(d. 959) archbishop of Canterbury

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(d. 958),

archbishop of Canterbury. Born in East Anglia of Danish parents, he became a Christian in early life, then a priest. He was appointed bishop of Ramsbury (Wilts.) c.925. He became a counsellor of King Athelstan (924–39), who sent him in 936 to France to negotiate the restoration of Louis, then exiled in England, who was the son of the Emperor Charles the Simple. Oda was present at the battle of Brunanburgh in 937, when Athelstan decisively defeated a combined army of Northumbrians, Vikings from Ireland, and Scots, thereby establishing the supremacy of Wessex kings over northern England.

In 942 Oda was appointed archbishop of Canterbury. About this time he had taken the monastic habit at Fleury, through sympathetic identification for the monastic order rather than an intention of living the normal cloistered life of a monk. He encouraged the monastic revival in England by supporting Dunstan, who reformed Glastonbury in 940, and helping his own nephew, Oswald of Worcester, to become a monk at Fleury. By now Oda was a principal adviser to the kings Edmund and Edred.

In his own lifetime he was called ‘Oda the Good’ for his devoted pastoral activities. These included the restoration of churches, the raising of moral standards among the clergy, and the patronage of monks and scholars such as Abbo of Fleury and Frithegod, to whose verse Life of Wilfrid Oda contributed an elaborate preface. He also arranged the translation of relics of saints, such as Ouen and Wilfrid, to Canterbury. In all these ways he was a precursor and model of Dunstan (d. 988), who indeed never passed Oda's tomb without kneeling.

Later legends about Oda attribute to him the miraculous repair of Athelstan's sword at Brunanburgh and a eucharistic miracle whereby the host dripped with blood to strengthen the faith of bystanders. Feast: 2 June (at Canterbury); later calendars give 29 May or 4 July.

Eadmer, ‘Vita S. Odonis’ in H. Wharton, Anglia Sacra (1691), ii. 78–87 and in P.L., cxxxiii. 933 ff., abridged in N.L.A., ii. 224–8; see also the Life of Oswald in J. Raine, Historians of the Church of York (R.S., 1879), i. 399–475; G.P., pp. 20–6; Text of his reforming Constitutions in D. Whitelock and others (edd.), Councils and Synods, I, 871–1204 (1981); N. Brooks, The Early History of the Church of Canterbury (1984).

Subjects: Christianity.

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