(d. 693)

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(d. 693),

bishop of London, was London's most important diocesan between Mellitus and Dunstan, and its principal saint in the Middle Ages. Reputed to be of royal blood he was certainly rich; he founded the monasteries of Chertsey (Surrey) and Barking (Essex). He ruled the former, while his sister Ethelburga was abbess of the latter. Even before being consecrated bishop by Theodore in succession to the simoniacal Wine, Erkenwald was reputed to be holy. His diocese of the East Saxons extended over Essex and Middlesex: in the preamble to the Laws of Ina of Wessex he is called ‘my bishop’. He helped Theodore and Wilfrid to be reconciled shortly before the former's death in 690. In Bede's time miracles were reported as caused by the couch in which Erkenwald used to be carried in his declining years.

He died at Barking on 30 April 693: his relics were claimed by the nuns there, by the monks of Chertsey, and by the clergy of London. The claim of the last was successful, and Erkenwald was buried in the cathedral of St Paul which he had enlarged. The relics escaped the fire of 1087 and were placed in the crypt; on 14 November 1148 they were transferred again to a new shrine behind the high altar; on 1 February 1326 there was a further translation to yet another shrine, which was constantly enriched by canons and merchants of London until well into the 15th century. Vernacular literature about the saint and his shrine was also written. Miracles were reported there until the 16th century. Feast: 30 April; translation feasts, 1 February and 13 May.

Bede, H.E., iv. 6. B. Colgrave (ed.), Eddius Stephanus' Life of St Wilfrid (1927), p. 87;W. Dugdale, History of St Paul's Cathedral (1658);W. R. Matthews and W. M. Atkins, A History of St Paul's Cathedral (1957).See also H. L. Savage, St Erkenwald: a Middle English Poem (1926);I. Gollancz, St Erkenwald (1932);E. G. Whatley, The Saint of London (1989).

Subjects: Christianity.

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