St. Chad (620 C.E.–672 C.E.)
According to the hagiography of the Roman Catholic
church, St. Chad was a bishop born in what is now England
around 620 C.E. He was the youngest of four brothers, two of
whom, Cynebil and Caelin, became priests; the other, Cedd,
also became a bishop. He was educated at the monastery at Lindisfarne
under St. Aidain, and following the advice of his mentor,
he lived close to his people and always traveled on foot. In
664, Cedd was serving as the bishop of East Saxons (London).
Making his rounds, he arrived at the monastery of Lastingham
where Cynebil lay dying of the plague. When Cedd also became
ill, he sent for Chad, who became the new abbot at Lastingham.
Meanwhile, Chad had become the bishop of York. This was
at the time when the Roman tradition was replacing the Celtic
tradition in the Church in England. Five years after his consecration,
the archbishop of Canterbury noted that Chad had an
irregularity in his past, as he had been ordained as a priest by
two Celtic bishops. He asked Chad to step down, and Chad retired
to the monastery at Lastingham. His ordination problem
was corrected and he soon assumed duties as bishop of Mercia
In 672, the plague swept through England again and Chad
became ill. At the time, he resided with a small group of monks
at the monastery at Lichfield. One day Chad called the brothers
together and announced that he would soon leave them and
admonished them to live together in peace and observe the
rules of their order after his passing. He died later that day,
and one of the brothers testified that he had earlier heard angelic
singing coming from the oratory where the bishop had
been praying. The angels had come to summon Chad to heaven.
His death occurred on March 2, 672.
Chad soon became a focus of healing stories, and he was
eventually canonized. His relics (bones) were moved on several
occasions but placed in a special shrine in the cathedral by the
bishop of Lichfield in the fourteenth century. When Henry VIII
broke with the Roman Church and outlawed the cult of relics,
the bones were removed from the shrine and kept quietly in the
homes of loyal Roman Catholics until 1841, when they were
placed in the new Roman Catholic Cathedral, which was dedicated
to St. Chad, in Birmingham.
Modern scholars have charged that Chad and his brother
never existed. They allege that he and his brother Cedd are
variants of the Pagan deity Ceadda and emerged as the Roman
Catholics gained dominance in the formerly Celtic Pagan area.
Ceadda was associated with healing springs, a theme that
flowed into the legend around St. Chad. He remains a saint on
the Roman calendar, however, and churches are dedicated to
him throughout the English-speaking world. There are also
several ancient wells in the British Midland dedicated to him.
Brewster, H. Pomeroy. Saints and Festivals of the Christian
Church. New York Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1904.
Walker, Barbara. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
San Francisco Harper, 1983.