Our father among the saints Chad
of Lichfield and Mercia (+672)
also called St.
Caedda was a missionary, bishop, healer,
and wonderworker who
spread the Orthodox Catholic Faith throughout the British
Isles. His feast
commemorated on March
The Simple Monastic
Everything we know of this great hierarch comes from the
writings of St. Bede in
his "Ecclesiastical History", written in 731.
St. Chad, the youngest of four brothers, was born into a
humble Northumbrian family near the beginning of the seventh
century. His brothers, St. Cedd,
St. Cynebil and
righteous Caelin all
became monks. A family of saints, these four men studied
under the great sainted-hierarch and monk, Aidan
of Lindisfarne. Saint Aidan was a great source of
spiritual insight to these four men, all four became priests
of the holy Church. They were sent to Ireland under the
great geron (elder)
and saint, Egbert,
at the monastery of Rathmelsige (Melfont), for advanced
study and training in the monastic life.
Chad worked tirelessly with his brother Cedd (who had been
made bishop of London), they established the monastery of
Laestingaeu, now Lastingham in Yorkshire. Upon the death of
his brother Cedd in 664, Chad succeeded him as abbot.
The Humble Bishop
St. Wilfrid was
chosen to become bishop of Lindisfarne after
the death of bishop Tudi. He travelled to Gaul for
consecration and remained so long absent that King Oswiu
(ruler of Northumbria) demanded a bishop. Having learned of
the missionary exploits and great humility of Chad, called
for his election as Bishop of York, to which place the See of
Lindisfarne had been transferred.
St. Chad was consecrated (uncanonically)
by Bishop Wini of Worcester and two schismatic British
bishops to the See of York.
Saint Chad was hesitant to be bishop, he wanted no part of
it, but ultimately he was obedient. As bishop of York, he
was much beloved by his flock, travelling great distances on
foot to care for his "little sheep." When St. Wilfrid
returned to York and found out his See was given away, he
made no objection and retired to a monastery in peace.
Saint Chad, a Celtic Bishop, played a huge role in unifying
the Church in 664 by accepting and recommending to his
fellow bishops the adoption of the Orthodox Nicene calendar.
In the year 668, Saint Theodore
of Tarsus assumed
the central Cathedra and
of Canterbury and
immediately sought about reforming the churches in England
and Ireland. Up until this time, the Church in the Isles was
not following proper canonical order set down by the
Ecumenical Councils. St. Theodore of Tarsus was sent by the
Pope of Rome to restore order in the British and Irish
churches. Saint Theodore was a wise bishop and a deeply
spiritual monastic. While travelling to York he was shocked
to find that St. Wilfrid was not the canonical bishop
of York. The consecration of St. Chad was uncanonical due to
three points made by St. Theodore:
British bishops refused to acknowledge the canonical
(Julian) Church calendar established by the Ecumenical
Council of Nicea (of which Rome and the four Eastern
Patriarchates adhered to)
bishops were out of communion with the Universal Church.
improperly performed consecration ceremony.
St. Theodore decided that in good church order, St. Chad
must give up the See of York to it's rightfully elected
bishop, St. Wilfrid. St. Chad in astounding humility
responded, "If you decide that I have not rightly received
the episcopal character, I willingly lay down the office;
for I have never thought myself worthy of it, but under
obedience, I, though unworthy, consented to undertake it."
Seeing in him a true bishop, a man of such humble and
angelic character, St. Theodore pleaded with Chad to
continue in his archpastoral ministry. St. Theodore provided
what was lacking from St. Chad's consecration ("ipse
ordinationem ejus denuo catholica ratione consummavit" -
Bede, Hist. Eccl. IV, 2) and
completed the rite according to the Orthodox Roman Rubricon.
St. Wilfrid remained as bishop of York and St. Chad returned
to his monastery in Lastingham (images below).
Lastingham - the Monastery and the underground Crypt
with ancient Altar
In 669, King Wulfere demanded a bishop for his people in
Mercia. St. Chad was called on by St. Theodore of Tarsus to
be archpastor of the Mercian people. Mercia was a land of
deeply rooted pagan beliefs, and a large area at that. St.
Chad considered this to be his true work, bringing the
Mercian people to Christ. He soon discovered that a great
persecution occurred on the plains of Lichfield, deep within
the Mercian lands. The Roman emperor Diocletian had
exterminated 1000 martyrs on the plains of Lichfield in the
year 303A.D, they are known as the Martyrs of Lichfield. St.
Chad considering this to be a holy place moved the See of
Mercia from Repton to
the exact spot of the massacre in Lichfield, where his new
diocesan Cathedral and Monastery were to built. St. Chad is
considered the first bishop of Lichfield.
As Bishop of Lichfield, Chad carried out his missionary and
pastoral work with zeal. The kingdom of Mercia was huge, and
Chad spent much of his time travelling by foot. In
accordance with the Celtic tradition, in which he had been
brought up, he at first insisted on making all journeys on
foot, following the example of the apostles. However, St.
Theodore insisted that Chad used a horse for long journeys.
St. Chad, unwilling to do anything that he felt would put
him above the common man, refused, but Theodore, St. Bede
tells us, "lifted Chad bodily onto the horse himself."
His exploits were known throughout all Mercia, St. Chad was
known to have retired, from time to time, to the bottom of a
smalll well where he could contemplate and "pray without
ceasing." The people would say that they knew when St. Chad
was in his well, "a light like that of the sun, would shine
from the bottom of the well." St. Chad was seen in the
uncreated light by countless many. His humble prayers could
easily cure illnesses and demonic possession. A gifted man
of prayer he was also a source of forgiveness even to those
who would seek his destruction.
