Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ceadda

CEADDA, Saint (d. 672), better known as Chad, was a Northumbrian by birth. He had three brothers, Cedd, Cynibill, and Caelin. All four were ordained to the priesthood, and two, Cedd and Ceadda, became bishops (Bede, iii. 23). He was one of St. Aidan's disciples, but spent part of his youth in Ireland in the monastery of Rathmelsige, now Melfont, in company with Ecgberht, another young Northumbrian of noble family, eminent for piety and missionary zeal. In 664 Ceadda's brother Cedd, bishop of the East-Saxons, died at his monastery of Lastingham, in Deira [see Cedd], of which he was abbot, and by his appointment Ceadda succeeded him in the office (ib. iii. 23). In the same year the synod of Whitby had been held, which, through the influence of Wilfrith, had decided to adopt the Roman time of keeping Easter. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, who adhered to the Scottish usage, resigned his see, and Tuda, his successor, died soon afterwards of the plague. Wilfrith was then elected bishop, and the see, probably at his request, was moved to York, where there had been no bishop since the flight of Paulinus in 633 [see Cædwalla I and Paulinus]. Wilfrith went to Gaul to be consecrated, and tarried there so long that Oswy, king of Northumbria, and his people grew impatient, and resolved to have Ceadda made bishop instead. He was accordingly sent to Canterbury for consecration, accompanied by Eadhæd, afterwards bishop of Ripon. On their arrival they found the see just vacant by the death of Archbishop Deusdedit, so they repaired to Wessex, where Ceadda was consecrated by Wini, bishop of Winchester, assisted by two British bishops probably from Cornwall (ib. iii. 28). He then returned to Northumbria, and for three years ruled his diocese nobly (‘sublimiter regens,’ Bede, v. 19). From his training under Aidan and in the Irish monastery he had learned that spirit of simple modest piety, purity from worldly aims, and single-minded devotion to duty for which the clergy of the Scottish school were remarkably distinguished. His whole time was divided between prayer, study, and the visitation of his diocese to preach and baptise. His journeys were all made on foot, after the apostolic fashion (ib. iii. 28). Wilfrith, on his return from Gaul, did not resent the appointment of Ceadda, and quietly retired to his abbey of Ripon. Soon after Theodore had been made archbishop of Canterbury, 669, he held a general visitation of the English church, and objections were then raised against the consecration of Ceadda as having been irregular, partly, we may suppose, because Wilfrith had already been appointed to Ceadda's see, and partly because two of the consecrating bishops belonged to the British church, which did not keep Easter according to the canonical rule. When Theodore told Ceadda that he had not been properly consecrated, he meekly replied that if the archbishop thought so, he was quite willing to resign an office of which he had never deemed himself worthy, and which he had consented to undertake only for obedience sake. Theodore, touched by his humility, said that he was not bound to relinquish the episcopal office. Ceadda, however, retired to his monastery at Lastingham, and Wilfrith entered upon the administration of the see of York (ib. iv. 2); but the holy man was not long permitted to enjoy his monastic retreat. On the death of Jaruman, bishop of the Mercians, in 669, Wulfhere, the king, requested Theodore to provide a successor. Theodore refused to consecrate a new bishop, but asked Oswy, king of Northumbria, to let Ceadda be transplanted to this South Humbrian diocese (ib. iv. 3). Oswy consented, and Theodore either reconsecrated Ceadda, or by some additional rites made good the supposed defects or irregularities in the original act of consecration (‘Ipse ordinationem ejus denuo catholicâ ratione consummavit,’ ib. iv. 2). The language of Wilfrith's biographer Eddius, c. 15, is stronger: ‘Per omnes gradus ecclesiasticos ad sedem prædictam plene eum ordinaverunt.’ He also implies that it was Wilfrith who recommended Ceadda for Mercia, and with other bishops reconsecrated him. But his partiality for Wilfrith probably makes him less trustworthy on this point than Bede.

