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Deusdedit (DNB00)


DEUSDEDIT (d. 663?), the sixth archbishop of Canterbury, and the first of English origin, was a West-Saxon by birth. His original name is said to have been Frithona, and he succeeded Honorius, who died 30 Sept. 653, after an interim of a year and a half. He was ordained by Ithamar, bishop of Rochester, himself the first bishop of English or Saxon blood appointed to a see in this island. His consecration took place 26 April 654 or 655 (Bæda, lib. iii. c. 20, with which cf. Capgrave, 87 a, and Elmham, 183, 193). He ruled the province of Canterbury for nine years four months (or seven months) and two days, according to varying manuscripts of Bede, and according to this computation must have died 28 Aug. or 28 Nov. 663 A.D. This date, however, is at variance with Bede's chronology in another place, where Deusdedit's death is assigned to 14 July, in the year of the eclipse and the plague, which events, a few pages before, are referred to 664 A.D. (Bæda, lib. iv. c. 1, with which cf. iii. c. 27, and Capgrave, f. 87 b). Erconbert, king of Kent, died the same day (Bæda, lib. iv. c. 1).

Of Deusdedit's episcopate little is known, and this perhaps justifies the strong words of Bright: ‘Under Deusdedit as under Honorius the archbishopric continued to be little else than a high dignity shut up within a narrow area.’ Dr. Hook sees in him a prelate chosen as a compromise between the Roman and Celtic churches in Britain; but much of the long chapter devoted to this archbishop is somewhat vague and unchronological. The ascertained facts of his archbishopric are very few. He is found consecrating St. Damian, a South Saxon, to Rochester, when Ithamar died (ib. iii. 20), and his name occurs in one copy (the so-called Peterborough MS.) of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,’ under the year 657 A.D., when he hallowed Wulfhere's new monastery of Medehamstede (Peterborough), and signed its charter. As, however, the signatures to this charter include those of Ithamar and Tuda, there must be some mistake here; and Haddan and Stubbs, while admitting that this foundation dates from the time of Deusdedit, show that even if we omit the archbishop's name, the charter can only belong to the middle of 664 A.D. (Anglo-Saxon Chron. ii. 26–8; cf. Haddan and Stubbs, iii. pp. 99–100). Simeon of Durham makes Deusdedit consecrate Eormenburga's nunnery in the Isle of Thanet; but the whole story, as related by him, smacks of legend (Mon. Hist. Brit. p. 649). The comparative unimportance of the see of Canterbury during Deusdedit's lifetime seems shown by the fact that during the ten years of his episcopate all the new English bishops, with one exception, were consecrated abroad, or at the hands of Celtic bishops (cf. Stubbs, Reg. pp. 2–3). Thus Wina was consecrated in Gaul; Colman by the Irish bishops (‘missus a Scottiâ’); and Ceadda only arrived at Canterbury to find the archbishop already dead (Eddius, Vita Wilf. c. 12; Bæda, iii. c. 25, 28). Deusdedit does not seem to have been present at the great synod of Whitby (664 A.D.), when the Roman party gained the victory over the Celtic in the English church, though at so important a congress he can hardly have been left unrepresented. He is said to have been buried at Canterbury, in the porch of St. Peter's Church (Haddan and Stubbs, iii. 99), or according to Elmham (fl. 1426), ‘juxta suos prædecessores in præsenti ecclesia.’ Dr. Hook's account of the friendly intercourse between the shipwrecked Wilfrid and Deusdedit before the latter's death, and of Deusdedit's commendation of his diocese to Wilfrid's, though perhaps true as regards the general outline of the facts, is certainly false as regards the introduction of Deusdedit's name and the chronology, and is dropped out of the second edition.

[Bæda, ed. Mayor (Pitt Press Series) and Stevenson (Eng. Hist. Soc.); Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. Thorpe (Rolls Series); Lives of Archbishops of York, ed. Raine (Rolls Series); Monumenta Historica Britannica, ed. Petrie and Sharpe (Rolls Series); Florence of Worcester, ed. Thorpe (Eng. Hist. Soc.); Haddan and Stubbs's Councils of Great Britain and Ireland. Gozelin's Life of Deusdedit is partly printed in the Bollandist Acta Sanctorum for 15 July (July, iv. 48–50), and in Capgrave's Nova Legenda Angliæ Thomas of Elmham (Rolls Series, ed. Hardwick) gives his epitaph. Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, i. 124–44; Bright's Early English Church, 174; Dictionary of Christian Biography.]

T. A. A.