The Heroic Age

Issue 6

Spring 2003

The Ripon Connection?

Willibrord, Wilfrid, and the Mission to Frisia


by Michelle Ziegler

Independent Scholar

Abstract: This essay challenges the view that Wilfrid of York inspired, sent or supported Willibrord's mission to Frisia. The evidence of Wilfrid's evangelization of Frisia and Willibrord's life from his youth at Ripon through his consecration as Archbishop of Frisia is reviewed.


The late medieval people of Frisia have spun heroic legends around the missionary Willibrord giving him the title Apostle of the Frisians. From the Frisian origin myth to legendary associations with Charlemagne, committed to writing between 1200 and 1500, Willibrord emerges as the heroic leader of the Frisians into the light of the Christianity and the Holy Roman Empire (Bremmer 7-19).

In the late, long Old Frisian poem Thet Freske Riim, Willibrord becomes a central figure in Frisian ethnogenesis. In one of the more fantastic sections, Willibrord and Charlemagne's Frisian standard bearer Sir Magnus lead 30,000 Frisians to victory in a battle over the Old Saxons after which Charlemagne in appreciation grants the Frisians their freedom. This poem meets the origin myth requirements for ethnogenesis by giving the people a common ancestral past, religious conversion, and victory in battle over a traditional enemy (Bremmer 17). Additionally, it has characteristics of quest literature in that Willibrord comes to Frisia as a knight whose goal is the conversion of a barbarian people and when his quest is fulfilled, his ashes are returned to his homeland (Bremmer 17-18).

As is typical of origin myth-making, actual history has little to do with the new version that met the political needs of the later medieval period.[1] Willibrord became an important facet of the national myth that allowed the Frisians to retain their identity within the Carolingian Empire (Bremmer17).

Faced with the flowering legend of the 'Apostle of the Frisians', scholars have demurred that Willibrord was merely continuing the mission of his former abbot and bishop, Wilfrid of York. The latter's reputed short but highly successful mission to Frisia was completely omitted from the legends of Frisia and indeed every source except his own Life and Bede's paraphrase of it.

For decades, Wilhelm Levison[2] has held the field of scholarship in English on Willibrord. In his words,

this casual episode in Wilfrid's stormy career was of far-reaching importance. By his missionary zeal he had shown an opening to his fellow countrymen which was not forgotten. In the opinion of the next generation of Northumbrians he laid the foundations on which his pupil Willibrord afterwards built the Frisian church (Levison 1946:51).

Further on, Levison (1946:54) claims that "Willibrord continued on the Continent the Northumbrian missionary tradition which Wilfrid had created." Other scholars went even farther and constructed elaborate plans for Willibrord to have returned to England and begin his mission from Ripon, essentially having him leave on his mission under the direction of Wilfrid[3]. Most recently, the connection made by Levison has been repeated in Rollason's 2001 Jarrow Lecture "Bede and Germany" (14), a lecture dedicated to Levison.

The purpose of this essay is to explore Willibrord's motivations for his mission and to challenge the view that he was sent, supported, or inspired by Wilfrid. The meager sources for Wilfrid of York's missionary work in Frisia will be discussed, followed by a discussion of the ecclesiastical opposition party within Northumbria. Willibrord's life up until the time he embarked for Frisia and the initiation of the Anglian missions to the Germanic peoples under the direction of Egbert will be reviewed. A discussion of the insular influences on Willibrord's scriptorium at Echternach and the last meeting of Willibrord and Wilfrid in Frisia in 704 will follow. In conclusion, there will be an analysis of the differences in style and attitude displayed by Willibrord and Wilfrid.


Wilfrid of York

The sources for Wilfrid of York's reputed mission to the Frisians are thin. Stephan of Ripon chronicles Wilfrid's first trip to Frisia in three chapters of the Life of Bishop Wilfrid, written in 710-720. Bede briefly mentions Wilfrid's exploits in Frisia in Book 5 Chapter 19 of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (HE). This chapter is a paraphrase of Stephan's work, and Wilfrid's 678-9 trip to Frisia is not mentioned elsewhere in the History or his chronicles. In his York poem, Alcuin mentions Wilfrid's missionary work in Frisia but conflates Wilfrid's second and third trip to Rome. Since Bede is merely paraphrasing Stephan, and Alcuin is adapting Bede, the Life of Bishop Wilfrid remains ultimately the only source of Wilfrid's reputed mission. Further, there is no continental evidence of Wilfrid's stay in Frisia in 678-9.

In 678, Bishop Wilfrid ran afoul of Northumbrian King Ecgfrith. Wilfrid was humiliated, deposed from his see, and exiled as a result. Archbishop Theodore's alliance with Northumbria against Mercia's anti-Canterbury stance meant that Wilfrid was not able to convince Theodore to help him (Pelteret 172-173). Eventually, after being driven out of Mercia and Wessex [4], he sought to rectify the situation by appealing directly to Rome. In his appeal to the Pope, representatives of Archbishop Theodore and Abbess Hild of Whitby rebutted him, but he eventually prevailed.

Wilfrid set sail for the continent in the fall of the year and landed in Frisia [5]. Stephanus implies that Wilfrid intended to land in Frisia by calling the trip a "prosperous voyage" (Colgrave 53). There, King Aldgisl, who is unknown outside of Stephanus' account, honorably received him, and he remained for several months.

Stephanus implies that King Aldgisl of Frisia allowed Wilfrid to stay in Frisia because Wilfrid's Christian preaching, "with the consent of the king", was effective (Colgrave 53). Stephanus claims that "they accepted his teaching and with a few exceptions all the chiefs were baptized by him in the name of the Lord, as well as many thousands of common people" (Colgrave 53). This implies, but does not directly state, that King Aldgisl converted.

In the next chapter, we see the real reason why Aldgisl gave Wilfrid refuge and support: They had a common enemy in the Franks. Aldgisl refuses to hand Wilfrid over to the Franks, who wanted his head - literally, and Aldgisl demonstrated his independence from Frankish hegemony. Wilfrid's Frankish troubles are likely to have been his real reason for hazarding passage through heathen territory rather than traveling the more direct route through Neustria.

Wilfrid's troubles with the Franks seem to revolve around his early stay in Lyon. His discipleship with 'Bishop Dalphinus' of Lyon [6], who was executed on Queen Balthild's orders, was Wilfrid's first introduction to Frankish politics [7]. The significant amount of space given to Wilfrid's time in Lyon in his Life must indicate that these events had a profound effect on Wilfrid and that he may have often recounted the story of his near martyrdom to his followers. Wilfrid was spared execution only because he was English. It is possible that he was allowed to leave on the condition that he did not return to Neustria or presumably to Frankish politics. If this is so, then Wilfrid had clearly good reason to avoid Neustria.

