The Synod of Whitby in 664 was a Northumbrian synod where King Oswiu of Northumbria ruled that his kingdom would calculate Easter and observe the monastic tonsure according to the customs of Rome, rather than the customs practised by Irish monks at Iona and its satellite institutions. The synod was summoned at Hilda's double monastery of Streonshalh (Streanæshalch), later called Whitby Abbey.
There are two principal sources for the synod. The first source, the Life of Wilfrid, is a hagiographic work written by Stephen of Ripon, often identified as Eddius Stephanus, probably soon after 710. The second source is the Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum by the Venerable Bede, written in 731. One of Bede's sources was the Life of Wilfrid itself, but he also had access to people who knew participants in the synod. For example, Bede knew Acca of Hexham, and dedicated many of his theological works to him. Acca was a companion of Wilfrid's on some of his journeys to Rome.
Both accounts basically agree, though Bede gives a much lengthier discourse on the debate. The description of the proceedings, where King Oswiu presides and rules but does not engage in the ecclesiastics' debate himself, parallels examples of other synods in other sources, such as one in the Vita Sancti Bonifati by Willibald (where King Ine of Wessex performed the same function as Oswiu). Nonetheless, it is important to observe that the authors, despite their relatively good access to sources concerning the synod, still wrote at a distance, and the accounts, especially the quotations attributed to the participants, are more likely to be summaries of how Bede and Stephen understood the issue rather than something like true quotations. Further, the motivations of the authors influenced how they presented the material. Bede placed his description of the event centrally in his narrative, and he has been recognised as overemphasising the historical significance of the synod because Easter calculation was of special interest to him, and also because he wished to stress the unity of the English Church. However, Bede's accuracy as a historian has been well regarded by Anglo-Saxon scholars, and historians have generally been comfortable following Bede's basic presentation of the synod. Stephen's text has found more criticism, and Reginald Poole identified many of his inaccuracies, but Stephen's account of the synod did not suffer the same criticism as other passages in his work.
Christianity in Britain during the seventh century existed in two forms distinguished by differing liturgical traditions, labelled the "Ionan" and "Roman" traditions. The "Ionan" practice was that of the Irish monks who resided in a monastery on the isle of Iona (a tradition within "Celtic Christianity"), whereas the "Roman" tradition kept observances according to the customs of Rome. In the kingdom of Northumbria, these two traditions coexisted, and each had been encouraged by different royal houses. Edwin of Northumbria had converted to Christianity under the influence of missionaries sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great and thus had established Roman practice in his realm. However, following his death and a year of political instability, Oswald of Northumbria gained the throne. He had learned Christian practice from the monks of Iona during his stay there (while a political exile in his youth), and had encouraged Ionan missionaries to further the Christianization of Northumbria, especially the famous Bishop Aidan.
One of the main differences between the two traditions, and hence a source of controversy, was the proper calculation of Easter. Early Christians had probably originally celebrated Easter concurrent with the Jewish Passover (see Passover, Christian holiday), which was held on the fourteenth day of the first lunar month of the Jewish year, called Nisan, the day of the crucifixion according to John 19:14. However, the First Council of Nicaea in 325 decreed that Christians should no longer use the Jewish calendar but universally adopt the practice of celebrating it on a Sunday, the day of the resurrection, as had come to be the custom in Rome and Alexandria. Calculating the proper date (computus) was a complex process (involving a lunisolar calendar), and different calculation tables developed which resulted in different dates for the celebration of Easter.
In the 660s, Ionan adherents chose to continue using the 84-year Latercus cycle invented by Sulpicius Severus c. 410. Meanwhile, the Papal Curia had commissioned the Aquitanian scientist Victorius (AD 457) and later Dionysius Exiguus (AD 525) to produce a new reckoning in order to sort out the differences between the Roman and scientifically superior Alexandrian Church. The three reckonings often resulted in a different date for the celebration of Easter. Neither the Victorian or Dionysian reckonings were without problems. Dionysius simply translated the Alexandrian system into Latin without understanding it. The Victorian system, confusingly, produced double-dates relying on the pope to choose which date to use. Nevertheless, the Victorian table was accepted widely outside of the Irish world. Around 602, the Irish missionary St Columbanus had already been condemned by a synod of French clerics for ignoring their authority and following his homeland's Easter calculations (the Victorian table was declared official in Gaul in AD 541). About AD 600 Columbanus wrote to Pope Gregory I : "You should know that Victorius has not been accepted by our teachers and by the old Irish experts and by the mathematicians most skilled in the calculation of the computus, but was considered more worthy of ridicule and pity than of authority."  Although, in Ireland, too debate raged over the best option for calculating the date of Easter. Was it better to be on the inside in accepting a dating system that brought the celebration of Easter into line with the rest of the church but one that did not hold up to scientific scrutiny?
