PW: Abbot Tatberht of Ripon

In his last days Bishop Wilfrid dictated his will and made his wishes known to his followers, after discussing how his wealth was to be divided, he then said:

“Remember, brethren, that I appoint as head over this monastery at Ripon this Tatberht the priest. He is my kinsman and has been up till now my inseparable companion; while I live he is to rule with me and after my death he is to possess it without question. I make these decrees in order that, when the Archangel Michael visits me, he may find me prepared; for many signs of death gather round me.” (Colgrave, p. 137, 139)

Bishop Wilfrid is prudent until the end. He makes these statements before witnesses but Stephan is clear in saying that he does not announce it to the monastery at large.

When Wilfrid is dying after dedicating one last church to St Andrew in Oundle, Mercia, he bade the brothers with him to recall all his good works and with his last breaths bequeathed his last lands to his most faithful followers including the monastery of Hexham to his confessor Acca. As a gloss on remembering his good works, Stephan says that “he had narrated from memory the whole story of his life to the priest Tatberht his kinsman, on a certain day as they were riding together” (Colgrave, p. 141). So, it is likely that Tatberht is the primary witness and source for all of Wilfrid’s youthful exploits. Also, as the elderly Wilfrid is passing on memories to Tatberht, he would have been very conscious to ensure that he was remembered the way he wished.

Stephan tells us how Abbot Tatberht responded to Bishop Wilfrid’s death:

“They then received the abbot who had been appointed [Tatberht], who, for the love of his father our holy bishop, was want to do many good works. He decided to celebrate a private Mass for him every day, and every week to celebrate Thursday, the day on which he died, as a feast as though it were Sunday. He determined on the anniversary of his death to divide the whole share of of the tithes of herds and flocks among the poor, to the Glory of God, all the days of his life, apart from those from those charities which he always gave every day to God and to the needy, for himself and for the soul of his bishop and always in his name.” (Colgrave, p. 141, 143)

Stephan is clear that Abbot Tatberht is Wilfrid’s heir and he leads the procession of Wilfrid’s body back to Ripon for burial. In his introduction, Stephan tells us that it is Abbot Tatbhert of Ripon and Bishop Acca of Hexham who have commissioned the Life of Wilfrid and it nearly certain that Abbot Tatberht approved the epitaph carved on Wilfrid’s tomb. There is no mention of a translation for Wilfrid, but it is possible that bishops were automatically buried in elevated tombs. Bishop Wilfrid’s cousin Tatberht did a good job of managing his kinsman veneration.

This is all we know for sure of Abbot Tatbhert. Colgrave does indicate that a Tatberht is listed among the abbots of the rank of priest in the Durham Liber Vitae (DLV). If this does indicate Abbot Tatberht of Ripon then it probably supports the recent hypothesis that the DLV originated at Wearmouth-Jarrow rather than Lindisfarne. Given Abbot Tatberht’s relationship with Bishop Acca of Hexham it is not unusual that he would be listed in such a book at Wearmouth-Jarrow, but it is harder to see Wilfrid’s heir being listed at Lindisfarne.

Reference:

Bertram Colgrave, ed and trans. (1927, 1985 reprint) The Life of Bishop Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus. Cambridge UP.

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