Theuderic, King of Franks (r. 675-691), the puppet of Duke Ebrion was also the son of Balthild. If Stephen is correct, Wilfrid had aided in the return of Dagobert II to Austrasia in c. 674 (VW 28, Colgrave 55), effectively splitting the power of Theuderic, and perhaps getting partial vengeance for the executions of his mentors in Lyon. The group that brought Dagobert II back from exile in Ireland with Wilfrid's help opposed Ebrion and may have also been independent of Pippin's fraction (Wood 1994:230-234). Wilfrid arrived in Gaul just when Duke Ebrion was making his move to dispose of King Dagobert II [8].

As the only bishop of Northumbria, Wilfrid would have been well versed in King Ecgfrith's contacts with both Frisian merchants and the Frankish courts, and would have anticipated Ecgfrith's enlistment of Frankish allies to harass his trip to Rome. King Theuderic and Duke Ebrion were bribed [9] by Wilfrid's enemies, presumably King Ecgfrith, to harass his journey to "Etaples" on the most direct route to Rome, where Bishop Winfrith was accosted, mistaken for Wilfrid (Colgrave 51). Wilfrid's indirect route through Frisia and Austrasia foiled their initial plans. However, the harassment reached him even in Frisia. Duke Ebrion sent King Aldgisl a letter promising a bushel of gold coins in return for either turning Wilfrid over to him or beheading him.

the king [Aldgisl] ordered the letter to be read for all to hear, while we were present and while the messengers were feasting in the palace with his people. After the reading he took the missive in his hands, tore it up in the sight of all and threw it into the fire which was burning in front of him, saying to the bearers of the document, "Tell your master what I now say: Thus let the Creator of all things rend and destroy the realm and life of him who perjures himself before God and does not keep the covenant he has made; thus may he tear him up and consume him to ashes." Then the ambassadors in confusion returned from the presence of a king who would not consent to commit a crime, to the master whence they had come. (Colgrave 54-55)

Here was Wilfrid's real value to the Frisian king, as an object of defiance. Wilfrid's likely suspicion that travel through Neustria was not safe is also validated. The Frisians had been and would continue to resist Frankish overlordship for many years. Sheltering anyone wanted by the Frankish king or lord was a sign of power by the Frisian king.

Stephanus claims that Wilfrid baptized thousands of people, including many chiefs. Yet, Stephanus does not name a single convert and specifically does not list King Aldgisl. Further, apparently Wilfrid does not leave anyone from his entourage in Frisia to minister to his new converts and never, even after he returns to power in England, sends anyone from his monastic family to care for his converts or continue the mission. Wilfrid had the opportunity to follow up on this supposed missionary effort long before Willibrord left Ireland for Frisia in 690. It is more likely that Wilfrid did not make any significant conversions in Frisia, especially since later missionaries found no trace of Wilfrid's converts (Van Berkum 430-405).

Stephanus could have had a few possible motives for elaborating Wilfrid's activity in Frisia. First, it simply sounds far better to temper a very political life with missionary work. Pelteret (169-171) believes Stephanus wanted to show Wilfrid as being a worthy successor to Paulinus in an effort to show that he should have been Paulinus' successor as archbishop of York. Thus, Pelteret believes that Stephanus had to show Wilfrid as a missionary everywhere he found pagans, in Sussex and the Isle of Wight as well as Frisia. Unlike Frisia, on the Isle of Wight Wilfrid leaves his own nephew Beornwine to administer the new lands and the priest Hiddila to teach and baptize (HE 4.16)[10]. Wilfrid's visits to the South Saxons and the Isle of Wight portray him more as a missionary among the barbarians there than during his trip through Frisia[11].

Second, it was in the interests of Wilfird's surviving family to portray him as a saintly missionary bishop. After Wilfrid's death, they were exposed to the feeding frenzy of Wilfrid's enemies without the political experience of the old master to fend them off. The whole purpose of the Life of Bishop Wilfrid, written within ten years of Wilfrid's death, is to answer Wilfrid's critics and combat the political tension that immediately followed his demise. If usurping some of the success of a former pupil accomplishes this, then so be it.

So that year they [the Frisians] accepted his [Wilfrid's] teaching and with a few exceptions all the chiefs were baptized by him in the name of the Lord, as well as many thousands of common people. Like the Apostle he first laid the foundation of faith there, and his son who was brought up at Ripon, Willibrord, bishop by the Grace of God, is still building on it, toiling very laboriously, and his reward awaits him in eternity. (VW 26, Colgrave 53, emphasis added)

Stephanus is trying to claim the title of Apostle of Frisia for Wilfrid! This neatly glosses over the fact that despite Wilfrid's two trips through Frisia (in 678-9 and again in 704), there is no evidence that he supported the missions there or anywhere else along the heathen German frontier.

Bede's paraphrase is considerably different. "In this way he first began the work of evangelization which the most reverend bishop of Christ, Willibrord, afterwards completed with great devotion." (HE 5.19, McClure & Collins 271) Note that Bede does not mention Willibrord's life at Ripon much less claim that he was the spiritual son of Wilfrid. From reading Bede alone, we would never suspect a direct relationship between Wilfrid and Willibrord. As we shall see, Wilfrid's two further contacts with the Frisian mission are functions of chance and geography rather than active interest in the welfare of the mission.


The Hiberno-Roman Approach

While Wilfrid was en route to Rome, Archbishop Theodore divided Wilfrid's vast see into three and delivered it into the hands of the opposition political party within the Northumbrian church. Eata, abbot of Lindisfarne [12] and Melrose, was made Bishop of Bernicia seated at Wilfrid's monastery of Hexham [13]. Bosa of Whitby was made Bishop of York for Deira, and Eadhæd, the former personal priest of King Oswiu, was made Bishop of Lindsey (HE 4.12). The next year in 679, the Mercians defeated Ecgfrith in the battle on the River Trent and recaptured Lindsey, driving Bishop Eadhæd back into Northumbria. Deprived of his see, Archbishop Theodore gave him Wilfrid's monastery of Ripon to serve as his seat (HE 4.12). Theodore not only divided Wilfrth's see and placed former adherents of the Irish church over them, but also ensured that Wilfrid's two major monasteries, Hexham and Ripon, were under the direct control of Theodore's appointed men.

Eata, Bosa, and Eadhaed were three prominent members of a political group sometimes called the 'Third Way' (Van Berkum), which favored acceptance of the essential Roman tenets but retained as much of the Irish lifestyle and practices as possible. In order to keep these factions straight, this group will be called more descriptively the Hiberno-Roman group or approach. Van Berkum (362) proposed that Eata and Cuthbert led this new party of accommodation after the synod of Whitby in 664.

