Hild, Abbess of Whitby by Monk Preston

"Ná glac pioc comhairle gan comhairle ban."("Never take advice without a woman's guidance." -Old Gaelic Proverb)

 

Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield).

Also known as: St. Hild, Saint Hild, St. Hilda, Saint Hilda.

 

Photo: "Skellig Michael" Copyright Irish Tourist Board.

 

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."Image: painting of St. Hild, Abbess of Whitby.

Abbess Hild Founds Celtic "Double Monastery"

Hild, a female Celtic monastic, was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to found and become Abbess of her own "double monastery" (one including both men and women) in Northumbria.  She made Whitby Abbey a center of learning, and was a patroness of the arts.  

One of her Monks, named Caedmon, earned great fame as a poet.  Hild's monastery was of such renown that it was chosen as the place where the Synod of Whitby was held in 664 A.D.  Unlike the Orthodox portion of the early church, the decision of this Synod was to place northern England and its Celtic Christians under the authority of the Bishop of Rome. 

Synod of Whitby: End of the Celtic Church in England 

Thus ended the Celtic Church's historic independence and existence in England.  The Irish Celtic monks returned to the Celtic monastic community on the island of Iona in Scotland, and to Ireland, which would retain its independence for another 500 years.  

After that half millennia had ended, Pope Adrian IV granted authority in a "Papal Bull" (an official Church document) to Henry II, king of England, to effect the conquest of Ireland.  This Papal document states that the reason this authority had been granted was: "for the enlarging of the bounds of the Church".  The Synod of Cashel was held in 1172 A.D., soon after the military subjection of Ireland was achieved, and the indigenous Irish Celtic church was then also brought under the authority of Rome.  Shortly after, the historic Celtic monastic orders which had flourished in Ireland independently for over seven centuries were declared dissolved.

With the conclusion of the Synod of Whitby, Hild's creative Celtic rule and her contributions to the development of Christian religious life were lost.  Double monasteries were forbidden.  A woman was no longer allowed to hold ecclesiastical office with authority over men, as had so often occurred among the Celtic believers.  The traditional Celtic monastic orders were replaced, as would occur 500 years later in Ireland, with the Augustinian, Benedictine, Cistercian, and other Continental religious orders.                           _________________________________________

Note: Another, later  primary source would  be (The Venerable) Bede.  He was himself a Roman Catholic Monk, and in writing a diatribe against non-Roman Catholic monks, mentions several times that some of them were married.  Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin Classics - Pages: 345,346)  Bede wrote his history in 731 A.D.

This same reference may also be used as a primary source to show that many Christians in England in Bede's time (731 A.D.) were not Roman Catholics and that the Celtic Church was indeed quite separate from Rome (in the view of the Roman Catholics in Britain of this period, themselves). _________________________________________

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 Skellig Michael Photo © Irish Tourist Board.

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