Father of English History's role in creation of Archbishop of York explained
Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities
New evidence explaining the creation of one of the most important church roles in England will be presented in a University of Leicester public lecture tomorrow (May 29).
Professor Joanna Story, of the University's School of Historical Studies, will show how the "Father of English History" the Venerable Bede helped to create the first Archbishop of York in 735 AD.
Bede was an English Monk who compiled the first work of Anglo-Saxon History, the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731.
In her professorial inaugural lecture 'Bede and the origins of the archbishopric of York', Professor Story will present new evidence showing how and when Bede received documents from Rome revealing Pope Gregory the Great's plans for the English Church.
The documents contained Pope Gregory's ideas for two archbishops in England, along with plans to implement the scheme made by his successor, Pope Honorius I.
The letters gave Bede the proof he needed to convince the establishment in England to bring the 'Gregorian Plan' to fruition, and the year Bede died saw the creation of the first Archbishop of York.
A priest called Nothelm had brought the documents from Rome to England for Bede, and had stopped in Echternach - now in modern-day Luxembourg - to stay with the Anglo-Saxon missionary bishop, Willibrord.
Willibrord understood the importance of Nothhelm’s dossier, and made a copy of the two letters of Pope Honorius in his personal handbook, where they lay undiscovered for 1300 years.
Professor Joanna Story said: "Bede was the greatest scholar England had yet produced and he had lobbied hard in the last years of his life for Northumbria to have an archbishop at the head of its Church. Gregory had planned an English Church with two metropolitan bishops - one in London and the other in York - based on his knowledge of the administrative geography of Roman Britain.
"But despite the efforts of the early missionaries, this grand ‘Gregorian Plan’ had never been implemented, and 100 years after its conversion Bede knew that the kingdom lacked the necessary ecclesiastical structure to support the needs of its growing Christian populace.
"This lecture uncovers the letters of Pope Honorius I in Willibrord’s handbook, and explains why this copy reveals so much about the creation of the early English Church in the seventh and eighth centuries and about the networks of knowledge that linked Anglo-Saxon England to Francia and Rome."
The lecture will be held on May 29 from 5.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1 in the Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester, and is free and open to the public.