The Canons of Edgar

Book 2, Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair from 955 AD to 975 – Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy

In one of these councils, those sixty seven canons, commonly called the canons of King Edgar, were enacted, in which there are not many things new, or worthy of a place in history. By the eleventh of these canons, every priest was commanded to learn and practice some mechanical trade, and to teach it to all his apprentices for the priesthood. By the sixteenth, the clergy were commanded to be at great pains to bring off their people from the worship of trees, stones, and fountains, and from many other heathenish rites which are enumerated. By this it would appear that many of the people were but imperfect Christians at this time. The fifty fourth recommended the clergy to be very frequent and earnest in exhorting the people to pay all their dues to the church honestly, and at the proper time, their plough alms fifteen nights after Easter, their tithes of young animals at Pentecost, their tithes of corn at All saints, their Peter pence at Lammas, and their church scot at Martinmas.

To these canons is subjoined a penitential, which some think was composed by St. Dunstan, and requires penitents to be very particular in confessing all the sins which they have committed by their bodies, their skin, their flesh, their bones, their sinews, their reins, their gristles, their tongues, their lips, their palates, their teeth, their hair, their marrow, by everything soft or bard, wet or dry. Confessors were directed what kind of penances to prescribe in a great variety of cases. The most satisfactory penances for laymen are said to be these To desist from carrying arms to go upon long pilgrimages, never to stay two nights in the same place, never to cut their hair, or pare their nails, or go into a warm bath, or a soft bed, not to eat flesh, or drink strong liquors, and if they were rich, to build and endow churches.

Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair


Origin of Anglo Saxon Surnames

Conflicting Testimony Concerning Edwy

Incident on His Coronation Day

Treatment of Elgiva

Edgar the Pacific

Chapter 8, Origin of Monasteries in England

Introduction of Celibacy

Their Rules and Practice

The Benedictines

Chapter 8, Dunstan

Sketch of Dunstan

His Alleged Visions and Miracles

Becomes Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop

Chapter 8, Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy

His Character and Policy

Aided by Bishops Oswald and Ethelwald

The Secular Clergy Supplanted by the Monks

King Edgar’s Private Life

The Worth of the Eulogies Pronounced on Him by the Monks

The Canons of Edgar

His Position Among the Anglo-Saxon Kings

Policy Towards the Danes of Northumbria


Categories: Book 2

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