The Hiberno-Roman approach was already active well before the Synod of Whitby. Northumbrian men studying in southern Ireland prior to 664, including Egbert, Chad, Æthelhun of Lindsey [14], former abbot of Gilling Cynefrith [15], and perhaps Tuda [16] would have already been observing the Roman rites, which were accepted there in the 630s (Charles-Edwards 2000: 337). The community of Englishmen in southern Ireland believed to be at least mostly Northumbrian, perhaps more correctly from King Oswiu's lands, was quite large. Bede remarks that many Englishmen were killed by the plague of 664 in Ireland.

Significantly, the only men who studied in southern Ireland whose geographic origins are known are the Deirans Willibrord and Cynefrith, and the brothers Æthelhun and Æthelwine probably of Lindsey. They all came from areas originally converted by Bishop Paulinus [17]. This may reflect a desire by those initially converted under the Romanist Bishop Paulinus to study in a part of Ireland that was Romanist prior to 664.

After the synod of Whitby, all of Bishop Aidan's former pupils embraced the Hiberno-Roman approach bringing the churches of Lindisfarne, Melrose, Whitby and Lastingham plus other minor houses into the fold. Only Wilfrid's houses of Hexham and Ripon accepted a strict Benedictine rule that rejected the Irish lifestyle. Other monasteries such as Wearmouth-Jarrow accepted a mixed rule. Although Benedict Biscop was a Romanist he tempered his rule with ideas he gathered elsewhere [18]. Bede, a life long member of Wearmouth-Jarrow and a Romanist, was also an admirer of saints Cuthbert, Egbert and Boisil and wrote well of Aidan, Chad, Cedd, and Hild. Thus the rejection of all Irish ways was restricted to those who were closest to Bishop Wilfrid.

With Willibrord left behind at Ripon when Wilfrid was exiled, he now passed under the direction of first Bishop Bosa of York and the next year Bishop Eadhead of Ripon. Although Ripon has been used to connect Willibrord and Wilfrid, the most significant connection at Ripon was between Willibrord and its new Hiberno-Roman masters after Wilfrid left in 678. As we shall see, Willibrord will be closely associated with the Hiberno-Roman faction until he leaves for Frisia from Ireland under their direction in 690. His time with Egbert in Ireland directly declares his openness to this alternative. This changes his role in the ecclesiastical politics of the day completely. He can no longer be seen as Wilfrid's protégé.


Sources for Willibrord's Career

There are six primary sources for Willibrord's early career. An ecclesiastical calendar written at Echternach provides us with a short notation dating his mission, believed to be in his own hand. The best source for the initiation of the mission is four chapters of Bede's History (HE 3.13, 5.9-11), and Bede's Greater Chronicle also mentions Willibrord. The oldest source is the short reference discussed above in Stephan's Life of Bishop Wilfrid, which only adds the location of Ripon as his educational monastery as a youth. Last, we have Alcuin's poem on the Bishops, Kings and Saints of the Church of York and his prose and verse Life of Willibrord written in c. 796. Unless otherwise mentioned, all references are to the prose Life.

Echternach's calendar, often called Willibrord's Calendar, is the most informative surviving manuscript from the early years of his mission to Frisia. The primary hand of the text was written in c. 702 (O'Croinin 1984). It contains a marginal notation written in 728 believed to be in Willibrord's own hand dating his arrival in Frisia to 690 and his consecration to 695 (Wilson 13, 42-43). The entries in the Calendar and the style of this manuscript and a few others including the Augsberg Gospels can inform us regarding the ecclesiastical politics and influences on Willibrord's early missionary group. (see Echternach and its scriptorium)

Bede's source for the English missions to the Germanic peoples in 5.9-11 of his History is unclear but may be directly or indirectly from Egbert (or one of his disciples) during his last years on Iona [19]. It has been suggested that Egbert is the author of the letter from King Nechtan of Pictland to Abbot Ceolfrith of Wearmouth-Jarrow prior to 716 and that he was Bede's informant on Scottish and Pictish affairs (Duncan).

Bede's narration begins with Egbert's desire to convert the peoples of Germany, including a listing of these peoples and the visions of St. Boisil of Melrose warning Egbert's companion that Egbert should not to go himself. This long first chapter (HE 5.9) continues to have St. Boisil send Egbert a message that he is to go instead to Iona and convert them to the Roman church. It finishes with the details of Wichtberht's failed mission to Frisia. The next chapter refers to Egbert's sending of more men including Willibrord back to Frisia and the initial establishment of Willibrord's mission. Yet, the bulk of the chapter is devoted to the martyrdom of the two Hewalds among the Old Saxons [20].

In the last chapter, the narration of Willibrord's mission continues with his first trip to Rome. It is interrupted with the narration of Swithbert's consecration, his failed mission to the Bructeri, and his eventual establishment of the monastery of Kaiserswerth where it records that he died. The chapter then returns to an approximately equal length account of Willibrord's consecration and his mission.

The balance between the accounts of the missions to Frisia, the Old Saxons and the Bructeri suggests a source interested in the entire mission to the peoples of Germany [21] with Egbert clearly seen as the instigator of all the these missions. Willibrord, the Hewalds, and Swithbert go to peoples specifically listed as among the peoples of Germany in Egbert's plan. Only Egbert (or his followers) would be equally interested in all three efforts. The amount of space given to each of the three missions is nearly equal. Willibrord is not particularly singled out as being more gifted or dedicated, only as more successful and long-lived. The problematic role given to St. Boisil suggests that at least some of this material was filtered through Melrose [22] (Kirby 2002: 51-53).

This material had to have been collected after 716-8, since it refers to Egbert's mission to Iona [23] and Swithberht's death, which is believed to have occurred in c. 713 [24]. It is unlikely that this material came directly from Frisia because it does not highlight Willibrord in greater detail than the other groups. Whatever Bede's source is, it's the same source he has for Egbert. This means that there must have been continued contact between Willibrord's mission in Frisia and Egbert's followers in Ireland or on Iona after 713 when Swithbert's death could have been reported. This significantly strengthens Willibrord's continued ties to the Hiberno-Roman group in Ireland and Northumbria.

Bede mentions Egbert's sponsored missions to the heathen peoples of Germany in two of his other works. In his Greater Chronicle (c. 725), Willibrord's consecration by Pope Sergius is mentioned in the year 4649 amid other references to the work of Sergius. With the exception of the Willibrord paragraph, the rest of the material on Pope Sergius comes from Bede's primary source the Liber Pontificalis. However, that work only mentions that Sergius "ordained Beorhtweald as archbishop of Britain, and Clement [Willibrord] for the race of the Frisians" (Davis 89). The Liber Pontificalis does not give Willibrord's English name or mention anything else about his work. Bede also mentions Egbert's correction of the Irish calculation for Easter in 716 in year 4670 of the Greater Chronicle [25]. Further the two men from Willibrord's mission both named Hewald, who were martyred among the Old Saxons, are listed in Bede's Martryology completed in c. 725 (Lifshitz). This suggests that Bede gained the information on Egbert's activities and the missions among the Germanic peoples between 716/8 and 724 [26].

