Friday, January 10, 2014

Traveling to Canterbury

St. Adrian of Canterbury
Yesterday's post on the Leiden Glossary mentioned its two chief contributors, Adrian of Canterbury and Theodore of Tarsus. Also interesting is their journey to Canterbury—not just their appointment to their positions, but what it took to get to their new jobs—and what it tells us about the Middle Ages.

Bede tells the story of Adrian of Canterbury in his Historia ecclesiastic gentis Anglorum ["Ecclesiastical history of the English people"]. Adrian was born in North Africa—we don't know when, but he died about 710—and was abbot of a monastery when Pope Vitalian (who would send Benedict Biscop to England as well) offered him the position of Archbishop of Canterbury on the death of Archbishop Deusdedit in 664. Adrian turned down the offer, and suggested a nearby monk, who also declined. When the pope asked Adrian a second time, Adrian introduced to the pope another friend who happened to be in Rome, Theodore of Tarsus.

The pope accepted Theodore as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, but asked that Adrian accompany him to England; according to Bede, Adrian had traveled to England twice before, and knew the way. Keep in mind that this is a world without roadmaps, without highways, without public transportation or any regularly scheduled wagons or boats or anything of the kind.

On 27 May 668 (note: 4 years after the death of Deusdedit), Adrian and Theodore left Rome. They traveled by sea to Marseille on the southern coast of France (far preferable to crossing the Alps). In nearby Arles they stayed for a time with its archbishop, John, until they managed to get passports from King Clotaire III's Mayor of the Palace, Ebroin. These passports could be shown to any civil servants along the way to grant them safe passage through Clotaire's domain.

By the time they made their way to the north of France, winter had come, so they needed to stay somewhere. Theodore went to stay with the Bishop of Paris. Adrian stayed first with the Bishop of Sens, then the Bishop of Meaux.

In the spring of 669, King Ecgberht of Kent sent for Theodore, who reached England a whole year after he first set out. Adrian, however, was not so lucky. For some reason, Ebroin decided that Adrian might have been an agent of the Greek emperor.* The Greek emperor that he feared had died in September of 668, but news could travel as slowly as bishops crossing France, so Ebroin (and Clotaire) were probably fearing someone that had been dead for months. They finally allowed Adrian to leave France.

Arriving in England, Adrian was made abbot of the monastery of St. Peter, which was re-named St. Augustine's Abbey. He and Theodore taught and wrote commentaries that, along with the writing of others, were compiled into a collection of glosses in Latin and Anglo-Saxon. At least one copy made its way to the continent and the Abbey of St. Gall, where it was copied in 800. That copy eventually wound up in the Netherlands, where it became known as the Leiden Glossary.

*In 669 the emperor would have been Constantine IV, "The Bearded"; Ebroin probably feared the emperor's predecessor, his father Constans II.

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