Council of Hertford
The Council of Hertford was a synod of the Christian Church in England held in 673. It was convened, either at Hertford or at Hartford, Cambridgeshire, by Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is regarded as a key milestone in the process by which the province of Canterbury became a clearly defined unit of Church organization, for the English bishops.
Besides Theodore, there were four other bishops present: Leuthere of Wessex, Putta of Rochester, Bifus of East Anglia and Winfrith of Mercia. A fifth bishop, Wilfrid of Northumbria, sent proctors to represent him. Some organizational changes were agreed to, including the subdivision of Mercia.
- Theodore of Canterbury
- Putta, Bishop of Rochester
- Eleutherius, Bishop of the west Saxons
- Winfrid, Bishop of Mercia.
- Wilfrid of Northumbria was represented by delegates.
- Bisi, Bishop of the East Angles
- Chapter I. "That we all unite in observing the holy day of Easter on the Sunday after the fourteenth day of the moon of the first month."
- Chapter 2. "That no bishop intrude into the diocese of another, but confine himself to the guidance of the people committed to his charge."
- Chapter 3. "That no bishop shall interfere in any way with monasteries dedicated to God, nor take anything from them forcibly."
- Chapter 4. "That monks shall not wander from place to place, that is, from monastery to monastery, except with letters dimissory from their own abbot; and that they keep the promise of obedience which they made at the time of their profession."
- Chapter 5. "That no clergy shall leave their own bishop and wander about at will, nor be received anywhere without letters of commendation from their own bishop. And should such a person, once received, refuse to return when so directed, both receiver and received shall incur excommunication.
- Chapter 6. "That bishops and clergy when traveling shall be content with whatever hospitality is offered them; and that it is unlawful to exercise any priestly function without permission from the bishop in whose diocese they are."
- Chapter 7. "That a synod be held twice a year." In view of various obstacles, however, it was unanimously agreed that we should meet once a year on the first of August at Clofeshoch.
- Chapter 8. "That no bishop claim precedence over another out of ambition: seniority of consecration shall alone determine precedence."
- Chapter 9. It was generally determined, "That more bishops shall be consecrated as the number of the faithful increases." But we shall take no action in the matter for the present.
- Chapter 10 On marriages: "That lawful wedlock alone is permissible; incest is forbidden; and no man may leave his lawful wife except, as the gospel provides, for fornication. And if a man puts away his own wife who is joined to him in lawful marriage, he may not take another if he wishes to be a good Christian. He must either remain as he is, or else be reconciled to his wife."
The Council confirmed the adoption of the Roman dating of Easter (see synod of Whitby), the prohibition of episcopal interference from one diocese to another or in monastic orders, and imposed strictures on monks or clergy who wandered from diocese to diocese. The now current practice of requiring clergy to obtain permission to officiate from the diocesan bishop was introduced.
In view of the parlous state of the church in England, more regular synodical meetings were proposed, and the expansion of dioceses following growth through conversion. Finally, it ruled against divorce in most cases, allowing only exceptions under what were regarded as scriptural rules.
- Cyril Heath (1971), The First Unity, The Story of the Synod of Hertford, A.D. 673
- Mention in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
- Munby, Lionel M. (1977) The Hertfordshire Landscape, p. 91. Hodder and Stoughton, London. ISBN 0-340-04459-4
- Church Society - Issues - History - Synod of Hertford
- Archaeological Study Tours by Archaeology in Europe
- Synod of Hertford at Church society.org.
- Bede's History, Book IV, Chapter 5.