Celts to the Creche: King Aldwulf of East Anglia

Celts to the Creche: Day 17

King Aldwulf of East Anglia

c635-713

On this 17th day with the Celts to the Creche, we journey with Aldwulf (Ealdwulf). He was king of East Anglia from 663 to around 713. During his long reign of 49 years, East Anglia experienced an extended period of stability and growth, including the expansion of the commercial center at Gipeswic (Ipswich).

Ipswich ware found at West Stowe. Beginning about 700 AD, this pottery began to be produced in Ipswich in factories using a pottery wheel.

Ipswich ware found at West Stowe. Beginning about 700 AD, this pottery began to be produced in Ipswich in factories using a pottery wheel. photo from stedmundsburychronicle.com

The territory that King Aldwulf ruled comprises modern day Norfolk and Suffolk and perhaps part of the Cambridgeshire Fens. It was during the latter part of his reign that the famous Ipswich Ware began to be produced. It is likely that Aldwulf ruled from the area around modern day Rendlesham. St. Gregory’s Church at Rendlesham is a possibility to consider as the place where the Wuffing royal hall may have stood or the royal settlement may have been further north near Naunton Hall.

St. Gregory's Church, Rendlesham where the royal castle may have been. I visited here 2012.photo from geograph.org.uk

St. Gregory’s Church, Rendlesham where the royal castle may have been. I visited here 2012.photo from geograph.org.uk

Bede tells us in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, III, 22 that the East Saxon King Swiðhelm was baptized near modern day Rendlesham by St Cedd, with Rædwald’s nephew King Æþelwald standing as his godfather, around the year 660.

East Anglia in Anglo-Saxon times. from wikipedia

East Anglia in Anglo-Saxon times. from wikipedia

Familial Heritage: We know of Aldwulf and his lineage from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the Anglian Collection, and the Historia Brittonum. Aldwulf  was of the Wuffinga lineage. He was the son of Æthilric and his wife Hereswith (see day 3 of Celts to the Creche) and the grandson of Eni. It is quite likely that Aldwulf’s father Æthilric may have been the same person as Ecgric. Ætherlric/Ecgric died around 636 while along with King Sigiberht as they were trying to defend their  kingdom against an attack by King Penda of Mercia. Aldwulf’s aunt was the great founding abbess, St. Hilda of Whitby (see day 2 of Celts to the Creche). His maternal grandparents were  Hereric and Breguswith of the royal Bernician Northumbrian family.

East Anglian tally from the Textus Roffensis of the Anglian Collection. (photo from wikipedia.com)

East Anglian tally from the Textus Roffensis of the Anglian Collection. photo from wikipedia.com

The Wuffingas ruled from Suffolk in the southeast coastal area called the Wicklaw Hundreds which consisted of Sutton Hoo, Snape, Rendlesham, Ipswich, Burrow Hill, and Iken.  Aldwulf was the great-nephew of Rædwald of the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial treasure. Bede tells us that as a young child Aldwulf saw firsthand the temple containing both Christian and pagan altars that Rædwald of East Anglia had maintained.

Sutton Hoo helmet-replica. Original in British Museum. Wikipedia

Sutton Hoo helmet-replica. Original in British Museum. photo from Wikipedia

We do not know if Aldwulf as a young child went with his widowed mother Hereswith to France to live in a double monastery either at Faremoutiers or Chelles, or whether he stayed with family in East Anglia. Bede also tells his readers that Aldwulf established the second East Anglian episcopal see at North Elmham in 672/673.

Saxon ruins of North Elham Cathedral established during Aldwulf's reign

Saxon ruins of North Elham Cathedral established during Aldwulf’s reign. photo from wikipedia

Children: We do not know the name of Aldwulf’s wife, but we do know the names of at least two of his children, Ælfwald who succeeded his father as king and a daughter Ecburga who was an Abbess at Repton monastery in Derbyshire and also likely served as an Abbess at Ely.  It is very possible that Ecburga is the Œdilburga that is listed on the cross shaft as an Abbess at the Hackness Monastery, since Hackness was a daughter house to St. Hilda’s Whitby (Hilda would have been Ecburga’s great aunt).

The shaft of an Anglo-Saxon cross in the church in Hackness which is likely located on the foundations of St. Hilda's convent at Hackness. The cross bears the names of later Abbesses including those of Hilda's great nieces (Hereswith's granddaughters). Author saw this in April 2012.

The shaft of an Anglo-Saxon cross in the church in Hackness which is likely located on the foundations of St. Hilda’s convent at Hackness. The cross bears the names of later Abbesses including those of Hilda’s great nieces (Hereswith’s granddaughters). Author saw this in April 2012 and Sept. 2014.

