Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Daniel (d.745)

DANIEL, or according to Bæda Danihel (d. 745), bishop of the West Saxons, made Winchester his episcopal see from his consecration by Archbishop Brihtwald [q. v.] in 705, as successor to Heddi, till his resignation, on the loss of his sight, in 744. The subdivision of the enormous diocese over which Heddi had exercised episcopal jurisdiction had been recommended by Archbishop Theodore, and had been decreed by the yearly synod of 704, but Heddi appears to have been unwilling to assent to the change, which was not carried out till Daniel's consecration. Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somersetshire, and Dorsetshire were then constituted as a new diocese, with Sherborne as its see and Aldhelm as its bishop, leaving Hampshire, Surrey, and Sussex to Daniel. A few years later (Matthew of Westminster gives the date 711) Daniel's jurisdiction was still further reduced by the establishment of Sussex as a separate diocese, having its see at Selsea and Eadbert as its first bishop (Bædæ Hist. Eccl. v. 18; Flor. Wig. ed. Thorpe, i. 46). As some compensation for this loss of territory Daniel added the Isle of Wight to his diocese, which had remained unattached to any bishopric since its evangelisation by Wilfrid on its conquest by Cædwalla in 686. Daniel, who, like Aldhelm, had been a disciple of Maelduff at Malmesbury, takes rank among the most learned, energetic, and influential bishops of the great period of the development and missionary activity of the Saxon church in which his lot was cast, ‘Vir in multis strenuissimus’ (Faric. Vit. S. Aldhelmi, iii.). He is chiefly known to us as the contemporary and literary coadjutor of Bæda, whom, as Bæda gratefully records, he assisted in the compilation of his history by communicating materials relating to Wessex and Sussex and the Isle of Wight (Bædæ Hist. Eccl. Præfat.), and as ‘the encourager, counsellor, and correspondent’ of the great St. Boniface, who had been a member of the monastery of Nursling, near Winchester, in his mission to carry christianity to the heathen tribes of Germany. When Boniface, still bearing his baptismal name of Winfrid, after his first unsuccessful mission to the Frisians in 716, was two years later taking his final departure from England, Daniel furnished him with ‘letters of commendation’ to all christian kings, dukes, bishops, abbots, presbyters, and other ‘spiritual sons’ he might meet with, charging them, after the patriarchal model, to show him hospitality (Bonifacii Epist. ed. Jaffé, No. 11; ed. Würdtwein, No. 1). We have two other letters of Daniel's, addressed to Boniface himself, which ‘give us an insight into his mind and character, showing how he could advise and comfort’ (Bright, Early English Ch. Hist. p. 425). One of these, fixed by Haddan and Stubbs between 719 and 722 (Councils and Eccl. Doc. iii. 304–6; ed. Jaffé, No. 15; ed. Würdtwein, No. 14), is a document of peculiar interest, parts of which may still be read with advantage by missionaries to the heathen. In this Daniel counsels Boniface as to the conduct of his mission and suggests arguments against polytheism by which, through a Socratic method of questioning, its absurdity may be made evident and the contrast between christianity and paganism shown. These points he advises should be advanced with calmness and moderation, so as not to exasperate or insult those whom he is seeking to win over. The closing arguments of Daniel's letter are based on the world-wide spread of the gospel, as well as on the far more doubtful ground of the superior temporal happiness of christians, who enjoy lands fruitful in wine and oil, nothing but countries stiff with perpetual frost being left to the pagans. At the time of the writing of this letter Daniel was in feeble health, and he requests the prayers of Boniface that he may profit by his bodily affliction. Daniel's second letter was written at a much later period (732–745), in answer to one from Boniface asking his advice how to deal with bad priests, and requesting that Daniel will send him a copy of the six major prophets which had once belonged to his master Winbert, the former abbot of Nursling, written in a large and clear hand suitable to his failing sight. From this letter we learn that Daniel had become blind, a calamity on which Boniface offers him suitable consolation (ib. 343–6; Epist. ed. Jaffé, No. 55; ed. Würdtwein, No. 12). In his reply, written by an amanuensis, Daniel encourages Boniface to bear up under his trials, and, while exercising wholesome discipline as far as practicable over his clergy, not to attempt to separate himself entirely from communion with the evil, which would be impossible in this world, where the tares are ever mixed with the wheat. If such conduct involves a certain degree of apparent insincerity, he reminds him of various examples in which temporary simulation and ‘economy’ for a good cause appears to be sanctioned in holy scripture. He thanks him for his sympathy and begs his prayers, ending in words which manifest the deep love which existed between them: ‘Farewell, farewell, thou hundredfold dearest one, though I write by the hand of another’ (ib. 346; Epist. ed. Jaffé, No. 56; ed. Würdtwein, No. 13). At an earlier period (721) Daniel visited Rome (Flor. Wig. i. 50). Ten years after this visit he assisted in the consecration of Archbishop Tatwine, in 731 (Bædæ Hist. Eccl. v. 24; Flor. Wig. i. 52). After the loss of his sight he resigned his see (744) and retired to his old home at Malmesbury, where he died, ‘post multiplices cælestis militiæ agones’ (Flor. Wig.), and was buried in 745 (Will. Malm. Gest. Pont. i. 160; Anglo-Sax. Chron. sub ann.; Wharton, Angl. Sacr. i. 195). Florence of Worcester erroneously states that Daniel made Winchester his place of retirement (Chron. i. 55). William of Malmesbury speaks of a spring at Malmesbury called after Bishop Daniel from his having been accustomed in his youthful days to pass whole nights in its waters for the purpose of mortifying the flesh (Gest. Pont. i. 357). We have a short letter of Daniel's written before 737 to Forthere, bishop of Sherborne, recommending a deacon, Merewalch, whom he had ordained out of the canonical period (Haddan and Stubbs, iii. 337; Ep. Bonif. ed. Jaffé, No. 33; ed. Würdtwein, No. 148).

[Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Eccl. Doc. iii. 304, 337, 343, 346; Bædæ Eccl. Hist. Præfat. iv. 16, v. 18, 24; Bonifacii Epistolæ, ed. Würdtwein, Nos. 1, 12, 13, 14; William of Malmesbury's Gest. Pont. i. 160, 357; Bright's Early English Church History, p. 424; Florence of Worcester, i. 46, 50, 55.]

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