St. Chad (620 C.E.-672 C.E.)

views updated

St. Chad (620 C.E.-672 C.E.)

According to the hagiography of the Roman Catholic church, St. Chad was a bishop born in what is now England around 620 C.E. He was the youngest of four brothers, two of whom, Cynebil and Caelin, became priests; the other, Cedd, also became a bishop. He was educated at the monastery at Lindisfarne under St. Aidain, and following the advice of his mentor, he lived close to his people and always traveled on foot. In 664, Cedd was serving as the bishop of East Saxons (London). Making his rounds, he arrived at the monastery of Lastingham where Cynebil lay dying of the plague. When Cedd also became ill, he sent for Chad, who became the new abbot at Lastingham.

Meanwhile, Chad had become the bishop of York. This was at the time when the Roman tradition was replacing the Celtic tradition in the Church in England. Five years after his consecration, the archbishop of Canterbury noted that Chad had an irregularity in his past, as he had been ordained as a priest by two Celtic bishops. He asked Chad to step down, and Chad retired to the monastery at Lastingham. His ordination problem was corrected and he soon assumed duties as bishop of Mercia (Lichfield).

In 672, the plague swept through England again and Chad became ill. At the time, he resided with a small group of monks at the monastery at Lichfield. One day Chad called the brothers together and announced that he would soon leave them and admonished them to live together in peace and observe the rules of their order after his passing. He died later that day, and one of the brothers testified that he had earlier heard angelic singing coming from the oratory where the bishop had been praying. The angels had come to summon Chad to heaven. His death occurred on March 2, 672.

Chad soon became a focus of healing stories, and he was eventually canonized. His relics (bones) were moved on several occasions but placed in a special shrine in the cathedral by the bishop of Lichfield in the fourteenth century. When Henry VIII broke with the Roman Church and outlawed the cult of relics, the bones were removed from the shrine and kept quietly in the homes of loyal Roman Catholics until 1841, when they were placed in the new Roman Catholic Cathedral, which was dedicated to St. Chad, in Birmingham.

Modern scholars have charged that Chad and his brother never existed. They allege that he and his brother Cedd are variants of the Pagan deity Ceadda and emerged as the Roman Catholics gained dominance in the formerly Celtic Pagan area. Ceadda was associated with healing springs, a theme that flowed into the legend around St. Chad. He remains a saint on the Roman calendar, however, and churches are dedicated to him throughout the English-speaking world. There are also several ancient wells in the British Midland dedicated to him.


Brewster, H. Pomeroy. Saints and Festivals of the Christian Church. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1904.

Walker, Barbara. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper, 1983.

About this article

St. Chad (620 C.E.-672 C.E.)

Updated About content Print Article


St. Chad (620 C.E.-672 C.E.)