A Tale of Adomnan and Fínsnechta the Generous, King of Brega

Fínsnechta was King of Mag Breg for 20 years (675-695)  including when the Northumbrians raided Brega in 684 and Adomnan later redeemed the hostages. Fínsnechta and his son were assassinated in 695. A Bóroma is apparently a type of tribute, probably cattle tribute. I have to wonder why Adomnan cared about Finsnechta’s cattle tribute unless Adomnan’s monastery(s) benefited from it.

From the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland [CELT edition, FA 67]:

II It was not long afterwards that Fínnachta came with a large horsetroop to the house of one of his sisters, having been invited by the sister, and owing her a visit in return. As they were going on the journey, they met Adamnán, then a young scholar, travelling on the same road, with a jug full of milk on his back, and as he was running out of the way of the horse-troop his foot struck against a stone, and he fell with the jug so that it was broken to bits; and though the horses were swift, Adamnán was no slower with his broken jug on his back, and he sad and gloomy. When Fínnachta saw him, he burst out laughing, and he was saying to Adamnán, ‘That will make you joyful, for I am willing to make good every injury in my power. You will receive compensation for it from me, student,’ said Fínnachta, ‘so do not be sad.’ Adamnán said: ‘Nobleman,’ said he, ‘I have reason for grief, for there are three noble scholars in the same house, and they have us as three servants, and one of the servants goes out looking for sustenance for the other five men; and it fell to me to gather things for them today; what I had intended for them fell to the ground, and there is something more grievous, that is, the borrowed jug has broken, and I do not have the price of it.’ ‘I will pay for the jug,’ said Fínnachta, ‘and you bring with you tonight, to the house where we are going, the five who are without food, depending on you; and they will receive food and drink from us.’

That was done accordingly; they brought the other four clerics, and the ale-house was arranged, half of the house for clerics and the other half for laymen. Adamnán’s tutor was filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of prophecy, and he said, ‘The man who has given this banquet will be the High King of Ireland, and Adamnán will be the head of piety and wisdom of Ireland, and he will be Fínnachta’s confessor, and Fínnachta will be in great prosperity until he gives offense to Adamnán.’ ….

… A battle was then fought hard and heroically between them, i.e. between Cenn Fáelad and Fínnachta, in Aircheltair, and Cenn Fáelad was killed there, and many along with him. Then Fínnachta took the kingship of Ireland for twenty years.IV It was that Fínnachta who remitted the Bóroma to MoLing, after it had been levied by forty kings previously, i.e. from Tuathal Techtmar to Fínnachta. MoLing came on behalf of all the Laigin to seek remission of the Bóroma from Fínnachta. Now MoLing asked Fínnachta to remit the Bóroma for a day and a night. Fínnachta accordingly remitted the Bóroma for a day and a night. To MoLing that was the same as remitting it forever: for there is nothing in time but day and night. However, Fínnachta had thought that it was for one day and one night only. MoLing went out and said, ‘You have granted a stay of it forever.’ And on the previous day MoLing had promised heaven to Fínnachta.

Then Fínnachta understood that MoLing had tricked him, and he said to his followers, ‘Rise up,’ he said, ‘after the holy man who has left me, and tell him that I granted a stay of but one day and one night to him, for it seems to me that the holy man has deceived me, since there is nothing except day and night in the whole world.’ When MoLing knew that they were coming after him, he ran swiftly and speedily till he reached his house, and the king’s attendants did not catch up with him at all.

Others say that MoLing brought a poem with him to Fínnachta, namely Fínnachta over the Uí Neill, etc. (That is written in the Bóroma in this book). So the Bóroma was remitted to MoLing forever, and although Fínnachta regretted that, he was not able to levy it, for it was for the sake of heaven that he had remitted it. And this is truer.

In the fifteenth year from this year Fínnachta remitted the Bóroma. Adamnán came to see Fínnachta immediately after MoLing, and he sent a cleric from his retinue for Fínnachta, that he might come to talk with him. Fínnachta was playing fidchell at that time. ‘Come and talk to Adamnán,’ said the cleric. ‘I will not go until this game is over,’ answered Fínnachta. The cleric came to Adamnán, and told him Fínnachta’s reply. ‘Go to him, and tell him: I will sing fifty psalms meanwhile, and there is a psalm in that fifty in which I shall pray to the Lord that neither son nor descendant of yours, nor any man of the same name, shall ever take the kingship of Ireland.’

