lundi 2 mars 2015

Saint CHAD (CEADDA) de LICHFIELD de MERCIE), évêque et confesseur

Vitrail représentant saint Chad 
au monastère de la Sainte-Croix de West Park (État de New York).

Saint Chad ou Ceadda de Liechfield, évêque

Frère de saint Cédric, abbé de Lastingham, à York en Angleterre, il y pratiqua la stricte observance de la règle de saint Columba. Evêque d'York, il sut s'effacer humblement lorsque cette charge lui fut retirée par saint Théodore, archevêque de Cantorbéry, et il fixa son siège épiscopal à Lichflield où il mourut peu après, en 672. Ses reliques sont conservées dans la cathédrale de Birmingham.

Saint Chad de Liechfield

Évêque d'York ( 672)

ou Ceadda.

Nous le fêtons avec la Communion anglicane.

Frère de saint Cédric, abbé de Lastingham, à York en Angleterre, il y pratiqua la stricte observance de la règle de saint Colomba. Evêque d'York, il sut s'effacer humblement lorsque cette charge lui fut retirée par saint Théodore, archevêque de Cantorbery, et il fixa son siège épiscopal à Lichflield où il mourut peu après. Ses reliques sont conservées dans la cathédrale de Birmingham.

À Lichfield en Angleterre, l’an 677, saint Céadde ou Chad, évêque. Dans des circonstances difficiles, il exerça son ministère épiscopal dans la province de Mercie et de Lindsey, et prit soin d’administrer son peuple selon les exemples des anciens Pères, en se montrant humble, pieux, zélé et apostolique.

Martyrologe romain

Saint Chad, vitrail de Christopher Whall. 

St. Ceadda
(Commonly known as ST. CHAD.)

Abbot of Lastingham, Bishop successively of York and Lichfield, England; date of birth uncertain, died 672.

He is often confounded with his brother, St. Cedd, also Abbot of Lastingham and the Bishop of the East Saxons. He had two other brothers, Cynibill and Caelin, who also became priests. Probably Northumbrian by birth, he was educated at Lindisfarne under St. Aidan, but afterwards went to Ireland, where he studied with St. Ecgberht in the monastery of Rathmelsige (Melfont). There he returned to help his brother St. Cedd to establish the monastery of Laestingaeu, now Lastingham in Yorkshire. On his brother's death in 664, he succeeded him as abbot.

Shortly afterwards St. Wilfrid, who had been chosen to succeed Tudi, Bishop of Lindisfarne, went to Gaul for consecration and remained so long absent that King Oswiu determined to wait no longer, and procured the election of Chad as Bishop of York, to which place the Bishopric of Lindisfarne had been transferred. As Canterbury was vacant, he was consecrated by Wini of Worcester, assisted by two British bishops. As bishop he visited his diocese on foot, and laboured in an apostolic spirit until the arrival of St. Theodore, the newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury who was making a general visitation. St. Theodore decided that St. Chad must give up the diocese to St. Wilfrid, who had now returned. When he further intimated that St. Chad's episcopal consecration had not been rightly performed, the Saint replied, "If you decide that I have not rightly received the episcopal character, I willingly lay down the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it, but under obedience, I, though unworthy, consented to undertake it". St. Theodore, however, desired him not to relinquish the episcopate and himself supplied what was lacking ("ipse ordinationem ejus denuo catholica ratione consummavit" — Bede, Hist. Eccl. IV, 2). Ceadda then returned to Lastingham, where he remained till St. Theodore called him in 669 to become Bishop of the Mercians. He built a church and monastery at Lichfield, where he dwelt with seven or eight monks, devoting to prayer and study time he could spare from his work as bishop. He received warning of his death in a vision.

His shrine, which was honoured by miracles, was removed in the twelfth century to the cathedral at Lichfield, dedicated to Our Lady and the Saint himself. At the Reformation his relics were rescued from profanation by Catholics, and they now lie in the Catholic cathedral at Birmingham, which is dedicated to him. His festival is kept on the 2nd of March. All accounts of his life are based on that given by Venerable Bede, who had been instructed in Holy Scripture by Trumberct, one of St. Chad's monks and disciples.

Burton, Edwin. "St. Ceadda." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 2 Mar. 2016<>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Sculpture de saint. Chad, St. Chad's Church, 

Saint Chad of Lichfield B (RM)

(also known as Ceadda)

Born in Northumbria, England; died at Lichfield in 673.

