Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
is now Worcestershire; and there, “on the borders of the Huiccii and the West-Saxons,” says Baeda, “he convened to a colloquy the bishops and doctors of the nearest province of the Britons, in the place which, to the present day, is called in the English language, Augustine’s Oak.”  Such open-air meetings by sacred trees or stones were universal in England both before and after its conversion.  “He began to admonish them with a brotherly admonition to embrace with him the Catholic faith, and to undertake the common task of evangelising the pagans.  For they did not observe Easter at the proper period:  moreover, they did many other things contrary to the unity of the Church.”  But the Welsh were jealous of the intruders, and refused to abandon their old customs.  Thereupon, Augustine declared that if they would not help him against the heathen, they would perish by the heathen.  A few years later, after Augustine’s death, this prediction was verified by AEthelfrith of Northumbria, whose massacre of the monks of Bangor has already been noticed.

It was in return for the destruction of Chester and the slaughter of the monks that Cadwalla joined the heathen Penda against his fellow Christian Eadwine.  But the death of Eadwine left the throne open for the house of AEthelfrith, whose place Eadwine had taken.  After a year of renewed heathendom, however, during part of which the Welsh Cadwalla reigned over Northumbria, Oswald, son of AEthelfrith, again united Deira and Bernicia under his own rule.  Oswald was a Christian, but he had learnt his Christianity from the Scots, amongst whom he had spent his exile, and he favoured the introduction of Pictish and Scottish missionaries into Northumbria.  The Italian monks who had accompanied Augustine were men of foreign speech and manners, representatives of an alien civilisation, and they attempted to convert whole kingdoms en bloc by the previous conversion of their rulers.  Their method was political and systematic.  But the Pictish and Irish preachers were men of more Britannic feelings, and they went to work with true missionary earnestness to convert the half Celtic people of Northumbria, man by man, in their own homes.  Aidan, the apostle of the north, carried the Pictish faith into the Lothians and Northumberland.  He placed his bishop-stool not far from the royal town of Bamborough, at Lindisfarne, the Holy Island of the Northumbrian coast.  Other Celtic missionaries penetrated further south, even into the heathen realm of Penda and his tributary princes.  Ceadda or Chad, the patron saint of Lichfield, carried Christianity to the Mercians.  Diuma preached to the Middle English of Leicester with much success, Peada, their ealdorman, son of Penda, having himself already embraced the new faith.  Penda had slain Oswald in a great battle at Maserfeld in 641; but the martyr only brought increased glory to the Christians:  and Oswiu, who succeeded him, after an interval of anarchy, as king of Deira (for Bernicia now chose a king of its own), was also a zealous adherent of the Celtic missionaries.  Thus the heterodox Church made rapid strides throughout the whole of the north.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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