The proper date of the celebration of the most significant Christian feast had already resulted in visible disunity in the Northumbrian court: Queen Eanfled of Bernicia and her court observed Easter on a different day than did King Oswiu. While one royal faction was celebrating Easter, the other would still be fasting during Lent. Nonetheless, the disunity did not result in problems as long as the well-respected Aidan was alive. After his death, his successor Finan found himself challenged by a monk named Ronan, an Irishman who had been trained in Rome and who wished to see the Roman Easter established. It was only in the time of Colmán, the third Ionan monk elected Bishop of Northumbria, that the conflict required royal attention and resolution.
An important figure in the convocation of the synod was Alchfrith, Oswiu's son and sub-king in Deira. Henry Mayr-Harting considered him the "chief cause of trouble which led to the Synod". In the early 660s, he expelled Ionan monks from the monastery of Ripon and gave it to Wilfrid, a Northumbrian churchman who had recently returned from Rome. Alchfrith's position in the royal house, together with his promotion of Wilfrid (who would be the spokesperson for the Roman position at the synod), has contributed to the view that he was instrumental in arranging his father's convocation of the synod.
The synod was held at a place called Streanæshalch, at a monastery of Hilda, herself a powerful Northumbrian noble and adherent to the Ionan Easter. The identification of the location with the place later called Whitby is generally accepted, but not absolutely certain. Another possible candidate is Strensall near York.
The Ionan position was advocated by Colmán, Bishop of Northumbria. In support of the Roman position, Eanfled had sent her chaplain Romanus, and the position was also taken by Agilbert, a Frankish bishop who also held office in England. Because of Agilbert's inability to express the complicated arguments in Old English, which was for him a foreign language, Wilfrid was selected as the prime advocate for the Roman party. King Oswiu presided over the synod and acted as the final judge, who would give his royal authority in support of one side or the other.
Bishop Colmán argued the Ionan calculation of Easter on the grounds that it was the practice of Columba, founder of their monastic network and a saint of unquestionable holiness, who himself had followed the tradition of St. John the apostle and evangelist.
Wilfrid argued the Roman position on the following grounds (according to Bede's narrative):
Oswiu then asked both sides if they agreed that Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven by Christ and pronounced to be "the rock" on which the Church would be built, to which they agreed. Oswiu then declared his judgment in favour of the holder of the keys, i.e. the Roman (and Petrine) practice.
The Synod of Whitby established Roman practice as the norm in Northumbria, and thus "brought the Northumbrian church into the mainstream of Roman culture." The episcopal seat of Northumbria was transferred from Lindisfarne to York. Wilfrid, chief advocate for the Roman position, later became Bishop of Northumbria, while Colmán and the Ionan supporters who did not change their practices withdrew to Iona. Colmán was allowed to take some relics of Aidan, who had been central in establishing Christianity of the Ionan tradition in Northumbria, with him back to Iona. To replace the departing ecclesiastics, Oswiu chose mostly Irishmen who were from the parts of Ireland that kept the Roman Easter (as most of Ireland had done for some time by the 660s).
If the focus regarding the Synod of Whitby is on the specific decisions made, then it was simply one of many councils held concerning the proper calculation of Easter throughout Latin Christendom in the Early Middle Ages. It addressed the issue of Easter calculation and the proper monastic tonsure, and concerned only the part of the English Church that answered to the See of Lindisfarne – that is, it was a Northumbrian affair. Wilfrid's advocation of the Roman Easter has been called, "a triumphant push against an open door", since most of the Irish had already accepted the Roman Easter and for this reason Iona "was already in danger of being pushed to one side by its Irish rivals".
