Hertford – A Histroy Part 4
The year 673 A.D. resounds as one of the most important, in the History of this country, and Hertford was at the centre. On the 24th September 673, the first National Synod of the English Church took place in Hertford. This was organised by the then Primate of All England, Theodore of Tarsus, he called together a meeting of the five bishops and their clergy.
Friedrich Heer, in his ‘’Intellectual History of Europe’’ wrote: ‘’The synod was the great unifying factor in England. The religious union prepared the political unity.... In a sense England’s nationalism has been religious from the beginning’’
Why was there a reason for this historic occasion? Well back then there were two major forms of Christianity in England, the Celtic churches and the Roman. While there were many differences like today, the two that stood out then were the dates of Easter and strangely a matter over tonsure (a form of religious hair style, read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonsure ). Theodore of Tarsus hoped to stop all this and bring unity to the faiths that ruled the people of England. What’s strange about Theodore of Tarsus is the fact he was a man of 65, from Asiatic descent who didn’t speak a word of the language of the country he was about to change forever. His legacy is filled with changes to the religious outlook of England such as filling vacant Sees, dividing Dioceses where they seemed too large and suppressed many irregularities, but it was his actions on the 24th September 673 that has made him go down in history when he presided at Hertford over the first National Synod of the English Church.
Also present on this famous day were, Bisi (Bishop of the East Angles), Wilfrid (Bishop of the Northumbrians, who was represented by two proxies), Putta (Bishop of Rochester), Leutherius (Bishop of the West Saxons), and Wynfrid (Bishop of Mercia), as well as many teachers, scholars and priests. Between them they agreed on 10 cannons, which still form a large part of the basis of the Church of England. Easter was settled, they stopped bishops going into other dioceses and they also laid down some important basic rules of marriage.
Two commemorative stones represent the Synod, one in the Castle Grounds (which is considered the civic memorial) and one in The Catholic Church (which is considered the ecclesiastical one). The 4th Marquis of Salisbury officially unveiled the stone in the castle grounds in 1934 and Dr. Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster dedicated the ecclesiastical stone cross a year later in 1935.
The reason for Hertford being chosen as the site for the Synod is mainly due to geographical reasons formed by dense forest land and the River Lee. Also Hertford was not a major cog in the wheel of England, therefore political jealousies could be avoided.
This is an event which has seen the whole country change, and we are proud for it to have taken place in our famous town.
Check back soon for part 5! (Again thanks to Cyril Heath and his THE BOOK OF HERTFORD for much of the information in this post)
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