27th May 668 CE. The Church Triumphant.

The Establishment: Church and State, historically a tension seen in King, Barons and Church contending for power based on land ownership and supported by tithes and other taxes extorted from the people.

After the fall of Empire it was the Roman Church, which stepped briskly into the vacuum, keen to adapt the secular trappings under one Emperor, into one God-head. (1)

Thus following in the steps of the Legions, and Augustine his predecessor at Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus set off Today in 668, arriving here a year later to the day, to become archbishop. (2)

Theodore’s grave at Canterbury, simply marked.

Theodore arrived in Canterbury rather than London owing to that city being in the hands of the East Saxons where the king was less favourable to Christianity, as opposed to his Kent counterpart. London was not set to have a bishop or cathedral until the next century.

Theodore arrived at a difficult time of conflict between bishops Wilfred and Chad, causing him to depose both from their Sees at different times. Also all but three of the bishoprics were vacant.

He was also forced to summon a Synod to deal with the heretical teaching of eastern Emperor Heraclius of monothelitism, which denied that Jesus had a human will.

The new Primate reduced the size of dioceses in sparsely populated areas such as East Anglia, and was eventually to make Canterbury the centre of the most accomplished school of biblical studies between the fall of Rome and the rise of the medieval universities.

The stage was set for a thousand years of powerful, vastly inflated Orders of Clerks in Holy Orders, dressed in the style of the Roman, as a mosaic in Ravenna reveals where Archbishop Maximiniarus appears on the right of the Emperor, in vestments not unlike modern high church clergy.

Plan of foundations of Saxon Canterbury Cathedral show it to have been as large as the present building.

Basilica sites became enormous cathedrals, as at Canterbury, after the Norman Conquest to be supported financially by the Parish System of a church, which became the owner of great swathes of land exacting tithes and other impositions.

The Church controlled education empowering the clergy, so granting a monopoly through literacy, on monastic copying and translating of the Bible, a process started by Jerome in the 5th century.

Clerics thus as the only literate members of society were destined to seamlessly control the machinations of  medieval state administration, an influence which continues indirectly, as bishops, of a reformed church, still sit in the House of Lords. 

(1) The Western Roman Empire went into decline when the German chieftain Odoacer forced the Emperor Romulus Augustulus to abdicate in 476.

(2) Church control then was at ‘arms’ length’, as the Synod of 987 at Cealchythe, Kent called by Offa and Beorhtric of Wessex, attended by a Papal Legate, was the only time in Saxon times when a Papal representative came to an English Church Council.


wikipedia.org. theodore_of_tarsus.

archaeology.co.uk. canterbury-cathedral/Pic.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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