The cleric went and said that to Fínnachta, and Fínnachta paid no attention to it, but played his fidchell until the game was finished. ‘Come and talk to Adamnán, Fínnachta,’ said the cleric. ‘I will not go,’ said Fínnachta, ‘until this game is finished.’

FA 67

The cleric told that to Adamnán. ‘Tell him,’ said Adamnán, ‘that I shall sing fifty psalms during that time, and there is a special psalm among that fifty, and in that psalm I shall ask and demand that the Lord shorten his life.’

The cleric told that to Fínnachta, and Fínnachta paid it no attention, but played his fidchell until the game was finished. ‘Come and talk to Adamnán,’ said the cleric. ‘I will not go,’ said Fínnachta, ‘until this game is over.’

The cleric came back, and he told Adamnán Fínnachta’s answer. ‘Go to him,’ said Adamnán, ‘and tell him that I will sing the third fifty, and there is a special psalm in that fifty, and I will pray the Lord in that psalm that he may not reach the kingdom of heaven.’

The cleric returned to Fínnachta, and reported that. When Fínnachta heard it, he abruptly threw the fidchell from him and came to Adamnán. ‘What has brought you to me now,’ asked Adamnán, ‘since you did not come at the other messages?’ ‘This is my reason,’ answered Fínnachta; ‘the threats that you made against me before, that is, that neither son nor grandson should succeed me, and that no man of my name should hold the kingship of Ireland, or that my life should be shortened—those seemed light to me. But when you promised to deprive me of heaven, it was on that account that I came immediately to talk to you, because I cannot bear this.’ ‘Is it true,’ asked Adamnán, ‘that you have remitted the Bóroma day and night to MoLing?’ ‘It is true,’ answered Fínnachta. ‘You have been deceived,’ said Adamnán; ‘that is the same as remitting it forever.’ He was reproaching him like that, and he sang the lay:

  1. Although the withered, gray-haired, toothless king
    arrays himself today,
    he does not obtain the cattle—proper to the king—
    that he remitted to MoLing.
  2. If I were Fínnachta,
    and I were lord of Temair,
    I would never give it;
    I would not do what he has done.
  3. Every king who does not remit his tribute,
    long-lived are his legends;
    alas, that he has granted the award he has granted;
    he who is weak is shameful.
  4. Your wisdoms and our follies
    have ended with wrong-doing;
    woe to the king who has remitted his tributes,
    oh celestial Jesus of heaven.
  5. A person is famous while he is in control;
    alas for him who clings to old men;

  6. If I were a king who reddens spears,
    I would put down my enemies;
    I would raise my strongholds;
    my wars would be many.
  7. My wars would be many;
    my words would not be false;
    my contracts would be just;
    my territories would be abundant.
  8. My signs would be apparent;
    my contracts would be firm;
    this treaty, although it were an accident,
    I would not allow to the Laigin.
  9. I pray a prayer to God
    that neither death nor danger may come to me;
    may MoLing escape today;
    may he not die by point or edge.

p.33

  1. The son of Faillén, a man across seas,
    he could not be turned back;
    he knows the secrets of the Son of God;
    the Son of God knows his secrets.
  2. Thrice fifty psalms each day
    are what he says for God;
    thrice fifty poor men—course of swiftness—
    are what he feeds each night.
  3. The tree of virtue and fruitfulness,
    the learned one with knowledge,
    a ship of the sea that has received welcome,
    the wave of Berba, the boat of Bressal.
  4. The ship of gold whose quality is excellent,
    the plank of gold over the kindreds,
    the salmon of brown Dubglais,
    the sound of a wave, a wave against cliffs.

After that Fínnachta laid his head in Adamnán’s bosom, and he did penance in his presence, and Adamnán forgave him the remission of the Bóroma.

Adomnan, Cuthbert, and King Aldfrith

St Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral

I was really looking forward to Barbara Yorke’s paper “Adomnan at the court of King Aldfrith” from the Adomnan conference published in Adomnan of Iona: Theologian, Lawmaker, Peacemaker. I have a couple of her books and I’ve learned a lot from her. Unfortunately there are a few things in her chapter that I don’t think work very well.

