Posted by: anna | June 23, 2011

St Ithamar, bishop of Rochester

Today (10 June) in the calendar of early British saints we commemorate St Ithamar, 1st English bishop of Rochester (+ ca. 656). The only other time I’ve come across the name Ithamar (in its Old Testament context) is in Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno, initially via its brilliant setting by Benjamin Britten, Rejoice in the Lamb. He strikes me as rather important in the early history of Christianity in Britain as he was the first Saxon-born bishop consecrated in England, and in his turn consecrated the first Saxon-born Archbishop of Canterbury. And his predecessor as Bishop of Rochester (or Bishop of Kent or however they may have put it in those days) was Paulinus of York, who baptised Hilda of Whitby. And thus we get into the Roman/Saxon vs Celtic history of the Church in these islands. It’s never been simple!

There is a chapel bearing his name in the crypt of Rochester Cathedral.

ODNB theme ‘Gregorian Mission’ to Britain ca 600 AD. I think the ODNB’s themes are freely available without subscription, though the individual biographies are not.

Holy Father Ithamar, pray to God for us.

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