Britannia Biographies: St. Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, Part 3
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Biography of St. Chad (623-672), Bishop of Lichfield

S T.   C H A D
Part 3: Episcopate of Lichfield

Born: c.AD 623 in Northumbria
Abbot of Lastingham
Bishop of York
Bishop of Lichfield
Died: 2nd March AD 672 at Lichfield, Staffordshire

In AD 669, Bishop Jaruman of Mercia died and King Wulfhere asked Archbishop Theodore to send his people a new Christian leader. The primate did not wish to consecrate a fresh bishop, so he persuaded King Oswiu to release Chad from the Abbacy of Lastingham to be the new Mercian Bishop. Soon after his election, Chad set out for Repton in Derbyshire, where Diuma, the first Bishop of Mercia, had established his see. Theodore, knowing that it was Chad's custom to travel on foot, bade him ride, whenever he had a long journey to perform. However, finding Chad unwilling to comply, the archbishop was forced to lift him onto his horse, with his own hands, and oblige him to ride.

Chad did not stay long at Repton, but removed the centre of the Mercian See to Lichfield in Staffordshire. Whether this was through a desire for a more central position or was influenced by a wish to do honour to a spot enriched with the blood of martyrs is unknown. For Licetfield was then thought to translate as "Field of the Dead" where one thousand British Christians were said to have been butchered. Possibly also, he wished to be closer to the popular Royal Palace at Tamworth.

Chad's new diocese was not much less in extent than that of Northumbria. It comprised seventeen counties and stretched from the banks of the Severn to the shores of the North Sea. For the dioceses of Worcester, Leicester, Lindsey and Hereford had still to be detached. Though such an area may be thought far beyond the power of one man to administer effectively, Chad apparently rose to the challenge. King Wulfhere gave him the land of fifty families upon which to build a monastery, at the place called Ad Barve (At the Wood) in Lindsey, conjectured to be Barton-on-Humber, where the ancient Saxon church still stands. Though it was almost certainly Barrow in the same region.

Chad built himself a small oratory beside Stowe Pool at Lichfield. It adjoined a large well and a small church (St. Chad's), not far from his new cathedral. He would emerse himself naked in the deep well every morning and meditate in the icy waters before setting out around his diocese to care for the needy. When time allowed, Chad was also wont to pray and read with seven or eight other brethren in his cell. If it happened that there blew a strong gust of wind, when he was reading or doing anything else, he at once called upon the Lord for mercy. If it blew stronger, he, prostrating himself, prayed more earnestly. But if it proved a violent storm of wind or rain, or of thunder and lightning, he would pray and repeat Psalms in the church till the weather became calm. He explained to his followers that the Lord moves the air, raises the winds, darts lightning and thunders from heaven to excite the inhabitants of the Earth to fear him, to dispel their pride, vanquish their boldness and to put them in mind of their future judgement.

It was to Bishop Chad's little cell that Prince Wulfade of Mercia happened to chase a handsome deer whilst out hunting one day. Struck by the words of the pious holyman, the prince allowed himself to be baptised in the Bishop's well. His brother, Rufine, soon followed suit. Their father, King Wulfhere, had relapsed into Paganism and was furious at his sons. Having his mind further poisoned by their enemy - a thane named Werbode - he rode out and slew them both with his own hands. Immediately stung with remorse, however, the King fell ill and was counselled by his queen to ask Chad to give him absolution. As a penance, the saint told him to build several abbeys and, amongst the number, he completed Peterborough Minster (Cathedral), which his brother had begun. He was converted to Christianity and, often afterwards, sought the Bishop's advice.

Part 4: His Death


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