Posted by: anna | November 2, 2009

St Acca of Hexham

Today we commemorate St. Acca, bishop of Hexham in the mid 8th century. We have already encountered his name in the story of St Osyth of Chich.

from Baring-Gould:

S. Acca, according to Simeon of Durham, was a disciple of Bosa, Bishop of York. He became an attached follower of the turbulent Wilfrid, attended him to Rome, and was with him when he died at Oundle.” Acca, Wilfrid’s priest,” says Bede, who knew him personally, “succeeded Wilfrid in the bishopric of the church of Hexham; being himself a most active man, and great in the sight of God and man. He much adorned and added to the structure of his church, which is dedicated to the Apostle S. Andrew. For he made it his business, and does so still, to procure relics of the blessed apostles and martyrs of Christ from all parts, to place them on altars, dividing the same by arches in the walls of the church. Besides which he diligently gathered the histories of their sufferings, together with other ecclesiastical writings, and erected there a most numerous and noble library. He likewise industriously provided holy vessels, light, and such like things as appertain to the adorning of the house of God. He in like manner invited to him a celebrated singer, called Maban, who had been taught to sing by the successors of the blessed Gregory in Kent, for him to instruct himself and his clergy; and kept him twelve years, to teach such ecclesiastical songs as were not known, and to restore those to their former state which were corrupted either by want of use, or through neglect. For Bishop Acca was himself a most expert singer, as well as most learned in Holy Writ, most pure in the confession of the Catholic faith, and most observant in the rules of ecclesiastical institutions; nor did he ever cease to be so till he received the rewards of his pious devotion, having been bred up and instructed among the clergy of the most holy and beloved of God, Bosa, Bishop of York. Afterwards, going to Bishop Wilfrid in hopes of improving himself, he spent the rest of his life under him till that bishop’s death, and going with him to Rome, learned there many profitable things concerning the government of the holy Church, which he could not have learned in his own country.”

The Saxon Chronicle gives ad. 710 as the date of Acca’s succession to the bishopric of Hexham, and adds under date 733, that then Acca was expelled from his bishopric, but why is not said. This is the date of the capture and tonsure of Ceolwulf, King of Northumbria, and the banishment of Acca may have been political. Acca and Bede were friends, and Bede dedicated to him many of the most important of his commentaries on the Scriptures, composed at his desire. According to Richard of Hexham, it was said that he retired to Whitern [Whithorn, Candida Casa], and that he survived his banishment eight years. As Richard appears to have used original documents,
we may perhaps consider the date he gives, AD 740, as the most authentic, though the Saxon Chronicle says he died in A.D. 737. His body was translated to Hexham, to be buried in the church which owed to him so much of its beauty.


Yesterday Fr Stephen was preaching on St Frideswide (+735), and mentioned the interesting fact that the British isles already had a long history of saints and missionary work and indigenous Christianity 250 years before the evangelization of Russia (in 988). This made me think that I want to read a great deal more of church history, to find out how we came to where we are.

Holy St Acca, pray to God for us.


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