(c. 631—686) bishop of Hexham

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(d. 686), bishop of Hexham. He was one of the twelve English boys educated by Aidan at Lindisfarne. He became a monk, and eventually abbot, at Melrose; one of the monks he trained there was Cuthbert, who arrived in 651. Several years later, Alcfrith, sub-king of Deira, gave Eata lands at Ripon for a monastery. Eata, Cuthbert, and others went there to make a start, but returned in 661 rather than accept the Roman calculation of Easter. But after the Synod of Whitby (663/4), both accepted it: Eata, at the request of Colman, became abbot of Lindisfarne, with Cuthbert as his prior.

When Theodore of Canterbury divided the vast diocese of Northumbria in 678, Eata became bishop of Bernicia, its northern half. Three years later this too was divided into the dioceses of Hexham and Lindisfarne; Eata ruled Lindisfarne from 681 to 685. In this year Theodore deposed Tunbert, bishop of Hexham, apparently for disobedience; Cuthbert was chosen to succeed him, but by mutual agreement Eata returned to Hexham, while Cuthbert became bishop of Lindisfarne.

Eata died of dysentery only a year later. Like Aidan, he was a man of peace and simplicity; his acceptance of the Roman Easter, together with the other decisions of the Synod of Whitby and of Theodore's councils, contributed considerably to the unity of the Church in Northumbria. He was buried to the south of Wilfrid's church at Hexham; a chapel was later built over his tomb. In the 11th century his body was translated inside the church. In 1113 Thomas II, archbishop of York, disappointed that his town had no shrine of a local saint, tried unsuccessfully to obtain Eata's relics for York. He was discouraged effectively, Eata's late biographer tells us, because the saint appeared to him in a dream and vigorously belaboured him with his pastoral staff.

The church of Atcham (Salop) is dedicated to Eata. Feast: 26 October.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.

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