If the focus on Whitby is on the eventual consequences, then we might see the effects as more than just decisions on tonsure and dating of Easter, and instead see it as an important step in the eventual Romanisation of the church in England. This Romanisation might have occurred anyway without the Synod of Whitby. Nonetheless, following the Protestant Reformation, the events of the synod have been symbolically interpreted as a "Celtic Church" opposing a "Roman Church", and the decision of Oswiu was thus interpreted as the "subjugation" of the "British Church" to Rome. There is a debate regarding the reality of a pre-Whitby "Celtic" Church versus a post-Whitby "Roman" Church. (Until fairly recently, the Scottish Divinity Faculty course on Church History ran from the Acts of the Apostles to 664 before resuming in 1560.) In the words of Patrick Wormald:
From the days of George Buchanan, supplying the initial propaganda for the makers of the Scottish Kirk, until a startlingly recent date, there was warrant for an anti-Roman, anti-episcopal and, in the nineteenth century, anti-establishment stance in the Columban or "Celtic" Church. ... The idea that there was a "Celtic Church" in something of a post-Reformation sense is still maddeningly ineradicable from the minds of students.
Whatever might be the facts, to supporters, the symbology of a Celtic Church has importance post-Reformation.
In placing the synod in its proper historical context, Anglo-Saxon historians have also noted the position of the synod in the context of contemporary political tensions. Henry Mayr-Harting considered Alchfrith's interest in the convocation of the synod to be derived from his desire to see his father's position in Bernicia challenged and to see the replacement of Colmán with another bishop who would be more aligned with himself.
Agilbert (floruit circa 650–680) was the second bishop of the West Saxon kingdom and later bishop of Paris. Son of a Neustrian noble named Betto, he was a first cousin of Audoin and related to the Faronids and Agilolfings, and less certainly to the Merovingians. His name, the Frankish language equivalent of Æthelberht, has been taken to suggest a link with the royal family of the Kingdom of Kent.Agilbert was consecrated as a bishop in Francia before he travelled to Britain. He arrived in the West Saxon kingdom after the return to power of King Cenwalh of Wessex, who had been driven out by Penda of Mercia, either in the late 640s or 650s. He was appointed to succeed Birinus as bishop of the West Saxons, or Bishop of Dorchester. Agilbert, according to Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, had "spent a long time in Ireland for the purpose of studying the Scriptures". His appointment was due to Cenwalh.From Bede, it appears that Agilbert did not speak Old English, and it is said that his see was divided in two, with Wine being given half, because King Cenwalh "tired of his barbarous speech", although this may be mistaken. This insult supposedly led to Agilbert's resignation. He then travelled north to Northumbria, where he ordained Wilfrid. He was present at the Synod of Whitby in 664, where he led the pro-Roman party, but he had the young Wilfrid speak on his behalf.
Returning to Francia, Agilbert later took part in Wilfrid's consecration as a bishop at Compiègne. Agilbert became bishop of Paris between 666 and 668, and hosted Theodore of Tarsus. He was later invited to return by Cenwalh, to become bishop of Winchester, but sent his nephew Leuthhere in his place.One modern historian, D. P. Kirby, is unsure if Agilbert actually went to Northumbria after being expelled from Dorchester, suggesting it is just as likely that he went directly to the continent.Agilbert died at some time after 10 March 673, on which date he witnessed Clotilde's foundation charter for the Abbey of Bruyères-le-Châtel, and probably between 679 and 690. He was buried at Jouarre Abbey where his sister Theodechildis was abbess. His fine sculpted sarcophagus can be seen there in the crypts, as can that of his sister.Alhfrith
Alhfrith or Ealhfrith (c. 630 – c. 664) was King of Deira under his father Oswiu, King of Bernicia, from 655 until sometime after 664. Appointed by Oswiu as a subordinate ruler, Alhfrith apparently clashed with his father over religious policy, which came to a head at the Synod of Whitby in 664. After this, Alhfrith disappears from the historical record.Cedd
Cedd (Latin: Cedda, Ceddus; c. 620 – 26 October 664) was an Anglo-Saxon monk and bishop from the Kingdom of Northumbria. He was an evangelist of the Middle Angles and East Saxons in England and a significant participant in the Synod of Whitby, a meeting which resolved important differences within the Church in England. He is venerated in Anglicanism, the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England
The history of Christianity in England from the Roman departure to the Norman Conquest is often told as one of conflict between the Celtic Christianity spread by the Irish mission, and Roman Christianity brought across by Augustine of Canterbury.Cumméne Find
Cumméne Find (Latinised, Cummeneus Albus, Cumméne "the White", died 669) was the seventh abbot of Iona (657–669). It was during Cumméne's abbacy that the Northumbrians decided against adopting the Gaelic dating of Easter at the Synod of Whitby, resulting in the loss of control of the Ionan offshoot Gaelic church at Lindisfarne. In 664, the last Gaelic abbot/bishop of Lindisfarne, Colmán, resigned his post and returned to Iona. It was during Cumméne's abbacy that the Book of Durrow was first produced, although this probably happened at Durrow itself, rather than Iona. Cumméne is known to have visited Ireland in 663, perhaps on a tour of daughter houses. He is known to have written a now largely lost Vita of Columba. He died on February 24, 669.Deusdedit of Canterbury