While I agree that Cuthbert appears to have worked himself into King Ecgfrith’s confidence there really isn’t much evidence that he arranged for Aldfrith to be Ecgfrith’s heir to the family’s relief. If King Aldfrith owed his succession to Cuthbert, it is strange that there is not one episode of Cuthbert being in the presence of Aldfrith or Adomnan in Bede’s History, either Life of Cuthbert, or Adomnan’s Life of Columba. Strange given that there are several episodes of Cuthbert with King Ecgfrith and his queen. We know that Adomnan visits King Aldfrith’s court one year after his succession, in 686, and this is about the same time that Cuthbert essentially abandons his episcopate to become a hermit on Farne island again (for which health is not an excuse). He is trying to get away from the world, perhaps the new king.  After Cuthbert’s death in 687, Bishop Wilfrid takes control of Lindisfarne, hardly a friendly appointment, and there is great turmoil at Lindisfarne during his tenure there. Adomnan visits again in 688 and this roughly coincides with the appointment of a new bishop for Lindisfarne, ending Wilfrid’s jurisdiction there. How much influence Adomnan had on King Aldfrith in these matters is unknown, maybe none. However we do know that Adomnan was successful in redeeming Irish hostages taken by King Ecgfrith in 684 on both his 686 and 688 trips. Rather than seeing Cuthbert’s prophecy as evidence that he arranged Aldfrith’s succession, it may be intended to cover up friction between Bishop Cuthbert and King Aldfrith. Someone so closely tied to Ecgfrith, intrusted with the queen before his death and seeing her safely into a convent as a widow, may not have been trusted by Aldfrith.

Here we remember Cuthbert’s dying instructions to Lindisfarne included

“But have no communion with those who err from the unity of the Catholic faith, either by keeping Easter at an improper time, or by their perverse life. And know and remember, that, if of two evils you are compelled to choose one, I would rather that you should take up my bones, and leave these places, to reside wherever God may send you, than consent in any way to the wickedness of schismatics, and so place a yoke upon your necks.” (Life of Cuthbert, Ch. 39)

Adomnan was the leader of those schismatics and Iona its fountain head, where the Aldfrith was when his brother was killed in battle. Cuthbert had spent years as prior of Lindisfarne bringing that community into communion with Rome, so he had no energy or desire to back peddle by improving their relationship with Iona.

Barbara Yorke’s paper also doesn’t recognize that Adomnan made a third trip to Northumbria in 702-3, as recorded by Bede. I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, that I think Adomnan’s visit to Wearmouth-Jarrow occurred in c. 702-3 rather than in 688.

Bishop Coetti of Iona

This past week I read Barbara Yorke’s contribution to Adomnan of Iona: Theologian, Lawmaker, Peacemaker. She mentions almost in an off-hand way that some believe that Bishop Coetti of Iona was English with a name along the lines of Cedd (Cedda) and Chad (Caedda). I’m not a linguist so I can’t really evaluate the likelihood that this is true or not but it did get me thinking. We do know that the second recorded bishop of Iona, Ecgbert, was certainly English. We also know that they both seemed to function over both Dalriada and Pictland. Placenames associated with Coetti are found in Pictland and Ecgbert’s warnings to King Ecgfrith not to campaign in Pictland may come from travels in Pictland to preform sacramental duties. As a bishop functioning in Pictland, it is likely that Ecgberht did indeed have direct contact with King Ecgfrith who was dominant over at least part of Pictland.

It is interesting that Iona doesn’t seem to have a bishop before Adomnan’s time. Given what we know of Iona’s abbots they may not have liked the competition for authority. Perhaps its just that bishops were always closely associated with the king and the goal of a monastery was to separate itself from regular life.

By Adomnan’s time though Iona may have been having a hard time finding a bishop who would see to their sacramental needs (confirmation and ordination) because of the Easter/Rome controversy. Or at least it was much easier to find a bishop to see to these needs without a diplomatic ordeal every time. This would be where the English trained in Ireland come in. We know that there were at least two groups, Ecgbert’s group at Rathmelsigi and the Mayo of the Saxons. If Coetti was a Saxon, then we have two Saxon bishops at the Synod of Birr in 697. These English wandering bishops, without known diocesan boundaries, may have been important intermediaries between Iona and the Hiberno-Romans. Although we can’t assume that Bishop Coetti was a Romanist, and it would make more sense if he wasn’t. The English seem to have become enmeshed in Iona’s extensive network before and after the Synod of Whitby in 664. Its all food for thought and I haven’t really thought out all the possible implications.

Plague texts from Late Antique Britain

Plague in Late Antique Britain is one of the few topics that has not yet been well studied. Assembling the plague texts for the Plague of Justinian from Anglo-Saxon England and neighboring kingdoms is the best place to start.

