Ceolwulf of Northumbria

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Ceolwulf of Northumbria
King of Northumbria
Reign729 – 737
Born7th Century
Ceolwulf of Northumbria
King, Monk
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Feast15 January

Saint Ceolwulf was King of Northumbria from 729 until 737, except for a short period in 731 or 732 when he was deposed, and quickly restored to power. Ceolwulf finally abdicated and entered the monastery at Lindisfarne. He was the "most glorious king" to whom Bede dedicated his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.


Ceowulf was born around 695 in Northumbria.[1] His ancestry is thus given by the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle": "Ceolwulf was the son of Cutha, Cutha of Cuthwin, Cuthwin of Leoldwald, Leoldwald of Egwald, Egwald of Aldhelm, Aldhelm of Ocga, Ocga of Ida, Ida of Eoppa."[2] Ceolwulf's brother, Coenred, seized the Northumbrian throne in AD 716.[3] Coenred ruled for two years when Osric, the last of the House of Aethelric, claimed the throne and ruled for ten years. In 729, shortly before his death, Osric nominated Ceolwulf as his successor.

He consulted the Venerable Bede for advice on important matters.[1] While praising Ceolwulf's piety, Bede also expressed some reservations regarding Ceowulf's ability to rule. Ceolwulf was a man with deep monastic interests, and perhaps little suited to affairs of state. Bede dedicated his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum ("History of the English Church") to Ceolwulf in 731.[3]

The beginning of his reign was disturbed by factions and rebellion, and that same year he was forcibly seized by his enemies and compelled to receive the monastic tonsure.[4] He was deposed for a short period, but quickly restored. The details of the attempted coup are unclear. Bishop Acca of Hexham is said to have been deprived of his see, which suggests he may have supported Ceowulf's opponents.[1]

Ceolwulf named his cousin Ecgbert to the see of York around 732[5] (other sources date the appointment to 734).[6]

It has been suggested that Ceolwulf had spent time in Ireland, perhaps studying to enter into religion. As king, he had endowed the monastery at Lindisfarne with many gifts. He obtained a special dispensation for the monks which allowed the consumption of beer and wine, contrary to the established Celtic practice which limited beverages to water and milk.[3]

In 737 Ceolwulf abdicated in favor of his first cousin Eadberht, to retire to Lindisfarne.[4] His death is recorded in the winter of 764–765. Bishop Ecgred of Lindisfarne translated Ceolwulf's relics to the rebuilt Church of SS. Peter, Cuthbert, and Ceolwulf at Norham.[4][7]

He was later canonized, and his feast day is 15 January.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Odden, Per Einer. "The Holy Ceolwulf of Northumbria (~ 695-764)", The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oslo, May 26, 2004
  2. ^ Hind, George. "Ceolwulf." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 18 May 2013
  3. ^ a b c "St. Ceolwulf, King of Northumbria (c.AD 695-764)", Britannia Biographies
  4. ^ a b c Stanton, Richard. A Menology of England and Wales, Burns & Oates, 1887, p. 20 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X, p. 224
  6. ^ Yorke, Barbara (1997). Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16639-X, p. 188 footnote 107
  7. ^ Hodges, Charles Clement. "The Pre-Conquest Churches of Northumbria", The Reliquary, April 1893, p. 84
  8. ^ Catholic Online. "St. Ceolwulf of Northumbria - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2012-01-16.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bede (1994), McClure, Judith; Collins, Roger, eds., The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Oxford World Classics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-953723-2
  • Fraser, James E. (2009), From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795, New Edinburgh History of Scotland, I, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 978-0-7486-1232-1
  • Higham, N. J. (1993), The Kingdom of Northumbria AD 350–1100, Stroud: Sutton, ISBN 0-86299-730-5
  • Higham, N. J. (2006), (Re-)Reading Bede: The Ecclesiastical History in context, Abingdon: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-35368-8
  • Kirby, D. P. (1991), The Earliest English Kings, London: Unwin Hyman, ISBN 0-04-445691-3
  • Marsden, J. (1992), Northanhymbre Saga: The History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Northumbria, London: Cathie, ISBN 1-85626-055-0
  • Yorke, Barbara (1990), Kings and Kingdoms in Early Anglo-Saxon England, London: Seaby, ISBN 1-85264-027-8
  • Yorke, Barbara (2006), The Conversion of Britain: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain c. 600–800, London: Longman, ISBN 0-582-77292-3

External links[edit]

Preceded by
King of Northumbria Succeeded by