Deusdedit (died c. 664) was a medieval Archbishop of Canterbury, the first native-born holder of the see of Canterbury. By birth an Anglo-Saxon, he became archbishop in 655 and held the office for more than nine years until his death, probably from plague. Deusdedit's successor as archbishop was one of his priests at Canterbury. There is some controversy over the exact date of Deusdedit's death, owing to discrepancies in the medieval written work that records his life. Little is known about his episcopate, but he was considered to be a saint after his demise. A saint's life was written after his relics were moved from their original burial place in 1091.Easter controversy
The controversy over the correct date for Easter began in Early Christianity as early as the 2nd century AD. Discussion and disagreement over the best method of computing the date of Easter Sunday has been ongoing and unresolved for centuries. Different Christian denominations continue to celebrate Easter on different dates, with Eastern and Western Christian churches being a notable example.Elfodd
Elfodd, Elvodug or Elfoddw (Latin: Elbodus or Elbodius; died 809) was a Welsh bishop. He induced the Welsh church to accept the Roman computus for determining the date of Easter endorsed elsewhere in Britain at the Synod of Whitby in 664. This was after centuries of continuing the practice they had taught to the Irish.
Elfodd appears to have been associated with the monastery at Holyhead on Anglesey as a young man and must have still been comparatively young when in 768 he persuaded the Welsh church to come into line with Rome as regards the method of calculating the date of Easter. The annals Brut y Tywysogion state: "Eight years after that  Easter was moved for the Britons, and Elbodius the servant of God moved it".
Elfodd's death is recorded under the year 809. Brut y Tywysogion describes him as "archbishop of Gwynedd", making him bishop of Bangor. Nennius, who says in the History of the Britons that he was a pupil of Elfodd's, describes him as a "most holy bishop" and reveals that Elfodd studied the works of Bede. One later source states that he was consecrated as a bishop in 755, but may not be reliable.Gerald of Mayo
Gerald of Mayo (died 13 March 731 AD) is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church. Born in Northumbria, the son of an Anglo-Saxon king, he was one of the English monks at Lindisfarne who accompanied
Colmán of Lindisfarne to Iona and then to Ireland. This occurred after the Synod of Whitby 664AD which decided against the Irish method of calculating the date for Easter. Colman was an ardent supporter of the Irish traditions; after the synod decided to adopt the Roman computation, Colman and thirty English monks, St. Gerald among them, left Lindisfarne and eventually settled on Inishboffin off the coast of what is now County Mayo in 668. St. Gerald became the first abbot of the monastery of Mayo after disputes arose among the monks on the island. The English were disgruntled by the behaviour of the native monks, who would leave Inishboffin to preach around the rest of the country for the duration of the summer while the English monks were left to tend to the island. St. Colman resolved the dispute by founding the monastery at Mayo and settling them there with Gerald as abbot.St. Gerald is reputed to have founded the abbeys of Tempul-Gerald and Teagh-na-Saxon and a convent which he placed under the care of his sister.
St. Gerald's College in Castlebar, County Mayo is named for Gerald. Taoiseach Enda Kenny are both alumni.
His brother Balin is also a saint.Hilda of Whitby
Hilda of Whitby or Hild of Whitby (c. 614–680) is a Christian saint and the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby. An important figure in the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England, she was abbess at several monasteries and recognised for the wisdom that drew kings to her for advice.
The source of information about Hilda is the Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede in 731, who was born approximately eight years before her death. He documented much of the Christian conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.James the Deacon
James the Deacon (died after 671) was a Roman deacon who accompanied Paulinus of York on his mission to Northumbria. He was a member of the Gregorian mission which went to England to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, although when he arrived in England is unknown. After Paulinus left Northumbria, James stayed near Lincoln and continued his missionary efforts, dying sometime after 671 according to the medieval chronicler Bede.Kingdom of Northumbria
The Kingdom of Northumbria (; Old English: Norþanhymbra Rīce, Latin: Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was a medieval Anglian kingdom in what is now Northern England and south-east Scotland. The name derives from the Old English Norþan-hymbre meaning "the people or province north of the Humber", which reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary. Northumbria started to consolidate into one kingdom in the early seventh century, when the two earlier core territories of Deira and Bernicia entered into a dynastic union. At its height, the kingdom extended from the Humber, Peak District and the River Mersey on the south to the Firth of Forth (now in Scotland) on the north. Northumbria ceased to be an independent kingdom in the mid-tenth century, though a rump Earldom of Bamburgh survived around Bernicia in the north, later to be absorbed into the mediaeval kingdoms of Scotland and England.
