Posted by: anna | May 25, 2010

St Æthelheard

Icon image of St Aethelheard taken from the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries, also on WSIP. Icon by the hand of Sheila (Thekla) Read, of Grimsby, England. This icon appears on the iconostasis of the Church of St. Aethelheard in Louth.

Today (12 May) we commemorate St Æthelheard (Athelhard, Ethelhard), 14th archbishop of Canterbury (805). How did Dr Baring-Gould skate past an Archbishop of Canterbury? He barely rates a mention in the ‘additional saints’ section of the index volume! Let down by the usual sources (not in Stanton either, by any spelling, as far as I can tell), I reproduce one of the short lives provided by celt-saints, linked below:

Died at Canterbury, England, c. 803-805. Some sources state that Saint Ethelhard was abbot of Louth in Lincolnshire and a bishop of Winchester, England, before he was elevated to archbishop of Canterbury; however, Farmer says that he was not bishop of Winchester. His elevation to Canterbury’s episcopal throne occurred just after King Offa and the pope divided the see to establish that of Lichfield. At first Ethelhard was unacceptable to his Kentish flock because it had just fallen under the domination of Mercia.

In 796, Offa died, Kent revolted, and Ethelhard was forced to flee. Through the intervention of Blessed Alcuin (f.d. May 19), Ethelhard was restored to Canterbury the following year. In 802, Pope Saint Leo III re-established Canterbury to its former status, put aside the idea of moving the metropolitan see to London, and abolished the see of Lichfield.

Ethelhard convened the synod of Clovesho (Beccanceld) in 803, which mandated that each newly elected bishop make a written profession of orthodoxy and pledge obedience to his metropolitan bishop. The Anglo-Saxon Church held several Councils at Clovesho and some account of them may be read at

At his death Ethelhard was buried in Canterbury’s cathedral, where he is venerated primarily for having overseen the restoration of the see. His was one of the Anglo-Saxon cults suppressed by the Norman Lanfranc because there were no written documents of his life. [Lanfranc was notoriously unsympathetic to any manifestations of the pre-Norman church in Britain.] When no later writer picked up the challenge, Ethelhard’s cultus seems to have died. There are, however, extant letters from Alcuin and Pope Leo to Saint Ethelhard (Benedictines, Farmer).


Troparion in tone IV
Archbishop of Canterbury and Abbot of Louth
Champion of the Church in troubled times
O Father Bishop Aethelheard
Teach us to guard the True Faith
And worship the Trinity
Holy and Undivided
Pray to the Lord that our souls may be saved.

Orthodox parish of St Æthelheard in Louth, Lincolnshire
ODNB (subscription service)

Holy St Aethelheard, pray to God for us.


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