All of the following at least mention the plague:

  • Adomnan, Life of Columba, c. 700
  • Anon. Life of Cuthbert, c. 705
  • Stephan’s Life of Wilfrid, c. 710
  • Bede’s Life of Cuthbert, c 705-716.
  • Bede’s Greater Chronicle (part of his larger On the Reckoning of Time), c. 720
  • Bede’s History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, c. 716-730
  • Anon. History of Abbot Ceolfrith, early 8th century.
  • Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731/734.
  • Anon/Nennius, Historia Brittonum/ History of the Britons, 825
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, compiled from previous chronicles in c. 900
  • various Irish annals

The value of these texts varies greatly. Some merely mentioned that someone died of plague, but do not give signs and symptoms or other indicators to confirm that it was the plague rather than another epidemic.  A few though do give either signs and symptoms or other useful information. While this may look like a significant number of texts, most come from Northumbria and refer to the same people and places.

I’m sure I have probably missed some texts.  I have yet to check the Life of Gregory the Great from Whitby or the Guthlac texts.  If you can add any to this list please do so!

Fostering Princes on Iona

A while back I mentioned that Michael Lapidge has placed Aldhelm on Iona, making him the second Anglo-Saxon prince to study there. This has made me wonder if Iona wasn’t running a school for princes and other nobles. There is one other possible example. Stephan of Ripon seems to indicate in his Life of Bishop Wilfrid that Bishop Wilfrid traveled with a retinue of young nobles who were being educated under his eye but who were not necessarily bound for the church. As kingdoms became complicated enough to need nobles who knew more than war, the church was ideally suited to educate them in basic reading, writing, math, basic theology, etc. In the church’s favor, these young noble men would grow into the nobles of the future who became civilized and pious men, who respected abbots and bishops, and understood the needs of the church (and its politics).

This would be true in Ireland as well as England and on the continent. Recall that exiled prince Dagobert had also been sent to an Irish monastery while in exile. Its also quite possible that pious King Sigebert of East Anglia had spent part of his exile in Burgundy in a monastery, perhaps associated with Bishop Felix. We might even suspect that Oswald and Oswiu had spent time on Iona while in exile among the Scots a generation earlier. Oswiu in particular since he was only about 4 years old when his father Æhtelfrith died, and this could explain how he met Aldfrith’s mother, Fin sister of Finnan (his future bishop). A child raised in the monastic system would have gotten to know male and female members of the monastic system and their families but lets get back to firmer ground a generation later with Aldhelm and friends.

If Aldhelm was on Iona in the 660s, as Lapidge postulates, then it was before Adomnan was abbot. He didn’t become abbot until 679. Cummene Find (d. 669) would have been the likely abbot when Aldhelm was there in the 660s. We know that Cummene Find was involved in scholarly activity. He was the first person to collect and write down miracles of St Columba. Cummene’s successor Failbe (669-679) had been on Iona since at least the time of King Oswald, so may have been there since he entered the church. We know that Failbe had a good and perhaps long relationship with Adomnan (abbot 679-704). Failbe would have also probably been well known to both Aldhelm and Aldfrith. Lapidge argues that Adomnan was a teacher of Virgil while Aldhelm was there and, if so, then Adomnan had been on Iona for many years before he became abbot.

How did Aldhelm make his way to an Irish house first rather than Canterbury? First, Malmesbury is named for an Irish abbot named Maildub and William of Malmesbury claims that Aldhelm was educated by Maildub (Yorke). It seems likely that Maildub may have been an abbot of an original monastery or a hermit who began Aldhelm’s education and then forwarded him to Iona for more complete training. Prior to 664, Iona was the mother house for most of England. Iona would be preferable to Whitby or Lindisfarne in Northumbria as the Irish would be more neutral territory than another English kingdom. We also know that Aldhelm was eventually educated in Canterbury also. Wessex was keeping its usual position of maintaining good contacts with both Ireland and Canterbury. Perhaps as importantly, Wessex was retaining good contacts with Northumbria who until 664 saw Iona as its mother house. We know that King Cenwealh, Aldhelm’s uncle was on good terms with Aldfrith’s half brother Alchfrith, son of Oswiu and Cenwealh’s successor Centwine, Aldhelm’s father, married a sister of King Ecgfirth’s second wife Irminburgh, though this was long after Aldhelm’s time on Iona.

