James the Deacon

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James the Deacon
Died after 671
Honored in

Eastern Orthodox Church

Roman Catholic Church[1]
Anglican Church[2]
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Feast 17 August or 11 October

James the Deacon (died after 671 AD) was an Italian deacon who accompanied Paulinus of York on his mission to Northumbria. He was a member of the Gregorian mission which came to England to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, although when he arrived in England is unknown. After Paulinus left Northumbria, James stayed near Lincoln and continued his missionary efforts, dying sometime after 671 according to the medieval chronicler Bede.

Life[edit]

James was presumably an Italian, like the other members of the Gregorian mission.[3] The dates of his birth and of his arrival in Britain are unknown.[4] He went with Paulinus to Northumbria accompanying Æthelburh, sister of King Eadbald of Kent, who went to Northumbria to marry King Edwin. Traditionally this event is dated to 625, but the historian D. P. Kirby argues that the mission to Northumbria probably happened before 619.[5]

Edwin died in battle at Hatfield fighting against Penda of Mercia and Caedwalla in 633.[6] Edwin had been the main supporter of Paulinus' mission, and with his death, a pagan backlash set in. Paulinus fled to Kent, along with Æthelburg and Edwin and Æthelburg's daughter Eanflæd. James, however, remained behind in Northumbria and continued missionary efforts.[6] James' efforts were centred in Lincoln, at a church that Paulinus had built there, the remains of which may lie under the church of St. Paul-in-the-Bail.[7] This was in the dependent kingdom of Lindsey, where Paulinus had preached prior to Edwin's death,[8] and it was reconquered by one of Edwin's successors, Oswald of Northumbria in the 640s.[9]

Bede writes that James lived in a village near Catterick, which "bears his name to this day".[10] He reports that James undertook missionary work in the area and lived to a great age.[3] During the reign of King Oswiu of Northumbria, James attended the royal court, for he celebrated Easter with Oswiu's queen, Eanflæd, Edwin's daughter. Both James and Eanflæd celebrated Easter on the date used by the Roman church, which led to conflicts with Oswiu, who celebrated Easter on the date calculated by the Irish church. These dates did not always agree, and was one of the reasons that Oswiu called the Synod of Whitby in 664 to decide which system of Easter calculation his kingdom would use.[11]

James was present at the Synod of Whitby, according to Bede's account of events there.[3][a] Bede states that after the synod, and the return of Roman customs, James, as a trained singing master in the Roman and Kentish style, taught many people plainsong or Gregorian chant in the Roman manner.[3]

James' date of death is unknown, but Bede implies that he was still alive during Bede's lifetime, which presumably means that he died after Bede's birth, sometime around 671 or 672. This would mean that he was at least 70 years old at his death.[4] It has been suggested that James was Bede's informant for the life of Edwin, the works of Paulinus, and perhaps for the Synod of Whitby.[13] The historian Frank Stenton calls James "the one heroic figure in the Roman mission".[14] This reflects the fact that many of the Gregorian missionaries had a habit of fleeing when things went wrong.[15]

After his death, James was venerated as a saint. His feast day is 17 August (Catholic)[1] or 11 October (Anglican).[2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Eddius Stephanus' Life of Wilfred does not mention James in his account of the synod.[12]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b "St James the Deacon". Patron Saints Index.  Accessed on 11 March 2009
  2. ^ a b "Parish Church of St James the Deacon". Parish Church of St James the Deacon.  Accessed on 11 March 2009
  3. ^ a b c d Lapidge "James the Deacon" Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England
  4. ^ a b Blair World of Bede p. 98
  5. ^ Mayr-Harting Coming of Christianity pp. 66–67
  6. ^ a b Mayr-Harting Coming of Christianity p. 68
  7. ^ Brooks "From British to English Christianity" Conversion and Colonization p. 22
  8. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 65
  9. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 74
  10. ^ Bede History p. 139
  11. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 87
  12. ^ Eddius Stephanus Life of Wilfrid pp. 116–118
  13. ^ Higham, p. 107
  14. ^ Stenton Anglo-Saxon England p. 116
  15. ^ Mayr-Harting Coming of Christianity p. 75

References[edit]

  • Bede; translated by Leo Sherley-Price (1988). A History of the English Church and People. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044042-9. 
  • Blair, Peter Hunter (1990). The World of Bede (Reprint of 1970 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39819-3. 
  • Brooks, Nicholas (2006). "From British to English Christianity: Deconstructing Bede's Interpretation of the Conversion". In Howe, Nicholas; Karkov, Catherine. Conversion and Colonization in Anglo-Saxon England. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. pp. 1–30. ISBN 0-86698-363-5. 
  • Eddius Stephanus (1998). "Life of Wilfrid". In Webb, J. F. (trans.). The Age of Bede: Bede – Life of Cuthbert, Eddius Stephanus – Life of Wilfrid, Bede – Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, The Anonymous History of Abbot Ceolfrith with the Voyage of St Brendan (Revised ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044727-9. 
  • Higham, N.J., The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350–1100. Stroud: Sutton, 1993. ISBN 0-86299-730-5
  • Kirby, D. P. (2000). The Earliest English Kings. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24211-8. 
  • Lapidge, Michael (2001). "James the Deacon". In Lapidge, Michael; Blair, John; Keynes, Simon; Scragg, Donald. The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-631-22492-1. 
  • Mayr-Harting, Henry (1991). The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00769-9. 
  • Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5.