IDLE SPECULATIONS: Cædwalla`s Donation

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Cædwalla`s Donation



Lambert Barnard (1485-1567)
Caedwalla, king of the West Saxons, granting land in Selsey, the original site of the diocese, to St Wilfrid for his monastery c AD 685
c. 1534 
Mural on oak board
14 feet x 32 feet
South transept, Chichester Cathedral, England


It is possible that Barnard was French or Flemish, though according to some historians he was of Italian origin. 


Barnard was paid an annual wage of £14 8s to work in the Cathedral

The Cathedral has many works by Barnard and the above painting is part of an extraordinary work of Tudor political and religious propaganda

Cædwalla (c. 659 – 20 April 689) was the King of Wessex from approximately 685 until he abdicated in 688

He made many grants and charters of land to the Church and in particular to St Wilfrid ( c 633 – c. 709) his spiritual father

Wilfrid spent a number of  years in Selsey, where he founded an episcopal see and converted the pagan inhabitants of the Kingdom of Sussex to Christianity. 

It appears likely that Wilfrid  was the first to introduce the Benedictine Rule into England

In a charter of 688, Cædwalla granted land at Farnham in Surrey to St Wilfrid  for a minster

We know of Wilfrid from Bede`s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation and the Anglo Saxon Chronicle together with a Life of St Wilfrid written shortly after his death.

Realising that he was dying, Cædwalla  abdicated and went to Rome where he was catechised and baptised by Pope Sergius I. It would appear that he died shortly thereafter and was buried in the old St Peter`s Basilica, perhaps next to the tomb of St Gregory the Great, the Pope who commanded St Augustine to Christianise England

In his work Pagan and Christian Rome, (1892) Professor Rodolfo Amedeo Lanciani wrote of this tomb of one of the few English kings to be buried in St Peter`s and in a very important place indeed, in the Pope`s Corner in the section called Paradise:

"In the vestibule of S. Peter's, not far from the original grave of Gregory the Great, we should have found that of a British king, reckoned among the saints in the old martyrologies, who had come in grateful acknowledgment of the double civilization which his native island had received from pagan and Christian Rome. 
Under the date of 688 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records: 
"This year king Ceadwalla went to Rome and received baptism from Pope Sergius, and he gave him the name of Peter, and in about seven days afterwards, on the twelfth before the Kalends of May (April 20), while he was yet in his baptismal garments, he died, and he was buried in S. Peter's." 
The fair-haired convert, who had met with a solemn and enthusiastic reception from Pope Sergius, the clergy, and the people, received after his death the greatest honour that the Church and the Romans could offer him: he was buried in the "Popes' Corner," or porticus pontificum, almost side by side with Gregory the Great. 
The verses engraved on the tomb of the latter—
"Ad Christum Anglos convertit pietate magistra
Sic fidei acquirens agmina gente nova,"
(by pious cares he converted the English to Christ, acquiring thereby for the true faith multitudes of a new race)—could not have found a more convincing witness to their truth than this grave of Ceadwalla, because with his conversion, which was due to the preaching of S. Wilfrid, the Christian religion spread rapidly among the Saxons of the West, and that part of the country which had most resisted the new faith was forever secured to Christian civilization. 
In fact Wessex became the most powerful member of the Heptarchy, till it attained absolute dominion over the whole island.
Ceadwalla's tomb, forgotten, and perhaps concealed by superstructures, was brought to light again towards the end of the sixteenth century. 
Giovanni de Deis, in a work published in 1588, says: 
"The epitaph and the tomb on which it was engraved lay for a long time concealed from the eyes of visitors, and only in later years it was discovered by the masons engaged in rebuilding S. Peter's." 
Not a fragment of the monument has come down to us, and such was the contempt with which the learned men of the age looked upon these historical monuments, that none of them condescended to give us the details of the discovery. 
"It is deeply to be regretted," says Cardinal Mai, "that such a notable trophy as the tomb of Ceadwalla, the royal catechumen, which was erected and inscribed by Sergius I., disappeared from the Vatican, and was irretrievably lost, together with innumerable monuments of ancient art and piety, owing to the calamities of the times, the avidity of the workmen, and the negligence of the superintendents."
"Ceadwalla's tomb," I quote from Tesoroni, "was not the only monument of Anglo-Saxon interest to be seen in old S. Pietro. 
William of Malmesbury and other chroniclers mention two other kings, Offa of Essex, and Coenred of Mercia, as having renounced their crowns and embraced the monastic life in one of the Vatican cloisters. They were also buried in the Paradise near the Popes' Corner. 
It is doubtful whether king Ina, who succeeded Ceadwalla, and his queen, Aethelburga, were buried in the same place, or in the Anglo-Saxon quarter by the church of S. Maria in Saxia, founded, probably, by Ina himself. 
It is certain, however, that at a later time king Burrhed of Mercia was entombed in the same quarter, and in the same church. The place is still named from the Anglo-Saxons, S. Spirito in Sassia." "

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