According to Theofrid, Abbot of Echternach (1083-1100), the earliest Life of Willibrord was written by a Scot "in a rough and unpolished style" (Talbot 1954:2). Talbot assumed that Alcuin used this work as a source for his Life of Willibrord (c. 796). However, since this work has been lost, Alcuin's reputed use of it is unverifiable. The attribution by Theofrid to a Scot does support a significant continued Irish presence at Echternach after the death of Willibrord in 739.

The last major sources for Willibrord's early career are the writings of Alcuin. He was one of a long line of kinsmen of Willibrord who continued to be interested in Willibrord's monastery of Echternach after his death. Willibrord was succeeded at Echternach by his kinsmen Abbot Aldberht, who was succeeded by another kinsman Abbot Beornrad (also Archbishop of Sens) who commissioned the life from their kinsman Alcuin in c. 796 (Wood 2001:81). Further, St. Willehad, who came to Frisia as a missionary in the time of King Alhred of Northumbria and used Echternach as a base, appears to be a kinsman of Beornrad and therefore of Willibrord and Alcuin (Wood 2001: 90-91). In addition, Alcuin had inherited the monastery estates of Willibrord's father Wilgils in Deira where presumably information about Willibrord's life would have been kept.

Alcuin's earliest writing on Willibrord is his poem the Bishops, Kings and Saints of the Church of York. This poem was written while Alcuin was in attendance at Charlemagne's court. It follows Bede quite closely (Wood 2001:81) indicating that Alcuin had a copy of Bede's History at hand in Charlemagne's court. Likewise, Rollason (4-6) places the Moore Bede at Aachen at about this time when it became a template for multiple copies of the History that were spread throughout France. Of all Alcuin's works, the York poem's content, style, and scale most closely resemble his verse Life of Willibrord (Godman xliii). Based on the style and content, the poem has been dated to the early 790s, not long before his larger work on Willibrord (Godman xlvi-xlvii). In his diversion on the English missionaries-- of obvious interest to his local readers-- he mentions the mission to Frisia by Wilfrid [27]; Willibrord, Swithbert, and others in Gaul; and Egbert in Ireland but in no way connects Willibrord to Wilfrid (Godman 51-52, 83-87).

Alcuin's next project on Willibrord comes from his later years as Abbot of Tours, c. 796 (Wood 2001: 81). It is an ambitious four part Life of Willibrord commissioned by Bishop Beornrad specifically to be on Willibrord's life, habits, and miracles. The work is divided into two volumes: a prose life with a separate homily on Willibrord appended and a poetic life with a separate poetic elegy on Willibrord's father Wilgils appended [28]. The prose life with its homily was intended for church use on Willibrord's feast day. The verse life was intended for meditation and study by the scholars. This is a critical difference when we consider the poetic life has fewer historical details than the prose version. Alcuin intended the poetic life to be for theological study. The prose life was not intended for study but rather for the use of the whole community at Echternach and lay patrons.

Alcuin used the Lives of Willibrord as an opportunity to write a model saint's life based on Alcuin's ideas of a model preacher (Wood 2001: 79-92). In Willibrord, Alcuin constructs a model for a less aggressive missionary policy than that used by Charlemagne, of which Alcuin disapproved (Wood 1994: 319-320).

Politics dominate what is included and omitted from the Life. Alcuin omitted specific information on Willibrord's time in Ireland [29], as he did in general with Irish information in his poem on York [30]. He conflates Willibrord's two trips to Rome into a single trip, ignoring Swithbert's consecration for the Frisian mission while Willibrord was on his first trip to Rome. Alcuin treats Pippin II and Charles Martel as if they were kings (Wood 1994: 317-318). The real Frankish kings are never mentioned in the Life, an obvious alteration to please Charlemagne. The conflict between Charles Martel and the family of Plectrude, who granted Echternach to Willibrord, may go some way in explaining the lack of Echternach references in the Life (Wood 1994:318). Further the stress placed on Utrecht also claimed primacy for Willibrord there in the face of the growing cult of Boniface at Utrecht. Yet, he omitted the relationship between Willibrord and the young Boniface mentioned in the Life of Boniface. This would seem to be a missed opportunity to give a view of the relationship from Willibrord's point of view and tone down some of the stronger claims made in the Life of Boniface, such as Willibrord's reputed offer to appoint Boniface an assistant bishop for Frisia (Talbot 1995: 122-123).


Willibrord in England

Alcuin's Life of Willibrord implies that Willibrord was born in c. 658 to a Deiran nobleman named Wilgils, who later became the abbot of a monastery on the Deiran headland of the Humber River [31]. When he "reached the age of reason," probably a euphemism for the ending of infancy usually said to be about age seven, he was sent to the monastery of Ripon in Deira (Talbot 1995: 194). This places his entry in c. 665, significantly right after the Synod of Whitby. In reality, it is likely that he entered in 664 before Wilfrid left for his consecration as bishop in Gaul or in 666 when he returned. This would suggest, though not conclusively, that Willibrord entered Ripon before Alchfrith was deposed in 664-665. Wilgils, possibly a layman at the time, sent his son to be educated by the victor of the synod at a monastery supported by King Alchfrith [32].

The most momentous events at Ripon during Willibrord's stay there must have been the reinstatement of Wilfrid as Bishop of York in 670 and the building of the new church of St. Peter between 671-678. It was also during this time that Ecgfrith's queen, Æthelthryth, gave Wilfrid the estate of Hexham for a new monastery. This gave Wilfrid a major monastery in both Bernicia and Deira [33]. Although the Hexham estate contained the Heavenfield site where Oswald raised the cross before the battle of Denisesburn, Hexham does not seem to have promoted Oswald's cult until 705 or later (Thacker). Since Wilfrid was occupied with his Episcopal duties and probably living in York, there was probably very little, if any, direct contact between Wilfrid and Willibrord between 670 and 678 (Van Berkum).

As mentioned above, in 678 Bishop Wilfrid was deposed from the see of York and driven into exile. Willibrord was left behind at Ripon, when it came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Bosa of York. In 679 Bishop Eadhæd was transferred to Ripon. Sometime in this period, Willibrord left for Ireland.

Other than the coincidence of the date 678, there is no reason to believe that Willibrord left Ripon in that year because it is the same year that Wilfrid went into exile unless he used Wilfrid's exile as an opportunity to escape from the control of Wilfrid's monastic family. Wilfrid was strongly opposed to the Irish influence in the church. Given that his monasteries were placed under members of the Hiberno-Roman group, he would have been all the more opposed to his monks going to Ireland. It stands to reason that Wilfrid would have preferred for his monks to stay at Ripon and Hexham and wait for his return [34]. Failing that, the southern English church would seem to have been preferable to Ireland. It seems most likely that Willibrord remained at Ripon at least through the winter of 678-679. Departure for Ireland is perhaps most likely after Bishop Eadhaed, a Hiberno-Roman, gained direct control of Ripon in late 679.

