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Birinus, St.


Bishop, apostle of the West Saxons; d. between 648 and 650. He was commissioned by Pope honorius i as a missionary to England and consecrated by Asterius, archbishop of Milan (not Genoa as is commonly said). A contemporary of Aidan of Lindisfarne, Birinus arrived in Wessex c. 634. He originally intended to work in the remoter parts of England, but finding the West Saxons still heathen, he stayed there. He baptized the West Saxon King Cynegils in the presence of King oswald, the Christian overlord of Britain, and was given Dorchester for his see (635). His patron King Cynegils died in 643, and his successor Cenwalh lapsed into paganism but was soon sent into exile. Cenwalh was finally converted and restored c. 648, and when Birinus died about a year later, the Church was securely established in Wessex.

Feast: Dec. 5.

Bibliography: Bede, Ecclesiastical History 3, ed. c. plummer (Oxford 1956). Three Eleventh-century Anglo-Latin Saints' Lives, ed. and tr. r. c. love (Oxford 1996). j. e. field, St. Berin: The Apostle of Wessex (London 1902). t. varley, St. Birinus and Wessex (Winchester, Eng. 1934). f. m. stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (2d ed. Oxford 1947) 102, 117118. r. graham, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 8:153031.

[e. john]

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