Ecgberht of Ripon

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Saint Ecgberht
Venerated inCatholic Church
Orthodox Church
Major shrineRipon
Feast24 April

Saint Ecgberht (or Egbert, and sometimes referred to as Egbert of Rath Melsigi) (died 729) was an Anglo-Saxon monk of Northumbria and Bishop of Lindisfarne.


Ecgberht was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, probably from Northumbria.[1] In 664, as a youth, he traveled to Ireland to study.[2] One of his acquaintances at this time was Chad.[3] He settled at the monastery of Rath Melsigi, in modern-day county Carlow.[4] His Northumbrian traveling companions, including Æthelhun, died of the plague, and he contracted it as well.

Ecgberht vowed that if he recovered, he would become a "peregrinus" on perpetual pilgrimage from his homeland of Britain and would lead a life of penitential prayer and fasting.[1] He was twenty-five, and when he recovered he kept his vow until his death at age 90.[4] According to Henry Mayr-Harting, Ecgberht was one of the most famous ‘pilgrims’ of the early Middle Ages,[1] and occupied a prominent position in a political and religious culture that spanned northern Britain and the Irish Sea.[5]

He began to organize monks in Ireland to proselytize in Frisia;[6] many other high-born notables were associated with his work: Saint Adalbert, Saint Swithbert, and Saint Chad. He, however, was dissuaded from accompanying them himself by a vision related to him by a monk who had been a disciple of Saint Boisil (the Prior of Melrose under Abbot Eata).[6] Ecgberht instead dispatched Wihtberht, another Englishman living at Rath Melsigi, to Frisia.[5] Ecgberht then arranged the mission of Saint Wigbert, Saint Willibrord, and others to the pagans.[7]

In 684, he tried to dissuade King Ecgfrith of Northumbria from sending an expedition to Ireland under his general Berht, but he was unsuccessful.[8]

While in Ireland, Ecgberht was one of those present at the Synod of Birr in 697, when the Cáin Adomnáin was guaranteed.[9]

Ecgberht had influential contacts with the kings of Northumbria and of the Picts, as well as with Iona, which he persuaded to adopt the Roman Easter dating about 716.[10] He died on Iona[11] at the age of ninety, on the first day that the Easter feast was observed by this manner in the monastery, on 24 April 729.[12]

His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church, 24 April, is found in both the Roman and Irish martyrologies, and in the Metrical Calendar of York. Although he is now honoured simply as a confessor, it is probable that St. Ecgberht was a bishop.[13]

Saint Ecgberht ought not to be confused with the later Ecgberht, Archbishop of York.


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