The Venerable Bede writes that:

King Oswy sent to Kent a holy man of modest character, well versed in the Scriptures, and practicing with diligence what he had learned from them, to be ordained bishop of the church of York. . . . But when they reached Kent, they found that Archbishop Deusdedit had departed this life and that as yet no other had been appointed in his place.

Thereupon they turned aside to the province of the West Saxons, where Wine was bishop, and by him the above mentioned Chad was consecrated bishop, two bishops of the British nation, who kept Easter in contravention of the canonical custom from the 14th to the 20th of the moon, being associated with him, for at that time there was no other bishop in all Britain canonically ordained besides Wine. [St. Theodore of Canterbury had no yet arrived.]

As soon as Chad had been consecrated bishop, he began most strenuously to devote himself to ecclesiastical truth and purity of doctrine and to give attention to the practice of humility, self- denial and study: to travel about, not on horseback, but on foot, after the manner of the apostles, preaching the Gospel in the towns and the open country, in cottages, villages and castles, for he was one of Aidan's disciples and tried to instruct his hearers by acting and behaving after the example of his master and of his brother Cedd.

During the tenure of Saint Aidan as abbot, when the abbey of Lindisfarne in northern Britain was a hive of Christian activity and the center of a brave and eager company of evangelists, among them was St. Chad, an Angle by birth, one of four brothers all of whom became priests, including Saint Cedd and Saint Cynibild.

As a young monk Chad had spent some years as a missionary monk in Ireland with Saint Egbert at Rathmelsigi, but was recalled to England to replace his brother Cedd as abbot of Lastingham Monastery, when Cedd was appointed bishop of London. Lastingham was a small community under the Rule of St. Columba in a remote, beautiful village on the very edge of the north York Moors near Whitby.

As described by Bede, within a year of his abbatial appointment Chad was named bishop of York by King Oswy. Meanwhile, King Oswy's son King Alcfrid had appointed Wilfrid, bishop of the same see. But Wilfrid, considering the northern bishops who had refused to accept the decrees of Whitby as schismatic, went to France to be ordained (consecrated?). Delayed until 666 in his return, Wilfrid found that St. Chad had been appointed. Rather than contest the election of Chad, Wilfrid returned to his monastery at Ripon.

When Saint Theodore became archbishop of Canterbury in 669, he removed Chad from the see of York on the grounds that he was improperly consecrated by Wine, and restored St. Wilfrid. Chad's humility in accepting this change was evidenced in his reply to Theodore: "If you consider that I have not been properly consecrated, I willingly resign this charge of which I never thought myself worthy. I undertook it, though unworthy, under obedience."

With that, the astonished Theodore supplied what he thought was wanting in Chad's consecration, and soon after made him bishop of the Mercians with his see at Lichfield. This was Chad's greatest achievement: The creation of the see of Lichfield, which covered 17 counties and stretched from the Severn to the North Sea. At Lichfield, or the Field of the Dead, where once a thousand Christians had been martyred, Chad founded his cathedral. Here, too, he built himself a simple oratory not far from the church, where he lived and prayed when not travelling on foot throughout his wide diocese, and here also he gathered around him a missionary band of eight of his brethren from Lastingham.

A typical story is of how on one occasion when two of the king's sons were out hunting, they were led by their quarry to the oratory of St. Chad, where they found him praying, and were so impressed by the sight of the frail old man upon his knees, his face glowing with rapture, that they knelt and asked his blessing, and were later baptized and confirmed. All who encountered him were similarly impressed, and many made pilgrimage to Lichfield and to his holy well outside the city, which still remains.

He had great qualities of mind and spirit, but greatest of all was his sense of the presence of God and the influence it had upon others, for it is said that all who met him were aware of God's glory. It was this experience, no doubt, which underlies the story that Wulfhere was so angry when his sons were converted that he slew them and, breathing fury, sought out St. Chad, but as he approached the bishop's cell a great light shone through its single window, and the king was almost blinded by its brightness.

In his early days in Northumbria, St. Chad had trudged on foot on his long missionary journeys until Archbishop Theodore with his own hands lifted him on horseback, insisting that he conserve his strength. This was typical of St. Chad, and he brought to his work at Lichfield the same grace and simplicity.

In Lichfield Chad founded monasteries including possibly Barrow (Barton) upon Humber, improved the discipline of the cloisters, preached everywhere, and reformed the churches of the diocese.