Today, Northumbria usually refers to a smaller region corresponding to the counties of Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear in North East England. The term is used in the names of some North East regional institutions, particularly the Northumbria Police (which covers Northumberland and Tyne and Wear), (Northumbria University) (based in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Northumbria Army Cadet Force, and the regionalist Northumbrian Association. The local Environment Agency office, located in Newcastle Business Park, also uses the term Northumbria to describe its area. However, the term is not the official name for the UK and EU region of North East England.Oswiu
Oswiu, also known as Oswy or Oswig (Old English: Ōswīg) (c. 612 – 15 February 670), was King of Bernicia from 642 until his death. One of the sons of Æthelfrith of Bernicia, he became king following the death of his brother Oswald in 642. Unlike Oswald, Oswiu struggled to exert authority over Deira, the other constituent kingdom of medieval Northumbria, for much of his reign.
Oswiu and his brothers were raised in exile in the Scottish kingdom of Dál Riata after their father's death at the hands of Edwin of Deira, only returning after Edwin's death in 633. Oswiu rose to the kingship when his brother Oswald was killed in battle against Penda of Mercia. The early part of his reign was defined by struggles to assert control over Deira and his contentious relationship with Penda, his overlord. In 655, Oswiu's forces killed Penda in a decisive victory at the Battle of the Winwaed, establishing Oswiu as one of the most powerful rulers in Britain. He secured control of Deira, with his son Alhfrith serving as a sub-king, and for three years, Oswiu's power extended over Mercia, earning him recognition as bretwalda over much of Great Britain.Oswiu was a devoted Christian, promoting the faith among his subjects and establishing a number of monasteries, including Gilling Abbey and Whitby Abbey. He was raised in the Celtic Christian tradition of much of the Irish world, rather than the Roman tradition practiced by the southern Anglo-Saxon kingdoms as well as some members of the Deiran nobility, including Oswiu's queen Eanflæd. In 664, Oswiu presided over the Synod of Whitby, where clerics debated over the two traditions, and helped resolve tension between the parties by decreeing that Northumbria would follow the Roman style. Oswiu died in 670 and was succeeded by his son, Ecgfrith. His feast is Feb 15 in the East and in the West.Rath Melsigi
Rath Melsigi, Anglo-Saxon monastery in Ireland.Richard Williams Morgan
Richard Williams Morgan (bardic name: Môr Meirion) (c.1815-1889) was a Welsh Oriental Orthodox priest and author.
Morgan was born in Llangynfely, Cardiganshire, and educated at Saint David's College in Lampeter. He was a leading figure in the Celtic Revival "Gorsedd of Bards".
Morgan was ordained priest in October 1842, when he was appointed perpetual curate in Tregynon, Montgomeryshire (now Powys). An outspoken campaigner for the use of the Welsh language in schools and in churches, it was apparently his obduracy over this issue that in 1857 led to Morgan being refused communion in his own parish church in Tregynon. Although Morgan did not formally resign his curacy until 1862, he never again held an ecclesiastical post in Wales.
Like many Welsh Anglican clergy of his generation, Morgan was also active in the Celtic revival movement. As "Môr Meirion" he organised, along with his better-known cousin John Williams (Ab Ithel), an eisteddfod at Llangollen in 1858. But his presence among the organisers, at the height of the controversy over his attitude to the English bishops in Wales, had imperilled the plans.
In the late 1850s and the 1860s Morgan spent most of his time in London. In 1857 he published The British Kymry, or Britons of Cambria, a comprehensive but unorthodox history of the Welsh people from The Flood to the 19th century; and in 1861 St. Paul in Britain: or, the origin of British as opposed to papal Christianity. Morgan argued that St Paul himself had evangelised Britain and converted the British Druids; he claimed that therefore the ancient Church of Britain was coeval with that established by St Peter in Rome, and represented an apostolic succession independent of the Roman Church (the Catholic Church) that Augustine of Canterbury introduced to England in the sixth century.
