Posted by: anna | October 23, 2009

St Paulinus of York

St. Paulinus, archbishop of York (644)

Paulinus of York (d. 644), monk and first bishop of York. He was one of the second group of monks sent to England by Gregory the Great in 601 and became through a favourable political opening the first apostle of Northumbria. This was the request by Edwin, king of Northumbria, to marry Ethelburga, the Christian sister of Edbald, king of Kent. The first answer was that a Christian woman could not be given in marriage to a pagan husband. But when Edwin answered that he would give complete freedom of conscience to Ethelburga and her household, and might even become a Christian himself, consent was given to the marriage. Paulinus was consecrated bishop and went to the north as Ethelburga’s chaplain, but with a hope that the conversion of the Northumbrian king and people would follow. After some years Paulinus baptized Edwin and his infant daughter at Easter 627/8 in a wooden church at York. This had been preceded by the decision of the pagan high-priest Coifi to abandon the service of the pagan gods and was followed by many nobles and others seeking baptism. This was administered by Paulinus in the river Swale, near Catterick and the Glen, near Yeavering with its royal palace, and elsewhere in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. With the deacon, James, he baptized in the Trent at Littleborought, built a church at Lincoln of stone, and consecrated in it Honorius, archbishop of Canterbury (628).

Paulinus’ northern apostolate was cut short by the death of Edwin in the battle of Hatfield Chase in 633 at the hand of the pagan Penda of Mercia and his Welsh Christian ally Cadwallon. Ethelburga returned to Kent; Paulinus, thinking there was no future for Christianity in Northumbria without the king, went with her and, now aged about sixty, acted as bishop of Rochester for the rest of his life. Pope Honorius had sent him the pallium, but Paulinus was already in Kent when it arrived. Bede, on whom we depend for most of our information, described Paulinus as a ‘tall man with a slight stoop, who had black hair, a thin face and a narrow, aquiline nose, his presence being venerable and awe-inspiring’. He died on 10 October , the day observed as his feast, especially in monasteries and in the North. Five ancient churches were dedicated to him. There was also a cult of him at Canterbury and Rochester. The dates of his apostolate are disputed, the latest suggestion being that it began as early as 619 instead of the traditional 625. Attempts have also been made unconvincingly to assert that Edwin was baptized not by Paulinus but by a Welsh bishop; but this story is contradicted by the independent and far more ancient witness both of Bede and of the earliest biographer of Gregory the Great.

Bede, H.E., ii. 9–20, iii, 1 and 14; B. Colgrave, The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great (1968); F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (1943), 113–16; D. P. Kirby, ‘Bede and Northumbrian Chronology’, E.H.R., lxxxviii (1963), 514–27; N. K. Chadwick, Celt and Saxon (1963).

“Paulinus of York” The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Oxford. 23 October 2009


Kontakion (Tone III)
Resplendent with the grace of divine dogmas, as a pastor and teacher of the mysteries of Christ thou didst enlighten souls which languished in heathen gloom, O most blessed one. And working wonders through the power of the Spirit, thou didst manifestly heal infirmities of soul and body. O holy bishop Paulinus, entreat Christ God, that He save our souls.

Holy Father Paulinus, pray to God for us.

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