Agilbert

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Saint Agilbert
Died 10 March 673
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Abbey of Jouarre
Feast 11 October

Agilbert (floruit circa 650–680 AD) was the second bishop of the West Saxon kingdom and later bishop of Paris. Son of a Neustrian noble named Betto, he was a first cousin of Audoin and related to the Faronids and Agilolfings,[1] and less certainly to the Merovingians.[2] His name, the Frankish language equivalent of Æthelberht, has been taken to suggest a link with the royal family of the Kingdom of Kent.[3]

Agilbert was consecrated as a bishop in Francia before he travelled to Britain. He arrived in the West Saxon kingdom after the return to power of King Cenwalh of Wessex, who had been driven out by Penda of Mercia, either in the late 640s or 650s. He was appointed to succeed Birinus as bishop of the West Saxons, or bishop of Dorchester. Agilbert, according to Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, had "spent a long time in Ireland for the purpose of studying the Scriptures".[4] His appointment was due to Cenwalh.[5]

From Bede, it appears that Agilbert did not speak Old English, and it is said that his see was divided in two, with Wine being given half, because King Cenwalh "tired of his barbarous speech",[4] although this may be mistaken.[6] This insult supposedly led to Agilbert's resignation. He then travelled north to Northumbria, where he ordained Wilfrid.[7] He was present at the Synod of Whitby in 664, where he led the pro-Roman party, but he had the young Wilfrid speak on his behalf.[8]

The charter of Clotilde, 10 March 673, endowing the monastery of Bruyères-le-Châtel; witnessed by Agilbert, this is his last appearance in the historical record

Returning to Francia, Agilbert later took part in Wilfrid's consecration as a bishop at Compiègne.[9] Agilbert became bishop of Paris between 666 and 668, and hosted Theodore of Tarsus. He was later invited to return by Cenwalh, to become bishop of Winchester, but sent his nephew Leuthhere in his place.[10]

One modern historian, D. P. Kirby, is unsure if Agilbert actually went to Northumbria after being expelled from Dorchester, suggesting it is just as likely that he went directly to the continent.[5]

Agilbert died at some time after 10 March 673, on which date he witnessed Clotilde's foundation charter for the Abbey of Bruyères-le-Châtel, and probably between 679 and 690. He was buried at Jouarre Abbey where his sister Theodechildis was abbess. His fine sculpted sarcophagus can be seen there in the crypts, as can that of his sister.[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Le Jan, pp. 382, notes 6, 388, & 390–391, table 48. Le Jan shows that Agilbert's first cousins included Saints Audoin and Dado, the future Bishop Ebregisil of Meaux, and Agilberta, the second abbess of Jouarre.
  2. ^ Fouracre.
  3. ^ Fouracre states: "[h]is very name was the Frankish form of Æthelberht...". Le Jan, however, takes his name to indicate kinship with the Agilolfings; Le Jan, p. 388.
  4. ^ a b Bede, HE, Book III, Chapter 7.
  5. ^ a b Kirby Earliest English Kings pp. 48-49
  6. ^ Higham, p. 255.
  7. ^ Eddius, VW, chapter 9.
  8. ^ Bede, HE, Book III, Chapter 25; Eddius, VW, chapter 10.
  9. ^ Eddius, VW, chapters 11 & 12.
  10. ^ a b Fouracre; Riché.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hammer, Carl I. (2011–2012). "‘Holy Entrepreneur’: Agilbert, a Merovingian Bishop between Ireland, England and Francia". Peritia. 22-23: 53–82. doi:10.1484/J.PERIT.1.103280. 
Religious titles
Preceded by
Birinus
Bishop of Dorchester
circa 650–660
Succeeded by
Ætla
Preceded by
Importunus
Bishop of Paris
666x668–679x690
Succeeded by
Sigefrid