Many legends gathered round his name, and the familiar one which relates to his death reflects at least the inner beauty of his life. After two and one half years of steady, unremitting labor, when Chad came to die, his oratory was filled with the sound of music. First a laborer heard it, outside in the fields, and drew near in wonder, then ran and told others. St. Chad's followers gathered outside, and when they asked what it was, he told them that it meant that his hour had come and it was the angels calling him home. Then he gave each of them a blessing, begged them to keep together, to live in peace, and faithfully fulfill their calling. St. Chad's body simply wore out.

Some of his relics are preserved in the cathedral of Birmingham, which is named for him (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Gill).

In art, St. Chad is a bishop holding Lichfield Cathedral and a branch (usually a vine). He may also be found (1) holding the cathedral in the midst of a battlefield with the dead surrounding him, (2) with a hart leading hunters to him by a pool, or (3) at the time of the conversion of the hunters (SS. Wulfhald and Ruffinus) (Roeder).


St. Ceada, or Chad, Bishop and Confessor

HE was brother to St. Cedd, bishop of London, and the two holy priests Celin and Cymbel, and had his education in the monastery of Lindisfarne, under St. Aidan. For his greater improvement in sacred letters and divine contemplation he passed into Ireland, and spent a considerable time in the company of Saint Egbert, till he was called back by his brother St. Cedd to assist him in settling the monastery of Lestingay, which he had founded in the mountains of the Deiri, that is, the Woulds of Yorkshire. St. Cedd being made bishop of London, or of the East Saxons, left to him the entire government of this house. Oswi having yielded up Bernicia, or the northern part of his kingdom, to his son Alcfrid, this prince sent St. Wilfrid into France, that he might be consecrated to the bishopric of the Northumbrian kingdom, or of York; but he staid so long abroad that Oswi himself nominated St. Chad to that dignity, who was ordained by Wini, bishop of Winchester, assisted by two British prelates, in 666. Bede assures us that he zealously devoted himself to all the laborious functions of his charge, visiting his diocess on foot, preaching the gospel, and seeking out the poorest and most abandoned persons to instruct and comfort in the meanest cottages, and in the fields. When St. Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in England, in his general visitation of all the English churches, he adjudged the see of York to St. Wilfrid. Saint Chad made him this answer: “If you judge that I have not duly received the episcopal ordination, I willingly resign this charge, having never thought myself worthy of it; but which, however unworthy, I submitted to undertake in obedience.” The archbishop was charmed with his candour and humility, would not admit his abdication, but supplied certain rites which he judged defective in his ordination: and St. Chad, leaving the see of York, retired to his monastery of Lestingay, but was not suffered to bury himself long in that solitude. Jaruman, bishop of the Mercians, dying, St. Chad was called upon to take upon him the charge of that most extensive diocess. 1 He was the fifth bishop of the Mercians, and first fixed that see at Litchfield, so called from a great number of martyrs slain and buried there under Maximianus Herculeus; the name signifying the field of carcasses. Hence this city bears for its arms a landscape, covered with the bodies of martyrs. St. Theodorus considering St. Chad’s old age, and the great extent of his diocess, absolutely forbade him to make his visitations on foot, as he used to do at York. When the laborious duties of his charge allowed him to retire, he enjoyed God in solitude with seven or eight monks, whom he had settled in a place near his cathedral. Here he gained new strength and fresh graces for the discharge of his functions: he was so strongly affected with the fear of the divine judgments, that as often as it thundered he went to the church and prayed prostrate all the time the storm continued, in remembrance of the dreadful day on which Christ will come to judge the world. By the bounty of king Wulfere, he founded a monastery at a place called Barrow, in the province of Lindsay, (in the northern part of Lincolnshire,) where the footsteps of the regular life begun by him remained to the time of Bede. Carte conjectures that the foundation of the great monastery of Bardney, in the same province, was begun by him. St. Chad governed his diocess of Litchfield two years and a half, and died in the great pestilence on the 2nd of March, in 673. Bede gives the following relation of his passage: “Among the eight monks whom he kept with him at Litchfield, was one Owini, who came with queen Ethelred, commonly called St. Audry, from the province of the East Angles, and was her major-domo, and the first officer of her court, till quitting the world, clad in a mean garment, and carrying an axe and a hatchet in his hand, he went to the monastery of Lestingay, signifying that he came to work, and not to be idle; which he made good by his behaviour in the monastic state. This monk declared, that he one day heard a joyful melody of some persons sweetly singing, which descended from heaven into the bishop’s oratory, filled the same for about half an hour, then mounted again to heaven. After this, the bishop opening his window, and seeing him at his work, bade him call the other seven brethren. When the eight monks were entered his oratory, he exhorted them to preserve peace, and religiously observe the rules of regular discipline; adding, that the amiable guest who was wont to visit their brethren, had vouchsafed to come to him that day, and to call him out of this world. Wherefore he earnestly recommended his passage to their prayers, and pressed them to prepare for their own, the hour of which is uncertain, by watching, prayer, and good works.”