If Willibrord entered Ripon in 664-666 and left in 678-679, then he had spent approximately 12-15 years at Ripon to be followed by approximately 12 years in Ireland. Thus the training time in Ireland was essentially as long as that at Ripon, especially when one considered his young age when he first came to Ripon. If Alcuin's dates are reliable, Willibrord was approximately 20-21 years old when he left for Ireland and thirty-two when he left for Frisia.


Willibrord in Ireland

We know very little about Willibrord's time in Ireland beyond that he stayed under the direction of Egbert, possibly at Ráith Máelsigi [35]. It is even a guess that he stayed at Ráith Máelsigi. This monastery is never expressly mentioned in relation to Willibrord. It is only mentioned as the site where Egbert's friend Æthelhun died in the plague of 664. No one knows where in Ireland Egbert was residing in the late 670s or early 680s.

Alcuin tells us that Willibrord went to Ireland because he had an "urge to pursue a more rigorous mode of life and was stirred with a desire to travel abroad" (Talbot 1995: 195). We can easily imagine a young man of around twenty wanting to get out of the monastery he had lived in his entire life and see the outside world. He would have learned a great deal from Egbert and other Englishmen in Ireland especially about how to live and work in a foreign land.

One of the few events we can surmise occurred in Ireland is Willibrord's ordination. Bede and Alcuin call Willibrord a priest when he left for his mission to Frisia. Given that Alcuin claims he left Ripon as a monk, we are left to conclude that he was ordained a priest in Ireland [36]. This would also indicate that his last crucial training and preparation prior to ordination also occurred in Ireland.

An event in Ireland documented by Bede in HE 3.13 is a healing miracle credited to a relic of the stake that held King Oswald's head carried by Willibrord. A martyrology (MS. Paris Lat. 10158) kept at Willibrord's monastery of Echternach collaborates Willibrord's special veneration of Oswald by marking a special commemoration of Willibrord with Oswald's entry on 5 August (Wilson 36). Willibrord's possession of a stake that held Oswald's head rather than a sliver of the cross at Heavenfield in Hexham's jurisdiction, supports Willibrord's link to the Hiberno-Roman group. The fact that Lindisfarne was given Oswald's head for burial makes them the most likely dispensers of relics from the stake [37].


The Missions to Frisia begin in Earnest

As far as we know there was no contact between Wilfrid and Willibrord or Egbert from the time Wilfrid left Britain in 678 until long after Willibrord left for his mission to Frisia in 690 [38]. It is unlikely that news of Wilfrid's travels through Frisia would have reached Egbert's monastery by c. 688 when Bishop Egbert sent out the first missionary, another Englishman named Wichtberht, from Ireland to Frisia.

Wichtberht followed the traditional method of approaching a pagan frontier and went directly to the Frisian King Radbod. Wichtberht and his followers spent two years preaching in Frisia and trying to win over King Radbod. In 690, Wichtberht returned to Ireland [39] and declared his mission an utter failure, leaving King Radbod unconverted. As we know from other studies of conversions among the Germanic peoples, conversion of the king was of the utmost importance in the ultimate success or failure of a mission (Stancliffe 1980; Charles-Edwards 2000: 103-108; McKitterick 1995: I:7). There is no reason to believe Stephanus that Wilfrid had been any more successful than Wichtberht.

The concept of the mission to Frisia was developed and pursued mainly by Egbert. All that is known of Egbert's early career is that he was a Northumbrian noble who began his studies in Ireland before 664. In thanksgiving for surviving the plague that took his friend Æthelhun, he vowed to remain in exile from home (England) for the rest of his life. As mentioned above, Bede claims that Egbert wanted to undertake the mission to Frisia himself, but was warned off by a vision of St. Boisil [40] to one of his monks who had formerly been the disciple of Boisil at Melrose. In his vision, Boisil told the monk that Egbert was destined to convert Iona to the Roman cause.

In 690, Willibrord finally set off for Frisia with eleven companions at the encouragement of Egbert in Ireland. There is no reason to believe that Willibrord traveled through England en route to Frisia (Van Berkum 401-402). Alcuin is singularly unhelpful on the initiation of Willibrord's missions. Of the eleven companions Alcuin tantalizingly says "some of these gained the martyr's crown through their constancy in preaching the Gospel, other were later to become bishops" (Talbot 1995: 195-6). He names none of these bishops or martyrs.

Deduction from Bede and Echternach sources allows us to name a few of Willibrord's companions: Swithberht, the two Hewalds, Tilmon (who found the remains of the Hewalds), and probably the scribe Laurentius. To these, we can suspect that some of the obituaries in the original hand of the Calendar were also among the twelve. The Irish scribe Fergal (Virgilius), who wrote the Echternach Book of Prophets and several charters, must have either been among the original twelve as a youth or represent further Irish immigration from Ireland to Echternach.

Willibrord learned from Wichtberht's failed mission and traveled directly to Frankia [41] where he obtained support from Pippin II [42]. In 691-2, with the consent of Pippin, Willibrord traveled to Rome to obtain the blessing and counsel of the pope for his mission along with the materials and relics needed to work in Frisia (HE V.9-10).

Verbist, Wampach, and Moonen have suggested that Wilfrid prepared the way for Willibrord not only in Frisia, but also among the Austrasians and in Rome (Van Berkum 405). We have already seen that the way was indeed not well prepared for Willibrord in Frisia [43], and according to Stephan, Wilfrid himself left Austrasia after the death of Dagobert II in mortal danger from the supporters of Duke Ebrion. Pippin II does not yet appear on the scene and there is no reason to believe that he aided Wilfrid or would have been sympathetic to one of Wilfrid's former monks. Indeed, Pippin II was the nephew of Grimoald, who had originally sent Dagobert II into exile, and was therefore probably in the anti-Dagobert II and Wilfrid camp (Van Berkum 405). The theory that Willibrord was received in Rome because he was formerly a monk of Wilfrid is based on little more than the confused assertion that Willibrord was received in c. 692 and eventually consecrated in 695 by Pope Sergius I who also reputedly upheld Wilfrid's petition in 678-679. Since these scholars rashly assumed that Willibrord visited Ripon in Northumbria en route to Frisia, they also imagined that Willibrord was given letters of recommendation from Wilfrid to Pope Sergius (Van Berkum 407-8). Yet, Van Berkum notes that this is a chronological error. Bede clearly states that Pope Agatho dealt with Wilfrid in 679 (HE 5.19). Pope Sergius did not take office until 687, long after Wilfrid had regained his see and, therefore, there was unlikely to have been any direct contact between Wilfrid and Sergius prior to Willibrord's arrival in Rome [44]. Indeed, Van Berkum (409) finds it unlikely that Willibrord would have brought up the subject of Wilfrid with Sergius at all since he had no contact with Wilfrid since 678. Thus, Wilfrid was not a factor in Willibrord reception in Austrasia nor Rome.

