Columba variously spelt Hi, Hy or I. The modern form of the name derives from an error in copying St. Adamnán of Iona’s (23rd September) adjectival form ‘Ioua Insula’ in his Life of St. Columba. From Iona Orthodox Christianity spread to the rest of Scotland. Numerous martyrs and other saints were produced from Iona, including not only St. Columba, but also St. Aidan of Lindisfarne (31st August) and several others. Many believe that the Book of Kells was produced on Iona at this time. The monastery survived until the Protestant Reformation.
Beginning with St. Aidan’s (31st August) arrival from Iona (vide supra) in 635, Lindisfarne quickly became a missionary centre and episcopal see, and a large number of churches were founded by its monks from Edinburgh to the Humber and beyond. Among those educated in the monastery were SS. Chad (2nd March), Cedd (26th October), Ecgberht (24th April), and Wilfrid (12th October). Following the Synod of Whitby in 664 the Scoto-Irish monks, along with some of their English brethren, withdrew to Iona, as they disagreed with the Roman liturgical practices adopted at the Synod, and from that time the monastery looked towards Rome. St. Cuthbert’s (20th March) association with it added to its celebrity. In 793 and again in 875 the monastery, and church were pillaged by the Danes, and the monks fled. Eardulf (†900), the last of the 16 bishops, fixed his see in 875 at Chester-le-Street, but it was transferred to Durham in 995. From 1082 until the Dissolution there was continuous monastic life on the island.
The Martyrologium Hieronymianum (Martyrology of St. Jerome) is the oldest surviving comprehensive martyrology, and the ultimate source of all later Western martyrologies. Whilst the title attributes authorship to St. Jerome (30th September), the Martyrologium Hieronymianum contains a reference to him derived from the opening chapter of his Vita Malchi (392) in which St. Jerome states his intention to write a history of the saints and martyrs from the apostolic times. The Martyrology Hieronymianum is believed to have been compiled in the late sixth century by monks in Gaul from calendars or martyrologies originating in Rome, Africa, the Christian east, and local sources.
Among the many controversies in the early Church over the complex question as to how to calculate the date of Easter, was the use by the Celtic Churches of their own method of computation, which led to a long quarrel in the British Isles after the arrival of the Roman missionaries. Even a cursory overview of this question is beyond the scope of this site; in fact, the subject deserves a book, or books, of its own. However, in summary, the question facing Church in the British Isles — Celtic v. Roman practice for the calculation of Easter — was that the Celtic Church had its own methods of calculating the date which differed from them Roman method of calculation. This resulted, in 651, in Queen Eanfleda, who followed the Roman rule, keeping Palm Sunday, and fasting on the same day that her husband, Oswiu, King of Northumbria, was celebrating Easter. The issue was settled at the Synod of Whitby in 664 in favour of the Roman practice, though Celtic parts of the British Isles, especially Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall held out for another fifty to one hundred years.
Pelagius, a British biblical scholar and theologian lived in Rome in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. In his writings, Pelagius took the position that man can take the initial and fundamental steps towards salvation solely through his own efforts. In Pelagius’ view, the role of Jesus is merely that of “setting a good example” and divine grace has no role in man’s salvation. Initially his writings were condemned by St. Augustine of Hippo (28th August); then Pelagius was excommunicated in 417 by Pope Innocent I, and his views were subsequently condemned by a series of Church councils. However, the issues of human freedom and divine grace have remained central topics of debate throughout the history of Christian theology.
The common rule for monastics in England was drawn up and approved at the Synod of Winchester (circa 970–973). Long attributed to St. Dunstan (19th May), Ælfric (c.955–c.1020), the first Abbot of Eynsham in Oxfordshire, maintains that the Regularis Concordia was actually the work of St. Æthelwold (1st August), though most likely inspired by St. Dunstan. Following the tradition of Benedict of Aniane, and greatly influenced by the rules of Fleury, Ghent, and other major monasteries on the Continent, it laid out the liturgical functions of the day and year, as well as the duties attached to various monastic offices. Although much of it replaced English traditions with Continental practices, the Regularis Concordia retained some English traditions. These include the intercession for the King and Queen after all parts of the Office, except Prime, the allowance of a fire in winter, and processions through the streets. Also notable is the encouragement given to daily Communion, which was not the custom on the Continent at the time. In addition, the Regularis Concordia sets forth a uniquely English procedure for the election of bishops, which led to an episcopate composed primarily of monastics.