Ceadda fixed the Mercian see, which had hitherto been unsettled, at Lichfield. Here he found or built a church, dedicated to St. Mary, eastward of the spot occupied by the present cathedral, and a short distance from the church he built a dwelling for himself and seven or eight brethren, where they spent in prayer and study the little leisure which could be spared from the ‘ministry of the word.’ King Wulfhere also granted fifty hides of land to the bishopric for establishing a monastery in a place called ‘the grove,’ in the province of Lindsey, supposed to be Barrow in Lincolnshire, where traces of Chad's monastic rule still existed when Bede wrote (ib. iv. 3). The bishop entered upon his episcopal and missionary labours with the same apostolic simplicity and zeal which had distinguished him in his former diocese. He still journeyed everywhere on foot, and out of ‘zealous love of pious toil’ resisted the bidding of Archbishop Theodore, who ordered him to ride when he had a longer circuit than usual to make. The primate, however, insisted on having his way, and on one occasion with his own hand helped Ceadda to mount; because, as Bede says (iv. 3), he had ‘assuredly discovered him to be a holy man.’ Bede relates several beautiful instances of this ‘holy man's’ habits of simple piety as described to him by one who had been brought up and trained in Ceadda's monastery at Lastingham. If he heard a loud blast of wind, he would pause in his reading, or whatever he was doing, and pray God to be merciful to mankind; and if the gale waxed louder, he would close his book and fall upon his face in prayer. If it rose to a tempest with thunder and lightning, he would go into the church and pray there, or recite psalms until fair weather returned (ib.)

After having ruled his church for two years and a half, Ceadda fell a victim to a pestilence which was fatal to many of his clergy before it attacked the bishop. Seven days before he died he had an intimation of his coming end. A faithful disciple and friend named Owin, who had once been steward in the royal household in Northumbria, but had forsaken all to become a lay brother at Lastingham, was working in the fields hard by the bishop's house, when he heard the sweetest sound as of songs of joy coming down from heaven to earth. It gradually reached and encircled the chamber where Ceadda was sitting alone, the other inmates of the dwelling having gone to the church, and after about half an hour it floated heavenwards again. While Owin was wondering what this might mean, Ceadda opened the window of his oratory and summoned Owin and the rest of the brethren. He told them that ‘the lovely guest who had already visited so many of their brethren had deigned to come to him also and summon him from the world.’ ‘Go back,’ he said, ‘to the church and bid the brethren by their prayers commend my departure to God.’ After they had departed, Owin ventured to ask him the meaning of the strain of joy which he had heard, and Ceadda told him that it was the song of angels, and that in seven days they would return and take him with them. He speedily sickened, and died seven days after, 2 March 672. He was buried near St. Mary's Church, but the body was afterwards transferred to the church of St. Peter. His shrine was a wooden structure in Bede's time (ib.), roofed like a little house with a hole in the side, through which devotees inserted their hands and took a few particles of his dust, which, when mixed with water and so drunk, were supposed to have a marvellous virtue for the cure of divers diseases in man and beast. The memory of Ceadda was revered in Ireland, where he had spent a part of his youth. Ecgberht, his companion there, had remained in Ireland, and some years after Ceadda's death he told an abbot from Lincolnshire (perhaps from Barrow) who visited him, that a man then living in Ireland had seen on the day that Ceadda died the soul of his brother Cedd descend from heaven and return thither, bearing the soul of the holy Ceadda with him (ib. iv. 3). The number and beauty of these legends help us to measure the real sanctity of Ceadda's life, which excited so much love and respect. As Bede says (iii. 28): ‘The things which he had learned from Holy Scripture ought to be done; these he diligently strove to do.’ Ceadda became one of the most popular of English saints under the name of St. Chad. His day was kept on 2 March, and still has a place in the black-letter calendar. A richly decorated copy of the gospels, which is said to have belonged to him, is preserved in the cathedral library at Lichfield.

[There is a short life of Ceadda in the Acta Sanctorum, and another in Capgrave's Nova Legenda, pp. 58, 59, but these and all subsequent biographies are really only compilations from Bede. Eddius, the friend and biographer of Wilfrith, was contemporary with Bede, but his narrative is not nearly so trustworthy.]

W. R. W. S.