We know that Aldhelm wrote King Geraint of Dumnonia shortly after the Council of Hertford in 672, so he was home in Wessex by then. We should also remember that Aldhelm was the godfather or confirmation sponsor of Aldfrith son of Oswiu. It makes the most sense that he had been Aldfrith’s confirmation sponsor while they were both studying on Iona. On the other hand, Yorke postulates that Aldhelm was indeed Aldfrith’s godfather in a conditional rebaptism that would have made him acceptable to Rome. If this is the case, then it probably would have occurred in northern Ireland, perhaps within the circle of the Englishman Ecgberht (who would send Willibrord to Frisia in the 670s and convert Iona to Rome in c. 719). We also have to wonder where among the Irish that Bishop , later bishop of Paris and one of Bishop Wilfird’s mentors.

Study at places like Iona would have been ideal meeting grounds for young nobles who were keeping their options open between the church and royal duties. Aldhelm was the nephew of the sonless King Cenwealh of Wessex and therefore a prospect for the throne. His father eventually did become a short reigning king in his old age. Regardless, Aldhelm seems to have thought that his chances were best in the church, possibly protecting family lands as an abbot. Cenwealh is bound to have had many nephews and cousins who could have made succession very messy indeed.

We know that Aldfrith spent a considerable amount of time on Iona. Bede tells us he was there when his brother Ecgfrith was killed by Pictish king Bridei son of Beli. We know that Abbot Adomnan considered both Aldfrith and King Bridei of Pictland to be his friends. It is quite possible that Bridei, another multi-ethnic prince, could have spent time on Iona as well. Bridei is the son of the British king of Strathclyde, became a Pictish king and yet was a cousin of King Ecgfrith, so he was part British, Pictish and even English.  While matrilines did not give them rights under the law, those ties would be exploited whenever they could use them. Another possible candidate for the prince’s school is Nechtan mac Derlei, the Pictish philosopher king about a generation after Aldfrith and Adomnan.

As Iona became more and more isolated over their stance over the date of Easter and Roman authority, the school of Iona would have become politically unusable to the royal families in Britain and even Ireland. Further as the churches in respective kingdoms developed each would have developed schools for training nobles. York and Canterbury each hosted a famous school, though we don’t have records of nobles attending theses schools. It is likely though that each major kingdom: Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex would have a favored monastic school or schools to send their young nobles and this could have changed with the personality and interests of the abbots or bishops. Bishop Wilfrid and Abbot Adomnan were surely not the only abbots/bishops intersted in training the nobility.

References:

Michael Lapidge. (2007). The career of Aldhelm. Anglo-Saxon England. p. 15-69.

Barbara Yorke (1994) Wessex in the Early Middle Ages.

St Oswald Hagiography & Literature

This post is a run down of existing hagiography and literature on St Oswald. I’m really concerned here more with literature than history. The works listed on the indented bullet under each work lists the known sources or influences in that work. I may also list a few key translations or secondary works on these pieces.  If diagrams worked better in blogs I would have done one with all the lines connecting the works, but this will have to do. This list is necessarily a work in progress.

As you will see the literature really forks in four directions:

  1. Historical directly from Bede through William of Malmesbury, Simeon of Durham, and others. Only the earliest historical works are listed here.
  2. Hagiographical from Bede and Adomnan through the various hagiographical versions that often derive directly from Bede.
  3. Matter of Britain: Geoffrey of Monmouth really does some interesting things with his last chapter that are usually completely overlooked because they contradict history (as with everything else he writes) and do not include Arthur. Yet this last chapter is key to understanding Geoffrey’s overall purpose.
  4. German Literature: Mostly falls into the bridal quest category. The Munich Oswalt holds an important place in the development of German courtly literature.

Original Sources: Oswald died August 5, 642.

  1. Iona Chronicle (lost) – no longer exists but the Annals of Ulster is usually considered to be the closest. The Iona Chronicle could have been contemporary with Oswald.
  2. Adomnan of Iona, Life of St Columba, Latin, c. 700. (earliest surviving source)
    1. Sources: Adomnan heard his account from his predecessor Failbe who as a child overheard it directly from King Oswald to Abbot Segene.
  3. Willibrord of Frisia, Calendar of Willibrord, Latin,  c. 702-5.
    1. Willibrord was educated at Ripon and had connections to Lindisfarne and Ireland.
  4. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Latin,  c. 731.
    1. Sources: Acca of Hexham collected stories, oral tradition, local calendars and regnal lists.