While Willibrord was in Rome, the missionary members left behind elected Swithberht to be consecrated their bishop and sent him to Canterbury for consecration, apparently without the knowledge of Pippin or Willibrord. Why they sent him to Canterbury behind the back of Pippin and Willibrord has mystified scholars. I have no suggestions for their circumvention of their patron and missionary leader, but the choice of Canterbury over Rome and the numerous Frankish metropolitans may be related to their admiration for Paulinus of Kent, who was ordained in Canterbury. Modeling on Paulinus may also explain why Willibrord sought the counsel of the pope, since Paulinus had been sent to Britain by Gregory the Great.

Swithberht's plans to be consecrated by Archbishop Theodore, an ally of the Northumbrian Hiberno-Romans and Wilfrid's nemesis, were foiled when he arrived and discovered that Theodore had recently died and the see was vacant. Theodore's successor, ironically, was in Gaul being consecrated [45]. In a further irony, the only bishop available to do the consecration was Wilfrid himself, then acting as bishop for King Æthelred of Mercia. Wilfrid consecrated Swithberht and he returned to Frisia to a cold reception by Pippin and Willibrord.

Upon his return, Swithberht soon left the Frisian mission to begin a new mission among the Bructeri. There is no evidence that this mission was supported by Pippin. Shortly after his arrival, the Old Saxons defeated the Bructeri and Swithberht was forced to abandon his efforts there. Only at the intercession of his wife Plectudis and others did Pippin intervene to give Swithberht an estate at modern Kaiserswerth (HE 5.11). Swithberht appears to have remained at his monastery at Kaiserwerth until his death in 713. Although there is reason to believe the relationship between Willibrord and Swithberht could have been antagonistic, Swithberht's name was added to the Echternach Calendar on March 1 (Wilson 23).

In 695, Pippin sent Willibrord back to Rome to be consecrated Archbishop of Frisia by Pope Sergius. This was done on March 21 and Willibrord was renamed Clement (Wilson 42-43). The position of archbishop seems out of place for the then poorly developed missionary effort in Frisia [46], but Pippin wanted to ensure that his man Willibrord would have dominance over the other bishops moving into the area. Indeed it may well be Swithberht's consecration as bishop for Frisia that made Willibrord and Pippin seek the position of archbishop, ensuring that Swithberht now answered to Willibrord.


Echternach and Its Scriptorium

Pippin gave Willibrord the city of Utrecht to be the seat of his see, but he is associated as much or more with his monastery of Echternach [47]. Echternach was given to Willibrord as a fall back position in safer Frankish territory by Pippin's mother-in-law Irmina in 697-698 (Netzer 1989b: 128). The site already had a small monastery built on the estate before it was given to Willibrord. Charters suggest that a monastery was maintained on the site continually since 697. Willibrord built a new monastery there between 704 and May 13, 706. Nancy Netzer (1989b: 128) suggests that the scriptorium probably was not active until the new monastery was constructed. However, as we shall see, a few manuscripts can be dated to between 698 and 706.

Two scribes at Willibrord's main monastery, Echternach, are known to have produced four documents plus several charters during his lifetime [48]. Those documents are a Book of Prophets, the Calendar (of Willibrord), the Augsburg Gospels, and a version of the Hieronymian Martyrology. An Irish scribe named Fergal (Virgilius) wrote his name in the Book of Prophets. He also wrote and signed charters granting Willibrord lands in 709 and 721-722 (Netzer 1989a: 205-206). Similarity in the half-uncial script of the Book of Prophets, the Calendar and the Augsburg Gospels suggest they all may be the work of the same Irish training (Netzer 1989a: 205-206; O'Croinin 1984:28-30). Another manuscript, Paris BN Ms. Lat 10399, kept in Echternach in the later medieval period contains fragments of material on the Pascal controversy including quotes from the Pseudo-Anatolius De Pascha known only from Ireland and contains glosses in Old Irish (O'Croinin 1989b).

The Augsburg Gospels contain a poem by an Irishman named Ailerán (d. 665) and are dedicated to an Echternach scribe named Laurentius, who wrote and signed charters for Willibrord between 704 and 721-22 and signed the Hieronymian Martyrology (Netzer 1989a: 205-207). The poem by Ailerán "contains ninety-seven passages proper to John in Canon X, a number unique among the early twelve page cannon series to the Augsberg Gospels, thereby revealing that the Irish poem must have been composed for a Gospel Book containing a set of canon tables of the same recension as those in the Augsberg Gospels" (Netzer 1989b:130). The Augsberg Gospels and the Calendar of Willibrord appear to be in the same hand (O'Croinin 1989a:199).

Eventually four Gospel books would come to be written at Echternach: the Augsburg Gospels, Maeseyck Gospels, Trier Gospels, and the Freiburg fragment in this order. The production of these books traces the intellectual influence at Echternach through the first half of the eighth century. The Augsburg Gospels have been dated to c. 705 (O'Croinin 1989a: 1999). According to Nancy Netzer (1989a: 207), the Augsburg Gospels are based on a faithful copy of a Mediterranean Gospel book produced in Ireland and brought to Echternach from there, probably by Willibrord. The Maeseyck Gospels may have been presented to Abbess Harlindis at Aldeneyck during Willibrord's lifetime and are virtually identical to the Augsberg Gospel (Netzer 1989b: 130)49.

The others reflect two exemplar books, one Irish and the other Roman, and illustrate scripts and decorations that are known to have been developed at Lindisfarne (Netzer 1989a: 208-210). The Lindisfarnian influences at the Echternach scriptorium "coincides with the use of the Echternach Gospels as a source for decoration in the Trier Gospels" (Netzer 1989a: 211). These changes neatly parallel the visit of one of Willibrord's monks to the shrine of St. Cuthbert at Lindisfarne in 699-704 [50] documented in both Lives of Cuthbert (Netzer 1989a: 212). The Trier Gospel was written by a scribe who wrote several glosses in the Calendar of Willibrord (Netzer 1989b: 131).

Thus, the earliest products of the scriptorium [51] were based on Irish exemplars. These were supplemented by Roman works probably brought back to Frisia from one of Willibrord's two trips to Rome in 692 and 695, and then by Northumbrian works possibly brought back from the visit to Lindisfarne in 699-704.