Ælfwald, the son of Aldwulf, commissioned a monk named Felix to write The Life of Guthlac. Felix’s prologue to the work began with this dedication to Ælfwald “beloved by me beyond any other of royal rank.” Ælfwald was a literate and devoutly Christian king. In Ælfwald’s letter of about 747 written to Boniface who was the great English missionary to the Germans, he mentions that there are seven monasteries in his kingdom. It becomes obvious that likely beginning with Grandmother Hereswith and Great-Aunt Hilda that this was a deeply devoted Christian family greatly influenced by these two amazing women of faith, strength, and courage.  It is interesting that Abbess Ecburga had given Guthlac a lead sarcophagus and a linen shroud to be used when he died. Guthlac died young at 40, worn out from work and too much fasting. Before he died, Ecburga also asked Guthlac who would succeed him at Crowland. He was buried in the oratory close to his hermitage.

A detail of an illustration from 'The life of Saint Guthlac' (Manuscript from the 12th century, British Museum Library Board) H. W. Koch: Illustrierte Geschichte der Kriegszüge im Mittelalter, S. 142, Bechtermünz Verlag, ISBN 3-8289-0321-5. from wikipedia

A detail of an illustration from ‘The life of Saint Guthlac’ (Manuscript from the 12th century, British Museum Library Board) H. W. Koch: Illustrierte Geschichte der Kriegszüge im Mittelalter, S. 142, Bechtermünz Verlag, ISBN 3-8289-0321-5. from wikipedia

Resurrection Day: After a successful 49 year reign which was a very long reign in the Anglo-Saxon period, Aldwulf died in 713 likely in Rendlesham and was succeeded by his son Ælfwald who  also had a long reign of 36 years.

Meditation

A Celtic Encircling Prayer for Advent and Christmas

Circle us, Lord
Circle us with the light of your presence, bright within this dark word
Enable us to be overcomers of fear and temptation
Enable us to be victors over sin and despair
Enable us to become that which you would desire
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle us with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle our family within the shelter of your outstretched arms
Protect them in each moment of their daily lives
Protect them in the decisions that they face
Protect their homes and relationships
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our families with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this nation with Advent love and hope
Create a desire to listen to the Advent message
Create a willingness to understand and respond
Create a need to reach out to the Christ Child
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle our nation with the light of your presence

Circle us, Lord
Circle this world with the joy of your Salvation
Where there is sickness and disease bring healing
Where there is hunger and despair bring hope
Where there is torture and oppression bring release
(Silent prayer)
Lord of creation, Lord of Salvation
Circle this world with the light of your presence

Prayer from: http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Christmas.htm#ixzz4RyTaEKiW
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
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Some Resources:

Archaeology. Possible Anglo-Saxon Palace Discovered at Rendlesham. September 20, 2016.

BBC News. Anglo-Saxon’Palace’ Found at Rendlesham near Sutton Hoo Site. September 20, 2016.

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book 2, XVFordham University. Medieval Sourcebook.

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book 4, XXIII. Fordham University. Medieval Sourcebook.

Blair, John. The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Felix. Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe, ed. and tr. The Anglo-Saxon version of the life of St. Guthlac, hermit of Crowland.

Gallyon, Margaret. The Early Church in Eastern England. Lavenham, UK: Terence Dalton Limited,1973.

Hoggett, Richard. The Archaeology of the East Anglian Conversion. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2010.

Jones, Trefor. The English Saints: East Anglia. Norwich, UK: Canterbury Press, 1999.

Kirby, D. P. The Earliest English Kings. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

Nennius. Historia Brittonum in J. A. Giles. Old English Chronicles. London: George Bell, 1906.

Newton, Sam. Rendlesham: Site of the Hall of the Wuffings. 

_________. Wuffings’ Website. (excellent resource for this familial line)

Pestell, Tim. Landscapes of Monastic Foundation: The Establishment of Religious Houses in East Anglia, c.650-1200. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2004.

Plunkett, Steven. Suffolk in Anglo-Saxon Times. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2005.

Warner, Peter. The Origins of Suffolk. New York: Manchester University Press, 1996.

Yorke, Barbara. Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England.  New York: Routledge, 2002.

About pastorpilgrim

Pastor Pilgrim is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergy. I am married with two grown sons, a Hurricane Rita gift cat, and two Maine Coons. My interests include illuminated manuscripts, pilgrimage, Franciscan and Celtic spirituality, Shakers, Anglo-Saxon and Merovingian abbesses and their double monasteries, comfy cute shoes, Native American spirituality, and genealogy. I am a "Dancing Monk" with the online Abbey of the Arts (known as the Disorder of Dancing Monks!). Join me as we travel with the Celtic/Anglo-Saxon saints in an Advent devotional entitled, "Celts to the Creche" at www.saintsbridge.org. I also write of some of my pilgrimages, musings, and another Advent devotional, "Pilgrimage to Bethlehem" at www.pastorpilgrim.wordpress.com
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