Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The eighth archbishop of Canterbury

Theodore was born in 602 AD in Tarsus of Cilicia, a region of Byzantine Asia to a Byzantine Greek family.There are also other theories that suggest he was of Syrian descent or possibly from a Hellenized Syrian family.The wars between the Byzantines with the Sassanids and later with the Arabs made him flee from his homeland which was turned into a battlefield numerous times.

Theodore received high quality education in Athens. It is there that he was initiated in monachism.Again there are controversies about this part of his life as it is also suggested that he received education in Constantinople.To sum up he became familiar with Astronomy, Astrology, Roman law ,rhetoric and of course with religious studies.

In 662 he went to Rome.He became a monk in a monastery called "Ad aquas salvias". There he mastered Latin language and literature.In 668 pope Vitalian chose Theodore to fill the vacant position of the bishop of Canterbury.He was consecrated Archbishop on 26 March 668.

He became known with two names. First was St. Theodore of Canterbury.
 He arrived in England one year later escorted by Hadrian of Canterbury.During his trip he met with the former bishop of Wessex who was by then the bishop of Paris the situation of the church in England.His first actions as an Archbishop he appointed bishops and priests to fill many vacant positions caused by a plague that hit England which also caused the return to paganism of a large proportion of the population.He reorganised the territories of each diocese for better administration and he called the synod of Hertford in 664 by which some religious issues were confirmed like the proper celebration of Easter according to the Roman way and not with Celtic influences and the definition of the duties and authority of the clergy.

In 679 Theodore mediated to stop a war between Northumbria and the Mercians thus preventing further bloodshed.The same year he called the synod of Hatfield to confirm the decisions of the synod of Lateran(649) in which monothelitism was condemned.
He was also known as St. Theodore of Tarsus to indicate his birthplace

Among his reforms of the British church was a proposal of the division of the the large diocese of Northumbria.This brought him into conflict with Wilfrid the bishop of Northumbria. Wilfrid was deposed and  his diocese was divided. This conflict was not settled until some years before Theodore's death.

Undoubtedly one of Theodore's most important deeds as an archbishop was the opening of the school of Canterbury under the management of Hadrian.Theodore introduced a mix of GrecoRoman and ecclesiastical lessons for the education of the students.He also encouraged the monasteries and the dioceses outside of Kent.
St Theodore's grave in Saint Peter's cathedral of Canterbury

Theodore died in 690 at 88 years old, very very old if we consider the average life expectancy in the 7th century.

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