Since Willibrord's Calendar is a selective commemoration of feasts, it reflects his missionary group's beliefs and politics. A marginal notation on the November folio referring to Willibrord's arrival in Frisia and his ordination has assigned ownership of the Calendar to Willibrord in 728 (Wilson 13, 42-43).

Although primary authorship of the Calendar is no longer assigned to Willibrord, the insular entries in the Calendar suggest the author's interests closely paralleled those of Willibrord. He may have been one of Willibrord's original twelve companions and was close enough to the bishop for his personal Calendar to come into Willibrord's possession by 728 and to have commemorated Willibrord's father. The insular-related saints commemorated in the primary hand are Cuthbert, Oswald, Paulinus of York, Wilgils, and Oethelwald of Farne. All of these saints can be linked to the kingdom of Deria [52]. Continental figures of special interest in the Isles included are Gregory the Great, Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes. Saints Aidan, Chad, Hild, Theodore, the Briton Gildas, and the Deiran Kings Edwin, Oswine, and Ecgfrith [53] are all later glosses. In addition, the Irish saints Brigit, Patrick and Columba are entered in the Calendar by the primary hand. Both of Willibrord's putative mentors, Wilfrid and Egbert, are missing.

To sum up the evidence from the entries in Willibrord's Calendar, it shows a strong and specifically early Deiran influence [54] blended with Irish commemorations and in an Irish style. There is no evidence of the strong anti-Irish bias of Wilfrid's teachings. Even though Willibrord's familia was a mixed group reflecting Northumbrian, Irish, and Frankish traditions [55], the original author of the Calendar was strongly influenced by the Irish. This is supported by the unusual date of the commemorations of Bishops Paulinus and Germanus of Auxerre [56], the orthography of the entry for Gregory the Great [57], and the Irish pattern of feasts for Mary (Wilson 18-19, 36-37, 39).

There is no documentary evidence from the early Echternach manuscripts for influence or aid by Bishop Wilfrid to Willibrord's mission. Quite to the contrary, Irish influence is the dominant feature.


The Visit of 703-704

During the autumn of 703, Wilfrid was again in conflict with King Aldfrith of Northumbria and decided to plead his case in Rome. Once again, he avoided passing through Frankish territory by traveling through Frisia and seeking hospitality from Willibrord.

This visit to Frisia does not necessarily mean that Wilfrid had kept in contact with Willibrord's mission or that he wished to visit an old pupil (Van Berkum 411-412). Wilfrid was seeking the best route to Rome that avoided Frankish territory as much as possible and hoped for hospitality among the English missionaries, as they were required to provide. The visit of one of Willibrord's priests to Northumbria sometime between 699 and 704 may have reminded Wilfrid, if he knew of the visit, that the English in Frisia prospered. Wilfrid remained for the winter months visiting both Utrecht and Echternach (Van Berkum411-412).

The miracles of St.-King Oswald gladly related by Willibrord to Bishop Wilfrid and Acca on many occasions during this visit (HE 3.13) also reinforced Willibrord's close ties with Lindisfarne. As mentioned above, it is likely that Willibrord obtained his sliver of Oswald's head stake relic directly or indirectly from Lindisfarne where the head was buried [58]. Thacker (109-111) suggests that Hexham did not begin to promote the cult of St. Oswald until Wilfrid became the adoptive father of Oswald's great nephew, the child king Osred [59] . In 704, that was still in the future and not even Wilfrid could have predicted the Northumbrian political turmoil that followed the death of King Aldfrith in 705.

I think it is more likely that Wilfrid never promoted the cult of Oswald, whose family had brought him such trouble. Acca, the successor of Wilfrid as abbot and then bishop of Hexham, is the probable instigator of the active promotion of St. Oswald and the Heavenfield site [60]. Acca did not forget Willibrord's stories and may have harbored fewer grudges with Oswald's dynasty than his bishop. He had, after all, been initially been trained by Bosa, Bishop of York, who was trained at Abbess Hild's Whitby, another important foundation in the Hiberno-Roman group.

Mysteriously again, Stephanus of Ripon omits all mention of Wilfrid's contact with the Frisian mission in 704. If Wilfrid were a supporter of Willibrord's mission, it is unfathomable that it would not be mentioned in the Life of Bishop Wilfrid. It is likely that Wilfrid did receive the hospitality of Utrecht and Echternach but no further support with the Franks or in Rome. Wilfrid may have been hoping that Willibrord would not only ease his passage through Gaul but also lend support in his coming discussions with the pope. As far as we know, he received neither. The omission by Stephan and Bede's interest only in one of the miracles of St. Oswald related, rather than the 703-704 visit itself, suggest that neither Stephan nor Bede believed the visit to be of any importance (Van Berkum 413).


Willibrord and Wilfrid

Comparing the motivations and methods of Willibrord and Wilfrid can dramatically illustrate their differences. These differences suggest that there is no reason to link Willibrord's adult activities or mission with Wilfrid of York.

Willibrord's mission appears to have been aimed at Frisia specifically from the beginning and, according to Alcuin, when Willibrord tried to expand his mission it was to the Danes rather than Saxony. Boniface began his missionary work on the continent by aiding Willibrord in Frisia before he moved southwest into Germania. By the end of his life though, Boniface felt compelled to attempt further conversions among the Frisians, even though he believed he could be martyred there (Howe 138-139). According to Howe (138), "as his return to Frisia reveals, Boniface gave his own life a mythic shape, it was to be a journey from the ecclesia of his native land to the pagan frontier of his ancestral homeland". Correspondence from his contemporaries suggests that they realized Boniface's vision for evangelizing on the ancestral pagan frontier (Howe 139).

The fortitude of Willibrord and Boniface in working with the Frisians can be sharply contrasted with Bishop Wilfrid. As far as we know, he offered no support to the Frisian mission after he regained his see and only used Frisia as a convienent stop off point en route to Rome that avoided his enemies in France. There is no evidence that Wilfrid (or his familia) inspired anyone to become a foreign missionary, nor is there any evidence that they aided foreign missionaries. Wilfrid's role models were Frankish metropolitans such as 'Dalfinus'/Aunemundus and Agilberht, and Germanic lords, who both concentrated on furthering their own political power and wealth (Pelteret 166, 174-5). Indeed, in Bishop Aunemundus and his brother Count Dalfinus of Lyon, we see those two role models merge in Stephan's Life (Colgrave 153).

Swithbert's consecration proves that Wilfrid knew of the mission to Frisia from nearly its inception and probably knew of Willibrord's involvement. Yet, there is neither mention of Wilfrid's consecration of Swithberht nor any support given to the Frisian mission in Stephan's Life of Bishop Wilfrid. Likewise, Stephan omits Wilfrid's visit to Frisia in the winter of 704-5. This if difficult to understand if Wilfrid had given them any support at all. If Stephan's was trying to show Wilfrid as having been the rightful heir of Paulinus and deserving of the post of Archbishop (Pelteret), he should have included support for the Frisian mission if it had existed.