Société des Bollandistes (The Bollandists)
The Bollandists are an association of scholars, philologists, and historians (originally all Jesuits) who, since the early seventeenth century, have studied hagiography and the cult of the saints in Christianity. Their most important publication has been the Acta Sanctorum. They are named after Father Jean van Bolland (or Bollandus †1665) who was Prefect of Studies at the Jesuit college of Mechelen and founded the group.
Synod of Hertford
The Synod (or Council) of Hertford was the first important synod in England, as well as the first at which representatives of the entire English church were present. The synod was called by St. Theodore of Canterbury (19th September), in either 672 or 673, to promote the reorganisation of the English Church. In addition to St. Theodore; Putta, Bishop of Rochester; Eleutherius, Bishop of the west Saxons; Winfrid, Bishop of Mercia; and Bisi, Bishop of the East Angles were in attendance. St. Wilfrid of Northumbria (12th October) was represented by proctors.
At Hertford, ten canons were promulgated as follows:
“That we all unite in observing the holy day of Easter on the Sunday after the fourteenth day of the moon of the first month.” This decision finally ratified the decision of the Synod of Whitby (vide infra).
“That no bishop intrude into the diocese of another, but confine himself to the guidance of the people committed to his charge.”
“That no bishop shall interfere in any way with monasteries dedicated to God, nor take anything from them forcibly.”
“That monks shall not wander from place to place, that is, from monastery to monastery, except with letters dimissory from their own abbot; and that they keep the promise of obedience which they made at the time of their profession.”
“That no clergy shall leave their own bishop and wander about at will, nor be received anywhere without letters of commendation from their own bishop. Moreover, should such a person, once received, refuse to return when so directed, both receiver and received shall incur excommunication.
“That bishops and clergy when traveling shall be content with whatever hospitality is offered them; and that it is unlawful to exercise any priestly function without permission from the bishop in whose diocese they are.”
“That a synod be held twice a year.” In view of various obstacles, however, it was unanimously agreed that the synod should meet once a year on the first of August at Clovesho.
“That no bishop claim precedence over another out of ambition: seniority of consecration shall alone determine precedence.”
“That more bishops shall be consecrated as the number of the faithful increases.” However, the synod shall take no action in the matter for the present.
“That lawful wedlock alone is permissible; incest is forbidden; and no man may leave his lawful wife except, as the gospel provides, for fornication. In addition, if a man puts away his own wife who is joined to him in lawful marriage, he may not take another if he wishes to be a good Christian. He must either remain as he is, or else be reconciled to his wife.”
Synod of Whitby
A significant local council, the Synod of Whitby led to the liturgical and administrative unification of the Church in England. Called by King Oswiu of Northumbria (r. 642–670), the synod was held in 664 at Whitby Abbey. Initially the matters in dispute were fairly minor, the main controversies being what style of tonsure clerics should wear — the Roman coronal tonsure, or the Celtic style of shaving the whole head in front of a line drawn from ear to ear, as well as how to calculate the date of Easter (vide Paschal Controversy supra). However, the outcome of the synod was that Roman, rather than Celtic, practices would have ascendancy over the entire north of England. The matter came to a head one spring when the king, who followed the Celtic practice, was feasting at Easter, while the queen, who followed Roman practice, was still fasting for Lent. The advocate for Celtic practices was St. Coleman of Lindisfarne (18th February), whilst St. Wilfrid (12th October) advocated for the Roman practices. In the end, the Roman practices were adopted, and those clerics and monastics who would not change withdrew to Iona (vide supra) and later to Ireland. Though St. Bede the Venerable (25th May) describes the proceedings in great detail and made the Synod of Whitby the turning-point of his history: until 664 Christianity came to the English through different traditions; from 664 the trend is towards unity and orthodoxy. However, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, makes no mention of the synod.