Hagiography and Literature

  • Old English Martyrology, Mercian, Old English, 8th century, narrative martryology
    • Bede, History
  • Historia Brittonum, Gwynedd, Latin, 825
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Old English. c. 900.
    • Bede, History
    • Historia Brittonum ?
  • Ælfric of Eysham, Life of St Oswald, Latin, c. 1000.
    • Bede, History
  • Bonedd y Sant (Pedigrees of the Saints), Welsh, 12th century (a blog post)
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, historical fiction, Latin, 1130s?
    • Bede, History
  • Wace, Roman de Brut, Old French, Historical fiction
    • Geoffrey of Monmouth, History
  • Layamon, Brut , Middle English, c. 1190, historical fiction
    • Wace, Roman de Brut
    • oral history and local legend
  • Breton version of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain has a particularly touching version of Oswald’s death.
  • Reginald of Durham, Life of St. Oswald, Latin, 1165
    • Bede, History
    • Adomnan, Life of Columba
    • oral history in Northumbria and Mercia
    • perhaps Symeon of Durham

  • Anonymous, Brut y Brenhydd (History of the Kings), Middle Welsh, 13th century. Welsh translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth with modifications including of Oswald material.
  • Munich Oswalt, Old High German, Bridal Quest., 15th century

    • Reginald of Durham, Life of St Oswald
    • Bede, History
    • Translation: JW Thomas. (1989) The ‘Strassburg Alexander’ and the ‘Munich Oswald’: Pre-courtly Adventure of the German Middle Ages.

    Wiener Oswald, 15th century, Bridal Quest

  • Dat Passionael “Oswald”Van Sunte Oswaldo, Deme Konninghe (About St. Oswald, King),  Low German, 1478
    • Translation and disucssion: Marianne Kalinke, St Oswald of Northumbria: Continental Metamorphosis, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renassiance Studies, 2005.
  • Osvald’s Saga, Middle Icelandic, Bridal Quest/Conversion/Martyr legends/miracles, c 1530
    • Translation and disucssion: Marianne Kalinke, St Oswald of Northumbria: Continental Metamorphosis, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renassiance Studies, 2005.
  • John Dryden,  ‘King Arthur, or The British Worthy’, English opera, 1691. (“Oswald of Kent” is Arthur’s English opponent!)

Aldfrith, Aldhelm, and Adomnan

Continuing my report on Barbara Yorke’s 2009 Jarrow lecture, she spent quite a bit of time on the relationship between Aldfrith and two of his good friends, Adomman and Aldhelm. How remarkable that this half-Irish, half Northumbrian prince had such close contact with two of the greatest scholars of his time. Yorke notes that both scholars not only gave Aldfrith literature as a gift early in his reign, they gave him -original-works. It is remarkable enough that they would have sent him a book as a coronation gift but original works not only are necessarily rare (as they are unique when gifted) but a testament to their estimation of his intellect. We know he had prolonged contact with both of then. Adomman visited him within the last year of his life and his family contact with Wessex ensured continued contact with Aldhelm. Recall that Aldfrith married the sister of King Ine and a cousin of Aldhelm. The best evidence of their late contact is Pechtelm, Aldhelm’s deacon, becoming the first bishop of Whithorn. They may have cinflicted over Bishop Wilfrid who Aldhelm supported at least at the time of his first exile. I don’t know of any evidence on how Aldhelm thought of Wilfrid when exiled by Aldfrith. Come to think of it though, Aldhelm’s influence could have been behind Aldfrith’s initial attempt to reconcille with Wilfrid.

Yorke makes special note of Aldhelm’s menton that he was Aldfrith’s godfather. She wonders if this was a second baptism in the Roman rite and suggests that he was reminding Aldfrith that he was a witness to his Roman baptism if needed. Believing that Aldfrith had never been to Northumbria or acknowledged by Oswiu, she wonders if he got his English name at his Roman baptism and modeled the Ald- in his name from his friend and godfather Aldhelm. A way of showing spiritual brotherhood while each had an ending that suited their family, -helm for Wessex and -frith for Northumbria. Yorke only suggests the connection for the Ald- part, but if Aldfrith picked his own name then he picked one thar honored his friend and his family.

On Admnan she notes that Aldfrith was king when Adomnan engineered the passage of Cain Adomnan. She believes that Aldfrith’s release of hostages indicates that he ratified it, but I think that is going too far. Releasing hostages, possibly clerical hostages covered by the law (Cain/cannon), is a supportive gesture it is not the same as ratificatin or being a signatory. For one I don’t think that Aldfrith could sign an ecclesiastical law designed by Adomnan considering the were technically not in communion with each other. Yorke has apparently written a chapter in the forthcoming book on Adomnan that should be interesting to read.

Reference: Barbara Yorke, Rex Doctisdimus: Bede and King Aldfrith of Northumbria. Jarrow Lecture, 2009.