King Wulfere was a pagan, but also a good statesman. He used
Christianity to control his subjects, he secretly despised
the Faith. One day, the sons of Wulfere, Princes Wulfade and
Ruffin were out hunting a dear near the saint's cell, when
they approached the saint and asked about "the One called
Jesus". So struck by the holy elder's words they both asked
to be immediately baptised into Christ's holy Church.
Wulfere, so enraged by the actions of his sons, killed them
with his own hands. Afterwards, filled with such remorse the
King suffered in both body and spirit by the loss of his
children. He was counselled by his queen to ask the holy
elder to forgive
him and to hear his confession. As he approached the holy
hierarch's cell he was witness to a great sight, the uncreated
light of Tabor that
shown upon the saint's visage. The king fell down in
prostrate and begged his forgiveness and to truly bring
him into the Orthodox Christian faith. As a penance for the
murder of his children, the saint told him to build churches
and monasteries in the name of Jesus Christ. He did so, and
up until the end of the saint's earthly life, King Wulfere
remained a humble servant of the holy elder.
The Seer of Angels
Owini, a novice monk under St. Chad's care, was working
alone in the fields near Chad's residence. When he heard the
sound of singing apparently descending from the sky to the
rectory where the saint was praying. The angelic chanting could
be heard for half an hour before returning heavenwards. Chad
then summoned his monks and, after urging them to live good
Christian lives and to continue in keeping the rules of
monastic discipline, announced that he would soon die. When
the other fathers had gone away, Owini returned to Chad and
begged to know what the singing had been that he had heard.
St. Chad replied that he had been visited by angelic hosts
summoning him to heaven and that the angels would return in
seven days to take him to heaven. He then commanded the
young monk to tell no one of this until after his death.
St. Chad was quickly taken ill (probably
by the plague) and
on the seventh day (March 2, 672), "his
holy soul was released from the prison-house of the body
and, one may rightly believe, was taken by the angels to the
joys of heaven".
St. Chad was bishop of Lichfield and Mercia for just three
years; his emulation of Christ ended as it began.
Bede goes on to tell us that he was called "saint"
immediately after his death. Miracles and cures of all
ailments occurred at the place of his death, his reliquary,
his well and anywhere his holy relics travelled.
(His holy relics are preserved in the Roman Catholic
Cathedral that bears his name in Birmingham, England.)
Historical information on Saint Chad and
St Chad was the first bishop of Mercia and Lindsey at
Lichfield. He was the brother of Cedd, whom he succeeded
as Abbot of Lastingham, North Yorkshire, and a disciple
of Aidan who sent him to Ireland as part of his
education. Chad was chosen by Oswi, king of Northumbria,
as bishop of the Northumbrian see, while Wilfrid, who
had been chosen for Deira by the sub-king Alcfrith, was
absent in Gaul seeking consecration shortly after the
Synod of Whitby (663/4). Faced with a dearth of bishops
in England, Chad was unwise enough to be consecrated by
the simoniacal Wine of Dorchester, assisted by two
dubious British bishops. Wilfrid on his return to
England in 666, found that Alcfrith was dead or exiled
and retired to Ripon, leaving Chad in occupation. But in
669 Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, restored Wilfrid
to York and deposed Chad (who retired to Lastingham),
but soon reconsecrated him to be bishop of the Mercians.
This unusual step was due both to the new opening for
Christianity in Mercia and to the excellent character of
Chad himself, whom both Eddius and Bede recognised as
being unusually humble, devout, zealous and apostolic.
Chad's episcopate of three years laid the foundations of
the see of Lichfield according to the decrees of
Theodore's council at Hertford, which established
diocesan organisation. Wulfhere, king of Mercia, gave
him fifty hides of land for a monastery at Barow (Lincolnshire);
he also established a monastery close to Lichfield
Chad died on March 2nd 672 and was
buried in the Church of St Mary. At once, according to
Bede, he was venerated as a saint and his relics were
translated to the Cathedral Church of St Peter. Cures
were claimed in both churches. Bede described his first
shrine as 'a wooden coffin in the shape of a little
house with an aperture in the side through which the
devout can...take out some of the dust, which they put
into water and give to sick cattle or men to drink, upon
which they are presently eased of their infirmity and
restored to health'.
His relics were translated in 1148
and moved to the Lady Chapel in 1296. An even more
splendid shrine was built by Robert Stretton, bishop of
Lichfield (1360-85) of marble substructure with feretory
adorned with gold and precious stones. Rowland Lee,
bishop of Lichfield (1534-43), pleaded with Henry VIII
to spare the shrine: this was done, but only for a time.
At some unknown date the head and some other bones had
been separated from the main shrine. Some of these, it
was claimed, were preserved by recusants, and four large
bones, believed to be Chad's are in the Roman Catholic
cathedral of Birmingham.
original shrine of the Saint
A fine Mercian illuminated Gospel
Book of the 8th century called the Gospels of St Chad
was probably associated with his shrine, as the
Lindisfarne Gospels were associated with the shrine of
St Cuthbert; it is now in Lichfield Cathedral Library.
The 11th century shrine list mentions the relics of Cedd
and Hedda resting at Lichfield with Chad. Thirty-three
ancient churches and several wells (image below) were
dedicated to St Chad, mainly in the Midlands. There are
also several modern dedications.
Saint Chad's well