Saint Wilfrid

The English Saint Wilfrid (c633 - 709) was a busy, well-travelled and at times controversial figure. These pages visit many of the places associated with him, all places important to us. Inevitably, few of the places would be recognisable to Wilfrid these days, though the memories of him are there.


Wilfrid was born in Northumberland c633. In 648 he started his studies at the abbey of Lindisfarne.
In 652 he headed for Canterbury, but not for long: sometime c 654 he set of for a pilgrimage to Rome with Benedict Biscop of Northumbria. This took three years, with a long stay in Lyon where he learnt a good deal about Benedictine monasticism.  In 658 he returned to Northumberland; by 664 he became the abbot of Ripon and was soon ordained as a priest.
  An important event in 664 was the synod of Whitby, and Wilfrid’s was the voice that converted the northern English to the catholic rules and liturgy.
  In 665 he was appointed bishop, though of where isn’t clear: possibly York. He decided he didn’t wish to be ordained by the Anglo-Saxon bishops, so he set off for Compiègne in France to be ordained by the Bishop of Paris. A big mistake: when he got back to Northumberland, he found that Chad (later St Chad) had been given the bishopric. Wilfrid returned to Ripon. After much squabbling, he regained the bishopric in 669 and became Bishop of York. As bishop, he founded many minsters and monasteries, including Hexham in 674, and restored York Minster.
  If the story wasn’t sufficiently complex, things got worse in 678. He offended Ecgfrid, the local king by encouraging his queen, Æthelthryth, to enter a nunnery. The king asked Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, to divide up the diocese to limit his power. Wilfrid had never got on well with Theodore, and Theodore complied. So, it was off to Rome again to complain to the pope. The pope supported him, and in 680 Wilfried was back in Northumberland with the papal decree. The king declared it the result of bribery, and Wilfrid was imprisoned and then exiled: he ended up in Sussex.
  Here he got on well with the local king, Æthelwealh, who was a Christian, and in 681 he founded an abbey at Selsey and started converting the local pagans. He is thought to have taken a boat up the river Meon in Hampshire, evangelising and setting up churches – we will visit some of them.
  Wilfrid finally settled his differences with Theodore, and, as there was now a new king in Northumbria, Aldfrith, and in 686 he was allowed back there as bishop. All well? Not really. In 691 he was expelled again, and settled for a while in Mercia, central England. He may have become Bishop of Leicester, though evidence for this is lacking. An important event was attending the exhumation of Queen Æthelthryth, later known as St Etheldreda, at Ely, in 695.
  Wilfrid was determined to get his old job back, so in 702 it was back to Rome for the third time. He was allowed back to Northumberland, where he took charge of Ripon and Hexham. He remained at Ripon until his death in 709
: he died at a monastery in Oundle, Northamptonshire.

Places we are visiting


Selsey and the Meon Valley

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