The bishop fell presently into a languishing distemper, which daily increased, till, on the seventh day, having received the body and blood of our Lord, he departed to bliss, to which he was invited by the happy soul of his brother St. Cedd, and a company of angels with heavenly music. He was buried in the church of St. Mary, in Litchfield; but his body was soon after removed to that of St. Peter, in both places honoured by miraculous cures, as Bede mentions. His relics were afterwards translated into the great church which was built in 1148, under the invocation of the B. Virgin and St. Chad, which is now the cathedral, and they remained there till the change of religion. See Bede, l. 3. c. 28. l. 4. c. 2 and 3.

Note 1. The first bishop of the Mercians was Diuma a Scot; the second Keollach, of the same nation; the third Tramhere, who had been abbot of Gethling, in the kingdom of the Northumbrians; the fourth Jaruman. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


Saint Chad of Mercia

Also known as
  • Chad of Lichfield
  • Ceadda of….
  • Apostle of Mercia

Brother of Saint Cedd and Saint Cynibild. Missionary monk to Ireland with Saint Egbert. Ordained in 653. Studied Latin and astronomy. Abbot at Lastingham monastery, Yorkshire, England; abbot to Saint Owen.

Not long after Chad became abbot, Saint Wilfrid of York was chosen Bishop of Lindisfarne, a see which was soon moved to York. Wilfrid went to Gaul for consecration, and stayed so long that King Oswiu declared the see vacant and procured the election of Chad as bishop of York. Chad felt unworthy, but threw himself into the new vocation, travelling his diocese on foot, evangelizing where he could. When Wilfrid returned in 666, Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, decided that Chad’s episcopal consecration was invalid, and that Chad must give up the diocese to Wilfrid. Chad replied that he had never thought himself worthy of the position, that he took it through obedience, and he would surrender it through obedience. Theodore, astonished at this humility, consecrated Chad himself, and appointed him bishop of the Mercians in Lichfield in 669.

He founded monasteries, including those at Lindsey and Barrow-upon-Humber, evangelized, travelled and preached, reformed monastic life in his diocese, and built a cathedral on land that had been the site of the martyrdom of 1,000 Christians by the pagan Mercians. Miraculous cures reported at the wells he caused to be dug for the relief of travellers.

Legend says that on one occasion two of the king‘s sons were hunting, were led by their quarry to the oratory of Saint Chad where they found him praying. They were so impressed by the sight of the frail old man upon his knees, his face glowing with rapture, that they knelt, asked his blessing, and converted. The pagan King Wulfhere was so angry that he slew his sons, and hunted down Saint Chad for some of the same. But as he approached the bishop‘s cell, a great light shone through its single window, and the king was almost blinded by its brightness; he abandoned his plan for revenge.
During storms, Chad would go to chapel and pray continually. He explained, “God thunders forth from heaven to rouse people to fear the Lord, to call them to remember the future judgment…when God will come in the clouds in great power and majesty to judge the living and the dead. And so we ought to respond to God‘s heavenly warning with due fear and love so that as often as God disturbs the sky, yet spares us still, we should implore God‘s mercy, examining the innermost recesses of our hearts and purging out the dregs of our sins, and behave with such caution that we may never deserve to be struck down.

NOTE: I still get email from visitors asking if Chad is the patron of elections, disputes, disputed elections, losers, or some other element related to 2000‘s disputed American presidential election. I have absolutely no evidence that there are patrons of elections, and certainly none that Chad has anything to do with it. It was not until 31 October 2000 that politicians and elected officials received a patron, and that’s Saint Thomas More. Times were rough in 7th century England, but I have no record of Chad hanging, dangling, dimpled or pregnant. As you see above, he was involved in a disputed election, but no patronage tradition resulted. Also note that when a dispute arose, Chad stepped aside for the greater good. Wish our current politicians had such grace; but no one ever accused them of being saints. – Terry



St Chad - Patron Saint of Medicinal Springs

Dr Bruce Osborne - revised Spring 2009

The Archaeological record

There are a number of significant sites in England that celebrate the cult of St Chad. This interesting phenomenon first identified by James Rattue in Living Stream, (1995) is the preponderance of St Chads Wells. This list has subsequently been consolidated by Harte (2008). The value of Harte’s work as an authoritative publication is that it provides a gazetteer of sources and their recording over the centuries and as such is a new prime reference point for anyone wishing to locate and conduct further research on particular sites or cults. The bibliography in particular gives students of Holy Wells a substantial guide with regard to source material. Harte identifies the following early spring/well sites dedicated to St Chad in addition to Lichfield Cathedral itself. 

