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St. Wilfrid

VII/VIII Centuries
The first Anglo-Saxon to appeal to Rome, St. Wilfrid was born in 634 and was the son of a thane of Northumbria. Educated at Lindisfarne, Wilfrid hated Celtic ritual and travelled to Canterbury to learn Roman usage. He undertook, with St. Benedict Biscop, a pilgrimage to Rome in 653. During this trip, Wilfrid was tonsured at Lyons and spent three years preaching among the Gauls. After his return to England, he became the abbot of Ripon and may have introduced Benedictine rule there. Wilfrid argued the case for Roman rites at the Synod of Whitby in 664. So great was his dislike of the Celtic church that he was consecrated bishop of York by the Franks to avoid having any bishop who followed the Celtic rite consecrate him. In 666, Wilfrid came back to England to claim the see of York and discovered that St. Chad was serving as the bishop of York. Wilfrid returned to Ripon for three years, and in 669, St. Theodore of Canterbury put him in charge of York.

Theodore later divided York into three sees, and Wilfrid went to Rome to protest the action and be confirmed as bishop as the rightful bishop of all of York. He spent a year preaching in Frisia, before he went back to England to announce that he had won his appeal. Wilfrid was imprisoned on his return and exiled to Suffolk, where he preached among the pagans. Reconciled with Theodore in 686, Wilfrid returned to York but left five years later after a dispute with King Aldfrith.

In 703, Wilfrid again travelled to Rome to appeal a synod's decision that he should resign the see of York. Pope Agatho supported Wilfrid, who resigned in favor of St. John of Beverly and became bishop of Hexham. Wilfrid died six years later.

Karen Rae Keck


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