Cedd of Lastingham

Bede tells us that when Bishop Aidan came to Lindisfarne, he took twelve English boys to train as the first clergy. Two of the most important of the twelve, Cedd and Eata, died on the same day, 22 years apart.

St. Cedd died of the plague on October 26, 664 at Lastingham in Deira. Of Aidan’s early disciples, Cedd was one of the most promising. We do not have a direct statement that Cedd was one of the original twelve but we can surmise as much. Bede reports that his (younger?) brother Chad was “one of Aidan’s disciples…[who] sought to instruct his hearers in the ways and customs of his master and his brother Cedd” (HE III.28) and we know that Cedd and another unnamed priest was consecrated bishop of the East Saxons by Bishop Finan of Lindisfarne.

In 651-653 Peada son of Penda, King of Middle Anglia, married Alhflæd daughter of King Oswiu of Northumbria and as a condition of the marriage he was baptized by Bishop Finan of Lindisfarne and returned home with four missionaries: Cedd, Adda, Betti, and the Irishman Diuma. It is likely that all three Englishmen were among Aidan’s original twelve students chosen for such an important mission. Shortly afterwards Cedd was sent by King Oswiu to the East Saxons after King Sigeberht was baptized while visiting Northumbria also in about 653. Later when Cedd returned to Lindisfarne for consultations, Bishop Finan decided to consecrated him bishop with the help of two other unnamed (British?) bishops he called to Lindisfarne. [It should be noted here that Lindisfarne/Iona was in full communion with the British church, and both were out of communion with the Roman mission.] Cedd established churches throughout Essex and the dual seats of his see at Ythancæstir (Bradwell-on-Sea) on the River Penta and Tilbury on the River Thames.

Cedd’s brother Cælin was the personal priest of King Œthelwald son of Oswald (r. c651-655) of Deira. He convinced the king to give Cedd an estate in Deira in about 654, while Cedd on one of his frequent visits to Northumbria for consultations with Bishop Finan. Œthelwald requested that Cedd’s monastery pray for him and be the burial place for his family. Cedd chose an estate in the wild hills at Lastingham and with the help of his brother Cynebill established a monastery there.

Bishop Cedd’s mission in East Anglia prospered even though his royal sponsor, King Sigeberht, was assassinated by two brothers who were upset by his Christian behavior. Interestingly, Bede still credits his Sigeberht’s death to his disobedience of Bishop Cedd who prophecied his death. Cedd then baptized Sigeberht’s successor King Swithhelm son of Seaxbald in Rendlesham, East Anglia, with King Æthelwold of East Anglia (r. 655-c. 663) as his godfather.

In 664 King Oswiu called the Synod of Whitby to decide whether his kingdom/hegemony would follow Iona or Rome. Bishop Cedd was called to Whitby for the synod where he served as the interpretor for both parties. When King Oswiu decided for Rome, Cedd accepted the decision. He visited Lastingham before returning to Essex and there fell ill with the plague. He died on 26 October 664 and was buried at Lastingham. He was initially buried in the churchyard but was later buried on the right side of the alter in the new stone church of St. Mary. Cedd was succeeded as Abbot of Lastingham by his brother Chad, who was recalled from Ireland probably suggesting the other two brothers Cælin and Cynebill had already died.

There is considerable evidence that veneration of Cedd developed very quickly and was present in Ireland early as well. Egbert of Rathmelsigi in Ireland reported that he knew a man who saw a vision of Cedd coming to escort his brother Chad’s soul to heaven. This suggests that veneration of Cedd had spread to Englishmen living in Ireland by the 680s.

Norman crypt of St. Cedd, St Mary’s Church, Lastingham from http://www.lastinghamchurch.org.uk/

Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book III, Chapters 21-23, 25, 28 and Book IV, Chapter 3.

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