In 1874, Morgan was consecrated First Patriarch of a reputed restored Ancient British Church by Jules Ferrette, the founder of the British Orthodox Church. Morgan took the religious name of "Mar Pelagius I" and undertook to revive the Celtic Christianity that existed prior to the Synod of Whitby while continuing his duties as an Anglican priest.
On 6 March 1879, Morgan received a further consecration as a bishop, this being from Frederick George Lee, Thomas Wimberley Mossman and John Thomas Seccombe of the Order of Corporate Reunion.
Also on 6 March 1879, Morgan consecrated Charles Isaac Stevens, a former Reformed Episcopal Church presbyter, as his successor as patriarch. Morgan was assisted in this consecration by Lee and Seccombe for the Order of Corporate Reunion.
The Ancient British Church in the UK persisted into the mid-twentieth century, with the Fifth Patriarch, Herbert James Monzani Heard (1866-1947), consecrated in 1922. Succession from Morgan's Ancient British Church is also found in the Free Protestant Episcopal Church (now the Anglican Free Communion).In spite of his commitment to the Ancient British Church, Morgan served as a Church of England curate three more times, before he died in Pevensey, Sussex, in 1889.Saxmundham
Saxmundham ( SAKS-mən-dəm) is a small market town in Suffolk, England. It is set in the valley of the River Fromus, a tributary of the River Alde, approximately 18 miles (29 km) northeast of Ipswich and 5 miles (8.0 km) west of the coast at Sizewell. The town is bypassed by the A12 and is served by Saxmundham railway station on the East Suffolk Line.St Hilda's Collegiate School
Saint Hilda's Collegiate School is a secondary school for girls in Dunedin, New Zealand. Founded as an Anglican school in 1896 by the first bishop of Dunedin, Bishop Samuel Nevill and staffed by the Sisters of the Church. The sisters withdrew from the school in the 1930s. St Hilda's is the only school of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin. It is integrated into the New Zealand state school system.
It has a roll of approximately 450 girls with around one third of the school being boarders from both around New Zealand and overseas. The school is named after Saint Hilda, a 7th-century English abbess remembered for the influential role she played in the Synod of Whitby. Saint Hilda is considered one of the patron saints of learning and culture, including poetry.
Occupying a site bounded by Cobden Street, Heriot Row and Royal Terrace, the original buildings have been demolished and the site redeveloped from the mid 20th century. Some of the new buildings were designed by Ted McCoy. The chapel includes copies of windows from the first chapel.Tatberht
Tatberht was an eighth century Anglo Saxon Saint, Abbot and contemporary of the venerable Bede.Æthelwold of East Anglia
Æthelwold, also known as Æthelwald or Æþelwald (Old English: Æþelwald "noble ruler"; reigned c. 654–664), was a 7th-century king of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He was a member of the Wuffingas dynasty, which ruled East Anglia from their regio (centre of royal authority) at Rendlesham. The two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries at Sutton Hoo, the monastery at Iken, the East Anglian see at Dommoc and the emerging port of Ipswich were all in the vicinity of Rendlesham.
Æthelwold lived during a time of political and religious upheaval in East Anglia, whose Christian kings in the decades prior to his succession all died violent deaths, having proved unworthy of the task of defending the newly converted kingdom against attacks from its neighbouring kingdom, Mercia, led by its pagan king, Penda. Æthelwold was the last of the nephews of Rædwald to rule East Anglia. He died in 664 and was succeeded by Ealdwulf, the son of his brother Æthelric.
Few records relating to East Anglia have survived and almost nothing is known of Æthelwold's life or reign. He succeeded his elder brother Æthelhere, after Æthelhere was killed with Penda of Mercia at the Battle of the Winwæd in about 655. During his rule he witnessed a setback in the aspirations of Mercia to dominate its neighbours, following the Battle of the Winwæd and the murder of Penda's son, Peada.
He was king during the last decade of the co-existence in England of the Christian Roman rite, centred at Canterbury, and the Celtic rite based in Northumbria. At the Synod of Whitby, in 664, the Roman cause prevailed and the division of ecclesiastical authorities ceased. In 662, Swithelm of Essex was persuaded to adopt Christianity and was baptised at Rendlesham, with Æthelwold present as his sponsor. East Anglia became more closely allied to Northumbria, Kent and lands in the Fens by means of royal marriages such as that between the Northumbrian Hereswitha and the East Anglian Æthilric.