In the examples the locations are given with an indication of the date of known first recording. Tushingham in Cheshire 1301 (p.27); Lastingham in Yorkshire 19th century (p43, v2p356); Stowe near Lichfield 14th century (p44,101, v2p325); Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire c.1300 (p.64, v2p321); Wilne in Derbyshire medieval (p64. v2p190); Chadkirk in Cheshire c.1306 (p64, v2p178); Chadshunt in Warwickshire 1695 (p64,79, v2p331); St Pancras in London (p.64, v2p266); Bedhampton in Hampshire (v3p443); Stepney in London (v3p448). Chadwell in Essex 19th century (v3p388); Chadwell Heath in Essex 19th century (v3p388); Birdbrook in Essex 19th century (v3p388); Brettenham in Norfolk 19th century (v3p402); Peterborough in Northamptonshire 17th century (v3p403); Warmington in Northamptonshire 20th century (v3p404); Chadswell in Shropshire 19th century (v3p407); Midsomer Norton in Somerset 19th century (v3p413); Chaigley in Lancashire 20th century (v3p430); together with a number of doubtful and spurious wells as follows: Pertenhall in Bedfordshire (v3p436); Shodwell in Cheshire (v3p437); Prestbury in Gloucestershire 1201 (v3p442); Twyning in Gloucestershire (v3p443); Ware in Hertfordshire (v3p444); Chaigley in Lancashire (v3p446); Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire (v3p447); South Ferriby in Lincolnshire (v3p.448); Shadwell in Norfolk (v3p449); Broughton in Oxfordshire (v3p450); Chatwall in Shropshire (v3p451); Shrewsbury in Shropshire (v3p.451); Birmingham in Warwickshire (v3p454). With such an array of recorded St Chad sites now consolidated by Harte into a single directory it raises the question: what is the background to this popular well cult?

Early background to Chad

Ceadda was actually a pre-Christian deity of healing springs and holy wells whose symbol was Crann Bethadh, the Tree of Life. There is some confusion as to whether Ceadda was a god or a goddess and the celebration may also have been originally Norse, not Celtic. Chieftains were inaugurated at the Tree of Life. Through its roots and branches the tree connected with the power both of the heavens and the worlds below. St Chad represents a Christianisation of this healing spring deity.

St Chad (Anglo Saxon - Ceadda) is regarded as the missionary who introduced Christianity to Mercia. Born circa 620 in Northumbria, he was educated at the monastery of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, of which he became the bishop. Upon his canonization, St Chad became the patron saint of medicinal springs. His year of consecration is recorded in Anglo-Saxon Chronicles at 664.

Litchfield Established AD 669

In the year AD 669, the year that the church in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK was established, St Chad came to Lichfield to be its first bishop. His appointment as Bishop of Mercia was by King Wulfhere. Here he founded a monastery beside a well of spring water. The spring was where he baptized the converts and the church that he built was dedicated to St Mary. 

The nature of St Chads appointment as a bishop gave rise to the more recent and unfortunate use of the word Chad to signify a false election result. From Mercia, Chad’s brother Cedd had gone to work first with the East Saxons before going north to Lastingham (in modern-day Yorkshire) where he had been given land for a monastery. On Cedd’s death from plague in 664, Chad succeeded his brother as Abbot of Lastingham and both brothers have a well there named after them.

The following year, Wilfrid, Abbot of Ripon, was sent to France to be consecrated as bishop of the Northumbrians. Wilfrid, however, lingered in France and Chad was summoned from Lastingham to be consecrated in his place. Bishop Wini of the West Saxons was the only bishop of the Roman tradition left in England, but, as three bishops were required for a consecration, two others still following the British traditions assisted.

In 669, Theodore of Tarsus became Archbishop of Canterbury and immediately set about reforming the English church. On discovering two bishops in Northumbria, he declared Chad’s consecration invalid because of the participation of the two British bishops. Chad’s reply revealed his deep humility: “If you know I have not duly received episcopal ordination, I willingly resign the office, for I never thought myself worthy of it; but, though unworthy, in obedience submitted to undertake it.” Moved by this reply, Theodore completed Chad’s consecration according to Roman rites. However, Wilfrid remained as Bishop of York and so Chad returned to Lastingham.

