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Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
The Bishop and the Chatterbox : One week into a Lenten retreat with the Bishop of Hexham, a boy’s miserable life is turned right around.
The Bishop and the Chatterbox

Based on ‘History of the English Church and People’ 5.2 by St Bede of Jarrow (?673-735).

Bishop John of Hexham (?-721) is better known today as St John of Beverley, as he had been Abbot of the monastery in Beverley, North Yorkshire, before being elevated to the See of Hexham. His contemporary Bede was a great admirer, and told this story of him.

DURING the Lenten fast, Bishop John and his monks used to retire to a cottage in woodland across the Tyne, beside a graveyard dedicated to the Archangel Michael.* One year, John persuaded a young lad to stay with them whose head was all scabs and scales and sorry wisps of hair, and who had never been able to speak a word.

At the end of the first week, John called the boy in, and made him put his tongue out. The bishop traced the sign of the cross over it, and ordered him to say ‘Yes’ – which he did. John then had him repeat the alphabet, some words, and finally some whole sentences; but soon the lad was talking without any help – non-stop, for a day and a night, until he fell asleep from exhaustion.

Under John’s direction, the local doctor cured the scabs and scales, and the hair grew luxuriantly back; and that silent, disfigured boy went home a very chatty, confident young man.

* On St Michael the Archangel, see also Michaelmas and St Wilfrid’s Debt. Bede’s authority for the miracle was Berthun, Bishop John’s former chaplain and his successor as Abbot of Beverley.

Based on ‘History of the English Church and People’ 5.2 by St Bede of Jarrow (?673-735).

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Picture: © David Dixon, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
The Church of St John Lee in Acomb (an Old English name meaning ‘oak wood’), about a mile and a half north of Hexham in Northumberland. It was here in Acomb or somewhere nearby that Bishop John used to retire to a cottage during Lent each year, and to invite some particularly sick or poor person from round about to be the guest of his little community of monks. The current church is relatively new, built in 1818 and enlarged in 1885, though it stands on the site of a much older building.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow

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