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St Hild and the Synod of Whitby : The respected Abbess oversaw the English Church’s historic commitment to adopt Byzantine traditions.
St Hild and the Synod of Whitby

In the 7th century, the English Church committed itself to following the calendar and traditions of the Byzantine world, or as we would say today, the Orthodox Churches.

HILD was the Abbess of a monastery for both men and women in Whitby, on the north east coast of England. “All who knew her”, says St Bede, “called her mother, because of her outstanding devotion and grace”.

They included the princess Ælfflæd, a nun who was the daughter of King Oswy of Northumbria; the farm labourer Cædmon, whom Hild encouraged to compose and sing Christian hymns; and dozens of bishops and priests, whom she had trained for the young English church.

It was here at Whitby in 664 that Hild presided over a Synod, summoned by Oswy.

In calculating the date of Easter, in music and in church worship, Britain had gradually lost step with the rest of the Church.

At Whitby, it was agreed that the churches of Northumbria would reunite with those of the Roman Empire,* from Africa and Asia to Egypt and Greece, and soon colourful Mediterranean music and worship began to appear in Northumbria’s churches.

* Modern scholars call the Roman Empire from 330 to 1453 ‘the Byzantine Empire’ because in 330 the capital moved from Rome to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople, now Istanbul).

See also How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain

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Picture: © Christine Matthews, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
The ruined arches of Whitby Abbey, built in the 11th century on the site of St Hild’s Saxon Abbey, overlooking the sea. © Christine Matthews, Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0.
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Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

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