This state of affairs did not last long, as later in the same year King Wulfhere of Mercia requested a bishop and Theodore sent Chad. Although there had been previous bishops working in Mercia, it was with Chad that the see was fixed at Lichfield and so Chad can be correctly described as the first Bishop of Lichfield.

The Stag Legend

The background to St Chad’s ministry in Lichfield is legendary. Wulfhere was the Christian king who had asked Theodore, the archbishop, to provide him with someone to be bishop in Mercia, and so Chad had come to Lichfield. According to this legend, Wulfhere later renounced his Christian faith at the persuasion of an evil counsellor called Werbode, and two of his sons, Wulfhad and Ruffin, were brought up as pagans.

While out hunting one day, son Wulfhad raised a stag which he followed to St Chad's cell at Lichfield, where it plunged into the spring there - now St Chad's Well - before fleeing into the forest again. On reaching the spring, Wulfhad saw Chad and asked him which way the stag had gone. Chad told him that he was to follow the stag no further. Its purpose had been to bring him here, to Chad's cell, so that he could be baptised in the Christian faith. Wulfhad challenged Chad, if his God was so great, to bring the stag back by prayer. Chad knelt and prayed, the stag returned and Wulfhad was baptised at the spring.

The next morning, Wulfhad returned home and told his brother all that had happened. Ruffin decided that he, too, would be baptised and the stag once more appeared, to lead them through the forest to Chad's cell.

Thereafter, the two brothers made frequent visits to Chad to be instructed in the Christian faith. However, the evil Werbode became suspicious and, after a successful spying mission, reported the brothers to their father, the king. In an uncontrollable rage, Wulfhere went to Chad's cell and demanded of his two sons that they renounced their new faith. When they refused, he slew them both. (Chad was saved, we are told, because on hearing their father approaching, the brothers had persuaded him to slip away.)

Later, realising what he had done, Wulfhere was overcome by guilt and fell ill. Eventually, he agreed to follow the advice of his wife and seek out Chad so that he could repent and be absolved of his sin. The stag made its third appearance, to lead Wulfhere to Chad. On arriving at the cell, Wulfhere could hear Chad saying Mass, and, conscious of his guilt, was reluctant to go in.

When Mass was finished, Chad hung his vestments on a convenient sunbeam (or so we are told) and came out to meet Wulfhere. As a penance for his sins, Wulfhere was instructed to replace paganism with Christianity throughout his kingdom, to found churches and monasteries, and to lead a Christian life.

Bede indicates that St Chad zealously devoted himself to all the laborious functions of his charge, visiting his diocese on foot, preaching the gospel, and seeking out the poorest and most abandoned persons in the meanest cottages and in the fields, that he might instruct them. When old age compelled him to retire, he settled with seven or eight monks near Lichfield. Tradition described him as greatly affected by storms; he called thunder 'the voice of God,' regarding it as designed to call men to repentance, and lower their self-sufficiency. On these occasions, he would go into the church, and continue in prayer until the storm had abated.


There is some confusion as to whether the original church was on the site of the Lichfield Cathedral rather than a short walk away at nearby Stowe. It is likely that Chad’s church, dedicated to St. Mary, was somewhere on the site of the present cathedral and that the church nearby at Stowe was the site of the ‘house near the church, where he used to retire privately with seven or eight brethren in order to pray or study whenever his work and preaching permitted’.

St Chads church at Stowe is only about a half mile from Lichfield Cathedral. The present day church is a 12th century and later construction, the original Saxon one having been demolished. St Chads Well can be seen in the grounds of the present day church. It lies beneath a canopy erected in 1951, replacing an earlier enclosed stone built structure. Some say, St Chad was wont, naked, to stand in the water and pray, a habit that likely led to his saintly patronisation of cold bathing. Well Dressing here can be dated from the nineteenth century. This practice was revived in 1995.

Chad’s Death and his relicts

After two and a half years at Lichfield, there came a time of plague which ‘freed many members of the reverend bishop’s church from the burden of the flesh’. It is related that seven days before his death, a monk named Arvinus, who was outside the building in which he lay, heard a sound as of heavenly music attendant upon a company of angels, who visited the saint to forewarn him of his end. St Chad died in 672 and his body was buried near the church of St Mary’s. In 700 his bones were relocated to the newly completed cathedral in Lichfield. His remains were enclosed in a rich shrine, which, being resorted to by multitudes of pilgrims, caused the gradual rise of the city of Lichfield from a small village. It is related that the saint's tomb had a hole in it, through which the pilgrims used to take out portions of the dust, which, mixed with holy water, they gave to men and animals to drink.