Willibrord's support from the Franks can also be sharply contrasted with the difficulties encountered by Wilfrid. It is unlikely that Willibrord would have been welcomed by Pippin in 690 if he had stressed his relationship to Wilfrid (Van Berkum 406-407), although like Wilfrid, Pippin was an enemy of Ebrion. Yet, Wilfrid's Frankish collaborators in the return of Dagobert II may have been a group opposed to both Ebrion and Pippin (Wood 1994: 231-234). Wilfrid's consecration of Swithberht does not seem to have gained Swithberht favor from Pippin II (Van Berkum 407). Wilfrid's second and third trip to Rome probably went through Frisia expressly to avoid contact with the Franks.

Their relationships with individual kings varied as well. Wilfrid had at best mixed relationships with the kings, poor with his own Northumbrian kings but better with the kings of Mercia [61], Wessex, Sussex, and if we can believe Stephan, some continental kings. Yet, Frankish Duke Ebrion and Queen Balthild also threatened Wilfrid's life and he had been driven from all the English kingdoms in 678. Willibrord, on the other hand, had a good working relationship with Pippin and his son Charles Martel [62]. Ironically, we have no idea how Willibrord got along with the actual Frankish kings, if that mattered.

Wilfrid illustrates what a vast difference being an exile or peregrinus could make [63]. He was willing to challenge his own native king all the way to Rome, while he made concessions to kings he who gave him refuge during his periods of exile from Northumbria. Did Wilfrid challenge the Northumbrian kings because he was exerting his perception of his rights as a native Northumbrian landowner or simply because he had been ordained for a Northumbrian see? The answer may be both in equal measure. Cubitt (1989) suggests that it was not the division of his see that he objected to but the appointment of men from the outside of his monastic family. If Wilfrid had been a native of another kingdom, he may have accepted the deposition and returned to his homeland as one of his mentors Bishop Agilberht of Wessex did. Willibrord's support of Charles Martel over Pippin's natural son by his wife Plectrudis, whose mother granted Willibrord Echternach, shows that Willibrord adapted politically when necessary. How much Willibrord's legal status as a peregrinus effected his support of Charles Martel is unknowable. The relationship between king and peregrinus or exile demonstrated by both Wilfrid and Willibrord is a characteristic of all peregrini, rather than specific influence of Wilfrid on Willibrord [64].

Charles-Edwards notes three distinct points of difference between the Hiberno-Roman group and Wilfrid's. First, Wilfrid's group considered all the Irish and Britons "as heretics and schismatics, not just mistaken" (Charles-Edwards 2000: 337). Second, his assessment of the letter from Aldhelm of Malmesbury to Wilfrid's followers is that Englishmen were to be dissuaded specifically from study in Ireland. Last, Wilfrid's group "favored explicitly Roman practices in all aspects of religious life, including the adoption of the uncial script in place of the half-uncial" (Charles-Edwards 2000: 337). The primary hand of Willibrord's Calendar is written in insular half-uncial with most of the glosses written in minuscule (Wilson xi-xii).

Willibrord's activities in Frisia suggest he was open to the tolerance preached by Gregory the Great and Aidan in approaching heathens. A penitential recently suggested to be by Willibrord deals with topics such as infanticide that would be found on the pagan frontier. This text, if correctly attributed, takes a conciliatory approach, with an "insular tradition of penance" and a "remarkably lenient attitude towards certain types of infanticide" (Wood 2001:79). The penitential proscribes different levels of penance for infanticide depending on whether or not the child had tasted earthly foods such as milk (Wood 2001:113). Gregory the Great's instructions to Augustine may have inspired such accommodating policies (Wood 2001:79), but it is also akin with Aidan of Lindisfarne's attitudes. Aidan's famous counsel at the meeting on Iona is that the first missionary to Bernicia did not "offer them the milk of simpler teaching, as the apostle recommends, until little by little, as they grow strong on the food of God's word, they were capable of receiving more elaborate instruction" (HE 3.5, McClure & Collins 118). These gentler teaching methods were completely foreign to Wilfrid's strict nature.

Wilfrid would have known full well that his former pupil had changed sides in the Northumbrian ecclesiastical politics. The Calendar's entries for most of Wilfrid's enemies, including Theodore, Chad, Aidan, Cuthbert, Hild and King Ecgfrith, testify to Willibrord's politics. Changing sides would have been familiar to Wilfrid since he had himself received his initial training at Lindisfarne before becoming an arch-Romanist.

We should not delude ourselves that Wilfrid would not have held a grudge. Yet, Wilfrid knew how to be a peregrinus too; he had been in exile often enough. Wilfrid would not have aided Willibrord's mission from Northumbria but he would not have tried to cause trouble either [65]. By the time they met again in 704, Wilfrid had to treat his now powerful former pupil as he would a foreign ruler, currying Willibrord's favor. However, there is no reason to believe the visit was unfriendly. Wilfrid would have been interested in the changes in Frisia since his last visit and Willibrord would have been eager for news from Northumbria. Willibrord had nothing to fear from his deposed old master.

The inescapable conclusion of this review of Willibrord's career is that he was inspired, sent and supported by Egbert's Hiberno-Roman party in Ireland and Northumbria. Wilfrid had nothing intentionally to do with Willibrord's mission. Further, there is no evidence that Wilfrid's preaching in the winter of 678-9 was successful. There was nothing of Wilfrid's reputed mission left for Willibrord to build upon when he began his work in the 690s.

When Willibrord got the opportunity to leave Ripon he took it and joined others of the Hiberno-Roman group in Ireland. This openly declared his religious philosophy and politics. The fact that Egbert chose Willibrord as the leader of a missionary group suggests that Willibrord had embraced Egbert's philosophies.

Such switching of ecclesiastical political parties was not unusual. Acca of York left the Hiberno-Roman fellowship of Bishop Bosa for Wilfrid's Benedictine family [66]. Similarly, Wilfrid himself had originally been trained on Lindisfarne before joining the Romanist group and choosing the Frankish Bishops Agilbert of Wessex and later Paris, and Dalphinus/Aunemundus of Lyon as his role models. Just as we should have no doubt that Acca was Wilfrid's protégé and an ardent Benedictine, there is no reason to question Willibrord's dedication to the accommodating philosophy of the Hiberno-Roman party. This same accommodating philosophy was championed by no less than Gregory the Great and Aidan of Lindisfarne as the proper method of a missionary. Willibrord's early education at Ripon, the Ripon connection that has so long tied Willibrord and Wilfrid together, is simply not strong enough to merit credit in influencing the direction of Willibrord's life.



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Copyright © Michelle Ziegler, 2003. All rights reserved.

This edition copyright © The Heroic Age, 2003. All rights reserved.