Chad's cult was destroyed at the Reformation and his relics were scattered, apparently in 1538. A prebendary of Lichfield, Arthur Dudley (a relative of the Sutton Lords Dudley and of the cadet branch of the Dudley family who held various high offices and titles in 16th C), scooped up a few of Chad's bones. He is said, in a document written by a Jesuit priest in mid 17th C, to have deposited them with two sisters, members of his family, in Russells Hall, Dudley. The sisters eventually entrusted the few bones to Henry and William Hodgetts, recusants of Woodsetton in the neighbouring parish of Sedgley. William died first (he apparently 'divined' thefts with a crystal ball, among other things). Just before Henry died, in 1651 (not 1615, as the local version has it, from an early 19th C published translation of the Latin), he gave the relics to the Jesuit priest who administered the Last Rites. The fragments were given by the Jesuit to a member of the Leveson family, royalists and recusants, at least one of whom was involved in defending Dudley Castle around that time. A Puritan raid on a Leveson house resulted in the loss of some of the bones. The rest were hidden by other Staffordshire recusant families until religious toleration acts were passed at the end of 18th C and beginning of 19th, and the Cathedral for the RC Archdiocese of Birmingham was the obvious destination for them. (supplied by Buckley C from Greenslade 1996 & 2006)

St Chad remains and are now in the hands of the Birmingham Roman Catholic Cathedral. Carbon dating has confirmed that the remains are contemporary with the life of St Chad.

Celebration of St Chad and cold bathing

Sir John Floyer of Lichfield, the celebrated physician to Charles II, in 1706 published a curious collection of letters about the medicinal values of cold bathing. In his text he describes St Chad as one of the first converters of our nation, who used immersion in the baptism of the Saxons; such immersion being beneficial to the body as well as the soul. Floyer concludes that the well near Stowe, which bears Chad's name, was his baptistery, it being deep enough for immersion, and conveniently seated near the church; and that it has the reputation of curing sore eyes, scabs, &c. Sir John Floyer, it should be added, set up his own baths at Unite’s Well. This lay about one mile north-west of Lichfield. He appropriately named his baths after St Chad, the water of which he observes to be the coldest in the neighbourhood. Sir John gives a table of diseases for which St Chads Baths was efficacious (Floyer J. 1706, p.17 - 27.).

Chamber’s “Book of Days” indicates that Chad was designated "Patron Saint of Medicinal Springs" as a result of the miraculous healing achieved using the dust from his shrine mixed with Holy Water. An alternative view, expressed by Sunderland (1915) is that the designation resulted from his practice of bathing naked in his well at Stowe, by the church.

Today’s archaeology

The cult of St Chad has resulted in the name being adopted in up to 42 instances of springs and wells and one may conclude that the patron saint of medicinal springs was a very powerful endorsement of a well’s properties. This may not be as clear cut as first assumed however. St Chad’s wells in some instances are likely a transformation or hagiologising from “cealdwiella” or cold well. (Harte p.8) Chadwell in Essex for example in 1578 was Chawdwell but by the 20th century had adopted the nomenclature St Chad's Well. It is not surprising that Floyer therefore took an interest in the well at Lichfield in view of his interest in cold bathing as a cure. It would appear that St Chad became synonymous with cold wells.

Today we find St Chad's name being used to name hospitals, doctor's surgeries and health centres. The cult lives on. Meanwhile the St Chads Foundation Trust strives to protect and enhance the site of St Chad’s Church and Spring at Stowe, near Lichfield.

St Chads Feast Day is March 2nd.

B E Osborne 2009

General and detailed sources:
Pictures by S Arnold and B Osborne;
<Anglo-Saxon Chronicles Ingram J (1912 reprint 1929). p.40.

Book of Days Chambers R (1864) p.321.

Catholic Staffordshire Greenslade M (2006) Gracewing Books, Leominster

The Forgotten Cathedral Current Archaeology 205 (2006) Rodwell W, p.9-17.

English Holy Wells – a sourcebook Harte J (2008) Heart of Albion Loughborough. Vols 2 and 3 are the gazetteer.

History of Cold Bathing – both ancient and modern Floyer J (1706) Walford London.

London’s Spas, Baths and Wells Sunderland S (1915) Bale, London. p.13-16.

On Eagles Wings The Life and Spirit of St Chad Adam D (1999) Triangle London.

Saint Chad of Lichfield and Birmingham Greenslade M W, (Archdiocese of Birmingham Historical Commission, publication number 10, 1996)

The Living Stream – Holy Wells in Historical Context Rattue J (1995) Boydell Woodbridge

Other sources include together with the archives of the Spas Research Fellowship. James Rattue and Jeremy Harte have both aided the preparation of this paper.

St Chad - Patron Saint of Medicinal Springs
San Ceadda (Chad) di Lichfield Abate e vescovo

† Lichfield, Inghilterra, 2 marzo 672

Patronato: Diocesi di Birmingham

Martirologio Romano: A Lichfield in Inghilterra, san Ceadda, vescovo, che nelle allora povere province della Mercia, del Lindsey e dell’Anglia meridionale, resse l’ufficio episcopale, impegnandosi ad amministrarlo secondo l’esempio degli antichi Padri in grande perfezione di vita.

San Ceadda (Chad) proveniva da una famiglia molto religiosa della Northumbria, della quale ben quattro fratelli divennero sacerdoti, due addirittura vescovi. Egli fu discepolo di Sant’Aidano di Lindisfarne, e proprio in quest’ultima città soggiornò per un certo periodo e ricevette dal suo maestro un’ottima formazione. Ancora in giovane età, si trasferì in Irlanda, dove insieme al compagno Egberto visse da monaco, immerso nella preghiera, nel digiuno e nella meditazione delle Sacre Scritture. Ricevette l’ordinazione presbiterale probabilmente una volta tornato in Inghilterra. Nulla sappiamo di preciso sulla sua vita sino alla morte del fratello San Cedda. Quest’ultimo predicò il Vangelo agli angli del centro, fu pi vescovo ed apostolo dei sassoni orientali ed infine fondò ed amministrò il monastero di Lastingham, che poi lasciò in eredità al fratello.

Il nuovo abate si ritrovò ben presto nel mezzo di una intricata questine politica, che coinvolse i sovrani dei regni vicini e dei principali monasteri, ma che sarebbe lungo ed inutile riportare nei dettagli. Da ciò Ceadda ne ricavò la consacrazione episcopale, non solo in base a calcoli fatti a tavolino, ma proprio perchè nessuno dubitava sulla sua santità e sulle lodevoli qualità, come ebbe a testimoniare nelle sue memorie anche San Beda il Venerabile. Sorserò però dei dubbi sulla legittimità della sua nomina e della sua ordinazione, contestata da San Vilfrido che si rivolse al nuovo arcivescovo San Teodoro di Tarso dal quale ebbe pieno appoggio. Ceadda non esitò allora a farsi da parte per obbedienza ed umiltà, ma Teodoro commosso dalla sua reazione, convalidò la consacrazione episcopale di Ceadda, che comunque preferì ritirarsi a vita monastica presso Lastingham.

Quando però ben presto la Mercia rimase senza vescovi, Teodoro richiamò nuovamente Ceadda che prese possesso della sede di Lichfield. Vicino alla cattedrale il santo fece edificare un luogo ove portersi ritirare in preghiera con altri monaci quando era libero da altri impegni. Ricevette inoltre in dono un terreno presso Ad Barvae, probabilmente l’odierna Barrow nella contea di Lindsey, ove fondare un nuovo monastero. Annunciò in anticipo ai frati la prossimità della sua scomparsa, persuadendoli a vivere in pace con tutto e con tutti, rimanendo fedeli alle regole monastiche apprese da lui e dai suoi predecessori. Spirò infine il 2 marzo 672, dopo aver ricevuto la comunione sotto le due specie, a causa di quella tremenda epidemia di peste che parecchie vittime aveva già mietuto tra i suoi fedeli.

Il suo vecchio amico Egberto asserì che fu vista l’anima di Cedd scendere dal cielo assieme ad uno stormo di angeli per scortare il fratello verso la vita eterna. Dopo una primitiva sepoltura, le sue spoglie furono traslate ove oggi sorge la cattedrale di Lichfield. Su entrambe le tombe si verificarono numerosi miracoli, grazie ai quali il suo culto si diffuse ampiamente. Con le invasioni normanne si pensò che le reliquie fosse andate perdute, ma alcune di esse nel 1839 furono rinvenute e deposte sopra l’altar maggiore della nuova cattedrale di Birmingham, di cui divenne patrono. Il nome di San Chad figura nei calendari e nelle litanie anglosassoni e ad esso vennero dedicate parecchie chiese medioevali nell’Inghilterra centrale.


Autore: Fabio Arduino